Archive for christmas

Have Yourself a Melancholy Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

For many years, I have posted the below clip of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to social media around the holidays.  It is far and away my favorite Christmas song.  For the decade-plus that I spent living and mostly being alone, the melancholy twinned with optimism in the song struck a special chord within me.  The song seemed to harken to a nostalgia of lovely, warm, joyous holidays, while acknowledging the fundamental hardship of life–of being alone, of losing track of people, or long, dark, cold winter days and memories that slide through your fingers (please note I refer here solely to the original lyrics made famous in this Judy Garland version, not the bastardized, senselessly happy remakes to come after it).  Today, I played it in the background while passing a lovely lazy day with Karla and I immediately began to choke up; the song was a companion in melancholy with me for so many years, the tears came like a Pavlovian response.  Of course, life is happy beyond my wildest dreams, exquisitely so–but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of melancholy.  My love, the boy, and our dog make life glorious–but there are still long, dark, cold winter days, and friends I’ve lost touch with, and memories that slide through our fingers like the water in the swimming pool on Parsonage Street when my sister saved me from drowning when I was six years old.  Someday soon, we all will be together–if the fates allow.  Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

Merry Christmas everybody!  Life truly is grand–melancholy is the proof of it!

And to think I spent twenty years thinking art films and shoegaze rock were the meaning of life.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2016 by sethdellinger


President of What?

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 21, 2016 by sethdellinger

When I was twenty-five years old I went to rehab for alcohol addiction.  I actually had to go twice in quick succession, but the story I’m about to tell you is from the first time I went.

This rehab had an interesting way of doing things.  It was, of course, technically run by counselors and other health professionals.  But they had set the day-to-day of the place up so that it at least gave the appearance that the patients, to a degree, were doing some of the running of the place.  The whole thing was, I’m sure, a calculated part of the therapy.

There were four designated officers at any time: the President, the Vice-President, and two positions whose title I forget, but whose function was to match new incoming patients with “buddies” to show them the ropes–one officer in charge of males, one in charge of females.  These officers were not elected, however, but chosen deliberately by the staff; in addition, their terms were not defined. Most often, once put in position they remained there for the duration of their stay, but sometimes if it wasn’t a good fit, changes could be made when the need arose.

I was in rehab a few days before I finally made it out of my room (the reports are true–withdrawal is a bitch) and experienced my first morning roll call.  This particular rehab featured many different rooms, but only one Big Room.  The Big Room could fit all the current patients at the same time and we all gathered there only two or three times each day.  The morning meeting served many purposes (including of course a “roll call” to make sure everyone was there) such as a hope you had for the day, detailing of tasks for the day, et cetera.  These proceedings were all done without the presence of any staff and were carried out by the President, who sat flanked by his three cabinet members in nicer chairs than the rest of us, centered under two enormous (and I mean enormous) banners that listed the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (six steps per banner). That morning, the President I witnessed was a man even younger than me, very charismatic and handsome, friendly and genuine who seemed to have held the position for quite awhile.  Meekly, I watched everything that was happening through a sunken, terrified exterior.  I was underwater.

As my first few weeks passed, I got over some of my initial fear and began to fit in and make friends and even some progress on myself.  The routine and workings of the institution quickly became ingrained in me.  I watched as the male and female “buddy coordinators” set up newcomers with mentors; I wasn’t there very long before I was showing newbies the ropes myself.  The President had a surprising amount of sway; not only was their job to call roll call (in the morning and throughout the day) and run certain meetings, but they seemed to have some say in certain policy.  If a patient had been caught smuggling in drugs, the counselors pulled the President into an office to consult; did they think the offender should be kicked out?  Or was this a good learning opportunity?  Whether the President actually had any real say was debatable, but the show that was put on seemed awfully real.

I was legitimately shocked when, one evening during Movie Night, I was called into the hallway and met with the sight of all the facility’s counselors.  I was to be the next President, starting at next morning’s roll call.  They all had enormous grins on their faces–it was a truly congratulatory moment.  It may not seem like much from afar, but in that moment, in that insular world, it was a startling moment of revelatory self-discovery for me.

