Happy Holidays, I suppose

“What day is it today?” “Why, it’s Christmas day, sir.”

So I’m not exactly all bah-humbuggy, but I do observe the holiday season with an odd curiosity that exposes my whole incomprehension of it. It rarely puts me in what I’d call a festive mood, and all the propaganda telling me I’m a bad person (a “Scrooge”) for not being in a good mood usually puts me in a worse mood.

The latest bit is NBC’s [url=http://www.nbc.com/nbc/A_Christmas_Carol:_The_Musical/]new musical spin[/url] on Charles Dickens’ [i]A Christmas Carol[/i]. It had a bunch of headliners from NBC shows, including Kelsey Grammar in the lead (who better to play Scrooge than the man widely hailed as television’s classiest, most sophisticated and best-respected gentleman, if only because he’s spent the past twenty years playing a classy, sophisticated and well-respected gentleman), Jesse L. Martin (the cop from Law and Order, which was cool) as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Jason Alexander (no explanation needed) as Jacob Marley. It also has a score by Alan Menken, who composed Little Shop of Horrors (which I love). So it was more-or-less a guaranteed winner for me, and it was, even if it did lay it on a little thick. There is a scene near the beginning where Scrooge crosses paths with the three ghosts in civillian dress, and the foreshadowing is pretty unsubtle. About the worst is when he storms past an old blind beggar who prophesizes in song: “come the future you’ll remember me!” Gee, do you suppose such a delicately-chosen phrasing could just be a coincidence? It also suffers from a common modernization flaw where the creative team thinks it will be a blast to give the show all of the spectacular special effects that weren’t possible in the days of its predecessors, except the budget, technology and experience of the people at the computers are all limited and it winds up looking cheesy, especially in the face of recent movies.

It’s a good story and a good show, though. Dickens clearly knew the audience he was pandering to, and Scrooge is a wonderfully rich (double-entendre) character: with his embittering history of turbulent upbringing, lost love and poor decisions he is absolutely starving for salvation. It was a tear-jearker and a finger-wagger, which I probably didn’t need when I was sitting by myself in my apartment eating pasta shells and cottage cheese instead of being with family or friends. After all, tis the season, right?

I’ve taken some flack for being this way, but the simple truth of the matter is that I was not raised with this whole gift-giving philosophy. Everyone always says “what about Chanukkah?” and the answer is simple enough: that it’s a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar that was blown out of proportion to remain competetive with Christianity. I don’t know where the notion of gift-giving on Chanukkah came from, but even for those who observe it, it’s almost like an inside joke that the Christians never seem to comprehend just how cheap and uninspired the Chanukkah gifts are. My parents chose not to do it and I never participated growing up, and as a result I find myself very emotionally confused and distressed when my brain tells me it’s stupid to buy into this holiday nonsense, but I’m constantly submerged in it, and even from the generally more assimilated Jews that live in this city. I find myself wondering: am I perhaps no different than Kelsey Grammar? Where are my ghosts?

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about Laura in this journal, but she leaves for Costa Rica tomorrow and today I am meeting her parents for the first time. Well, not technically the first, since her dad gave me a lift to the subway yesterday, but it’s still going to pretty fresh. I am always a big hit with the parents, but it’s still nervewracking. Laura has steeled me against the worst, and she’s kind of made me feel like Hugh from the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa is given a glimpse of her future. You know, exotic foreigner from a distant land about to meet the all-American family for the first time… “as long as they’re not squatting in a ditch poking berries up their noses…” “… and if they are?”

Yikes, I’d better get my crowbar… time for some foot-prying.

Dan.

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