The weather forecast had called for perfect, sunny weather for the four days I’d be in Brookline. When I arrived in the city, however, the scenario changed. Now it looked as though Tuesday (my third day there) was going to be a washout. Since I don’t drive, I was counting on my feet, and Boston’s convenient Public Transportation System to get me around. Granted, there was a T station right across the street from where I was staying, but still… I’d have to walk a couple of blocks from my stop at Coolidge Corners to Park Street, where Dad’s nursing home was. So on Monday, I made sure to pop into a CVS drug store, where I purchased a hot pink umbrella.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning… I brought my trusty new umbrella with me as I walked the few blocks to get breakfast, then back to my rented room. As I sipped my coffee, I reflected on yesterday’s visit with Dad and his care team. It had been a depressing mission; my heart was still heavy from seeing him in such feeble condition. I needed to find some uplifting way to spend the morning before I returned to visit my father again. I opted to make my way across town to Quincy Market, which always bustling with tourists and food vendors, selling delicious wares.
So, I’m standing on the platform, waiting on the Green Line, when I notice that a young man also waiting for the train is holding something in his hand that is missing from mine: an umbrella! DANG! After spending $8.99 on a brand new umbrella, I’d left the stupid thing on my bed! Well, no time to go back for it; the train was coming. It was just starting to drizzle as I got on board.
As my eyes scanned the train car for available seats, I did a double take. Hanging practically in front of me was… an umbrella!
I looked around, expecting another passenger to grab it, having recognized it as their own. But as the train started moving down the tracks, I realized that some unfortunate commuter must have accidentally left it behind. I felt guilty taking it, but by the time I reached my stop, the rain was coming down steadily. Grateful for the cover, I hurried into Quincy Market. I took my time wandering the length of the building, surrounded on both sides by delicious aromas of every type of food imaginable: Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, and of course, dishes that Boston is famous for, like Boston baked beans and authentic clam “Chowdah.” I smiled as I watched a bunch of kids who were there on a field trip, their excitement apparent in their eyes and smiles.
I exited the busy market and crossed the way to Faneuil Hall, one of the countless historic sites in Boston. I’ve walked the Freedom Trail during previous Boston visits, but my heart wasn’t in it that day, between the rain and my worries about Dad. So, under shelter of my newfound umbrella, I searched for the nearest T station and rode back to the other side of Boston.
As I trudged up the steps of Dad’s nursing home, I felt a sense of doom, like I was walking up the steps of a morgue. I took the elevator up to the third floor. When the doors opened, Dad was right there, his wheelchair parked directly in front of me! There’s no way he could have known I was coming at that exact time! My heart gave a little leap of joy.
“Hi, Dad!” I said, as if I saw him every day, and not for the second time in five years.
He mumbled a greeting. He was just being served lunch… a tray of typically unappetizing-looking hospital food. He had trouble feeding himself. As much food ended up in his lap as in his mouth. He ate less than a quarter of what was on his plate.
His spirits seemed to have declined since the day before. Nothing I said made him smile. I got to talking with some of the other nursing home residents in the rec room, and they, too, tried to cheer him up. Even when the art/ music/ games lady, a vivacious woman named Beverly, whirled into the room and put on some Earth, Wind and Fire, Dad was one of the few patients who didn’t react to the infectious groove. My father had always loved music.
There was no engaging him in conversation. I asked if there was anything he needed, anything I could do for him. He just shook his head “no.” All I could do was tell him I loved him.
“Good!” he said, still avoiding my eyes.
I hugged him as best I could, with him slouched over in his wheelchair. I didn’t say “goodbye.” He already seemed to sense I would not be back.
I was relieved to get out of the gloomy building. Once on the sidewalk, I took a deep breath of fresh air. It was a freedom my father would probably never enjoy again.
By the time I walked to the T station, it had stopped raining. The sun winked down from the cool March sky. I folded my “borrowed” umbrella and hung it on a metal gate next to the train stop. It would be there for the next person who needed it.
Finally! We have arrived at the pinnacle of Mt. UnChristmas. The only clue I dropped during this whole Top 13 countdown was song #7 (“Where Are You, Christmas?” by Faith Hill, from the 2000 remake of “The Grinch.”)
1.You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch- Thurl Ravenscroft (UNCREDITED!)
Most everybody knows that the Grinch in the 1966 animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas was voiced by actor Boris Karloff. However, Karloff did NOT sing the special’s most memorable tune… although it was mistakenly credited to him. The song was actually performed by one Thurl Ravenscroft. While he may not exactly be a household name, those of us who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s will remember him as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes cereal commercials. (“They’re Grrrreat!!!”)
The reason for using Ravenscroft for the one song was, even though he and Karloff sounded very much alike, Boris Karloff could not sing. Legend has it that Dr. Seuss himself tried to rectify the situation and wrote letters to journalists to try and give the voice artist proper credit, even calling Ravenscroft on the telephone to apologize for the oversight.
