Jim Maijala's Phunk Phiction -- A Different Funk Christmas (by Yvonne Graf)

From: "Yvonne Graf" <ybo@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: (GFR/RK) a differnet funk christmas
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 19:40:50 -0600

With apologies to 'Jim's a Good Man's Brother' who wrote an entertaining version of a Funk Christmas Carol. I've written my own, which helped me get through the Christmas season in 1998. I've only shared this with a few people, and now I'm ready to share it with my Funk friends. This has been very therapeutic to write, and I don't think comes close to the great stuff Jim writes, but I hope you all enjoy it! I'm putting it out in three parts, tonight part 1.

Merry Christmas every one!

Yvonne NWORK

* * * * *

1998 -- it had been a bad year.

It started out in March on my sister's birthday, not that it had anything to do with my sister. My father passed away on her birthday, March 28th. He'd been ill for years, but went down hill very quickly and passed away early in the morning. I got the call at 5am.

Two months later my mother passed away. She too had been ill for a few years. She passed away on Mother's day. Needless to say, I have more then one reason not to celebrate that day any more.

My one good time had been that summer when Grand Funk played the rib fest for free! What a great night, what a time, but over too soon.

The band I had been with was breaking up at the end of the year, and I felt like my life was truly over. I would grow old and wither into something I didn't want to be. My new job was hectic; PC support is never boring but very monotonous. Dealing with people who either feel that they know more then you, or don't want to do what you tell them to fix their PCs, then wonder why it won't work. Needless to say, when the holidays came around I had no Christmas spirit. No need to really care about it. I put up my Christmas tree only because my best friend's children would come over on Christmas Eve, but I had no fun doing it. No joy as I usually do.

I left work on Christmas Eve only half heartily giving the Merry Christmas to my co-workers as they headed home to their families. I had plenty of friends to spend Christmas with, more then a couple of invitations, but I would spend my Christmas as I always did with my best friend and her family. I just hoped I wouldn't make theirs as miserable as mine was feeling.

I spent Christmas Eve preparing a dinner for my friend, her three boys and husband. We spent the evening watching the Blues Brothers (a holiday tradition believe it or not) eating home made sugar cookies and opening presents.

After they left I opened the presents from my sister who lives in California, and my brother from Arizona. (I live in Minnesota). Judging from their letters and phone calls they too were having problems with the holidays, but surviving as I was.

I then called it a night and went to bed early, knowing that my friend would be over early to head to her Mom's house where the Christmas day celebration would be.

It was cold out, and I threw my mother's quilt over me and soon drifted off to sleep. I awoke to a chime or a bong. Funny, I had no clock in the house that bonged or chimed. They all buzzed.

I looked up and saw a light. My window faces the street where there's a street light so at first I thought it was that or it was a car's headlight but it was neither. Then I realized there was a man standing there.

Now I know I should've been startled but I wasn't. Instead I was curious as I stared at this apparition that stood before me and looked oddly familiar. This was the only thing that kept me from reaching for the baseball bat I kept by my bed.

He stood about 5'7", with long flowing dark blond hair that hung to his waist. He wore satin pants and a silver armband on his left bicep, and no shirt. He held a silver guitar and had a bright smile, almost as bright as the light around him.

"Who the hell are you?" I asked rubbing my eyes. "And what are you doing here?"

"Well, now that's a howdy-do." He said slinging the guitar onto his back. "I'm the spirit of your past."

"Sorry, but it's not every day I get a glowing shirtless guy with a silver guitar standing in front of me in the middle of the night.". Not that I haven't dreamed it I thought, but I had a feeling he could read my thoughts for his smile brightened if that was possible.

"You are to come with me." He said holding out his hand.

"Uh, where? It's the middle of the night.and Christmas Eve, Christmas really. Only the Kwickie Mart and Super America's are open now. You don't need me to get gas and milk."

He made no comment only grabbed my hand and before I knew it we were -- the only way I can describe it -- flying. We ended up in what looked like St. Paul, but how could that be? There were buildings and bridges that weren't there or I know had been torn down. I then realized we were standing in front of the St. Paul Civic center arena, which I knew was in the process of being torn down.

"What are we doing in St. Paul." I asked him then saw the sign in front of the Civic read Grand Funk Railroad.

