Beware: Trans Siberian Orchestra “Christmas” Show Turns Into Fiery Hell

I make no apologies if you were thinking of going to the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More show this year. Indeed it is the “More” part of the show I feel I need to warn you about if you have never been and were expecting “pure Christmas.”

It’s been about ten years since I first saw them—and loved them—with my husband. We were so impressed we bought a few of their CDs and have listened to them over the years during the holidays. We were looking forward to a great stage show of bigger than life Christmas classics and TSO’s signature Christmas pieces to usher in the season. I was especially excited because we were taking our adult son Chris with us. He is a musician. I thought he would be surprised with TSO’s live, powerful rock/metal take on traditional Christmas classics he’d heard growing up that were normally heard in a church and on our holiday CDs.

We excitedly settled into incredible floor seats six rows back from the stage. The huge billowing purple curtain hung just a few feet before us.  “It’s going to be wild,” I said, memories of the intense, huge laser light show a decade ago still dancing in my head.

Well, the first hour was the awesome, traditional Christmas TSO that I remembered. Vocalists, bass, six-strings, keyboards, an incredible electric violinist, drums, and back up singers delivered traditional hymns and classic TSO Christmas tunes in grand, thunderous rock/metal style. It is mind-blowing to hear O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night, What Child is This? and classic TSO This Christmas Day and Christmas Canon Rock .   (Listen to this if you are not familiar with TSO). You could feel Christmas reverberating right through you.

Like the last time I saw TSO, there was also a booming baritone narrator who lead us  through a lovely Christmas story. This one was about a runaway girl who witnessed Christmas miracles while she sought shelter in an abandoned theater.

The lasers were mesmerizing; you could feel a blast of heat with the pyrotechnics. Again, TSO made “real” snow that drifted down onto our heads. That, and the fog transported you to a believable, magical Christmas place.

So what’s my problem?

The second half of the show! Where the first hour and half I was lulled into a most  festive frame of mind, I was suddenly (figuratively) thrown into the fires of hell! Gone with the holy, angelic voices and snowy effects. Instead, a giant lizard with rolling golden eyes took over the screen! And it just went down from there.  I mean way down. Like to the portal of hell down. Suddenly the women were wearing impossibly shorter, barely crotch-covering dresses. They were gyrating on a catwalk overhead, strapped to a pole with a chain. The stage lit up with awful red/orange lights.  Then out shot out the real flames!  Way too many and way too close to be cozy. In fact,  I could feel my eyeballs drying out in the instant heat. The guitarists seemed more menacing and lewd. At one point the women singers sang/chanted in Omen-esque Latin. They danced in a circle that conjured images of a coven. I imagined that the gates of hell would soon open and Satan himself would take center stage!

Goodbye, Christmas buzz!

I know there are diehard TSO fans out there who will probably think I’m old-fashioned and a jerk, but why did TSO have to even have that second half of the show? Rife with apocalyptic, illuminati-esque symbols on the screen. It was very medieval (evil), very Game of Thrones with the castle motifs (I admit I’ve never seen Game of Thrones). Am I missing out?

I left the Mohegan Sun theater feeling very disturbed, sad, and that I  had been subjected to something that felt icky and dark. My husband, son and I discussed the show all the way home later into the night. Chris “googled” TSO and found there were other people who shared some of my observations. I guess I need to clear my palate with something wholesome and Christmassy. Maybe It’s a Wonderful Life marathon? Any suggestions?


Trick-o-Treat Pick Up Truck: Neighbor from My Childhood Evokes Harrowing Halloween Memory

“Tyron Rumsowa” (an anagram of is real name) must’ve stood all of four-foot -six in his steel-toed farm boots. Even on the rare times he’d come to church— on his horse he’d tie up on the black iron fence–Tyron always wore what looked like a boy’s size 10 faded denim overalls. He had salt and pepper hair and matching scruff on his small face. His deep-set eyes and slightly crooked nose reminded me of a turtle. Small in physical stature, Tyron made up for it with larger-than-life antics that even 20 years or so after his death, are still remembered as legendary by the over 45 crowd in my hometown.

As a kid in the mid 70s, this Lilliputian neighbor of mine always seemed ancient, but surprisingly spry. He’d drive his big red tractor up and down the road or be dangling from a ladder sprucing up his big red colonial down the street. Tyron farmed several acres that ribboned behind four or five houses on our street, high on a ridge. From our Cape Cod across and at the bottom of one of his pastures, I could make out silhouettes of his cows, horses and sheep grazing high on the hill against the backdrop of the sky.

