12/20/2012 08:35 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Willie Nelson: Naughty, but Nice

"Amazing, nearly 120,000 Texans have already signed the petition to leave the union!" says one guy.

"And here's another group that's petitioning the government to expel Texas from the union... " says the other guy.

"Hell, I'd sign that one. What's the group?" asks the first guy.


"Forget the Alamo," says the last guy.

This is men talking in the comic strip Doonesbury by my pal Gary Trudeau. Then, there is Gail Collins' book, written right before the election, titled As Texas Goes. These people have the red state right down to its tiny blue cuticle.

Where is Ann Richards when we still need her?

Well, on March 7, the actress Holland Taylor, famous as the nymphomaniac mother in Two and a Half Men, opens as "Ann" at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. I saw this play, which Holland wrote, in Washington at the Kennedy Center. It's a knock-out!

More on Texas, which is almost as big if not quite as spiritual as Alaska. Texas is such a conservative place that people tend to forget that its leading all-time celebrity is liberal to the max.

And that person is Santa Claus. Or, as Texas Monthly magazine reports right now, it is a country western idol -- a man called Willie Nelson.

Willie IS Santa, according to thousands of his fans who are reading this month what Willie has to say about getting older -- getting busted for possession of marijuana -- getting along with the religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson -- and getting mistaken for Santa himself.

When Texans think of Santa, they think of him in the guise of Willie who even looks like the old man from the North Pole. (Ever wintered in Lubbock -- Texas North Arctic?) Willie even has a white beard. He has a guitar that he calls "Trigger." He is almost 80 years-old (the same age I presume Santa uses, having lied about his age) and Willie's constant friend is called Mary Jane.

That's the old-fashioned jargon for marijuana and Willie is never without Mary Jane. Texas law has arrested Willie, but this is like arresting Santa and I think they have simply given up on the idea by now, as more states legalize Mary Jane -- well, I don't know if that is good or bad -- but it's good for Willie "Santa" Nelson.

I, personally, am willing to take Willie Nelson as Santa Claus --- a Santa who loves independent young people, a Santa who is like a god in the country western music world, and a Santa in Willie Nelson, who is naughty but nice!

  • I am assuming (which is dangerous) that many of you were so staggered by the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut that maybe you didn't pay avid attention to the Op Ed pages of the Sunday New York Times that day. So, just in case, let me review an editorial by one T. M. Luhrmann headlined "Hark! The Herald Angels Didn't Sing." (As this is just about my favorite Christmas hymn, I leapt on it instantly.)

    This professor of anthropology at Stamford brought us up to date on our national obsession with Christmas as a religious holiday and how it didn't even become that really until the 1870s.

    Prof. Luhrmann posits that Christian evangelicals and Roman Catholics "should not be distracted by popular myth." Catholics should be concerned that people get God right, not imagining God in a way that violates scripture. And that the more experimental churches are worried people won't get God -- period.

    Is God real or is he something even larger and grander or is he not at all -- just a positive idea? Well, I can't say. But I read another piece in the Times recently where it said that Puritans detested the trappings of Christmas and knew it was based on pagan themes. So much for the so-called war on Christmas! It was started by Puritans who were rigidly religious and didn't like Christmas trees, ornaments or anything else decorative.

    Americans have been legitimatizing, commercializing, and "keeping" Christmas since they got rolling with it in the 1900s. Now, it seems to belong to everybody, including the poor, the middle classes and the rich. And I think that's a great little old equalizer!

    My favorite TV commercial -- and there are damned few of those these days -- is the one where Santa is observing a line of his Mercedes. The white ones drive out under a sign "NICE" and the red Mercedes drive out under a sign "NAUGHTY."

    I GUESS I am hoping on "naughty but nice." Sobeit!