Sunday, December 25, 2011

Final Post For 2011

Merry Christmas to All 
and To All a Good Knight!
(I know, that didn't look right to me, either.  But, it passed Spell Check)

Penwasser Place will be closing up shop for the holidays.  I'll be taking the rest of the year off to recharge my creative juices and....oh, who the frig am I kidding???  I've got a week off from work and I want to watch trashy TV, eat junk which will shorten my life-span (which is okay, because I've had a good run),  and play with  Yeah, that's it.  Toys.

Happy Holidays to you and yours (even if, by yours, I mean a blow-up cow) as we segue into the last year of the world (if the Mayans are to be believed).  On the bright side, you won't have to read anything I write anymore.

See you in 2012!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Once Upon a Time During the Holidays-Part II

Proof that Santa is for the Amish, too.
     As the clock struck nine, we scooted to bed.  Our parents warned us to remain in our rooms all night; it wouldn’t do to surprise Santa as he somehow managed to squeeze through our furnace grate (we didn’t have a fireplace) to place wonderful treasures under the ugliest tree known to man.
None of the nuns (pardon the pun)
looked like this at Saint Stanislaus.
Neither could they fly.
But, I guess that would go without saying.
    OK, we bought it.  Then again, we believed in the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, and that a nun could fly.  After all, it was no crazier than believing the Partridge Family could sing.
Making a joyful noise unto the Lord
this blessed Christmas Eve.
    We tossed and turned throughout the evening; our pent-up excitement made sleep impossible.  To pass the time, we regaled each other with tales of what Santa would bring and mortified Karen by making fart noises under our armpits.
    As midnight approached, there came the sound of movement downstairs.  Instantly calling a halt to our armpit symphony, we strained to hear what was happening.
    “Santa’s here!” Gary gasped in wide-eyed wonderment as he slid beneath his covers.
    Straining my ears, I heard something, too.  The muffled sound of scuffing feet barely disguised a quiet rustling of paper and shuffling of boxes.  Even so, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on.  It was only when I heard a sharp bang followed by a string of colorful words that I knew the magic of Christmas had arrived.
    Buoyed by the wonderment of the moment, I happily closed my eyes.  I was confident that I was due for a windfall of goodies when I awakened.
    What seemed like mere seconds later, I was rudely shaken awake.  “C’mon,” Gary excitedly cried, “Santa Claus came last night!”
NOTE:  As children, we never caught the double-entendre of this statement.  Apparently, Santa visited the Playboy Mansion, too.
Normally associated with Halloween.
    That he seemed genuinely surprised caused me a little concern.  Where had he been all these weeks?  Of course Santa Claus came last night!  Who’d he expect, Nixon?
    We bounded downstairs to a dazzling rainbow of brightly wrapped presents beneath our garish tin pole.  Quickly diving into the pile, we were brought up short by our mother’s shrill, “Nobody opens anything until your father and I get there!”
    Thus admonished, we perched of the edge of our avocado and gold couch, nervous energy barely held in check.  It seemed an eternity until our parents trudged like zombies into the living room.
    Coming out of her narcoleptic daze, my mother gushed with mock wonderment, “Wow!  What happened here?  Did Santa Claus come?”  (Amazingly, she sounded as shocked as my brother.  What was it with these people?  Did they all have brain damage?).
    Ignoring her faux amazement, my father hesitated several seconds.  Finally, he took a deep breath, sighed, and nodded.
Crap! Another year without color.
    Instantly responding, we dove under the tree, intent only on finding that which was ours.  Gripped in a giddy paroxysm of joy, I joined the frenzy of ripping anything with my name on it to shreds.  We were a brood of children possessed, we were seized with the spirit, we were seagulls descending on a chicken bone.  
    After we had torn open our presents and cavalierly tossed the discarded wrappings throughout the living room, our parents solemnly proclaimed that it was time for church.  As much as tinsel, mistletoe, and holly wreaths, they declared, Christmas was all about sitting uncomfortably on wooden pews and incoherently mumbling our way through carols.
    Despite the fact that Paris Hilton makes more appearances at Mensa meetings than we did at Mass, we were “going, goddammit!” our mother piously announced.  So, after scrubbing melted chocolate footballs from our faces and exchanging footie pajamas for swanky “Dad N Lad” polyester wear, off we sped in the family Batmobile to Saint Stanislaus.  
