C.S.I.: North Pole

Who wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas”? Who invented Santa Claus?

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Sometimes all a story needs for it to be spread widely is an authoritative manner behind its delivery. Like all characters in great folklore, the character of Santa Claus “feels” like something ancient, a figure who has always been around, and not something that a human being could have conceived of merely to sell, well, anything.

What we know about the jolly old elf, including that very phrase, mostly comes from Old New York of the beginning of the 19th Century. New York City in the early 1800s was already the melting pot it remains to this day, but mostly it was two cultures that were mixing together then: English and Dutch. During the period of Dutch dominance, in commerce and population, the city was called New Amsterdam, and many place names still in use in the city and parts north to Albany are Dutch in origin (Spuyten Duyvil or Catskill Mountains, for example).
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Sinatra & ‘I Like the Sunrise’

Today is Frank Sinatra’s birthday. He was born on this date in 1915.

Fifty-four years ago today, December 12, 1967, Sinatra celebrated his fifty-second birthday at work in his Reprise Records studio with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. The two-day session yielded the only collaboration between the two giants, an eight-song album titled Francis A. and Edward K.; no television special followed to capture the two on stage together or sell copies of the album, and only a couple photos show them together (one of them is seen at top).

Ellington was sixty-eight and his collaborator/arranger of the previous quarter-century, Billy Strayhorn, had died just six months earlier. With no Strayhorn, Sinatra brought in his arranger, Billy May (“Come Fly with Me”), who discovered that many of Ellington’s musicians were not sight-readers. Rehearsals would be needed. Legend has it that Sinatra had a cold, a condition that possibly contributed to the several moments on the record in which he begins to sound like the late-1970’s “Theme from New York, New York”-era Sinatra, with pauses between the pentameters.
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100,001 Hours

“Someday we’d do useful things, we’d rise above, be kings and queens / But knew cheap chairs would always be our thrones …”—“All That,” Sparks, A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip

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My first few hours sober were spent in anticipation of my next drink. Up until then, any hours sober—at work, or asleep, or at a social engagement in which alcohol was not present for reasons mysterious—were spent in cheerful anticipation of the next drink. Years, decades, passed with me either inebriated or in anticipation of that state.

I am one of those alcoholics who detested drunkenness in myself or in those around me. I only wanted the pleasant, detached, “buzzed” sensation, but the moment alcohol hit my bloodstream, I lost any capability to remain in that pleasant condition—the thought/sensation was, “If this feels good, more will feel better”—and so the land of drunkenness is usually where I landed. Decades. Decades.

On July 15, 2010, I was out of alcohol, out of money, out of food, recently fired from a sales job in front of customers (that’s a fun memory to have), and I anticipated my next (the last) paycheck from that employer. The paycheck came a day late, on July 17, and that extra day is how I am alive and sober today to write these words. July 15, 2010, was 100,000 hours ago today. I think there are more than 100,000 people to thank.
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