the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Ghost of Christmas Concerts Future


Two days ago, I was feeling very Grinch-like. 

“Why am I hosting this stupid holiday online concert?” I asked myself as I shuffled along Wilshire Boulevard, spitting on the floor.  “I don’t even like Christmas.  I don’t even celebrate the holiday.” 

I walked by a make-shift Christmas tree lot, set-up in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant.  There was fake snow on the floor and tinny Christmas music was playing on a lonely speaker on the ground.  

“Bah, Humbug!” I said.  “I’m going to cancel the damn concert.  I don’t care about holidays and I don’t give a s**t about other bloggers anyway.  All they care about is advertising and links and NaBloPoMo and Facebook.  And their so-called “Holiday cheer” is fakery!  After the holiday, they just go back to stabbing each other in the back.”

That night, I started writing a blog post explaining why I was canceling the contest, and basically insulting every blogger I’ve ever met as a narcissistic loser or nutcase. 

“Why I should even write this blog for free when they all should be paying me $100 dollar a day each for the honor to read one of my posts.   Let Dooce entertain the masses.  I’m better than that!”

All the anxiety must have made me very sleepy, because I fell asleep on the couch before I had a chance to press “Publish.”

I was awaken suddenly by the presence of a shadowy figure.

“Sophia?”  I asked.  “Is that you?”

“No, Neil.  It is your father.”

It was the ghost of my late father.

“Dad?  What do you want?”

“What is this bulls**t about you cancelling the concert this year?”

“Eh, what’s it all for?  Hanukkah is already half over.  And we’re Jewish.  We don’t even celebrate Christmas.”

“But don’t you remember how much I loved Christmas?”

My father reminded me about how he dressed-up like Santa every year in the hospital he worked at.

“Well, you’re a more caring man than I am.  I’m selfish.  I ask you, “What’s in it for ME?”

My father’s ghost started to fade.

“Dad, where are you going?”

“Neilochka, my son, your heart has turned to stone.  I’m unable to change your ways.  Now the BIG GUN will come for you.”

“The big gun?  What are you talking about?  Who are you talking about? Are you talking about God himself?”

The entire living room shook like the Northridge Earthquake.   Smoke filled the room and another ghost walked towards me.  He was an older man, short, and smoked a cigar.  He was dressed in a brown suit and had bushy eyebrows.

“Neilochka… Neilochka…” he spoke…

“Who are YOU?!   You’re not God?

“Of course I’m not God, you schmuck.  I’m Irving Berlin.”

“Irving Berlin?  You’re the big gun?”

“Irving Berlin.  Born Israel Isidore Baline.  A nice Jewish boy like you.  My father was a cantor who certified kosher meat.”

“So what?  What do YOU want from me?”

“I also had my doubts about Christmas when I was your age.  What do I know about Jesus?  But then I said to myself, “What do these goyishe shmendricks know about writing a good Christmas song?  It takes a Yiddishe mind to come up with “White Christmas.”  You let some white bread in a cardigan like Bing Crosby sing it.  He gets the credit, but you get the dames.”

“The dames?  You got the dames from writing a Christmas song?”

“Come, Neilochka, let me take you to my Christmas past.”

Irving Berlin took my hand and we flew out the window.  We flew from Redondo Beach to Hollywood… and then into the past.  The Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard dissolved from 2007 to the time of the Golden Age of Hollywood.   It looked pretty much the same, just more glamorous.  We found ourselves in a penthouse room.   In front of the two of us was a scene from the past –  a younger Irving Berlin in bed with four Hollwood starlets.  

“You see, Neilochka.  Shiksas just love Jewish men who can write a good Christmas song…”

My eyed widened in astonishment.

“You mean if I put on the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert this year with all these female bloggers around… I will…?”  I asked.

“First… let me show you what will happen if you DON’T put on the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert this year.”

I grabbed the composer’s hand and back we flew to Redondo Beach, into the future — to MY FUTURE.  Time blew away like the wind and we found ourselves  in my  living room, watching the future Neilochka.  It was Christmas eve 2007 and I was sitting by myself, the laptop in front of me… my pants down…

“My God, what am I… am I looking at online photos of Penelope Cruz and playing with myself?!”

“That’s what it looks like!”  said Irving Berlin.  “Ha Ha!  The best part is that in a second, Sophia is going to enter the house with friends she invited over for some coffee and cake, and everyone is going to be shocked, especially the couple’s young daughter.”

“This is horrible.  I can’t stand it.  Stop it!  Stop the future!”

“What about the concert…”

“OK, OK, I’ll have the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert.  Just take me from this future.  Take me away.”  I screamed, sobbing…

I grabbed the arm of the ghost’s jacket and we flew out the window and into the night sky.  I was still crying.

“I understand now.  Thank you!  Thank you for letting me see what could happen.  I am a changed man!  I’ll never badmouth the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert again.  It is my duty to host the concert.  I want to be that inspiration, like you.  I want to make people happy.  I want to please those female bloggers so much that I get four shiksas in my bed, just like you did!  Please, Mr. Berlin.  Show me the alternative future.  Show me my REAL Christmas eve this year after I host the Christmahanukwanzaakah concert.

Time swirled around us like a  tornado and we were suddenly back in my living room on Christmas Eve 2007.

“Here is your REAL future, Neilochka.”

I was sitting on the couch, still leering at photos of Penelope Cruz, playing with myself.  Sophia was about to open the front door, her friends behind her.

“WTF?!” I yelled. “It’s the exact same future as before!  What about the concert?  What happened to me shtupping MY four shiksas?!”

