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.
Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, fellow LDBCers—the enemy is The Boy. That jerky kid is a lunatic, and it’s all we can do to stay away from him when he gets the way he does.
But the truth is, he is largely faceless and can look like just about anyone. The more disturbing truth is that he often looks like friends, loved ones or—yes—us. It’s all a matter of who cranks up that holiday playlist that’s “totally safe, so don’t worry.” (And how creepy is that little dog ornament above, by the way? Eagle-eyed Mrs. LDBC spotted the poor fella abandoned on a window sill as we were wandering in our ‘hood. We didn’t take him home, of course. We’re not that crazy.)
For no matter the confidence that goes into that declaration of “safe,” the surety with which you tune into that alternative college station (I’m looking at you, John Richards), or the bravado that fuels you as you blithely click that viral video, when your number’s up, it’s up. You’re Woody Harrelson, realizing you’ve just pulled the pin from one of your grenades—and you don’t know which one. You’re Wallace Shawn, laughing and laughing at your dizzying intellect—right up until the point where you keel over.
And just like that? It’s never-send-to-know-for-whom-the-drum-rolls-it-rolls-for-thee time, my friend.
But not for everyone. And not every year.
In 2015, I won for only the second time in six tries. It was Mrs. LDBC’s fourth victory. And Photoshop wizard James Barnett reports that he’s won every single year. I, for one, believe him. Not because I don’t know him to be an inveterate liar, but because he doesn’t charge me anything for those great posters, and I’d like that to continue. (Anyway, he usually reserves his fibs for the really big whoppers. Like, the ones that bring down dynasties and economies.)
Triumph is possible. This we know. And if it’s not within reach for you in any given year, then you hope that you last long enough to perish with pride, or you pray that you go down with such blinding speed that you’re named First Fallen, as kick-off victim Craig Barker was this time around. (For Craig!)
If none of those things happen? Well, hell—die young and stay pretty, as Ms. Harry melodically advised. Leave behind a beautiful LDBC-elfie. Or, in the case of LDBCer Laura Sigman, a video. (Though if you’re reading this during an active game, do not watch, as this snippet contains LDB and will drop you like Black Flag on a yellow jacket.)
This year, 24 percent of us made it to midnight on the 23rd, which warms my heart on an afternoon when, as I type this, the snow is falling in hand-sized flakes. We ended the game with nearly 3,200 likes on the Facebook page, a pretty-darned-respectable number, says I. Or as respectable as this thing of ours gets. (“Respect” isn’t a word I’m used to having in the room with me, you understand.)
Bing and Bowie reclaimed their throne this year, knocking the Harry Simeone crew down to runner-up status. (Worth noting: if you were to combine the “Peace on Earth” duet with Der Bingle’s solo version, nobody’d come near Killer Crosby.) Will Ferrell, as he does every game, contributed his share of Ferrell Fatalities. But I must admit I was surprised at Grace Jones’s surge. Every time I think a threat has been nullified with knowledge, I discover how wrong I am. Many an unfortunate LDBCer didn’t know to avoid that Pee-wee’s Playhouse clip when it inexplicably went viral. They know now.
It was a year for expecting the unexpected. Libby Frank refused to use any performance-enhancing devices and won, the equivalent of scaling Everest without supplemental oxygen. Laura Scandura Rea executed an inspired strategy of using ear protection at the airport and lost.
Are all our best plans laid to waste? Is it mere fate? Do we really live in such a chaotic universe? I don’t know, folks. I just run the game.
What I do know, however, is that I love running it, and I’m always grateful to both the battle-scarred veterans and the fresh faces who show up every year. I couldn’t find the comment, but someone wrote that the LDBC helps make the season bearable for those who are usually lonely at holiday time. If it helps, I’m happy. And tales such as Thomas Carpenter’s make me even more so.
That said, here are the faces, figures, names, and stories, friends. As always, if you didn’t get a chance to fill out the form, but want to get on the Wall, you still have the opportunity. I’ll check back and toss you latecomers up there from time to time.
A very Happy New Year to you and yours, all, and best wishes for a totally terrific 2016. As always…
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
Olivia Allen-Hall – L
I was by the onions when I heard it. In retrospect, not sticking to the apples was a mistake.
Morgan Noel – W
Victory! I will now listen to Neil Peart drum solos on YouTube to celebrate.
