Dem's da Rules
It's very easy: So long as you don't hear "The Little Drummer Boy," you're a contender. As soon as you hear it on the radio, on TV, in a store, wherever, you're out. And you record your loss on the official reporting form, then tell us all about it on the Facebook wall, along with the time and place of your demise.
(Special note: You cannot be done in by anyone tricking you into hearing the dreaded tune or otherwise hitting you with it on purpose. Such exposure doesn't count.)
What's the time frame? The game begins the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) at 12:00 am local time and continues until 12:00 am the morning of Christmas Eve. The day of Christmas Eve, if you haven't been puh-rum-pum-pum-pummed, you win. For this year, anyway.
The wish begins with such a beautiful sentiment, as wishes often do. The author is well-nigh selfless with paper, toner, and whatever labor was required to affix the holiday message to one of the subway-entrance signs for New York’s Times Square station. Suzi, Lou Lou, and Laura should have a Merry Christmas.
Not Marie, though.
There’s even an exclamation point to mark that dark desire with vitriolic enthusiasm.
Poor Marie, as LDBCer Susan Campbell Beachy, who took that photo once and then went back a second time to make sure she had the best shot she could get, said.
In this thing of ours, this mad dash toward daylight with the beat of the bullying Boy badgering us from behind, we are either survivors, or we are Marie. And with the nearly 700 of you dear, dear people who reported in, it looks like 75 percent of us fell in the latter camp this year. (I take it to be a representative sample and extrapolate because, hey—what do you want from me?)
Hundreds of Maries with tragic tales to tell. And a quarter of us with tired smiles of victory.
We did have our high points, to be sure. I won for the first time in four years, while Mrs. LDBC racked up her third-straight “W.” (She says she’s telling the truth. And I, for one, believe her.) We picked up a link from the CBS News site and appeared on the weekend edition of Good Day Sacramento not once, not twice, but three times. (The third one wasn’t posted. I think I may have had something in my teeth.)
And we grew from a high of 1,180 last year to a high of 1,830 on the Facebook page this year. To which I lift a glass of Pappy (yes, I was lucky enough to stumble onto some before it became all the rage), salute you with a hearty “huzzah!” and give to you these results. As always, if you see any mistakes, please comment or send feedback to let us know. And if you don’t see your name here on The Wall, it’s not too late to fill out the form. I won’t change the stats (I’m not that ambitious), but I’ll be happy to add you.
As I say every year, LDBCers, beneath this wiseass facade lurks a wiseass interior with coursing blood pumped by a wiseass heart. But deep within the core, I’m a sentimental fool. And the fact that so many of you show up and take this ridiculous-though-sacred game into your lives, don headphones, and terrorize your children just because I created a Facebook page and a blog never fails to make our holiday.
We mean that sincerely, me and the missus, and we hope you keep coming back and bringing friends and loved ones to share in the joy, stress, and terror. We’ll see you in November.
Even you, Marie.
The Quick and the Dead
Song Sung Blue
Here Is Where the Story Ends
LDBC-Elfies: Tragedy and Triumph Captured
LDBCer Tales from the Trenches
Emily Artruc – L
My first year participating in LDBC, dashed by my own mother.
Susan Beachy – L
Deb Campbell – L
Taken down while waiting for my annual mammogram. ‘Cause I was already having such a great day.
Sue Carkner – L
Last Christmas, my brother, developmentally delayed and very ill, found out that I did not have copies of many of the Christmas songs he loved. He insisted—insisted—on giving me copies of his entire collection. Hundreds of songs, many of them horrible. We laughed for hours, as he kept scrolling through his music files on the computer and finding more. He’d triumphantly announce each new addition to my collection. The more I complained, the more he was spurred on to find every last sentimental piece of schmaltz lurking in the dusty corners of his collection.
A few months later, he died, and this is our first Christmas without him. Every song I complained about when he added it to the collection is my new favourite, because it reminds me of him. He didn’t have much, but he had his music, and he just couldn’t resist sharing it with me.
