Segarini – Ghosts of Christmas’ Past

bob dbawis

This column originally ran back in 2011 and contains articles written in 2008 and 2009. The holidays have always been kind of a tough time for me emotionally, but they have also been the scene of some of my fondest memories. Seeing as how our Monday contributors are out engaged in fist fights over the last 3D 4k 120 inch LG Flatscreen and Coffee Maker in the store, I thought I’d post this slightly updated relic for all to enjoy. Pop a Rum Ball and replenish the Nog…Christmas Time is Here Again….

Once again, it’s that time of year I dare not go near a radio. I don’t normally turn one on myself (too many memories, too much heartache) but when November rolls around the pain goes up a notch. From then until the first week of January, I have to be careful not to go anywhere that someone else has turned one on. Why? Because Christmas songs in the wrong hands are like giving lawn darts to an 8 year old; someone is going to get hurt.

Thankfully, it hasn’t gotten as bad as it could be, at least not yet. I have nightmares of being trapped in a room with a radio that has no on-off button that spews out Christmas song after Christmas song, always the wrong versions of the classics (Alice Cooper: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Some Metal Band: White Christmas) or a new song celebrating the birth of Christ (Family Force 5: The Baby) orSnoop Dogg’s immortal A Pimp’s Christmas Song. Normally, I am a big fan of Mr. Dogg, but here when he intones the holiday spirited desire to “crack a bitch” for Christmas, I have to draw the line. Is this a trend? How many more Christmas’s until we hear MC Santa C’s “Buyin’ Bling Fo’ My Bitch”, or Lil Jailbird ft. MC Crackhead’s “I’ll Be Home For Mother Fuckin’ Christmas”?

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I remember being home in Stockton for Christmas and showing a VHS video of a television show I had done to some of my black friends, when the Leon’s Furniture Store’s Christmas ad came on during one of the commercial breaks. When the announcer intoned the classic line, “Mo’ Ho fo’ Less Dough”, they started laughing so hard I thought some of them would have heart attacks. They were still laughing when I left the party.

Worse still are some of the Diva’s recordings of Christmas classics. I literally break out in hives when some of the more ‘unbridled’ of them strive to hit every note they can while searching for the melody. It’s like an aural version of pin the tail on the donkey, except the only blood shed is from my ears.

Thank God there aren’t a passel of CDs and songs released celebrating Easter, the 4th (or 1st) of July, or Thanksgiving. I don’t think I could refrain from going on a killing spree. Why are there so many Christmas releases? Well, Dear Reader, it’s all about the Benjamin’s. They can be re-released every year. Some will generate income for decades, most of which goes to the record company while some of the money will find its way to the artist and writers, at least to their publishers and managers. Where it gets to from there is anybody’s guess.

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The rest of this column is made up of excerpts from two holiday pieces I did back in 2009. They appear courtesy of their original publisher,FYIMusic. Thanks and a Merry Christmas to Mr. David Farrell. Enjoy….

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As usual, this time of year brings out the Best and Worst lists we all like to disagree with, argue about, and discuss. They’ve already started a bit early this year, just like the odd practice of radio stations playing all Christmas music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for up to a month before Jesus gets swaddled, Santa cops your cookies, and your dad gets another tie, pair of socks, or 3 pack of Fruit of the Looms, while Mom gets a new Swiffer, or slow-cooker, and the kids get 2 or 3 thousand dollars worth of the latest technology, cell phone apps, and video games that allow them to virtually kill lots and lots of virtual people from the comfort of the family couch, instead of torturing the family cat.

The Christmas season seems to be starting earlier every year, a Hallmark Card, retail store driven avalanche so numbingly obvious and omnipresent, that by the time the actual day arrives, a day we used to celebrate with Midnight Mass, a family get together, and a real, honest to goodness Joy to the World feeling, that I can hardly wait to toss the damn tree on the fire, ornaments and all, drink something besides eggnog, and turn on the TV again without fear of another night of Charlie Brown Christmas’s, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeers, Frosty the Snowman reruns and Christmas episode television shows that have some maudlin message attached to them as a high-five to Jesus, Santa, or for all those Grandmothers out there that send internet chain letters to everyone all year long that promise wealth, health, and happiness to the people that forward the heart warming stories of non existent little boys and girls, pictures of embarrassed looking puppies dressed as Nuns, Batman and Robin, or Johnny Depp,  old people surfing, and wet little kittens, along to 10 of your friends, who will never speak to you again if you do.

