(Pictured: Lady Gaga meets Queen Elizabeth in December 2009.)
December 26, 2009, was a Saturday. Post-Christmas air travelers bound for America wait in long lines around the world after the U.S. government orders extra pat-down body searches and bag inspections following an attempt to blow up a Lufthansa flight from Amsterdam to Detroit early today. Passengers subdued a Nigerian man after his explosive device failed to fully ignite. The weather isn’t helping flyers any either. Between a blizzard in the Plains and ice storms in the East, many flights are delayed or canceled. Other headlines today include the Senate’s passage of the Obamacare bill, an attack on Pope Benedict XVI by a mentally unstable woman as he prepared to celebrate mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, and the death of New York radio and television personality George Michael at the age of 70, all on Christmas Eve.
There was a Christmas Night game in the NFL but no games today before a full schedule tomorrow. Three college bowl games are played today. Popular movies this weekend include Avatar, in its second week of release. New movies include Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel, It’s Complicated (a romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin), and The Blind Side. On TV tonight, ABC presents the theatrical movie Shrek 2 and an episode of Castle; CBS airs an episode of Medium and the theatrical movie Mixed Nuts; on NBC, it’s the medical drama Mercy, plus Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU; Fox airs Cops and America’s Most Wanted.
On the Billboard Hot 100, the #1 song is “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, in its fifth week at the top. “Tik Tok” by Kesha is #2. Lady Gaga is at #3 with “Bad Romance”; Gaga is also at #11 with “Paparazzi.” The Black Eyed Peas and Jay Sean also have two songs in the Top 20. The Peas’ “Meet Me Halfway” is at #8 and the former #1 hit “I Gotta Feeling” is at #18; Jay Sean’s former #1 “Down” is #10 and “Do You Remember” is #16. Lil Wayne is in the Top 10 twice as well, featured on “Down” and on Drake’s “Forever” at #14, also with Kanye West and Eminem. On the Billboard 200, the #1 album is I Dreamed a Dream by Susan Boyle, a 48-year-old Scottish singer who finished an unlikely second on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year. The #1 adult contemporary single is “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift, in its ninth week at the top. The #1 country song is the first hit by Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now,” which is also in the Top 20 of the Hot 100 and doing big business on adult-contemporary radio.
Perspective From the Present: We spent Christmas Day and the 26th in my hometown with my family, but also with a group of friends, a few of whom we saw on Christmas Night and again at noontime on the 26th, when we were 17 around a table at our favorite local bar. The Mrs. and I hustled back to Madison after that, because I had to be on the air at 5:00.
On Sunday the 27th, I wrote the following in my journal:
I look back over Facebook updates and blog posts from Christmas Eve, and I remember the way it felt to be at the radio station on Christmas Eve (before the memory fades), and once again I marvel at just how magical Christmas Eve is, still. The world feels soft and warm and benign on that night, not the random, uncaring, swim-or-drown place it is the rest of the time.
Of course, the world intruded yesterday—some poor dumb Nigerian bastard tried setting a bomb on a plane bound for Detroit from Amsterdam, and even though he was woefully inept and succeeded mostly in burning himself, the TSA is freaking out and the right-wingers are wetting their pants—again. There’s talk that all electronic devices right down to iPods might be banned on international flights, which would be absolutely barbaric and pointless. We’re all terrorists until we prove ourselves innocent. It won’t be long before the model for airline travel in this country will be the Middle Passage, the way slaves crossed the Atlantic, chained naked in the holds of ships. We are a stupid, stupid country, fixated on shit, and we deserve to be tossed into the dustbin of history.
That’s the reality we face come tomorrow. Christmas Eve seems further and further away with every minute that passes—which, of course, it is, but it’s too bad that it has to rocket away from us so quickly.