Friday, November 30, 2012

Goodbye November

Goodbye November….

You tried…I guess…but this year you were a real turkey of a month.

Get it… turkey of a month?


Maybe because I ignored November from the start.

I usually have something to say about the start of each new month, even if only in passing.

But since November snuck into town on the heels of the “Super Storm”, it went largely unnoticed.

So I suppose if I were a month that would put my nose a little out of joint also…if I were a month…and had a nose.

But so many people spent the majority of November’s first half in the dark; some even now, believe it or not. Who had time, let alone the ability to see a calendar?

To be honest—which I guess implies that most times I’m not—a lot of folks didn’t even care what month it was; all they cared about was getting warm.

And just as November was beginning to flex its schadenfreude muscle and unabashedly relish in October’s misfortune at losing Halloween…we end up pushing Halloween right into November.

Like November—schadenfreude asidewas prepared to take on Halloween and all the Zombies, Vampires and endless bags of candy that accompany it?

And the fact that October took the opportunity to knock off early and opened its condo in Boca a week ahead of schedule this year, didn’t make November any less bitter.

I mean November has always had a bit of a complex anyway.

It’s kind of like Thursday in that way.

Close but no cigar.

Everyone loves Friday…but Thursday…not so much to write home about…especially on Wednesday night.

Admit it, how many times on a Wednesday night did you moan and say, “Ughhhh…I wish tomorrow was Friday instead of Thursday.”

Same with November.

Turkeys and Pilgrims notwithstanding, November’s really got nothing to write home about either.

All the colorful foliage of fall is past and for the most part moldering on your lawn in November, which requires raking.

The retailers have pretty much ignored your one big day and already jumped ahead to Christmas decorating and every other yuletide this and that.

In fact, most people can’t even wait for Thanksgiving to be put to bed before they start their Christmas shopping mania.

And, like I said, on top of all that, this year November had to figure out what to do with all those little ghouls and goblins clogging up the streets.

November is just not suited for ghouls and goblins. 

Not many months are.

So who could blame November for acting out a little by dumping 4 inches of snow on us just before the re-sched.

Then it opened up the door and let all this artic air slip in from Canada.

I mean, yeah…it is a brrrrrrrrr month, but who can remember the last morning we woke up with the thermometer above the 30’s?

But now it’s done…almost.

So November had a bad month….big deal.

Who didn’t?

It’s entitled.

Besides, one of the good things about November is that no one really notices much about it anyway.

That’s just how it is with border months.

I mean does anybody notice much about March, unless you’re Irish or have a birthday in March?

Not really…we’ve all got our eye set on April and December.

But there is one good thing that came out of this November.

I finally got to use schadenfreude in a story…three times!

So thanks, November…no hard feelings…we’ll see you again next year and try again….

And watch the schadenfreude …no good ever came from that kind of thing.

Besides…you’re better than that.

Four times!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Shuffle

Well, here we are, just a couple of days away from December and the final gasps of 2012. 

I wonder, will all the Triskaidekaphobites just skip past 2013 and go right on to 2014?

Or will they just go into hibernation for a year?

I suppose there’ll be a lot of folks keeping one eye slightly open, slightly askew, at all times next year, looking to pounce on some sort of misfortune to hang on the old one three.

But there’ll be a lot of time to discuss all that, I’m sure.

In fact, I’m surprised some nit wit hasn’t already jumped the gun and brought it up already….


Anyway, it’s nearly December and yet another Downhill Holiday Plunge stands before us.

It’s hard to imagine, but each year I become less and less prepared for it, which is why I’ve been lobbying for bi-yearly holidays for bi-decades now.

But I can’t seem to gain much traction on that proposal,

I think mostly because people don’t understand what bi-anything refers to.

I think most people assume that when you attach bi- to any word it somehow connotes something having to do with sexual orientation…or a two wheel, self-propelled vehicle...and sexual orientation.

So it’s been an uphill climb.

Bicycle or not.

