Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Holiday Downhill Plunge

It’s time to catch our collective breath as we sit on the verge of another Holiday downhill plunge toward overindulgence.

Overindulgence in just about every form it can take.  Glitz, glam, whim, wham, bam…hold on tight, we're gonna get slammed!

After’s the most magical time of the year…at least according to Andy.

In fact on the 30th of November, we’re already a bit behind…or at least I am.

Some of the neighbors have already strung up their lights and decorations…in fact some were already up and waiting to be lit, well before Thanksgiving.

Black Friday has come and gone…as well as Small Business Saturday, Rip off Sunday, Cyber Monday and Toothless Tuesday.  I’m not sure if 2 of the last 3 are real since I made them up, but they should be real.  They make as much sense as any of the others.

So holiday shopping is well underway, if not already done in some cases. The holiday invites are in your mailbox.  Santa’s made his list and checked it more than twice.

As for me…I’m still mowing my lawn and picking up the stray leaf or two. If this warm weather keeps up I may have to wander over to the beach and count all the sugarplums dancing in my head…which I find annoying.

I need a bit of a shopping break.  I mean I just got through with Z’s Birthday shopping, which I managed to do without leaving the 20 ft. area that surrounds my bed. 

 If I had thought to bring the laptop to bed with me I suppose I could have stayed in the bed...but come on.  What kind of a schlub would that make me?

Next time I might even put on pants.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m some kind of a Grinch or a Scrooge.  I do enjoy this time of year and all the accompanying hub bub. It’s just that it always feels like it’s being shoved down our throats from Columbus day on.  If you buy into all the pre-mature hoopla, you’re sick of the holidays before they even get started. If you don’t buy in, you resist for so long that by the time you do jump on board, it feels as if you missed the party.

But, again, I realize I could be talking just for myself here, and the rest of you are scratching your head saying...“Huh?????”

I get that a lot…

In the next day or so, I’ll start dragging out the myriad of lights we throw up on our house every year. I guess I should say the rest of the lights.

Yes…I have to admit, I did put up a few strings myself over the weekend, since it was so warm I wanted to take advantage of that to avoid that whole finger numbing experience…and besides, wearing shorts while hanging Christmas lights is cool.  

We do a simple but classic look for the house.  I think there are about 27 thousand little white lights involved. You should see my electric meter spin. It actually creates a huge breeze in my basement. 

No, I’m kidding…it’s just a small breeze.

But it a pretty basic set up of Z’s design.  Candles illuminate every window, along with lights that accentuate the small garden bushes, plus the larger bush we call Sponge Bob by the front door. There are also wreaths & bows on all the windows and our large stone chimney, with a small lighted polar bear prowling off to the side for balance. 

It must look nice, cuz the local newspaper has put us on the front page the last 2 out of 3 years, and I have often caught regular folks snapping pictures of it.

The irregular folks just snap and roll around on the lawn, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the decorations.

So Z seems to know what she’s doing.

But the execution of the design falls to me, which I sometimes take too literally. See, I need to climb a very high ladder to place the wreath on the chimney and every now and then I forget that it’s not a smart idea to step back and admire my work.

Nope...not a smart idea at all….

But all in all, it always turns out nice, and I usually heal in time for the rest of the holiday hub bub.

And before we know it…we’ll be taking it all down.

That much closer to spring….

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday Morning Belongs to Z

Another weekend in the books as we race down the home stretch of 2011. 

Everyone loves a weekend, no mattter what time of year it occurs.

Most weekends Z and I try to figure out something fun to do.

That is, once we get through Saturday morning....

Becasue Saturday mornings belong to Z….

So watch it.

It’s the one day of the week that Z can sit in the kitchen…by herself…which seems to be key, and have the morning to do whatever it is she wants to do…which I couldn’t tell you what that is, since I’m not allowed to check.

See, unlike myself, who has oodles of alone time to do whatever it is I want to do, most times when Z is home…so am I.  Not that I would ever stand in the way of her doing whatever it is she wants to do, even if I knew what that was…which I don’t.

For all I know she could be building herself a time machine, which would be cool, but I don’t know if she’s looking to go forward in time or back.

I suppose she could go forward in time to see who’s the next chef to be eliminated on this weeks “Chopped”, one of Z’s Food Network favorites, which I often hear in muffled tones behind the kitchen walls.  