    Upon arrival-five minutes after the service started, naturally-my father ushered us into the very last pew.  “That way,” he whispered to us, despite withering looks from Mom, “we can beat the traffic.” 
    Even though I somehow doubted that departing parishioners were the same as fans leaving a Yankees game, I believed in my Dad.  After all, he gave us such pearls of wisdom as, “Seatbelts can only trap you in a burning car.  Underwater.”
    The service was fairly tolerable.  There were a bunch of holiday hymns, a Christmas sermon about how Jesus never got coal, what my father called “bells, whistles, and secret handshakes,” and Phil needing the Heimlich maneuver to get that communion wafer out of his throat. 
    Before you could say “Dominus Nabisco,” we were done and headed out the door in front of everyone else.
    As badly as we felt for being “Twice a Year Catholics” (the other time, of course, being Easter), I really was convinced our father was a deeply religious man.  After all, anyone who invoked the name of the deity as often as he did while watching football must surely walk with the angels.
G.I. Joe's case of the crabs made him
mighty suspicious of Barbie.
NOTE: I know this is a scorpion.
But, it's kinda crab-like
    Once home, we joyfully returned to our toys, although now we wanted to see how creative we could get.  For instance, G.I. Joe (with “Kung Fu grip”) didn’t fare too well in the Vietcong EZ Bake Oven.  We also discovered that, if you removed the rubber suction cups, toy arrows sharpen up real nice and stick in the couch.  Or each other.
    Meanwhile, our mother bustled about the kitchen merrily preparing the “Holiday Feast.”  The star of the show was, of course, the turkey, which had been slowly mummifying in the oven the past two days.  Its aroma filled the house with flavor as its burning grease flooded the kitchen with smoke. 
Missing:  SPAM casserole, Dad's can of Ballantine,
cranberry sauce with the rings. And people, apparently.
    Besides the turkey, though, our Christmas feast featured food you’d never see any other time of year. For instance, I can’t imagine any egg nog keggers at a Fourth of July picnic.
    When presented a choice of turnips, squash, candied yams, egg nog, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce (always from the can), plum pudding, marzipan, the horrifying blood pudding, mincemeat pie (which always struck me as some sort of Dawn of the Dead concoction), and that ubiquitous doorstop, the fruitcake, we children usually settled for white meat, Hungry Jack mashed potatoes, and marshmallow snowmen.
    After which, we fought over the drumstick.  And flung dinner rolls at Karen and our dog.
    Sufficiently gorged, we retired to the living room to see how else we could tear apart our presents while Mom hosed down the dining room.  Dad, on the other hand, now comfortably attired in his festive holiday outfit of tee shirt and tighty-whiteys, plopped down in front of the television and scratched his back with a fork.
    As the afternoon dragged closer toward evening, our eyelids grew heavy.  Our early morning rampage had finally caught up with us and, chocolate-fueled frenzy notwithstanding, we were sliding closer to sleep.
    Through lidded eyes, I remember my father lurching toward the kitchen.  Before I lapsed into a food coma, I remember a faint, “Boy, I sure could use a turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip.”
    With a jolt, I felt myself roughly yanked from my reveries by a shaking hand.  I forced my eyes open to look directly into the beaming face of my daughter.
    “Merry Christmas, Daddy,” she smiled.
    I nervously looked around the room, half-expecting to see a virtual bloodlust of demons whipped up into holiday froth by the intoxicating scent of evergreen and sight of ribbons and bows.
    Instead, I saw a calm scene of my wife, sipping her first cup of coffee and my two children quietly sorting through gifts.
    Sheepishly, I informed my daughter, “I’m sorry, honey, I couldn’t figure out how to program your iPod.”
    My son, ever the optimist, calmly looked over his shoulder and reassured his sister, “No problem.  I can do that for you.”
    Hearing that, I realized I’d been home for the holidays all along.
    Looking at my children, I smiled.
    Smiled at the “Ghosts of Christmas Yet to Come.” 

Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday with family, friends, and people who probably wished you weren't invited to the same party! By the time you read this, I'm probably full of the spirit of the season.  And Christmas punch.  And why is Mrs. Penwasser giving me the stick eye...?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Once Upon a Time During the Holidays-Part I

Sorry, this post (and part II) are a little long.  They really should come in three parts (well, who wouldn't want to come in three parts?).  But, I'm running out of time and need to get this to you before Presidents' Day (don't want to interfere with that holiday's wild celebrations).

