Friday, December 30, 2011

Old & Tired — Fresh & New

For the last few days, things have begun to feel tired. 

The Holidays feel tired.
December feels tired.

2011 feels tired.

The air smells old, the light seems dim; even the squirrels seem tired…tired, tired, tired.

12 months… 52 weeks, nearly 365 days.

And in a couple of days we’ll get up and do it again.

But January feels fresh…feels new.  It always does. 

New Year’s Eve…old and tired.

New Year’s Day…fresh and new.

It’s in our heads, I know.  Too many New Year’s Eves with, first, some Guy Lombardo, then Dick Clark and now that Watercress fellow infusing our brains with Auld Lang Syne.

One month to the next is the same as any other.


It isn’t….


New calendars, new air, new light, new days.

New mysteries and events... to unravel… to unfold.

The warmth of Christmas dissipates around us as the cleansing cold of New Year’s jolts us into the future. Endless possibilities fuel us, staring towards a distant sky.

Of course none of this could happen without a drunken- celebration.

But not for us; this one we sit out. 

No friends, no family, no Zombies nor Druids…not even a single Cloaked Mystic in the bunch.  Just Z and I, a cozy fire and some Chinese take-out. We watch the ball drop and then our eyelids…if they haven’t already done so an hour before

Which is just as well, because I like to jump out of bed early on “Morning One”; grab the new year’s first cup of coffee and start right in on all those
2011 Top Ten “Year in Reviews”, not to mention the 2012 “Year Ahead” predictions from the assembled mass of sage prognosticators.

You find them in every field, from financial, business and political analysts to psychics, tarot readers, palm readers, tea leaf readers and James Patterson readers, who predict he will publish 30 books this year, none of which he will actually write any part of, other than his name on the cover.

My barber makes Year Ahead predictions also, but since he’s a barber, they only have to do with hair, so no one cares…unless it’s your hair.

My favorite of the Year Ahead predication things are the Year Ahead horoscopes. 

Right there, in a few paragraphs, you can see if it’s even gonna be worth your while to get out of bed this year.
Usually, it is, because horoscopes rarely if ever tell you anything bad.  And even if they do tell you something slightly bad might be in the stars for you, like …after meeting an old acquaintance at the roller derby, some of your teeth may fall out this May…it always has a good outcome, like... you’ll save countless dollars on toothpaste and toothbrushes in the months to come.

I admit, I’m always looking for a sign of some kind of good fortune, be it my daily horoscope or the fortune cookie I select after dinner on New Year’s Eve. And I order extra, so I’ll eat A LOT of cookies until I find one.

I guess that’s the thing about horoscopes or any kind of prognostication; they’re all open to interpretation.  And who wants to interpret that the stars are aligned against you?

Well, me…but, you know…I need the excuse.

For years, I’ve been reading about how a huge success is in store for me, right around the corner. That FINALLY, Jupiter is aligning with Mars and the moon is in the seventh house.


Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation….


But every time I take a walk up to that elusive corner, sneak a peek around to see all that good fortune lined up like so many floats in the Thanksgiving Day parade, all I find is that odd woman from up the street with the little shiatsu who walks with a limp.  I mean the dog limps, not the woman.   The woman walks fine…but barks from time to time.

So something’s missing I guess.

Maybe Uranus is—


Its way too easy to make Uranus jokes.

There’re Uranus jokes up the wazoo….


Or Pluto….

Not only named after a dog, but stripped of its noble planet-hood after years of faithful service, fetching all our cosmic slippers and newspapers.

So all in all, in the end, (no Uranus pun intended…really) the stars align this way or that. They shine on us no matter where we are, even when we try to hide.  Especially when we try to hide.

Stars and planets don’t judge…not even Charlie Sheen.

They merely are...just like you and me.

Constant and never ending. 

Just like that 4th grade Christmas pageant you sat through a couple of weeks ago.

Ancient navigators sailed stormy seas, seeking new worlds….using only stars and planets as their guide.

It’s the same for you and me. 

There are countless astrologers and countless interpretations of the daily stories tweeted from the stars.

But there’s really only one story that matters as we sail our personal stormy seas, day in and day out; the story that we write for ourselves. 