Here are the full lyrics to the #1 most Un-Christmassy Christmas Song of All Time!
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel.
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders.
You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr Grinch.
I wouldn’t touch you with a
Thirty-nine and a half foot pole.
You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile,
Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You’re a nasty wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks.
Your soul is full of gunk,
The three best words that best describe you,
Are as follows, and I quote”
You’re a rotter Mr Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots
Your soul is an appalling dump heap
Overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr Grinch
With a nauseous super nos
You’re a crooked jerky jockey and,
You drive a crooked horse
You’re a three-decker sauerkraut
And toadstool sandwich,
With arsenic sauce!
And with those unmatchable sentiments, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a healthful,happy New Year!
- Please Come Home for Christmas- the Eagles (and Charles Brown, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, etc.)
Bells will be ringing this sad sad News
Oh what a Christmas to have the blues
My baby’s gone I have no friends
To wish me greetings once again
Originally released in 1960 by blues singer Charles Brown (he co-wrote it with Gene Redd), the song rose to even greater popularity when the Eagles recorded it in 1978. That year, it made the Top 20 on the pop charts, the first Christmas song to do so since 1963.
This line always irked me:
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas by New Years night
Complete cop-out! The song’s not even over and already he is buying time, because he knows she’s NOT coming home for Christmas!
- Blue Christmas- Elvis Presley (and, like, hundreds of other artists)
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, the song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It enjoyed greater success the following year as a Country & Western hit by Ernest Tubb. Elvis originally recorded the melancholy ballad in 1957, but it wasn’t made commercially available as a single until 1964. (No iTunes in those days, kiddos!)
Here’s Elvis performing it live in 1968:
- Last Christmas- Wham! This lil’ gem first wormed its way into our ears in winter of 1984. Written and produced by one-time heartthrob George Michael, “Last Christmas” was recorded by his duo Wham! and went on to become one of the year’s biggest seasonal hits (along with the all-star charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid… which, oddly enough, also featured Wham!)
“Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away.”
The very NEXT DAY??!!?? What a hussy!
The song has been covered over the years, mostly by young female pop artists… Taylor Swift, Hillary Duff, Ashley Tisdale, Ariana Grande and Carly Rae Jepsen, to name a few. But no other recording has quite captured the lonely disillusionment of the original recording.
And the video, with its classic 1980s hairdos and fashion? Iconic.
Well, we’ve almost arrived at the pinnacle of this un-merry musical mountain… Think you know my pick for Thee ultimate, most Un-Christmassy Christmas song of all time???
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this blog series!
Aaaand we’re back! The good news is, we have gotten all the songs involving alcohol out of the way. (I mean, getting drunk is such an easy “out” if you are struggling to make it through the holidays.)
Snow is on the ground. Temps are waaay below freezing. Sure “feels” like Christmas, at least climate-wise. Yet, it all seems so artificial, so empty…
7. Where Are You, Christmas?- Faith Hill
In 2000, Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was adapted into a live action movie starring Jim Carrey in the lead role. (It had previously been made into a cartoon TV special in 1966.) The Cindy Lou Who character performs the song in the film. Country Sweetheart-turned-Pop Diva Faith Hill recorded it for the soundtrack. The tune was penned by Will Jennings and James Horner, best known for their work on the “Titanic” soundtrack (Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” etc.)
Where are you Christmas
Why can’t I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can’t I hear music play?
Ah, but I CAN still hear the music playing, Faith. It is hurting my ears and my heart. Hence, this blog series.
6. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)- Darlene Love
The Phil Spector Christmas 1963 album, “A Christmas Gift For You,” was a masterpiece. Featuring tunes by the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B.Soxx and the Blue Jeans, this record epitomized the “Wall of Sound” well, sound, that *made Spector famous.
*This was decades before his ex-wife Ronnie (lead singer of the Ronettes) spoke publically about his alleged physical mental abuse, and Phil’s imprisonment for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
In 1987, the song enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks to U2’s remake. Meh.
5. Merry Christmas Darling- the Carpenters
Nobody ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever sang a sad song as convincingly as Karen Carpenter. Ever. That’s because she was probably one of the saddest, loneliest pop stars of the 20th century. Too bad no one knew that until after she croaked. (Read this book: “Little Girl Blue” by Randy Schmidt.)
Originally recorded in 1970, the song made the holiday charts in many years following. It was finally included on an album (The Carpenters’ iconic “Christmas Portrait”) in 1978.
The song’s deceptively romantic lyrics leave the listener– and Karen– hanging. It’s kind of like a love letter that comes back stamped “Return to Sender.” (Sigh.)
The theme of Loneliness will continue in the next batch of tunes.