Having said that, however, you probably know I’m not one to be easily discouraged (is that laughter I hear?) so I’ve decided to take a new tact.

If we can’t go bi- with the holiday season, why don’t we just go the other way and extend it…for about 3 months into the new year.

This way we can ease into the holidays rather than having it all dumped on us, right after Halloween.

Keep Halloween where it is…unless of course there’s some kind of super storm that dumps on it…in which case we can now apparently re-schedule it to whenever…but move Thanksgiving back a half month or even a whole month.

Then we can re-schedule Christmas, Hanukah and all the other festival of lights for sometime around mid-February.

Okay…sure…that means we bump Valentine’s Day back a bit too.

But come on…it’s Valentine’s Day.

You know?

Drop it into May, June…even August…will anyone even notice?

I know, I know, I know….

I’m messing with tradition…but 18th, 19th, 20th Century tradition.

If I’m not mistaken this is now the 21st Century…time to shake up the calendar a bit.

The retailers will like it…the electric companies will like it too… you know because of the extended holiday lighting season.

It'll even give all the cable TV networks time to program more of their endless schmaltzy Holiday movie fare.

Maybe even produce another couple of dozen.

More work for all those B-list former TV stars.

And by the time all the festivities wind down…it’ll be almost spring.

Not bad, huh?

So hopefully I’ve given you something to ponder while you’re out there hunting down the next big holiday bonanza.

Maybe you'll even form a committee to get the ball rolling.

What…you expect me to do it?

I’m just the idea guy….

Besides I gotta go dig out my Burl Ives Christmas CD.

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 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Last Rose of Summer

It’s been a tough last couple of months around here, both communally and personally, so when I walked out on to the back porch this morning to take in my daily dose of sanity stabilizing, cold fresh air, I was greeted by the most pleasant of surprises: the last rose of summer.

Not that it should have been a surprise at all; Z had pointed it out to me, through the kitchen window, a few days before. My head was just too full of distraction and the usual nonsense that makes up my daily life to fully process what she was saying.

Z is always a few steps ahead of most people when it comes to picking out these little gifts of nature, so, needless to say, Z is always miles ahead of me.

But there it stood, on this cold November, post-Thanksgiving morning, standing straight and tall; solitary, but proud.

While all its floral peers had long succumbed to frozen nights and early snow, this fair weather holdout managed to hunker down, wait its turn and blossom at the moment when it was most needed.

Sure, there were more impressive blooms throughout the season; bunches upon bunches brightening up the garden.

But none, as welcome and appreciated as this single rose, the last of a summer now long since passed.

It knew its season.

A season of one.

And amid the cold, dark world of inevitable winter still to come, we’re all the brighter for it…today, much more than yesterday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Road Maps to the Past

Every now and then, while digging through the attic for my long lost pet rock collection, I come across an old Thanksgiving photo from the 60’s.

It’s often a group shot of my extended family sitting around a festive holiday table filled with food or, more likely, the remnants of food.

All familiar faces, minus the shadows of time; many now gone, but all still remembered.

These black and white road maps to my past are now the treasures of my present; opening doors to earlier days of innocence, wrapped in joy, sprinkled with pain…now embossed with smiles, knowing resolution always lingered just around the corner.

Little did we know, back then, when whoever grabbed that old Brownie Instamatic or Polaroid Swinger that we were actually staring into the future?  That we were destined to be a moment frozen for all time; a moment left for future generations to ponder…or toss in the trash while cleaning out our attics.

That’s the funny thing about old photos.

Prize to me…clutter to someone else.

The thing is, unless you were there, that captured moment is lacking something critical; something which can only be restored through our imaginations.


What’s lacking is the noise…the hub bub, the din…even the sound of my grandfather snoring, just off the right of picture frame.

Especially the sound of my grandfather snoring, just off the right of picture frame.

And with the clatter from the past restored in our minds, soon follows the colors, the smells, the textures and all the rest.