The stars align, the planets revolve. They talk to us every day. 

Like everything else, we hear it or we don’t.

We fear it or we don’t.

Like everything else.

Into the future we go…second by second…minute by minute…hour by hour.

Here and now.

Hearing now….

Unless there’s something good on TV….

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Strangest Week of the Year

This week— the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day— is always the strangest week of the year. No one knows what to do with it…or themselves.

Some like to sit around and check out all those 2011 Top Ten lists that come out this time of year, which makes sense, since to make a Top Ten list for the year back in February or March would be presumptuous.

You know, all those 2011 Top Ten Movies, TV Shows, Books, CDs…Famous Dead People.

Imagine how tough it must be to be number 11 on the Famous Dead People list?
So close…. 

Just bad timing really....

Who knew Flipper was so sick?
You can catch up with old friends you haven’t seen in a year for lunch and discover that you really have nothing to say to them, even after a year, which is why you haven’t seen them in a year in the first place.
Still, you appreciate that they tell you look good and haven’t changed, plus the fact that they don’t mention the eight inch hair growing out of your right ear that you forgot to trim this year.
So there’s that….
Some folks like to use this transition week to go on vacation—skiing or sunning—which is nice if you can swing it. Others just hang out at home and watch football and old movies.

And then there are those that actually have to go to work. But even then, there’s usually not much work to be done since most of the people that you usually deal with in the course of a day are out vacationing or at home watching football and old movies.

So you sit around the office and basically have another paid vacation week, in the office.

Also, not bad….

Of course there are some folks who really do have to work. I mean actually work and earn their paychecks. The ones we really depend on to keep the engines running. Like nurses, police, fire, or anyone who actually provides a public service for the greater good.

I mean those half cap de caf mochachino aren’t gonna make themselves.

But for the rest of us, it’s kind of like being neither here nor there.

Or in Secaucus….

The one BIG thing I have to do today is to get over to the Calendar Store and pick up my 50% off calendars. I refuse to pay full price for a calendar. So I wait and cross my fingers that all my favorites will still be there, right where I hid them back in August...behind the “Wives of Newt” section.

My whole year hinges on it; otherwise I won’t know when to go to the beach.

Or I could make my own top ten “Top Ten” list like:

1.   The top ten Tuesdays that ended in odd numbers…and there was a chance for a late day shower.

2.   The top ten movies I meant to see but didn’t and then forgot their names when they came on cable…so I missed them again.

I could make that list…or—

3.   The top ten pretzels I ate on a Thursday…not including nuggets.

4.   The top ten 100 year storms we’ve had this year.

5.   The top tdn tipos I’ve mode.

6.   The top ten books I meant to read but couldn’t because I’m still trying to get through “House of the Seven Gables”, which I began in 1982.

7.   The top ten Rigatoni I’ve enjoyed.

And not bowls of Rigatoni; I mean each individual Rigatoni because every Rigatoni has its own unique story.

8.   The top ten names I’ve forgotten…if I could…you know…remember them.

9.   The top ten blogs I’ve written, of which this is most definitely not one.

And finally….

10.  The top ten internet solicitations I’ve received from my legions of internet fans.

Here’s the latest entry that might just grab the prize.  

Hi lonely man!

You are lonely? I too! You search for the partner for life and for creation of family. That we have the common problem. Can solve to us this problem together! And we can exchange the photos. I tell a little about myself: My name is Marina. To me of 30 years old, mine height of 170 centimeters and I weigh 66 kg. Average constitution. I have hair blonde and green eyes. I hope to see your letter.


Doesn’t she have just the most endearing way with words? I wish I knew the metric system better. I'm particularly entranced by the fact that she has an average constitution. Because, and I know it’s shallow of me, but who want someone with a less than average constitution.

Not me.

I hope she got my flowers…..

Monday, December 26, 2011

It’s Over!

So as we pull ourselves up and out of the mountain of shredded wrapping paper and bows we woke up under this morning; wipe the crusty remnants of lasagna, ham and turkey from our faces, the only solace we can find, as our heads thump to the rhythm of Frosty the Snowman’s over.

It's over...Christmas is over!
Pull the plug on all that holiday good cheer....