Irit Printz – L
I will only add that any reports of a rabbi hanging around the lobby of the Hotel Atlantica, cursing up a storm for no apparent reason on the evening of December 4th are pure rumors and have nothing to do with me at all.
Valerie Sacchetti – L
I was in NY to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Nice parting shot, NaNa.
Brian Tetrault – L
“Music for music people” my @$$, WTMD.
Jennifer Vanmatre – L
My local public radio betrayed me…and after all that pledge money, too. Bastards.
Essie Wagner – L
I was there to buy chocolate for my co-workers who visit me at my desk. Bitter. Dark. Chocolate.
Heidi Wiedemann – L
I yelled out to the young sales clerk, “You killed me!” She looked stunned. And then I said, “Hold on—I need to take a picture.”
Nicole Zezzo – L
I feel that the true meaning of Christmas is to eradicate that smug little drumming fucker.
Esther Summer – L
Why was the LDB in the ladies room? I went there for privacy.
Pauline Sundby – L
Yet more proof that television is bad for you.
Terra Spencer – L
Trust no one.
Paul Schmidt – L
Damn you, Ron Burgundy.
Beth S – L
Otherwise, RJ Julia Booksellers is a very swell place to work and shop.
Jennifer Pontefract – W
I won only because of the thoughtful and vigilant LDBC community.
Mandy Rose – L
Alas, there was no grace from Grace Jones.
Julie Thompson – L
The title of the video was “Looks Can Be Deceiving.” Yes, they sure can.
James Barnett – W
Chump thinks he can come at me? At me?
The Victorious and the Vanquished: The LDBC Wall
|Angier , Cynthia||L|
|Babcock , Jenna||L|
|Baiyor , Patricia||L|
|Blanchard , Joanne||L|
|Brown, Mary Jo||W|
|Carter, Mary Alice||L|
|Dammit Dixon, Jennifer||L|
|Darling , Mere||L|
|De Lis, Tara||W|
|Del Ponte, Katie||L|
|Dimitri, C. Robert||L|
|Dobrinski , Rebecca||L|
|Dupriest , Matt||W|
|E-C, Josh & Trixie||L|
|Eberle , Kathy||L|
|Foreman , Tiffany||L|
|Frank, Zilpha (Lisa)||W|
|Gardner , Rebecca||L|
|Gatling , Sara||L|
|Harvey , Larisa||L|
|Hill , Michael||L|
|Hubbell , Sunni||L|
|Hyland, Mary Pat||L|
|Johnson , Barb||L|
|Kittredge , John||L|
|Kopperman , Leah||W|
|Krohn , Steve||W|
|Lawson , Jen||W|
|Leahy, Mary Ellen||L|
|Lopez De Castilal, Mariana||W|
|Louthan , Poppy||L|
|Loveland , Sheila||W|
|Madzin , Kathleen||L|
|Maloney , Sean||L|
|McClough, Maggie (Seahare)||L|
|McGregor , Heathee||L|
|McNiel , Pj||L|
|Melzer Coveyou, Kam||L|
|Michetti Somers , Dina||W|
|Monica , Julia||L|
|Noel , Morgan||W|
|O’Hagan , Mickey||L|
|Peters , Toni-Maree||L|
|Pontefract , Jennifer||W|
|Quinn , Dana||L|
|Robichaux , Julie||W|
|Roth Smith, Dawn||L|
|Sandusky Ferrier, Sarah||L|
|Shollenberger, Lee Ann||L|
|Siepka , Peggy||W|
|Snell Nachtsheim, Joyce||L|
|Sullivan , Diane||L|
|Thom , Neil||W|
|Von Ahn, Lisa||L|
|Ware, Minda Grace||L|
|Wessel Walker, Donna||L|
|Wessel Walker, Mary||L|
|White, Lindsay Maguire||L|
|Wolfisch Cole, Terry||L|
|Woman , Onemean||W|
WARNING, PEOPLE OF THE FUTURE: If you’re scrolling down to read old posts and found this one, do not play this video during the game; it contains LDB and will kill you dead. Happy Holidays.
I did my final 2015 check-in with Cody and Melissa at Good Day Sacramento this morning.
I’m still waiting a few days past the holidays for folks to fill out the official reporting form and post their victory LDBC-elfies to the Facebook wall so that I can do the official tally and game-end wrap-up. However, right now, as I say in the interview, it looks like we have about a one-in-five win rate (around 19 percent for you sticklers). And the deadliest environmental categories are home, retail/restaurant, car, and work.