The laughter from the kitchen over who spilled the gravy. The arguments from the living room over what actually constitutes a fumble, both on TV and the front lawn...especially the front lawn.

The sight of your uncle—or somebody’s uncle, of whom you were never quite sure—enlisting the drumsticks as ear decorations, which he did…every year…something he thought we wanted to see…every year.

The smell of meatball soup filling the room; too hot for some…too cold for others...still, always anticipated and always delicious.

Cranberry, in the shape of a can, wiggling on a small plate in the shape of a turkey, beckoning to all of us, shape notwithstanding, to be the first to deface its jellied perfection.

Fascination, as Grandma scoops out stuffing from a turkey’s unmentionable nether region—are we really gonna eat that stuff—Gramps sharpening the BIG knife, all the while hatching a plan to keep the drumsticks away from the previously mentioned big eared mysterious uncle.

The pumpkin pie dropped, then zipped away and haphazardly reconfigured into semi-perfect slices, enlisting the five second rule as to why it was still mostly okay to eat…especially with cool whip…especially on Thanksgiving.

More laughter….more arguments…more of everything, packaged in black and white and sent off to the future.

Today, the memories come wrapped in digits of zeros and ones, very often already filled with sound and even music embedded. Everything future generations will ever need to peer back into an electronically flawless past….except imagination

But, even so, as you sit at the table in this season of runaway holiday trains, pose by the turkey or sit by the tree, staring into your own future unknown, imagine that moment frozen in black and white, curled at the edges, preserving a lifetime of memories for you and everyone yet to come.

Just another thing to be thankful for.

Road Maps to the past
Treasures of the present.

Even the guy with the drumsticks for ears….

Happy Thanksgiving!
Also...speaking of treasures of the present...
Happy Birthday Z!

(What? I'm still hoping to get my house keys back)

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 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Long Distance Calling

We’re getting into that time of year now when, in the past, people made a big thing about picking up the phone to catch up with friends and family, near and far.

Not so much, anymore, since technology  allows folks, no matter where they are, to keep track of each other 365 days of the year…for better or for worse.

I’ll let you decide.

Social media reigns and almost everyone, both young and old is tied in.

No more having to pick up the phone to see what Aunt Sadie is up to with her knitting club. 

Today Aunt Sadie is updating her Facebook status from Cancun, where she’s posting pictures of herself “knitting” on the beach with a couple of guys named Manny and Jose.

Cell phones, or mobile phones, or smart phones, as they are more accurately referred to these days, are everywhere and they have slowly but surely replaced the landline phone as our primary means of communication.

Where mobile communications used to be a utility of convenience to be found mostly on the road, grocery store, beach or in the middle of a crowded movie theatre so you could tell your best friend who you saw with whom on the road, grocery store or beach, I’m sure most of you now find yourself sitting in the comfort of your living room, chatting away, texting or pursuing the latest advancements  in car deodorizers on this little techno nugget, while your poor old corded or cordless phone is sitting forlornly to the side adjusting to life as a paper weight.

However, the thing that bugs me about mobile phones, no matter how smart they are, is that the sound quality is still a bit lacking.  More often than not you feel as if you’re talking to an inhabitant of Mars.

And the thing is, over the last couple of decades, the sound quality on  landlines had just evolved to the point that no matter where in the world your call originated, the person jabbering in your ear sounded as if they were actually in the next room…which, granted, depending on with whom you were speaking, could be a little creepy.

I guess you have to be of a “certain age” to appreciate that kind of acoustic advancement….especially when it came to long distance.

Or to even know what long distance even is.

Once, there was a time when making a long distance call had some meaning to it.

It was momentous.

Families gathered to pass the phone around on a Sunday evening when rates were at their lowest. They chatted up Grandma and Grandpa, half way across the country, or you called that nice young lady you met in that hotel bar in Wichita, years before, who gave you her number and suggested you keep in touch, which you did, because you thought it was the polite thing to do.

