Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Red State, Big Box Holiday

Cranky Girls' Farm, Dec. 26, 2010. Photo by Cranky #1. Temp: 15 degrees F.
The Crankies launched their own war on Christmas in 2010. Meta Cranky flogged her deadline until the last possible hour, then flung socks in a suitcase and conveyed small Crankies to CG Farm. Within two hours of arrival, Cranky #1 manifested her regular asthmatic symptoms, this time with a championship-quality cough for extra excitement. The Crankies visited Dr. Charlie's seriously terrific new office in Cranky Hometown to wheeze upon request (Cranky #1) and check out his selection of Barbies (Cranky #2). Charlie's dad is a veterinarian, and the Crankies have spent some time in that office, too. (Remember the dogs and the porcupine quills?) We've gotten sterling service at both establishments, but we have to say that Dr. Charlie's office smells much less like pink-eye dope and milk replacer. Extra points for the fireplace, Dr. C; if Dr. Ed had a fireplace, he'd just clutter it up with branding irons.

So now it's Dec. 21, and the Crankies' lack of holiday prep is beginning to show. Only a smattering of presents have been laid in. Exactly none of them are wrapped. And the C's haven't recollected where they put that wee fake-o tree that the contractor left for them a couple of holidays ago before he disappeared (apparently) into a witness-protection program. With four shopping days left until Christmas, the Crankies do not despair, because they can access two major shopping venues that would make urban shoppers weep if they could fathom their wonderfulness.

The real ace in the hole is a local farm equipment chain called Atwoods. The Crankies would like to vacation at Atwoods. They would admire the bunnies and the small multicolored chickens at their leisure. They would wear t-shirts with emblazoned with pictures of green tractors. They would ride green pedal tractors and relax on truck-a-saurus sized lawnmowers. But since they had serious work to do, they quickly found their favorites: Anti-Monkey Butt Powder for Uncle M. John Wayne movies from the Conservative Movie Department for Youngest Older Brother. And shirts without welding burns for Second Older Brother. It's so easy. And, because Atwoods also appeals to Red State chicks, some polka dot Wellies for the girls in our family.

Loading bales of hay, Dec. 22. Note the insulated coveralls.
However, do not underestimate the appeal of the  24/7 Walmart Super Store. Go ahead and scoff at the political incorrectness of the nation's largest retailer. So what if they've been sued by those women they forgot to promote. And that Walmart employees are more likely to win the Mega Millions lottery than to get health insurance. Whatever. But where else in Cranky Hometown are you going to get a teenager sweat pants that don't have a green tractor on the ass? You'll get them at Walmart unless you drive 90 minutes to the closest tasteful mall. So while Cranky #1 snuggled up on the sofa with her selection of inhalers, MC and C2 navigated the local Super Walmart. The results were surprisingly efficient and strangely satisfying. C2 agreed that picking out her own present was exactly what she wanted, so she made her selection, guided by MC's prejudice against toys with itty-bitty pieces. Christmas came early for MC when C2 picked out a paint-it-yourself flowerpot with this evaluation: "It's hard for me to shop at this store. It's got too much stuff." Since MC sucks so much at shopping, she was heartened to be in the company of another failed capitalist.
UM's calf, Dec. 5, 2010

With all this good mojo going, MC shouldn't have been surprised to find Christmas Eve grace in this very same Walmart. Have we mentioned that you can do just about everything at Walmart except perhaps listen to a reading by Noam Chomsky? One can order X-mas-y pictures online for the delight and amusement of one's family members. Which MC did, thrilled at the prospect of driving only 18 miles to pick them up the next day.

In the Walmart parking lot on Christmas Eve, MC was met by throngs of other losers and sucky shoppers. No surprise there. What she hadn't taken into account, however, was that people living on other continents had stopped shopping and had gone on to other pursuits. Ten a.m. Cranky Time is 3 p.m. Western European Time, and the Kings' College Choir was getting ready hold forth on the NPR station that locals think of as Music for Socialists. In their urban habitat, the Crankies attend the Church of Extremely Ambitious Music, and they annually hear performances of a program called Lessons and Carols. What the local folks lack, however, are the acoustics of a 500-year-old chapel in Cambridge and a boy tenor who has made some deal with a higher power. Who knows what extravagant promises this limey kid made to the great "I AM"--celibacy, poverty, a vow to shun the Arctic Monkeys. But there in the Walmart parking lot rang an impossibly clear voice, the fulfillment of Walmart's call to "Spend Less. Live Better."

Even after boy singer ended his carol, Walmart continued to demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. At the checkout line, MC met perhaps the only living Walmart employee conversant in the Four Noble Truths, specifically, #2: "suffering is caused by craving." The previous customer had somehow failed in his transaction, leaving unhappy karma in MC's particular line. This wise clerk, however, began her own kind of protective chanting to ward off harm: "No one should be here. We should all be at home. It would be better if we were asleep." MC expressed her most sincere hope that Buddhist Walmart Associate would be able to go home soon, and exited the epicenter of American capitalism.

Cranky Girls' house, from the pasture. Cranky #1 photo.
Back in the parking lot, on the socialist radio station, the limeys had made it to the eighth lesson, and MC thought it was a nice touch to give the business about the wise men to someone with an Indian accent. The translation of lesson number nine, John's description of the incarnation, seemed to play to the  Monty Python school of religious instruction:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." 
Repetitious much?  Indulgently, MC was willing to grant them their slightly pompous King James version in consideration of that righteous boy singer. Then the Brits said their goodbyes, mentioning in passing that King's College had performed this baroque program annually since 1918. For MC, that little factoid was more breath-taking than the spectacular tenor. Insert every horrific statistic you know about the slaughter of World War I here. Now imagine an Edwardian boy singer performing, a mere month after Armistice Day, to the decimated class of 1918 and assorted grieving sweethearts. 

MC surveyed the Walmart parking lot and considered how very zen her Walmart holiday had become. The buying power of a multinational, union-busting mega retailer, juxtaposed with the achingly wistful carols of a bygone empire. Spend less. Live Better. God help us.


  1. Hometown Grandmother FriendJanuary 4, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I officially can not read your blog at work. I was laughing and snickering and the new receptionist thought it was pointed at her. Wonderful reading yet again.

  2. Delightful! Look how you demonstrate so deftly the way to take the everyday to the level of transcendent, you and that limey tenor. Amen.