Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas on the Rocks

There was something wrong with my date stamp at work the other day.  I looked down, and the stamp impression on the incoming mail said "Dec 2, 2012".  Then I realized that it wasn't the date stamper that was off, but me.  How did it get to be December - the year has spun by so quickly. More changes in my life than any other year on this earth.  A totally new job, after 30 years at the old one, new friends, new unfamiliar work situations, I'm taking the bus to work instead of my mini-van. I'm working downtown, in a 30-story skyscraper.  And I'm over 60 now.  So, rather confused, still spinning dizzily from the drop-kick of life, I went for lunch at the Cousins Submarine place in the ground floor of the Wells Building, and coming over the speakers was "The Little Drummer Boy"  - not some new contemporary condescending interpretation "Come they told me, look at Mee-Hee-Hee"  No, this was not American Idol, this one was not for the judges, it was for the audience.  This was the Harry Simeone Chorale. They simply told the story they have been telling since the late 1950s.  The little poor boy with "no gift to bring that's fit to give a king", so he plays a tune for the Baby Jesus on his drum. And it simply ends "Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum.  Me and my drum." Gets me every time. Music says things in such a way that you hear something new each time you listen to a song.

But there has been another song has been running through my head lately.  It is one of those Christmas songs that never gets played on the radio at Christmas, but in my family my mother brought out the record every Christmas. So I finally went into the basement, dug it out from box #4H08 in the archives, and uploaded it as an *.mp3.

It's a story told in German about sailors being bashed to bits on the dangerous rocks of the Rhine river, because they were beckoned there by the song of the irresistible Lorelei.  The Lorelei were beautiful sensuous little spiritual songstresses, or Lieden Madchens. .  They appeared to sailors at night, and beckoned them to bring their ships over for... for... well you know what sailors want.  But when the gullible sailors would steer the ship toward the ladies, they would find that they had crashed their ship on the dangerous rocks of the Rhine river - an illusion cast by the wicked but beautiful Lorelei..  Passen sie auf!

So how, may you ask, did this become to be a Christmas tradition in my family?  My mother's favorite Christmas record was the original version of The Little Drummer Boy, by the Harry Simeone Chorale, ask the guy crying in the sub shop. Die Lorelei was on the flip side of the record.  Performance by the Junior Voices of the Harry Simeone Chorale, something like a do-it-yourself Vienna Boys Choir.  So, whenever you'd put on a stack of 45's (try to explain that concept to someone born after 1990... well,  you see each disk has one song on it, and you arrange them on a spindle.... never mind, go flick your little computer thingy....) And when you flip the stack of discs over, the other sides would play.  "Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten, dass ich so traurig bin.", which means "I don't know what it means, this feeling of grayness."

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

Leslie Hanna said...

GARY!!!!!!! So good to see you again. YAY on the new job. So I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, eh?

PS: Sometimes the B side of the 45s were the best. :)