Well, sort of. 
The trees remain, with lights and baubles. The streets will continue to glow with mirth and something that rhymes with mirth, if anything does, for at least another week.
The stores will continue to draw large crowds, probably even larger than before the holiday, due to returns and 99% off sales, which means you’ll save about 5 bucks since they were marked up 400% to begin with. 
But for the most part…it’s over.

The gift giving, the eating, the drinking...over, over, over.

Did I say it was over?

Christmas Eve was a relatively quiet affair with just Z and I and my mom.

I grilled fillet and Lobster tail to mark the significance of the occasion.

I'm not sure what Z and my mom had because I was on my third viewing of "A Christmas Story," but I'm sure they enjoyed it just as much as I did mine.

So all in all, I have to say, everything went well despite the fact that Z and I do Christmas a little differently than most around here.

See, we decided a long time ago that we both had pretty much everything we could possibly need, including the entire inventory of the LL Bean catalogue…winter, spring summer and fall editions.  Therefore, we don't see the necessity for all that gift buying for each other. 

Still, we like all the wrapping/unwrapping hoopla of the holiday, so basically we select various household items, wrap them, bow them and put them under the tree.

Last year I gave Z the old dust buster and she gave me the cheese grater.  This year I was originally giving her the mix master, but she needed it to bake her cookies, earlier in the week, so I relented and gave it to her early.
It’s important to be flexible with your gift giving. 
However, I wanted her to have something to open Christmas morning, so being the perennial elf of good cheer that I am, I gave her the Swiffer wet mop, which I have to tell you, was a bitch to wrap.
I got the TV remote this year, which I was hoping for, because I was getting a little tired of getting up to change the channels the last couple of weeks.
After the traditional exchanging of "gifts" we were off to Z’s brother’s house for dinner; you know, the one I mentioned, a while back, who had that big tree fall through his roof during the August Hurricane. Having a big tree in his living room didn’t work for Thanksgiving, obviously, so he got creative and threw some tinsel and a few lights on the thing, so we we’re good to go for Christmas.
See how things work out, especially this time of the year?
Speaking of which, after the Thanksgiving mix up, Z bought me a shirt with my name and legal familial affiliation embroidered on the pocket, so I was almost able to sit at the main table this time around.  Almost...
It’s not that I minded sitting at the smaller kid table…it’s just that I thought it was kind of rude of them, last time, to ask me to leave before dinner…especially since it was my house.  
But you know…families….
Our annual Christmas/Winter Solstice shindig was also well received the other night. At least I think it was…I haven’t had a chance to sort through the survey cards yet.  
I think we have a pretty good chance of improving on last year’s numbers…mostly because no one caught on fire this year. Well…not if you don’t count the cloaked mystic.  But he was only singed.
After some last minute uncertainty over who was possibly bowing out due to illness, or what have you, everyone who was supposed to make an appearance did appear and partied on well after midnight. I think it might have been 12:08 AM to be precise. But I’ll verify the exact time, later, after I scan through the surveillance videos, to determine who took the flat screen TV...again.
Anyway, what can I say?  It's over...another Christmas Day has come and gone. It is what it is. As impossible as that may seem…it is.

And soon it will be the 4th of July. 

Holiday after holiday… the train keeps on chugging.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Hometown Christmas Story

Back in the mid 60’s, when my friends and I were in the 6th grade, one of our favorite Hometown holiday traditions was to head on over to the fairly new Rye Ridge Shopping Center and play our version of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” behind the pile of Christmas Trees that they were selling. 

