The night of the Tacky Townie party at Proud Larry’s, the upstairs bar at City Grocery was having a private event, so I was displaced. But the Tacky Townie party was−well−tacky and fun. However, when the party was over I had a longing to sit on The Balcony for just a bit before heading home. As I approached, I could see there was no activity on The Balcony. Of course it was pretty chilly, so that didn’t necessarily mean anything. When I reached the door to the bar it was locked and the place was shut down for the night.
I had a few airplane bottles of vodka in my coat pocket. I looked around and the Square was nearly deserted. I won’t tell you how I did it, but I made it up to The Balcony and the southwest corner. The lights were off and I was careful to remain in the shadows. I opened bottle number one and took a sip, when, from down below, I heard, “Pssst! Randy!”
It was my old friend, Jesus. He had on his heavy robes, with long johns protruding at his ankles and wrists, and Uggs instead of sandals.
I helped Jesus up—and I won’t tell you how—and we gave each other a tight hug. We sat on the floor of The Balcony, which was warmer than the metal chairs, hoping not to be seen. I handed an airplane bottle of vodka to Jesus.
He looked at it and said, “I’m usually a wine drinker, but, what the hell. It’s the holidays.” And with that he screwed off the top and took a swig.
“So, Randy,” said Jesus, “what’s your plan for Hanukkah?” (After all, Jesus is Jewish!)
“Oh,” I said, “I’m spending the first few days with friends in California who are also Jewish. I’m not exactly sure what we’ll do, but I’m prepared to go with the flow. What about you? Any special plans?”
“No,” Jesus replied. “I’ll light my menorah and give thanks like I always do.”
“Will you keep the entire observance?” I asked.
“Duh!” Jesus said. “I am Jewish, you know.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I know. What about Christmas? Do you observe it?”
“Kinda sorta,” Jesus said. “It’s basically my birthday, though I was really born in the springtime and not in December. Now, I like a good party just as much as the next guy, but it’s gotten a little out of hand if you ask me. Y’all don’t even get Saint Nicholas right anymore, much less me. For example, most of the depictions of my birth are sanitized, when actually it was downright filthy. And the wise guys−they weren’t even there. They didn’t show up for a couple of years. On top of that, they were astrologers. Most Christians think astrology is of the devil.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a bone to pick with Christmas,” I said.
“Not the day,” Jesus said. “Just the way.”
“Not the day, just the way,” I repeated. “That’d make a great hook for a commercial.”
If the look Jesus gave me had come from anyone else, I’d have called it a go-to-hell look. I’ll just say he made his point with nary a word.
“So if you don’t like the way Christmas is celebrated,” I said, “how would you have us do it?”
“Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas—especially Christmas—with much less hoopla,” Jesus said. “Go back to calling them ‘Holy Days’ instead of ‘holidays.’ And as cliché as it sounds, with a touch of reverence and solemnity along with the joy, done every day—every single day. The bottom line for all legitimate Holy Days is love. Practice love every day, not just on special occasions. When that happens and you see the sparkle in someone’s eyes because of it, that’s Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza and every other Holy Day all wrapped up in one.”
“I won’t argue with that,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “’Cause you’d be wrong—again! Remember, it’s not the day, it’s the way, and love is the way and the only way.”
With that, we toasted to love, and Jesus started singing: “All you need is love; all you need is love…” I joined in, and for a little while, the only sound on the Square was that of love.
Here’s to peace on earth and good will toward everyone, all year long.
…and that’s the view from The Balcony.