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By Staff | Dec 5, 2014

This is the season wherein our thoughts turn toward performing acts of kindness for others. A prime example of such a thing might include sending a bolt of cloth to Lady Gaga so that she doesn’t have to traipse around in a dress that’s made of luncheon meats.

Speaking of vittles and bad taste, this is also the time of year when many suffer due to issues regarding food. For many of us, this discomfort comes from consuming excessive amounts of chow, but there is also the distress that involves lutefisk.

Once upon a time, I heard that lutefisk should only be consumed during the months that contain the letter “r.” Many lutefisk lovers would contend that this rule should be expanded to include the months that contain a, e, i, o and u.

This may be difficult to believe, but there are some who would turn up their noses at a lye-soaked, fish-based, food-like substance that has been dried outdoors where seabirds fly over. A few have even gone so far as to say that they detest this delicacy, so – let’s be brutally honest here – they are nothing less than Lutefisk Haters.

Lutefisk Haters have such an intense aversion to the stuff that they gag at the mere thought of being in an area where lutefisk may have been served at any time in the past or might possibly be consumed sometime in the future. I know this is so because my wife is such a person.

Given the depth of emotions regarding this issue, it’s amazing that we are still married. Few things warm my heart more than a traditional lutefisk supper on Christmas Eve. But my wife can’t stand lutefisk, so we compromise by not having lutefisk.

I might make a few discrete inquiries of some people who are “in the know” and learn of a church basement lutefisk supper that I can attend “on the sly.” But I think my wife knows what I am up to during these “business seminars” because she insists that I burn my clothes as soon as I get home.

Another source of misery that rears its discordant head at this time of year is choir practice.

As a kid, I was forced to be part of numerous Christmas choirs. Note that I didn’t say “sing in.” I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty sure that I invented the art of lip-synching.

As soon as Thanksgiving was over, choir practice would begin. Back then, federal law mandated that kids be in at least two Christmas choirs, one for the school Christmas concert and a similar event for Sunday School. You would think that after all that choir practice I would sing like an angel, but no.

It’s not like our choir directors didn’t try. Quite the opposite. She (our directors were always female) would gesture vigorously as she cajoled us with such instructions as, “Open your mouths!” and “SING!” and “I can’t hear ANY of you boys!”

There was a good reason she couldn’t hear any of the boys: none of us were singing. Boys who actually sang often became the object of derision. Their still-developing and fragile sense of manliness might be called into question; the term “sissy” might be trotted out.

The choir didn’t suffer due to my chronic nonparticipation. I had experimented with singing in the privacy of our dairy barn and was appalled by the results. The noises that issued from my throat startled me and caused me to think that perhaps someone was choking a toad. The cow that I was milking agreed, making her opinion known by lifting her tail and releasing a burst of methane.

And our choir directors always seemed to have such high ambitions for us! This was the cause of much suffering on both sides of the baton.

I blame the recording industry. My theory is that our choir directors had listened to recordings of professional musicians singing Gregorian chants and thought, “By golly, there’s no reason that our choir, which is made up of musically inexperienced farm kids, can’t sound exactly like that!”

To hear a good example of this, go to YouTube and type in “Chanticleer” followed by something such as “Shenandoah” or “Stille Nacht.”

See what I mean? There is no way a normal human kid choir could produce that type of harmonizing! Their poor choir director must have gestured her arm off.

Compared to the members of Chanticleer, I have a negative level of musical ability. So the way I see it, my not singing was nothing less than a selfless act of kindness.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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