I loved Christmas when it was special. Christmas and New Year was spent at home, no school, my mother making divinity, fudge, and rum balls, salting and roasting almonds, having friends and family over for drinks or dinner, my dad bartending in the back room of hisgrocery store, spending time with his customers and the salesmen and farmers that supplied his merchandise, and the whole family driving over to San Francisco to look at the animated scenes in the display windows at the Emporium, City of Paris, and The White House. Failed angel Clarence got his wings only once, because “It’s a Wonderful Life” was an event, usually shown on Christmas Eve, and not 3 times a day on 17 different stations for weeks at a time.

Let’s face it, Christmas is for kids…and, if you or the negative people in your life haven’t had him or her strangled, suppressed, or denied, the kidin you.

The Kid In You is very important. He or she is that part of you that allows you to be optimistic in the worst of times, have hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, laugh at your own foibles, mistakes, and whatever current kettle of fish you’ve gotten yourself into, and deal with the obstacles that life tends to throw in front of everything we hope to accomplish. In other words, without your Inner Child, Christmas can be a depressing, soul wrenching exercise in regret and self-recrimination, another year gone by and what have you done to better the quality of life for you, your family, and others. If you can keep your bearings until New Years, the checklist gets put away, and a new year, complete with a fresh start, opens up like a door into summer. Another year, and another chance to make yourself, and your world, a little better.

Until then, however, this time of year can be tough sledding for some folks.

‘They’, (whoever ‘they’ are), keep saying the economy is on the upswing, that things are improving, and that everything is going to be just fine, but I don’t think that this good ‘news’ is affecting anyone I know. Even my rich friends…aren’t.

My Dad always used to say that if you can’t have a good time without money, you won’t have a good time with it.

I used to think he was nuts when he said shit like that.

Now of course, I realize that the odd things my dad used to say weren’t nuts at all. I was just too stupid to understand the wisdom he was trying unsuccessfully to impart to me. My father, as usual, was right.

So this Christmas season, keep my father’s words in mind. We don’t need money to have a great Christmas. We need family and friends, a good sense of humour, and a grasp of why this should be a joyful time of the year. We celebrate a miracle that occurred not in a mansion, but in a manger.

So don’t feel guilty or inadequate because the wine comes in a cardboard box this year, the turkey dinner is a handful of fish sticks and some oven baked frozen french fries, because the cards and presents will be lovingly hand made, destined to become cherished treasures, kept and rendered dog-eared, from opening and looking at them for the rest of your life.

It will be a Christmas fondly remembered for the same reasonany Christmas is remembered…for the people you share it with, and the love you feel for one another. You probably don’t even remember what you got for last Christmas, but that’s okay. Great memories last a lot longer than a pair of socks, a Swiffer, or a video game. Count your blessings, not your gifts.

Have a merry Christmas, and to all you politically correct folks, Happy Holidays. The Segarini Band: It’s Christmas

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And now, some Holiday Memories…

Holiday Memory Number One…

Yesterday I saw a homeless guy in a Santa hat passed out in a doorway. He had a light dusting of snow on him and was running in place, like he was dreaming about chasing a car. I stopped for a second, wondering if I should wake him up because the wind was kicking up and it was getting really cold. I needn’t have worried. Just about the time I had decided to give him a tentative kick on the bottom of one of his running shoes, a very attractive woman in her 30’s came around the corner carrying two cups of coffee, pulled up short and yelled at him.

“DAD!!!”

The old guy sat up with a start and blinked himself awake. “Dammit, Punkin’, you scared the shit out of me.”

I quietly hoped he wasn’t being literal.