As a recent assignment at our library’s memoir writer’s group, I immediately thought of this real life character from my childhood. I could expound on several of his antics, but in the spirit of the season, a particular Halloween night when I was in first grade (’71) comes to mind. Thankfully I was too young and innocent to know how deadly this kid holiday might have turned out; I am sure it scared the hell out of my poor mother—thanks to our real life character neighbor!

Mom was leading my younger sister and me as we trick-o-treated around our neighborhood. The pinprick eye-holes of my plastic witch mask that smelled like my cousin’s Lite Brite were hard to see through. It was sweaty, but I could draw in the crisp, late autumn air through the oval mouth hole. Sometimes it made a whistling noise when I exhaled.

We were about to head back to our yard and into the house to count our candy when Tyron came crawling up our street in his late 1950s pick up truck. I heard it sputter along, but I had my mind on more important matters.

“I hope I got lots of Snickers!” I muffled through my mask.  I couldn’t wait to dive in my loot after the obligatory examination of potentially tampered candy. We never found any pins and needles. We lived in a safe neighborhood, after all.

“Get down!” Mom screamed all of a sudden. I felt a whoosh behind me and the next thing I knew I was witch-face-down in a pile of leaves. “Stay still!” Mom whispered pulling my sister and me under each of her arms. Too stunned to speak or cry out, we just lay there, clutching our pillowcases of candy.

I could hear my breathing loud and fast inside my witch mask. After a little while, Mom whispered frantically, “Quick, run to the house!”

I stood up, but couldn’t feel the ground beneath me. My legs were flailing behind me like a Raggedy Ann doll as Mom carried us like two sacks under each arm to the house. “My God,” she said, out of breath setting us down in the kitchen.

We took off our masks and looked up at her. “What was that about?” I asked, not sure if I was supposed to laugh or be serious. “I’m scared Mommy,” my sister said tearfully, clinging to my mother’s arm.

“What the hell is going on, Sone-ya?” my father asked, his eyes wide.

“Tyron had a shot gun pointing of his pick up window!” my mother said, her eyes were big. She had her hand on her chest.

“What?” he said. “That crazy old coot!”

I don’t exactly remember what happened after that. There were no cops. My mother or father probably just called Tyron’s son who lived across the street from us. I do recall mom saying that Tyron was angry at kids trespassing that night on his back forty.

Looking back, I have to say that no one was really scarred by this event. We just sat on the braided orange rug in the living sifting through our candy.

Do you remember a colorful character from your childhood? Post about in it the comments below!

Debit Card Debacle: Charged Over $300 on My Neighbor’s Plastic!

My long-time neighbor and friend Jane and I had just finished a golf lesson and headed to the nearby 19th hole for a pint. We paid our respective bills each sliding the waitress our same-bank debit cards. The next day, I handed the debit card to our garage guy to pay a $300 repair bill on our truck. Card slides, I sign, I stick in wallet. Next I met a niece and paid plastic for my $3.29 frozen coffee. Card slides, no pin/no sign, I stick in wallet.
Later that afternoon on a top secret beer run for my husband (he had just been alerted in an exclusive email that a select brand that had just come in at a local beer cave), I pulled out the card to make that purchase. Card slides, I put in pin—DENIED! The familiar lady behind the counter politely said, “Oops, it says the pin number doesn’t match.”
“Huh?” I went over four digits in my head. “It’s my card…” Then I looked at the slightly scratched name on the rejected card. Jane ______! Not Tanja!
“@#$!” Then out loud, “OMG! It’s my friend’s card!” Then, I when it dawned on me that I had just paid the $300 truck repair bill on HER CARD, I really let out an exasperated OMG!
The counter woman sort of laughed. I gained enough of my senses to write a check for the coveted, designer beer (good wifey), but I lost it in the car! What if my running Jane’s card to the tune of $300 plus dollars set off a chain of bounced withdrawals on her end? I knew there’d be a $29 penalty on each botched transaction! Ca-ching! Ca-ching! Ca-ching!
Stressed and more than a little embarrassed, I dialed Jane. She took the news with an initial “OMG!” Then her usual calm self, “It should be alright, I have enough in there.”
“Oh, Jane, I am so sorry! I will go straight to the bank and pull out the $310 and drive it right over to you!”
“Or you can just write me a check and I will cash it tomorrow,” she said.
I called my husband who was working an overtime shift. He just laughed at first, but then,”Did you get the beer?” Man!
I drove down the street to the now-closed bank and actually walked half way up the sidewalk to the ATM before I realized, I can’t pull the money out! I don’t have MY ATM card, Jane has it!
By the end of the day, we were able to reimburse Jane the truck repair and coffee in cold, hard cash. She and her husband were very good natured about it. Lesson learned. Check to make sure YOUR name is on YOUR card before running it all over the place! Do you have a similar story?
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