It took less than 24 hours for my brother’s Christmas mix to slay me with the Johnny Cash version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” He would have laughed himself stupid to see my reaction to being taken out of the LDB Challenge in my own home. I can hear his laughter in my head right now. I lost the Challenge, but it was totally worth it.
David Christian – L
A two year streak ended by NPR! I want my pledge money back.
Nora Debenedetto – L
Pa rum pum pum fail.
Molly H – L
I yelled, “Crap!” in a room of 150 under-10s.
Holly Melton – L
I heard it while going through a box of vintage postcards, one of my favorite pastimes. I was gazing at a colorized postcard from the early 1900s. On the front was a girl in a sailor dress in front of a huge pink hydrangea bush. On the back someone had hand-written one sentence: “Isn’t this great?” No, unknown now-dead person. No, it isn’t. I just heard “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Evelyn Peck (Mother LDBC) – L
My son forced me to do this even though I was not registered in this contest!!!!!!!
Linda Renzulli – L
Here I was being an angel of mercy, flying from Idaho to San Francisco to babysit my grandchildren because my son-in-law has just had his fifth heart attack in a year. Here comes Grandma to the rescue, and I get taken out by that rotten little bastard. Fuck it—I need a drink.
Deb Roby – L
From that point forward, the night was cursed. The sprinkles turned to hard rain as I walk to my car. My team was embarrassed in its basketball game. I had both indigestion and insomnia.
Laura Sigman – L
I got taken out while buying meatballs. I am a vegetarian. I got what I deserved.
Eileen Siple – L
I’ve been encouraging my daughter to find a job—and then, on the way to a job interview, the song comes on the radio. That’s what I get for encouraging my daughter to grow up and become a productive member of society.
Julia Skochko – L
Even eggnog rice pudding and zesty Cuban flatbread taste like ashes in one’s mouth after such a horror. [Full version here.]
Jack Taylor – L
I almost drove into a freeway abutment. That song is as dangerous to drivers as texting.
George Timms – L
Everything is fucking terrible and Christmas is ruined.
Pieter Van Noordennen – L
Like so many New York gubernatorial candidates, I, too, was a victim of social media.
The Victorious and the Vanquished: The LDBC Wall
|Brown, Mary Jo||W|
|Carter, Mary Alice||L|
|Danforth, Mary Beth||W|
|De Lis, Tara||W|
|Denchy, Ruth Ann||L|
|Holmes, Leslie And Ben||W|
|Hyland, Mary Pat||L|
|Miller, Don And Marcia||W|
|Pedersen, Susie Perry||W|
|Rose, Johanna Maria||W|
|Shollenberger, Lee Ann||L|
|Snell Nachtsheim, Joyce||L|
|Thighs, Miss American||L|
|Van Dyne-Evans, Jessica||L|
|Van Noordennen, Pieter||L|
|Ward, J Robin||L|
|Wessel Walker, Donna||L|
|Wolfisch Cole, Terry||L|
Winners, losers. We’re all in this together. One of us stumbles; another accepts the burden and carries on. And as one, we’ve cold-cocked The Boy and brought the 2013 LDBC to a close. (Sorry I went to bed too early to call it for you West Coasters last night, so a belated congratulations to our friends out left!)
And speaking of left, all that’s left now is the counting, the commentary, and the colorful graphs and charts. Leavening the task for us today is a delightful graphic Santa’s list from seven-year-old Marie, daughter of LDBCer Keri Boyle. Like Michael Kraiger, Ms. Boyle answered the call for art and was generous with the attachment function. (It appears, from her signature, that Ms. Boyle also is the proud owner of Balloons with a Twist, with locations in both Las Vegas and Boise. I cannot endorse her balloon-twisting abilities based on personal experience, but I do love Marie’s crayon work, so I’m betting you won’t regret following that link for your inflatable needs.)
