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This holiday edition of the Arkansas Times, we're giving this space over to Brasher and Rowe, who write a weekly column of the same name for the Rock Candy blog on the Times' website. Brasher and Rowe is not an award-winning column, and both Brasher and Rowe are not the Salieri to Jennifer Christman's Mozart. Yes, Virginia, the annual tradition of newspaper folks phoning in content over Christmas continues, with this phoned-in special edition of Brasher and Rowe:
BRASHER: It's Christmastime in Hollis, Arkansas. Stockings hung by the chimney and all that. We come together to honor the true reason for the season, baby Luke Skywalker in a manger on Uncle Owen's moisture farm with Aunt Beru and the Womp rats. Because Christmastime is all about force — the obligatory force that compels us to deal with our families. Unless your family was killed on Alderaan, and in that case, our condolences.
ROWE: No matter where you stand on the war on Christmas, it's the time of year that you, as an individual who has had personal growth, personal victories and personal space, can take stock of those changes. Now you must balance that (or hide it) so you can visit people and places that have an expectation that you're still the same person that left oh-so-long ago. So this holiday season, familiarize yourself with these scenarios and prepare for the holiday gauntlet.
BRASHER: My holiday gauntlets are Fur Trimmed +1 vs. Grinches.
ROWE: If you find yourself alone on Christmas, it's OK. No big deal. It happens. What you must remember to not do is to type "what to do when you're alone on Christmas" into a search engine because it will produce the bleakest set of results this side of a Sarah McLachlan-sung commercial for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Do not search this phrase unless you want to be bummed out for days, and doing anything on these lists may result in jail time. The top result on Google for that search phrase will take you to a site called lonerwolf.com and its 51 ideas for how to spend your holiday alone. The temptation to feel sorry for yourself is amplified by a thousand with ideas such as:
1. Spend the morning in self-deprivation, and spend the evening in self-indulgence.
4: Have a conversation with yourself all day.
34. Collect items that represent your feelings and thoughts about Christmas Day. Put them in a time capsule box and bury them in your backyard.
50. Wrap up strange items and drop them on the doorsteps of every house you can find. Hide and wait for the response.
51. If it's snowing, sneak out early in the morning and make a family of Christmas men, positioning them mysteriously all over town.
Take my advice as a non-attorney spokesperson and do not do any of these. Get on Tinder or Grindr or whatever the app is where you can find people to play Magic: The Gathering with and do that. If that doesn't pan out, whatever. Please don't bury anything, wait for responses, or build a silent army of "Christmas men."
BRASHER: Yeah, don't despair in your loneliness. There are plenty of things you could do without a special someone on Christmas. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet there is no shortage of Christmas-themed pornography to peruse. On second thought, that's weird, don't look at that. Maybe stick to leather themes or stuff where people wear freaky animal masks, because at least that is fairly secular. Christmas, after all, is a religious holiday, and if you start mixing up sex and religion, next thing you know you're Catholic or worse.
ROWE: There's a group of people who have to work over the holidays. Their work ensures that America stays great. That also means that they have to be with their co-workers over the holidays. Imagine being with a mix of people that have somewhere better to be, or nowhere better to be, that have no feelings toward the people they're with, have too many feelings toward the people you're with — all of that. Oh wait, that's also what it's like being with an extended family: The only difference is that children are added to the mix.
BRASHER: Children, children everywhere. So, looks like you got stuck with the kids, huh? If you have a car and you're on your home turf, you can always take them to see some Christmas lights. With any luck the drive there or back will put them to sleep so you can pop half a bar in the den while you watch reruns of "Elf" in peace for once.
Thinking about Christmas lights takes me back to my own childhood. The Osborne display along Cantrell Road was always a mainstay of the family lights trip when I was growing up. I even recall when it first began. Cantrell was fairly chichi in those days, which is hard to imagine now that it is merely an escape thoroughfare for people doing crimes on Reservoir Road. But alas, the display eventually burned too hot and too bright for this city and had to be exported to a less gaudy location: Disney World. Without those lights I fear this town may forget all about Christmas and that other day Jennings so prominently illuminated.
