Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out of Days…again

My calendar has just about run out of days…again.

It keeps happening, more and more.

I buy a new calendar full of fresh new days and before I know it…done.

Time for a refill…again.

So I’m thinking of buying a bigger calendar, with a lot more days.

Maybe twice as many days.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

I don’t know why no one’s thought of it before.

Such a simple idea.

A calendar with twice as many days.

We’d all be half our ages.

No sore backs, no grey hair, no no hair, no hair where you don’t want it.

Not yet…not with the new calendars.

The only people I can think of that would be against it would be the calendar people.

The same people that charge you 15 dollars for a calendar up until December 25th…then cut the price in half to $7.50 on December 26th, because, you know, the days get cheaper after Christmas.

Not sure why.

It’s not like you even need a new calendar until a week after Christmas, anyway.

Unless you absolutely can’t wait to get a look at those cute little puppy puggie faces.

Or those Hot Buns and Fab Abs.

But this way, they can charge full price, maybe all the way until 4th of July…whenever it gets here….maybe next February.

Hey, I didn’t say there weren’t some kinks to iron out.

But when you get right down to it…who really needs a calendar at all, these days?

I mean, except to look at the Hot Buns.

My phone pretty much tells me what day it is every morning, not to mention, the time, traffic and the weather.

Come to think of it, I suppose it could even provide me with a daily hot bun pic as well, if I wanted…not that I would do that.  Or at least tell you I would do that.

Still, I have a Norman Rockwell Calendar in my office…along with my Little Zen, page a Day calendar…and a Monet Calendar in the bedroom.

And that’s just me.

Z has her Polar Bear Calendar in the kitchen plus her Mary Engelbright Calendar in the laundry room…the one that goes along with her Mary Engelbright Pocket Calendar in her pocket.

I guess we just like the pictures…with or without the Hot Buns and Fab Abs.

And, if you asked me what the date was…I’d have to look at my phone to tell you.

But I still think it’s a good idea to find a calendar with extra days.

Not that I really have time for that…unless of course I can find one.

I already looked at the mall…no luck.

Nothing on-line, either…not even Amazon, who has everything.

So maybe I’m on a Fool’s errand…something that seems to happen to me a lot for some reason.

Like the time I went looking for a giant pair of sunglasses that would cover the entire sun so we wouldn’t need individual pairs for everybody.

Thought for sure I was on to something there.

But that’s just how I am…always thinking of everyone else.

Like the time I tried to find a giant set of ear phones for my iPod so everyone else could hear the music with me.

Yeah…I know.

But I haven’t given up on that or the sunglasses, so don’t be surprised when the New Year seems just a tad longer than the Old Year.

Maybe I can make my own calendar by combining the Rockwell with the Monet.

Nah…I’m not that dumb.

Their styles would never mesh.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Sunday Archive of Retort - 12/30/11

Okay...this is important so listen up...or look up...or whatever it is you do when you read.

I usually scratch my head...but not someone else's head...not anymore.

But that's neither here nor there...not anymore.

So pay attention.

This is a post from 2011...get it...2011.

Because this is the ARCHIVE of Retort.

ARCHIVE...meaning storage of past things.

So there will be untimely references from 2011....

So no hitching up your panties and self righteously trying to catch me on errors of fact...which in all honesty don't matter all that much to me anyway.

So here...from 12/30/2011 is:

Old & Tired — Fresh & New

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Lull after Christmas

The days following Christmas are usually pretty quiet…excepting of course the tumble and fumble of returning and exchanging gifts, cashing in gift cards and taking advantage of the after Christmas 70% off sales that began at 12:01 AM Christmas Day.

Dinner will hold…I mean this is a 40 thousand dollar TV I’m picking up at Target for only 35 thousand…at least that’s what my credit card account statement is telling me.

I just don’t recall ordering it though.

But it’s right there on my credit card, so I must have.

They're not gonna hold it for me forever.

But I guess that’s what the confusion of the holidays will do to you.

I’m also hoping my gastrointestinal system will normalize…at least after the Lipo.

 There’s just too much eating and drinking during the holidays.

I mean I haven’t stopped since the Druids brought that keg of home brew last Saturday.

