[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the manger… plus what candy I got that day… You should check it out. In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping. This essay was updated and polished somewhat in the process.]
For the most part, I love living across from a fine grocery store like Steve’s C-Town. I can get inexpensive Diet Coke seventeen hours a day, and the cat loves watching the delivery trucks every morning. But, during Christmas season, the C-Town becomes a focus of holiday tsuris. If I turn off my music, and there’s no B61 laboring to get up the hill on 9th Street, I can hear it —the faint sound of the Salvation Army bell ringer.
Now this sound doesn’t rate as a noise. It’s not waking me up, unlike the Lesbians in the Ceiling clomping around in their kitchen, which for some reason is over my bed. These women, upon returning home, must unscrew their normal legs and screwing on peglegs. It’s also not subjecting me to intimate details of its life, unlike the receptionist from the dental clinic next door who sits on the stoop under my living room window, smoking and gabbing. No, this sound doesn’t make me mad.
It makes me unbelievably sad.
It didn’t always used to be this way. The Salvation Army bell ringer was always one of the first harbingers of Christmas back in the days when Christmas began when it should, not as part of a back-to-school sale. Dropping my change in that bucket always filled me with pride, like I was part of something bigger.
Then a few years ago I was entering Grand Central Station to catch a train to Katonah, and I put a dollar in the kettle. I halted; I was filled with something other than holiday spirit, something bigger that I wanted to be a part of. I doubled back —this bell ringer was HOT! Imagine a beefier Ben Affleck with an “Argo” beard and in a ridiculously retro, perfectly tailored uniform. The Salvation Army got another $10. I chuckled to myself at my shallowness and felt that this would be a cute little anecdote to share on the Facebook. Continue reading