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Christmas Morning 2016

A dispatch from your faithful author’s annual holiday tradition.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, all.

It is Christmas morning, and that means I am currently wrapping presents. Not all my presents, mind you; I’ve had the majority done for at least a week or more and sitting beneath the tree, just waiting to be delivered to the recipients. But over the past half decade or so, wrapping presents at four o’clock in the morning on Christmas Day while drinking bourbon and listening to Christmas music has become a bit of a ritual for me, and so here I am, telling you about it. I do the same thing on Thanksgiving, only with baking instead of wrapping. I may start getting drunk at three in the morning and dyeing eggs this coming Easter.

The bourbon currently in my glass is Woodford Reserve; I recently received my Christmas gift from a friend and coworker of mine: a bottle of Blanton’s, my favourite. The fellow at the shop where he purchased said Blanton’s tried to talk him into Woodford Reserve instead, saying most people who came in preferred it, etc. So I decided I would purchase a bottle and review it for myself.

The verdict: it’s fine. It ain’t Blanton’s (or even Four Roses), but it’s fine.

The music is a Christmas mix of my own concoction; I should really get it put up on 8tracks at some point. Second thought: I should really go back to using 8tracks.

“Hard Candy Christmas” wrapped up a few moments ago; as I type this sentence one of the all-time great St. Louis Christmas songs is getting into full swing: “Got the Blues for Christmas”, by the Highway Matrons. It was on one of those amazing Bert Dax Christmas records somewhere along the line, I believe, but hell if I remember which one at the moment. After this one is over, Tom Waits will be singing “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”. And after that, I think it’s Sinatra with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The good version, with the muddle through somehow line, not the other version with the sappy, ultimately meaningless bit about the highest bough and all that. Fuck that version.

My old vinyl copy of the Phil Spector Christmas album has a major skip in it now, which I only discovered the other day. I’m feeling rather salty about it still.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was on television last night, and I watched it. I watch it pretty much every year; I don’t really know why. I suppose I like it, but if pressed I’m not sure I could explain why. Two things about the film have always bugged me, though. One, the really quite insulting fact that Mary ending up unwed and working as a librarian was literally the worst thing anyone could think of in the 40s. I mean, I get it; it was a different time, and there is obviously something very sad about the thought that if you hadn’t happened along someone might have ended up living out their life alone. But as one of those truly awful Social Justice Warriors you’ve probably read so much about on the interwebs, I can’t help but always be at least a little bothered by the fact a woman lacking a husband is the terrible truth Clarence is trying to keep from George. I try to keep the context in mind, but it’s always this slight sour note in the movie for me.

The other thing that bothers me about the film is the fact that, on balance, I kind of feel like the Pottersville version of the world, with its cabaret clubs and neon signs and casinos, looks more like the sort of town I would prefer to live in. Again, I get what they were going for; wholesome old-time America doesn’t have jazz clubs and burlesque shows and tons of bars. Aaron, though? Aaron really likes pretty much all those things, and might be willing to sacrifice George Bailey for cool neon signs and more than one watering hole in town. Sorry, George. You might have to take one for the team. You wouldn’t mind terribly if I asked your wife out, would you? I mean, I kinda have a thing for both librarians and Donna Reed, so....

Hmm. This column seems to be going off the rails. I may need to dial back the booze if I’m to get this finished, wrap my gifts, and be in proper condition for holiday festivities.

If I wanted to live in the Pottersville version of the world, though, with its neon signs and immorality, does that mean I also have to live in the version ruled by the corrupt old man who gets away with stealing George’s eight grand every single year? Do I have to do without the bedrock decency of Bedford Falls if I would prefer to do without the occasionally overbearing wholesomeness?

I have nothing baseball-related to say this morning; I’m not even hoping for a baseball-related gift of some sort this year. Nor do I have anything profound or powerful to say to you all as you head into the day. I’m sure there are at least a few of you reading this who don’t even celebrate Christmas, and to you I apologise, for not bringing you something unrelated to this uncomfortably ubiquitous holiday. I would imagine it must get very old to endure what is, at this point, something close to two months of merciless commercial aggression cloaked in the skin of a religious holiday. But today is a holiday for me, and I have never pretended (I hope), to offer anything beyond my own perspective on the world, be it baseball or anything else.

So, with all that said, have yourselves a merry little Christmas, everyone. Keep muddling through, and I’ll see you all again soon.