"Wait a second, the last time Grand Funk played the Civic was in 1973." I looked up at the spirit and he only smiled at me and we moved -- or floated or something -- down to the entrance. Two girls I knew but couldn't believe I was seeing were standing in front of the glass doors.

"My gosh! It's my sister and me!" I said putting my free hand to my mouth. He still had hold of my other hand. It felt more like I had my hand in cool water.

"Remember this night.how you and your sister and best friend waited the whole day to get good seats. Was it worth it?" He asked.

"Yes. The best night of my life!" I said. "I was only 16. And you ... er ... Mark kept throwing pics at me, but I never got one. And Don tried to give me this firecracker." my voice trailed off.

We faded inside the Civic and I saw them again, as they were in 1973. The large screen above the stage showing movies, the placed jammed with kids on their feet screaming and dancing including my friend, my sister and myself. The band, Mark dressed as the spirit with me was, Don in his basketball outfit and Afro. Mel in a bright yellow suit. Craig banging away at the keyboards. It was so real it was surreal.

"Come we must leave now." he said.

"Wait please -- a few more minutes. At least through 'Inside looking out'"?

But there was no stopping him and again we floated or flew and I was in the house I lived in as a teenager.

My father snored in his recliner; my sister sat on the floor her back against the couch writing to her pen pals. My mother crocheting in her chair trying to keep her ball of yarn away from my cat Bumble (named after Mel). My brother and I sat on the couch giving our opinions of the football game on TV. The Vikings were winning and it was a happy time in the house that day.

I didn't realize it but I had tears on my face. Seeing my parents alive. Seeing my family together. It was the last Christmas we spent as a family. My brother would be offered a job out of state and move away. My sister would be joining the army soon, meet her husband and move to California. My parents would transfer to Iowa in a few years.

I saw myself pick up my cat just as he was about to snatch my mother's yarn and head downstairs where I would read, write or draw as I listened to a little AM station out of Little Rock -- one you could pick up after dark. It was the only place I really heard my favorite group, Grand Funk. The first station I heard play "Inside Looking Out", "Heartbreaker" and "Winter and my Soul".

"Time to go." said the spirit and before I knew it, it all faded.

* * * * *

Part 2 tomorrow ...

From: "Yvonne Graf" <ybo@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: (GFR/RK) a differnet funk christmas part II
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 18:22:46 -0600

Part II

* * * * *

I suddenly was back in my bed and again heard the bong/chime twice of a non-existent clock in my house.

Again I saw a bright light at the foot of my bed and I sat up.

Instead of a short guy with long hair, I saw a very tall man, with dark curly hair surrounding his strikingly handsome face. His eyes so blue, they sparkled and a smile that looked like a Crest add. He wore of all things a purple lamé basketball outfit with 00 on the front, with no other words on it -- but I could imagine Mr. Asskicker. I saw he wore white knee high tube socks and Adidas tennis shoes that I haven't seen in over 20 years. In his hands he held drumsticks, but these were no ordinary drumsticks. They looked to have silvery powder on them, and when he moved them around this silvery powder flew around kind of like Tinker Bells' wand on the Wonderful World of Disney.

"Um, let me guess.you're the spirit of my present?" I asked eyeing him.

He cocked a silvery powdered drumstick at me.

"You got it Babe.," he said with a wink. "Come, got some ground to cover!" He held the drumstick out to me and I took hold of it and once again had that flying, floating feeling.

We landed in a smokey bar that I had been at the weekend before. Up on the stage there was a band playing. They were loud -- very loud. I stood next to myself. I was aiming a spotlight at the lead guitarist as he ripped through an awesome solo. This was the band I had been with for the last two years. They were breaking up at the end of year. But, that was the farthest from my mind as the spirit and I head banged through their version of Bush's "Machine Head". Silvery powder was flying, let me tell you!

The music slowly faded and the spirit and I watched as we tore down the equipment in the empty bar. This was the hard work part of being in a band as any one who's been in one can tell you. This band too had a pretty elaborate light set up so it was more work then most bands. The work didn't bother me though. I loved this part, tearing down and setting up even if the band members hated it. It was the time we all talked and joked around. We'd laugh as we wound up mic cords and carried floor monitors to the bus that we hoped would make it through the end of the year.

