To quote Woody Allen, Jesus would “never stop puking” if he saw what Christmas has turned into, and what it has done to the human race.
CHRISTMAS CHEER He yells down at the 20 or so people having a great time at the other end of the bar: ‘Christmas sucks! It’s a buncha shit!
Some people will never like Christmas, no matter what you say
Publisher's note by Dell Franklin
Having tended bar for 25 years, I always volunteered to work doleful Christmas Eve’s and often remarkably fun Christmas nights. On Christmas Eve, you get the loneliest of the lonely, the neglected, dejected and rejected, and the first thing you do when they come in the bar is start drinking, and start them drinking, so that together you can combat the bombardment of four straight weeks of “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” overbearing and insidious commercials, traffic, the nonstop pressure of trying to be happy because nobody can bear to be unhappy in such a synthetic environment of trumped up joy.
The only alternative to such a situation is to get drunk—good and drunk—for four weeks.
During this drunken state I do not drive, fight, bother women, nor dance. I sit in the bar and drink, and talk, and listen, and laugh. The great advantage of both drinking and working the Eve and the Night of Christmas is that, unlike New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s, there are few boring and obnoxious amateur drunks. On these shifts you run into hardcore professionals who have carved out long careers of enviable drinking habits. Dare them to not drink with a blinding hangover that would have most amateurs crawling to the emergency room of the nearest hospital for a respirator or shot of B12. These are folks who drink with a vengeance, and find good reasons to eschew the normal holiday fare among responsible and respectable adults—the most important of which is to hide from these poor creatures who smile nonstop for four weeks and accost you at every turn with chirpy “Merry Christmases,” or worse yet, “Jesus loves you….” Bullshit. I’m the last guy he’d love. And, most likely, (to quote Woody Allen) he’d “never stop puking” if he saw what Christmas has turned into, and what it has done to the human race. He would puke at the opportunistic and cynical tactics of giant corporations shaming people into buying something they cannot afford by undermining their basic humanity with manipulative TV ads that most likely put them in credit card debt and turns the New Year into a stress-filled rat race.
He would cry at the sight of the homeless and misbegotten who must be patronized by those offering largess during these days while they suffer humiliation at those same hands the remaining 360 days of the year.
He would be distraught by the knowledge that many people suffer debilitating and near suicidal depression over these four weeks, while a few actually take the plunge.
I always have a toast to HIS good intentions before I start my Christmas night working and drinking binge. You buy each mope his first round. The mopes buy you rounds. Rounds go back and forth. People who have fought in the streets in the past forge temporary reprieves, babble, hug, duck into the john to share drugs. Oh yes. Some of the most violent and foul-tempered fishermen and roughnecks buy me rounds after a year of harassment and threats. It is, as they say, “all good.” Guys who never get laid get laid. Gals who nobody wants get wanted. There is looseness. To celebrate the end of the misery of four weeks, girls dance on the bar. They toss away garments in the late hours. Everybody cheers. Somebody reports a couple “getting it on” in the john. So what?
Go somewhere else if you don’t like it.
I worked Happy Jack’s Saloon in Morro Bay for eight years, a notorious fisherman’s pier 6 dive with a soul that started in 1927 and died a couple years back. Christmas night was always an adventure. I had a favorite character who always made it a point to drink until closing on the Eve, and report, after a good rest and a solid meal, around six in the evening for another vengeful shot at it. A scrawny man with long hair and the drinker’s puss, he seldom smiled, and made it a point not to over the holidays, and most especially Christmas night, when his vituperative and querulous nature seemed to reach new heights of irascible surliness. Down on life. Robert “Don’t-you-dare-call-me-Bob –or-Bobby” Kraust.
“Don’t sit near me,” he warned, hovered over his mug of draft and shot glass, “unless you wanna dispense with the bullshit, OK?”
Over the years he had driven almost all regulars off except me. I liked him.
“Can you loan me twenty until next week, and five for my cigarettes, Dell?” he’d say, settling onto a stool. “You know I always pay back with interest.” No pleading in his nature. I flipped him the cash. He always repaid debts—if anything, a man of his word.
Most of the Christmas night crew stayed away from him, though the occasional stray straggled in to mistakenly sit down beside him.
“Merry Christmas, man.” Lifting a beer, hopeful.
“Save it, bro’. I’m not into it.”
“It’s Christmas, man….”
“Christmas is bullshit. I don’t believe in Christ or the after math. You want to pursue it? It won’t be pleasant.”
“Well, sorr-eee. I mean, you’re an asshole.”
“You got it, pal.”
Down to the other end goes the troubled soul. A happy couple settles beside him. Once a promising and prosperous local disc jockey, with a relentless and humorous rap, which actually got him on public television, cocaine and the wrath of a fishwife was part of his down fall, which included a year in the county can. (“I never sold anybody out, and I’m proud of it! I took my medicine like a man.”)
“Merry Christmas. Can we buy you a drink?”
“I don’t care. Do what you want. If it makes you feel good.”
To me: “Jesus, what’s wrong with THAT guy?”
“Oh, he’s pretty happy. He hates Christmas more than other things he hates, and since misery agrees with him, he’s currently in his glory. This is his favorite time of the year.”
The girl says to him: “I feel so bad when people are unhappy and lonely during Christmas. Please don’t make me cry.”
“Jesus Christ, missy, get a grip. Don’t you realize Christmas is a bunch of bullshit? That there is no God, much less Jesus?”
They move on down.
“What’s wrong with these people?” he asks me. “Don’t they get it? Why can’t they see the light?”
“How many times have we gone through this, Robert? They want to be happy. They can’t bear to be unhappy—especially today.”
He yells down at the 20 or so people having a great time at the other end. “Christmas sucks! It’s a buncha shit! I hate it!”
“Shut up, Kraust, you idiot!”
“Yeah, pipe down, you asshole.”
“Jerk! Why hasn’t somebody beaten him to a pulp?”
He turns to me, a light in his eyes. “They never do, and you wanna know why? One, they know I’m right, and two, it won’t do any good. Ha, ha, ha.” Not a sliver of a smile, nor an inflection of humor.
“Right about what, Robert?”
“That’s it’s ALL a buncha shit, and especially Christmas.”
I pour out shots. We drink to his statement. Eventually, as the night plows on into a soggy, surreal haze of dropped glasses, embracing couples, lurching, staggering bodies, unintelligible babble, he draws a small crowd who try their hardest to make him smile and join the joy, and he manages a quick grimace of a smile and winks at me. And he stands, at last feeling the spirit, as he always does this time of the night, on this night. He lifts his shot glass of cheap well whiskey.
“A toast!” he calls out, waiting with teetering gravity for the drunken and bedraggled crew to quiet down and pay heed. “A toast, by God, to going twelve straight Christmases without giving a gift and accepting none!”
Happy humbug. §
Publisher Dell Franklin can be reached at publisher@rogue voice.com