Some years ago I wound up approaching December with a full week of vacation time still unused and it worked out that the best time to take it was the week leading up to Christmas. Given that it had been a couple years since I had spent the holidays with my parents and given that my mother was in the midst of yet another battle with cancer and could certainly use some cheering up, I decided that I would surprise my family by driving down unannounced for the holiday. I called my sister to let her know what my plan was so that I could crash at her place and then show up with her at my folks door as a sort of Christmas Eve present.
At least, that was the plan.
In order to make such a trip, I figured it was best if I got a few things touched up on my car before leaving, so I managed to schedule a day to drop my car off that would still leave me enough time to make the trip (provided I broke a few speed limits) down and back within the time I had. Of course, as luck would have it, there was slightly more wrong with my car than I had anticipated and it ended up being in the shop for 3 days, crushing my plans in the process. Needless to say, it wasn’t the greatest Christmas because in addition to not being able to make the trip, I had to spend a week sitting on my ass *thinking* about the fact that I wasn’t making the trip.
But from the bad inevitably comes some good. In the midst of my boredom I dragged out all my holiday CD’s to perk my X-mas mood, including a couple Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums that I had purchased used for a couple of bucks but had never really listened to. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is essentially the metal band Savatage doing classical music with a host of no-name vocalists. I liked the band, so I bought the albums, but since they were “holiday music”, they never really reached my regular rotation. One of the side benefits of having such a mammoth collection of music is that I often get the chance to “rediscover” albums I had forgot I had or just hadn’t appreciated at the time I bought them. In this particular instance I stumbled upon a song that at the time made me think of my situation and which to this day still makes me fondly recall that particular winter.
Yes, fondly. Because as disappointing as it was to have my surprise ruined, the fact remains that while my family may now be thousands of miles away, my home is still here.
So I figured I’d post the lyrics to said song for others to enjoy. It’s essentially a poem, although what gives me chills is the beautifully stark version of the song which they did. It’s essentially just an acoustic guitar and some guy with a raspy voice that is perfect for storytelling. In fact, you can hear it by watching the following YouTube clip. (Actually, don’t *watch* it, as the accompanying cheesy computer animation nearly ruined it for me. Just listen to the song.) Otherwise, enjoy the poem.
And happy holidays to everyone!
OLD CITY BAR
In an old city bar that’s never too far
From the places that gather the dreams that have been
In the safety of night with its old neon light
It beckons to strangers and they always come in
And the snow it was falling, the neon was calling
The music was low and the night Christmas Eve
And here was the danger, that even with strangers
Inside of this night it’s easier to believe
Then the door opened wide and a child came inside
That no one in the bar had seen there before
And he asked did we know that outside in the snow
That someone was lost, standing outside our door
And the bartender gazed through the smoke and the haze
Through the window and ice to that corner streetlight
Where standing alone by a broken pay phone
Was a girl the child said could no longer get home
And the snow it was falling, the neon was calling
The bartender turned and said , “not that I care,
But how would you know this?” The child said, “I’ve noticed,
If one could be home, they’d be all ready there.”
Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far
And he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register drawer
Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak
Then he called for a cab and he said, “J.F.K.”
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away
And we saw in his hand that the cash was all gone
From the light that she had wished upon
If you want to arrange it, this world you can change it
If we could somehow make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor or even a stranger
And to know who needs help you need only just ask
Then he looked for the child but the child wasn’t there
Just the wind and the snow, waltzing dreams through the air
So he walked back inside somehow different, I think
For the rest of the night no one paid for a drink
And the cynics will say that some neighborhood kid
Wandered in on some bums in the world where they hid
But they weren’t there so they couldn’t see
By an old neon star on that night, Christmas Eve
When the snow it was falling, the neon was calling
And in case you should wonder, in case you should care
Why we on our own, never went home
On that night of all nights we were already there