"I'll miss this so much." I said as the drummer, a very talented mimic did a great imitation of the Roadrunner.

"They'll still be your friends." the spirit said looking down at me with those blue eyes.

"Yeah, but it won't be the same."

"You already have plans next year, isn't that right?" he asked.

It was true I did have plans. I was going camping in the Boundary Waters with the bass player and some other friends that summer. There were parties and picnics planned with other members. Still I felt a loss and emptiness.

"Time to leave." he said and that floating feeling and then we were standing in my living room. It was the night before, Christmas Eve and I sat on my couch with my girlfriend's 10-year-old son. We ate sugar cookies and watched as John Bulishi did cartwheels and the splits as the Blues Brothers sang about their Sweet Home Chicago. A fire roared in the fireplace and the Christmas lights just added to the warmth.

Tristan, the 10-year-old wore the shirt I'd given him for Christmas, now covered with cookie crumbs, but I didn't care. He and the other boys -- 13 year old Justin and 17 year old Rob -- all had to put on the clothes I'd gotten them. They are boys, but clothes were what they wanted. They all had different tastes at least. I gotten hugs and thank yous from them. I've known these boys since they were born and they felt sometimes like my own.

My friend's marriage was falling apart at this time, but the evening went well despite that. It was basically a very happy Christmas, yet I couldn't help the feeling of emptiness. Even looking on this scene didn't change the fact that I wasn't in the Christmas spirit.

"My job is done." Said the spirit with a wave of a silvery drumstick. And once again I was in my bed, the quilt up to my nose as I heard the bong/chime three times ...

* * * * *

Tomorrow part III and thanks to all for the compliments! This does come from the heart.

From: "Yvonne Graf" <ybo@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: (GFR/RK) a different funk christmas part III
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 20:22:47 -0600

Part III

* * * * *

I looked down at the foot of my bed, and again there was a light but not as bright as the first two had been. A rather short looking man stood there dressed all in black. Black shirt, black cape, black pants and boots. He held a black bass guitar, which took me a little bit to notice since it blended in so well with his cape. He had dark curly hair, although not even close to what the previous spirit had. Long black eyelashes surrounded his dark brown eyes that should've given him an innocent look, but with the goatee he only seemed foreboding to me. With this spirit I heard music ... it was ... yes ... the bass line to Paranoid??

A million comments came to me.

Johnny Cash?


Didn't you know black is slenderizing and you don't need it buddy.but I didn't say any of that.

I knew it was the spirit of my future, the one I feared the most for who really wants to know their future? I already had a taste of that when I saw my family from almost 25 years before, and knew what was in store for us.

He said nothing, only moved his cape toward me and I took hold of it. That now familiar floating/flying feeling and I was again in my living room, at least it looked like my living room. I had my Christmas decorations up but the stocking my mother had made, the last one before she died laid on the floor in front of the dark fireplace. The tree which I would put at least 500 lights on now looked to have only one strand lit, and it blinked as if ready to go at any time. Tinsel hung limply and even dragged on the floor.

I sat alone on my couch, my face buried in my knees. I was alone, and it was cold. So cold without the lights, the friends and the fire roaring. No sugar cookies, no Blues Brothers. My cats weren't even around which they always were when I sat down. I had three affectionate lap cats.

I looked at the spirit wondering if this was true, but before I could say anything he raised his cape just a bit and we were off again and I found myself in what looked like a graveyard. It wasn't just any graveyard though; it was the one my parents were buried in, outside a small town in Kansas.

Frost covered the shiny marble and granite stones. I looked at the spirit puzzled to why he had brought me here and all he did was point.

After my mother died, we went back to Kansas in August and bought a stone. It was delivered shortly before Thanksgiving. I have never seen it in person, although I'd seen pictures of it so I knew it was their stone, yet couldn't believe what I saw. It was not covered in frost, nor where there silk flowers placed at the base. Instead it was covered with ugly twines that looked like evil fingernails. The leaves brown, the branches thorny.

I pulled at the vines with my free hand and saw my parents' names. The stone had been forgotten and neglected. There had been no one to care for them.

"Please tell me spirit can I change these images?" I asked on my knees now in front of the stone.