Before entering rehab I had been near a human low few people outside of deep addiction can comprehend.  Not to belittle your experience with sorrow and depth–non-addiction sorrow and depth is terrible, too, it’s just nowhere near as acute as addicts can achieve.  A few weeks prior I in no way could have imagined being asked to lead a group of forty to sixty strangers through their every day activities when I myself couldn’t take a shower without bringing my McDonalds plastic Super Size cup full of gin–and then passing out with the water running before I even washed my hair.  Now these health professionals were asking me to be a leader.  That moment, in that hallway, is one of those moments: looking back, over the whole course of your life, there will be moments–maybe three, maybe fourteen, let’s say a “handful” of moments–that you can look back on and recognize, that is where part of my actual self snapped into place.  We go through life becoming many different people, all the time–various versions of ourselves. Occasionally a new aspect clicks into place for you and you know, ah yes, this is me–this is part of who I have been waiting to be.

I’m not trying to say I am some natural born leader; in many ways I am a terrific leader and in many ways I am a deeply flawed leader.  It was the fact that leader was AT ALL attached to me that became a new and permanent (on an admittedly small and primarily retail occupation sense) descriptor for me that stunned.  For creating that moment, the rehab had functioned perfectly–and maybe saved my life.

I went on to have, by my account, a successful and lovely term as President for about two and a half weeks, up until the day I was released.  One of the more memorable aspects of the position was that, if I was speaking (in a public forum, like at a meeting, etc) and others started talking over me or having side conversations, the majority of the other patients would begin yelling “RESPECT!” until everyone was quiet for me.  This was a practice only done for the President. Its effect upon my self-worth cannot be overstated.

I happened to be President over Christmas, too. A hell of a time to be in rehab, and challenging for all of us.  I remember the counselors pulling me into many offices, asking my opinions about things like parties, gifts, things like that, and I offered ideas.  It felt as though we were peers, me and the counselors.  I felt adult and competent.  On Christmas Day, the cafeteria staff made us a very special and delicious meal.  As we were all sitting and chatting following the meal, I had the idea for all of us to applaud the staff for the meal.  I stood to address all sixty or so patients.  I stood on my chair and bellowed Excuse me! and as some folks kept talking, they were met with a barrage of RESPECT! I then gave a little speech about how hard it was for all of us to be in here for Christmas, and how we should not take it for granted that all the staff here was working on Christmas, too, and what a great meal they had made us.  I then called for a round of applause, which was thunderous, and very genuine.  People didn’t stop thanking me for that for the rest of my stay.  I amazed myself.  It was a small decision, but a decision I had made for sixty people, all by myself, without consulting anyone–mere weeks after being a hopeless, adrift, nearly insane drunkard.

Looking back at that time now, I see the seed of who I’ve become, but it’s almost more astonishing to think about how much more I’ve evolved and changed since then.  That was fourteen years ago, and although some of it still seems like yesterday, I’ve been through four or five complete new versions of myself since then.  I can’t imagine a life within which I was not constantly evolving.  Many people seem to reach a place in life–usually somewhere between ages 25-35–where they decide they have become the final version of themselves.  Sadly many seem to do this because our culture values this; to continue to evolve for your whole life seems, to some, unsavory, perhaps even immature.  The adult thing to do is to find your sweet spot and stay there.

The unfortunate side effect of becoming sedentary is that you will stop finding those moments where your true self snaps into place for you.  Core, true parts of yourself will remain unknown to you. Just like with our planet and the universe, if you stop exploring yourself, well, there’s things you’ll never find.  But they are there all along.  They are waiting for you to find them.


Stop Harshing My Groove

Posted in Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2014 by sethdellinger

1.  Am I, potentially, the only person in America who said to themselves this morning, “Looks like it’s time to buy some more blank CDs!”?

2.  What do you think it would take to get this zany country of ours to do away with this whole “move the clocks back” thing?  Everyone hates it, and even those who have a full understanding of why we do it, even they don’t understand why we do it!  In a country that seems to be waking up from centuries of backward thinking (yay gay marriage! yay legal pot even though I don’t personally smoke it! yay even bigots hate Westboro Baptist!) you’d think we could find a way out of this dark-at-noon bullcrap.

3.  Those of you who are aware of the trend of men wearing fancy socks, I’d like to get your thoughts on it.  Part of me really wants to jump on that train and thinks it is very much me, and the other part of me thinks that is the opposite of me and that I should be very opposed to it.  And please, suggestions like you should do whatever you feel like are pretty pointless since I just told you I’m conflicted!

4.  I’m getting sick of dust.  I mean, when will dust just give up?  Aint nobody got time for that!

5.  Who knew there was an abandoned section of Asbury Park, New Jersey, that seems to border on “ghost town” status??? Not me, and I’ve freakin’ BEEN to Asbury Park!  Brian, why didn’t you ever tell me about this?  Geez Louise, this is right down my alley! (thanks to the lovely Karla for filling me in!)

6.  Boy howdy, do I ever freakin’ love the holidays.  I’ve blogged about this before, but I just don’t understand people’s hatred of the holiday’s “starting early”.  Oh, what’s that, you’d rather not begin feeling a kinship with your fellow man too early in the season?  Too soon for warm nostalgia, quality 50s music (that’s basically what our Christmas songs are, but mostly, as songs, they’re REALLY GOOD), eye-popping decorations, and a general air of joviality?  What is wrong with you people?? Stop harshing my groove.

Philly Journal, 12/5/13

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2013 by sethdellinger

I present to you, my video tour of my house and surrounding neighborhood!  As well as me wearing every Philly-sports-themed Santa hat I own (someone find me a 76ers one).  Yes, that is toothpaste in the corner of my mouth in the intro.  I’m not the sort of man to re-shoot it just because of that, though.




Philly Journal, 11/18/13

Posted in Philly Journal, Photography with tags , on November 19, 2013 by sethdellinger


I don’t understand why you’re angry in November.

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , on November 5, 2013 by sethdellinger

So, it is that time of year.  We all know it well.  A day or two after Halloween, and suddenly decorations are up for Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas, and there is holiday music everywhere, and TV specials, and all the big box stores have set aside three huge aisles for holidays that are still a few months away.  My question is, so fucking what?


Why are you all so piping mad about this, year after year?  The only thing you can count on more than a relentless parade of Peanuts specials as soon as the leaves turn, is everyone in the whole world bitching about Wal-Mart and Target selling Christmas stuff.  This barrage of bitching has been going on for so long, and by so many people across every possible social strata, that the inherent wickedness of these “early holidays” seems to just be generally accepted by everyone.  It has just become a societal fact: Christmas being advertised in November is evil, it’s bad, it’s annoying.  Give us time for Thanksgiving!, everyone bemoans, as though the Wal-Mart packages of three different kinds of Brut cologne were somehow going to stop them from posting , to their Facebook wall, one thing they were thankful for each day during the month of November.  Let me guess, your kids, husband, job, health, and God, right?  Got it, same as last year.

Listen soccer mom, big cardboard candy canes on the light posts aren’t going to stop you from stuffing Stove Top into a dead, genetically enhanced bird.  Nothing about the holiday of Thanksgiving is changed by our thinking about Christmas early.  Nothing.

I have thought long and hard about why this must get everyone so riled up, and have come up with a stultifying lack of credible reasons.  You’re mad because…why?  You hate Christmas?  You hate loving your fellow humans?  You hate presents and joy and the ringing of bells?  And you don’t really like Thanksgiving that much, do you?  You know turkey and mashed potatoes are available year-round, right?

The only viable argument I can come up with for folks’ dislike to November Christmasing is the obvious commercialization of the holiday, and mega-corporations using this wonderful time of year (whether you celebrate religiously or secularly, it is still a special time) to make money, preying on our emotions and beliefs to squeeze every cent out of us.  That is all true, but seriously, where are you the other ten months? You are aware, right, that this is ALWAYS HAPPENING.  Enormous, headless, faceless companies are constantly using your emotions, desires, memories, and fears in the most brazen, shameful ways to get you to spend three more dollars.  Every fucking moment of your capitalist life, you are being used and prodded.  Every aisle in that Wal-Mart is ALWAYS, year-round, set up to screw you over, psychologically.  If you want to just wake up to the way the world is working because suddenly your Coca-Cola has polar bears on it, I have little sympathy for you.

I don’t understand why you’re angry in November.

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