Tuesday, December 22, 2009


-is only days away and I must confess that for the first time in years I have a vague stirring of emotion; of sentiment, inspired by the season. It has been years, maybe 18 or more, since I last considered Christmas anything other than an empty holiday, dispossessed of its significance by the onset of my adulthood and all of the sober, shrewd skepticism that maturity, independence and knowledge brings.

It was always a time of afterthought, second thoughts, second-guessing and abstract hopes. Christmas was a last catching of my breath before the careening diminuendo of the New Year’s Eve count down. Christmas was a last look over the shoulder at the waning year behind and its happenings, promises and unfulfilled wants. That is what Christmas was to me until about 1992, a year when I started looking forward to getting drunk at parties more than I did being at parties. That was the year that many friends went afar, and remained there. Pining for old get togethers, big dinners and the fraternity of our younger days seemed silly.

Life goes on, and it will drag you along. Working life is a kind of plateau in adulthood. It sets in, and flattens everything, dividing and averaging out all of our emotion, our love and our dread until one day we find ourselves wondering why certain things don’t make us angry anymore or why other things no longer make us happy. It’s important to remember: the things are the same, it is we who change for better or worse.

Maybe the return of Christmas’s personal significance to me has something to do with the coming end of another decade… -my fourth on Earth as a proud, if at times puzzled and angry member of the human race. If you’d talked to me twenty years ago, I’m sure I would have had no idea so much time could pass… and yet 2009 has been a long year. 2009 was “long” in the way the years of my early childhood were long. Time stopped still many times this year, as they used to before summer vacation, before Christmas day and a long awaited gift. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day in 1976 was the longest period in human history.

I can’t prove it scientifically, but trust me, waiting for my “Jackie Stewart Rev-A-Matic Competition” AFX Ho Scale slot car race set with magna traction chassis cars was longer than the “100 Years War”… which we all know didn’t take 100 years.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve hoped for so much.

I yearn for a proper future, a good life for my friends, for my neighbors, for my mother, for my country, for my generation, for my time and my world. In this way, I feel genuinely connected, for possibly the first time in my life with the writers whose work has informed my own. I feel, after this year of rancor, spite and triumph that I understand Charles Dickens, as I didn’t before. I understand now that when he wrote of Ebenezer Scrooge, he was writing chiefly of himself. Scrooge, is a profound confession by a man of letters terrified at the way he may have misspent his life amongst his fellow human beings. This year, I’ve been thinking of Charles Dickens’ various imagined worlds, his assorted “Englands” as too many in our country try to pretend that intolerance, indifference and greed aren’t aspects of hate.

Cruelty is not a perspective. It is violence, and when it’s done to the least of us: the defenseless, the poor, it is unforgivable.

Dickens introduced two children to me in A Christmas Carol. They are stark, inelegant allegories: “Ignorance and Want.” The Ghost of Christmas Present brings the hideous twins to Scrooge in the story with a warning:

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

Here's hoping the writing on the boy's head and the damage inside his skull can be undone.

I am hopeful and optimistic for the first time in many years. Although 2009 brought the death of my beloved uncle, and the death of a life long friend, it also brought the end of the Bush administration, it brought the confirmation of a non-Conservative woman to the Supreme Court, it brought a man of formidable intellect to the White House. 2009 brought the end of abuses too numerous to mention in our country’s name.

And yet there is much to hope and wish for:

Real lasting peace in the world: the kind of peace that allows people to listen and see clearly the liars in their midst.
More money for schools: so that our kids grow up to be the smartest work force they can be.
Health Care Reform: even if we can only pry from the lobbyists an inch at a time.
I’d love to see the America that actually manufactures the goods it consumes again. I would love to see an America where electronics and technology and even our fuels and energy are generated stateside. I’d love to see an entire world of nations that create jobs everywhere and don’t eliminate livelihoods just to make the rich, richer.

Feed and clothe every man, woman and child.

I may not live to see it all, but as in years past, I just can’t wait for it all to get here.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Rest in Peace MacArthur.


Oso said...

I always enjoyed Christmas as a kid.My mother faked it due to a terrible loss that time of year,but she faked it well for my sake.

When my kids were little it meant even more to me than when I was a kid,to make my girls happy and see the delight when they opened presents was the high point of the year for me.

