The Dick Summer Connection – December 2, 2007

My friend Dick Stadlen takes pride in wrapping Christmas presents… he does it enthusiastically, if not very well. He claims, “You can’t be a cynic while you wrap pretty paper around a box, just so somebody else can tear it off a little while later.” His Lady Diane doesn’t give him a hard time because she loves him…even though the results of his wrapping often look like green and red spit balls. Dick says, “If there had been wrapping paper at the first Christmas, Matthew would have said…‘And lo the Magi’s gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty The Snowman. And Joseph was going to throw it away, but Mary sayeth unto him…holdeth it…just a minute…that’s nice paper… Save it for next year. And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than in the frankincense.’ ”

I love Christmas, and my favorite guy is Santa Claus. And you feel about the same way according to your letters and Emails. Here’s one from Lisa, who lives in Kentucky: “Christmas for me has always been all about the memories, the sights, the sounds, the feelings that maybe were not really real, but in my heart they still feel real. Here is hoping this Christmas is the best for you and Lady Wonder Wench, it should always be full of goodness, love and memories.” Thanks, Lisa…and back at you.

Cathi wrote: “Christmas to me is very much about childhood memories…making wonderful memories for my kids and grandkids …and my own childhood memories. You happen to be one of my childhood memories. My grandmother gave me a radio for Christmas the year I was 15…I plugged it in late that night and discovered you on the radio from Boston.” Pretty neat that you remember, Cathi.

And thanks for reminding me that besides the memories and the goodies…Santa’s pack each year is full of the hopes and fears for what is to come….”Making wonderful memories for my kids and grandkids”…

Santa is the connector. But he gets a bum rap. He gets the blame for all the tasteless, crass, loud tv commercials for the “Biggest sale of the year”. He also has to take the fall for “taking Christ out of Christmas.” And he deserves better. I think it’s time to thank Santa, because that stuff is not his fault.

Santa is a connection with who you were when you got your brand new electric trains… your first Christmas kiss… a sled or a bike under the tree…and most important…the distinct Christmas Eve “tuck-you-in-so-Santa-can-come-with-his-reindeer-and-presents” feeling you remember from your Mom or Dad…even though they may be only a memory this year. And Santa helps you pass all that along to your kids… especially the way you felt so safe and excited so long ago…every Silent Night.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’re awake.” That means he’s around all the time, and he’s paying attention to you. My Lady Wonder Wench always says “Women have to talk twice as much as men because you don’t pay attention the first time.” And she’s probably right. But Santa is there…all Christmas season…paying attention…day and night. Thank you, Santa.

Of course, “He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Not a bad reminder for us “Louie-Louie Generation guys and dolls.” Sometimes we slip…and a reminder at Christmas is in order. “You better not pout, you better not cry…” yeah…we do too much whining and not enough smiling the rest of the year…how about turning that around at Christmas.

My friend Paul Berge, a proud member of the Louie-Louie Generation, says: “I refuse to grow up. I still want a BB gun at Christmas, and even if I do shoot my eye out, I’ll still have my BB gun. And I want real Lionel Trains under the tree…and I still have faith that we’ll eventually find X-ray glasses that really work…and we’ll finally admit that Bosco is far superior to CocoMarsh…and the ‘59 Chevy was the best car ever…and how about Yoohoo in bottles…and Three Musketeer Bars for a nickel…and nickels…and singing Christmas songs with the guys you like singing harmony with on warm summer evenings out on the stoop…and nothin’ to do…and no guilt about doin’ it. Merry all them holidays.” (A stoop is like a porch, for those of you who are New York Challenged.)

My friend Len Segal remembers one Christmas season when I was on the air in Boston. He says, “You asked listeners to write to you with their personal thoughts about what Christmas means to them. You were struck by how much your listeners opened up their hearts and souls in those letters. And since you were doing the Christmas Eve broadcast from the remote studio on the Common (Boston Common is a park in the middle of Boston), you decided to read the letters outside the studio with the people who had come to see the broadcast. I think you had one or two of your children with you. (I did. One of them…Dave…grew up to be the guy who now runs the PodCast for me. The other…Mark… is now a professional musician on Long Island.) You and I scouted the area for a suitable burn barrel, which we needed because when we went outside with the letters and everyone who was standing around gathered in a huge circle holding hands as you read the letters one by one…you were going to throw the letters into the fire. That’s all I remember. By the way, I’m Jewish, but spent many a Christmas Day with my Christian friends. It’s a spirit of good will that makes Christmas.” Right, Len. And Santa says, ” Happy Hanukkah to you.”

Here’s a little more of the story, although I’m not going to swear everything I remember is accurate after all this time. The broadcast was 8 pm to midnight. I planned on reading the letters…and burning them…at around 11:45. I mentioned what I was going to do on the air, and I invited people to “drop in.” By 9 pm there were quite a few folks there. By 10, there were several hundred people there. By 11, there was a traffic jam on Charles Street (the street right by the park.)

Remember, this was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t have permission from anybody, including the radio station or the police department to do it. By 11:30, it looked like we had at least a thousand people standing around the broadcast trailer, and the cops had sent extra troops out trying to untangle the traffic. I figured I was in TROUBLE. But one of the cops came over, saw what was going on, smiled, and just wished me a Merry Christmas.

Then some of the musicians from the Unicorn Coffee House showed up. As I recall, Tom Rush was there, and I think Jose Feliciano, Jaime Brockett, and Mitch Kertzman. At 11:45, I went outside and started reading the letters, and burning them as I went. I consider burning them to be a sign of respect. As if on cue, it started to snow….softly. And just before midnight…a little off key…we all sang Silent Night.

If you ever heard 1,000 people singing Silent Night…standing close enough together to keep warm…by a Christmas Eve bonfire in the snow, you will never forget it. If you were there, thank you. It was a long, long time ago. But I will never forget it. Never. Thank you. And thank you, Santa Claus.


Dick’s Details Quiz – All the answers are in the current PodCast at

1- What’s this year’s most popular Christmas recording?

2- What’s a “Personnel Decellerator?”

3- Where’s the best place to find Christmas?


3 right – It’s the night before Christmas.

2 right – One mouse is up and stirring.

1- right – Santa leaves you guys a cap, and you dolls a kerchief.

0 – right – Merry Christmas anyway.

Some people don’t believe in Santa Claus. They’ll tell you Christ was born in the spring, not on December 25. The truth is, I really don’t care when Christ was born. I don’t even care if He was the “Son of God.” He gave us lots of good ideas, and lots of love. And I figure even if you don’t believe in Christ at all, you’ve got to admit His birthday celebration is pretty neat. So is Hanukkah, Quanza, Solstice, and any other holiday that involves candles, music, standing close together, some laughs that you really enjoy, and a few tears that you can’t help, good stuff to eat, and most important…some great loving…and of course…Santa Claus.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Send them to:  please.

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