Hey, happy holidays if I don’t see you! I hope your fast goes well. Happy New Year’s, Valentine’s and Easter too. I hope that this new president doesn’t depress you or global warming and these terrorists, yeah, I hope they cut it out, and people, you know, get a fair wage for their work. Happy birthday too, and I hope your mom’s funeral isn’t too bad and that cancer of yours gets better. I mean, if I don’t see you.*
Christmas is like a politician: all promises but a liar in the end. While there might be gatherings and good wishes and fond regards, I can’t say that I am buoyed by any of these facile exchanges, given our on-going state of affairs. As for the songs, lights and trees, we all know where all of these things end up. That just leaves the presents, the bags of things that the wealthy can exchange in excitement and glee. And the extravagances that the not-so-rich can’t afford but have been indoctrinated to believe they must have to find happiness. And then there’s whatever left for all of the rest. And so, yes, you will have to forgive me for being so rude, but: “Fuck Christmas.”
The glass doors slid suddenly open, loose along the tracks, allowing out the thick, perfumed air. The reception area was deserted, the line of grey pillars, each tied with a plush red bow, tapering down the long and empty halls. I stepped inside, rubbing the foamy blob of liquid soap between my hands, and paused at the tree, perfect, artificial and green.
I looked around and then in amongst the baubles of the tree, half-expecting a specter to come out.“Bracing weather.” The disembodied voice was raspy and friendly.
I circled the branches to find an elderly man in a wheelchair, a thin tartan blanket draped down. His eyes were wide, a clear green, his smile crooked and sincere. “Here for a visit?”
I felt the twist in my hips, impelling me to leave. “My mother.”
He nodded slightly, a ragged scab covering the back of his head. “She will be pleased to see you.”
I realized that the blanket hung flat against the wheelchair, that he had no legs, that he must have had countless surgeries and was only smiling in pain. “Yes.”
His arms lay still across his empty lap. “Carry on.”
I sidled away awkwardly, surging around the corner to where a woman stood, dressed as an elf.
We waited for the elevator. “It must be hard to work here,” I said. “Especially around Christmas.”
“I’m not a nurse.” She pressed the clipboard tight to her green felt blouse. “I’m the director of social programs.”
Sufjan Stevens began his month-long Christmas tour last night at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia.The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Iceis a night of scattered merriment, featuring a Wheel of Fortune style carousel of songs – “The Wheel of Christmas!” – for audience sing-a-longs and a haphazardly wardrobed Yuletide band. While much of the performance had a wild and unrehearsed aspect, Sufjan Steven’s musical talent remains a wonder to behold. Sufjan Stevens might claim to be just goofing around on stage – “How much more stupid can I look?” He asked when he strapped a unicorn horn to his head. – but once he settled into a ‘serious’ song, his prodigious talent hypnotized the boisterous audience again and again. His voice fragile, his notes tenuous, almost lost, he sounds like he is calling us from another world.
Sufjan Stevens concludes his tour in New York on December 21 & 22. Tickets go on sale two days before the performance to avoid ticket brokers from taking advantage of the $20 ticket price. I hope to get back in.