It seems trite to say you couldn’t make this story up, so I’ll just say that if you knew Vern (not his real name) you’d know this could be the most hilarious, unintentionally insensitive Christmas caroling story ever. I’ve never met a person more inclined to try and befriend everybody he ever met, and even sympathize with the worst people, because “you know they have to be hurting too.”
Round two of Christmas caroling on the first day of December got off to a good start, we had a surprisingly strong showing of teenagers joining in – not even ironically – maybe two dozen people from multiple ethnicities squeezing through Greenbelt’s tiny sidewalks and tinier yards to sing a mix of contemporary, secular and old-fashioned-if-truncated Christmas hits to anybody who would answer their door.
After hitting several homes picked by Vern, we turned down the lane of nice, middle-class homes called Lakeside. A small splinter contingent of 11-year-olds tried singing counter-carols loudly and off-key for a few houses, but for the most part, we entertained fairly well, or at least sincerely tried.
Let me pause to say there are a few Christmas themed songs that should never make it onto a laminated caroling lyric-sheet. Wham’s Last Christmas. The Beatles Christmas Song. Felize Navidad is a nice enough song, but it requires the rhythm guitar to insert a few beats in strategic locations or you end up with some slightly apologetic impressions of guitar chords to fill in.
And the Grinch theme. Technically, if you have to sing horrible things about the audience, it should never be part of Christmas caroling.
The last house we went to, Vern decided it was time to sing the Grinch song – a decision he made as the younger children raced to be the first to knock on the door.
“Would you mind if we sang you a Christmas Carol,” Vern asked.
“Well, if it’s Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel …”
“We’ve got one even better.”
Jonathan had long before taken my light and my lyric sheet, so I couldn’t look to see if we actually had the dreidel song.
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
Instead, I watched this slow motion train wreck of a performance – kids on the porch, Vern looking away from the house, a few teens on the hill below …
You’re a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.
… and about half our company down in the street singing a full measure behind while I envisioned scenes of kristallnacht …
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
… and Jews enduring casual discrimination at the hands of well-meaning goyem throughout history.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul.
“OK, we can’t leave on a sour note,” Vern said after the painful rendition, “Let’s sing another one. How about Feliz Navidad.”
“… From the bottoms of our hearts.”
After giving the lady a hug, he then invites them to join us caroling. They politely decline, and I imagine them laughing at us and retelling the story in disbelief as we walk all the way back down the street.
On the way, we started singing songs in the street, including the dreidel song, which it turns out, was on the lyric sheets after all, even though it’s all of five lines soaking wet.
Back at Vern’s house, the teens swarm the table full of food like locusts. About a dozen stunningly beautiful young women, and two teenage boys leaning against the wall, not speaking to any of them.
Later, when I round up Jonathan to go home, they’re downstairs watching the latest from Bad Lip Reading.
Karl Hille lived and breathed local news beat reporting in Greenbelt and the Baltimore/Washington region for more than 12 years until the 2007 recession. While learning and improving the online side of the Baltimore Examiner operations, his platform dropped out from under his feet, then his rebound job at a regional business news magazine downsized him three months later. Now, working for the “dark side” – public communications work by day for the awesome government agency – he is going back to school to find the critical intersection of news, investigation, and the Internet – and re-learning how to be a student while he’s the only guy on campus sporting a fedora.