Trading Turkey for Toast (In Which I Ask if ‘New Traditions’ is an Oxymoron)

Webster’s defines ‘tradition’ as ‘an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior’ or ‘the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.’  Indeed, I just began a post with ‘Webster’s defines,’ like a bad fifth-grade report on gravity (though my elementary-schoolteacher Mom points out that these days, kids cite Wikipedia).

Tradition is most prevalent during the holiday season – what side dishes you eat for Thanksgiving. Where you hang the stockings.  What family member will always be late and therefore shouldn’t be counted upon to bring the appetizers.

As things change in my family – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse – we have found it necessary to alter our traditions.  After my brother passed away in 2004, we shifted the time and place of our Christmas – instead of spending Christmas morning in Northeast Ohio, we opened presents Christmas Day evening in suburban St. Louis. It was a way to all be together at Christmas but around different scenery that didn’t remind us so viscerally of who we had lost. Five years later, enough healing had occurred that we returned to Northeast Ohio for a Christmas-morning gift exchange (but in the living room instead of the den).

This Christmas holiday, my Dad is the interim rector in charge of celebrating services the local Episcopal Church. This means, among other responsibilities, that he’ll be officiating at four services – 5:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 10:00 a.m. – in observance of Christmas Eve and Day. It also means my favorite carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ is the recessional (the walking-out, end-of-service) hymn tonight, but I’m sure that is just a happy coincidence and not at all a case of musical nepotism.

So instead of Christmas-morning festivities, we’ll open presents in the early afternoon.  And instead of turkey or crown roast accompanied by a nice Pinot Noir, we’re having a Christmas brunch with mimosas and Bloody Marys.

For my contribution, I’m making two casseroles that Molly and the rest of the ‘Chill’ gang (a/k/a my high school BFFs) have politely eaten before.  One is my friend Hillary’s ‘overnight’ blueberry French toast containing such healthy ingredients as cream cheese, maple syrup, and roughly 37 eggs (before-baked view  shown below):

The other is a Southwestern Brunch Casserole from my favorite cookbook of all time (the recipes are relatively simple and always reliable):

And here’s a look at it, pre-baking (and pre-addition of tomato slices and paprika).  A little light reading off to the side there was provided by the Akron Beacon Journal, former stomping ground of my favorite author, Chuck Klosterman (how’s that for a digression):

Mom is making a winter fruit compote, which will be topped with ricotta, honey and almonds:

And we’ll be rounding it off with some turkey sausage links and cranberry bread.

But the point I wanted to convey here (and managed to wait until the penultimate paragraph) is not to make people hungry.  It’s to say that even as some of our traditions, travel destinations, and participants change, others hold true.  I’ll tell Mom I have a gift receipt for something before she even opens her present.  Dad will have silly esoteric gift cards on the items he’s wrapped (one year, all presents were ‘from’ new U.S. Cabinet members; the next year, all presents were courtesy of obscure New Orleans Saints players). A particular Mannheim Steamroller song will play that we all love to hate. Mom and/or I will quote Sesame Street’s Bert and ask for a ‘scissor’ to assist with a particularly snug bow.  At some point, an Old Fashioned or three will be consumed. A fire will crackle. And we will feel lucky to be sharing the holiday together. God bless us, every one.

What are some traditions your family shares, in the holiday season or otherwise?


Worst DJ Ever (In Which I, of All People, Lose Control of the Music)

I was once known to tell a friend that I couldn’t wait to get married because that was the day I would have full control of a DJ. This was before the days of iTunes, which lets you sound-track your own parties (and life) with fabulous playlists.

Music is of huge import to me, and having a great DJ at Mr. Glib’s and my wedding was largely expected. When it came to the food, the flowers, even the dress, I was Miss Easygoing.  The only flicker of “Bridezilla” tendencies surrounded the music. I didn’t want a band; I wanted to be able to hear the original songs. So I booked a friend of a friend … who moved to North Carolina four weeks before our wedding date and sent in a replacement.

Let me back up. About four months before my wedding, my younger brother Tyler (my only sibling) was killed in an accident involving a train. Obviously, this was beyond horrible, and while the wedding gave the family a chance to reunite again soon for a gathering that was happy, the wounds were still very raw.

So one week before the wedding, the DJ and I speak to outline the basics: first dance song, bouquet-toss song, parent dances (or lack thereof), and the do-not-play list. We have the following conversation:

LG: And this … this is imperative. I cannot express this enough. Under no circumstance, I don’t care who requests it, DO NOT PLAY “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” by David Allan Coe.

DJ: Oh..kay. Mind if I ask why?

LG:  Ummm, well (thinking it is none of his business, but whatever), my brother was hit by a train and killed a few months ago and there is that “train” lyric in that song, and I really don’t want to be upset or have my parents upset in the middle of our wedding reception.

DJ: Oh, wow, so sorry to hear that,

LG: :nervous laugh: Thanks … so, yeah, just leave that track at home …

Four days before the wedding (that’s three days after the above conversation, folks), we talk again.

DJ: Okay, so I’ve got “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” down for your mother/son dance.

FIRST OF ALL. Did you not remember the gruesome story I told you 72 HOURS prior?  Second of all, you also clearly forgot that we are not doing “parent” dances. Third of all, what an awesome mother/son dance song that would be: “I got drunk the day Mom got out of prison…”

Should have fired him on the spot and set up a boom box full of cassingles.

