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Christmas afterthoughts and leftovers

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With another Christmas come and gone, let’s briefly evaluate how we did.

In the category of best or favorite performance by an actor in a Christmas movie as shown on TV, my choice would have to be Cousin Eddie as portrayed by Randy Quaid in 1989’s “Christmas Vacation.” A close runner-up would be Darren McGavin, who played Ralphie’s dad in “A Christmas Story” from 1983.

While Quaid’s hilarious performance was dead-on perfect, you don’t realize just how really good McGavin was until you go back and watch the movie a second or third time.

Speaking of “Christmas Vacation,” I might be wrong, but it seems like people tend to decorate their homes, the tackier the better, a lot more now than they did 15 to 20 years ago. I’d like to think the increase was born from what Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) did to his house in “Christmas Vacation.”

This year was the earliest I recall seeing a Christmas tree thrown on the curb outside a home. My wife Gale and I were out walking in the neighborhood on the evening of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and although it was dark, we noticed what appeared to be a nice, undecorated tree about 6 feet tall lying on the sidewalk in front of a home.

Had we not been several blocks away from our house and on foot, I would have considered taking the tree, since its owner had apparently designated it as trash.

While I recall having seen trees tossed out as early as Christmas Day before, this was a record by far.

When a Christmas tree comes down is certainly up to the individual, but I’m guessing removing one this early was likely because of exhaustion, frustration or just plain old being ready to get it over with and sweep up the needles on the floor.

I would be fascinated to know the backstory of the tree and wouldn’t be surprised to learn it involved some sort of domestic discussion, disagreement or argument with one party telling another where they could stick the tree.

As always seems to be the case, we had plenty of great Christmas-related ads running on TV this year. But none was able to overtake what I still consider my all-time favorite TV Christmas ad from Anheuser-Busch in 1982, with the Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon of barrels through the snow with bells ringing.

The biggest Christmas downer for myself and a number of others was the unexpected death of friend and Johnstonian News writing cohort Steve Reed, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 13 while attending a family function in Florida.

Steve and I had worked together practically elbow to elbow for the past six years, both at the Kenly News and what became the Johnstonian News in August 2018.

According to his family, Steve always enjoyed Christmastime, which makes things feel even worse.

I’m just thinking to myself here, but with timing being everything, aren’t we fortunate that the birth of Jesus, with the manger scene, wise men, etc., took place 2,000 years ago instead of in today’s world?

If it had been now, the entire event would likely have been marred by scores of TV news trucks and crews descending upon Bethlehem days before to be the first to cover the story.

Plus, some sort of protest surrounding the event would likely have occurred, and the TV crews would have forced us to watch that too.

Even worse would have been the madhouse scene around the manger, with hundreds and perhaps thousands of onlookers trying to get close enough to the action to get lots of photos with their phones, including the all-important selfies.

Looking at the Christmas parade scoreboard this year, we find that Garner and Wake Forest canceled their parades because officials feared the “potential for violence” I’m glad I didn’t have to explain to children or grandchildren in these two towns why they had no parade this year.

The Cary folks canceled their parade as well, although it was not for safety reasons or bad weather. Instead, Cary canceled its parade because “the place smelled like gas.”

I had a joke for that, too, but I think I’ll hold it.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Keith Barnes, a Wilson storyteller and author, is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at