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake.
That's what got Mr. Mraz in trouble with the cops.
    Christmas has gotten way too complicated.
"I did so invent the Internet!  Bitch.
Can I buy you a drink?"
    Staring helplessly at the indecipherable instructions for my daughter’s new iPod, I break out in a cold sweat.  It dawns on me that I have as much chance as breathing life into this pricey little gizmo as Al Gore has at getting lucky at a sorority mixer.
    Mrs. Penwasser long since gone to bed, it was up to me to play Santa Claus for two kids who stopped believing in the jolly old elf years ago.
    I didn’t have a beard, my belly didn’t shake like jelly (well, okay, maybe it does), my nose wasn’t like a cherry, and I didn’t grip the stub of a pipe in my mouth.  Nevertheless, this Ghost of Christmas ‘Presents’ was doomed to failure.
"Oh....F!!!!!  This is a Palm Pilot!!
Frikkin' Crazy Larry's Bargain House of Gizmos!!"
    Dejected, I flopped into a chair next to our tree and slowly sipped one of the season’s most noxious beverages, egg nog.  It wasn’t always like this, I whined inwardly.  Why, back in my day there were no such things as iPods, iPads, iPhones, or iTunes.  And, you didn’t need an engineering degree to slap together a Schwinn.
    Exhausted by my fruitless labors, I reluctantly gave myself up to the Ghost of Christmas Past....   
    Christmas was always a big deal at my house.
    No sooner had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade concluded than my father was rattling around in the basement, grumpily searching for decorations he’d dumped into boxes last January.  As always, he groused that this year he’d make sure to label everything so he didn’t have to paw though cartons like an alley cat digging for fish heads in a trash can.
    Triumphantly emerging from the cellar several hours later, he’d toss each of us an impossibly knotted ball of Christmas lights.  He ordered us to unravel each one and check to make “damn sure” each light worked.  Meanwhile, he’d be in the house, inventorying our mother’s Nativity salt and pepper shaker collection.
    How he managed to pull this off from the couch we never knew.       
Like this.  But not as fancy.
    As darkness began to fall, we proudly informed our father that we were ready for his inspection.  We confidently assured him that each strand was meticulously unwound and each bulb was double-checked for brightness.
    Glancing at our work like a drill sergeant, he walked up and down the many rows of uncoiled lights, barely nodding his head.  He gave no indication whether he was pleased or not.
"Mama Grizzly's gonna bag that
dang moose, you betcha."
    With a final nod, soft grunt, and glance at the setting sun, he pointed at one set, “That one.”  Dutifully, we pulled out the old wooden ladder and positioned it under the porch eaves.  After handing him the approved string of lights, we watched Dad whip out his staple gun like Sarah Palin at a moose hunt at Staples (NOTE:  I realize Sarah Palin was unknown in the 1970s.  It just makes for a funny joke, though, huh?).  After a few choice holiday expressions of goodwill, he managed to secure the wire strand under the gutter.
    After Phil plugged in the lights, bathing the porch in a soft red, yellow, and blue glow, my father pointed at the other strands and said, “Take those downstairs.”
    “Tomorrow,” he said, “we’ll get them tomorrow.”
    In other words, halftime was over.
    Lights forgotten, the next day was devoted to the annual Real Tree or No debate.  Each year we always argued over the wisdom of tramping through a muddy lot, binding a deformed evergreen with twine, flopping it onto the car’s roof like a dead antelope, and wedging it into a tree stand which was usually missing a leg.
    Put that way, we went artificial.  At least then we wouldn’t have to remember to water a real tree, vacuum millions of dead needles from the oh-so-classy gold shag carpet, or surreptitiously dump its drying carcass on the Spinelli’s lawn come the first night of the new year.
No, like this.  But not as classy.
    Unfortunately, when we got to the store, our parents fell in love with, of all things, an aluminum tree.  Crowing that it was the future of fashion to have such a monstrosity perched in the living room window, they assured us we’d get used to it. 
    When we complained it had no color, they showed us the snazzy color wheel which came with it (“All the primary colors!  Plus Green!” the ad roared).
    In retrospect, I now realize that nothing screamed the 1970s quite like a tree made of Reynolds Wrap.  Back then, though, all we knew was that it looked like something you’d see in front of the Munsters’ house.
    Enamored of their choice, my parents tossed the future in the open trunk and headed home.  Right past several lots full of natural trees that looked downright beautiful by comparison. 
    As Christmas Eve drew closer, our disdain for that hideous tree was replaced by a sort of fascination.  Who could have guessed that its metal branches could pick up FM?  Or that the color wheel made for a wildly spinning torture device for our Karen’s Barbies?
It was long suspected that Derek was a little
too enthusiastic about donning "gay apparel."
    There are many things in life that I wish didn’t exist:  mimes, televangelists, the Kardashians, you name it.  We looked at Christmas carolers in much the same way.
    Don’t get me wrong.  Christmas carols, with the possible exception of Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, are some of the most beautiful pieces of music in the world.  When you really want to get in the Christmas spirit, nothing does it for me like The Little Drummer Boy.
    The song.  Sheesh.
Notice how the black kid isn't really part of the group? 
You can bet Franklin did, despite his smile.
    It’s just that I objected to being ripped from A Charlie Brown Christmas (it was still fairly new back then) and banished to the front door to gawp as a mob mangled Away In a Manger.  Now, if the Vienna Boys Choir showed up on my front porch, you’d have a deal.   
    I also had a problem that neither of our parents sat with us as we endured off-key holiday favorites by a gang whose hearts, if not talent, were in the right place.  No sooner had the Yuletide revelers clambered onto the porch than we were ordered to sit and listen while Mom and Dad hid.
    Thankfully, the impromptu concert usually only lasted for three songs.  At which time, our father would throw the group a few dollars, wish them “Merry Christmas,” close the door with an alligator smile, and turn off the porch light to avoid further intrusions.
    Meanwhile, much to our dismay, the Peanuts gang had already started singing, Hark, the Herald Angel Sings!
    Now, there’s a Christmas carol for you!