Now they're grown women, sad to say it's just another day,another week and it's cold weather. If I wasn't an alky and a tecate I'd probably be drunk but lot of people feel that way.

I hope the Holiday season brings you good cheer SJ you're a good guy.

Vigilante said...


Manifesto Joe said...

I remember a Christmas Eve, perhaps 20 years ago, when I had to work ridiculously late and be Bob Cratchet at the newspaper where I was employed. It was around midnight, and I was driving home. Bored, I turned the radio on. An AM station had on a 1938 broadcast of "A Christmas Carol" with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge.

I didn't go straight home -- I wound around some neighboring streets and listened to the old ghosts on the airwaves for a little while.

When I parked and went in, my wife was there, and had baked cookies and such. We had one pet, a cat, and she seemed happy to see me.

I turned on the idiot box, and damned if "It's a Wonderful Life" wasn't on! I almost reached in my coat pocket for Zuzu's petals.

Sometimes the very simplest things are the ones to be the most thankful for. Not everybody has them.

Beach Bum said...

Amen brother...

If its any comfort while I was waiting for the dentist yesterday I read some article in a fairly recent Time magazine say that while the country went into the first decade of the twenty-first century overly optimistic only for things to crash around us the 2010's can't be as bad as many think it will be.

That alone for me is a small comfort. As long as at some point I get off third shift and Palin is sent home to Alaska.

SJ said...

Thanks Oso, the feeling's mutual. I don't have kids, but this year with all the expectation, dreaming and yes -even a little progress in my life and in the world here and there, I've got a little of that spirit back. It's like getting the feeling back in an old numb leg after it fell asleep. Merry Xmas Oso.

@Vig, don't put a red santa hat or sweater on Ballou. It'll come back to haunt you in the afterlife. I think there's a hell where we're forcibly posed for photos, all pantless with xmas sweaters on by an Xmas tree with dog biscuts balanced on our noses... "we better watch out, we better not cry..." Merry Xmas.

@ Manifesto Joe, I had a similar experience with the Christmas Carol adaptation done by the folks who did the Mr. Magoo animations. Might be my favorite, but it hasn't been on in years. -and- Anytime I watch Capra's classic, I'm shot across the years, to different points in my life.
I will tell you that running across your blog this year was one of the high points. Merry Xmas my friend, keep swinging for the fences.

@Beach Bum,
May you get off third shift soon my friend. May it all go smoother for you and for us all everywhere. Small comforts are comforts just the same, so take 'em, and I'll try and follow my own advice.
Thank God for novacaine.
Merry Xmas to you and your family BB.

Merry Christmas.

Jack Jodell said...

I'm glad you're more "in the spirit" this year, SJ, and I hope all of your wishes and dreams DO come true eventually! We'll all be working toward those same noble goals you laid out here. Merry Christmas, my very good man!

Vigilante said...

Fear not, SJ. As far as my ladies' dress, I am always a positive critic and never so much as make suggestions, let alone changes. In Ballou's case it would be a waste of time and only annoy her!

Merry Christmas to you and all of your readers!

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

It's really a wonderful post, SJ. It has shifted me, I am glad to have read it and felt it, thank you for the Christmas present.

I feel I am more for the friends I read here in the blogs... who carry on a conversation with me, around me for me to join, that represents what I think of as the good folk, the brighter ones who might care, those who trying to make a difference... creatively expressing and reaching out, I am grateful and you have brought my focus to that very clearly with your post...thank you, Merry Christmas to you. Merry Christmas to Michael too. Peace.

SJ said...

right back at you. The snow's already filthy here in New York, and even that, as I look onto Times Square from the office window makes me feel nostalgic too. The snow always gets dirty in the cities, and it always will. Merry Xmas Mr. Jodell.

Many thanks. I'll probably rap with you at your "steel cage match" of a blog before Christmas I'm sure.

thanks for carrying the fire along with so many others responding on here. I sincerely mean it when I say: "I love your work." It feels very cool to say that to someone who's not in Hollywood.
I'm glad and honored to call you my friend.
MyCue23 is probably aboard a plane, or ripping his hair out in an airport right now. I'm sure he'll check in when he lands.

Here's hoping we all keep sane and healthy with our minds afire this season and beyond.
Thanks to you all for the comiseration and fraternity.