Once again, for easier reporting, I’m embedding the form below. And since I’ll give it a while for the more casual LDBCers to report in, the final wrap-up may not appear until a week or so into the New Year.
Speaking of which, Happy New Year! (I like to get these things out of the way early.)
Click to watch: Good Day Sacramento video
It’s happy-dance time, friends. It’s over. (Well, it is on the East Coast and in the Midwest, home of LDBC Central, anyway. Our friends on the West Coast and all points further back in the Earth’s rotation have to make it for a bit more since the game ends at midnight your local time.)
Everybody out of the cee-ment pond.
Time for the bastard Boy to wave goodbye for another year while we bind our wounds, collect our dead, and celebrate our survival—if indeed we have survived.
You know the drill. Over the next few days, please fill out the official reporting form (linked here and embedded below) with your loss or victory if you haven’t done so. I’ll post a few reminders to catch the stragglers before I start compiling our ever-lovin’ stats and put together the hallowed LDBC Wall.
Also, all you lucky, lucky survivors, please post a gloriously happy LDBC-elfie to the Facebook wall, and I’ll share all your celebratory faces in the 2015 wrap-up post.
Before all that, though, I want to share an LDBC-elfie gallery and two tales. The first, from Wes Flinn, is short and light-hearted, but inspiring all the same:
My wife held the door to a gas station bathroom closed so I could not get out. She did it because the Boy was in the station and I couldn’t hear him in the bathroom. (She was taken out a couple of weeks back.) I love her so much for this.
The second, from Thomas Carpenter, is honestly one of the most touching posts I’ve seen in the six years we’ve been doing this (right up there with Sue Carkner‘s 2013 Tale from the Trenches):
I’m out! And under the worst possible circumstances.
My husband and I have a dear friend who got a leukemia diagnosis over the summer. She responded well to her initial round of chemo, and pretty quickly found a 10-point match for a bone marrow donor through the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
The problem is, that she’s single, and lives alone in NYC, so the hospital wasn’t willing to do the bone marrow transplant unless she had caregivers. My husband and I stepped up and said that she could move in with us while she re-built her immune system.
Here’s the thing about having a bone marrow transplant. You can’t really be out and about among other people. You’ve got no immune system, whatsoever, and the slightest thing could set you back, or worse, could kill you.
Our friend is slowly, but surely recovering, and one of the most important things for her, at this point, is to visit one of the restaurants in our neighborhood, where we’re regulars. We might be pushing it, in terms of going out to eat before her immune system is totally rebuilt, but it’s so important for morale, so we’ve done it. And the restaurant wiped down the bar with ammonia before we even sat down, and the food was served piping hot, so…it seemed a safe bet.
Well, while it was safe for my friend who’s recovering from cancer, it was not safe for me. No sooner did I finish explaining to the bartender the terms of The Little Drummer Boy Challenge…
Etta James. Singing “Come, they told me…” Not the worst version. Actually, probably the best, if you have to hear the song. It doesn’t make your ears bleed, at least. But I immediately shrieked in pain, and everyone around me said, “WHAT? Are you okay?”
I was not okay. They eventually heard what was playing, and knowing what it meant to me, promised that they would delete that song from their playlist forevermore.
So, I’m out. But my friend is cancer-free, and I persuaded a restaurant to amend their holiday playlist, so, I can fall asleep with my soul intact, tonight.
And that’s about it ’til the countin’s done, folks. So fill out the form, people, and in a few days, we’ll put this thing to bed for another year with the post-game wrap-up.
How much more? A bit more than three days. An eternity, in other words.
There are pluses and minuses to being blasted by The Boy early in the game. On the one hand, you’re in the LDBC afterlife right off the bat and don’t have to walk in fear anymore. On the other, it’s kind of humiliating to get cut down right out of the gate.
Similarly, while it’s frustrating as hell to get thisclose to winning, only to be clotheslined within days of the finish line, there is some pride to be taken in having made it that far.
Mrs. LDBC and I just returned from a light, late lunch at neighborhood favorite Taste of Heaven, where we were absolutely certain we were going to buy it amongst the tasteful holiday decorations and tempting cupcakes. (The Elvis and Cho Cho Cho offerings are among my recommendations.) The joint was chockablock with Christmas music, and I was all set to snap a tragic selfie. Only The Boy didn’t show. Likewise yesterday, when I made it out of my doctor’s waiting room in one piece after a enduring a veritable tempest of yuletide tunes.