To be continued....
Next:  Part II (well, I would think that would be obvious)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have a Politically Correct Christmas!

The following is a repost from several years ago.  Well, I wrote it several years ago.  And I put it on Blogger last year.  I think.  I did update it a little (for those of you who may have read it last year-Sherilin? Eva?-see if you can find the updates I put in).  In any event, I don’t have time to write anything new.  Because, if you read yesterday’s post, I was having trouble finishing my shopping.  I’m still having trouble finishing my shopping.  So, I’d better go.  That guy selling Rolex’s from the back of his van won’t be here all day, you know.

Have a Holly Jolly, Politically Correct Christmas
C. Clement Moore (?)

With apologies to Major Henry Livingston, Jr.:*
"No, I'm not that A-Hole, Moore.  You'll find out why below."

Twas the Night Before December 25th

‘Twas the night before December 25th, when all through the place of residence (be it house, teepee, shopping cart, or refrigerator carton).
Not a creature was stirring, not even a sentient life form known as a rodent (which has every right to live wherever it chooses).
The government-issued condoms were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that a federal official soon would be there.

The children of the multi-diverse family unit were nestled by Family Services all snug in their beds,
while visions of non-dairy, non-sugar, non-peanut, non-caffeine, non-fat, non-transfats, non-threatening tofu plums  danced “With the Stars” in their heads.
And my life partner in a hyperbaric chamber and I in my neoprene bubble
had drifted to sleep, with nary any trouble.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed (which I selfishly bought at IKEA while millions slept on grates), to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I feared that I’d spy
A Weiner, a Beiber, that Chaz Bono “guy.”

The moon, on the Janet Jackson breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the luster of midday to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a “little people” sleigh and eight height-challenged reindeer.

With a stature-limited seasoned-citizen driver, so lively and quick,
I knew it must be that Person of Androgynous Reknown, Nikita or Nick.
More rapid than endangered eagles, her/his coursers they came
and she/he whistled and shouted and called them by name (though not as subservients; rather as equals in the mutual exchange of commerce).

“Now Streaker! Lap Dancer!
Elton, you Prancer and Nixon!
Obama! Ted Danson!
On, Lindsay and Mel Gibson!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, but only if you’re physically able and don’t feel threatened by it all!”

As dry leaves before the hurricane fly,
which plugs up the levees because Bush wants you to die,
so up to the subsidized housing the hoofed business partners flew,
with the sleigh full of sinful capitalist loot and Nikita/Nick, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, I turned and I saw
Nikita/Nick and her/his attorney-at-law.

She/he was dressed in synthetic fur, from her/his head to her/his foot,
and her/his clothes were all tarnished with the tracings of soot
 (a carcinogen which I knew to be the by-product of my evil exploitation of our friends, the majestic trees).
A bundle of toys she/he had tossed in a sack
and I KNEW I was liable if she/he busted her/his back!

