Before I was old enough for grade school I tended to spend a lot of time at home. My parents, resourceful as they were, devised many ways to keep me occupied until I could be trusted by myself for short periods of time, & then in eight-hour shifts years for the next 12 years at school. One of my favourite past-times (according to a journal my mother kept throughout my early childhood) was listening to records. Yes, these were the large vinyl LPs that played recorded sound vibrations using primitive analog technology. (To make it easier for you kids, just imagine a gigantic, black CD that could only play for 40 minutes.) My parents had an interesting selection, they both liked the Beatles, Mom also had Herman's Hermits, The Ventures, soundtracks to various musicals & James Bond movies, as well as Fantasia. Dad had some stronger classic rock, ELP, Iron Maiden, but he was also into new age music like Lattitude, Spyro Gyra, & Jean-Luc Ponty (electric violinist.) I believe some of the classical in the family LP collection was his too & the one in particular to which I am referring is a London Records release featuring Ravel's Bolero. He loved this piece of music & when he would play it for me he'd turn the volume all the way up so we could hear the first few measures. The song itself is rather repetitive (one of the many reasons Ravel himself didn't like the piece) & perfect for a short-attentioned preschooler, but changes enough throughout that it continues to get exciting. I loved it, & as the song progressed dad would leave the volume as it was so by the end the final crescendo would rattle the windows & we'd both be bouncing off the walls. We both loved it, & this music as well as other gems from his collection would help to keep us connected over the years.
Some time later Dad mentioned seeing a cartoon animated to the music of Bolero. Being by then a fan of Fantasia & a number of other classical pieces with commercial appeal, this intrigued me. He couldn't remember who did it, or the title of the movie it came from, but the idea was never far from my mind whenever I heard the music. Some time later still (within the past five years, I believe) cable television had invaded our household & the number of channels was just beginning to explode. One channel, probably some local or public access deal, would play, for a few hours a couple times a day, what can best be described as classical music videos. I really liked it & would turn it on whenever I could. Classical music is great because it's generally unoffensive, usually relaxing & can be easily ignored if need be. One night while doing some completely unrelated task I heard Bolero wafting in from the living room. I dropped what I was doing & rushed in. There on the screen was another music video but this time I knew exactly what it was even tho' I had never seen it before. I had only missed a couple moments (the Coke bottle was still on-screen) & for the next 10 minutes remained undisturbed from my gape-eyed daze. It was beautiful. It was awe-inspiring. It was exactly how Dad had described years ago.
Regrettably, I didn't catch the name of the artist, conductor or any information pertinent to finding the work later on. But I had finally seen it, & I was happy.
In late November of this year Dad & I were driving to Mah Jongg Club at Pegasus when we somehow happened upon the topic of Bolero & the animated film in he had first mentioned so long ago. I remembered my love of the song & fascination with the cartoon I had seen only once. The first time I didn't know where to look, but now I was smarter, now I had resources. Now, I had the INTERNET. That night I did a Google search for the best keywords I could think of in relation to what little I knew of the film. Lo & behold, there it was in the top five search results. I didn't even have to click the link to be almost certain I had found what I had so briefly searched for. I checked a few reviews to be certain & yes, it was indeed Allegro non Troppo. I ordered two, one for myself & one for Dad, delighted at the opportunity to give back to him a memory of the music, & to have my shopping for him so easily finished.
He was indeed delighted when he unwrapped his gift Christmas Eve, & it brought me much cheer to see him light up when I explained what he would find in this strange looking movie with a foreign title. I hope I can be there when he watches it again for the first time in nearly 30 years.
In other news, Christmas with my family was definitely OK. Saturday afternoon I went to my parent's for our annual gift-exchange & fondue dinner. I wasn't expecting much gift-wise. Having been disgusted with Christmas for the past several years I stopped asking for gifts. I'm not into Christmas, the season & especially not people who take it seriously. I feel like such a sell-out to commercialism sitting there with everyone else in the room unwrapping things purchased for one-another, compelled by a relentless retail industry. But anyway, my family is starting to get the picture & if they still must insist on giving me something it's usually cash or something practical. This year was more of the same, except for one item that deserves special note.
A few years ago I lamented to my folks about the gifts I used to receive from Santa. They were always wrapped in shiny metallic red paper & bright green ribbon. Year after year they were wrapped the same way & I never had to look at the name tags to know who they were from. They were always so beautiful; the kind of presents you hesitate to open because it destroys the wrapping. Well, suddenly I started receiving gifts from Santa again! Just one or two this time, but seeing the beautifully wrapped box glowing magically from the lights on the tree for the first time since my adolescent declaration of my disbelief in Santa nearly made my eyes water & I treasured them from then on. Thenceforth, in my pile of gifts I always saved those to open last, because they were the most special.
This year was a little different. This year I actually asked for something, but only one something. I was excited at news of the new Calvin & Hobbes "worship me" collection & the prospect of having all the strips that ever found print in a nice hard-cover set. -- I already owned all of the previously released paperbacks, but they were well-worn & loved & not all of the Sundays were in color. -- This is the only thing I asked for this Christmas. I knew it was too expensive for any one member of my family to want to buy for me. I did it sortof to annoy them that way, but also because I had already planned on purchasing it for myself when I got around to doing so.
I needn't waste any more space getting to what I found in that bright red shiny box this year. I never even wrote a letter but Santa had heard & Santa had delivered. Bless him.
My eyes did water when I lifted the first enormous & heavy volume out of the collection's sturdy box & started reading that night. Calvin & Hobbes is so significant, it has had such an important place in my life as a child & growing up that I would not be the person I am today without it. It has influenced my sense of humour, my drawing style, my taste in fiction, my writing to this day, even my personal view of the world. There are few comics out there I can say this about & none I can describe with such emotion. Liberty Meadows is the only one that can come anywhere near it. This gift is a sturdy & durable collection I will keep with me for the rest of my life. Thank you Santa, & thank you Mr. Watterson.
A good Christmas by far, I think, & the only thing that could make it complete is if the Brothers Chaps would update for Decemberween. It's been three weeks now with absolutely nothing new on the website. I hope they're OK.
Oh! In case you haven't yet, be sure to get your copy of Christmas in the Stars while you still can. Supplies are limited & it will only be available for three or four more days. However, I'll leave Nackles available until I know everyone who is interested has heard it. Enjoy!
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