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Sipping with Santa

104261061

Daedalus Howell/Index-Tribune

By

As per the season, I’ve been cueing up old Christmas favorites on the iPad for my four-year-old son to watch – “It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown!” is a fave, though the work of Rankin/Bass has proven something of an uncanny valley. Scrolling through the titles has caused me to reflect on my own attempts at melding media and tradition. It’s never worked.

Several years ago, theater critic and playwright David Templeton invited me and my pals to participate in his annual “Twisted Christmas” shindig – a show in which performers attempted yuletide yucks with gallows humor (an annual favorite included the gleeful dismemberment of a gingerbread man, if memory serves). We obliged with a short film, a mock trailer really, for a flick cheekily entitled “A Very Special Christmas,” which proved anything but.

The cast included a sitting mayor, a local photographer, a woman known for her ability to wear jeans, your favorite music columnist and a certain filmmaker who would sooner kill me than be further associated with the debacle. I wrote the beast, poaching elements from the finest of holiday fare, hence the crippled boy, the hooker with a heart of gold, a motorcycle gang leader, a dude eating crayons … At some point I lost my way, which is why the flick was basically Dickens on a “short bus” ride to Hell.

Naturally, we thought it was a scream. However, when it screened in front of a crowd of several hundred paying theatergoers there was no tittering, no laughter, no knowing nods to the insouciant slouch of our ironic posture. Just crickets. Very angry crickets. It was a like the biblical plague of locusts but much more easily offended. Ever try to apologize to a swarm? Me neither. I split during intermission, never to return to acts of Christmas satire. Well almost. Until the sole copy of the film resurfaces (I hear it’s in a vault somewhere in the East Bay), I content myself by annually rolling out the following parody of Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.” And, of course, I hope you have a Very Special Christmas! DH

* * *

’Twas a Wine Country Christmas and all through his cellar Were stowed bottles of vino and this lucky feller; His name was St. Nick and Sonoma his pride As his schedule permitted he’d come here to hide

Now I’ve never been one to judge a wine by its label Which is probably why I’m often under the table “All things in moderation,” he said with glee As he began opening bottles – one, two and three!

“Now, Larson! now, Lasseter! now, Kamen and Scribe! On, Gundlach! on Bundschu! on Castle and Cline, Now, Kunde! now Benziger, now Ram’s Gate and Shug! On Loxton! on Little! on Kaz and Arrowood!

Let’s pop some corks and fill up our cups We’ll drink upside down just to say “Bottom’s up!” Champagne gushed like geysers, merlot poured like rain Zins went straight to my head and the cabs to my brain

He said, “Every bottle’s a vacation, every sip a holiday!” As he washed down pinot with a fine chardonnay My teeth had turned purple, my cheeks had gone red I’d say, “Just a taste” but a carafe came instead

Now the cellar was spinning and my view was a blur An eloquent drunk, I made poetry of slurs “Damn, you drunken elf, I’m going to bed,” as visions of cirrhosis danced through my head

I crawled on my knees, for I’d forgotten my swagger I’d decline a straight line but would be happy to stagger As I lumbered and lurched toward the cellar door he brandished a corkscrew and simply said “More.”

He throttled a bottle and commanded me, “Drink” “‘Tis the season,” I reasoned, as I drank to the brink His generosity proved as grand as his cellar was vast But who will drive the sleigh after our vintner’s repast?

He tugged at his beard, his sparkling eye winked “That’s why I’ve got elves, why what did you think?” Embarrassed as I was at my implied accusation He guffawed from his belly and poured another libation

Now, I’m not one to moralize, especially in carol But the fact remains when one’s over the barrel Designate a driver or a get a taxi on the line And Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good wine!