Her/his eyes--how they twinkled!  Her/his dimples, how merry!
Her/his cheeks like BOTOX balloons, her/his nose like a cherry!
It was obvious with him/her I should not be alone
this creepy, suspicious Sandusky clone.
Her/his droll little mouth was drawn up no, not in a frown
from some anonymous, “tsk-tsking” government clown.
The stump of a pipe she/he had just for effect
as she/he showed me her/his nicotine patch on her/his neck.
She/he had a broad face and a little round belly
that shook when she/he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

(NOTE: the American Medical Association strongly urges a lifestyle which eliminates the existence of “little round bellies”, as they may lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, tourettes, heart attack, an “unfresh” feeling, stroke, erectile dysfunction, skin rashes, halitosis, driving heavy equipment while drowsy, and rickets.)

She/he was chubby and plump (see NOTE above), a right jolly old fairy/troll/forest nymph/dwarf/Michael  Moore/multi-diverse personage of varying-yet valuable-ethnic persuasion/wood sprite/Oprah/elf,
and I laughed when I saw her/him, in spite of myself (although, to avoid being sued, I said I was laughing “with”, not “at”, her/him).
A wink of her/his eye and a twist of her/his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

She/he spoke not a word, but went straight to her/his work
and filled all the condoms (not with what you think), when allowed by her/his attorney-the aforementioned jerk.
And laying her/his finger on the side (not in) of her/his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney/window/teepee smoke hole she/he rose.

She/he sprang to her/his sleigh, to her/his team gave a whistle,
and they mutually agreed in committee to fly as equals away like the down of a thistle.
But, I heard her/him exclaim, ‘ere she/he drove out of sight.

“Happy Non-Sectarian Day-of-Observance-Which-Has-Nothing-To-Do-With-An-Established-Creed-Or-Dogma-of-Faith-Because-That-Would-Be-a-Heinous-Violation-of-the-Sanctity-of-the-Separation-of-Church-and-State-Because-What-About-the-Children-Dammit!? and to all a mutually-satisfying (as agreed upon in writing. In triplicate. By the ACLU.) night!”    

    *Evidently, Clement Clark Moore is the 19th century equivalent of the New York Times’ Jayson Blair**.  A classic since its 1823 appearance in the Troy Sentinel, ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’ (as it was alternately known) was claimed by Moore as his own in 1837, conveniently after Livingston had passed away.  In fact, Moore, who wasn’t known by any other poem, incorporated the work into one of his own books, Poems, in 1844!  So, the next time you’re tempted to fret and bemoan our lack of journalistic scruples, just remember Moore’s response when asked if he had, indeed, written this most-famous of Yuletide poems:  “Uh, yeah, whatever.”
    Or, so I’ve read on the Internet.  Because, after all, if it’s there, it must be true! 

**Like I said, this is a repost, so the inclusion of Jayson Blair may leave you scratching your head.  Mr. Blair was pinched several years ago for being a plagiarist.  A plagiarist, of course, is someone who tries to pawn off someone else’s work as his own without giving credit to the actual author.  You know, a lot like Joe Biden.  There, how ‘bout that?  Timely and funny.
"Well, at least I didn't say I invented the Internet."
Tomorrow:  Part I of Once Upon a Time During the Holidays.  It will be a two-part post, but it actually should be three.  But, like Kim Jong Il, I've run out of days. Well, not exactly like Kim Jong Il.  But, you know what I mean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

