Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Have a Very Merry Fresh Aire Christmas.

My office has a penchant for the lite station's merciless, nonstop holiday music extravaganza. After the end of my 56th hour of this stuff, I can swear that I've never listened so attentively to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" or Celine Dion's "O Holy Night." My head is spinning. Because really—no one should have to listen to so much Christmas music until, oh I dunno, say, Christmas.

And while there is no escaping the relentless holiday cheer, I cannot tune it out. Instead, I dwell on lyrics—How do I properly deck the halls, and who IS Parson Brown? Or I simply get swept away by the rocking strains of Mannheim Steamroller. (WAY better than Trans-Siberian Orchestra, by the way.)

Speaking of Mannheim Steamroller, J and I entered a treacherous impass in our relationship the other night as I YouTubed away.

"YES!" I cried as I stumbled upon this raging video of Mannheim Steamroller in concert. It wasn't just the puffy sleeves of the percussionist or the electronica strains mixed with French horn--herein this music lies my childhood holidays.

My family listened to Mannheim each Christmas for as long as I can remember. The decking of the halls, the trimming of the tree. It all took place to the soundtrack of Christmas 1984 and Fresh Aire Christmas 1988.

And here I was in reverie, sitting at J's computer and relishing those big chunky headphones and jamming out to Carol of the Bells, when I heard an audible gag come from J.

"This. Is. AWFUL," he retched.

"What?! No, it's not!" I cried, stunned. "Just listen! It's not amazing, but it's great."

J seemed to reconsider for a brief moment. After all, he and I have relatively similar tastes in music. He tolerates my forays into indies like m. ward, even enjoys Feist and Imogen Heap to some extent. I have always loved his house music, and I have a special place in my heart for some Metallica like the S&M concert. But here, we had found ourselves, much like little penguins, separated by splitting and cracking slabs of ice--once united, only to be separated forever in the cold unknown. Except in our case, this ice slab was musical taste, and I was drifting off toward 1980s Christmas Pop Island alone.

"'s awful," J declared, scrunching up his nose to prove his point.

I was totally unprepared for this blow.

And it's not surprising. I realized that no one had ever listened to Mannheim with me, except of course for my family. Here J was, my first boyfriend to listen to my prized holiday music tradition, desecrating its sanctity.

"It is NOT awful," I snapped. "YOU don't UNDERSTAND."

But something inside me changed. I listened to the keyboard like I'd never listened before. The music suddenly sounded dated, kitsch. Composer Chip Davis's genius crumbled before me, amounting to no more than a late-night VH1 holiday special on those crazy 80's musical trends like keytars where someone like Pauly Shore might be commissioned to make fun of my favorite songs. Oh, Lord--please show Mannheim mercy!

Despite my inner turmoil, I let the subject drop, moving onto more holiday light-and-music synched videos, pretending to be steadfast in my love of Fresh Aire. I would not let on that my foundation was shaken.

Today, our lite radio station rang out Mannheim Steamroller's Carol of the Bells. At first I cringed, embarrassed for my admiration of those electronic church bells and breathy digitalized voices. Then, from across the room, "This is awesome! Who is this?"

"It's Mannheim Steamroller!" I offered, "And it IS awesome."


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Birthdays, Christmas and the Gift-Giving Blues

So, yesterday was my birthday. (Example of one of many conversations I've had at work: Thanks!... Yup, 23 now... Oh, you. You know, I actually HADN'T yet heard a joke about how young I am! Good one!)

My day started out with J giving me a bottle of my new favorite wine (that is impossible to find anywhere but Saratoga, CA and Cincinnati, OH for some reason) and a gift certificate to a Lincoln Square cheese shop, The Cheese Stands Alone. This boy knows that the fastest way to my heart is getting me liquored up and then stuffing me with dairy.

What made this gift all the better was that I didn't want anything this year for my birthday. I couldn't think of a single reasonable thing I wanted. The list of unreasonable things (tickets on Emirate Airlines to Dubai, an all-winter vacation back to Puerto Morelos, a personal massage therapist...)--that was easier.

Things seemed simpler when I was younger and things were black and white: I want this, I don't want that. I still have these vague recollections of my childhood and the things I wanted:

  • a yellow teddy bear
  • chili soup made by Mom
  • Tinkertoys
  • Winter Ball Barbie 1991 (I got three--one from my parents and two from different friends at my birthday party. Talk about awkward.)
But, like any of us when we age, I simply cannot think of what kids want today. I don't exactly have my ear down to beating pulse of Saturday morning cartoon advertisements and I interact with children on like a weekly basis via sloppy smiles over booths at restaurants or waves on the El.

So, now I'm facing a big problem. I signed up for the Chicago Sun-Times Santa Helper Program. Aayliyah, age 9, "good scheduet at school" and avid chore-helper at home, has written the following:
Dear Santa,
I am nine year old. I have been a good girl. I have been very good scheduet in school. I have done all of my chores at home. Santa would you please have some dolls and a doll house. And can you give me biary you can put a password in so nobody but me can read it. And a doll cars.
Underneath, she drew a picture of six kids singing around a fireplace. Really, this picture is what got me. It's just what my coworker calls "North Shore white guilt"--this girl is really sweet, an artist, AND (the ultimate!) she edited her writing. Underneath the scraggly words are more, slightly-erased, scraggly words. It is cute.

After a brief search on Toys R Us, I found this Password Journal by Radica. It's $22, has got the password, a diary inside AND secret compartments. Perfect, right?

NO. The overall user rating is 2.5 stars, with one of the most recent reviews threatening to strangle the guy who made the toy.

So here is my dilemma: Do I get this girl what she wants, regardless of what crap it may be? Regardless of how soon it will break? Regardless of the fact it may not work at all? Or do I get her a regular old lock-and-key diary? Or do I scrap it all and just go for the doll stuff? Advice welcome.