12/7 conversations of Santa and Cybermen

The walk from my house to that of my parents is a scant six blocks. And while that’s a short enough distance when walked alone, when traversed with my three children, a great deal of conversational goop can accumulate well before the journey’s end. We went en mass this past Sunday to clear out my folks gutters from their leaves of Fall – a task that ended up being much more enjoyment than doldrum, much more bonding than chore. And within our brief walk over we discussed the following very important items of Christmas interest:

1. The flying sleigh of Santa is all a carefully laid-out ruse, set up by the man himself. He started the rumor long ago that had us all looking up, when we should have been looking down. In our shared brilliance we deduced that instead of flying across the globe, delivering toys through chimney, window and door, Claus actually has access to every house via sumps from each and every basement. That’s right – a web of catacomb-like underground trails connect us all to the pole of North, and the jolly man simply travels from hall to hall – from sump to sump – in delivering each package to each house while the residents within sleep unawares. It has to be the only plausible explanation. Even if they did exist, flying reindeer would NEVER be able to haul around not only themselves, but the sleigh and the loaded sacks – not mention the Man himself – through the sky as well. Not without some serious assistance from prevailing winds, or the hand of God holding them all up there at once in the wafer-thin air, that is.

2. As noted before, the tunnel travels take place with all of us being safely tucked away and none the wiser. Should however, some child wake to see the man of red unloading his bag, then they are quickly muffled, shuffled off and transformed (in a process very similar to that of the Cybermen of Doctor Who’s fame) into Christmas elves. That’s right, according to my children, elves are in fact formerly human children who, once seeing the truth of Santa’s existence, must be assimilated into becoming one his own – just to keep their mouths shut, and the secret safe. Now, i’m none too sure if it would be a wise thing to speak of this concept in an effort to get your young ones to sleep on Christmas eve – in that there might be the occasional daredevil who tries it simply TO become such an elf, but i’m pretty sure for the rest, it would only serve only to scare the living bejesus out of them.

3. Ninjas. Don’t ask me how this came about, but it did. Apparently all the elves, to the very last, is also a ninja. According to my first-born, the proof of the matter works something like this. “Do you know how you sometimes notice a hole in your wall, which looks like it could’ve been made with a nail, but you don’t remember ever placing a nail there? Well, that’s from an elf’s shuriken (throwing star).” Now, you may be wondering where he was going with that, but since i know him well enough to know that it could be a very difficult place indeed, i decided not to ask him to expound upon his theory, leaving you gentle reader, in the lurch (and probably a lot better off as a result, seeing as my first-born can take you into dimensions that you never knew – nor wanted to know – existed). My youngest, however, did take the opportunity to explain that the ninja theory had to be true, as there was no other way possible that children who see Santa could ever be corralled up to the North Pole without dispute. And he further proved his point by making random and Jerry Lewis-esque kicks into the air while the rest of us continued on our walk.

4. The conversation took a somewhat somber note as it began to dawn on some that – while even though the tunnel system saved numerous man-hours – it was still unlikely that Santa could ever get all the houses done in one night. Even considering that he did have a cushion of multiple time zones to play with. To my surprise, none of the children brought up the possibility of clones being used. And none brought up the idea that Santa might in fact be a large, octopus-like creature, who twirled out massive gift-laden tentacles that delivered all the presents of the world in one fail swoop. No, nothing so cool as that was mentioned. Instead, all three fell back on their Whovian (Doctor, that is) roots and came up with the idea that Santa was somehow allowed to stop time in order to get all the work that needed completion done. It was a solid idea, and sounded plausible to all, but there was some concern over where he would ever have obtained such a power from.