ROWE: God Bless America and George W. Bush.
BRASHER: Lights are how the Christmas spirit enters your eyeholes. But there are many other orifices for Christmas to penetrate as well, namely your ears. Which brings us to the Christmas jams.
ROWE: Look, there are two sets of Christmas music: traditional and modern. Traditional Christmas music has had the benefit of having the wheat and chaff separated. Modern music, not so much. As a general rule, all modern Christmas music is terrible. And the genres — a good chunk of them are about the genre-bending of Christmas music. Rock 'n' roll Christmas novelty songs from the late '50s are still dominating Christmas playlists. Even worse are new genres doing a Christmas song.
BRASHER: Real talk here, when it comes to novelty, the John Waters Christmas compilation is the only Christmas record anyone needs forever. So go look that one up before you drop any dough on "AVICII Presents Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Remixes Ibiza 2015," or Fetty Wap's "Trap Christmas," or "A Very Special Downhome for the Holidays" with Imagine Dragons. And speaking of downhome for the holidays ...
ROWE: Returning to where you came from is a perilous proposition. Even Jesus couldn't play Nazareth, and there's no reason to think that any old friends or old haunts will be very impressed with you. Speaking of old haunts, every place you liked growing up has now been replaced by Sonic. But if you do find a place where you and your old friends can get together, do it. Also, don't talk about starting a brewery with any of them. This is a trap.
BRASHER: You have killed my brewery dreams before they could even ferment.
ROWE: Returning to visit family you haven't seen or spoken with in awhile will open you up to a barrage of predictable questions based on your stage in life. These family members are connected with you mainly by major life changes or commitments, so they are primarily only concerned about these things.
BRASHER: Let's call it the relationship spectrum interrogation.
ROWE: It's just something you should come to expect every family gathering:
Single? = When are you going to see someone?
Seeing someone? = When are you going to get married?
Married? = When are you going to have kids?
Have kids? = Don't you wish you were still single?
Of course, there are a few members of your family who understand that all lives are different and will ask you a different series of questions based on your stage in life.
Single? = Do you know that Obama is the antichrist?
Seeing someone? = Do you know that Obama is the antichrist?
Married? = Do you know that Obama is the antichrist?
Have kids? = Will you ask your kids to be quiet so I can watch Neil Cavuto?
BRASHER: It must be a bittersweet time for those folks; I mean, it's the last holiday season ever to be presided over by the antichrist. I guess in the future they can just throw on Anton LaVey's holiday album and reminisce about those years when it really seemed like the chief prince of Meschech and Tubal was going to kick off the end times. I mean it was so close, right? Merry Christmas anyways, I guess, until next year when those same people are convinced that the next president is the antichrist.
ROWE: Everyone will have a different experience. Getting together with people who have known you their entire lives means that they will need to share their secret for life with you. Most times, that advice is built on how those people see the world, which may be different from how you see the world, so it feels unnecessary. However, like most Millennial Americans, I believe that I have a singularly different experience from everyone else. I must be particularly lucky that my parents, those wonderful people who birthed me in this world, both want the best for me, but also want me to make decisions on my own. They have, however, given me the most important thing to share on Christmas, so I will share that with you: Watch out for deer on the drive home.
BRASHER: I'm officially an uncle now so I feel like I should be on the supply side of life secrets, but since I'm new to this I'll have to defer to those with more experience. The oldest living person on the earth said that the great secret of her longevity was Miller High Life. If you think about it, the Christmas holiday also celebrates a person with a secret to longevity: the secret of resurrection from the dead. I'm not holding out for that one, so I guess Miller will have to do. In the meantime, Christmas is kind of the Champagne of Holidays after all.