All I Want Is You, Part II

October 30th, 2007

Bray’s Island Wedding“If it feels like I’m leaning on you to keep from passing out, I am.”

I am standing beneath an ivy-covered trellis adjacent to the Inn at Brays Island.

I am wearing a navy blue, two-button Versace suit; a pinpoint cotton, spread collar, French-cuffed Charles Tyrwhitt shirt; a navy, periwinkle and brown diagonally striped Luigi Borrelli tie, and Joseph Aboud wing-tips.

My right hand is resting on Bo’s shoulder, my left on Sibby’s. My family is jostling around me, all of us in some sort of stunned, awed, overwhelmed silence.

The strings begin “Clair De Lune.” My mother tears up.

“Do you know what song this is, honey? Your grandfather loved that song.”

“Do I know what song it is?” I laughed. “I’m the Music Director, mom. I picked it.”

She kisses my cheek and smiles as Chris — with a squint and grin in my direction — leads her down the aisle.

The aisle, as it were, is one-hundred feet of fierce green grass leading to a giant, Spanish moss-strewn Live Oak in the center of the Inn’s great lawn.

Before the tree in two sections of eight rows of eight seats each, some 109 guests’ necks are craned in my direction.

The sun has broken through the rain clouds, and is casting silver and gold diamonds on the now-cerulean waters of the Pocotaligo River.

Bo, who is humming “Claire d’ Lune,” squeezes my hand, and sets off down the aisle. He reaches the alter — a thicket of mulch and palm fronds at the base of the tree — and the music stops.

A lone cello begins the bass line of Badly Drawn Boys’ “The Shining.” I pause — waiting for the counter-melody two bars in — take a deep breath, and begin walking down the aisle…

Shoulders back. Slowly. Smile. Eye contact. Slow down. Oh my God the river looks amazing. The sky is so blue. There’s Ron! And Tony! Fish! Slow down. Smile. Uncle Jim. Don’t trip. Dad. Hey Dad. Holy shit, that’s my Dad. And I’m getting married!

I am standing between Bo and Chris, the live oak — as thick and wide as a Volkswagen — to our backs. I look towards the cellist and wink just as the last notes of my accompaniment fade into the sound of the wind through the tree.

The temperature is 87 degrees. The humidity is 100%.

I reach into my back pocket and wipe my forehead with the color-coordinated Paul Smith hanky Abbi slipped under my door in the night.

The strings begin again, and Jennifer points Ethan and Edward in our direction. Ethan’s reddish-blond bangs are spit-styled to perfection, curling across his forehead like some Botticelli cherub. Ethan stares at his shoes. He holds his brother’s hand in his right, our rings in his left. Edward, still new to walking, veers off a bit, but is course corrected by his brother. I choke up — somewhere between tears and laughter — as they approach. Chris steps forward. Ethan hands him the rings. There isn’t a straight face or a dry eye among us.

The music stops.

All eyes turn towards my wife-to-be….

What Lookin’ Pretty Cool’ll Getcha’, Part III

October 28th, 2007

It’s a sad chapter, one about which we rarely speak.

Chris, Tony, Ryan and I met in high school (Ryan was actually in seventh grade, but close enough). MTV was all about Skid Row, Mr. Mister and Mike & The Mechanics at the time, but we weren’t feelin’ it.

One day after school, Chris and I discovered a dusty cardboard box in my attic. The box was one of the few relics left an my older sister, Penelope — from whom we haven’t heard since she left home to become a flight attendent at seventeen-years-old — was chocked full of amazing records: The Clash, Husker Du, Pylon, Guadalcanal Diary, Joy Division. Really great stuff.

The four of us spent entire afternoons in my basement listening to those records on a beat up Realistic Hi-Fi, pantomiming the parts. It was until just prior the Trippleberry High School Battle Of The Bands that it occurred to us that we could play those songs ourselves — or at least try.

Thus, Buckeye was born.

We performed a new song call “Wonderful” (later to be re-jiggered as “Wonderwall,” then stolen and made famous by Oasis) at the Battle Of The Bands. Unfortunately, a far more accomplished quartet of juniors, Deke Dylan & The Drillbits, took top prize with an incindiary power-pop song called “Labotomize U.” (Incidently, Deke went on to join “Life is a Highway” one-hit-wonder Tom Cochrane’s touring band and was last seen stepping off a tour bus in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.)