Sunday evening was also the appointed time to speak to parents when we were away at school…and you swore you could hear the kitchen timer ticking off the minutes in the background.

Weekday calls were off the table, even in the event of death, even your own…however, requests for organ donation were allowed…if absolutely necessary…and it couldn’t hold until the evening rates came into effect.

Sure, long distance was expensive, but even so, you felt as if you were getting your money’s worth judging by the level of hissing you heard on the line. The more extraneous background noise the better, because it indicated just how far your voice was traveling through a long, long maze of wire and telephone poles in order to get to where it was it across the river or across the ocean.

Shouting into the phone, just to be heard, was often required and if you were lucky to get one of those connections that echoed back to you, you imagined your voice bouncing around in the middle of a prairie, scaring off cowboys and coyotes alike. 
People even bragged on their long distance calls, back then…but not today. Today calling across the country is as common as calling down the street for a pizza.

And whether you’re calling Hoboken or Hong Kong, everyone sounds the same…not a hiss or a hum to be found.

Kids in college call their parents five times a day just to report a sneeze, no matter what part of the country they find themselves. 

Old friends are never more than a text message away.

Everyone’s connected by technology and phones, smart and dumb alike…the phones I mean.


So I guess it’s a good thing. 

But it’s odd to think that younger generations will never grasp what it was like to be disconnected.

That being friends meant more than being on a list shared with 500 other “friends”.

When communicating actually meant interacting, beyond 140 characters slipped in among countless other bits of information and witticism on Twitter.

When the words “long distance calling”, stirred excitement and anticipation.

It was a rarity…and relationships were all the more special because of it.

Okay…gotta go answer a text from that guy who sold me that pair of sneakers a few years ago. 

We said we’d keep in touch….



Friday, November 16, 2012

Transition Lost

Fall is normally one of our peaceful seasons of transition.

Like spring, it eases us into a time of extremes…extremes in terms of weather, activities and especially the celebration of life in one form or another…most of which include lots of food, friends and adult beverages.

Spring is known for its colorful blooms, Easter egg baskets; breezy days spent thatching the lawn and hoeing the gardens awake.

Fall is known for its colorful foliage, pumpkin patches, apple cider and crisp sunny days spent raking leaves and putting the gardens to bed.

Where spring plays harmonies of anticipation, fall plays the melody of submission.

Winter is knocking on the door.

Prepare the homestead…prepare yourself…short brittle days and long cold nights lay ahead, in wait, in time.

Two sides of a sundial, as the sun slips around.

And while there’s still quite a bit of fall to encounter, it seems as if, this year, we’ve been cheated of our peaceful transition.

Forests of waning color, suddenly ripped apart; unable to fulfill the cycle of a hundred years…bloom, flourish, color the landscape, wither and fall, nourishing next year’s revival.

Early snow and icy chill.

Houses rendered uninhabitable. The inhabitable ones left in dark for weeks, lives forever scarred, altered and in some cases lost.

We focused more on power truck sightings this year than we did on falling leaves and trick or treaters.

We thought only of comfort; the restoration of normal, looking to the future for our friends and our families.

And nearly three weeks slipped away; Thanksgiving inexplicably now on our doorstep.

And while it may seem counter-intuitive to say…I think there will be many thanks, and much giving to go around this year.

For all that still stands and for what will be reclaimed.

For the spirit of hope that fuels us and the support of all those that drives us…always ahead.

Transition lost. 
But still, the future found.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Halloween on the Move

So we finally had Halloween, here, in town, last Friday.

Kind of weird…but kind of empowering to know that we could do that.

Move Halloween.

I mean, I know it was an extraordinary circumstance, but you know how these things go…once they find out they can do a thing…then they decide why not do it again.

So who knows…maybe next time they’ll just decide to move Summer…the whole season.

Just up and move it to January where we can really use it.

Not a bad idea.

But then how would we fill up June and July?


I guess we could slide up Spring.

June and July can be hot sometimes, so Spring might be nice.

