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ChristmAstoria 1

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

ChristmAstoria 2009…

The annual occurrence of Christmas adorns the tired streets of ice struck Astoria with electrical garlands of questionable taste, speakers blare seasonally appropriate melodies from their lamp post perches, and vast hordes of shoppers seek to acquire, transport, and then dispense a bounty of trade goods. Such peculiar behavior garners no small amount of comment from the large middle eastern and southeast Asian communities within the ancient village, who are not willing to miss out on what seems to be a lot of fun, and they eventually join in and play along with the odd custom.

from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol“, original text from wikisource.org

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say with gladsome looks “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?”. No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the tangled thickets of cable TV, telephone, and emergency power supply cables (still in place some 3 1/2 years after the Great Astoria Blackout), one might observe the extensive holiday decorations installed by the local Business Improvement District Council and Municipal authorities. On Steinway Street, in particular, an oppressive bleating of holiday music is inescapable, and endless loops of holiday songs considered to be inoffensive and nonsectarian drone cheerily on. They do not play “Onward, Christian Soldiers” for instance.

from wikipedia

Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which engender happiness. A quote from the book reads “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice …” His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy, traits displayed by Scrooge in the exaggerated manner for which Dickens is well-known. The tale of his redemption by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday. Scrooge’s catchphrase, “Bah, humbug!” is often used to express disgust with many of the modern Christmas traditions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To appreciate ChristmAstoria, however, one must visit its fertile climes at night.

Ever conscious of social status and standing, given to vulgar displays of tasteless consumption and wild imaginings on the subject of real estate development, the population of Astoria does not disappoint when competing with neighbors for the attentions of holiday tourists. Even the police cameras and red light robotics clustered around the corner of Broadway and Steinway Street look positively resplendent when illuminated by such redolent regalia.

from nallon.com

The prevailing economic theory of the early nineteenth century was the acceptance of the unrestrained free market. It is a theory that still has its supporters today. Just before Christmas in 1983, Ed Meese, then the Presidential counsellor to US President Ronald Reagan and later Reagan’s Attorney General, made a speech to the National Press Club. He said, “Ebenezer Scrooge suffered from bad press in his time. If you really look at the facts, he didn’t exploit Bob Cratchit.” Meese went on to explain that “Bob Cratchit was paid 10 shillings a week, which was a very good wage at the time… Bob, in fact, had good cause to be happy with his situation. He lived in a house not a tenement. His wife didn’t have to work… He was able to afford the traditional Christmas dinner of roast goose and plum pudding…

So let’s be fair to Scrooge. He had his faults, but he wasn’t unfair to anyone. The free market wouldn’t allow Scrooge to exploit poor Bob… The fact that Bob Cratchit could read and write made him a very valuable clerk and as a result of that he was paid 10 shillings a week.” Factually Bob’s wage according to Dickens was fifteen shillings a week not ten shillings ( Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house ) but the thrust of Meese’s argument was that the ‘free market’, better known to economic theorists as laissez-faire , served Bob well and had provided him with a living wage to feed his family. Ed Meese omitted to say that the free market economy in England in the 1840’s, a period that became known as the ‘Hungry Forties’, was in deep depression and an excess of labour was keeping wages low. Cratchit could hardly ask for more when there were many willing to take his place and for probably for much less.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Such public exertions have always fascinated your humble narrator, who would never be caught up in such wild fancy. A deadly seriousness and focused purpose should be the hallmark of a day well and profitably spent, without all of this pageantry and jumping about. Get back to work, all of you… bah…

from wikipedia

John Elwes [née Meggot or Meggott] (a.k.a. “Elwes the Miser”), MP, Esquire, (7 April 1714 – 26 November 1789) was a Member of Parliament (MP) in Great Britain for Berkshire (1772 – 1784) and a noted eccentric and miser, believed to be the inspiration for the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…

…He went to bed when darkness fell so as to save on candles. He began wearing only ragged clothes, including a beggar’s cast-off wig he found in a hedge and wore for two weeks. His clothes were so dilapidated that many mistook him for a common street beggar, and would put a penny into his hand as they passed. To avoid paying for a coach he would walk in the rain, and then sit in wet clothes to save the cost of a fire to dry them. His house was full of expensive furniture but also molding food. He would eat putrefied game before allowing new food to be bought. On one occasion it was said that he ate a moorhen that a rat had pulled from a river. Rather than spend the money for repairs he allowed his spacious country mansion to become uninhabitable. A near relative once stayed at his home in the country, but the bedroom was in a poor state. So much so, that the relative was awakened in the night by rain pouring on him from the roof. After searching in vain for a bell, the relative was forced to move his bed several times, until he found a place where he could remain dry. On remarking the circumstance to Elwes in the morning, the latter said: “Ay! I don’t mind it myself… that is a nice corner in the rain!”

Incidentally, this link came up while searching around for Dickens- Funniest thing I’ve seen since “Rap Chop“. “A Christmas Carol” A Gateway to Communism and the Occult! – from parody site Landover Baptist

also, just as a note: This is the anniversary of the Lincoln Tunnel opening for business in 1937.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2009 at 6:37 am

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