New Years Eve Sock Hop Saturday

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O Holy Night

nativitybg22I wanted to give you something for Christmas Eve as we are thinking about the birth of our Saviour. I found I didn’t have much to say, at least that was new or interesting.

Most of what I want to remind you has been said, and better than I can, and on this blog, no less. Last year Jessica wrote on Christmas Eve and she said this:

In the Christian calendar, Christmas is of secondary importance when compared to Easter; although the former brings us the Word made Flesh, the latter brings us eternal life. As our society here in the West sees little in either of these concepts, it tends to focus upon Christmas, because it is a time of the year when merchants can move much merchandise; let there be a celebration of all the wealth we have; that is a temptation to which only a rich society can succumb.

But that first Christmas Eve was not given to the rich, the powerful and the elite; it was given to the poor, the marginalised and the ordinary. There was nothing special about Joseph or Mary in human terms. Joseph probably got a decent living from his hands, but it is unlikely that his house was anything special; and Mary, well, a young girl with child is, to any decent society, and object of love and sympathy, but nowadays someone would be telling her she was too young and should be considering her career, and pointing her to ‘Planned Parenthood’. These were simple people.

God could have chosen anyone for His purposes, but He chose these people. we cannot know why, except to know that they were obedient to Him; they did not question His will, they did not argue or suggest they knew better; in them the self-will of our first parents burnt low. Joseph did what men through countless ages have done. He earned his living by the sweat of his brow and he looked after his family. He does not seem to have made a great fuss about things, and even when he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant and he was not the father, being a righteous man, he was minded not to have her stoned, but just to set her aside; sadness rather than wrath seems to have been his reaction; and he believed what he was told in his vision. Upright, straightforward, Joseph did his duty, and that first Christmas Eve it involved making sure there was somewhere for the baby to be born where his betrothed and the child could be sheltered; the primeval task of all men.

Her post is called Silent Night, Holy Night and it is one of the best posts on the site.

Frankly I have little to add except for this, my mom’s favorite Christmas song, one of mine, and you all know how I feel about [a] Celtic Woman.

Fairy Tales for adults

[This is another one of Jessica’s, from last year. It was a song that I was not familiar with, but I fell in love with it when she presented it. And you know, this year it means even more to me. As I’ve said, I miss Jess’ presence terribly this year and if that weren’t enough, one of my nieces lost her husband a few days ago to a heart attack, out of the blue. So if you don’t mind, I’ll dedicate this to missing friends and family. Neo]

One of the songs that marks Christmas for me is ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, with the Pogues and the wonderful Kirsty MacColl; if I ever wanted to be anyone but me, it was Kirsty. I remember asking my daddy why he couldn’t marry her because she would make a good mum – he laughed and said ‘she’s already taken little one’; seemed a good idea to me – fathers, let the tiniest obstacle get in the way 🙂

It’s an odd Christmas song, but it is a powerful one, because, in part it reflects a version of the immigrant experience which fails to make it into the Hollywood version. The two characters are Irish immigrants, not too long out of the ‘awld country’ – he still says ‘happy Christmas babe’ (an American would surely say “merry Christmas”? She still uses the English vulgarity “happy Christmas my arse” rather than the American “ass”. Their dreams have soured – he’s in the drunk tank on Christmas Eve, and she hopes it is their last time. There is a sadness, the sadness that accompanies the death of any relationship. But is it dead? One of the reasons – apart from powerful lyrics and a great performance, it still works, is that like all good fiction, it doesn’t tell you what you’d like to know – it leaves loose ends and inferences you could read any way you liked.

So, when he says ‘I could have been someone’, she says cynically. ‘well so could anyone’, but his reply to her claim that he took her dreams away is heartbreaking in its vulnerability – ‘I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, can’t make it on my own, built them round you’. What a world there is in all of that, of young love frustrated, of ambition broken by circumstances, but also of the hope that springs eternal in the human heart – and the American dream.

Isn’t that what America is really about? That vision, that idea? Has there ever been a country founded on an idea of hope? Has there ever been such a hodge-podge of immigrants all battling and hoping, some falling, some rising, but however low you fall, always with the hope of rising? Is that why so many now feel a sense of despair – as though those times are gone?

I’m only a Welsh girl living far away, and probably, like Shane MacGowan, with a vision of America shaped by the movies, but I’d like to think that, just like the couple in the song, the fairy tale has a happy ending – and, of course, if it isn’t a happy ending, it isn’t the end yet.

For Christians, we are all ‘someone’ – beloved of God, in whose image we are made, and there is, in that, a reassurance. It is no accident – I think – that it was Christians from the West who had the vision and courage to create a great nation out of the wilderness they encountered. The ‘Shining city of a hill’ was their inspiration – and remains one for many Americans – however much secularists try to replace that dream with their own fairytales.

Good music and poetry (and good lyrics are poetry) have the power to transform things and to take us places in our imagination – and here, in a few short verses, we can see something profound about the immigrant – and the American experience – encapsulated. Either that, or I just have a vivid imagination – either way – something to share with all you wonderful people here at this season.

Going Home

As you read this, I’ll likely be on my way to the airport for my annual trip to the east coast. Yeah, I decided to fly this year rather than spending all that time on the train, while I enjoy it, it begins to pall a bit, so time to do something else.