The crushing loss galvanized us. We started eating right, jogging, and lifting weights. We took to studying Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Bob Mould’s vocals, Mick Jones guitar sound, Michael Lachowski bass lines and and John Poe’s drum patterns. We studied the great songwriters, from Rogers & Hammerstein to Lennon & McCartney. We wrote a thousand crappy songs before we cracked the code.

We broke through with a little song called “Girlfriend” — and we knew it. It was a simple dual-guitar, 1-3-5 blues number about meeting a girl (in this case, the focus of Tony’s sixteen-year-old affection, Susie Plouchbaum, a toe-headed, sleepy-eyed freshman who worshipped Sylvia Plath and Robert Smith in equal measure). You know the song: Matthew Sweet made it huge just a few years later. Here’s how our publicist, Billie Fleckman (yes, Bobbie’s daughter), summarized that August and everything after in last week’s three paragraph press release:

Just over eighteen years ago, a quartet of natty teens took the then-fledgling CMJ Festival by storm. Buckeye’s electrifying set at Greenwich Village’s Electric Banana (don’t look for it; it’s not there) became the high water mark of ’90s alternative pop performances, featuring incendiary guitar playing, saccharine vocal hooks, and knock-down, drag-out onstage fistfights.

Years later, Buckeye’s songs have been made famous by many of the musicians who witnessed this now-legendary flameout: Oasis, Matthew Sweet, The Dandy Warhols, Paul Westerberg, and The Gin Blossoms, to name just a few. Due to ongoing litigation with their defunct (but well-represented) record label, Flaming Cochlea, the quartet remains destitute, unknown, and relegated to selling pints of blood, quarts of saliva, and radio jingles (yunno’ that PC Richards’ whistle?) to make ends meet.

This Saturday night, Chris Abad, Tony Maceli, Ryan Vaughn and Benjamin Wagner reclaim their rightful place in the pantheon of ’90s alternative greats and salvage their reputation as America’s Most Punctual Rock Band.

    There aren’t a ton of worse things to call a band than “cover band” (“wedding band” is a close second), so the fact that everyone thinks that’s what we are kind of galls me. Without us, Oasis wouldn’t have “Wonderwall.” Without us, Cracker wouldn’t have “Low.” Without us, there would be no Gin Blossoms (Bill Leen was in my biology class). Hell, the way Rolling Stone put it in its 2003 “Where Are They Know” cover story (well, it was in the Random Notes section anyway), we started the whole thing.

    Borrowing from The Beatles and Bacharach and a panpoly of neatly-disguised and freshly-packaged influences, Buckeye virtually invented 90s alternative rock.

    But what can ya’ do? Life hands you lemons…

    … You rock out.

    So we did.

    We played ten of our hits for just the third time in eighteen years there in the basement of The Knitting Factory Saturday night. Tony’s mustache is graying. Chris’ forhead is growing. Ryan’s lost most of his hearing. I’ve got a paunch. But yunno what? It still works. There’s plenty of magic left. All fourteen people in the crowd’ll tell you so.

    I’m not sure we’ll ever perform again, though. Some of the wounds are just too deep and painful. Many of those pesky sores too.

    We did begin the show promptly at 11:02, though. So we’ve still got that goin’ for us.

    La Luna

    October 26th, 2007

    There isn’t a ton of upside to waking up at four o’clock in the morning wrecked from an eleven hour time zone shift and a three weeks absence from the office.

    Sitting here on the couch of my Hell’s Kitchen living room just now, though, reading an article Steve Martin wrote for The New Yorker (“Through the years,” he writes, “I have learned that there is no harm in charging one’s self up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration”), I noticed a bright, white light out of the corner of my eye.

    At first I thought it was a spotlight searching the sky above the Hudson. And then I realized that it was the moon.

    Just over two weeks ago, Abbi and I woke to the sun rising over Tehran, Iran, from our 36,000 window seat and it dawned on us for the first time that we were really on our honeymoon.

    “I can’t believe I’ve been planning this trip for six months,” I said, “And I don’t even know the meaning of the word at all.”

