I bring you two classic Christmas foibles, mental health and louche punk-indie albums. I’m tossing the manners out with the bathwater. I’ve found the consummate Christmas album. It’s been a doozie of a year. I’d say that from one thing to another, I sunk deeper and deeper into garden variety, soul-crushingly shitty depression full of mild disappointment. Irony is kind and cruel when the situation begs for it. My cholesterol has gone up as my weight has gone down. I might have to face my problems on my own turf instead of leaving the country again. I got a cat, I lost friends. Three people I know got engaged in the last hour.
Hell of a year.
It’s Christmas Eve and I’m listening to Christmas Island, by Andrew Jackson Jihad. They’re swell. They’re like The Mountain Goats for adults. Not that this is in any way unique as my charming idiosyncrasies have compelled me to listen to this album maybe fifteen times in the past week or month. I listened to it while I was cleaning out my apartment, while I was driving to the gym, while I was lying on the bed in a pair of boxers cozied up to my cat, with the Bedfellow, in monochromatic grey underneath the covers with the lights off and the screen on, in the car on the way home from the Bedfellow’s apartment, charmed at the idea that it takes hotboxing the car with heat and steam to sweat the emotions out and cry while driving on the freeway.
I wouldn’t even have heard it if I hadn’t been where I was, bleary-eyed and smiling drunk on a cool night in Kansas City waking up to my window shattered and my words swallowed. I listened to it while I drove through Tennessee into Alabama for a strange and beautifully lonely evening and have put something from it it on every single mix tape I’ve made for every single person in the past eight months, all four of ’em, because I’m lazy in my execution and disappointing in my affections but dogged, like a conspiracy theorist, to have four people separately realize the connection in three mix tapes from someone who still makes mix tapes.
I wasn’t drunk this Christmas Eve, which was a shame, because it’s such a fine and simple conduit for interaction that its absence makes every gathering feel like a cramped high school party where everyone else is having fun. I’m not drinking at all, aside from the taste of Betony’s milk punch my mother replicated. The trainer I hired to make me more socially acceptable and less self-loathing has instructed me not to drink and as a dutifully wicked slave, I have done so. It’s pretty great but there are only so many cocktail meatballs and protein a person can eat before they want to go downstairs to the lumbering rec room of TLC and blankets and think about the cat some more. I want a Negroni. I want a hug.
What makes this such a great Christmas album, from the secular Jew with more bow ties and relevance than Jesse Tyler Ferguson? There’s a desperation to it that I admire both in Bonnette’s voice and in my own Pavlovian pleasure when I hear it that some people know as a call to worship. Because I am sad. Because I need something to listen to that is impersonal and not directed toward me but somehow still makes sense and clears through some of the fuzziness in my head. Because it is funny. In a dark, sharp way that feels liberating by proxy. ‘Getting Naked, Playing with Guns’ makes me ache for the summer. ‘Temple Grandin Too’ makes me cry if the light catches me at the right moment. A hug without a human is all right.
Listening to it makes me curious for senses of finality that exist in between life and death. Shooting through the lungs of endless computer-generated deer in a simulated hunting game, pushing ‘yes’ when Pandora asks you if you’re still there. Comfort in discomfort, sticky tack remnants of the last tenant on the wall that won’t go away. Once you’ve done it, it can’t be undone. A week of non-communication turns into a month turns into a place where you suddenly find yourself looking at groceries in a discount grocery store you used to savage and remember that people really, really liked you when you were funny, and that you really liked yourself that way, too. How do you get it back when it has escaped?
Nobody checks blogs on Christmas except Kevin, and Kevin, can I bring you a pie next year? It’s the anti-Christmas. There’s a sweetness in that that I can’t replicate but yearn for, how posting makes me want to keep retreating into the dark and coming out with fossils I can polish and maybe display instead of writing about vegan broccoli snacks made by an asshole, debuting Monday. The Bedfellow got me a new journal that will come this week and I like to imagine that its twin is still out there and not in a dumpster, glowing vibrantly with my words, with the words of other people, with the words of the thief, and the thieved together in the same place on a peaceful night, and that in some capacity, this means I’ll maybe, probably be okay.
They say not to make definite statements in this profession. Not to make predictions for things we can’t control outside of the quaking of our own hands. It’s risky. I like risk, so with that, I can tell you that I’ll be okay. I love you. And I’ll keep posting. Happy holidays.
And listen to Christmas Island, if you please.