I’ve left some posts scheduled, some of the best from here about Christmas, well, if I’m honest they are almost completely Jessica’s, she’s been in charge most Christmases, and she writes quite a lot better anyway. As to whether we’ll ever see her here, again, I simply don’t know but hope and pray that we shall. So enjoy these.

It’s been quite a year, Brexit and Trump, and things in our private lives as well, but it nears an end, and while we can’t know what 2017 will bring, I’m sure it will surprise us. 🙂

I’ll be around some, and will try to answer comments, but I won’t be sitting in front of my ‘puter all that much, so be patient.

And above all, have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year, each and every one of you. We’re very glad you choose to spend some of your time with us.

Because there is no cure for Celtic Women (I still hold that is the real reason my ancestors the Vikings went “West over Sea”) and while I can’t conjure up Jess for us, this might, just barely, suffice.

Merry Christmas to you all, and safe journies as well. I’ll see you all when I get back, if not before.

Johnny Cash in London

Well, it’s Saturday, so let’s lighten up and have some fun.

 

 

If you enjoy when we do these, do let me know.

In the Rear View Mirror (Redux)

Speaking of the UChicago and such things always makes me a bit nostalgic for the Region, and I’m just going to go with it today. It seems we run this article every once in a while, and I like it. As Mary Hopkins sang long ago, “Those were the Days”.

Well, it’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it. But it’s Saturday and we’re going to forget about it for now. Remember back when we were in school, and the closest we came to paying attention was hearing that somebody’s older brother had been drafted and hoping they wouldn’t be off for the Nam? Pretty good days they were. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, yeah the part of the state called the Region, Yup, like a few other bloggers you might know of, I’m a Region Rat, and we were and are damned proud of it too.

It was called that because of our heavy industry, you wouldn’t be wrong if you read that as the steel mills. We all knew people who worked at USS, or Inland, or even at the new Bethlehem works. I can still smell it in memory and I can still see the flaring stacks lining the lakeshore, there was little like it west of Pittsburgh. Where I grew up you could watch the coal drags come in on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and if you knew where you could see the ore ships come in from the Missabe on the lake. If you didn’t know, that what the Edmund Fitzgerald was.

And that was what a lot of our folks did for a living, steel, American steel. Most of it went to Detroit, to make American cars, first by rail and finally by what were called Michigan Trains, semis (doubles and triples, mostly) that couldn’t go anywhere else other than that piece of I 94 between Gary and Detroit, because they were so heavy that they would destroy any other road. Out where I was, was a bit too far out to commute, mostly though in those days.

My first ride

My first ride

Most of my buddies were and are farmers, the other great Indiana industry, once clay tile had been invented and the swamps drained. Before it was dredged the Kankakee river had occasionally flooded itself 20-40 miles wide, and it made wonderful farmground in the floodplain, once it dried out enough to work.

But none of that mattered to us kids, sure most of us worked, usually for our parents at least from junior high on, but there was time for sports, girls, and fun. Given that this is Indiana, the sport was basketball, and specifically high school basketball. Texas may love high school football but, Indiana high school basketball was the closest thing to a secular religion any body was ever going to see.

My high school was a good example, we were one of the waves of township consolidations in the early 60s, when I was there, our enrollment was about 250 or so in high school, our gym seated 2300 and had never not been sold out for a home game. Of course, it helped that we were pretty good, in the first four years of that gym, we lost two home games, both in overtime, by a total of four points. And every year we were the Sectional runner-up to Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state, one year by 15 points. they won the State that year, Indiana didn’t used to do effete snobbery like classes in basketball.

If you’d like to know more about that, find the movie Hoosiers, it’s based on a true story, the 1952 Milan team, who beat South Bend Central. By the way, if you do, that fieldhouse they’re paying he final in, it’s the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, and it was built mostly for the State finals. Once the tournament moved beyond the Sectionals, it was all held in College venues, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame among them. Tickets were simply unavailable. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always Branch McCracken and the “Hurrying Hoosiers” or Purdue alum John Wooden, out at UCLA.

And after those games there was often a sock hop, and while sometimes there was a DJ, there was always a live band, and some of those DJ’s you’re going to meet here today. Why? Because Chicago was a huge music center in the 60s. You see in those days we all listened to AM radio, FM barely existed, and even 8 tracks were uncommon (and expensive). By the way did you know that for a few years you could buy a record player that mounted under your car dash-they actually worked pretty well, too.

But those AM radio stations, in Chicago there were two who did what we would call top 40 now, although then it was more just plain current rock, both 50,000-watt clear channel stations. Anybody that was around can tell you about WLS and WCFL even all these years later. They were part of our life, back and forth we went, second button on the car radio was usually LS and third CFL. Like all the early American call letters, they meant something, WLS stood (originally) for the World’s Largest Store (Sears Roebuck and Co.) and WCFL for the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The clear channel thing meant that in North America there was no other station on that frequency, 890 and 1000 Kilocycles/second (hertz) respectively. Especially at night, you could hear them from Pittsburgh to Denver, and down to the Gulf of Mexico, depending on some variables. And those bands I mentioned, I’ll be you’ve heard of some of them, here, let’s let them talk for themselves

But like Bob Sirott said there, it didn’t last all that long, when I was in college we started listening to the FM album-oriented rock stations, although like he said, Chicago came with us, that was about it, although that was a lot.

This is what it sounded like

But like all good things, one afternoon the music died, here’s Superjock, Larry Lujack himself to officiate

Good days they were

 

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