欢迎到 Macy's

  The end of the year is rapidly approaching. 
  I know what you're thinking, "Hey, Al.  The end of the year isn't for ten more days.  You've got plenty of time."  While that's true, I'm actually talking about the advent of Christmas (Theological Note:  Catch how I used the word "advent" in a sentence?  Yeah, I'm clever that way).  Because, after Christmas, we're on a greasy banana peel the rest of the way until the end of the world.  
I shouldn't make fun of it.
There's probably a party in it for me.
But, what's with the seven-candle menorah?  
  Absolutely nothing will get done next week.  Between the hangover of Christmas, the continuing festivities of Hanukkah, and the "I-Haven't-A-Frikkin'-Clue-What-Goes-On" of Kwanzaa, the last week of December is a wash.
  In fact, the only people who should go to work are the Atheists.  Because, if they're not willing to kneel until their knees go numb during Easter vigil, apologize for everything under the sun during Yom Kippur, and bitch that they're hungry during Ramadan, they shouldn't get to enjoy the perks of religion (except for that Ramadan thing, which is in August.  I just wanted to include Islam because it made for a better joke).
  My point is that I'm looking at a rapidly closing window in which to get things done.  One of those things is writing on Blogger.  I've got five days until Christmas Day and five more posts to write (because like everyone else-even probably those bandwagon Atheists-I'm taking next week off).  This means you'll have Penwasser Place for five straight days!
  Good News:  they're pretty much all written (love that delayed posting!).  Bad News (for you):  They're pretty much all written.
  Anyway, I also need to finish Christmas shopping (NOTE:  I'm glad I'm not Jewish.  Because, then I would have had to start handing out gifts last night.  In which case, I'd be screwed).
  I'm not even close to being finished.  The only thing I did purchase was that "French Tickler Party Pak" for Mrs. Penwasser.  But, after she saw the receipt, she made me take it back.
  I've been to many stores and even went to the mall (aka 'Guy Hell').  One of the stores I went to was Macy's, that fancy department store which sells clothes for rich people, perfumes that vaporize your nose hair, and coffee makers which can do everything from brew any number of Central American blends to finish your taxes.
  They also apparently sell a lot of stuff from China.
"Don't worry.  Even though it's in color, the 1994 remake sucks.
'Course, we're both dead, so what do we know?
Oh, by the way, did you hear we're having a sale on mens' slacks?"
  As I was waiting in line to get a free cup of the aforementioned coffee, I took a look at all the Christmas merchandise offered by the store which most Americans only know as sponsor of the Thanksgiving Day parade and Miracle on 34th Street.
  I was shocked that the majority of them were not made in the US (thankfully, the Yankee Candle Christmas Village was made in Vermont which, Ben and Jerry's notwithstanding, is still American).

 You would think that, at the very least, a Christmas tree would be made in Bavaria.  After all, the song is "O, Christmas Tree (Tannenbaum)." not "O, Bamboo Plant."  

"Fortune Cookies For Santa" would have been more honest.

  The part they left out after "Believe" was...."that this was made someplace in New England or at least the Midwest."  

Kinda hard to see because there was a little old lady next to me.  I didn't want her to think I was some sort of perv who enjoyed taking pictures of little wooden men.
Who were made in China. 

Mikasa.  Sounds Japanese to me.  But, what do I know?  At least this was a little honest.  After all, it's "We Three Kings of Orient Are." 
Incidentally, I don't think the camel was made to scale.  

While this was made in China, too, it made me laugh.  Because, if you pulled between my legs, my arms would fly up, to.
I didn't have a lot of time to take this picture, either.  I think that little old lady was calling store security.

I know this isn't a Christmas item, but they had to make a fresh pot of coffee. Still, it's made in China.  Even though right next to the chicken it says 'Espana.'  Which means 'Spain.'

Finally, where do you think this china is made?  You guessed it.  Germany.

  As I sampled my free cup of coffee, I started to feel a little guilty.  After all, Christmas isn't supposed to be a Western holiday only.  People from all over the world should be able to enjoy the magic of the season.  And, if they want to make a few bucks while they're doing it, they probably should be allowed to do that, too.
  At least that's what I told the mall cops when they led me away.
  Damn old lady was probably an Atheist.

Addendum:  As far as what the title of this post means:  "Welcome to Macy's" in Chinese.  May as well be prepared.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hahner...Chuhnoo...Harmonic...Festival of Lights

Starts before Christmas.  Ends after Christmas.
Up yours, Santa.
    Sunset this evening marks the beginning of Hanukkah (I finally had to look up the spelling), better known as the Festival of Lights or, according to that cinematic wunderkind, Adam Sandler, Eight Crazy Nights.

  Much like Easter, the exact timing of Hanukkah is probably a mystery to a lot of people.  Also like Easter, it has to do with Jewish folks (yes, Jesus was a Jew.  He wasn't born in a Catholic manger, cranky fundamentalists notwithstanding).  This, of course, means that the average Joe (or Sol) must consult with his rabbi, ancient Talmudic guidance, a Magic 8 ball, the entrails of an owl, and the calendar he got from his heating oil supplier last January to figure out when exactly he's supposed to dust off the family menorah  (and Aunt Sadie).

"Could be worse.
Could be Lindsay."
  Needless to say, it's sometime in December.  Sometimes before, but rarely after, Hanukkah this year straddles Christmas like Snooki and that guy who sells kettle corn on the boardwalk.  So, the hoopla starts tonight and concludes next week after that sweater from Cousin Tilly has been exchanged for an iTunes gift card.

