I turned 18 on December 20, 1977. To celebrate, I took myself to New York. This was the era of American Hustle, when the beautiful people were snorting coke and drinking champagne at Studio 54. As a rocker, however, I wouldn’t be caught dead there. Instead, I hung out at CBGB or Max’s Kansas City, or even better at Trax, where I could see Richard Belzer kill it with his famous Jagger impression. It was the place to be if you were a rocker. And it made for the one of the loneliest birthdays I’ve ever had.
For one thing, my face had started breaking out. Or at least that’s what I thought. I’d covered the spots with make-up, but they kept showing through. Worse, they were starting to hurt.
By the time my aunt finally took me to her doctor two days later, they covered my entire face. I was stunned when the doctor told me they were cold sores. I’d never had one before (or, for that matter since). I didn’t know you could get them anywhere other than your lip. And the doctor said they could leave scars. So instead of a fabulous pre-Christmas week in the Big Apple, I was stuck indoors, soaking my face in medicated compresses. Happy *@*%! birthday to me.
Handel’s Messiah saved me. As a secular Jew, I would have been reluctant to go to church on Christmas Eve under the best of circumstances. As a dead ringer for the Elephant Man, there was no way I wanted to hear people sing about Jesus for three hours at a midnight mass.
But music is a funny thing. At its best, it transcends its subject matter. And when people come together to celebrate joy, joy is what you get. Mundane things like religion – or a face that looks like pepperoni pizza – seem to disappear. And so every December 23rd or so, I skip the mall and head for Disney Hall. Because while Messiah may not be the most exciting music ever written, there’s something about a room full of people singing the Hallelujah Chorus that embodies the true Christmas spirit and reminds of the best part of our humanity in a way that fighting over that last Play Station on the shelf never will.
So to all of us this Christmastime — no matter who you are, or what you believe — I wish you Peace on Earth and all the joy in the world.
For more on December 23rd, go to http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/writing-challenge-ghosts/