The Calibre of a Carol

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Another day working through the fog, the substance of which I couldn’t report here even if I could think of a way to make several hours of witness testimony on banking records fizz, which I probably could, being a freakin’ comedic genius, but let it pass. Professional discretion’s gain is literature’s loss. Suffice to say that I spent the day in my role as forensic accountant and litigator, a part I play in order to bolster whatever faith in humanity remains to my bank manager and as a tactical component of my overall strategy to convince my wife not to leave me for someone nicer but broke.

Ducked out once during business hours to obtain necessary sustenance, all masked and gloved and keeping the adoring throng at a distance. Amused once, too, as I watched the fortyish woman who was after me in the coffee shop, expensively dressed and carrying a pocket dog of revoltingly primped appearance, get told that she couldn’t bring the animal into the shop. The creature was about the size of a rat and, had she put it down for two seconds, would probably have been immediately eaten by one. “Oh,” she said (definitely a local, slumming it here in midtown), “but, they said…” and then faltered, because there obviously was no “they” who could possibly have offered any encouragement, she having walked in off the street moments earlier. But then, inspiration. “It’s a service animal,” she piffled. “Oh,” said the minimum wage staffer, presumably used to being lied to by entitled uselessness, and equally probably having now completed the ritual ceremony required under local health ordnances, and the fungus was allowed to remain. I left, and only my imagination supplies the scene of Ms Useless feeding it artfully torn chunks of pâtisserie and pouring almond mochaccino into a saucer for it to spray across the tabletop for the staff to clean up later. I am, of course, being wholly unfair to the dog, who for all I know would have been as disgusted as any sensitive animal had it understood a word of what was being said.

After work, and still trying to see something of the city without killing anyone in it, I went for another walk. Amused again, as the afternoon light just started to dip, by a restaurant which had put a lot of work into convincing any literate passer-by that, in the eyes of the proprietor, all ancient empires of whatever epoch and landmass were one and the same.

Or whatever
So good they named it a million times

My feet took me north and westwards for the first time, to Columbus Circle and, outrageously, into a glitzy indoor mall because the alternative was arrest for public urination, which would have needlessly risked the health of the hardworking public servants of the NYPD. I neither bought anything nor saw (through the shop windows) anything I wanted to. Sometime later, I did find a shop in whose window Seb, via videocall, identified the perfect gift for his friend (and the sister of Raf’s girlfriend), a “collectible” figure representing a character in some manga or anime. There I did breach quarantine, being as quick and as distant as I could. For the rest, I ambled, trying to stay dry as the drizzle persisted, and to stay sane as the aspects of New York dedicated to fleecing tourists went on around me. I know of no other city so enamoured of its own manufactured image. The tat shops practically fall over one other in their profusion, and every one has wall after wall of clothing and other merchandise, most bearing little more than the name of the city, or just its initials. I dare venture that this is the Mecca for anyone seeking a hat with the letters N and Y stuck on the front. Frankly, you’d be a fool to try anywhere else.

Whether whatever sentience abides at the end of this last human century will have any sympathy for those of us who witnessed its formative years is presumably an open question, though an easy one to answer, given only patience. Whether it should have any such feeling is a much harder one. After all, the same species that invented fascism, genital mutilation and Jingle Bell Rock also provided their victims, if not, or not exclusively, in their same persons. I am merely an amateur moral philosopher, and that sounds like one for the professionals, but the case for an international treaty banning the use of Christmas songs against a civilian population is surely made.

For many years, Jingle Bell Rock held a unique place in my heart as an expression of human creativity, as I managed to spend a blessed decade or so of my early adulthood without ever once being reminded of Last Christmas, now seemingly ever more commonly deployed at this time of year. Either of them would, I contend, be very close to the top of any ranking of endeavour by nausea to effort ratio. Building a nuclear weapon takes years of dedication, skill and logistical management. George Michael probably banged out Last Christmas in an afternoon before going on to an evening of much more elevated and noble pursuits, such as cottaging.

This trip, however, has brought another such fingernail down the seasonal blackboard to mental prominence. Blasted from every pedal rickshaw plying the streets of the city, Feliz Navidad has completed for me (please, merciful Jesus) the trinity of Christmas songs, true appreciation for which could only really be expressed by the use of artillery. Such a response would, I contend, not merely be artistic criticism but would itself be art, at least at the first time of deployment. Thereafter, it would be merely pest control.


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