Then his daughter noticed me standing there. “What are you looking at?”, she challenged. “Uhh…I thought he might need to get out of the cold before he gets sick, or uhh…maybe find a shelter…homeless people have frozen to death when it gets really co…” She looked at me like Homer looks at Ned Flanders. ‘What are you, a fucking Boy Scout? He’s not homeless, he’s drunk. I had to pick him up at his office party because his secretary called me and said if I didn’t, she was going to shove him out a window. Same thing every year. He throws a party for his staff, gets drunk, and ends up making a fool of himself and pissing everybody off.”

“Oh.”, I said, chastised. “I thought…”, She stopped me with a look that made me afraid of her. “Don’t think, just help me pick him up, or hold the coffee.”

I helped him to his feet. “Thanks Carl, nice job this year, fine job”, he said.

Who the fuck is Carl?

She handed him one of the coffees and gave me a cursory ‘thanks’, took her father by the arm, and guided him down the street past me. “Merry Christmas”, I shouted at them through the wind. “Whatever”, she shouted back, and they walked down the block. Well Screw-iddly you-diddly, I thought. The old man started singing Jingle Bells as they disappeared from view.

I wished I was that drunk.

Holiday Memory Number Two…

New Years Eve, 1969. Roxy had just finished a set somewhere in Hollywood, and we were on our way back to our house in Laurel Canyon to party and welcome the new decade. We stopped at Hugh’s Market on the way to buy some alcohol, chips, and dip. It was about 11:30, plenty of time. I grabbed a bottle of Jack and a jeroboam of cheap champagne. The other guys were running around getting their favourite libations and I got in the line.

The line was long.

While I was standing there, I reflected on the year behind us like I do every year. It had been a hectic one. My life had changed completely in the last 12 months. A long time relationship had ended, (she ran off with my dope dealer), and a new one which would last almost 30 years had begun. I no longer lived in Stockton, but in the Hollywood Hills, and I was on a new label, had a new band, and a new LP. The great Charley Manson Scare had finally died down, Nixon hadn’t blown us all to smithereens yet, and, after a year of turmoil and change, things were looking pretty good. I smiled.

The line lurched forward.

I looked behind me. The line now stretched into the baked goods section of the store. A couple of the guys waved to me from the tail end of it. I motioned them to join me up towards the front. They declined. Apparently they had had their lives threatened when they tried to move up behind me when they first got their booze.

The line inched forward and I went back to daydreaming.

I thought about touring again, about recording another album. I remembered nights out with friends that were becoming famous, and wondered if we were going to join them in the new year. I remembered that a year ago, when everything had fallen apart, I felt like nothing good would ever happen again. It was a familiar feeling this time of year.

I was almost to the front of the line.

It will be nice to start the year surrounded by good friends, celebrating, and looking forward to the opportunities ahead. Great way to start the new year, I thought. It bodes well. They say that your surroundings and company at the stroke of midnight usually predict the year, or in this case, the decade, to come.

I got to the check out and put my purchases on the counter. As I did so, a great whoop went up from behind me. I heard noisemakers. I looked up. Both hands on the clock over the cash register pointed straight up.

1970.

I am starting the new year and decade in a liquor store, surrounded by drunks.

Holiday Memory Number Three…

New Year’s Eve, 1986…

Unless I was playing, I usually liked to stay home on New Year’s Eve, because I always had believed that it was the night all the amateurs drank. I had seen things at New Year’s Eve gigs that…well…no one should ever have to see. This year, however, I figured we could go out and have a great time, safe in the back of a rented stretch limo. Cheryl and I were going to a big party and making the rounds, and I had hired a limousine to pick us up and take us around town in comfort and safety. It pulled up in front of the house, and we carefully walked down across the lawn to the street. It had been snowing, then raining all day, but the rain had stopped several hours ago and the sky had cleared. It was, however, very, very cold.

AAA Cheryl 1984I was wearing a suit and a nice, warm overcoat. Cheryl looked absolutely beautiful in her favourite dress and an awesome fur coat my mother had given her. We looked like we could have been on the cover of Vanity Fair. Especially Chuck…she looked amazing.