They used to set up in the northeast corner of the parking lot, where Bowman crosses South Ridge. There, we would casually walk along Ridge Street in our coolest Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin style, then suddenly drop over the guard rail and roll down the hill and into the mountain of trees, which kind of formed a hidden fortress on 3 sides. 
We called our adventure the “Yuletide Affair” and day after day we would jump around in bales of evergreen, undetected by the tree guys, or so we thought, until one day the delivery truck arrived and tree after Merry Christmas Tree came raining down on us from above.
Luckily, we were well trained agents and escaped to skulk another day; mostly against our friend Artie and his younger brother, Donnie, both of whom were unaware they were even being skulked.
I’m not sure why we did this; mostly because we were 11 with time on our hands, my friend Abner lived up the street and we liked humming the song.
All good reasons….
Okay…so it’s not much of a Port Chester Christmas story, but it’s my Port Chester Christmas story…lame or not. 
See, that’s the problem with writing a hometown Christmas story.  Everybody has one, and I know most of them are probably better than mine and go a lot further back. 
Some of you grew up in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s or even a time before; a time that still buzzes inside you with life, rich with the detail of texture and color. To my mid to late baby boom generation, the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, like most things that came before us, are just mysteries wrapped in a collection of sepia toned photographs. The sights, the sounds, the feel of 1935 Main Street…I can’t even begin to imagine. 
Oh, sure, I’ve got some more stories, but the best I can offer is something like our OLM Christmas pageant, where the big highlight every year was the 8th graders standing as still as statues, recreating the Nativity scene.  For some reason this was a big deal and always drew lots of applause, which is still a mystery to me since there wasn’t an enemy agent to be found, let alone a cool theme song to hum.  
So, I’m struggling here, rolling back to numerous Christmas Eves spent with my Italian and Irish grandparents on South Regent and Rollhaus Place, respectively, trying to dig up a good one—like, maybe the time my cousin blew linguini out of her nose when she found out what scungilli really was. 
So there’s that.
But the more I think about it, I guess I would have to say that my most enduring Christmas memory of Port Chester would be that one night a year I went into the village with my dad, to buy my mom’s Christmas presents.
It would always be the last Thursday night, just before the big day.  He’d walk into the house, right from the train, still carrying the chill of December on his long winter coat. The rest was routine: drop the keys on the side table, take off his hat, stick his brief case in the corner…except on this one night, there came the long awaited announcement…“The men” are going shopping tonight!”
A quick change of clothes followed, transferring pockets of jingling change from suit pants to khakis. Then, keeping to schedule, he‘d pack me into our Black & White 57 Chevy—where the heat almost never worked, which accounted for the December chill thing—and off we went.  
Our first stop was a cool little silver clad bakery on the corner of Westchester and Broad that I believe was called Topper’s, at least according to my friend Joanne, who remembers…well, almost nothing, except maybe this. She did get her dad, who knows his bakeries, to verify, so I think we’re okay. 
Topper’s was the home of the world’s greatest ginger bread men, or at least I thought so, and I suppose the idea was to provide me with something I could dismember, limb by limb, which would help keep me occupied…not to mention quiet on our long journey into the retail wilderness.
Now, I’m not sure why—maybe because it was such a rare occasion—but as we drove under the railroad bridge, Main Street was suddenly alive with magic; an endless tunnel of colorful lights and garland, dancing from every light pole, across one side of the street to the other. 
A Christmas tree, which to a 6 year old was as big as the one in Rockefeller Center, lit up the Square, and the sound of bells ringing from strategically placed Santas created a cacophonous effect, accompanying the buzz and bustle of shoppers crowding the sidewalks as far as my eyes could see.
Of course, I would like to say it was snowing, and maybe it was, at least once—I’m not sure—but it was always frosty and my nose would run as we rambled in and out of creaky storefront doors. However, unlike my mom, who was always at the ready and the nose, with a tissue, my dad would just say “wipe that runny thing”, which left the how to my own ingenuity, which I won’t get into at this time.
On it went, from one store to the other we’d wander in search of “mom” gifts; and the thing that was most amazing, at least to me, was how nice all the sales ladies were to my dad, in a way that they were never “as nice” to my mom. There were always lots of smiles, giggles and even a few wiggles, as he had a way of making all of them, even the sternest ladies from the dreaded Kaplan’s, laugh at his feigned helplessness, while they produced the latest in early 60’s fashion for our perusal.
A poofy hat with a weird kind of netting and possibly a feather. A fuzzy sweater with strange little beads and maybe a poodle stitched on the pocket.
My dad would hold up each item, looking this way and that, then finally turn to me and say, “Which one do you think?”  
I would study each item carefully, then point to the one that had the most blue in it, pretty much the same as I still do today.
Afterwards, with a job well done, we would stop at Nielsen’s for a hot chocolate and a—
Well, in the official Frank Capra and mom version that’s how it might have gone. But in reality it was more like Covino’s or Amerigo’s for a slice of pizza and a “Pop for Pop” as he might have said it. 
Then the short ride home, where I always fell asleep, and it always snowed in my dream.
So, I guess that’s it…my hometown Christmas story…and I wouldn’t write it any other way.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Hazards

I usually don’t post something new on Thursdays, mostly because it follows Wednesday and precedes Friday, when I do post something new, and mostly because I’m lazy.