5. Being a dad always on the look-out for opportunities to pontificate my beliefs, and realizing that our walk was just about to come to an end, i used this turn of the conversation to both share my faith with the kids AND look like a dammed Smarty in the process by stealing an idea by C.S. Lewis. i stopped all three on the sidewalk leading up to my parents front door, and i told them that the only way Santa could circumvent time would be if God allowed it, and if He did, then that would mean that Santa was actually “above” time. The blank stares alerted me that an explanation was required even before they asked for one. Pointing to a seam in the sidewalk i told them to imagine that it represented time, and that the little leaves tucked within it were each a person, each to it’s own place in the line and each looking forward or back, but all being unable to move in either direction under their own will. i then told the kids to now look where they were in relation to that line at that moment – all of them being “above” it. And as a result, all of them able to move anywhere (or any time) along the line they wanted, as needs or desires dictated. This, i explained, is how i think God views time. And guessing that God might actually be a bit like i imagine him to be, i was pretty sure that he would also allow Santa to do pretty much the same.

To my knowledge, none of them have yet realized that i took the opportunity to turn an incidental conversation about Santa and Cybermen into a chance to teach them about my faith. And had i my druthers, i would hope that none of them do figure it out anytime soon, as i’m of the belief that the best lessons learned in life are the ones we never realize we were taught in the first place.

Just between you and me, i also hope that the idea about Cybermen elves isn’t true, seeing as i can think of three children (two at the least), near and dear to me who may very well be the type of “occasional daredevils” willing to try it on for size.

12/2 Christmas jammies

i’ll admit it. i own Rob Halford’s Christmas album. And when i say “own”, i don’t mean i borrowed it from the library and downloaded a copy – i mean i went out and used hard-earned cash to purchase it. Complete with booklet and jewel case even. All for the pleasure of hearing the mighty Halford, of Judas Priest fame, belting out “We Three Kings” while one of his band mates simply melts a guitar behind him. i mean, really, you just can’t get more Christmassy than that.

Metal Santa

Unless you happen to have Reverend Horton Heat’s version of the same song, that is. In his version, the intro is traditional enough, until you hear those quiet, yet ever-so urgent “1,2,3,4!” – being yelped out with rock-a-billy proficiency – in an effort to get the tune into proper gear. Sadly, with the exception of this little audio gem, the remainder of Heat’s version sounds very much (too much to be considered “genius”, in fact) like the composition that Jimmy Smith laid down years before for his trio, and his swingin’ Hammond B3. Overall, all three artists put out Christmas platters that are different enough from your “average” holiday showcase as to make for a very interesting season – musically at any rate.

Cookin!

Now, wait a minute, t!  What does this have to do with your dad’s impending doom, scheduled for some time mid 2012???” Absolutely nothing. That was Wednesday’s post dude – sheesh, stop living in the past, already. No, much like when i was child, the bloat of Thanksgiving hasn’t even delivered it’s final belch before my mind gets all wrapped up in snow and cocoa, in toys and treats (the kind that come in “candy cane” plastic tubes that look like m&m’s but aren’t), and – yes – music. Always me with the damned music.

i’m pretty sure i’ve noted before how music was my first best friend growing up, and as you can imagine, Christmas music in particular got my trigger fully tripped. With it, there wasn’t only sound – but sight, smell and season as well. Every year we had the privilege of dragging the painted-over aluminum step ladder from the basement, clunking merrily along as it hit each and every step, and then carefully climbing it to get into the place where Christmas lived all spring, summer and fall long – the attic. There was a vigorous kind of cold to the space that gave you an excuse to shake off your excitement about *you know who* coming – even years after you weren’t sure if *you know who* actually existed or not. The most sure-footed of us only experienced this chill halfway down, as they stood atop the ladder and held the flashlight, which had been momentarily relieved of it’s concert light show duties. The other two straddled carefully across the wooden braces of the ceiling behind our dad, to remove the dusty, musty boxes that contained all the decorations of the season – tree, ornaments and glassware included. For 18 years we never once slipped and put a hole through the ceiling, but for 18 years it never stopped mom from swearing we would.

