Thursday, December 22, 2005

Weihnachten /Schadenfreude/Festivus

Every holiday season has a unique theme that permanently places a distinguishing mark on it and is immediately recalled when remembering Christmases past. Sometimes it's based on the hottest new toy; who can reminisce on the Christmas of '84 without visions of mutant-faced Cabbage Batch Dolls gaping back at you from under the tree. Other years, inclement weather is the big story, although none immediately come to mind. And this year, if I may be so bold as to predict, will be remembered for the wave of Germans who descended upon our city, taking hold in kiosks at White Oaks Mall where they engaged in an aggressive form of salesmanship that contrasted greatly with the morose approach taken by most domestic retail associates.

These Germans* didn't come bearing schnitzel, beer steins, or even lederhosen, as stereotype would have it, but rather the latest in home nail care technology.

I was approached by one of the young frauleins while shopping during my lunch hour. She proceeded to take my hand and demonstrated some sort Bavarian buffing technique on the nail of my right thumb, followed by a quick application of what she called an all-natural cuticle remover. Danielle then asked me to compare thumb nails and I admit that never had I a nail that was shinier, although I'll have you and Danielle both know that I was without cuticles even before the spritzing.

I also admit to being a bit taken with her accent. I'm a lonsome shopper by nature and doubt that I would have succumbed to her request for a demonstration had her sales pitch rang with a Midwestern twang. In the end, however, I found the asking price for sparkling nails too steep, even after she confidentially agreed to lower the price on the condition that I keep her counteroffer confidential.

Not everyone, however, will remember the Teutonic wave of 2005 with fondness. The local Korean** community has long had the nail market cornered. I'm sure that they weren't very impressed with the German interlopers' highfalutin emery boards and magic cuticle water. Although I do not trade in the keratin care market, this blog does maintain open diplomatic relations with both the European Union and manicurist-producing Asian states, so I won't take a position on this dispute. But every time I notice a dull cast on my thumb nail, I'll remember the year when I was touched by the spirit of Weihnachten and, for one brief moment, my nail shone like the star that announced the birth of baby Jesus.

Great Gift Ideas
A couple of posts ago I wrote about the time-honored tradition of finding personal joy in the misery of others. For those who want to give the gift of schadenfreude*** this Christmas season, I have two helpful gift ideas.

The first is a novel by Jonathan "I don't need no stinkin' Oprah's book club" Franzen. "The Corrections" is a great, albeit lengthy read. But what's best is that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone on your gift list as miserable as the Lamberts as they attempt to spend one last Christmas together as a family. The ennui runs thick like eggnog and there's enough self-loathing to make even the most Scrooge-like person on your gift list seem giddy with cheer.

If music is more your bag, pick up a copy of the Essential Pogues that contains the delightfully downtrodden "Fairytale of New York." Like most Pogue's songs, it's perfect to lift a pint to. Like most things Irish, it's bittersweet and tinged with caustic humor. The blog format prevents me from a humming a few bars, but you can get a taste of how it plays out by considering these lyrics to this dramatic duet sung by Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl:

So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

But then later in the song, the situation deteriorates:

You scum bag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God
It's our last

Play it for someone you love this Christmas.

Finally, I whole-heartedly endorse the Festivus celebration that Nick Rogers writes about in today's SJ-R. Although I've never attended the event, it sounds as if the demented spirit of Frank Costanza is well-preserved. Plus it has Rosie Flores, who does a rollicking-good version of "Red, Red Robin" on one my kids' CDs.

I don't know if I'll be able to go this year, as it conflicts with the BlogFreeSpringfield Christmas party, which consists of me drinking a beer, congratulating myself on a good year, and handing out a bonus based on 2005's advertising revenue. Since I failed to generate any advertising revenue, however, there will be no bonuses this year. I probably can't even afford to spring for the beer. So I guess I'll just dial the Pogues up on the old iPod then curl up with my copy of "The Corrections."

*I'm not sure they are German, but I had to ascribe an ethnicity to them for literary purposes. They are definitely of the Eastern European variety.

**I'm not sure they are all Koreans, but see above.

***Clever how I carry the German theme throughout, isn't it.


The Abstract Prosaic said...

Way to work "schadenfreude" into your post. My personal favorite German word is "ausgezeichnet." I was in high school during "Wayne's World's" creative peak on "SNL," and I recall picturing a German version of "Wayne's World" while not paying attention to Frau Groesch. These days, "Ausgezeichnet" could be the name of a hot German tech firm.

The Pogues are always a fun listen, as well. "Young Ned of the Hill" off of "Peace and Love" always gives me goosebumps.

Monkey Boy said...

"But every time I notice a dull cast on my thumb nail, I'll remember the year when I was touched by the spirit of Weihnachten and, for one brief moment, my nail shone like the star that announced the birth of baby Jesus."

That was very good. I actually laughed out loud.

wade said...

To Festivus:

As the Hawaiian shirted goofball who pushes drags and otherwise cajoles folk into the Festivus spirit I feel bad that you missed out on the celebration.

The pain of Festivus Past,
The promise of Festivus Future:

I think this next year we will have Festivus reparations available for those who have been deprived in Festivus' past. Essays submitted about the Festivus, the spirit (the anger and vitrile) of Festivus and perhaps a bit of "what Festivus means to me" will be considered in order that the most demonstrably needy have a chance at a comped affair: a nice dinner at the Capisce', Festivus tickets, and an evening's stay for two on the 25th floor. Given your appreciable skills with the written word you are a shoe-in to win.

Perhaps next year you and the BFS crew can exchange your gag gifts, pass out your end of the year "excellence in sales" miniature trophies, distribute bonus checks, eat your taquitos and ramaki and then attend the Festivus as the "party" to finish out your evening.

The stubbing of the Big Toe on the "Feats of Strength":

The "feats of strength" as meted out in the Sumo Arena proved to be a cathartic exercise that quelled not only long suppressed hostilities between the closest of friends but also office tensions and workplace rivalries. I think this could be an amazing fundraiser with co-workers and office mates voting ahead of time for the matches they'd most like to see. The combatants themselves being none the wiser to their opponents until the curtain is drawn aside and their eyes lock across the arena.

Perhaps even the primary election season could be set aside in favor of some actual mortal combat.

A short note on the music:

Rosie Flores was and still is the Queen. She has a Christmas disc out as a fresh release. I also urge you to pick up a Chris Scruggs disc as you will not be disappointed.

An Auctioneer never stands so tall:

The charity auction was presided over by none other than Luke Lee Gaule. He even kep' the hat on his head.

The book singed by Allen Salkin actioned for charity at $90. The Seinfeld script signed by Mr. Stiller went for $200... It was a little confusing as I ended up bidding for the script against a mystery buyer on the other side of the room. He beat me out and then walked over and handed me the script as a gift. My Dad, you can't take him anywhere. It was a Festivus Miracle.

Mad Props:

It goes without saying that such an event does not come off without a ton of help. Sean Burns books the talent and Jamie whips up the flyers and tickets, Dylan is a one man ticket collecting, security force who does his best work with a curly haired blonde girl on his lap (really Dylan who doesn't?). My little brother Jake and his Buddy John were the Sumo Pit Masters. Dave Marx besides being invloved since the early days, built this year's Festivus Pole. Bill Londrigan another veteran is the somewhat inebriated none the less qualified emergency medical consultant. Jim Ackerman handles legal issues by screening hairbrained schemes. Mark Palazzolo, Barry Taft, Chris Nickell, Dave Stout, and Tim Geving are perennial ticket sellers and participants. Erica the consummate rockabilly fan, allowed me in to her weekly radio gig on WQNA 88.3.
Thanks to my Peeps.

Special thanks also to: Southern Wine and Spirits, The Springfield Hilton and Recycled Records.

Thanks to Dan for letting me unload here.

Hope to see you all next year!

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


I'm sorry we missed Festivus. We'll be there next year. If you need any help promoting the event, I'll donate my services in exchange for a nice ale, preferably something of the dark variety.

I have a folky friend from Austin TX who would be perfect entertainment for your Yuletide alternative. Let me know when you're auditioning talent for next year and I'll send you a tape.