Getting Scrooged on Christmas Eve in the 21st Century
There I was sleeping in my spacious bed, snuggled under the sheets, with my warm blanket keeping out the cold. Suddenly I heard a horrible shrill scream!
I awoke and looked up. There he was—white as a sheet and clear as smoky glass. It looked like Frank Zappa. He has been dead for years. Could this really be him—in death? He was wearing what looked like a bed sheet. It’s as if he was trying to play the Part of Jacob Marley in the classic tale, A Christmas Carol, 1843, by Charles Dickens,
“Wake up Mark!” the aberration said. “I have an important message.”
“Frank, is that you?” I asked.
“Yes Mark. And you are in big trouble.”
“Me? Is this a Scrooge thing—because I put my Christmas lights up and I gave to Toys For Tots?”
“This isn’t about celebrating Christmas or charity. It is about embracing the present and forgetting the past.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“I spent my whole life making music only a few people liked. I should have made music for the majority.”
“That’s ridiculous! I loved your music. Well—OK there were a few pieces I didn’t really like, but most of it I enjoyed immensely.”
“You and just a few others. You didn’t listen to the music of the people. You don’t listen to Justin Bieber or Bionce. You haven’t embraced rap or hip hop.”
“But I hate listening to Justin Bieber and Bionce! I just can’t enjoy rap and hip hop they way I like rock.”
“You must embrace the present and the future Mark. Throw away your vinyl records. Throw away your CDs. Just buy songs on off a smart phone. Buy them on line and load them on to an MP3 player. Learn to be modern.”
His advice was not new to me. I have heard from lots of young people to just songs off a “smart phone” or computer. One friend of mine said I could help the bands out more by seeing them in concert. Today, concerts are very expensive and I don’t like making a night of it, as much as I did when I was younger, like my high school years.
Besides, I always enjoyed putting a collection of music together. I always enjoyed reading album covers and record labels to see who sang, played instruments and who wrote the songs. There were always certain bands and singers I followed. Then there was the album art itself. Some of it was quite innovational. Albums were an integrated part of my life in high school. Before I could drive a car, I used to sit on my bed and listen to albums for hours at a time.
By the 1990s music CDs were supposed to replace vinyl and provide us with albums of the future. I liked CDs because there was still some artwork, and the artist’s information was included in the discs. By 2010 it’s getting really hard to find any place that sells CDs.
I’ve been told that all that information is available from music sites and the places where people download songs. But how many young people bother to look at any of that stuff or do they just ignore the details and look for a snappy tune to listen to? And do they keep any songs for later or just listen to whatever they like at the time. I have an album collection and the music brings back memories for me. I love having that library. Some young people still buy CDs and keep music they appreciate. So I’m not the only person who sees the value in investing in a good album.
“That would be throwing away my past,” I protested. “How can I do that? And why not buy CDs so that the artists can make reasonable money off their work?”
“Today’s artists make most of their money selling their music to TV and radio commercials. I realize I ridiculed commercialism in life, but now I am dead and realize I should have embraced it.”
“I can’t believe what I am hearing from you!”
“You will be visited by three ghosts. Expect the first one tonight at Midnight.”
Suddenly Frank just faded away like some ghostly memory. Was it just a dream? I remember the Bill Murray movie I watched in 1988, Scrooged. Could I really afford to just assume this was a dream or was I really about to get Scrooged, as Murray did in 1988?
Sure enough a few hours later I woke to find standing in front of me, a stupid looking Giant TV with small feet, with black boots and two hands with hooks on them. The TV came on and there was this nice looking lady. She looked like Katy Perry from her “Last Friday Night” video.
“Suppose you are the ghost of Christmas past,” I asked?
“Of course,” the TV answered.
“Or we going to wander around somewhere where I can review my past or am I going to watch all of this on your TV?”
“The TV. Do you think the original ghost of Christmas past would have hauled Scrooge to all those places if he could just sit there in his room and watch videos?”
“But that seems so cheap. It just seems like you’re downright lazy.”
“The afterlife is run a lot like this life. People don’t want to waste any more government money on these things then they have to.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. There is supposed to be some kind of justice in the afterlife.”
“Let’s get started.”
Her TV switched to a video of me as a kid getting all kinds of presents from Santa Clause with all of my brothers. We were all in the old family room, in our middle-class brick home in St. Louis where I grew up.
“I sure got a lot of gifts back then,” I commented. “There’s mom and dad. They must have spent a fortune on us. How could they afford it?”
