What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This is one of the newer series on Dubsism, and as the title suggests, it’s about songs tied to certain recollections. The word amongst those in the know is that the nose is one of the most common triggers of memories. But what do they know? How many memories do you have which are tied to music?
What better way is there than using a bad line from a Barbra Streisand ear-worm to tell you this is a series all about songs which bring back specific memories? Don’t lie; you know we all have them; the difference is I’m willing to share mine…no matter how bizarre they are. Buckle your chin straps, gang….this one is going to change your attitude toward Christmas music…among other things.
For today’s trip back in musical time, we need to set the Wayback Machine for the mid-2000s. At the time, I’m living in a northern city with an even more northern climate. This is a place where winter temperatures often plunge below zero, snow falls can be measured with a yardstick, and both the original inhabitants and the local football share the description “Vikings.”
For some reason, all those qualities made somebody think this was a perfect place to resettle refugees from equatorial East Africa…for purposes of this story, most notably Ethiopia.
Most Americans know of the famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s because of the song that is the subject of this piece. What they don’t know is the source of that starvation was largely due to the country’s corrupt, communist-leaning military junta which was in power into the 1990s. However, the fall of the Mengistu regime didn’t improve conditions. The country devolved into ethnically-based conflicts not entirely unlike those in the former Yugoslavia. Combined with on-going conflict with neighboring Somalia over the Ogaden region, this was why Ethiopia was a place well-worth leaving well into the 2000s.
With the broadest of strokes, that’s how I came to cross paths with “Frank” (not his real name). “Frank” happened to be one of those who traded in the arid steppes of the Horn of Africa for the Land of 10,000 Lakes. “Frank” had a background in electronics, and was a welcome addition to a staff I managed in a medical device company.
To say that “Frank’s” world view wasn’t exactly congruent with the “politically correct” world of corporate America at the time would be an understatement on par with saying Tiger Woods was just “OK” with a golf club. Frankly speaking, I loved his brutal honesty, and having heard the tale of his trek to America, I felt he earned the right to express any goddamn opinion he wanted.
That journey consisted of a 600-mile slog (much of which was on foot) to get to Kenya, where a travel adventure ergo Planes, Trains, and Automobiles began. That leg of the journey ended on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which was the closest place to Africa where one could board Aeroflot, the Russian national airline. Apparently, Aeroflot was the cheapest way to fly to America, even after the rather circuitous route of connecting through Moscow and the obligatory bribing of various Russian customs officials. Naturally, all of this occurred after a long saga navigating the red tape of the U.S. State Department in order to legally emigrate to America.
The perfect example of this came from the inner workings of my aforementioned staff, an eclectic bunch of about 20 people in which there were at least six languages spoken before the arrival of English as a second. One day, Amharic collided with Spanish when “Frank” and one of his Mexican co-workers were “discussing” the “fairness” of legal versus illegal immigration. “Frank” punctuated his point with the question “How many crocodiles were in the river you had to swim across to get here?”
In the immortal words of comedian Ron White, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. To crib a line from A Christmas Story, “Frank” worked in brutal honesty like other artists worked in water colors or oils.” After all that, obviously, it is Christmas which brings us to my all-time favorite “Frank” memory.
Even if yesterday was your first one in America, you know at this time of year, the airwaves here flood with Christmas music ranging from the great to the godawful. Well, one day, one much closer the godawful end of the spectrum caught “Frank’s” attention…which led to one of the greatest tirades I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing.
The aforementioned communists weren’t the only source of strife in “Frank’s” homeland. East Africa is a broad mix of various sects of Muslims, Christians, and the occasional Jew. As a devout Orthodox Christian, “Frank” found Ethiopia as a place which was constantly becoming less friendly to his belief system.
Without getting into a full-blown lesson on the history of Christianity, one of the major sticking points between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches was the moving of the date on which the birth of Christ is celebrated. Again, you history majors can feel free to debate whether this move was made by a 4th century pope, or in 529 A.D. by Roman emperor Justinian, or (insert your favorite theory here). The bottom line is by the time “Frank” and I cross paths, for a millennia and a half Christmas has been on different dates depending on whether you were western Christian or eastern Orthodox.
That’s why when today’s Misty Watercolor Memory came on the radio and “Frank” heard it’s title question, he answered it frankly “Frank” fashion.
“No…no…we don’t know it’s Christmas because it’s not fucking Christmas! Christmas is January 6th… despite what some Roman asshole in a funny hat said!”~ “Frank” from Ethiopia
“Do they know it’s Christmas?” According to “Frank,” we westerners are the ones who don’t know when Christmas is…
You can see all the Misty Water-Color Memories here.