"These are only shadows of the future." He said in a whisper. "If things do not change, these shadows will come true."

"I can change them. I can." I pleaded. "Please spirit give me a chance!"

He only looked at me with his dark eyes, then raised his cape just a bit and again I was in my bed. This time though there was no bong/chime. Instead I heard my cat meow. I saw the sunshine outside the window looking even brighter against the snow.

It was Christmas morning.

I jumped out of bed and dressed. In the living room, I couldn't resist turning on my lights that even despite the bright daylight, lit up the room even more. I went to the fireplace and touched the stocking that hung there, the one my mother had made before she died. I felt her then. I knew she was there with me and I whispered a Merry Christmas to her and dad.

I gave my cats a Merry Christmas hug and gave them each a can of Fancy Feast. I gathered up my presents and camera and headed out the door.

People in warm weather climates will never really appreciate crisp cold, sun shiny mornings, especially the ones in Minnesota. The sun so strong that even when it's below 0, it feels warm. The air smells good and feels good. On Christmas morning this is especially true! I'll admit though that even a blizzard would not have ruined my day!

Tristan met me at my car as I pulled into their driveway.

"Merry Christmas!" I said as I hugged him.

As many know, Christmas can be stressful for anyone, and my friend's family was no different. As mentioned before, she had been having marital problems and I could see that there may have been a disagreement, but this did not damper my Christmas!

I asked which kid or kids would like to ride with me and the two younger ones did. We laughed and joked on the 20-minute ride to my friend's mothers' home. I turned the radio up and we blasted some loud rock music, then some alternative Christmas music, then back to the rock music.

Once at the house we talked some, opened presents and ate a wonderful turkey dinner. I played with the kids, helped the younger ones put together presents and insert batteries.

At one point my friend pulled me aside and asked how I was doing.

"Wonderful! It's been fun, huh?" She looked at me puzzled, probably remembering how I'd been out of it the night before. I assured her all was well and would tell her -- about what I was convinced now only a dream -- later on. We would have a few jokes over these so-called spirits that had haunted my dream, yet changed my life like their life counterparts had done in many ways.

After the celebration I was home again. I lit a fire and grabbing the phone sat next to it and called my sister. We talked for hours and even talked about that great night back in 1973. My sister was not a huge Grand Funk fan, but being my sister she went with me to the concerts (we went to two in the 70's) and I attended one Osmond concert for her (hey, that's sacrifice enough!). In our sophomore yearbook it's my sister, not me wearing the Grand Funk T-shirt (I'll put it on my site and really embarrass her!). I then called my brother and we talked for a long time as I held my black cat Q in my lap. She purred softly digging her head into my hand. It was my brother who really got me into Grand Funk. He had been a fan in the early 70's.

By the time I got off the phone it was almost 1am. The fire was only red embers and I closed the glass doors, leaving the chute open. I got up putting Q on the couch and turned off the Christmas lights and headed down the hall to bed. I felt like I had had no sleep at all since the day before Christmas Eve.

I pulled back my Mother's quilt. In the corner of my eye I swear I saw silvery dust like the stuff Tinker Bell has on her wand in the Wonderful World of Disney, but I'm sure it was just my imagination playing tricks on me.

I looked down and just under the pillow was what looked like a silver armband.

* * * * *

Most of this is just a story, but the following is true:

My parents did pass away -- which is the reason I wrote this, and it did make me feel better last Christmas.

I did start a new job about the same time my father died.

Even though it is not listed in either Sunny's or Billy's book, Grand Funk did play the St. Paul Civic Center on October 20, 1973. I have a newspaper ad and a ticket stub to prove it. Even the canceled check my mother wrote for the tickets with "Grand Funk" in the memo.

Yes I did go to an Osmond concert I'm ashamed to say.

I did roadie for a local band, who did break up at the end of 1998. There is talk of some of the members reforming. I think I could talk them into doing some GF songs.

Yes, we do have lasagna, sugar cookies and watch the Blues Brothers on Christmas Eve. Have for close to 10 years now.

This is for everyone who will have Christmas without a loved one. Hope you found some comfort in it. Judging from the responses, you did! THANKS!

God bless and everyone have a wonderful Christmas!

How'd I do Jim?

The Grand Funk Railroad Web

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