“You were a child,” she said. “You were an obligation. They bought you all that stuff because they felt an obligation to do so.”
“I never knew it at the time, but we got much better Christmases than a lot of other people I’ve known. Some kid’s parents neglected them. Some abandoned their kids and left them in foster homes. Some kids were orphaned. Maybe they were just doing what they thought they were supposed to, but there were a lot of kids at the time that got close to nothing—or they did get nothing.”
“I’ve come to tell you that you should just forget about all of that. Forget about the past. It has no relevance.”
The next thing I saw on the TV was a scene of my house with multi colored Christmas lights all over it.
“Look at that,” the ghost said.
“Every house has those new white lights that hang down like snow. Yours are old fashion and out of place. Why decorate at all. Your house looks like ‘old-fart-antique-decoration corner.’ Why don’t you leave Christmas decorations to the modern people who truly understand what Christmas means in the 21st Century?”
“I like those lights. They remind me of my childhood. I remember my dad used to have some light bulbs shaped like candle flames. You know they don’t make those anymore.”
“As I told you before—embrace change. Ignore the past. Forget the past.”
Next the TV went to a picture of me and my ex-wife. Her hair was reddish blond and she was as tall as I and thinner. We were toasting midnight on Christmas Eve with glasses of Cold Duck.
“After all these years you finally realize where they actually got the name “cold duck!”
“It’s similar to a German word Kaltes Ende, referring to the combination of dregs of the bottom of the barrel with sparkling wine. It was jokingly changed to Cold Duck.”
“So why, after studying all the fine types of Champaign and dry wines, such as that Cabaret Sauvignon and the Sarah Wines, were you still drinking a wine made from ‘the dregs!”
“It’s a good festive wine. I like drinking it at Christmas. It’s bubbly and a little sweet and Christmas is a good time to throw away our conventional wisdoms and just have some fun.”
“Forget the past Mark,” the TV shouted at me. “Forget everything you ever knew. It has no value now. Embrace the present. Forget what you did before. It is all in the past and it will never return.”
With that, the TV just faded away and disappeared.
So would I be able to sleep. I knew the next ghost was coming. What would the modern ghost of Christmas present look like? I didn’t even have to fall asleep to find out. Within minutes there was a ghost dressed up like Santa Clause. He was thin and had what looked like a face bear. And yet I could tell he was a ghost. He was partially transparent.
“You got any booze here?” the aberration spoke.
“I thought you came here to set me straight. Aren’t I supposed to learn to be more generous?”
The Santa ghost went to my refrigerator and started looking for food and drink. I had some smoked fish and some Mickey's Beer that he took out and helped himself to.
“You need to get with the times Mark,” Santa Ghost said. “Poor people today don’t need our help. They spend all their time panhandling. All the money you give them goes to booze, cigarettes and drugs. And even IF A few are telling you the truth?! Why take chances? Do you ever think about how much this cost those of us who work hard to have these bums on welfare taking your tax money, draining the economy and then dragging us all down with them?”
This is not what I expected to hear from a spirit of Christmas giving. Hate charity? That is my lesson for today? That just didn’t make sense.
“As for your toys for tots, if those lazy people really wanted a job, they could get one,” Santa Ghost continued. “Why should the rest of us buy toys for the kids of lazy people, drunks and addicts?”
After a while this scum-bag Santa look-alike made me want to puke.
“You make me sick,” I said. “Why don’t you take your message of hating poor people to the Kansas State House were they appreciate that type of hatred. I don’t.”
After gulping down my fish and washing it down with my beer, he finally spoke;
“I’m warning you Mark—Stop caring about people who could care less about you. They don’t care about their own kids. They chose the life they have. They chose to live that way. Just let them fend for themselves. Ignore them. Forget about them.”
He then faded away.
I went back to bed and nodded off. But then, after a few minutes, the last aberration appeared. It looked like the grim reaper with my face. Why would this creature try to look like me?
“Are you going to speak,” I asked him. After all, the ghost of Christmas future never speaks in any of the other version of this story. The creature naturally nodded that he would not talk. He walked over to me, held up his robe and then let it down. There in front of me was a room. It looked like the funeral parlor that sits a few miles from my parent’s home near the country. It is a short building, but filled with many rooms. There, with a bunch of flowers was my coffin. I lay in it. There were crucifixes and a minister was giving prayers to precede the eulogy.
