Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holiday Waves

They come in waves, these year-end holidays of ours.

First, the small ripple of Halloween breaks in October, followed by the growing swell that is Thanksgiving…until finally…well, we all know the tidal wave that comes after that.

It’s the holiday season, which at least to me, and I’m sure many of you, seems to wash over us faster and faster with each passing year.

I mean, what’s up with that?

Wasn’t it just yesterday I was sitting on the living room floor, in front of the fireplace, tearing through the giant Sears Wish Book Catalogue, picking out all my toys…or at least the ones I was wishing for?

Well, yeah…actually it was, or really more like yesterday afternoon…but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is, these holiday waves come upon us whether we’re ready for them or not.

And with each passing year—and really, now, it’s more like decades—I can’t help but notice, on every waning tide, the holiday table grows sparser and sparser, with more and more familiar faces gone.

Oh, I don’t mean we can’t still fill the table, but every time I look up it seems there’s another smile missing, another story left undone.

But I guess that’s how it goes with holiday waves, especially the ones that carry the people in our lives that matter most; each one breaks in its own way, in its own time.

We drop into this ocean as fresh young tots, the ocean, already populated, the waves, in motion and the seats at our holiday table filled and in place.

There are grandparents, and in some cases great-grandparents on the first wave.

Parents, Aunts, Uncles and close friends of same, behind that.

Older siblings and cousins, cresting and dipping on the wave before you.

And then the small stretch of sea that is barely a wrinkle on the surface, that is you.

Of course, back then, we took it all for granted; the expected familiarity, the calm, the ease, the continuity from one holiday to the next.

They become ingrained in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls.

Those memories and feelings that we always recall…that we best recall…whenever we need to recall something, anything, to keep us from lingering too long on the idea of those waves, forever rolling, carrying us toward the shore.

Before we know it, and much too quickly, we find ourselves on the front line of those determined waves, still a distance from the shore, but drifting closer, without buffer, as the decades behind us recede further and further into the past.

Now, we’re the ones, seated and in place as each new ocean ripple forms into a new found wave of its own, pushing us, as we once pushed ourselves.

Now, we’re those comforting faces, the continuity and the foundation, of their memories, later to be recalled.

Sure, waves will always roll unceasingly towards the shore; but with each new passing tide, family and tradition rides along with them, gently passing back, from the first wave to the last.

Sitting at the holiday table these days, I see new faces, replacing old.

But the old faces, they’re never really gone.

Just as the wave breaks, then folds back into the sea, so do those faces return to us with every holiday table set, with every holiday tradition met.

So this Thanksgiving, light a candle in your mind, in your heart and in your soul, for all those missing smiles…and all those empty places will once again be filled…from one wave to the next…over and over again….

And have a happy 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 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

T-Day…Minus Two and Counting

Just a couple of days to T-Day, around these parts, which means lots of the 4 F’s to be thankful for…Family, Food, Fun and Festivity.

Yep, a real F’n good time to be had by everyone.

Wait…that sounds weird.


Anyway, Thanksgiving is looming large right now, just like all those Turkey’s taking up much needed space in refrigerator’s all across the country…unless you’re like me and prefer them really, really fresh and have to chase them around the muddy backyard just before dinner.

This year, as in most years, we’ll be spending the holidays with Z’s very large, very boisterous family in Connecticut.

I know that sounds very “Hallmarky”, but in truth, Connecticut is really, pretty much, just across the street…then over the river and through the woods.

So it’s not one of those big family gatherings that require a sleepover or shared family toothbrushes.  Although many of the guests will be asleep in front of the TV long before desert is served. However, everyone usually wakes up long before the sun rises, and they rarely brush their teeth…and if they do, they use the dog’s.

I’ve made fun in the past about my low status on the “in-law” totem pole on these occasions, and the scut work that’s usually assigned to me before I’m allowed to dive for scraps with the other in-laws, outside the kitchen door…but I usually make most of that up, in the name of comedic hi-jinx.

Truth is, the other in-laws don’t have to  dive for scraps…just me, but that’s only because it usually takes me longer than planned to get all the cars washed…so there’s no one to blame but myself.

At least that’s what Z always tells me on the way home…but only if she lets me ride in the car with her.

I’m kidding!  Kidding, kidding, kidding….

Z always lets me ride in the car with her.

Who else knows all the words to Garth Brook’s Christmas CD?

Who else constantly carries an original copy, plus two backups on their person at all time?


Again…I jest.  It’s really nowhere near as bad as I make it out to be…again, in the name of comedic hi-jinx.

The family, as large as it was originally, has actually grown in numbers over the recent years.

And the folks well under 40 have actually over taken those well over 50, at least in numbers.

But they still have trouble keeping up with us in the traditional leg wrestling competition…mostly because we have the “Chief” on our side,whose one leg is pretty much bigger than the rest of us combined.