We reached the limo. Feeling chivalrous, I waved the driver back inside the car, and opened the rear door for Cheryl. I bowed behind the door, closing my eyes for just a second.

She took one step and disappeared from view.

Like magic.

Like David fucking Blaine.

I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. I looked behind me, in front of me, back up towards the house, and over the roof of the car.

No Cheryl.

“Bob?”, Cheryl’s voice. Ethereal. Distant.

“Cheryl?”

“Bob?” Cheryl’s voice again sounding far away, yet close, somehow. Now, I’m beginning to think there had been a rift in the space-time continuum, and she had fallen through it into a parallel universe.

“Where are you?” I asked, my skin tingling in anticipation of a religious experience, or possible alien abduction.

“I’m right here,” came her muffled response, “Help me.”

I looked down. Sticking out from under the limo were the high heeled shoes she was wearing.

“I see your shoes”, I said, wondering if your clothes fell off when you passed into the other universe.

“They’re still on my feet. Help me, dammit!”

I looked again. It was dark. My eyes focused.

Yep. She was under the car. “What is she doing under there?” I thought to myself.

I leaned down and took a hold of her feet. She slid out from under the limo easily, kind of like a puck on an air hockey table.

No magic.

Just ice.

I knew if I laughed, I was a dead man.

Holiday Memory Number Four…

Christmas, 2008…

Pie and I had been laid off on the same day back in April. We had used the last of our savings to pay December and part of January’s rent.

Our last few Christmas’s had been a lot of fun, with each of us buying the other lots of little gifts, going out to dinner, or having our friends who were without family over for a big dinner and party. This year would be different.

On Christmas Eve, Pie made her usual trip to Mississauga to have dinner and visit with her grandparents, her dad, and her mom, open presents with them, and then come home and beg me to let her open a present. This year, there were just a couple of small gifts, and we decided to wait until morning.

Pie had put decorations on the fake trees I’d bought years ago for an old apartment that now resided in our kitchen, and hung pictures of Minnow and Bagel on the tree in little frames on ornament hooks. She displayed the Christmas cards we had received in and around the large room where our office, dining room, and kitchen were located. She would bring doggie bags back from her families homes, and we would have a nice dinner Christmas day.

In the morning, she woke me up around dawn, just as excited as she always is at Christmas, giggling and laughing, a bright and shining light in what had been a very difficult year. We made coffee, talked, and played with the kitties until she could wait no more. We exchanged gifts.

Later, we would eat a fine meal made from last night’s leftovers, and spend the day and evening talking and cracking wise, our worries put aside for the time being, and comforted by each other’s company.

Tonight, when I started to write this, Pie was sitting on the couch watching TV and I asked her what we got each other for Christmas last year. She couldn’t remember.

Neither can I.

We can’t remember what we had for dinner either.

Pie looked over at me and, with wisdom far beyond her years, said simply, “We had each other, that’s all that’s important.”

She is right.

As we face another potentially difficult year like so many other people, what she said resonates with truth. We have family and friends, Minnow and Bagel, and most importantly…each other.

Looks like another fine Christmas to me.

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To wrap this up, I thought it might be nice to share some of my perennial Christmas favourites with you. The Daryl’s House episode is especially eye opening and ear pleasing. Even their takes on the traditional carols they tackle are outstanding. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Mel Torme: The Christmas Song

Luthor Vandross: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Take 6: I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Tim Hockenberry: Christmas By the Bay

Daryl’s House with John Oates:The Christmas Show

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The 2 Biggest reasons Christmas 2014 will be the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!

Marsh and Tilda Christmas 2014

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Your Comments are Welcome.

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday whenever he can finish one in time.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

4 Responses to “Segarini – Ghosts of Christmas’ Past”

  1. Merry Christmas – may this year be a memorable one!

  2. Charlene McHugh Says:

    Merry Christmas, Bobby! Good memories! 😉

  3. Jim Chisholm in Campbell River Says:

    All the best to you and yours Bob. I have some neat pumpkin flavored beer from Hallween that is jsut as good for Xmas. I’ll tip one for you.

  4. Merry Christmas, and all the best in the New Year Bob, to you and your family! 🙂

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