But then that leaves Fall hanging with Winter.

I don’t know…this is all above my pay grade,

Actually, buying toothpaste is above my pay grade.

So I guess we’ll just have to leave it to the politicians.

They know what they’re doing….


Anyway, back to Halloween…or what passed for Halloween.

It was kind of sparse.

In fact, the Zombies across the street missed the whole thing.

Can you believe that?

I guess when you take into account that Zombies rarely watch the news or read the papers…you know, because of all the bad press…it kind of makes sense.

The Vampires had a family thing, out of town, so they weren’t home.

And the Witches said they’re hearts just weren’t in it…no joke.

Believe that?

You know how much it takes for a witch to lose heart?

I mean their own?

So who do you think stepped up and saved the day?

No…not the Mummies.

The Mummies moved out of the neighborhood years ago…ever since they got all wrapped up in that antiquities thing.

Something about trying to pass of uncertified sarcophaguses as authentic.

Such a mess.

No…it was the Werewolves of all people…or lycanthropes.

To their credit they saw an opportunity and they pounced all over it.

And the kids loved it. They were really eating the wolves up…which was a nice change.

And except for all the howling, that went way late into the night, the rest of the neighborhood was thrilled to see them out there enjoying themselves again, after all this time.

And since there was only a quarter moon, instead of the full moon that came with the real Halloween this year, the drooling was held to a minimum.

So I guess it all worked out. 

Even without the Zombies.

Who knows…maybe this’ll be just the wakeup call they need to get their heads screwed back on straight.

If that’s even possible….

Friday, November 9, 2012

Good News - Bad News

The good news is, the people have spoken…and things are not going to change a whole lot around here over the next four years.

The bad news is, the people have spoken…and things are not going to change a whole lot around here over the next four years.

The other bad news is I’m sitting here writing this right after what would have to be considered a pretty significant snowstorm, no matter what time of winter it occurred, let alone the first full week of November.


The good news is my town rescheduled Halloween, for this Friday night—by proclamation no less.

Of course, the kids might need to wear snow shoes, but, hey…that’s the new normal on Halloween around here, these days.

I wonder if there was an actual fanfare accompanying the proclamation?

Or, maybe a juggler?

But still…jugglers notwithstanding…Halloween…the real Halloween...was blown away…literally…and now it’s been rescheduled.

Hey…if they can reschedule Halloween, I wonder if they can reschedule Mondays.

Move them back later in the week.

Just a thought….

So we all voted the other day…or at least hopefully we all voted.

Americans love to vote.

We vote on everything…music…TV…movies…even who the sexiest person in America is.

And thank you, by the way, for all your support.

It’s one of, if not the basic right we have as citizens of the US of A.

That and the right to have power to light up our Christmas trees and Hanukah bushes…which the way things are going might be problematic for some of my friends this year.

Yep…people are still struggling in the dark and cold.

The good news is it’s the same power companies running the restoration efforts as last year…and the year before that.

The bad news is it’s the same power companies running the restoration efforts as last year…and the year before that.

The way things are going it’s looking more and more like I made the right decision when I signed up for those post-apocalyptic survival classes.

I’ve become particularly proficient at sword fighting.

But I still need a lot of work on my catapulting skills.

I keep getting my thumb caught in the catapult thingy.

Not good….

I think we’re supposed to get locusts over the weekend.

But that’s okay because all the crops froze over in the snow and cold.

So let them come.

Locusts…like we care anything about what amounts to nothing more than a grasshopper on steroids.

But the good news is it’s supposed to approach 70 degrees this weekend.

The bad news is…well, I can’t think of any bad news about 70 degrees.

Hopefully, people without power or heat can open their windows and warm up their houses.

So that is good news.

And then I suppose it will warm up even more so then we’ll have a Thanksgiving heat wave…and possibly a drought.

I told you we’d be punished for letting Reality TV get out of hand.

You just can’t buck the natural laws.

If you do you just might end up with a mom named Snooki….