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20 December 2002

I can't remember the last time I went Christmas caroling. It was probably umpty-ump years ago here in Davis. A long time ago, the Davis Comic Opera Co. used to gather at someone's home, have eats and drinks, take books and candles and go up and down the streets of the neighborhood serenading the neighbors. It was always a great way to get into the holiday mood.

The Lamplighters used to go caroling in San Francisco too. We managed to catch that tradition at its end (unless the new crop of singers have revived it). Those were great fun, too, because we went singing on the cable car and ended up at the Buena Vista bar for Irish coffee. Now that's the way to warm the cockles of your heart!

I've always loved singing Christmas carols. 12 years of Catholic school choir and you pretty much get to know all of the songs backwards and forwards. I was an alto, so got to sing all the harmonies, which imbedded themselves pretty indellibly in my brain.

We would, from time to time, go to visit nursing homes around San Francisco. Those were not my favorite times. The halls were long and barren, the old people scared me, and the places always smelled of urine. But I still loved to sing.

Tonight I went caroling again. A group of about 20 of us, most of whom I didn't know. The hostess was Cathy Speck, one half of the musical duo Duval Speck.

The house was beautifully decorated, the table heavily laden with goodies, egg nog, mulled cider, hot buttered rum, and spiced teas waiting for sipping, and Belle, the dog, wandering around wearing antlers.

When we had all warmed up with something either hot or alcoholic (or both) and gathered music sheets, funny hats, bells, and whatever else we were going to bring, we took off for one of the local convalescent hospitals.

Things haven't changed much since I was in grammar school. The halls are still long and barren, the place still smells of urine, but at least the old people don't scare me any more (heck--I'll be there myself all too soon!)

We had dueling choirs in the first place. When we arrived and began singing in the hallway, a group of oriental students came in from another hall and were singing something else. An attendant came and shuttled them off to another wing of the hospital. We continued singing and gathered a crowd of women in their wheel chairs or merry walkers, some of whom sang along with us. We even had a violin accompaniment, as one of our group had brought her violin along.  The patients seemed to be enjoying it, until one woman walked right through our group to the bird cage behind us to feed the bird (everybody's a critic!).

As we continue singing (ever relentless), the front door opened and in walked the choir from one of the local churches, with their hymn books. They took off down another corridor and soon we were at cross purposes, their lovely harmonies not blending well with our ragged, tentative voices.

We figured it was time to move onto the next place, which we did. Here there were no patients in the halls and no other choirs, so we wandered up and down the halls, stopping where there were people who looked interested in what we were doing. Some would call out requests and we would search through our song books to accommodate them.

Our very best number was "Joy to the World," where we all knew the harmonies and with the reverberation off the walls of the hospital, it sounded pretty damn good. We didn't always hit it that accurately.

A woman asked if we knew any French songs, which we did not, but one woman in the group spoke French and they had a nice conversation. I was pretty much following it about 80%, surprised that I remembered so much. The woman was thrilled to have someone to talk to in her native language (though she was also fluent in English) and so we lost one member of our group, who stayed behind to talk to this woman.

When we reached the front door of the convalescent hospital, the group began to disband, as people turned in their song sheets, their antlers, and their jingle bells and head on home.

I began to get a nice feeling of Christmas as I drove home through all the neighborhoods with the light decorations (reindeer and spiral Christmas trees seem to be the "in" thing this year--like the dripping lites were a few years back--and continue to be).

Yes, we really MUST decorate that tree any day now. Time to deck those halls with boughs of holly.

Quote of the Day

Where words fail, music speaks.

~ Hans Christian Andersen

Photo of the Day

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A long time ago...





One Year Ago
The Bride was a real Bitch
At the risk of repeating myself, what's so blasted wrong with two people loving each other and wanting to commit their lives to each other? Whom does it hurt? Why is it such a threat to the moral fiber of society if two people in love make a commitment to love each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part?

Two Years Ago
Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String
Walt bought different lights and kind of draped them decoratively over the hedge in front of the living room windows. When he had them all in place and turned them on, Paul looked at them and said it looked like they spelled out "nu-nu." (or maybe it was nuu-nuu). Anyway, they were ever after known as the "nu-nu lights." They never quite looked like "nu-nu" as much as they did the first year, but they were still the
"nu-nu lights."

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