Trapped in the blizzard in Indianapolis, pipes bursting across the land (including in my older brother’s house), there was little to do besides sleep and let the responsible adults take care of things.
There are few things more reassuringly cozy than sleeping under heavy blankets in sub-zero temperatures. It’s akin to the feeling of being inside with power during a torrential downpour or powerful thunderstorm—the sense of safety and warmth is experienced palpably in those moments. In some ways, it’s even better to get soaked first, then to come into the dryness of the indoors.
But sleep can only forestall reality for so long. Driving to South Carolina on Friday, 23 December 2022 as I’d originally planned was out of the question, given the frozen roads. Tales of major wrecks and traffic snarls echoed across the land, so it seemed best to stay put.
That said, I desperately wanted to get home for Christmas. The weather, it seemed, had other plans, but I soon hatched a plan that, if all went well, would get me South in time for at least some of Christmas.
As my older brother and I enjoyed our visit to Arizona, a massive polar vortex was making its way ominously towards the United States. We had some cool weather in Arizona, but reports were coming from back East that temperatures were dangerously low. My brother and his wife live in Indianapolis, so they were facing subzero temperatures, but even back in South Carolina, family and friends were reporting busted pipes and bitterly cold conditions.
There was some discussion between us about whether or not we should extend our trip another day or two, but the lure of Christmas and family was strong. We decided to head to the airport as planned to take our chances.
Every now and then we get something for Christmas that really sparks our imaginations, allowing them to run—or, in this case, drive—wildly to other lands. For a young Portly, it was receiving a copy of Sid Meier’s Civilization II from my aunt one Christmas. That game opened up vast new worlds and incredible historical “what-ifs,” and was partially responsible for my decision to study and teach history for a living.
Travel guides have always been one of my favorite genres, too. Sure, travelogues are more engaging and adventurous, but travel guides let us learn about places without a great deal of authorial embellishment. We get the basics about an area, and then can put ourselves immediately into those places, imagining visiting the great sites and destinations—or the backwater burgs and forgotten byways—of the world.
Ponty captures that spirit of adventure and fun in this touching, personal, and engaging little piece about his imaginary—and, let us hope, someday real!—travels around the United States.
With that, here’s Ponty with some reflections on Christmas and road trips:
Once again, it’s nowhere near Christmas Eve—it’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve this year, and I’m sure the Catholics and High Protestants have some special, esoteric name for 22 December, but I don’t know what it is. Regardless, I always enjoy looking back at my original “Christmas Eve” post from 2019.
Christmas Eve is always the most magical, mystical part of Christmas time. Popular depictions of Jesus’ Birth take place, presumably, on Christmas Eve—the angels bursting into the black, silent night above Bethlehem. The whole event is supernatural—the Virgin Birth, the Star guiding the way to the manger, the angels appearing to the shepherds and singing. Tradition has it that even the animals in the manger talked at the moment of Christ’s birth (at exactly midnight, of course). If the rocks can cry out, singing praises to Him, why not some donkeys?
That scratches the same itch as Halloween for me—another “Eve”—that connection with our Creator, a Being far beyond our comprehension, and a whole other world just beyond our meager vision. It’s all the more remarkable to consider that that very same God sent His Son as a mere baby to bring a fallen world salvation. Rather than an aloof, indifferent God, or the disinterested Clockmaker God of the Deists, we have a God who loves us enough that He sent His only Son to die for our sins.
This week I’m featuring the video of our grand finale, “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Most readers will be familiar with the version by The Eagles, which was the version my High School Music Ensemble used as its primary reference. The song goes back to 1961 and Charles Brown, a blues pianist.
It’s also quite challenging, with a lot of secondary dominant chords and a slightly irregular structure. For example, sometimes students would hang on the B7 chord for four beats before resolving to E major, which shifted after two beats to a delightful E augmented chord. Other times, though, the B7 would only play for two beats, followed by E major (or E7), before resolving to the tonic, A major.
A number of my private lessons leading up to the concert involved diving into some of the nuances of the piece in more detail (naturally, quite a few of the students enrolled in High School Music Ensemble also take private lessons with me after school). The barre chords are challenging for guitarists, and the different ways of playing that fun little E augmented chord also provided some educational mischief. For my bassists, we worked quite a bit on the various walkdowns, such as the opening A->Amaj.7/G#->A7/G sequence. That’s not hard to play, but there’s a lot a budding young bassist can do with it.
Regardless, as you’ll hear, this piece brought the house down, and the young man singing it was a hero the rest of the day—I heard him greeted to wild applause and cheers upon arriving to his first period class after the morning concert. The video here is from the same mother who took the “O Holy Night” video, so if you see her lingering on a particular guitarist/bassist for an extended period of time, that’s why.
I never got around to writing about the annual school Christmas Concert last Saturday, so subscribers are getting a double dose of SubscribeStar Saturday today. Despite this past week being exam week—historically full of free time—I was quite busy with a number of things related to closing out a semester of school. Some Town Council things came up, too, so it was a fairly productive week.
All excuses aside, I’m finally getting around to it.
The short version is as follows: it was amazing. The kids performed extremely well. Some of them gave what I would consider to be career-best performances. There’s something magical about the stress and excitement and anticipation that bring out the best in students.
It wasn’t without glitches, but those small bits aside, it was fantastic.
One of my shameful holiday pleasures is the cloying, condescending, tone-deaf “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by British New Wave super group Band Aid. At least, that’s how the tune would be described if it were written today.
At the time, it was a progressive project: the Ethiopian Civil War and related famine inspired the songwriters, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, to write a song to raise funds for the people there. That’s actually quite noble, and it’s an enjoyable and fun song.
It also spawned millions of pounds in sells and royalties to help Africans, and sparked the United States to respond with “We Are the World” in 1985 (and, later, a heavy metal variant).
I’m not sure how it was received upon its release in 1984, but many of the lyrics are unintentionally hilarious. Today the very same progressives who can’t wait to sign on to the latest cringe, woke charity project would call these lyrics Eurocentric or anti-African
My favorite line is “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.” Never mind Mount Kilimanjaro, which stays capped in snow year-round.
While I imagine we’ll all have quite positive things to say about these time-honored Christmas classics, our hope is that we’ll each see and take something different from the films, and our shades of perspective will reveal to readers previously unseen hues and details.
Or we’ll end up with three remarkably similar reviews and it will make for dull, repetitive reading. Such are the risks of blogging, eh? But knowing these two characters, I doubt that will be the case. All I know is I’ve got to get crackin’ on my homework—It’s a Wonderful Life is over two hours long!
But I digress. Ponty is kicking us off this Christmas season, and, boy, what a great way to start! I think you’ll find his review as insightful and engaging as I did.