Still, not all is phew and relief. We have a whole new batch of LDBC-elfies, and yet again, it is our duty to doff our caps to observe a silent moment of solemnity for the fallen pictured below. They started this thing with the same hopes and dreams as we did this year, and they were done in by the dastardly drum before they could even glimpse the finish line at the end of Santa Claus Lane.
The moment we wake up, before we put on our makeup, we say a little prayer for them.
Speaking of prayers, this noir LDBCer Dispatch from Cathy D Thomas is simply divine and deserves to be included in its entirety:
Three o’clock in the morning, And, I’m supposed to sleep.
I said I’d be dead by Friday. Of course, The Boy didn’t let me go that easy.
The first thing you should know is that Denver had a snowstorm this week. That must sound to others like, ‘the sun rose today’, but really, in Denver, snowstorms mostly dust the grass, then melt on the pavement in midday. This snowstorm closed the Denver Public Schools; that meant that the bus drivers couldn’t see far enough to drive, and kids couldn’t climb the snowbanks caused by plowing, if their neighborhoods were lucky enough to get proactive clearing overnight.
The next thing you need to know is that after a protracted period of periodic employment, I started my first full-time job in over a year. That meant getting up at 5 am, to allow for the bus delays on the commute, and coming home to massage the bruises and strains on my legs and knees going over fairly rough ice terrain. By the time of yesterday’s party, I was tired enough to assume I needed cabs coming and going. I learned to depend on the kindness of strangers, and have cash ready.
The third and final thing to know? Denver has a barbaric system of ordering every bar to clear out its patrons by 1 am. That means drunken brawls and shootings occur in the parking lots, because bingers get frustrated. It also means that after midnight, finding a cab outside the LoDo bar sector becomes nearly impossible.
My tiredness should have stopped me from assuming The Boy would forget my winning streak, my dodging of Him during this week’s several corporate holiday festivities. Tiredness, the cold, and my desperation to get home led to arrogance — and, The Boy was waiting for me.
After getting through the first cab ride, with a driver who didn’t know why locals still call Sports Authority Field at Mile High “Mile High Stadium”, I got to the party, ate, drank, pocketed luscious chocolate bonbons from the table-setting bowls, and settled down to bet $1000 of play money toward the eternal bitch goddess of Roulette… where I left the table with over $2000. (This never, ever happens with real cash.)
I then observed my co-workers careen through hands of Blackjack, a game I love, but never will be good enough to play. (Too lazy to count, for Blackjack, too wussy to be an asshole, for Poker.) Throughout all this, the DJ played classic hits. Someone, bless him, asked for non-Christmas music — you see what this led me to? Yep — I thought I’d dodged Him.
By midnight, we ended our hands, as the dealers were getting loopy with the overtime, then gathered our coats. I’d asked a co-worker to get a lift to a downtown cabstand, but we missed each other in the rush to leave. At 12:15, I called a taxi (no smartphone, nor the desire to support scab drivers, to call Uber). By 12:45, it was clear no one would take the ride, so I called another company. By 1:30, after three calls to the dispatcher, and two to the driver, we finally found each other, in one of the large parking lots in front of the stadium. He was new to the city, and his phone’s directions suggested taking the highway, a cab-rider’s sucker bet. I told him, step by step, how to take me home.
1:40 am. We were on the homestretch, with clear traffic and no need to speak. The radio was on low, playing K-Love Christian Rock. I barely heard it, but knew, once I did, I had to acknowledge the truth. There it was — Pa rum pum pum pum — and, it was over.
“Turn it up,” I sighed.
“No — up.” Why not? These fuzzy, faux-hep, Jesus-Freak monsters did the equivalent of tripping me on the sooty, disgusting street ice, twisting my ankle on someone else’s tracks, then stomping on my hand, as I tried to struggle back up. The joy of the season will remain, but tainted by their harmonies.
At least I still have the bonbons, and can take my muscle relaxant and try to sleep 12 hours, in my nest of Snuggies, down comforters and regret.
But, The Boy? God damn the man and his music. And triple damn MercyMe, who saw fit to use The Boy as their signal bombast on their Xmas album.
Three days-plus and counting, people. It’s stiff-upper-lip time now.