  Growing up Catholic as I did, I don't know an awful lot about Hanukkah (I know a helluva lot about rulers on the knuckles, though).  What I do know I picked up on street corners (I think I hung out on the wrong street corners).  

  But, I'll give it a shot...

I'll bet this isn't historically accurate
  A long time ago (I think it was the second century before Christ.  Well, before Facebook, anyway) in a place called Judea (which became Palestine which became Israel which became the world's punching bag), a group of people called the Maccabees were seriously hacked off about something.  I think they were ticked off at their oppressors who were some kind of Greeks.  But, I suppose it could have been anybody.  After all, that part of the world has been conquered by pretty much anyone with a chip on their shoulder:  Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canadian Geese, Chaldeans, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Persians, Parthians, Arabs, Crusaders, Crusader Rabbit, Arabs II, Godfather III, Normans, Freds, the French (no kidding), Martians, Up With People!, Ottoman Turks, the Salvation Army, the cast of La Cage Aux Folles,  lost Vikings, tourists from Iowa looking for a "nice, clean rest room," Germans (I'm not sure, but it's a good bet), the Amish, Mormons, Arabs III, the night shift at the Peoria 5 Guys, Sylvester Stallone, and Batman.

I have a strong suspicion
these dudes are Christians.
I don't give a flying crap what Google says.
  One of their leaders, Judah (or Herschel) led a revolt.  The revolting people (ooh, bad choice of words) held out as long as they could against the bad guys (can't tell the players without the above list).  Supplies were getting pretty low; they were running perilously low on food, water, chocolate coins, and potato pancakes.  But, for some reason, starving to death wasn't as important as keeping their lamps lit in the temple.  In fact, they only had enough oil for one night (made worse by the fact that Thomas Edison  wouldn't be born for another 1,900 years.  Yeah, bummer.  Coulda used a light bulb.).
"What's that?  Stubbed your toe in the dark?
Yeah, cry me a river and
give me a shout in the 19th century."

  But, the Lord (all sources are pretty clear on this) provided enough oil for eight days of light (for those of you who didn't pay attention, this is where we get Festival of Lights and Eight Crazy Nights).  Not for nothin', he should have provided enough lunchmeat and bread for the revoltees to make a sandwich.  And machine guns.  We never really covered that in Sister Caligula's World History class, though.

  So, the Greeks, figuring they were beaten, decided to relent (Interesting Vocab Tidbit:  "Relent" could also mean a "Lent" do-over).  This being the case, the Judeans won their freedom.

  And even had enough light to see the invading Roman legions.

  But, that's another story.

  DISCLAIMER:  The preceding is what I can remember of the Hanukkah story.  I really could have consulted a reputable source like the online Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia (because they're never wrong) to make sure I got all my facts correct.  In that case, you'd think I was a genius.  In this case, you may think I'm an idiot.  Heyyy.......... 
  For what I got completely wrong, I apologize.  I meant no disrespect.  OK, maybe a little disrespect.  But, you know me.  I even know a few Pope jokes.

  In any event, for my Jewish friends (or even those who like getting presents for eight straight nights), have a blessed and 
Happy Hanukkah!

I checked. You can spell 'dreidel' this way.
This is what they played before Call of Duty.
P.S.  Just make sure to keep enough oil in your furnace.  Let's give God a break.  He's had a rough couple of millenia. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

  Between Christmas shopping, traveling to New England for a couple of days, ogling Giada de Laurentis' cleavage on the Food Network, and planting whoopee cushions on co-workers' chairs, I've had a tough time keeping up with reading all your posts and coming up with comments such as "LOL!  Great post!  Keep it up!  Even though I really haven't read it, but I want you to think I did so you read my blog" (where you'll also probably leave the same comment).  I've also had precious little time to write hilarious commentary (or this).  So, some things have fallen through the cracks.  As I was reading your blogs, I saw that baygirl32 was participating in the Deja Vu Blog Fest.  This is a great chance for us to dust off one of our old posts and bring it back for another go-round.  Kinda like Hugh Hefner's wiener.  We needed to have this done by December 16th which, unless you're in California, Alaska, or Hawaii (and, for all I know, China.  Although, it may even be a different day there), it isn't anymore.  But, since it's only 2 AM on the 17th and I haven't been to bed yet, it's still effectively Friday.  Plus, who's gonna stop me from throwing up (ooh, throwing up is probably a poor choice of words) an old post?  Which, I'm happy to say that Sherilin from Laughing My Abs Off hasn't read (well, she may have, but she didn't comment). 