You know where this is headed, faithful LDBCers. It’s been going there all along. If you haven’t filled out the official reporting form, please do so in order to get yourself up on the Wall for the post-game wrap-up. (Everybody loves the post-game wrap-up.) Also, if you want to give us your victory face (or your sad one, if you lost), please post your best winning/losing mug on the Facebook page or send it to the email address you’ll find here. (For samples of others’ submissions, see Day 23: The Fall of the Brave, the Rise of the LDBC-elfie.)
Looking forward to the counting, LDBCers. And, as always, thank you for your support.
I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Boy.
This is it, LDBCers—the final approach. All we need to do is make it to midnight, and then we can go into the light. It’s not so hard. It’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home.
To paste a happy face on the final hours of The Challenge, I share with you the artwork of brush-blazing LDBCer Michael Kraiger, who was kind enough to send us a couple of his watercolors when none of the rest of you lollygaggers (and your lollygagging offspring) responded to our call for children’s art. Well, Michael heard, and he did what he could, sharing not art by children, but art for children. And we thank him for it. (It’s not too late for your kids’ best crayon work to make it in, by the way. I’ll even apologize for calling them names if you do. Just post it to the Facebook page or send it to the email address you’ll find here.)
Me, I’m counting down the hours hunkered down here at my place of employment, blasting a little of the Ludwig Van into my ears (The Mexico State Symphony version of the Ninth, if you must know) to combat the holiday music coming through the wall from my colleague’s office. And I like to see Mr. Kraiger’s little snowman as delivering stirring oratory to that wee cardinal, who most likely just dropped in because his Lipitor-sized brain is unable to distinguish between living humans scattering seed and stacked balls of crystalline water ice.
Chins up and upper lips stiff, people. But should you fall between now and Game End, please remember to post or submit an LDBC-elfie and also fill out the official reporting form so that you’re properly memorialized on the wall.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends. We’re almost home.
The numbers are cold in this cruel, cruel game of ours, fellow LDBCers. (And I mean “fellow” as in “we’re all in this together,” not as a gender thing. The terror of the holiday is a very inclusive community.)
Twenty-three days of mayhem, with just over two to go. Just shy of 1800 of you on the Facebook page. And 341 of you have filled out the official form to report the details of your downfalls, with a handful of others settling for commenting on the page because Google changed something behind the scenes, and the stinkin’ form doesn’t show up on all browsers, operating systems, and mobile devices. (Sorry about that; I’ll have it fixed for next year.)
Gillian Beebe pulled a Janet Leigh and bought it in the shower just because she wanted her lonely pooches to have music to listen to while she was away from them. David Goldfarb and Matt McGuire were done in by a Mulholland Drive-like harmonica-blowing busker on two different New York subway lines. Phil Smy was gunned down among the Shaka Shaka Chicken and Fillet-O-Ebis in a Sendai McDonald’s. (He thought himself invulnerable because he was in Japan, but The Boy needs no passport to do his dirty deeds.)
Yet the brave fallen would rather light a flame than curse our darkness. And in keeping with that spirit, they’ve taken it upon themselves to post poignant selfies (to be forever known as LDBC-elfies) to capture their shock and grief visually where words alone are not adequate. Christine Moers and Jamie Ocain. Adrienne Martin. Brian White. All brave souls whose tragic countenances are presented for that mix of tears and laughter unique to freaks such as us. Jennie Horn Godwin, who wasn’t able to snap herself, but managed to save herself from the cold-case files with an image of the perfectly charming pianist who unknowingly sent her to puh-rum-pum-pum-Purgatory.
They’ve created the trend. So how can any of us not pick up where they’ve left off? We’re nearly there, beloved colleagues, dear friends, complete strangers. From here on out, should you lose, feel free to submit an LDBC-elfie. And should you make it across that line come midnight of the 23rd (12 am of the 24th—however the hell you want to say it), snap your happy faces and submit those, too.