Plus I’m afraid I only have a certain number of thoughts and ideas and I’m afraid they're rapidly running out; so I’m rationing them….

Still, having said that, I’m sitting here at midnight, writing more of what one of my loyal Patch readers referred to, a couple of weeks ago, as my “tongue in cheek drivel”—which I actually took as a compliment, for some odd reason—waiting on that special moment, in just a matter of minutes, when the sun stops dead in its tracks

I also have some “Marotta Marauders” still wandering around, even though I turned off the tree lights about an hour ago.

Thanks again, to Ms. M, the “Blogging Queen” for sharing her readers with me yesterday.  Christmas indeed came early. 
I hope I’ve returned them, for the most part, with their sanity still intact, no worse for the wear or drivel.  And if some of them have indeed left part of their sanity behind and come back to look for it, I thought I’d better be here to greet them and help them search around for it.

It might be under the old secretary in the corner; lot's of things seem to end up under there....
Anyway, what I was thinking aboutwhile I was sitting here waiting for the sun to stop, even though it’s dark on this side of the world, making it difficult to see the sun, let alone see it stopwas that there are many hazards that abound at this Holiday time of year…even if you’re not looking for the sun.

Hazards, mostly for my waistline.

For one, Z keeps a small bowl of Christmas M & Ms—you know the snoot ones that banish all the other colors except for the red and green—in a bowl by the entrance way to the dining room, through which all things run…at least to the kitchen, in this house. 

So,basically, neither one of us can walk pass this enticing little bowl, without dipping our fingers in it, as if it were a bowl of holy water in the vestibule of the church. 

So there’s that….

Once you’re able to navigate past the M & Ms, there’s then the little cup of Holiday Hershey Kisses that serve as decorations on the dining room china cabinet.  Unlike the M&Ms, however, these little gems are not just red and green…there are silver ones as well.

After a brief stopover with the kisses, one then finally works their way into the kitchen, where a festive assortment of homemade holiday cookies awaits you. And it would just be rude not to stop and chat with them for a while…or devour one or two or three.  But only the the ones from the first batch with the slightly overdone bottoms.  Because that's a RULE....

And once you’re able to move on from all this temptation that is thrust upon you…or more like on ME…I then grab what brought me into the kitchen in the first place…a can of Diet Coke…you know…because I’m watching my weight.

So it’s hard.

I’m also trying not to ruin my appetite so I have room to lick the bowl after I bake my brownies, tomorrow, for our upcoming party on Friday.  That’s one of the indulgences I’m actually allowed, but not until the bowl has been emptied into the baking pan…that's another least now.  Licking the brownie bowl while it's still full of brownie substance is apparently frowned upon in this establishement.

Then there are the candy canes hanging on the tree, which Z has to replace every other day…okay…every day, because how do you just walk by edible decorations…every day?

I mean how...?

And that’s only the in house hazards. How about that fruit cake the neighbors drop off, mostly because somebody dropped it off at their house and they didn’t want it, so it gets passed around like a hot potato from neighbor to neighbor until it finally ends up back at the originator, who also didn’t want it in the first place.

I don’t know…I’m kind a traditionalist, so I think that’s all kind of “Bah Humbuggish-ish”.  I mean if someone goes to all the trouble of bringing me a fruitcake, I accept it in the spirit of the season…and drop it off in another town. 
Believe me, there’re so many poor fruitcakes getting passed around out there, nobody notices another one.

Okay…looks like the sun has finally stopped moving. Well, like I said, if I could actually see it, which I can’t, here in the Northern Hemisphere…it wouldn’t be moving.

But I am…straight to my bed.
If the sun can sleep can I....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

It’s a little startling when I look out the window, late in the afternoon, these days.

It’s especially startling for a sun person like me, cuz, well…there is no sun.

