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Holiday, Packaged

Everything costs too much
so is on sale. However
the miracle of walking upon a parking lot
must not be discounted. There were
boys in a car with a
wrecking ball taking on
their speakers. A girl
talked in a window to them and
just where was her skirt?
I'm getting old. So old I read
obituaries for
hints on the personal narrative. I'd gone
to the mall in search of
a solid sweater and was
met by headless mannequins
dressed I guess
for the season's decapitation parties.
Surely somewhere
John the Revelator points to the practice of
taking an additional half off the sale price at the register
and says See?
- John Marshall

Hang on, Citizens of Cable TV...we are entering the holiday season. Last night, I kid you not, the countdown to Christmas was featuring "made for television" mini-dramas one after the other with holiday magic as the theme. (Did we miss Thanksgiving?) I noticed, perusing the program descriptions, that these were misty-eyed dramas built on themes of the dysfunctional modern life. Mom and dad, more in step with their careers and smart phones than their lonely children; single women abandoned by their men, raising children alone in quaint towns hoping to win the Holiday Lottery; Mrs. Claus, on a reconnaissance mission to save a family from divorce, trying to prove to her tired old stalwart of good cheer, Mr. Claus, that Christmas still matters; bitter singletons hoping for a little Hanukkah lantern magic on the night bus. Over and over, themes of urban loneliness and relationship estrangement. Families are not families anymore, they are battlegrounds for attention deficit.

Not to go overly sentimental here, but has the world really changed this much? Are cable television "holiday specials" a true mirror of today and the chaotic desperation of modern family life? The classic "It's a Wonderful Life," for all its small town smaltz, nonetheless was a reflection of its times: George Bailey dealt with real world problems and people with humble expectations. But there was an inherent (and perceived) dignity to life. In contrast, the film dramas of today seem to have a kind of self-mockery and toss-off ennui. The jokes are on us, and they're not kind. The old twentieth century animated specials made us laugh, merry stories familiar to the season. They were sweet, and entertaining. It wasn't all so depressing.

At the risk of sounding much like John Marshall assessing the headless mannequins on his search for a sweater, feeling like life has become a kind of "decapitation party," I'll go out on a limb here and say - "So What?" So we are that broken, occasionally skirt-less and shallow, on sale, overpriced and miraculous. We sit with our cell phones at the table and our kids can't hear their teachers over their earbuds. All generations look on the problems of today and think of the simpler answers that seemed to work yesterday. Wisdom, like politics and history, is mostly rearview mirror revelation. I agree with the poet. I am getting old. Old enough to miss the days when the enemy was not us but practical misfortune...the broken axle on a road trip. If television is any judge, our kids are going to have trouble simply remembering what holidays are for.

Curmudgeon signing off. (Have to meet the headless mannequin.)
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