Smile. Caper. Gloat. Honor the fallen. Whatever. I just want to see faces, and so do your fellow LDBCers. (Well, the losers may not want to see the winners so much, but they’re just Bobby and Betsy Bitter-Pantses. As I will be, if I get clipped this year.)
And remember to look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.
No, that was Gandalf.
Cool your jets?
No, that was my fifth-grade playground monitor when me and my friend Tom Shuck refused to stay out of that dangerous tree, and she made us sit out the rest of recess on the ancient balance beam that no one used since just looking at it gave you a splinter. Because that was somehow safer. So we ran in circles—arms out like wings, making Blue Angels whooshy-engine noises—just to show her she couldn’t break us.
Anyway, as the noted philosopher Tyler Durden once said, it’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. Which is great and all, but I prefer the imprisonment of winning this hellish thing and sending The Boy back to Rat-a-tat-tat-Ville with the tread of my boot embossed firmly on his ass.
But otherwise, here’s to your boots, LDBCers—those who we’ve lost and those who stand defiant still.
We’re almost there.
As the late Maude Flanders used to say, won’t somebody please think of the children? Somebody other than The Boy, I mean. You see, while the dreaded kid is actually 72 years old, and while he’s known by many other names—among them Randall Flagg, The Walkin’ Dude, and Walter o’Dim—he’s pretty much called The Boy by everybody. Which would make you think he’d leave his fellow kids alone rather than use them as pawns in his dark game. But no, as you’ll see below in the tragic tale of Mandy Rose and her radial-catalyzed trip to the dentist. (Please note: Ms. Rose wishes you to know that Jojo emerged from this situation just fine. Had he not, she’d certainly never joke about it.)
With apologies to Emily Dickinson:
Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The carriage held but just Ourselves —
After avoiding LDB at several stops, my son lost the daily battle of boy vs. playground when a tire swing claimed not one, not two, but three of his teeth. One upon impact, two pulled in the dentist’s chair.
As I held my son still for the numbing shot, it was me feeling the sting of the rum-pa-pum-pum. No salve for my pain tonight. Just the cold comfort of ice cream for dinner and the knowledge that he was too busy being brave to hear the song for himself.
Version unknown, location the seventh ring of extraction.
Tire Swing: 3
For all the terror that the holiday season has to offer, there’s the occasional beauty, too. You just have to stop and take note when you see it.
Even when it makes you late for a meeting. Especially when it makes you late for a meeting.
(Shot in front of the James L. Allen Center at Northwestern University.)
And now? Back to the fear.
I won’t try to sugar-coat it for you, good people. These are Dark Times with initial caps. We’re only a month in, and already brave LDBCers are falling like Sunday Bills fans from the third deck.
On top of that, the new versions of the dread tune just keep on coming, from the likes of Pentatonix and Walk Off the Earth. (I purposely didn’t link those names, lest you click them and inadvertently step into the kill zones of their respective aural Claymores.)
Which is to say in my usual verbose manner that I’m asking you for a favor.
We’ve added a new wrinkle to the process this year. (Well, actually, we added it near the end of last year, but bear with me, please.) As the game grows ever more popular, keeping track of the ballooning carnage has become more challenging, and I was already a very lazy man who has trouble focusing to begin with. So we need some help on top of everything else you do for us.
If (notice I didn’t say when) you go down, by all means, please continue to comment on the Facebook wall and via Twitter so that you may be soundly soothed and/or mocked. It helps with our engagement numbers, and we do love us some engagement. But please also fill out the official recording form, thus feeding your data into a Google spreadsheet and making our lives just a tad easier.
I love you all like the little sister I never had. Even you men. Even you burly, hairy men. (Though I try not to picture you in flannel ‘jammies with feet, carrying your precious stuffed bunnies.) And with that love comes the responsibility of documenting your losses so that the fallen are not forgotten.
All of which, I repeat, is a very long way of requesting that you please complete the form should you meet with tragedy.
Thank you from the bottom of my rhythm-evading heart, and best of luck with your continued survival.
Let’s be careful out there.