Well, that’s not true; there is a sun…it’s just been working on bankers hours for a while. Or what used to be considered bankers hours. This time of year, bankers work longer hours than the sun.

Sure, it’s the holiday season and everyone wants to kick back a little and close up shop early, but hey…come on…the sun has been slacking off, little by little, for a couple of months now.

What…it didn’t think we would notice?

I guess the good news is that we’re finally at the tipping point…the Winter Solstice. It comes upon us at 12:30 AM EST tomorrow morning.  That is—or was— the morning of Thursday the 22nd to those of you “late to the party”, future readers.

At that moment, the sun stops dead in its downhill tracks, takes a deep breath, says “Oy” and from that point forward starts its looooong climb back up that ol' temporal mountain, all over again; adding a little bit more daylight, one step at a time.

Sure, he’ll linger around at the bottom for a while; maybe sip on a smoothie…even grab a quick nap before moving on...but by mid-January, we’ll look out the window and notice…hey, it’s not dark at 5 anymore!

So, for that reason, Winter Solstice has long been known as a festival of light or a celebration of the return of light.  It’s the genesis of all this big holiday hoo ha taking place right now in most every culture, all around the world…including Christmas and Hanukkah, and the lesser known Feast of St Lucia, which honors the Swedish Patron Saint of light, and Yule, which honors the Russian Patron Saint of bald headed actors who starred in the King and I, some time ago.

And for every celebration…of course, there’s some kind of party, and ours is this Friday night. 

Our 11th annual in fact, in this house, with quite a few more preceding that in the various other dwellings we’ve inhabited  through the years; including that refrigerator box I lived in that one year right after the Regan administration. But it was a “side by side” refrigerator box, with an ice maker, so it wasn’t as tight a squeeze as you would think.

Our Winter Solstice party, disguised as a Christmas party, is somewhat different than our crazy out of control Summer Solstice party, which I wrote about back in June, as well as its aftermath. This party is a little more sedate without all of that Druid raucousness, and Morris dancing. No mazes to navigate or naked fire dancing. In fact the only similarities to Summer Solstice, at all, are the cloaked mystics that we invite back, each year, because they kind of look like the Wise Men and certain Shepherds in the field where they lay.

But for the most part it’s just quiet hors d'oeuvres and limbo dancing to Burl Ives.

For the most part….

They say the idea behind all the holiday partying and carrying on started back in ancient times—maybe the 50’s— when all the folks back then, weren’t sure they’d survive the harsh winter that was nipping at their nose.  So they slaughtered the cattle, emptied the beer and wine casks, decked the halls with boughs of holly, and partied like there was no tomorrow, which, as I said, they figured was a good possibility.

That’s also kind of why we started having this Christmas party a long time ago, ourselves. We figured, following tradition, the harsh winters would eventually take their toll and the guest list would shrink by attrition.  However, we failed to take into account central heating and electric blankets, not to mention modern pharmaceuticals and supermarkets…so, instead, the guest list has actually increased over the years.

But the more the merrier….

There’s also some history that says the ancient Roman’s, those crazy little merrymakers, during what they referred to as Saturnalia, would reverse the social order at this time of year as the “Masters” would host great feasts, becoming servants to their “slaves”, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked.  A “Mock King” was also elected to oversee the revelry.

Unfortunately, this tradition never took off at our party since it would have required the men, tearing themselves away from the beer cooler and TV, to wait on the women; at least according to how they see their roles.  The women see it a bit differently, with which I tend to agree. Besides, the women pretty much always do and say what they like anyway, so no one saw an upside. 

Of course once I heard about the “Mock King” thing, I thought I was the natural choice to take on that assignment.  But it turned into a nightmare as the other guest took it to mean mocking the king, which ruined the whole thing, plus I later read that the “Mock King” was traditionally sacrificed at the end of the night, so the following year, I graciously passed it on to one of the cloaked mystics.

I know, what you’re thinking…what kind of host does that make me…pawning off my potential human sacrifice on some poor unsuspecting mystic?
Hey…he’s a mystic. He should have seen it coming.

Besides, who was gonna clean up the mess afterwards?

Well, yeah…Z…but who’ was gonna help her once they finally woke up in the morning.

Solstices can be very demanding.