Throughout the entire process – from basement, to attic, to decorating – she would have Christmas music blaring throughout the house via our little faux-wood Magnavox stereo counsel (the kind with the sliding top doors – which created it’s own holiday magic as a result of the musty smell that escaped when you first slid back the door to remove the LP from its sleeve). As a result, the tunes became intertwined with the smells and the sights of the day – or maybe it was the other way ’round. Regardless, i still expect to smell mildew, taste chocolate that just isn’t quite like what you thought it was going to taste like, and see little plastic elves and Santa’s all brightly painted and lit from within – each and every time i put a Christmas disc in and hit “play”.

The memories were so palpable, i spent several years hunting down my three all-time favorites from days gone by, as follows:

Chet Atkins  – Christmas With…

Bert Kaempfert – Christmas Wonderland

and of course, Al Hirt’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Hirt” (he could never get away with that kind of album title today! i couldn’t find an image of the original sleeve to share with you here…)

As you can imagine, it was a tough-go at times, and wasn’t until i was finally able to find all three on CD that i received my USB turntable. You know, the thing that i could’ve used to simply transfer the original vinyl over to mp3 format and make discs of my own. i’m not complaining though, because along the way, i was able to stumble upon little gems such as the three discs i started this post with, as well as a whole bevy of beautifully mixed compilations (might i recommend the Ultra-Lounge Christmas series? A delight for both the young and the old – well, until the young are just old enough to worry about “getting old”, at which point they disengage from the series altogether, and call you all sorts of bad “old person” names in the process.) Oh lookie, we’ve digressed again! Anywho. Although three little albums is all i really needed, i have (over the course of years, mind you) ended up with a 4″ binder stuffed with an excess of over one hundred discs. And that’s just Christmas music we’re talking about. Yeah, always me with the damned music.

As a result, if you ever come by my house – anytime from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Eve – you’ll most likely hear folks like Halford and Heat, singing side-by-side with Crosby, Martin and Sinatra. You’ll hear both the Carol, and the Techno, of The Bells. You be able to go to “Christmas Island” to enjoy a “Reggae Christmas” or travel to the city to experience either “Christmas in Hollis” or a “Fairy Tale of New York” (regardless of which place you aim, just make sure you use RuPaul’s “Christmas Train”). You might be driven to drink by the dour Christmas of Johnny Cash, or you may be brought to your feet in praise, when the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Bobby Darin hit the stage. You could spend New Years Eve with Wayne Newton, or you may decide to spend all 12 days of Christmas with the MacKenzie Brothers instead. Hell, it’s the one time of the year i even allow McCartney into the house for a song, and yes, Burl Ives stops in occasionally as well – the whole house falling to an expectant holiday hush with his arrival. In short, i suppose you could say that around this time of year, my house is just one big hot musical holiday mess.

i’m not sure how the family feels about it (even though i really am sure…), but for me, it’s almost the best part of Christmas.

Now, play me outta here Al…

11/9 turning it up to Eleven

“Heavy metal and mullets it’s how we were raised. Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised.” ~Sum 41

You might as well call child protective services straightaway, seeing as how this Friday, i will be a very bad father indeed.

You see, this Friday just happens to be 11/11/11. A day that will find C in Arizona watching her brother get married. Again. And a day that – as a result of C’s trip – will find me at home alone with the kids. But more importantly a day that, by sheer luck of its numerical quantifiers, has been designated by VH1 Classic and That Metal Show as National Metal Day. (And for the love of God, it you don’t understand the tie-in between “11/11/11” and National Metal Day, would you please grab a copy of “Spinal Tap” already? You’re long overdo for a viewing. One that should help explain everything). So excited am i about this “holiday”, i haven’t even given much thought about the Real holiday that normally sits here as well – that being Veteran’s Day of course. But more on that later. Or at least i think. We’ll have to see…

