This is a reprint of the letter from the editor in Unwinnable Weekly Holiday Special. You don’t have to buy it, it’s free! The holidays are all about giving gifts, right? If you like it, it would be swell if you purchased a one-month subscription. You’ll never miss and issue!
A couple years ago, I was working on Christmas night. I always enjoyed the newsroom on a major holiday. It is easy enough to make room for the family traditions if you’re working the night shift and they’re always terribly slow, so I was usually getting paid double time to read a book.
So here we are, three Americans and two Brits, bored to tears, slightly drunk on a couple champagne magnums someone thoughtfully left in the fridge. There’s cookies and candy strewn about. The savaged remains of the take-out dinner the company paid for is still lying out, a stark reminder of our mortality, or the company’s largess, or the company’s cheapness, depending on who you ask. We’re all staring at the clock.
Everyone else is cranky because I suppose that’s how you’re supposed to act while working on Christmas, but honestly, this doesn’t feel all that different from a family holiday gathering.
Year by year, the hands of the clock slide closer and closer to 2:00 a.m. and our release.
To where? To our families? To our beds? No, to the nearest dump of a bar that happens to be open that late on Christmas night.
There’s something beautiful and sad and seedy and glorious about the deserted streets of New York City at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas night. More so the warm darkness of a bar, where patrons are like ghosts from another era, the bar’s history made flesh for one night, the characters from a Tom Waits song spilled out into reality.
The particular Christmas night, the bar was filled with a dozen or more Swedes. Tall, broad Swedes with rosy cheeks and blonde hair. I believe the word is “strapping.” Even the women were taller than me. They all wore Christmas colors, the majority of them wearing red sweaters. They were, to a person, soused.
Bars close at 4:00 a.m. in New York City, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to do our work. We focused on whiskey and drank it as quick as we could swallow it.
At some point, the Swedes had crowded together into a circle in the center of the room, a massive group hug. They were singing “Feliz Navidad” as loud as their numb lips could manage, turning in an endless wheel. When they stumbled out of the chorus and into the verse, they muttered around in confusion for a second before simply starting over again. They did this until the bar closed.
The bar wasn’t playing Christmas music, let alone “Feliz Navidad.”
I often wonder about those Swedes, where they came from, what happened to them, what brought them in such great number to that particular dive on Christmas, so far from home.
My colleagues and I left happy that night, the spirit of something, be it Christmas, or whiskey, or Sweden, finding us at last in the wee hours of the morning.
This Christmas, I will not be working in a newsroom. I will be among friends and family. It will be nice, no doubt. But it won’t be the same.
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Anyway, happy holidays gang! This is our last issue of the year and it is packed with great stuff. I am excited for you to dig into over the next couple weeks.
Because it is the holidays, I’ve decided to give this one away for free. So, new readers! Hi! Make yourself at home!
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Our good friend Richard Clark over at Christ and Pop Culture recently wrote about us, saying:
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On that note, I’ve rattled on long enough. Have a safe and happy holiday. We love you! See you in the new year.
Kearny, New Jersey
December 11, 2014