A hippo? For Christmas?

Lucky mesmerized by the lights

When I was contemplating this blog entry, I initially thought about writing something scathing about the commerciality of Christmas in modern society; how Americans overspend and over-indulge year after year with no thought spared to the consequences.  I thought about asking where all the good cheer and goodwill have gone.  I certainly see no evidence of it. Just take a trip down to your local mall or, for that matter, your favorite big box store.  No good cheer or goodwill there.  Maybe they’ve gone to the Caribbean. That’s where I would go.

Instead, I decided that writing about my negative feelings toward the sad state of Christmas would only make me look like a jerk.  Or more adequately – a Scrooge.  I don’t need a special season, or month to do that.  I can do it anytime – and rest assured, I will.  No, I thought that I should give you all a break from my bah humbug attitude.   Call it my little gift to you this holiday season.

Of course, after I decided on the above-referenced attitude adjustment, I was faced with the monumental task of finding something that I actually do like, to write about.  It was tough, and I was just about to throw in the towel when a Christmas song began to play.

Ding!  (Cue animated light bulb)

I like Christmas music.  Well, okay. That’s stretching it a bit.  But, for argument’s sake, and in the spirit of the season, I will contend that there are a few Christmas songs that I find enjoyable.  I might even go so far as to say that they entertain me and evoke feelings of something I can’t quite put my finger on.

These are my top twelve:

12.      Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC:  Don’t judge.  I was a teenager in the ‘80s.  This song reminds me of a time when I was surrounded by my favorite gang of fellow miscreants.  Okay, so we never got into trouble while wandering the streets of a heavily patrolled AFB housing development, but that’s not to say that we didn’t think about it.  Still, this song brings back fond memories.

11.      All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey:    I love this little ditty even though I’m not a huge fan of Mariah Carey, in general.  Perhaps it is because this song embodies the sixties, Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”, and go-go dancers.  Three things I absolutely love.  Again, don’t judge.  I happen to think that the 60s brought forth some of the best music ever recorded.

10.       Winter Wonderland by The Eurythmics:  I first heard this song on the 1987 Christmas compilation album called A Very Special Christmas.  It isn’t usually a song that I care for, but Annie Lennox could sell ice to an Inuit with that voice.

9.        Step into Christmas by Elton John:  I’m not sure there is a real explanation for my love of this song.  It’s not particularly memorable, but whenever it comes on the radio, I crank up the volume and sing along.

8.        Let it Snow by Dean Martin:  I have a secret place in my heart for Dean Martin.  I love his voice and hearing his songs make me think of my grandmother.  I don’t know why.  I have no concrete memory to pin that on, just that it reminds me of her.

7.       Chipmunk Christmas by David Seville:  I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  Who doesn’t love Simon, Alvin and Theodore?

6.        It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams:  My mother had this Andy Williams Christmas album she would play to death at the very hint of Christmas, when I was a kid.  It grew on me.

5.        Do they know it’s Christmas by Band Aid:  Again, I spent my influential years in the ‘80’s.  It was the decade of Live Aid, Farm Aid, We are the World.  Band Aid was a group put together by the music industry’s royalty of the time, in an effort to raise awareness and money for the Ethiopian famine.  To be completely honest, in the midst of my most narcissistic phase, I’m not real sure I paid much attention to the message they were sending; however, I did love that my favorite artists sang on this records.   Plus, the accompanying video came out during the rise of MTV – when MTV played videos – which made it all the more tangible for me.

4.         Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee:  Yeah, I know.  Pretty cliché.  But it was a staple around my house growing up, so this one is part of my childhood soundtrack.

3.         Carol of the Bells:  Am I the only one who hears this song and is instantly transformed into an orchestra conductor?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard an arrangement I didn’t like.   *** I have hyperlinked to a live rendition by the group Celtic Woman.  I must give credit to my friend Jill who posted the link on her Facebook wall a week or so ago.  I’d never heard this version.