    The Oxford English Dictionary offers no etymology for “honeymoon,” but dates the word back to the 16th century:

    “The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure” (Samuel Johnson); originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full than it begins to wane; now, usually, the holiday spent together by a newly-married couple, before settling down at home

    According to Wikipedia, the first literary reference to the honeymoon was penned in 1552, in Richard Huloet’s “Abecedarium Anglico Latinum.” Huleot writes:

    “Hony mone, a term proverbially applied to such as be newly married, which will not fall out at the first, but th’one loveth the other at the beginning excedingly, the likelyhood of their exceadinge love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people call the hony mone.”

    Huleot suggestion, then, was that new love waned like the phases of the moon, which stands to reason for any fan of Jackie Gleason, Carroll O’Connor, or Kevin James. Course, I’m more of a Bill Cosby guy myself.

    Though the sky was filled with billowing cumulus clouds during much of our wedding reception, the first few hours of our marriage were punctuated by appearances from a waning, sliver moon.

    By the time we landed in Male, Maldives, though, the moon was new. That is, the night sky was crowded with stars and the guazy film of the Milky Way, but no moon. All the better to spot shooting stars, we thought.

    Abbi is asleep now. In just under an hour, her alarm will sound, and I’ll bound down the hall, jump into bed, and talk her ear off like an excited school boy.

    Huloet didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Our moon is still waxing.

    All I Want Is You: Part I

    October 24th, 2007

    Bo Lozoff, Christofer Wagner, Sibby Browne & MeIn just three hours Abbi and I were to exchange vows beneath a three hundred-year-old live oak on the edge of the Pocotaligo River.

    I was driving myself to lunch through a full-on monsoon. My Jeep was kicking up a speedboat’s wake through the pond-sized puddles. The windshield wipers were completely overwhelmed by the downpour.

    ‘This,’ I thought, ‘sucks.’

    Three hours later, I was locked inside the front bathroom at The Inn at Brays Island reciting my vows aloud to the mirror.

    “I promise…”

    Christofer and Sibby were queued just outside the door. James — who’d facilitated all three of our conversions from a rookie half- to the more classic full-Windsor, stood alongside Bo Lozoff, our officiant.

    “It’s gonna be fine, dude,” my brother said.

    I wasn’t worried, really. Not about whether or not I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Abbi, or whether we’d nail the scripting, staging or blocking.

    Still, I was wound like a top, all short breaths, nervous prattle and heavy palpitations. Like before a rock show. Which — let’s face it — Abbi and my wedding was: three bands, two tents, open bar, a light show.

    It’s easy enough, one discovers, to be swept up in such things — portraits, poses, place settings — at such an affair. It’s easy enough, one discovers, to focus on the celebration but miss the ceremony. And while everything and everyone unwittingly conspired to that end, Abbi and I were aided and abetted by our self-described “Depth Protector,” Bo.


    My cell phone began chirping at 8:16. Sibby was sawing logs in the adjacent twin bed as I tried in vain to rest (sleep, I’d decided after an hour of tossing and turning, was a lost cause). I read Bo’s name on the display and began worrying (more succinctly, I was already worrying; I just began worrying about something new).

    Was he pulling out? Had he fallen ill? Food poisoning? Fever? Ethical dilemma?

    I left the call unanswered and went for a walk along the edge of the property. The tide was out, leaving narrow, muddy shallows through the deep green reeds. On the lawn beneath the great tree that would act as our alter, a flock of white egrets picked at the soil.

    I walked through the thicket to the dock as Abbi and I had two nights prior when — in a moment of rare and wondrous synchronicity — a pod of dolphins swam past. I sat there on the edge of the dock a while taking in the river’s slow bend through South Carolina Low Country.

    The sky was bruised purple and deep blue. The river was gray like lead. I reminded myself that my worrying would not affect the weather, and then continued worrying about it.

    It’s difficult even now with nearly three week’s distance, to characterize what I was feeling, but I’ll try.

    I felt serious. Grave. Pensive. I was trying to slow down time, to take in every glance, wink and smile, plus every note of soil, sand and salt on the air. I was trying to let this most massive transition settle in, to understand the spiritual ramifications of the day. Moreover, I was discerning — more tangibly than ever — what the rest of my life might feel like.