Or she could be going back in time to correct a previous bad outcome—

I have no idea what that could be, but when I mentioned that possibility to Z she suddenly stopped making eye contact, which I thought was odd…at least for a Tuesday.

Most Saturdays, Z will be up and at 'em long before I even open my eyes, which I normally don’t do until I’ve been up and em’ for a few hours.  Needless to say this makes going out for bagels somewhat of an adventure.

On some rare Saturday mornings, however, I will actually get up before Z, quietly begin to gather up my things, so as not to disturb her, but even before I pick up my first sock, Z has somehow slipped by me and is slamming the bathroom door behind her.

By the time I stand up and walk to the bathroom door to ask how she was able to do that without my seeing her, she has somehow done it again and is already downstairs in the kitchen doing whatever it is she wants to do.

I think there may be some hidden passages involved that I’m not aware of. Or maybe she really has built a machine that lets her slip back and forth in time and space.

Never underestimate the powers of Z....

When I finally get downstairs, myself, the Saturday papers have already been collected from the front walk. Once they’ve been perused and sorted I will find them on the table that I am allowed to sit at in the sun room, which is where we spend the majority of our time in the house…except for, you know…Saturday morning. Most times I will often find a cup of coffee sitting on the table as well…yet, again, no sign of Z.

Sometimes I get there a bit early before the papers and coffee are ready, and I’ll try and see if I can get through the highly sophisticated laser controlled security system that is designed to prevent intruders (me) from breaking through the perimeter.  I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Through a series of trial and error encounters, I know where most of the trip sensors are, but not all. 

To be honest I think Z actually reconfigures the system every couple of weeks.

So I’m usually caught in the act and will set off the alarm, which sounds remarkably like Z shouting,“WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN HERE!!!???, although in a most endearing manner

To which I will normally reply in the most soothing yet tentative of voices—much as one would use when turning the corner and suddenly encountering a foaming mouthed Pit Bull who has just escaped from the back of the Animal Control truck—that I was hoping to get a cup of coffee and perhaps a piece of the newspaper…if she was finished with it, of course.

To which Z will then tell me, again in the most endearing way, which sounds a bit like little Linda Blair in "The Exorcist", to…go back where I belong….

And who am I to argue…so I do, only to find one steaming cup of Chock full of Nuts, that heavenly coffee, and the paper, already sitting right there, on the table.

And there I will stay, keeping to myself, ignoring the odd lights and sounds coming from the kitchen.  I guess “Chopped” is big into special effects.

Eventually, Z will head off to Zumba, to do whatever it is she wants to do there…and by the time she comes back, I am usually allowed to speak to her…sometimes even allowed in the kitchen.

I’m not really sure about all that goes on in that Zumba class…and I don’t think I want to know…but I’m happy that it’s there. Apparently shaking one’s booty is a powerfully positive prescription for enhancing one’s demeanor.

I know it has always been to mine.

That and the time machine….

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Aftermath

It’s just half past Thanksgiving and Z has everything cleaned up and put away already.

Yeah…I know….

We hosted Thanksgiving this year for about 180 of Z’s immediate family.

Yeah…I know….

There are a lot of Z’s immediate family…and they’re all hungry…all the time.

There was some confusion at first as to just how many there were going to be. At first we were told that a good size contingent from out of town was not going to be able to come.

Z felt a little bit snubbed by this and was somewhat disappointed.

I felt a little bit blessed by this and was a somewhat overjoyed.

I tried to be sensitive to Z’s feeling so I kept my cartwheels confined to the backyard.  I thought the front yard was way too over the top. 

In the end, the cartwheels only served to make me dizzy as the plans changed…again…as these sorts of family things always tend to do, and Z was happy that most everyone could make it….

And despite the cartwheels, I was happy Z was happy and, to be honest, that most everyone was going to make it too…but again, like I said, I was dizzy.

Z began to plan this event in earnest a couple of weeks ago.  One of her older brothers—and since Z is the youngest of this brood…they’re all older. It’s just a matter of by how much—usually hosts the gathering.  That’s fine, since most of us have adopted a “better you than me” attitude to the holidays, anyway. This year I was actually planning on having buttons and t-shirts made up to promote that particular sentiment.