So I put my bridesmaids and best friends on high alert (Molly almost kyboshed “Family Tradition” when it started, hearing the first few measures of a country song that was semi-old) and sure enough, David Allan Coe didn’t make an appearance.

Neither did, however, 3/4ths of the music I’d provided for this DJ to play. Oh, yes, that’s the other part of the story. I’d designed my own night of music, with more than enough tunes – in order – for dinner plus dancing. He simply ignored all of the “dancing” CDs (which he then stole).

Instead of opening up the dance floor with Mr. Glib’s and my song (“I Want You to Want Me”), he played “Mustang Sally.” Frank Sinatra (whom I hate – sorry Grandmom) made more than one appearance. Grease megamix? Hell to the yes.  The eight-minutes long “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” which cleared the dance floor utterly?  Why, of course!

Not until 20 minutes before the reception’s conclusion did my friend Anne threaten the DJ with bodily harm, forcing him to crack the jewel case on (one of) the CDs I’d so carefully made. I believe five of my songs were played.

I’m not bitter about this at all anymore…

Had Yelp existed at the time, this narrative and more would have been posted. At this point, I can just hope he left the business. And took his “Mustang Sally” right along with him.

Friday Lyric Quiz, #439 (In Which I Stand in the Place Where I Live)

In the world of music this week, R.E.M. broke up, which happened 25% of the way several years back when Bill Berry left behind the ones he loved. (Alternate bad R.E.M. joke: “Bill Berry decided it was the end of his R.E.M. world as he knew it, and he felt fine.”)

Still, the trio of Stipe, Buck, and Mills parted presumably amicably after more than three decades of making music that was thoughtful yet accessible.  Good old-fashioned rock with a hint of the South, a dash of folk, and just occasionally, a little bit of soul.

In the past year or so, I’d rediscovered R.E.M. and was digging their tunes (old and new) more than I ever had, quite frankly. Maybe it just all sounds so good compared to Jason Derulo.  Or my tastes are – dare I say it – maturing (still love ya, Ke$ha!  Stay sweet!)  Either way, the break-up doesn’t destroy me because they have one hell of a catalog to keep fans satisfied.

I never saw them live, but my brother Tyler did, back when you could get great tickets merely by being determined enough. Before StubHub and fan clubs and radio stations and Citibank ruined the entire business.  But I digress. Tyler and a pal, with parental permission (!), “camped out for tickets” (remember this phrase?) and secured ones in the second row.  Ty liked to say that Michael Stipe smiled at him, highlighted as he was (Tyler, not Stipe) by the iridescent glow of the “EXIT” sign.

Thanks for all the hits, guys. Enjoy retirement.

And what does this have to do with today’s lyric quiz?  Nothing at all, quite frankly, because it’s a random hodgepodge, as timing would dictate. But I’m trying to write a little more to my reader(s) these days, so bear with me.

Answers to Friday Lyric Quiz #439

1. “Rain comes pouring down, falling from blue skies, words without a sound coming from your eyes” (late 90s)

2. “Even the man in the moon disappeared, somewhere in the stratosphere” (late 2000s)

3. “I shoulda learned to play them drums. Look at that mama, she got it sticking in the camera, man, we could have some fun” (mid-80s)

4. “Now I know, that I had to borrow, beg and steal and lie and cheat” (early 2010s)

5. “Under the pale moon for so many years I’ve wondered who you are” (mid-90s)

6. “Mack like mayors, ball like Lakers, they told us to leave but bet they can`t make us” (late 90s)

7. “No one can find The rewind button, boys So cradle your head In your hands ” (mid-00s)

8. “One more shot for us, another round. Please fill up my cup, don’t mess around” (early 2010s)

9. “And I won’t take no if that’s your answer, at least, that’s my philosophy” (mid-80s)

10. “And follow me stereo jungle child, love is the kill, your heart’s still wild” (mid-80s)

Answers to Friday Lyric Quiz #438

1. “Watching X-Files with no lights on We’re dans la maison I hope the Smoking Man’s in this one” (late 90s)
One Week, Barenaked Ladies

2. “She rides with me – the new Bobby and Whitney, only time we don’t speak is during Sex and the City” (early 2000s)
Bonnie and Clyde ’03, Beyonce (f Jay-Z)

3. “The sun was spitting fire, the sky was blue as ice, I felt a little tired, so I watched Miami Vice” (late 80s)
Walk the Dinosaur, Was (Not Was)

4. “All your life is channel 13 Sesame Street What does it mean?” (early 80s)
Pressure, Billy Joel

5. “Women used to tease me give it to me now nice and easy, since I moved up like George and Weezie” (late 90s)
Getting Jiggy With It, Will Smith

6. “You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude” (mid-80s)
Kiss, Prince

7. “Choke up and focus on the close up, Mr. Wizard can’t perform no Godlike hocus-pocus” (late 90s)
Walking on the Sun, Smashmouth

8. “Fell deep in love but now we ain’t speakin, Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton” (early 90s)
Summer Girls, LFO

9. “Everyone’s a superhero Everyone’s a Captain Kirk” (early 80s)
99 Red Balloons, Nena

10. “Black in the saddle, lookin for a little affection, I took a shot as a contestant on ‘The Love Connection'” (late 80s)
Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc