Nostalgia figures big with me on holidays, and this season is no exception. I don’t remember what year it was, only that our border collie Chelsea was still with us. I can hear her nails ticking behind me as I enter the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.

I think the stage had been set the day before. Driving somewhere with my dog next to me in the passenger seat, I had listened to the first two or three minutes of a Funk-laden version of The Messiah. It depressed me, the way it would to learn of a Zombie Apocalypse version of Bambi, or a Quentin Tarantino remake of The Wizard of Oz. It just put me off my white-boy, suburbanite feed.

I was glad my dog was deaf, because I knew the same influence would soon figure with Christmas carols.  Here in Detroit--Motown—we are always treated during the Yule season to a competition of sorts. R&B artists deliver up aural flights, risking serious voice-box medical complications in their efforts to stamp Jingle Bells or Oh Holy Night with filigreed excess.

Anyway, Thanksgiving morning I enter the kitchen for more coffee.  On the counter is a small TV. I am pouring from the carafe, half watching and listening as our Local 4 anchors provide color for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade working its way down Woodward Avenue.  I turn to go, but hear the unmistakable voice of Karen Newman. 

She’s singing “It’s the Best Time of the Year,” and I turn to watch.  Karen, you see, is a local, small-pond version of Vanna White.  Both women have made lengthy careers out of a single, highly specialized gesture.  Whereas Vanna has done well on prime time by revealing letters of the alphabet and then congratulating herself by clapping, Karen Newman has prospered as a result of having made The Star Spangled Banner her own at Detroit Red Wings hockey games.

That’s it, the National Anthem.  For years, over and over at Joe Louis Arena, glittering and blond under intense lighting at center ice, Karen has belted out the Anthem for the thousands assembled in their Red Wings paraphernalia.  When she finishes, they explode.  By once again nailing the Anthem with every grace note and cadenza she’s fixed to it over the years, Karen again reasserts the power of memory and tribal consciousness for her fans.  With the last ringing high note and roar from the stands, the players can now put in their mouthpieces, and skate out for the first face-off.

But this is something different--Karen in the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Always well turned out at hockey games, today she is presenting herself in a seasonally adjusted costume: black tights, and a Santa sweater designed to suggest a micro dress.  Even though she’s athwart a motorized float--or because of it—the effect hints at the arresting possibility that her panties lie just north of the sweater’s hemline.

But Karen’s tireless commitment to excellence in singing the National Anthem is here being brought to an arpeggio-laden rendering of “It’s the Best Time of the Year.”  This song is the last and only reason left in the world to remember Andy Williams.  But listening, I think Karen has decided to make Andy a forgotten collectible, stored down in the basement with his vinyl recordings. 

Her powerful, stadium-trained voice is drawing on the many sonic influences afforded to her by life in Motown.  Fascinated, I watch.  Her slender legs in black tights are now spread wide against the Woodward potholes under her float, in preparation for the song’s conclusion.  She’s almost there, straining up in every pop singer’s fellatio-inspired signature move with the mic. 

And Karen delivers!  It’s something I don’t think had ever been seen by her fans at the Joe. With “best time of the yeeeeeeear,” a stake is driven through the heart of Andy Williams. And in that moment, Karen, in apotheosis, delivers a rapid-fire series of pelvic thrusts into her skimpy hemline.

You had to see it. I remember looking down at my deaf border collie, thinking how it had all come together for me in that moment. The holidays were at last upon us. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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