At any rate, my bad fathering will occur because in lieu of doing anything remotely resembling parenting, i will most likely leave the children to their own devices and the boob-tube nanny, spending the day instead locked in mortal combat with other metal heads and metal head wanna-be’s. As we try to outdo each other in finding *just the perfect* post to throw up on the wall of a good friend i’ve never met. i know, i seem to have a lot of those, don’t i? i suppose maybe i’m a lot easier to “take” online than i am in person? Regardless, and prior to my digressing further, the concept of my friend’s wall is simple – every Friday, a different musical topic, style or idea is highlighted, and all day people are allowed to post videos of bands or songs from the past (some from the recent past, and some from the way past) that fit the bill. For instance, not too long ago, only songs that had titles in the form of questions could be used, and on another occasion only artists or bands with one word names could be posted. It can be pretty fun, especially if you know a bit about the subject at hand for a given week. i suppose it could also be seen as competitive, but for me, i have to agree with Liberace in saying that “too much of a good thing is WONDERFUL!” In regards to music at any rate. And sex. Music and sex, but most everything else i suppose, should be doled out in moderation. Except for maybe pizza as well. Music, sex and pizza – but i’ll draw the line there – you know… for now.

Anyway, i was somehow able to get my friend to buy into the whole National Metal Day premise, and while i’m sure she would have rather not (especially knowing how damned irritating i can be about these things when i think i know even a nugatory’s worth about a topic), she still agreed to earmark this Friday as a “Metal throwback”.

i am almost wetting myself in glee as i type the words.

My list is ready. It was created with the children during one evening meal while C was at work. For the most part the kids were helpful, except for my daughter who brought up “The Misfits” and “The Revolting Cocks” (tsk, tsk, m’dear – those are punk and industrial bands respectively – not metal. But thanks for your input!!). Now, i suppose one could say that the mere fact that my children know of these types of bands already puts me in the running for the “Worst Father of the Year – Any Year, Just Pick One” Award, but to be fair, my daughter did use the much more parochial “REVCO” when mentioning the second band, and she’s not actually a fan of theirs anyway (much more a “top of the pops” girl, she is). My youngest caught my icy glare when he brought up “Europe”, but he can be forgiven his misstep since he otherwise knows his metal, all the while having an overwhelming – and downright scary – affection for “The Final Countdown” (or as he calls it, “the best song ever…)

Now, i can’t tell you who made the final list (on the odd chance that someone might read this and decide to steal some of my “metal thunder”, and bragging rights), but i can tell you Metallica did NOT make the list (sorry anyone who cares, but that’s just the way it is). Black Sabbath didn’t either, but in their case it’s only because i’m sure that they’re already on quite a number of lists, and will be well-represented throughout the day. Other bands not to make the list are groups such as Great White, Bon Jovi, Ratt and Winger – although i fear they too are already on quite a few lists, and sure to make appearances as well. One who posts regularly has already threatened the occasional Creed video, and it scares me to think what an unholy bloody mess the whole thing could become, should novice metal heads and posers take the lead on this one. But as for me – my selections (sans two special surprises) will be tight, choice cuts – honoring what true Heavy Metal was (and still is) to me.

And since i’m sure you’re wondering (i know i am, right about now) why this is apparently such a big flippin’ deal to me, i guess that that would be the reason. The metal of “then” served as the soundtrack to my life for quite a long spell, and it played during some of the happier parts of my biographical reel (albeit an ABC after-school special, at best). While i’m not looking to “relive” my younger days with the aid of grinding guitars and operatic screams, metal has rejoined my life again, this time being shared – and helping me to bond with – my children. Another and more important reason – for any type of music really – i get so terribly excited is because, as i told my friend who runs the page, for me “it’s not so much of a ‘being last to post’ thing as it is a ‘please, don’t let’s stop just yet’ thing”. In short, as i’m pretty sure i’ve mentioned in a previous post (and if i haven’t mentioned it yet, then shame on me), music was my first best friend, and this Friday at least, i am really looking forward to spending some time “catching up” with it.

i hope you enjoy the day as well, and i hope you drop in for a post or two (just make damned sure their good ones!). And of course, no matter what else you may do, i hope you have the good sense to “turn it UP to 11!”