My nieces and nephews were there. Some of my brothers were there. I didn’t see that many of my friends. I noticed a lot of religious materials and all of it Christian. There were church like pews in front of the coffin, with the audience. There was plenty of brass, in the room, including the brass of the coffin itself. After they all repeated some prayers, the preacher got up and began to speak;
“Mark was a Marxist. What good did that do him? Are there any Marxist here today?”
He and everyone looked around the room then looked back at the minister.
“He was not a Christian. Yet all his relatives have given him a fine Christian funeral. Nothing here today reflects his rejection of God in his life. He is in a coffin and has been embalmed just as has always been done to people as him. None of his way out ideas are reflected here today. He wanted to be cremated, but no one here really knew that for sure, so they just took the insurance money and sprung for a good old fashion funeral the Christian way.”
Then the preacher turned and looked at me—straight at me.
“Mark? How does it feel to know that the things you believed in meant nothing to your friends and relatives? No one adopted your views on religion or politics. Your beliefs affected no one. You were just an odd ball that people tolerated but did not take seriously. When you are buried in the ground, all your ideas and beliefs will be buried with you. No one will ever listen to you again. No one will ever hear you again. How does it feel to know that YOUR LIFE HAD NO AFFECT ON ANYONE?!”
Then the whole scene disappeared. The ghost and his show were gone. My room was empty. I was alone in my bed.
Could that creature be right? Will I really die and leave this world without affecting anyone at all? Will everything I believe in just be forgotten?
But then I got another idea. What was more important—what I believed of myself, or what others thought of my beliefs. I might never change the world. I could become nothing more than an obscure odd ball in the sea of time after I die. But how much did that matter? Is it more important to change the world or stop the world from changing me?
Dawn came and I realized it was the day before Christmas. I hadn’t missed it. I jump from bed, boldly springing into action, just like Studebacher Hoch, the Zappa inspired super hero. I got dressed, ate and went down town to a local Toys “R”Us store. I went down the big colorful isles and bought all kinds of toys for both girls and boys. I planned on making a last minute donation to Toys for Tots. I bought more Toys than I ever bought before.
I drove them down to the drab little building downtown in the skid row area. The event was put on by the US Marines, but I didn’t care who put it on. I was determined to donate. Next I drove out to a bar I occasionally went to, when I was in the middle of town. It was an ordinary old neighborhood bar, the Blarney Stone. I came there because there was a bus route nearby and I knew I could count on finding a transient person looking for a handout.
Sure enough as I stood on the short green grass, next to the rock covered parking lot, a man walked by and asked me for two dollars to get bus fair. He was a little younger than me, a little haggled looking and otherwise dressed casual, with his brown hair well groomed.
“Can you spare two dollars for the bus,” he said, as he held out his hand.
Without saying a work I handed him a $20 bill.
“Feel free to spend it on alcohol,” I said.
“Oh…don’t worry I…” then he just stared at me with a stunned look on his face. “Huh!?” Then he just put the money in his pocket and wondered away.
I already had my colored lights up. I went into a Target store and looked for some new lights for my house. All white was a sucky idea, but I found Snoopy on a doghouse, with multicolored lights. It was just what I needed to add to put a little more color to my decorations. Along with my usual lights I had some new decorative toys on my front yard.
There was one thing left to do. First I went to a liquor store and bought a nice cheap bottle of Cold Duck. Then I called Phaedra.
“You do celebrate the Winter Solstice don’t you,” I asked.
“Of course,” she said. “It’s what we celebrate rather than Christmas. I thought you said that is what you actually celebrate?”
“It is,” I replied. “Why don’t I come to your house and you we can toast in the new Solstice?”
She agreed, so I headed to her house. When I went in I pulled out the Cold Duck and asked her for some glasses.
“If you don’t mind, after the night I’ve had, I’d like us to drink a toast to the Solstice,” said. Do you have a Druid Solstice prayer or saying you can use for this toast?”
“How about the Grand Invocation?”
I poured two glasses of Cold Duck and handed her a glass. We held the glasses up and repeated the invocation;
“To bathe in the waters of life
To wash off the not-human,
I come in self-annihilation
And the grandeur of Inspiration.”
And then I added;
“As these words leave our lips maybe no one will ever hear this. Maybe no one will remember it. As time passes we are the only ones who need to remember these words. What we believe may never change the world, but if we didn’t believe what we do, then the world would dictate what we must believe. And that is ALL that matters.”
I then explained my history with celebrating with Cold Duck and we celebrated our first holiday season, which was Winter Solstice for us, together.