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This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, to do a pre-Christmas Christmas with my girlfriend’s family. They are a wonderful group of people, rich with Southern hospitality and warmth, as well as stroke-inducingly brilliant cooking skills. However, visiting them at this time of year brings with it one minor caveat: they love the holiday season, and when it comes to holiday radio, they like their airwaves like they like their stockings: stuffed and brimming with Christmas joy.
Now, I love the holidays, and I love holiday music, but I have never been the type of person to turn my car radio to a holiday station on Thanksgiving and let it run on through the New Year. In fact I’ve never even attempted it, as I always assumed I would be googling “euthanasia centers Boston” by about December 1st (don’t bother trying by the way; most of them, for some reason, draw the line at humans). But despite my trepidation toward this practice, for the last few days I had no choice but to get a crash course on what it means to be a Holiday Radio Junkie.
The drugs are quick. As soon as I was picked up from the airport, I was dropped into a world of jingle bells and pre-war jazz pop, taken to dizzying heights by triple modulating standards and soft rock holiday covers that go to the chorus no less than five times a song. As we pushed through hour after hour, I could feel myself slipping. I began to see, through the fir-scented mire, how a person could get pulled into this seedy world and never recover. With a catalogue of songs that is shockingly small, holiday radio can ensnare even the strongest person in its spiraling labyrinth of sameness, like the swirling underbelly of a powerful waterfall does to the unmindful rafter, placidly allowing its victim to twist and struggle to exhaustion before finally succumbing to the still calm of brain death.
I myself quickly OD’d on the yuletide dementia, having such a low tolerance, and before I knew it I found myself lying back and taking each and every Nick & Jessica cover with a frightening level of enthusiasm. This twisted, cruel euphoria lasted a week straight with absolutely no breaks (I have the Comcast music channels, the aforementioned car radio, and my unresting and easily hooked brain to thank for the smooth musical transitions from car to mall to car to home to black, imageless sleep and back again). By the fifteenth or sixteenth separate rendition of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ (which easily has the wackiest array of covers in the holiday canon, from Whitney Houston to Anne Murray to Daughtry) I started to have unrelenting visions of sugarplums dancing in my head… horrible, hellspawn sugarplums. Of course, those could have also been blood spots from the blown vessels in my brain; I don’t really know what sugarplums look like. (Incidentally, the difference between googling ‘sugar plums’ and ‘sugar plum’ is mildly startling. Check the image results for both).
On the plane ride back north, I rocked and sweated, cut off from the feed, sucking on candy canes in the bathroom just to keep myself sane. It was a brutal recovery, much like Ewan Macgregor’s in ‘Trainspotting’, only in my case the ceilingbabies were shaped like sugarplums… or possibly naked men bent over a couch (have you googled ‘sugar plum’ yet???). But as soon I was home, with my faithful iPod by my side bumping secular chunks of beauty, the stillness and non-festive-ness of the situation allowed me a much-needed reprieve from the holiday madness. I have been to the edge and back, people, and I am proud to say I am a better man for it. Or not.
Thanks for reading, and happy holidays.