We are in the full-on holiday frenzy around here.

Yesterday was the girls’ final day of school of 2017. St. P’s always dismisses early on the last day before Christmas break which adds even more excitement to the day. While sitting in the parking lot at dismissal, a friend said he was taking his kids to Dairy Queen and asked if we wanted to join them. Of course my girls did! So the first act of Christmas vacation was having some ice cream.

About an hour later it was off to the airport to pick up my in-laws. They’re staying with us, so I had spent the morning getting the house ready for guests.

Right now the girls are having a major cookie and cake baking session with their grandmother and three aunts. The house smells really good! We have only done our normal weekly baking this month since we’re leaving town Monday.[1] Thus the girls are extra excited to be spending hours baking.

I had to go run a couple small errands this morning. But it was a little odd popping into the grocery story for just milk and a couple other things, rather than making a huge trip to get all the goods for a large gathering. One of S’s sisters is hosting our Christmas Eve get together, and then the family is doing a Christmas afternoon event at our house, but after we depart. Odd but nice. Our grocery store of choice was a complete madhouse when I stopped in today. I saw one accident in the parking lot. I needed to get gas but there were lines for the pumps two cars deep that spilled out into the street.

I also hit three liquor stores looking for a specific kind of beer. My favorite beer of this holiday season has been Sam Adams’ White Christmas. Apparently it’s very popular because it had been unobtainable for about a week and no more shipments are coming. I’m still drinking Nutcracker Ale, Celebration Ale, and Sam Adams’ Winter Lager. But I’m disappointed I had my last White Christmas a couple weeks ago.

Oh, and one other thing has been a part of our week…

S and I attended the sold-out War on Drugs show last night. It was, simply, the best small-mid-sized venue show I’ve ever been to. Sixteen songs stretched out over two hours and almost all were magnificent. The show was perfectly paced, as the songs just kept getting bigger and bigger, some in surprising ways. A couple of my favorites were offered up in new formats, slightly stripped down, which I loved. Both of my songs of the year, “Pain,” and “Strangest Thing,” were played. The guitar solo in “Pain” ended up being better than the one in “Strangest Thing.”

“Thinking of a Place,” which lasts over 11 minutes on the album, was stretched out over an insane 15 minutes, complete with an epic, five-minute solo in the middle section. I’m pretty sure I saw a couple people’s heads explode because they couldn’t take so much brilliance.

And “Under the Pressure” was a bit of a surprise as a highlight. I thought they played it OK in their last appearance here three years ago. But last night? HOLY FREAKING SHIT! It began with a nearly three-minute solo effort by Adam Granduciel, as he slowly built up layers of feedback-heavy riffs. Then they launched into the song, which kicked ass for about five minutes until they reached the final section of vocals, when the band built-and-built-and-built and just exploded the understood rules of physics and they raced into one, last, lengthy jam. Oh, and they had a snow machine blowing out on the crowd during this final section. Or perhaps those were just the souls of all the attendees being plucked up and thrown around because of all the pure joy in the house. I may or may not have passed out during this stretch.

From there the segued immediately into an absolutely lovely, Bob Segar-like take on “In Reverse,” which has my vote for best album-ending track ever. It was really a beautiful way to ease us down after about 105 minutes of music.

A two-song encore capped the night off really well. I must admit we snuck out a hair early, during set-closer “Eyes to the Wind,” which is one of my absolute favorite TWOD tracks. But my poor wife, who did not complain all night, had been up since before 6:00 in the morning so she could make a 7:00 meeting, saw over 30 patients during the day, was on call that night and had to sneak outside to take several calls during the show, and then had to be back at the hospital early this morning to round. She was hanging in there but I could tell as it approached midnight that she was stressing a little bit. Last thing we needed to do was get stuck in the parking garage for 30 minutes, which always happens at shows at this venue. So we eased back through the crowd during “Eyes to the Wind” and headed out the door about halfway through.

The War on Drugs is a band that is absolutely locked in and confident. They were even missing a key member – for reasons unexplained Jon Natchez was absent – but did not miss a beat. His understudy did a fine job on keyboards but Natchez’ gorgeous sax solos were missing from “Red Eyes” and “Eyes to the Wind” most notably. They were really good three years ago when I saw them the first time. Now they’re without a doubt one of the best live bands in the world. Seriously, they absolutely destroyed last night. One day my face might return to its original state after being melted so many times.

We will return home in December 30. I imagine I’ll save my trip breakdown for the following week. But I do plan on posting something for the year’s end on the 31st. Until then, though, this is likely my final post. I hope all of you have wonderful, merry Christmases. If you’re traveling, travel safe. If you’re gathering with family, hopefully those gatherings are drama-free. Mostly, enjoy the most wonderful weekend of the year.

  1. Each week one girl picks the dessert for the week and we make it together. So we’ve made three kinds of Christmas cookies as a part of that rotation. But no big piles of cookies for Christmas day, so a couple of my regular Christmas cookies did not get made this year.  ↩