Fa La La La La, Jerks.

Yesterday I needed to run an errand for work, and at this particular job, it means walking eight blocks to the Philadelphia Macy’s. I know this sounds commercial and crass, but it truly is one of my favorite places in the city. Gorgeous old building, complete with the largest operational pipe organ in the world, built for the 1904 World’s Fair and now overlooking faceless mannequins hawking designer pashminas. I used to live near that Macy’s when I first moved to town, and would sometimes go in on cold afternoons just to find a quiet bench and listen to the organist give concerts, playing old standards and showtunes as everyone around me bought things I couldn’t afford.

Anyway, so, I’m on this errand, and I’m running a little late, and I find myself pushing through these hordes of holiday shoppers. As I finally dodge and weave my way through ladies’ shoes on my quest for the jewelry counter, I realize that they’re all there to see the holiday light show. I’d never actually seen it before, though apparently it’s the thing you do when you’re a kid growing up near here, you pack the family in the car and head down to Macy’s. The organ is covered with this giant, beautiful tree, backed by the beautifully lit organ and a canopy of twinkling lights.

And I have this incredibly ugly gut reaction, like, ugh, fuck you, fuck all you people. I literally have like twenty minutes to find the right pair of earrings, have my boss approve them, and get them back to the museum by the end of the day. I don’t know what you’re doing, but me? I’m at work right now. I don’t have time for you people with your cameras, your fidgety babies, your luxury strollers that are approximately the same size as my car.

And then the show starts.Β 

It’s narrated by Julie Andrews. You know. THE Julie Andrews. The voice of our childhoods: Mary Poppins, Maria Von Trapp, Cinderella. For a moment there, I stopped what I was doing, and I stopped paying attention to the thousands of twinkling price tags, and looked at the thousands of twinkling lights instead.Β 

It’s completely magical. It feels decidedly low-tech, despite thousands of LED lights: no animated Pixar reindeer or 3-D Dreamworks holograms to be found. Songs we all know, played live on that gorgeous organ. Kids beaming with delight as tiny animated snowmen wave their tiny snowmen arms, snippets of the Nutcracker Suite filling the room.


Look, I get curmudgeonly around the holidays. Winter bums me out. It’s stressful and sad for me, a lot of the time. But then there are these bright moments, and — I don’t know. Something, just for a second there, felt pretty good about the universe.

I bought the earrings and made my way to the exit. A little girl in a green velvet dress with a white satin bow waved goodbye. “Goodbye, Christmas!” she whispered, not wanting her parents to move her towards the door. “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!”

I stepped onto the street and a man blatantly smoking weed outside the door was grinning, hollering at passersby, “Do you want my chicken? Do you want my chicken? YOU CAN’T HAVE MY MOTHERFUCKING CHICKEN!”

A disgruntled older man, touristy and overweight, leaned to his dour-looking wife and sighed, “I just can’t stand drunk people.”

Oh. Right.

It’s Christmastime in the city.

18 thoughts on “Fa La La La La, Jerks.

  1. Could you hold my fan while I express my undying love for your blog? K, thanks.

    First of all, your blog makes me happy. I read it and think ‘wow, that was like a well worded, organized and thoughtful extension of my brain.’ Which in turn makes me semi-sad because I am not as original as I once thought. And am not yet able to express myself quite so eloquent-ish..ly. Nor do I think, will I ever be.

    Second of all, I think I said everything I was going to say in my second of all im my first of all, but for the sake of not wanting to re-write anything: Julie Andrews is Cinderella?!

    Mind. Imploded. Discreetly. With decorum and honour (or honor, because you are ‘Murican).

    That’s all!

  2. The famous Wanamaker Organ–rebranded as Macy’s in the wave of retail consolidation and homogenization. So glad to hear that Macy’s is keeping it operational, and that you had that “magic Christmas moment.”

  3. Mom used to take my brother and I to see the lights when we were kids. It wasn’t old-timey yet. We loved it, and the sensory/emotional recall is happening now that I read this. If I could, I’d organize a big game of tag at Macy’s, but I imagine getting caught running after somebody in a department store is much different at 37 than at 7. “But I’m ‘it’, officer!?”

  4. I love all your posts πŸ™‚ specially on a day like today where I have but a moment’s respite. I feel lucky that you popped up in my reader AND I could turn up the volume because coincidentally my ever shuffling playlist decided to pick the same song that’s been in my head for a while. So, thank you for making my day ! πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas and for the times when you feel sad or lonely, grab a cup of hot chocolate with bourbon, and hit up WordPress to see what your blog family is up to πŸ˜‰

  5. You really are a writer. Nice post. I like when you write about Philly because I just sent my youngest kid to Drexel for college this past September (don’t hate; she’s on a full ride, basically) and it kinda kills me that she’s out there on her own. I’ve been following you since the yoga bingo post went haywire, and I love to think that you, who seem like a decent person, are at large in the city where she is. I know there are all kinds of nice people there, but still, reading about it makes me feel likes she’s not as far away. I’m not quite old enough to be your mom but you remind me of my kids, smart and artistic and aware like they are.

    Also, I’m SUPER crabby today and it was nice to hear a little Christmas cheer from a curmudgeonly source.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. I hope with all my heart that you become wildly successful.

      • It wasn’t called that; it was her post that went viral, and there was a hilarious graphic of web photos that was like a bingo game board. You can find it to the left of the post above in the Top Posts area: 12 Habits of Happy, Healthy People Who Don’t Give A Fuck About Your Inner Peace.

  6. Yeah, I totally get the whole bah humbug thing. But it’s nice to hear that little twinkles of the real Christmas that used to make me so excited as a kid can still catch even the most jaded eye.

  7. Pingback: Busy busy busy | mamabro's Blog

  8. I love everything about this post. Glad you got your earrings and enjoyed “every aspect of the city” lol. I am also quite a scrooge, but every once in awhile something hits me, unexpectedly, and I’m all grince-with-the-growing-heart….for a bit. Until the scrooge returns.

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