10/5 banning Christmas

i have a friend who’s an atheist. Well, i have quite a few actually. And that’s not to say i’m holding the fact up as some sort of badge of “Christian Courage” or anything. i just feel that life would be dreadfully boring (and somewhat of a waste actually) if you only surrounded yourself with others who felt, thought and believed in pretty much the same fashion as you did. But of course that’s not the point of this at all, and the atheist i mentioned previously (who also happens to be an artist and an avid facebookian to boot – knowledge that will come in handy later on) is appearing here for a totally separate reason.

You see, of all my atheist friends (did i mention i have quite a few? But again, i’m not mentioning this in an effort to bolster my ratings any), there are two that are quite boisterous about us “idiots” who buy into the whole Jesus fairy tale, and of the two, he is one. Now to be fair, they only get into these boisterous moods around Easter and Christmas, with the remainder of the year being left pretty much “Jesus-bashing” free. Obviously. i mean, i can’t imagine i – or anyone for that matter – would suffer friendship too long from someone who was constantly berating your belief system. Family however, is a different story, but one we won’t be covering here. So, where was i? Oh yes, the two atheists who make every effort to tell every one that of all the Holidays in all of the world, Christmas and Easter are by far the most moronic – to the point where they should be banned altogether. Not because the Easter Bunny and Santa are fake (are they?) but rather because Jesus is. Was. And a whole bunch of us bought into his scam enough as to still be celebrating his birth some two plus thousand years later.

Sometimes my friends efforts to slam Christians – all decked out with their mangers and trees and carols – are pretty mean-spirited. “Juvenile” is actually the word i’m looking to use, but will refrain from doing so since that is precisely their stance about our beliefs. And other times their efforts are pretty comical, when considering how far off target their critiques are from any actual “doctrine” they may be in disagreement with. So, why am i friends with them at all then? Well, all in all, they are both good friends, and i know them as otherwise well-intended and good-hearted people. The type that you never thought would be a friend at all – but who then end up being much more of one than those who would’ve more easily fit the bill. And i enjoy their company far too much to let their semi-annual blowouts ruin an otherwise solid relationship. Besides – while it’s not really mine to mind – i really don’t mind them being angry. i know what it’s like to be the one person who is forced to “stand outside”, peering only through the window at times, just to see that everyone else is having a simply splendid party (of the manger, tree and carol variety), that you’re not invited to unless you’re “willing to drink the kool aid” that is – or more appropriately in this case, the eggnog.

At any rate, despite what so many Christians and atheists seem to think, there is not one single word in the existence of language that can be used by any one human to convert any other to their belief system – let alone invitations to, or exclusions from, parties filled with trees and carols. You either live your beliefs, or you don’t. And from there, others will either follow your lead (because they see some truth to it), or they won’t. And such is life, in a (rather) utilitarian sense. So unless my friends are being exceedingly rude, i simply choose to turn a deaf ear to their rants during the holidays. It’s better for us both that i do.

“So what’s this all about then t, and when exactly will we get to that point?”

Well, the point is this. Every year i do my best to ignore these two whilst they jump about, with fists waving and words of hurt flying about such as “there’s no need to celebrate a holiday for a guy who never was anything more than a crazy carpenter” and “Christians aren’t only ignorant, but they celebrate it as well” or even the time-tested “Christmas is stupid”. And every year i enjoy my holiday regardless of their slander, quietly resuming our friendship after they’ve spent their rage at a Christian world giddy on eggnog and (to their mind) incorrect expectations. But this year is different. This year it may prove hard to ignore at least the one. Because this year the friend who started this whole diatribe – the friend who hates Christmas and all that is associated with it – the friend who has on multiple occasions stated that the whole thing is phooey and needs to be done away with once and for all – the friend who is so strong in his beliefs as to shout them from every social network rooftop available, usually from the beginning of October straight through to the new year – the friend who, and let me be perfectly clear about this, won’t be truly happy until Christmas is banned altogether – this very friend posted the following on his facebook page: