The Critical Mass

Tchaikovsky’s Mouse King is pounding on the door

Jed and I were sitting in Java’s at the Market on Saturday morning, gossiping about some of the local folk singers and ducking out of the way of the oncoming holiday season, and reaching the same conclusion. Thanksgiving is a far nobler holiday than Christmas.

“Thanksgiving is family and friends and food,” he said.

“Christmas is stress and aggravation and greed,” I said.

Indeed, the only negative to Thanksgiving is the Detroit Lions are always on TV.

My chapter of the thesis is hardly a new one. Thursday night at The Little Cafe, Watkins & the Rapiers launched its holiday observations with a set that included maybe a half-dozen of what it estimates are 40 original Christmas songs that the various band members have composed over the last decade or two. The band spreads its particularly twisted viewpoint every Thursday this month at The Little, except Christmas Eve, and Dec. 18 at the Flipside Bar & Grill. These world-weary songwriters document the holidays through a cynical lens. In Watkins World, Santa has a gun, Johnny Cash wears black even on Christmas Day and, even as those Mexican immigrants are doing our chores, the rest of us wonder, “should we send them home for Christmas?”

Or, “The most invasive holiday that people come to fear,” they grump. “Why can’t Christmas just leave me be?”

Friday at Abilene Bar & Lounge, lowly saloon owner Danny and Big Al threw a party to celebrate their birthdays. Danny slam-danced me as I walked in the door, while Al was feeding his favorite Americana songs into the CD player, and slowly unspooling into a sweaty tequila frenzy while stomping around the floor to the Cornell Hurd Band. Not a Christmas carol was to be heard. No one wore a knit sweater decorated with reindeer. Oh no, our community theater group is doing The Nutcracker again!

Familiarity breeds contempt. And Tchaikovsky’s Mouse King is pounding on the door, again.

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