Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fruitcake Weather

Sometimes in life there are unexpected consequences, or in this particular case, unexpected benefits. I haven't had tv since last February - a little matter of the cable bill. Where I live, there is no tv without cable. And even though there is a wealth of it on the internet and dvd, it somehow isn't the same when one is not partaking of the communion simultaneously with millions of our mass media brothers and sisters. The benefits include missing out on the incessant frenzied hyperbolic chatter when there is nothing new to report on an inane topic of intense focus, as well as missing out on the barrage of post Labor Day vulgar corporate Chri$tma$ hucksterism.

There is far less tension and anxiety in my world as a result. And now that I am retired, I will not have to spend the next 30 some days in a constant state of aural fear as the overproduced humbug of alleged holiday music is blared at one and all to further engender that holiday shopping urge - in a food store. It makes me wonder if we are being prepared for the day when an appropriate gift will be a can of genetically modified vegetables in a sauce of  tasty chemical additives. Oh, wait...

It was all so much simpler when I was young.

Every generation gets to say that, and for just about every generation, there is much truth in the statement. When I was young, it was considered unseemly to use advertising to implant Christmas desires before Thanksgiving. Holiday music was written by people who knew how to write real songs, and performed by people who could actually sing - and wasn't played until about two weeks before The Day. Christmas Holiday cheer was saved until Christmas was nigh. 

Last year, I discovered that most of the old Christmas specials and tv show episodes - the ones that could actually bring a bit of the spirit of joy and sharing into our lives, were either played continually on cable channels, or (for the better shows) available only on pay per view. The programs on pay per view were originally broadcast for free - or the price of watching a commercial. It tells you something about our modern world that the current corporate owners of those programs keep them unavailable until they are paid by each viewer for each viewing over a closed wire system which must also be paid for. 

And, sadly, some of the best programs have gone missing for one reason or another. I still have fond memories of a muppet Christmas special which had only one human character - Santa Claus, as played by Art Carney. I seem to recall it was rather sad, and I've never heard of it again. I thought I was imagining it until Laura over at Austanspace told me she remembered it too. Carney, by the way, was absolutely great as the Santa in the Twilight Zone episode, "Night of the Meek".

But the special I want most to see again was an ABC Stage 67 program, "A Christmas Memory". It was adapted from a Truman Capote short story by Eleanor Perry and Capote, who narrated it. It won Emmys for Geraldine Page and for the script. It also won a Peabody award. There is a multi-part post of it on You Tube, but it is in black and white. There is a good, clear print of it in color, but it is variously reported as missing, destroyed, or tied up in rights. It's complicated.

The story begins on a crisp cold morning in late November as... well, here, let Mr. Capote tell it:

" ...she is sixty-something, We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together—well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child.... It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather!"

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. The current version of holiday madness is about to begin in earnest. I try to find joy in the sheer vulgarity of it all, the overwhelming garishness of the decorations, the frenzied mobs I try to avoid, the steep prices that will be reduced the day after The Day, but it gets harder every year.

But there is something about Thanksgiving that gets us.  Everyone seems to celebrate it, friends and families draw together, and every year it seems like we have to triumph over ever increasing odds just to do it. But we do it. Even though it is mostly ritual now, often devoid of meaning, we still do it. There is something in us that understands. It is more than just a day of thanks giving. It is the start of a time which exhilarates our imaginations, and fuels the blaze in our hearts. And it always starts the same, on a cold morning in November, when it's fruitcake weather...


mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I would really like to see that film "A Christmas Memory". I hadn't heard of it before. Happy 'fruitcake weather'.

Austan said...

Here we go, Stevil, another round of holiday season. Things are on schedule here, Ally won't get in til late but we'll be up and cooking in the morning. See you tomorrow! Yay!!!

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

mbj/Delores - it is there on You Tube, in black and white, in 6 parts. All together it runs about 54 minutes or so. There is a solor remake, but don't be fooled by it, see the original with Ms. Page.

The full text of the short story is also available online at:

It's a very short read, and very well worth it.


sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

Austan - "Once more unto the breech, Dear Friends, once more!" See you tomorrow.

Geo. said...

" somehow isn't the same when one is not partaking of the communion simultaneously with millions of our mass media brothers and sisters."

Gosh, I've always felt this very keenly --even when I was a student, without tv, radio abated loneliness in a way records could not-- but hadn't heard it expressed so succinctly before. My compliments!

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