  So, without further adieu (actually, I've probably written a lot of 'dieu' already), I give you a post from November, 2009....

Behold, the Mighty Tree!

  One of the benefits I’ve found since retiring from the military, besides the chance to regale the hapless (and slow) with countless “I was there” stories, is that I now have a lot of time to be with my kids.
    Instead of flying over the Arctic Circle, sailing the Persian Gulf, or meandering about the French Quarter in search of churches and monuments (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it), I now coach youth soccer, umpire Little League (I call this...“hazing”), and act as a piñata at birthday parties.
    I also get to go on field trips.
    This week, I volunteered to chaperone my daughter’s class in an Outdoor Learning Experience.  This annual event, touted as an invaluable chance to get up close and personal with the glories of nature, takes 90 or so Sixth Graders to an off-season summer camp to endure an educational smorgasbord featuring topics such as Pond Study, Animal Tracks Study, Poison Plants Study, What-First-Aid-To-Use-After-Rolling-In-Poison-Plants Study, and so on.
    It also involved a little unit called:  Tree Study  or what I like to call, Naptime.
    Don’t get me wrong.  The study of trees and their benefits can be quite stimulating, in a “Spend-An-Evening-With-An-Insurance-Salesman.”  Little did I know there was so much to learn, from branch patterns to which is the best kind of tree to make slingshots out of.
    For instance, did you know that trees which drop their leaves are called deciduous, those with pine cones are called coniferous, and those with yard sale signs are called telephone poles?
    When I arrived at Camp Mengele, I was immediately grouped with two other parents who were likewise too lazy to state a preference for something cool like Boating SafetyShooting At Things, or Pizza Delivery.  To our horror, we quickly learned our combined knowledge of all things “tree” consisted of:  they give us paper, shade, and baseball bats.
    Expressing our misgivings to the “Camp Nature Director and Wendy’s Drive Thru Associate”, Dr. Jones (I am NOT making that up), we were assured we were more than capable of guiding children along the road of arboreal excellence.  Besides, if all else fails, she said, just wing it.
    With those words of wisdom, she squared away her fedora, stuck a six-gun in her belt, and used her bullwhip to swing off to the archaeology pit (OK, she didn’t wear a fedora).
    Watching the first group of shiny-faced cherubs approaching our station, we steeled ourselves for the first of ten forty-minute sessions.  Luckily, Dr. Jones already labeled our trees (Tulip, Ash, Hemlock, Dogwood, Cedar, Hickory, and Stump) and the teacher in charge supplied us with ample answer keys and field guides (which we stuck in our back pockets and forgot about until laundry day).
    Even though we were a little nervous, the three of us were as ready as we were going to get.
    Surprisingly, the first session went pretty well.  Dividing the students into three groups of three, we proceeded to go over characteristics of trees, their uses, and how to measure their growth.
    I learned that, when pressed, the students always said, “Trees lose their leaves, they can be used for firewood, and we use lasers to measure them (I guess that, since lasers sound cool, they figured it was the right answer).
    The students also always said, “Oak” or “Maple” when asked the name of a particular tree.  Unless it was an evergreen.  In that case, they said, “Christmas Tree.”
    Subsequent lessons went just as well.  Luckily, the instructor guides were pretty basic (“Trees are made of ‘wood’”) and we were able to easily impart what we hoped was expert-sounding instruction throughout the course of the day.
    In fact, we were so successful that, when asked what their favorite topic of the camp was, the students invariably answered, Obstacle Course.
    Followed by Boating SafetyArcheologyOrienteeringAnimal TracksStream StudyPoison Plants StudyGoing To the BathroomLunchThrowing RocksWiping With LeavesGarbage Can HuntPicking Up SticksThrowing Dead Things At GirlsLighting FartsTree Study, and Pond Study.
    We took great pride in knowing we weren’t as sucky as Pond Study.
    In other words, Pond Study blows.
    Think I’ll go hug a tree.

By the way, SIGH, yes, I know, this is the second post I've written in one sitting.  But, I didn't want to wait until December 18th to write this and I've already written my Christmas newsletter.  But, that's okay, a little bit of me goes a long way (although, not in the yucky sense like they did with William Wallace in Braveheart).
Don't worry, I still have a few holiday posts to write and will get them working this weekend (I'll post them during the week).  Till then...
best fishes,