Anyway, Z’s brother—who I’ll call, Z’s brother, since he’s never told me his name and I don’t really know what else to call him…plus he’s like 4 times bigger than me so I call him as little as possible—usually hosts the event but had a bit of trouble with a large tree crashing through his roof and into his house during the hurricane, a few months back.


So apparently having a tree in your living room is not conducive to holiday entertaining…unless of course it’s Christmas.  So it’s just bad timing, I guess

Not wanting to disappoint all her hungry family members, Z graciously stepped up and agreed to step in.   And of course that affected me and put a hold on my T-shirt marketing campaign.

One of my many assignments was to find a Turkey large enough for 180 people. Of course I immediately thought of my friend Sal since he’s the biggest Turkey I know…


Get it?  Sal’s the biggest turkey I know….

I really crack me up!

So I swung by Sal’s and said, “Come on…we have to find a Turkey for Thanksgiving.”

Sal, always astute, says, “Everyone eats Turkey on Thanksgiving.”

“Yep”, I answered, no slacker myself. “Kind of a tradition”

“Why is that?” Sal queried, always with a thirst for knowledge.

“I believe it has something to do the with the starving Pilgrims who couldn’t figure out how to use the newfangled electric ovens in the new world, and the Native Americans, formerly known as Indians, bringing them Turkey to eat for the first Thanksgiving,” I responded, always with a thirst to please.

Sal considered this for a second. “So if the Native Americans, formerly known as Indians, had brought lasagna instead of Turkey, we’d all be making lasagna instead?”

“Someone would be making lasagna, yes,” I replied. “But I doubt it would be you….”



So after that little bit of fractured history, we hit the grocery store, picked out a suitable turkey, checked that all his papers and parts were in order, and loaded him into the car.

Now, I know you’re expecting me to create this whole Turkey persona to begin a witty dialogue with, much as I’ve done in the past with much less inanimate objects than a Turkey, but I’m not…for a couple of reasons.

One…Turkey’s aren’t as witty you would think.  Gobble gobble is pretty much all you get.

And two…I try not to create clever personalities for anything that’s going to be my dinner as it tends to interfere with my digestion. 

So having delivered the Turkey—

Okay, his name is Enrique, but he goes by Henry and he was making plans to get his GED when he was snapped up by a band of itinerant Turkey hunters, just after Halloween.  He tried reasoning with the hunters, offering to do their laundry for a year, and almost had a deal, until one of the hunters insisted that the Turkey only use powdered detergent, which Henry refused to do because of his severe allergies to anything powdered.  Hence, instead of doing laundry for a year, a task he was ill-suited for anyway, he ended up as my dinner. 

His last words were reported to be: “Thanksgiving blows….”

There…satisfied? Making you rethink those leftovers now, isn’t it?

Z out did herself, in addition to Henry, with about a thousand side dishes and accoutrement.  There was one close call when someone, unacquainted with tradition, had almost smushed up the canned cranberry instead of leaving it in the shape of the can…which is one of the best things about cranberry. In fact I can’t really think of anything else cool about cranberry.

There were of course all the usual suspects of stuffing, mashed potatoes and a thousand assortments of vegetables…each of which have a name and a story…but maybe some other day.

Z’s relatives were well behaved for the most part, and some of them even pretended to remember me. I know you think that’s a joke, but there are really so many people at these things that it’s hard to keep track of all the new additions…even after 30 years or so.  There was one uncomfortable situation, in fact, when somebody asked the guy sitting at the end of the table to pass the string beans, and it was discovered that he was actually in the wrong house.  But it turned out he was lot of fun and I think he’s coming back for Christmas.

All in all, everyone had a great time...including me…and the new guy.  Henry made for a fine dinner and everyone had their fill. I was proud of Henry and his accomplishments…and I like to think that he was too.

Besides, what was he going to do with just a GED in this economy?

Looking for a fun, new Christmas Tradition to share with your family?

Pick up "The Little Red Christmas Ball"

Now available at Amazon

And don't forget

“The Kingdom of Keys”

also available at Amazon

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Town Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a terrific holiday, but it just doesn’t get its due anymore.

For some people, it’s just an inconvenience that comes after Halloween and delays the start of the Christmas season.  Of course most of those people work in advertising and marketing but I suspect there are a lot of other folks ready to haul out the blow up Santas the minute they put away the blow up pumpkins.