But he walks a lot….

And this year there’s even a brand new addition to the family, in the form of a brand new great niece.

Which actually is great news for me, since, even though she’s an actual blood relative, I’m pretty sure I can trick her into washing at least half of the cars with me…at least the first year, before she realizes she doesn’t have to.

I’ve already gotten her suited up in the same car washing outfit I wear…which to be honest is surprisingly comfortable.

I know…you think I’m terrible for taking advantage of a one month old…and maybe I am…but I have to; these people wise up pretty fast…especially nephew Matt, who quit on me as soon as I ran out of beer.

But that was better than niece Emily, who wouldn’t even work for beer…only Vodka…and not just any had to be the good Vodka, on the rocks with a twist.

And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that was never gonna happen…not the way these people tip.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a good Thanksgiving, so I really can’t complain.

I mean, reallyI can’t complain…or else they’ll hide the scraps again, just like they did that other year, when I brought that cheap K-Mart Vodka.

I’m not making that mistake again…not if I don’t want to chase down that Turkey in the mud again.

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 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Those Old School Smells

When I was a kid nothing reeked of going back to school every fall like the smell of a brand new pair of Buster Browns.

You remember Buster Brown.  He was that odd looking little boy with that peculiar bow around his neck, who lived in a shoe with a dog named Tige and you could put your foot in too….

Presumably crushing them both to death.

I mean who lives in a shoe?

There was also the smell of brand new crayons, Number 2 pencils, soon to be defaced loose leaf binders, black & white marbled theme books, brown paper book covers, Blue Bic pens, Black Bic pens, Red Bic pens—


They all smelled different to me…especially the red—and if your parents were totally clueless, those little oblong ink cartridges that some of us used in pseudo fountain pens, which were great for spotting up all those pretty white uniform shirts we all had to wear.

Even the building itself had its own unique smell. Not a bad smell—unless it was right after the annual sports dinner, when all the halls reeked of garlic and homemade spaghetti gravy.

No…it was more of a signature smell of freshly oiled blackboards, floor polish, glass cleaner and old metal desks that had baked through the long days of summer, waiting for their minions to return.

Even the staircases, especially the staircases in the older building of the two that comprised my Parochial Pris—uhm, school—had their own aroma, melded from a fragrant bouquet of decades old shoe scuffs, gum wads, chalk eraser dust, wool winter coats and sweat generated from after school basketball and in-school Math quizzes…not to mention Science, English, Geography, Spelling, Reading, Religion and whatever else the guards—I mean nuns—could think up to throw in our faces, just to keep us from getting too “Prideful”, in our third grade brilliance.

The staircases in the new building—which we still, even now, call “new”, even though it was constructed and opened sometime around the last days of the Eisenhower’s administration—were somewhat more sterile and not as remarkable in their aroma history.

However, one particular staircase did offer the more adventurous among us an opportunity to slide down its smoothly honed aluminum, double centered railings to the landing below, where we hoped, optimistically, not to crash head first into the green cinderblock wall waiting below. 

And if we did hit the wall, ahhhhh…what’s a little body fluid among 6th graders?

Plus red and green make a very festive combination, no matter what the season.

So, yep…these are the smells that I remember most when I think of fall and returning back to school; these and a kid named—well, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure it wasn’t his fault.

Of course, even better, after the smells of fall had long since dissipated, the best school smell of all was the hopeful aroma of warm fresh air, trees blooming and fresh mown lawn wafting in through open windows and doors, come spring.

Once those same school doors, both ancient and new, slammed shut on us in fall, those were the smells we waited for all year…the smell of freedom, once again waiting for us, just around the corner of June.

And speaking of sliding, I must admit, albeit reluctantly, I’m proud to say I still hold the after school record for distance sliding down a freshly waxed hallway, in both new building and old.  And please don’t listen to any of those bitter naysayers who say I was waxing my knees.

And what if I was?  No one said I couldn’t…

But don’t tell Sister Kathleen about any of that, because I hear she’s still on the prowl, although possibly in disguise.

I don’t need another mark on my permanent record, which I hear is still on file.

Know what I mean?

And if I don't wish Z a Happy Birthday...that's really going to leave a mark...permanently....


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Questionably Rhetorical

Can somebody please tell me why people like to ask rhetorical questions?

Whoops…I just did it, didn’t I?

How does that happen?

Who knows?

I mean, we should be able to avoid it, right?

What could be simpler than that?

What the—is this?

Okay…you know I can do this…right?

Can someone tell me what’s going on, here?

Do I really have time for this?

It’s not like I can just sit here all day writing all this silliness…is it?

Oh yeah…it is, isn’t it?

Nuts…I thought that would break it for sure…didn’t you?

Maybe if I switch topics…that might help, no?

