Steve Albini: obvious grinch, right? Wrong! The legendary audio engineer and punk provocateur, a notorious curmudgeon, published a moving essay for HuffPo about his two-decade tradition of surprising needy families with gifts on Christmas morning, inspired by a pile of letters to Santa Claus at the post office. It’s called “Why I Haven’t Had a Conventional Christmas in 20 Years.” Here’s how it begins:
Nineteen years ago, my wife Heather Whinna stopped by the post office on the way home. She found bins there full of letters addressed to Santa Claus, left out by the post office for people to read and answer. Curious, she read a few of the letters and couldn’t believe what she saw.
These weren’t impish requests for toys or a new bike; mostly, they were desperate pleas from heads of households asking for help. It was staggering. People let down by the remnants of a social safety net, without families or abandoned by their families, people suffering sickness, poverty and abuse. People so far out on a limb that they swallowed what pride they had left, took pen in hand and wrote down everything that had failed them, everything that had broken or been stolen, everything that had hurt them and made them feel fear and shame and worry.
They described anguish over their children’s needs, their hunger, their lack of appropriate clothing, school supplies and other basic needs.They described homes they could barely afford to stay in, wretched though they were. They described relationships wracked by abuse, the legal system, disease and addiction. They addressed their problems to Santa Claus at the North Pole and sent them by mail into the vacuum of humanity that had left them so desperate.
Albini goes on to describe going with Whinna to drop off the gifts and the charitable tradition that evolved from there, and he details an annual 24-hour comedy benefit she organized through her employer, Second City. It’s a moving, sentimental read, but it also includes lines like: “Who is that motherfucker, that piece of shit that chases people into a basement using fear as a torch? Bring me to him so I can spit in his eye.” Read the whole thing here.
Thanks to commenter son_of_cheap_suit for the tip.