    Walking back towards my cottage, I spotted Abbi’s father racing off to his tee time. I heard women’s laughter, then turned to see Abbi — from whom I’d been quarantined the night prior — and her girlfriends trot off on their “Bride’s 10k.” I smiled for the first time all morning, went back to my room, and listened to my voicemail.

    “Benjamin,” Bo said in his raspy, Johnny Cash baritone, “I’ve been up since 430 thinking about you, and Abbi, and the ceremony, and I realized that we just didn’t spend enough time together yesterday. There are a few more things I think are important to discuss without anyone around.”

    I called him back, expressed my enthusiasm for his intent (wisely deferring to my wife-to-be for the timing), and then pulled on my running shoes.

    While the ladies kept to the road, I set off along the river. Everything around me was green and gray, wet with a light morning fog. A hawk circled overhead. A blue heron stood motionless in the shallows. Tiny stone crabs scurried clear of the muddy path before me. In the absence of my iPod’s raucous report, I listened to my breath, my heartbeat, and the thump of my feet on the earth.

    I hadn’t planned to run alone; I’d hoped to run with my groomsmen. This was not to be, though, so I relished the solitude and reflection.

    Later, as Bo and I sat on the front porch facing one another in rocking chairs, I was grateful for the quiet in my soul.

    “I was reflecting on Abbi and your vows,” Bo said, “And I’m not sure they’re explicit enough about your commitment to one another.”

    “Yours are beautiful and lofty and poetic and very personal, which is great. But Ben, as I just told Abbi, love is not always beautiful and poetic. It can be querulous and difficult and you may want to give up on it.”

    I watched Bo closely weighing his every word.

    “In our culture, there are plenty of voices that might say, ‘Do what’s best for you.’

    He paused.

    “But we don’t wear a ring on our finger to show our commitment to. A job, or to a place, or to anything except our commitment to one another.”

    I looked to my vows, some 300, oft-edited, well-pruned words. They began with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet (“There is nothing happier than work. And love, because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work.”) — my attempt to reflect my understanding of the work a life-long commitment might demand. Save for the phrases, “for all time” and “all of the days of our lives” though, they lacked the explicit language of foreverness.

    “Yunno, Bo, the bulk of my spiritual and psychological work — and the reason I waited so long and weighed this committment so thoroughly — has been all about work and commitment and longevity. I want to be explicit,” I said, “100%.”

    “This is “‘Til death do us part’ stuff, for sure.”

    Dubai: At Home At The End Of The World

    October 23rd, 2007

    Passport Control at Dubai International Airport seems a bit like the bridge of a Rebel Alliance starship; every stripe of the known universe is represented.

    Despite our interminable wait after a day of protracted, ass-numbing air travel, I found myself thrilled — babbling, even — in my surroundings. Everything was hard lit, brushed steel, flat screened. The arrivals board flashed flights from Addis Abba, Amsterdam, Moscow, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Tehran and Tokyo. Bedouins, Congolese tribesmen and Iranian sheikhs queued tranquilly with Indians, South Africans and Australians.

    Now, I live in New York. I see diversity every day. But this was special. This was different.

    This was the power of the free trade zone.

    Saturday morning, I shook off ill informed, xenophobic and paranoid mental pictures of Daniel Pearl, “The Kingdom,” and Gulf Wars Parts I & II, strapped on my Asics, and set out for a jog.

    Al Sufouh Road is twelve lanes of well-manicured, sand-whipped, sun-stroked concrete connecting downtown Dubai to Jumeirah Beach and the Marina. At six o’clock on a weekend morning, it is choked with Nissan mini-vans four rows deep with workers.

    See, if you’re into construction, Dubai’s your jam. Fifty percent of world’s cranes are in this city, one of seven principalities that together comprise The United Arab Emirates. They’re running 24/7, except Ramadan. And most of ’em are working for Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

    Even as recently as the 1950s, the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman was little more than a dusty collection of tribes under British rule. Prior to the discovery of oil, Dubai was a oasis of trade, pearl diving, hunting, and fishing.

    The Seven Emirates came together as the UAE in December 2, 1971 when the UN mandated British withdrawal. As the beloved “Father of Dubai,” Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, saw his oil reserved dwindling, he turned to trade and tourism. Today, Dubia is booming like no other city on the planet.

    There are some 4.5 million residents of the UAE. Over a quarter of the population lives in Dubai, 80% of whom are foreign nationals, all of whom are there for one of three reasons: money, money, money.