2.         I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey:   A hippo.  For Christmas?  Dude!  What’s not to love?  I even have a little Hallmark ornament that plays this song.  It makes me smile.

1.         Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) by Darlene Love:   Say what you will about Phil Spector, but in 1963 he gave us 2 minutes and 46 seconds of soul warming Christmas joy. Every year, when I am grumbling about putting up the Christmas tree and cluttering the house with useless trinkets, this song – and this song alone – lifts my spirits and puts me in a festive mood.  It just isn’t Christmas without some Darlene Love.

Merry Christmas.

Things I learned at the Sting concert…

Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images North America

Sting, my favorite musician of all time, made a stop in Dallas on his Back to Bass tour this week.  I was fortunate enough to be there.  I won’t bore you with too many details of the show.  Suffice it to say, Sting is a God.  Head and shoulders above the rest.  Still a class act after all these years.  This I know to be true.  I have seen him perform before.  His vocals are flawless, his backing band without equal, his set list a great mix of commercial hits and lesser known glittering gems that set a true fan’s heart fluttering with excitement.  All in all, it was a superb show.

While Sting may be top on my list of favorite things, people watching comes in at a close second.  What better place to people watch than a rock concert, right?  Right.  I can’t help myself.  It’s all in the name of character inspiration.  At least that’s what I tell myself as I gawk unabashedly at the masses swirling around me.

Here are a few of the things I learned at the Sting concert:

I learned that…

…that it was not hard to spot the husbands and boyfriends who were dragged kicking and screaming to a concert of an Englishman they couldn’t care less about.  They were the ones whose faces were illuminated throughout the concert by the light from their iPhones and Blackberries.  I image they do not have very happy relationships and are one banana peel away from a nasty, hate-filled break up.  While it is true that they may have earned “points” by showing up, they prove just how uncommitted to the unity they really are.  It’s sort of like when you go on a date with your husband or boyfriend and instead of engaging you in conversation over dinner, they browse their mobile twitter feed.  I feel pretty certain that their deeds will not go unpunished.  We women are a spiteful lot.  Their wives/girlfriends will make them suffer.  Even if done subtly, revenge can leave its mark.

…that there is something inherently wrong with women over a certain age showing their faces in public while wearing thigh high leather boots, skin-tight leather pants and skimpy glittering tank tops.  Denial?  Not just a river in Egypt.  Look, I know that age is relative.  You are only as old as you feel, but have some self-respect.  60 and dressed like a hooker at a Sting concert?  It just reeks insecurity and is, frankly, pathetic.

…that walking ten steps behind the aforementioned 60-year-old hooker and carrying her swag bag, is her mate – a short, pudgy, bald man who she has dressed up to look like Charlie Harper.

…that I should start carrying around a small travel size bottle of bleach in my purse to sanitize my eyes.  The gentleman in front of me was kind enough to flash me a good two inches of his butt crack every time he stood.  I’m not sure I will ever recover from the sight of his hairy ass.

…that there are those among us who will pay a premium price for tickets and then spend the entire show engaged in an activity that does not involve watching or listening to what they have paid to see.  I don’t understand this.  I paid $200 to see Sting.  I want to see Sting.  I want to hear Sting.  I want to feel his music seep into my pores and surge through my veins.  I don’t want to continuously have to pull my eyes away from the stage in order to let these inattentive people in and out of their seats at regular intervals.

…that copious amounts of alcohol will make the man sitting behind me who, by his own admission, had never seen Sting and didn’t really seem to know who he was, a very vocal and ardent fan.  I’m just grateful that he didn’t spill his super-sized wine on me.

…that though I felt like one of youngest people at this concert, it was nice to see children scattered through the crowd.  There weren’t many, but I am encouraged by this.  There is perhaps a smidgen of hope that this younger generation will know real musical talent when they hear it.

…that I am still sad I missed the reunion tour.