(The usual reminder: should your lip wilt and you find yourself among the fallen, please report in via the official form so that you’re included in the gratifyin’ game-end stats. And if you’re feeling photographically frisky, post an LDBC-elfie of your sad, shocked face on the Facebook wall.)
Just a quick tale of encouragement and luck, fellow LDBCers.
The CTA calls it the Holiday Train. I call it The Boy on Wheels.
It certainly looks and sounds delightful enough. What’s not to like? A special L train all decked out with lights, elves, holiday décor, and merriment. That last part is important.
The merriment includes music.
I saw the murderous machine pull in and didn’t even consider running for it. I kept my distance and documented the atrocity, in fact. Then I caught the next blissfully unadorned train.
Nice try, North Pole.
(The usual reminder: should your vigilance fail you, please report in via the official form so that you’re included in the gratifyin’ game-end stats.)
“The power of The Challenge compels you!”
For Laura Scandura Rea, it’s that mantra, aural protection, and a watchful googly-eyed tree. For Heather Cvitkovic McGregor, it involves carefully separating the Boy ornament from the other decorations and never putting him on the tree. (“My kids and I take the challenge very seriously,” she stresses.)
Whatever your precaution or talisman, LDBCers, hew faithfully to it. It’s all you’ve got. If your friends mock you, avoid them until midnight on Dec. 23rd. Better yet, get new friends. Reckless dummies like that are bound to damage you one way or another, game or no game.
Even if you exercise perfect discipline, it may not help you:
‘Wait, what?!’ said my son. ‘Are we still out?’
What I said to him: ‘Yes, son. We’re still out. It’s very sad, I know. But it’s important to be honest with ourselves—and with the world.’
What I thought to myself: ‘What the tinsel-bedecked hell? We only heard ten seconds of the freaking song! What kind of hellish dreamscape is this? Is Lars von Trier going to leap out from behind a stack of lawn and leaf bags at any moment?!”
Despite this great blow, we have soldiered on, bloodied but unbowed. J.Q. directed his attention to the list of Things He Really, Really Wants From Home Depot. (Grout sealant! An oscillating belt sander!) I myself focused on Christmas songs that I hate more than “Little Drummer Boy.”
After all, we only get one go-round on this crazy celestial ornament called Earth. We can spend our time gnashing our teeth and cursing The Boy. Or we can accept our losses, smile, and fantasize about leaving a flaming sleigh full of pig manure on the lawn of the guy who wrote “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” — Julia Skochko
More than 350 of our people have joined Ms. Skochko and her spawn in being wished into The Boy’s cornfield. Their faces are below. And if you just can’t get enough of that sort of thing, here are more. (What are you, some kind of ghoul? What’s with you?)
And remember, please: should you join them—or should you find yourself still standing when this thing is through—report in via the official LDBC form.
Until then, stay strong. It can’t rain all the time.
The look on Beth Hayes Bailie‘s son, above, who may or may not have been trying to give us his best Rodney Dangerfield but succeeded all the same, says it all, fellow LDBCers.
The Boy does not respect us. At all. In any way. (No, not her son. The Boy.)
He molests us with Muzak. Silences us with Simeone and Seger. Buries us in a barrage of Bing and Bowie. There are more than 3,000 of us who’ve liked the Facebook page now, which just means a happier hunting ground for the little jerk. And with the growing numbers come the growing number of victims.
Your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. These are their faces and tales.
Joanne Carey Blanchard, who only wished to deal with some doggie things, but ended up being thrown to the wolves. (“It’s all up to you to rep for the Family now, Mom,” she posted—with a capital “F” in “family.”)
And a capital “F” for a much angrier word is sent The Boy’s way over and over. But he doesn’t care. He just marches on, tapping out his rhythm of doom.
Many have fallen prey to viral videos. (Appearances can be deceiving, especially when you’re laying LDBCers low right and left with your otherwise admirable social message.) Others have suffered double-whammies.
Christine Chase Sacchi: “So while I’m laid low, stunned, stricken, does he leave it at that? Can he not gloat in silence and let me pull myself together? No! Two songs later he came back in another version to trample me where I lay.”
More than 200 of us who’ll have an “L” next to their names in the game-end tally. (You know, the tally I’m always nagging about. The one that you’ll only appear in if you fill out the reporting form.)
Faces and names, friends. And on top of the chronological list of them is this year’s First Fallen, Craig Barker.