inessential by Brent Simmons


We note with great sadness Kirsty MacColl's untimely death.

How many hours have we all spent singing along -- half-drunk, surrounded by good friends -- to Fairytale of New York?

It was Christmas Eve, babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
"Won't see another one."

I was at the barbershop the other day. In the chair to the left of mine a young boy was getting his hair cut.

The boy was joking about what his older brother was going to get for Christmas. It was apparent that the boy and his older brother were both regulars -- all the barbers had greeted the boy by name when he came in, and they knew who his older brother was.

The boy was saying his older brother was bad. So he was going to get a lump of coal for Christmas.

No! Worse -- he was going to get a doll's eye for Christmas.

"A doll's eye?" one barber asked and looked at another barber.

"A doll's eye, yes, the eye of a doll," the other barber said.

"Not a doll's eye," the boy said, changing his mind. "He's gonna get coffee!"

Reader's Digest. It would be so easy to knock them -- but knocking the obviously and contentedly low-brow is a sure sign of Philistinism. (College kids and hipsters, take note.)

I mention Reader's Digest because the slice-of-life bit above reminds me of how, when I was a boy, I used to read all the jokes. Which led to dreaming of how I could write those jokes -- and get paid for it. Reader's Digest always used to have a page saying how much they paid for the jokes. It was alot of money! Or so it seemed to me as a twelve-year-old.

My friends and I used to fantasize about how we'd be rich from writing jokes, and what that would be like, to have all this money for baseball cards, banana seats, Star Wars action figures, and the deluxe version of Monopoly.

Except this one friend, a Mormon, who said he'd put the money in his missionary fund. Which was a jar of money sitting on top of his dresser. He fantasized about having more money saved up than any other boy in his church.

The rest of us thought he was crazy. He already had alot saved up, almost a hundred dollars.

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells are ringing out --
For Christmas Day.