“step right up step right up step right up
everyone’s a winner bargains galore
that’s right you too can be the proud owner
of the quality goes in before the name goes on
one-tenth of a dollar one-tenth of a dollar, we got service after sales
you need perfume? we got perfume, how ’bout an engagement ring
something for the little lady something for the little ladysomething for the little lady hmm”
This is from, “Step Right Up” written by Tom Waits. I personally think of it as a great Christmas song and it always moves to the top of my playlist this time of year. Sadly, it is also one of the most representative “Christmas Songs” of a side of our culture in the US that I don’t understand. For me this song is a palliative to the marketing slime of commercialism and greed. It always brings cheer and a smile at the same time as it captures the greed, and ugliness, and sadness I see every “Black Friday.” If you don’t know this song give it a listen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7g2ovqaR-I. It is a hilarious litany of every late night TV commercial you can imagine. Great stuff.
Every year the marketing and commercialism seems to get worse and worse. This year, well in advance of time to even select and carve Halloween pumpkins, I was seeing displays for Christmas. The hype was building for various Black Friday bargains. What about taking it one holiday at a time?
There are bright spots. REI is in its fourth year of its #OptOutside program where it closes its doors on Black Friday and encourages employees, members, and patrons to spend time outside enjoying life. Along with this, several National Parks open their gates waiving entry fees. This is representative of a side of our culture I can embrace. It is also growing slowly, they are now not the only store to do this and people are going to the parks and are opting outside.
Unfortunately, we still have too many people leaving the Thanksgiving dinner table and family and friends early to camp out overnight to be first in line to shop. I only hope that this will be a rare year where no violence breaks out over a Christmas present. Since 2006 there have been at least 10 recorded deaths and 111 injuries. I guess I don’t get my wish. As I type this, according to one source that count has already gone up to 11 and 113. “Peace on Earth? Good Will?” Where does this poison come from?
Is joining a crowd, pushing and shoving, risking injuring yourself, worse injuring someone else, death? Is it really worth it? I can much more easily relate to the late Scott John Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit:
“Here is the evidence of human existence
A splitting bin bag next to two damp boxes
And I cannot find a name for them
They hardly show that I have lived…
…I’ll never need these things, never need them
It’s just you I need
You, my human heat
For the things are only things and nothing brings me like you bring me
I’ll never need these things I’ll never need them”
Have a listen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjiQHLZimSo (and thank you KEXP).
I’m not saying I don’t buy things, I’m not saying I’m perfect, I’m not saying I don’t give Christmas gifts. I do vote with my foot and do NOT shop on Black Friday. I try to enjoy the spirit and sentiment of the season, to enjoy family, and friends, and music. So, I’ll be home, posting this blog, playing with my cats, maybe walking the park in or out of the rain and wishing you all joy.
Links to lyrics
“Step Right Up,” Small Change, released in 1976, Asaylum label.
“Things,” Winter of Mixed Drinks, released in 2010, FatCat label.