Annual Christmas Post

From E.B. White, 1952, in The New Yorker.

From this high midtown hall, undecked with boughs, unfortified with mistletoe, we send forth our tinselled greetings as of old, to friends, to readers, to strangers of many conditions in many places. Merry Christmas to uncertified accountants, to tellers who have made a mistake in addition, to girls who have made a mistake in judgment, to grounded airline passengers, and to all those who can’t eat clams! We greet with particular warmth people who wake and smell smoke. To captains of river boats on snowy mornings we send an answering toot at this holiday time. Merry Christmas to intellectuals and other despised minorities! Merry Christmas to the musicians of Muzak and men whose shoes don’t fit! Greetings of the season to unemployed actors and the blacklisted everywhere who suffer for sins uncommitted; a holly thorn in the thumb of compilers of lists! Greetings to wives who can’t find their glasses and to poets who can’t find their rhymes! Merry Christmas to the unloved, the misunderstood, the overweight. Joy to the authors of books whose titles begin with the word “How” (as though they knew!). Greetings to people with a ringing in their ears; greetings to growers of gourds, to shearers of sheep, and to makers of change in the lonely underground booths! Merry Christmas to old men asleep in libraries! Merry Christmas to people who can’t stay in the same room with a cat! We greet, too, the boarders in boarding houses on 25 December, the duennas in Central Park in fair weather and foul, and young lovers who got nothing in the mail. Merry Christmas to people who plant trees in city streets; merry Christmas to people who save prairie chickens from extinction! Greetings of a purely mechanical sort to machines that think–plus a sprig of artificial holly. Joyous Yule to Cadillac owners whose conduct is unworthy of their car! Merry Christmas to the defeated, the forgotten, the inept; joy to all dandiprats and bunglers! We send, most particularly and most hopefully, our greetings and our prayers to soldiers and guardsmen on land and sea and in the air–the young men doing the hardest things at the hardest time of life. To all such, Merry Christmas, blessings, and good luck! We greet the Secretaries-designate, the President-elect; Merry Christmas to our new leaders, peace on earth, good will, and good management! Merry Christmas to couples unhappy in doorways! Merry Christmas to all who think they are in love but aren’t sure! Greetings to people waiting for trains that will take them in the wrong direction, to people doing up a bundle and the string is too short, to children with sleds and no snow! We greet ministers who can’t think of a moral, gagmen who can’t think of a joke. Greetings, too, to the inhabitants of other planets; see you soon! And last, we greet all skaters on small natural ponds at the edge of woods toward the end of afternoon. Merry Christmas, skaters! Ring, steel! Grow red, sky! Die down, wind! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good morrow!

My Christmas Adventure in Temecula

Today I spent four hours in a Starbucks in Temecula, California.

Temecula is one of the New Suburbs here. There’s an Indian casino and a crapload of little box house development, all new. It’s inland and too hot. All of the white guys look like cops here, and all of the nonwhite guys look like gangbangers. I thought I saw an independent bookstore but it was a mormon bookstore.

I drove Bob down there to get dental work done, so I went to Starbucks and paid their ridiculous wi-fi tax and worked for a while. Various gang members, trophy wives, and sad-sack strip mall employees went in and out. Old people sat near me and had earsplitting conversations about real estate prices and their medical problems.

I got work done, and then I read some good fiction. (I can do that now again because the Adderall is working.) But I experienced pain. Let me share my pain with you. My pain is: THE STARBUCKS CHRISTMAS MUSIC.

We all know that there are two types of Christmas music in the U.S. One is the usually religious but musically acceptable set of Old Carols. Almost all of them talk a lot about God or use noninclusive phrases like “born is the king of Israel.” However, the music is old and good.

The second type is the pop music about Christmas written in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s sometimes sentimental, occasionally romantic, rarely theological, and full of the kind of plastic whimsy one sees in Disney films. Little drummer boys and cotton candy snowmen come out of fucking nowhere and the kids are all eating and the grownups are all having snuggly winter sex. The music itself is uniformly emetic.

The management at Starbucks has chosen to play all of the modern pop Christmas music as performed by the following classes of musician: whiney Garrison Keillor country folk artists; breathy little indie girls; assholes with mandolins; safely dead old black guys; that guy from that one old movie; and Paul McCartney. I could almost swear I heard Bright Eyes doing “Frosty the Snowman” and Arlo Guthrie belting out “Let It Snow.” And I’m way serious about the mandolin guys. They are major assholes.

So if you’re somehow in a Starbucks this “holiday season,” enjoy your CinnaNog Blatte or Caramel Mestizo or whatever, but put in earplugs. You might think this is funny, but school’s out when you’re stuck in line and Dave Matthews is scat-singing through “Do You Hear What I Hear.”

From E.B. White, 1952

I post or at least read this every year.

From this high midtown hall, undecked with boughs, unfortified with mistletoe, we send forth our tinselled greetings as of old, to friends, to readers, to strangers of many conditions in many places. Merry Christmas to uncertified accountants, to tellers who have made a mistake in addition, to girls who have made a mistake in judgment, to grounded airline passengers, and to all those who can’t eat clams! We greet with particular warmth people who wake and smell smoke. To captains of river boats on snowy mornings we send an answering toot at this holiday time. Merry Christmas to intellectuals and other despised minorities! Merry Christmas to the musicians of Muzak and men whose shoes don’t fit! Greetings of the season to unemployed actors and the blacklisted everywhere who suffer for sins uncommitted; a holly thorn in the thumb of compilers of lists! Greetings to wives who can’t find their glasses and to poets who can’t find their rhymes! Merry Christmas to the unloved, the misunderstood, the overweight. Joy to the authors of books whose titles begin with the word “How” (as though they knew!). Greetings to people with a ringing in their ears; greetings to growers of gourds, to shearers of sheep, and to makers of change in the lonely underground booths! Merry Christmas to old men asleep in libraries! Merry Christmas to people who can’t stay in the same room with a cat! We greet, too, the boarders in boarding houses on 25 December, the duennas in Central Park in fair weather and foul, and young lovers who got nothing in the mail. Merry Christmas to people who plant trees in city streets; merry Christmas to people who save prairie chickens from extinction! Greetings of a purely mechanical sort to machines that think–plus a sprig of artificial holly. Joyous Yule to Cadillac owners whose conduct is unworthy of their car! Merry Christmas to the defeated, the forgotten, the inept; joy to all dandiprats and bunglers! We send, most particularly and most hopefully, our greetings and our prayers to soldiers and guardsmen on land and sea and in the air–the young men doing the hardest things at the hardest time of life. To all such, Merry Christmas, blessings, and good luck! We greet the Secretaries-designate, the President-elect; Merry Christmas to our new leaders, peace on earth, good will, and good management! Merry Christmas to couples unhappy in doorways! Merry Christmas to all who think they are in love but aren’t sure! Greetings to people waiting for trains that will take them in the wrong direction, to people doing up a bundle and the string is too short, to children with sleds and no snow! We greet ministers who can’t think of a moral, gagmen who can’t think of a joke. Greetings, too, to the inhabitants of other planets; see you soon! And last, we greet all skaters on small natural ponds at the edge of woods toward the end of afternoon. Merry Christmas, skaters! Ring, steel! Grow red, sky! Die down, wind! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good morrow!

Merry Christmas back to you, E.B. Some of those points sadly must be made again, but the good things are here too.