I’ve long held that National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is not only the GREATEST movie of it’s kind, but also a complete enigma. By all rights, this movie should have sucked. Third movie in the series, completely different children that somehow reverse-aged, and a now-old news plot of Clark Griswold screwing up royally. As you already are aware, it didn’t suck, it seemingly never gets old, and is watchable even when you know every line, every word to Mele Kalikimaka, and every story beat. It is also a movie that I watched every year of my teen through adult life with my Father over Christmas break, a tradition that ended with his death on, you guessed it – Christmas Night 2012. I have not been able to sit through the movie in it’s entirety since then, and it makes me incredibly sad and angry with myself at the same time. However, as we owners approached our annual holiday photo and tried to plan out what we would do, it just clicked for me and we did what any small business with a giant dilapidated bathroom trailer sitting on their front lawn would do – we hung lights on it and decided to pay homage to this movie. And just like the movie, minor language warning ahead.
As we walked out to take the picture, the whole thing just struck me as surreal. Here we were, one year after the infamous “Gravel Pile” photo and blog post, and we are walking outside – me in my best Cousin Eddie attire, Bub with no pants on and Jay in a Santa hat he only wears once a year, because I make him, pretty standard stuff – to take a “Shitter’s Full” photo in front of an ACTUAL FREAKIN’ SHITTER that has been sitting on our property for almost two years. A year prior, one year to the day, I swore to you all that we would be positive and look to make lemonade at every negative turn, and I believe we 100% met that promise, even in the face of the pandemic and all the behind the scenes things happening to us that few are aware of. But I digress – here we are, walking out to stand next to the gravel pile and take this new photo. And I thought to myself “self…. Don’t they say that art imitates life? Or is it the other way around?” So, we took the picture, and then I hit up trusty google to see if I had that correct.
It appears that there was some philosophical arm wrestling happening on this topic, but Oscar Wilde apparently put the whole thing to bed when he wrote “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. Wilde was distilling down a notion that had been discussed since Aristotle was still kicking about, and deals, plainly, with the boundary between fiction and reality. And I find it harder to come up with a more appropriate allegory to our current brewery and tap room situation than the crossover of reality and fiction, because, dear readers, if you knew ¼ of the stuff happening to us behind the scenes, you’d swear we were existing in a wild reality show, Survivor – Broken Goblet. But, in keeping with the holiday theme, I thought it might be interesting to look at my favorite holiday movie and how our story over the past 12 months might be life imitating art. If you have not already clicked out of this, strap in, grab a drink, and watch what I do here.
ART – Clark Griswold was a kind hearted man who’s dream was to use his hard earned money from long hours at work to create a new backyard entertainment destination so his extended family could come hang out and enjoy what he created. He was well liked by his co-workers but had a contentious relationship with his boss, and he just hoped that everything would work out. Clark thought his hard work would pay off and help make the dream come true and was already invested in the success. His quirky family prepared for the holiday, and he, as usual, went over the top in his event prep. An unexpected visitor to the house certainly caused problems, but Clark was already accustomed to dealing with unexpected problems, so he rolled with it as best as he could. Even unexpected animals in the house were managed. When issues arose, Clark dealt with them, often comically, but still solved them. When he realized the financial ruin he was in by making the decision to upgrade his surroundings, he wished his boss would be able to see the turmoil his decisions caused, and empathize with the Griswold’s plight. Clark’s boss is ultimately called to reckon with the poor decisions of the past and recognized his errors, negotiating a settlement with the family and helping to create a happy ending.
Yes, I know I took some liberties and missed some great moments, but I think we can agree that my synopsis is accurate, if a little dry, and sums up the story. Fair? Fair. Ok, here we go:
LIFE – Broken Goblet’s owners were fun and warm-hearted business people who wanted to use hard earned money from long hours at work to create a new entertainment destination so their extended family could come hang out and enjoy what was created. They had the best staff, best patrons, and were well-respected in the industry, but had a contentious relationship with their landlords, and just hoped that everything would work out. The owners thought that their hard work would pay off and their dream would come true and were already invested in the success. The quirky staff prepared for the delayed opening and they, as usual, planned over-the-top events. A global virus certainly caused problems, but BGob was already accustomed to dealing with unexpected problems, so they rolled with it as best they could. Even Gilbert and Rocket, the adopted brewery cats, were managed. When issues arose, the team dealt with them, often comically, but still solved them. When BGob realized the financial ruin they were in by making the decision to upgrade their surroundings and believe in the landlord’s promises, they wished the landlords would be able to see the turmoil their decisions caused, and empathize with BGob’s plight. The landlords were ultimately called to reckon for the poor decisions of the past and, recognizing the unbelievably bad position they were in legally and in the court of public opinion, negot——
Well, that’s where reality and fiction diverges, isn’t it? Will we all be dancing around, singing songs and drinking drinks? Or will we cut the good parts and instead queue to it blowing up in our face like a tossed match into a raw sewage drain? Which brings me back to “Shitter’s Full”. Folks, we are pumping as fast and as feverishly as we can, but we are not sure how long we can deal with all this, well, shit. We are coasting into 2021 on fumes, gas money gave out in Gurnee, and if something doesn’t give, all we will be left with is a 50 foot plot of dirt, the cats and a worm farm. This is not us crying poor, but rather hoping our “Mr. Shirley’s” will see the light. I hope that next year, the three of us can be staring up at our sign and quietly say “we did it”. For now, we are going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas we can. Where’s the Tylenol?
Wherever you are Dad, I hope you save the neck for me. RIP.