    It’s a crazy place, like Vegas by the sea on massive doses of steroids.

    It’s the kind of place where — apparently lacking sufficient waterfront property — they build their own islands and import their own dolphins. It’s the kind of place where rent is half of one’s salary, but a bottle of water is $.25, and a gallon of gas is less than a buck.

    My jog from Le Meridian Mina Seyahi to the now-famous (thanks to massive marketing efforts and a sky-high tennis match on a helipad) Dubai icon, Burj Al Arab, is a study in excess and contrasts.

    Hulking, slender, half-built skyscrapers — including the 180+ story Burj Dubai — punctuate the horizon. I pass Internet City, Media City, and Knowledge Village, all dead ringers for any given Southern California planned community (save for the Arabic).

    Dubai College, there on the corner of Al Sufouh and Umm Suqeim Roads, features a well-detailed fleet of jet-black school busses parked amidst a lushly-landscaped campus of local high-grasses and imported flowers all irrigated (like the rest of the city) by an intricate series of drip-hoses just below the topsoil.

    Al Sufouh is dotted with Shaikh’s palaces, each more grand, more imposing, and more gated than the next. It is lined by well-watered date palms and air-conditioned bus stops.

    A thirty-foot billboard touts “The Most Exclusive Penthouses In The World.” A few miles later, another touts Hardees’ new mushroom burger. (Later, in Dubai International Airport, we spotted the McArabia: Hallel beef patty, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki on a pita — yum!)

    Further north, Dubai Creek divides Bur Dubai from Dera Dubai. This working harbor is crowded with over 800 working dows — hand-built wooden trade ships that have sailed between Dubai, India, Iran, Iraq, East Africa since before Christ. Along the northern edge of the creek, water taxis ferry tourists and locals alike to the gold and spice souks as they have for over two thousand years.

    Dubai is a monarchy. When Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum eventually dies, his family will choose from one of his nineteen children from one of his two wives.

    Which makes the whole experiment pretty interesting. In a way, the UAE is much like the United States circa Jamestown. Except no one’s flocking to this gold leaf gilded oasis to flee persecution or seek religious freedom. Global businesses — they’re all there, or on their way — are in Dubai because it’s the crossroads of the world. Europe, Africa, Russia, China, India are all within reach. Moreover, though, it won’t cost you anything. Until, perhaps, the monarchy changes its mind.

    Still, Dubai is like an open socket. It’s a mad anthill, everyone scurrying about, toting something, building something. It’s bursting at the seems. It can’t wait for the future, and the future is now.

    As the sun faded into the Arabian Sea, Karachi mopped up its blood, South Africa and England faced off in the Rugby World Cup, and Southern California slipped from a smoulder to a inferno, Abbi and I sat on the terrace of Le Meridian in a daze ticking off the remaining minutes of our honeymoon.

    If this is how the world ends, I thought, at least we’re well tanned, well rested, and well loved.


    October 20th, 2007

    The Maldives: Half A World Away

    October 18th, 2007

    I counted five shooting stars on the way back from the bathroom last night.

    The North Star was so bright, I mistook it for the moon.

    Just now, stepping from the outdoor shower, I saw a blue-gray porcupine fish the size of a springer spaniel floating sentry at the stairs leading to the lagoon. The shallow aqua water stretches for two hundred yards to a line of white-capped, wind-brushed waves curling over the reef.

    Beyond that: deep blue.

    I come to you now (courtesy of Research In Motion, Ltd.) from a 2800-square-foot, three bedroom, two-deck, three-entrance, over-water villa at Soneve Gili Resort & Six Sense Spa on Lankanfushi Island in the North Male Atol of the Republic of Maldives.

    We are three planes (New York-Dubai, Dubai-Columbo, Columbo-Male), one boat, and some 9368 miles southeast from New York City where the hour hand sweeps precisely eleven hours prior.

    We are half a world away.

    By way of demonstration:

    Yesterday morning, in a pre-dawn snorkle just before departing the more-stylish but less-luxurious Cocoa Palm Bodu Hithi for here, we spotted a unicorn fish, giant moray eel, and two eagle rays just off shore.