“The concert was great.  But you with four women?  What the hell do you want from me, you nudnik?  A miracle?   I’m only Irving Berlin, not God!” 

The 2007 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

— is Monday, December 10th.  If you want to participate, send me an audio file or a link by Sunday, December 9th.  The songs I’ve already received are absolutely terrific, a great combination of fun and heartfelt!  If you are unable (or too wimpy) to sing, you can help “decorate” the set by sending me a Holiday photo of your family, your tree, your menorah, or something seasonal.   Or recite a poem.   Or make a video of you juggling snowballs.  If you are still having trouble recording your song, email me.

So far, we already have versions of Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and Silent Night.  You are welcome to do another version if you would like.  Remember to say what song you are working on in the comments so we won’t have too many duplicates.

Have fun making music!


  1. Angella

    I won’t be submitting a song…it’s because I love everyone too much to do that to them.

    Trust me. It would be awful, and I have too much pride 🙂

    I could help with set decorations, though. I’ll get on that 🙂

  2. Kyran

    Is this the pitch? What all did you guys actually do, holed up in that hotel room? (order a lot of pay channels, obviously)

    You know I’m in. With Jingle Bells on.

  3. Not Fainthearted

    great story, Neil! I always knew Irving was the Big Gun. Glad he uh, straightened you out.

    You know I’m in with Coventry Carol… 😉

  4. Finn

    Do they have to be blondes? Because I can get you four shiksas easy…

    I’ll come and listen to the concert, but I can’t participate. Maybe next year…

  5. sizzle

    i had SO much fun with greeblemonkey on our duet. i’m in for a solo and “baby it’s cold outside” with my fella as well.

  6. Nina

    Will send photos of my decorated NYC apartment later tonight. Thank you for not canceling 🙂

  7. Shelli

    If I was rich, I would have paid you $100 for this post. If I wasn’t married, I would let you shtup me.

  8. aka_monty

    Aw, that’s the most heartwarming Christmahanukwanzaakah story I’ve ever heard. I hope you don’t mind if I read it to my kids on Christmas Eve night instead of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” 😉
    I still haven’t decided what I’m singing, but I can guarantee it will sound bad and most likely be inappropriate. That’s how I roll. 😉

  9. churlita

    I’m not a performer, like you, uh, seemed to be in this story. I can’t wait to listen to it, though.

  10. psychotoddler

    Thank God! I mean, Thank Irving Berlin!

  11. brettdl

    You crack me up. Really. You do.

  12. Erin

    I went and saw the musical “White Christmas” at the Buell Theater last night, and I learned from my show program that Irving Berlin actually wrote White Christmas as a tongue-in-cheek holiday song. The first verse he wrote was about a Los Angeleno guy sitting by the pool on a hot day being sardonic about Christmas. But, he dropped the first verse and went with the heartfelt version instead and it was one of his biggest hits ever. My point is, he was a tad bit cynical about the holidays too, but he was able to put that aside and write something that is embedded in the memories of many generations. You and Irving have THAT in common. Merry Christmas from your poster girl…

  13. OMSH

    You know that wonderful little throw you probably have tossed over the back of the couch?

    It can be especially handy in a pinch…er, I mean pull.

  14. wendy

    The head master at my all girl shiksas school…always sang White Christmas for us..with the first verse included. Very appropriate, as we were in Pasadena CA…

    oh…and I agree with Irving, Neil. One woman at a time. Baby steps.

  15. Neil

    I should apologize for the crudeness of this post. Much of this story was fictional. I do not really look at photos of Penelope Cruz on line. I assure you the concert with my PG-13, and children are welcome.

  16. Danny

    This post is almost as good as the concert! And at least you were looking at photos of Penelope Cruz, that image could have been so much worse (e.g., sleazy fetish porn). Penelope Cruz adds a touch of class to your leering.

    I’m going to go to my car later to record my song. Wish I had some musical accompaniment, it will be pretty raw…

  17. Bre

    Irving Berlin, huh?

  18. Bec

    Just four?!

    Anywho I am recording tomorrow and will be submitting The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) for your listening ‘pleasure’. The anxiety attacks I am having will be worth it – it’s been a while since I sang in public. A long long while.

  19. abigail road

    I am going to try and get Smyrish how to teach me how to record myself tonight and after a few too many glasses of wine, i will sing my families drunken xmas medley. it won’t be as good as when i have the entire drunk family together, but i’ll do my best.

  20. gorillabuns

    can i just submit a pic of my kids? this would be way easier than trying to figure out how to download my bad-ass singing.

  21. Neil

    Gorillabuns — don’t be a wimp… at least be in the photo with the kids…

  22. mckay

    neil, thanks for the tutoring that will commence soonish. hey, i should ask my producer if i can video tape the christmas show i’m directing. 15 minutes on youtube could be doable…except i’m just as clueless on uploading video as i am audio. oy.

  23. MapleMame

    Well, I won’t be singing White Christmas (could never do it justice enough for “Big gun” Irving) but I will be submitting new song related to our promising White Christmas here in Vermont.

  24. savia

    I’m going to send you a version of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It’s one of my faves. I hope I can do it justice (I’m more of a musical theatre gal…)

  25. Velvet Verbosity

    Oh Neilochka, you are, as always, too funny. My kids think I’m absolutely mad, always laughing at my silent laptop.

    I hope the Christmas Concert cheers you up. You can’t let yourself hate the bloggers. I’m sorry I won’t be sending you a song, I have no time and I’m flat as Wylie Coyote after a tangle with the roadrunner. Can’t wait to hear what others contribute though.

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