The holiday season in the U.S. has long since become more trouble than it's worth, and almost no one seems to be shy about saying that anymore. Much has been made of the capitalist co-optation of the season, the fact that most people don't really want to see their extended families, and the weight they end up gaining from gorging on egg nog, candy canes, pies, and smoked ham for weeks on end. I feel much the same way about all of these things, but even in sum, they don't bother me half as much as the simple fact that life gets extraordinarily difficult for the final 6 weeks or so of each calendar year, whether you give a rodent's hind quarters about the holidays or not.
For the people tasked with coordinating and bringing off their family's holiday celebrations, the recuperative, leisure-based aspect of the holidays is sacrificed entirely, and many emerge from it more frazzled than they were when they last left work. But even for the rest of us, who couldn't care less about "the reason for the season" and have few if any significant holiday obligations, the artificially escalated hustle and bustle makes simple things maddeningly complicated. We just want to be left alone to do what we were doing before, but sometimes we can't because the world around us has gone ape shit.
Case in point:
I have a recording session on Monday that requires me to insert and remove my tuba mute silently. The cork on the thing is ancient, and so it squeaks quite loudly when it touches the sides of the bell. You can even get a blood-curdling screech out of it by twisting it from side to side, which can't be good for either the lacquer or the cork, but I am a tuba player after all, and so I sometimes can't resist the perverse attraction to making sounds that will cause anyone within a mile radius to perk up. I've been putting off applying whatever it is I'll eventually decide to apply to the cork to solve this problem. Gluing felt and rubbing charcoal have both been suggested, but it seems to me that the cleanest and easiest solution would simply be pieces of tape. Specifically, white athletic tape would be ideal, since the non-sticky side of it is very fabric-like, but I cannot seem to find mine anywhere in the house. If it fails to materialize soon, I will be forced to travel to a sporting goods store to acquire some more. The problem with that is that this is the busiest shopping weekend of the year and I want no part of it, especially not in a sporting goods store, and not because I don't absolutely love sporting goods stores, but because I don't totally love the kind of people that I'm likely to meet in them. And there will be a lot of them.
Case In Point #2:
I've mostly given up on composition contests at this point, but since a combination of factors have aligned recently resulting in a very good recording of a piece I feel really good about, I'm looking into entering a few of them for the first time in a while. The problem with that? Many of the deadlines fall very early in the new year, meaning that unless I want to mail things last minute, I have to brave the post office at the absolute worst possible time. And it's not just a matter of suffering through the long lines: the only entry to a contest I've ever sent that I know for a fact got lost in the mail was sent at this time of year. I usually just use "Delivery Confirmation," which simply tells you when (and perhaps if) you're stuff was delivered, and doesn't provide any recourse if it's not. After the tracking history had been dormant for a week or so, I contacted the contest coordinator and he confirmed that it was not received. This is the busiest time of year for the post office, and people make mistakes. I'm not out for blood here, I just don't want to have to wait in line forever, pay extra for certified mail, and/or pay to print and send a score more than once. It sucks, and it's all the holidays' fault.
To top it off, I endured a bit of poetic justice yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner. A few years ago, my parents and I officially fell off the holiday boat and began going out for Thanksgiving dinner. We've been to the same place each time, and it's always quite good. We even had the same server this year as last, and she remembered us. What was funny is that for the last half hour or so that we were there, the Muzak machine serenaded us (me, specifically, I'm sure) with an all-Beatles final set. I wasn't miserable, nor was I particularly happy, but I certainly had a private laugh about it in light of recent discussions here. Having worked in a few Muzak-polluted spaces over the years, I'd bet money that there's Christmas music emanating from those very same speakers as I write this. If you've been following things around here, you know that there's some poetic justice in that for me, too.