it's that time of the year

A Facebook friend updated her status early yesterday evening with the confession that she’d decided to skip the Christmas Parade, preferring her cozy fireplace, and maybe a pizza and some writing, to the prospect of standing downtown in the chill and wondering whether she’d need her umbrella on what already had been a rainy December day in the Classic City. (Pleasant December evenings are not entirely unheard-of in Athens, but the Christmas Parade somehow manages to avoid them. Next time we find ourselves parched by drought, maybe we should schedule a series of Christmas Parades.)

Anyway, my friend’s soul-baring status update was something of a Siren song for me. Our plans for the evening didn’t include the Parade. In fact, I’m such a poor keeper-upper with local events sometimes that I hadn’t realized until a few days ago that the Parade was scheduled for last night. But we did have tickets for the UGA Holiday Concert. And I — as my son might say — was just “not feelin’ it.”

(Caution! Cuidado! Any of you subject to vasovagal incidents — and some of you know who you are — might want to skip the remainder of this piece. We went to the concert. It was great. Have a nice day. Bye.)

When I got up yesterday morning, I hadn’t had “anything to eat or drink after midnight.” Yes, yesterday was my annual Labs Day at the doctor’s office. Yippee. I drove over to Prince Avenue, trying to achieve a zen state floating somewhere above the reality of what awaited me. I signed the register and had my choice of waiting room seats as the morning’s first stick-ee. When Pat called my name, I breathed a sigh of relief. Pat’s a very talented sticker. She finds my vein easily, and she’s wonderful at small talk to distract me from the all-too-familiar litany of sounds preceding the inevitable ouchee and the filling of the vials.

All went well. Four vials filled. Needle withdrawn. Gauze and Band-Aid applied. It was then that I happened to remark to Pat, “I’m starting to feel a little weird.” I was tingly. My head was spinning. It was not inconceivable that I might slump forward out of the needle throne and find the linoleum floor within the not-too-distant future. And a little nap on the floor, to be honest, was looking pretty good to me. You know the old line that he or she “had broken out into a cold sweat.” Well, I’ll be darned. It really happens.

So Pat called for help. Animal Crackers and an orange juice were brought. On instructions, I tried to put my head between my knees. But even though I am a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, it’s something of an honorary title these days, what with the inflexibility and all. So I placed my head within shouting distance of my knees. I sipped the orange juice. I chewed an Animal Cracker. I began to shed my symptoms. Wow, those Animal Crackers work fast. And to think, you can buy them over the counter.

The best thing about my vasovagal incident (No. I’m not going to define that for you. You’ve probably Googled it by now, anyway.) was that three talented, professional, good-looking women focused their attention entirely on me, and in a good way. That was almost as therapeutic as the Animal Crackers.

Next year, I’ve been told, I’ll give my vials while lying down. Fine with me.

The rest of the day went well enough. We did a bit of homeschooling. I spruced up the website here and there. A former student called with a fascinating question about the right of a witness in a civil proceeding to consult her lawyer during her testimony. I took my jazz piano lesson. But upon reading my Facebook friend’s guilty musing about skipping the Parade, I detected a faint whisper from the little devil that sits on my right shoulder that I might prefer the coziness of my study, warmed by the stylish glow of my iMac, to shlepping over to Hodgson Hall for the UGA Holiday Concert.

(Caution! Cuidado! Those of you who haven’t attended a UGA Holiday Concert, but plan to attend one, and want to be surprised, should stop reading now. We went to the concert. It was great. Have a nice day. Bye.)

For one thing, we had seven tickets and would be using only three of them. The folks we had invited to go with us had to cancel. So I wouldn’t have the tacky pleasure of leaning over to one of the guests and saying, “You won’t believe how this thing starts. I’m not going to tell you. It would spoil the surprise. But keep your eyes on the aisles on the sides of the theater! And haven’t you wondered where all the singers are?” Honestly, I don’t think I would have succumbed to the temptation to spill the beans. I hope not. But just having the power to do it, having some inside knowledge about what’s about to go down, is a kick in itself, don’t you think?

Well, we went. And, as is so often the case, a chore in prospect became a joy in the event. Yes, the opening number, even if you’ve seen it, is glorious. And student conductor Thomas Taylor Dickey, entrusted with the baton by maestro Mark Cedel, was for me the highlight of the evening as he somehow managed to meld a stage and gallery nearly overstuffed with talented artists into a single, wondrous instrument for the first few pieces. I’ll never tire of hearing Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival,” partly because I’m always reminded of the swell of emotion I felt as a trombonist playing “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” triple-forte with my section mates in an earlier incarnation.

Mr. Cedel, the orchestra, and the ladies in the chorus treated us to a captivating sliver of “The Nutcracker.” The Classic City Jazz, under the capable direction of Mitos Andaya, did their Manhattan Transfer thing with their usual cool hotness, and Allen Crowell, in his next-to-last Holiday Concert before retiring, took us on a trip down Memory Lane with an arrangement, originally crafted for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The holiday season in Athens is now officially underway. -- Bob Brussack

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