I’ve never known anyone with a greater capacity for taking himself too seriously than my old friend Matt. Admittedly, we knew each other best when we were teenagers, a time in which melodrama is often the norm. But even allowing for the emotion-scrambling potential of coursing hormones, Matt was in a class by himself. He seemed to thrive on inventing a life that was far more compelling than our mundane, Midwestern reality. It was a tendency that often alienated him from our peers.
But then it was always something of an uphill struggle for Matt. He was an alien from the start, a rare transplant from the Carolinas with a strict, Southern father whom he addressed as Sir. Some time around third grade he appeared at our little Catholic school. He was very sociable and seemed to make friends quickly, and it wasn’t long before his mother was hosting our Cub Scout den meetings from the basement of their modest home just down the street. From the beginning, however, Matt spoke in a way that seemed aimed at eliciting our sympathy and admiration. He was candid about the heart surgery he had endured as a toddler, an apparently true event for which he would gladly provide evidence by displaying his scar. As time went on, he would embellish his medical history with statements to the effect that he “technically shouldn’t even be alive,” that he stoically faced greatly reduced longevity, and that he had been “clinically dead” for some matter of minutes. Read More
December has barely begun, yet it already feels as though we have been subjected to Christmas music for an entire holiday season. Familiar tunes have permeated retail environments for weeks now, and commercial television has been hijacked by the relentless yuletide promotions of jewelers and department stores. The frenzied songfest will only intensify as the Last Shopping Day approaches.
For those with an insatiable appetite for perennial holiday favorites, it’s a golden time. Personally, I find a few Christmas songs in the week leading up to December 25 to be sufficient, but I’ve usually had more than my fill by then. When it comes to Christmas music, I prefer be selective, which means embracing the recordings I appreciate while avoiding the ones I hate. The latter effort, however, can be quite difficult.
Of the traditional carols and hymns, the one song that I truly loathe is The Little Drummer Boy. What don’t I like about it? Everything. Its worst offense is what may be the dullest refrain ever penned: pa rum pum pum pum. This is a fatal flaw, as the annoying phrase is repeated incessantly. All that remains is a monotonous melody with a lyrical narrative that drives me up the wall. All my life, even when I was a child myself, I’ve wanted to grab that kid by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. “Listen, drummer boy,” I’d snarl menacingly, “the newborn king doesn’t give two figs whether or not you have a gift for him, and he sure as heck isn’t going to be pleased by some ankle-biter beating away on a snare drum!” I don’t care if it’s meant to be taken metaphorically. It’s a stupid analogy. Read More