Tomorrow comes Christmas at last. In the morning I’ll rise for crab quiche with my mother, then wing my day from there.
Traditions seem minimal this year, for obvious reasons; I acknowledge the holiday with a single winter-scene lamp — I like to imagine a half-crazed lumberjack howling from the bowels of that miniature plastic cabin — and a photo I snapped last year on a walk through industrial Albany. The ornament dangled from a central fir outside an industrial plant. It hung there alone, flanked by an otherwise naked tree, a mere whisper of “Happy holidays.” ’Twas the only sign of Christmas in that desolate tin part of town.
I’ve missed the fleets of carolers this year, sidelined by fears of barking corona through strangers’ front doors. The air’s been bereft of lifted voices save the stream of Paul McCartney and Peter Tork (not together, though I know they met at least once).
So I was happy that the always enterprising Corvallis Repertory Singers, helmed by Steve Zielke, on my favorite interview subjects, assembled a video to fill homes with good tidings and cheer. My old paper boss, Mike McInally, came through again with the story of this production, classing up my little boutique publication during a down week when I didn’t feel like doing much work. I’m my own benevolent tyrant when it comes to holiday time off. I’ll be picking up again shortly, once I overcome two weeks of jury duty. Fun, fun.
You may remember Neil Zawicki from the Albany Democrat-Herald. He and I were practically newsroom desk-mates for three years. He was our cops and county reporter, though his first love was gonzo blogs guaranteed to unnerve locals. We shared an affinity for writers like Hunter S. Thompson, H.L. Mencken, Lenny Bruce, and the Beats, so we got along quite well, trading book and video suggestions. When the paper kicked him to the curb in its by-now standard quarterly bloodlettings, we stayed in touch. He motorvated to Vermont and started over, bought a boat, and woodworked his soul to inner peace.
After I began the Noise, he volunteered to contribute. When Donald Trump lost the presidential election in November, I knew just what he had to write. When he left lo, many Twitter typhoons ago, the bleached sherbet pustule was reaching the apex of his power and influence. That Neil never got to drive one last bullet into his corpulence for a local audience was, for me, a crime. So I set him loose in the Menckenian spirit. He did not disappoint.
Finally: Peter Tork. Like The Beatles, I’ve seldom written of The Monkees, though I've a definite opinion of and history with that band, both as a consumer and former employee of the Rhino Entertainment Company, where I occasionally worked with their catalog.
I recently helped an old friend with a Monkees-related project, so they’d been on my mind for roughly a month. So when 7A Records unveiled plans to return Tork’s only solo album to the marketplace, I opened my wallet and threw down.
It’s easy to both regard and admire The Monkees as a story of posthumous redemption: a Beatles-like band formed for a blip of a television series and transcending both the cynical marketing that birthed it and the hatred that initially chased them to semi-obscurity. But they came back, earning a second-wind fanbase of believers that transformed them into an historical phenomenon, assiduously documenting their dates and minutiae with the seriousness of scholars. Despite the brickbats, they ended up being crucial to the development of the late ’60s in a cinematic language and the ascent of a new, countercultural Hollywood that birthed Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, and, eventually, MTV. Not bad for a group once derided as the Prefab Four, calculated garbage for idiots. Their music still works.
Which reminds me: They have a Christmas album. Time to spread a little comfort and joy.
See you on the other side,