Not for nothin, I could talk about silly expressions that people use all the time, like…uhm, not for nothin…I suppose…don’t you think?

Or listen, how about silly sayings like telling people to listen, as if that will make any kind of difference in their attention span…know what I’m saying?

Oh, man…now I’m combining them, you understand?

It’s like I’m just spinning my wheels, here, isn’t it?

Look, can’t you see it’s only going from bad to worse?

And how am I supposed to know what I want you to look at?

Can you try to wrap your head around it…you can manage that, can’t you?

Do you think maybe, I’m going down the wrong path…barking up the wrong tree?

Oh no…now I’m mixing in idioms…throwing gas on the fire…are you with me on this?

Maybe if I run a few ideas up the flag pole…but that in itself is just a stupid idea, huh?

Oh, crap, now you must think I have some kind of chip on my shoulder…don’t you?

Don’t go jumping the gun…you know I didn’t mean to rub you the wrong way…right?

If you think I need to pay the piper, I will…but you had a funny feeling I was thinking that all along, right?

Okay, fine…you think I deserve a slap on the wrist, don’t you?

But if I were you I would take note of this…you’ll be sorry when I give you a taste of your own medicine…won’t you?

Because a little birdie told me, people like you are a dime a dozen…a drop in the bucket…aren’t they?

Not for nothin...I'm not sayin…I'm just know?

Don’t worry…not to add insult to injury, but you’re sharp enough to know my bark is worse than my bite…right?

Besides, if a leopard could change his spots…who knows what that means?

It’s a toss-up, isn’t it?

Why, if I had a nickel for every blessing in disguise that dropped in my lap, life would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t it?

And wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air…?

But you’re on to me, aren’t you?  I can see you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck….did you?

Get where I’m coming from?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sunday Archive of Retort - 11/14/11

There's no denying, the holidays are soon approaching...much faster than some of us would like.

But when it comes to the holidays, and most things other, it really doesn't matter what I think—as I've been told—so in keeping with our Holiday Tradition, here's one from 11/14/11....

They Clean Carpets....

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Road Isn’t Built in a Day

It’s never a good sign when there’s a steam shovel on your street.

It never leads to any good.

It’s not like they’re gonna dig a big hole in front of your house and pull out a chest full of gold.

It’s more likely they’re gonna dig a big hole in front of your house and find another big hole in your sewer pipe.

Or worse, that noisy neighbor who mysteriously disappeared back in the 70’s. along with his 8 track tapes.

Actually, I’m not even sure it’s even called a steam shovel any more.

But you know what I mean.

That big thing that looks like some sort of prehistoric monster, with the guy sitting inside working the controls, unless he’s in between holes, in which case the guy just sits there and reads the newspaper.

And I was right…it wasn’t a good sign, at all.

Before I knew it they were blocking off my street and digging up the pavement.

I mean, do you know how long it took me to draw that hop scotch board?

But I suppose it was overdue.

The chalk was starting to fade and the pot holes even had pot holes, now.

In fact they had already repaved the first half of the street about 2 years ago, but stopped just as they got to my house.

Never knew why and couldn’t get an answer, even when I interrupted the guy sitting in the steam shovel.

“Beats me,” he said. “I just does what I’m told.”

And it’s not like it’s a big street…in fact it’s not even a street at all…it’s only a “Place”…about 200 yards or so long.

That’s what it’s called…Place. Not Street, Avenue, Lane, Drive or my personal favorite Boulevard…just Place.  

I live on a Place. I guess it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Everyone has to be some place.

I guess it could be worse.

I guess they could call it “Thing”.

Or maybe just “There”.

“Where do you live?

“I live There….”

“Oh, I hear There is nice”.

“It is…it’s close to Thing”.

“Thing can get noisy, especially in the summer”.

“I used to live on It, but I couldn’t take the traffic”.

“Yeah, It is busy”.

“It is….”

So they’re finally repaving the rest of this Place…where I live.

No more feeble attempts at filling pot holes with some sort of gooey gravel, that pretty much just ends up on my sidewalk and lawn after 2 or 3 cars drive over it.

No more mystery thumps or screeching tires and breaks in the middle of the night, as cars drive across the irregular and hazardous surface, sometimes disappearing into a crevice until light.

So maybe it’s not so bad when a steam shovel shows up on your street, after all.

Once you get by all the heavy machinery noise, dust and boisterous hole digging songs; when you’re finally able to move your car out of your driveway, without scraping the muffler off the bottom of your car …you now have a road that drives as smooth as a silk scarf…or a sow’s purse…one or the other, not sure.

And if you're able to avoid a run in with the Steam Roller—a particular family tradition of ours…don't askthen you're good to go.

Of course, now the other half of the road is all torn up again…but baby steps…baby steps.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Only their roads…..