Looking back, I guess Thanksgiving has always had to live in the shadow of Christmas, especially when it comes to cozy hometown traditions.  Growing up in a small town like Port Chester, through the 60s and 70’s, I have few, if any, enduring homegrown memories of Thanksgivings past.  We didn’t have a big parade like the White Plains Macy’s version of the New York parade they held for a while, a loooong time ago, which was very cool.  There were no high flying balloons, or any balloons for that matter, but they did bring in some of the floats and I do recall seeing Jay North as Dennis the Menace wave to me…kind of.  I think Bozo may have been there too, but Bozo was everywhere back then, and I suspect he might have just been the guy from the luggage department on his way back from lunch.

I recall learning how to draw a Turkey by tracing around my hand at my now defunct catholic grammar school. To this day I can’t look at my hand without seeing a Turkey.

We also had the annual collection of canned foods that were made into baskets for those who, we were told, were less fortunate than we were. But as a kid, at OLM catholic grammar school, sorting through cans of corn nibblets, beets and string beans, it was hard to imagine anyone less fortunate than you…at least at that particular moment.  Not that we were unhappy to help the unfortunate, but because we were being watched over by a gaggle of scary nuns who sported those mysterious black habits with those big, baggy sleeves, suitable for storing all sorts of items, from tissues to rulers to an unconfirmed sighting of a set of brass knuckles.  I think they actually parked the convent station wagon in one of those big sleeves.

Then there was the annual Turkey raffle, which my mom won one year. Unfortunately, the turkey was a bit too small for our extended family at the time, so the butcher agreed to hold it in the freezer for a while and we ate it around Bastille Day, once we remembered it was still at the butcher shop.

Now, I know, there’s a Turkey Trot in town, which is a bit of a local tradition, but we didn’t have anything like that in the 60’s. The closest thing I remember to a Turkey Trot back then was after we ate the afore mentioned Turkey that had been frozen for 8 months.

I didn’t go to my local High School since I attended, at least in body, yet another parochial school in White Plains. Parochial school…the place where we were told that hundreds of other girls and boys, again, less fortunate than us, were dying to take our seats. I found that hard to believe, since “A”, the seats were about 100 years old and weren’t all that comfortable and “B”, I never once came across a single girl or boy who tried to take it away from me, which I would have gladly turned over without  fight.

But I digress….

So, having not attended PC High, I’m unaware of any traditional Thanksgiving football rivalries to speak of.  However, I did sneak into a game once by marching in with the band at half time…or at least I tried. I also tried to wrangle a free hot dog from the guy in the sandwich truck by saying I was with the band, but it had no effect. Apparently the band had to pay.

So most of my hometown Thanksgiving memories come down to personal remembrances of large family gatherings with parents and grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and an assortment of  cousins, most of which who along with myself, were relegated to the ever popular Kid Table” in the living room. I was always a big fan of the Turkey drum stick because it made me feel like Old King Cole, which helped temper my low self-esteem issues. One of my cousins, always the copycat,  insisted on the other drum stick, since he said it made him feel like Nat King Cole, which was a different issue all together. If a third cousin wanted a drumstick, despite the fact there were no more Coles to be had, my Uncle would try to pawn a piece of the wing off on us as a third drumstick, which none of us ever fell for, much to his disdain.

So year after year we sat there with our drumsticks…and drummettes, and plotted a kid coupe designed to take over the main dining room and exile the adults to the living room.  We were never successful, but once we got older, and were actually allowed at the “Big” table, we found it was kind of boring, and fought for a seat back at the “Kid Table”, which happened to be in front of the TV, which was a definite plus.

But all in all, I guess I have to say, that these hometown Thanksgiving memories of mine, aren’t really so bad after all…even the nuns, big sleeves and all. And keeping in the spirit of the holiday I am thankful for that and know I’m fortunate to have them. I’m also thankful that I live in this cool little place where I’ve been able to share them with, not only family, but a close group of friends, most of whom I’ve grown up with since my teens and twenties and a couple since I was five. 

That’s pretty special, and something that can only be found in a small town Thanksgiving.

Looking for a fun, new Christmas Tradition to share with your family?

Pick up "The Little Red Christmas Ball"

Now available at Amazon

And don't forget

“The Kingdom of Keys”

also available at Amazon

And while you're at it

Like" the Retorts on Facebook