    Which says nothing of the table, brain and staghorn corals; needle, black-footed clown and lion fish; green turtles, leopard moray and garden eels; and white-tipped reef sharks we’ve seen over the course of some half dozen scuba dives last week.

    In the moments between our morning snorkle and afternoon boat, Abbi and I sat on our back porch silently staring at the sea. Reflecting on our first week here, one market by sunrise, sunset, and the ebb and flow of tides, I considered our perception of the passage of time.

    A yellowed leaf fell lazily from a hibiscus tree, and I thought, ‘Here, I am marking this tree’s life cycle one leaf at a time. At home, I miss entire seasons.’

    This necklace of tiny islands here in the Indian Ocean is teaming with life and brimming with beauty above and below the sea.

    Even with Bruce Springsteen’s Magic on the Bose Surround Sound Stereo™, it’s difficult to recall the din of Times Square. Moreover, it’s difficult to recall why wouldn’t trade that island for this in a heartbeat.

    Puffers for blowhards? Clown fish for clowns? Dhonis for cabs? Water for concrete?

    It’s gonna be a long walk home.

    Good news is: I have an able partner, and she’s in it for the long haul.

    Right now, though, she’s in the lagoon up to her knees. So you’ll forgive me, dear reader, if I dive in…

    Abbigail Keller & Benjamin Wagner

    October 6th, 2007

    Diamonds & A Ring Of Gold

    October 2nd, 2007

    I’ve been listening to U2’s “All I Want Is You” for three days straight.

    The Ts are crossed and Is are dotted.

    Abbi and I have scripted and scored our ceremony, fifteen copies of which are printed in a pink file folder with “Wedding” in big, block, Sharpie letters. “Honey” takes its own folder.

    I have written my vows, some 307 word that clock in — unharried — at just over two minutes.

    The bands — there are three: a string trio, a nine-piece r ‘n b band with horns (Mo’ Soul), plus the guys (Chris, Casey, Tony and Ryan) — know their cues.

    My navy, two-button, single-vent Versace suit is cleaned and pressed. My black, wing-tipped Joseph Abboud dress shoes are packed safely inside my garment bag. Three pair of dress socks, two fresh-white undershirts, and a pair of blue-enamel cuff links all wait in their original packaging.

    I am ready.

    Everything looks different these days: deeper, richer, more textured. Everything seems symbolic: a man playing saxophone, an elderly woman leaning on a bus stop, a toddler gaining his legs. Everything unfolds in slow motion.

    Tomorrow, we board US Airways Flight 204 for Charleston, SC. Thursday we apply for our marriage license at the Beaufort County Probate Court. On Friday — following the state-mandated 24-hour waiting period — we receive the license. On Saturday we sign it.

    Then we’re off.

    I’m pretty sure Abbi and I have no idea what we’re really about to do.

    Which is completely awesome.

    Baby, Please Come Home

    October 1st, 2007

    Once again, Christmas has come early to Soho.

    As we speak, Chris, Tony and Ryan are taking their second pass at “Feliz Navidad” here at Travis Harrison’s Serious Business Studios.

    Chris’ version — tracked well in advance of the October 15 “A Family Records Holiday” deadline — turns the tune on its ear in two ways. First, Chris the chose Jose Feliciano classic because (he tells me) everyone thinks he’s Latino (he’s Phillipino).

    Second, he’s playing some deep, dark, twisted chords. It’s awesome.

    Like Chris said as we approached the studio, here on Spring and Crosby across from Balthazar, “Sunday is the new Friday.” Which explains us here rockin’ out Christmas tunes towarads the wee hours.

    We nailed a live-to-tape version of “Christmas (Please Come Home)” on the fourth take. So deep was I into my cups, so dark was the iso booth, and so slammin’ was the groove that I had to steady myself against the wall with both arms to keep from falling over.

    Our version doesn’t reinvent the tune (which Darlene Love first recorded in 1963 and U2 so ably covered — with Ms. Love on backing vocals — for the 1987 Special Olympics benefit, “A Very Special Christmas”), though I did encourage the band to be “more Replacements than Ronettes.”

    Either way, I only hope that — just as Bono, Bruce and Bryan Adams provided a soundtrack for Chris and my egg nogg-fueled luminaria driving tours — our little record will provide a rockin’ Yule for at least one dysfunctional family somewhere.