Chestnuts roasting on an arson fire

Well, the downtown Portland business types are going for it. Yep, there is going to be a holiday tree in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland. Reportedly, it is already there.

Two Scrooge-like initial thoughts:

1.  They can't seriously be thinking of having a crowd gather for a lighting ceremony in the middle of the pandemic, can they? Surely they shouldn't.

2.  How tempting a target is that thing for the anarchist types? The Square had better have security, a lot if it, posted around the clock.


  1. I used to work in the banquet department in a large hotel downtown. The building to the north of us was under construction but there was enough there to turn one floor into an ultra-swanky dinner party. You know how event planners get crazy.

    Since it was off-site we got there in the afternoon to set up just in time to hear the singer work out the orchestra. It was clear they had never met and were just joining forces for the gig. The singer was all business and he shredded one of the trumpet players for playing his part wrong. I looked at the charts and there were some notes added in pencil. These charts had been around a minute. Fed up, the singer told the trumpet player to let the guy next to him play the part and we moved on.

    I always loved it when a big swing band played a function at the hotel. For years we had an annual visit by Les Brown and the Band of Renown. Now those guys had toured with Bob Hope for 50 years doing 18 USO tours. They were beyond awesome. I was talking to some of them in the back hall and I asked this one guy how long he'd been with the band. He said, "45 years. I'm the new guy." You know "In the Mood" when the horns go off? I'd always walk right onto the dance floor and let that part crush my senses. Who cares if I was supposed to be working? It was sensory overload.

    Meanwhile back at the gig in the building under construction, things weren't going as well. The banquet crew had to roll every last thing across Taylor Street so that was a hassle. Meanwhile the singer was busting the balls of some of the musicians and it was tense but quite entertaining.

    In fact everyone was nervous as hell but I was mesmerized. Why? The singer was Mel Torme, the man who wrote the music and some of the lyrics to "The Christmas Song" - referenced in this post. It was profound to be in the company of someone who had banged out one of the most enduring classics of the holiday season plus he had the pipes from heaven.

    The genius in the song - for me - is at the end of the first verse where the chestnuts are roasting on an open fire. After the line "And folks dressed up like Eskimos" there's a slight pause and then the turnaround is one beautiful phrase: "Everybody knows." I'll go to my grave knowing that's genius.

    Anyway, there's my "Christmas Song" anecdote and by the way, the gig went great. Everyone was decked out in tuxes, etc..Mel was all show business charm and of course he crushed the vocals.

    1. You were in the company of one of the gods. The Velvet Fog. He always wanted to be an airline pilot. His records with George Shearing are something. Writing that song was something else.

  2. They (the businesses) would prefer it burn, wouldn't they? I can't imagine anything better to galvanize public opinion in favor of law and order than a kid (or an agent provocateur) torching the city's Xmas tree.


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