Christmas Eve with my mom, nephews and niece, assorted wives and significant others, followed up with Christmas Day with more nephews and nieces, assorted spouses and significant others…not to forget all the in-laws and out-laws.

Then dinner—again—last night, out with originally mentioned nephews and niece, along with Irish cousin, Mags, the family consigliore, and husband James the family psychiatrist, who carries insanity certification papers that he fills out on an as needed basis so the authorities will cut us a break when things get out of hand…plus they’re good for 10% off of our dinner bill…as long as we promise not to come back, which is fine because after a couple of years most places forget.
But I guess that’s how it goes during the holidays.

Not that anyone is forcing any of it down my throat…I mean, except for the Druids.

But that’s just their way.

So at least today I get a break from the Merrymaking.

Except for lunch with friend, Janey, later this afternoon.

Then I’m done…until Sunday dinner with more In-laws…and then I’m really done…until New Year’s Eve with some more friends, which should put a cap on it all…until New Year’s Day, when all the nephews and nieces, assorted spouses and significant others…not to forget all the in-laws and out-laws…come to our place.

Followed by additional Lipo…scheduled for next Thursday.

But other than all of that…it’s the lull after Christmas.

Hey, I didn’t say it was a long lull.

I mean how long can a person lock themselves in the bathroom?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Wisdom of Christmas

It’s a sad truth that wisdom only comes with time, and, by extension…age.

The more experiences we collect in a lifetime, the more we learn to avoid the pitfalls that unfailingly pop up along the way.

It’s just how it is, young people. You may be wise beyond your years and college degrees…but until you’ve left the house with a pop tart stuck in your overzealous toaster…well, need I say more.

Yeah, probably…but I’ve also learned, over nearly 60 years, that saying more usually leads to trouble.


But those are just minor examples of the way wisdom sneaks into our lives over time. It just can’t be helped.

I’m sure you’ve all have had real experiences, no matter what your age, that have changed the way you see and spend your days.  Even the way you experience this hectic holiday season that has taken on the now, all-encompassing, label of “Christmas”.

Christmas”, for many who participate, has superseded the actual “Holi-Day” and become an entire season unto itself.  Kind of a fifth season that has taken root right in the middle of fall, and doesn’t end until well after the official start of winter.

Of course there’s the shopping, the decorating and the partying…not to mention the merrymaking, which is very different from partying, because merrymaking is peculiar at any other time of year.

Yep…Christmas activities and customs abound, from family to family…from friend to friend.

But what I’ve discovered, through my own acquired wisdom, is that the older I’ve gotten the more mechanical and less magical it has all become…at least for me.

As if every year I pull out a list and methodically check off all the things I need to do in order to have a memorable holiday season, or at least a holiday season that matches my preconceived notion of memorable; one that, let’s face it, stems from feelings and traditions that go back to when I was two, because, curiously, I had very few holiday traditions when I was one.

Then, of course, the further I fall behind on that list, the larger the mountain of stress is that grows on my shoulders. 

“When am I ever going to find time to annoy Santa at Rye Ridge…or even find where Santa is at Rye Ridge?”

“I’ve only seen ‘A Charlie Brown’ Christmas’ four times this year!”

“Where’s my Leg Lamp and George Baily Football Jersey?”

“Who stepped on my only copy of ‘Dominick the Donkey’?”

I know…right?

This manufactured, mechanical stress ultimately leads to distraction.  The distraction leads to making a forbidden left turn off of North Main Street onto Adee …which leads to a summons and discovering you’ve forgotten your license…which leads to forgetting to order the food for the Christmas party, which turns out not to be a problem since you’ve also forgotten to invite the guests, even though you did remember to buy 6 cases of beer and wine, which leads to lots of Holiday Cheer, without the cheer, which leads to December 26th and you saying

“I don’t know why, but it all goes so fast, and I just don’t enjoy Christmas the way I did before”.

Then, one day, the wisdom kicks in, right around the time you come to terms with the fact that the puffiness under your eyes and those creases around your mouth aren’t going away, after five years of gel treatments…and you say….

“Hey, maybe this year, I’ll just enjoy Christmas for whatever it is, and however it plays out…even if old Uncle Wilbur does bring another 22 year old girlfriend to dinner”.

Maybe, just maybe…if we put away the lists of expectations, lessen the anticipation and allow ourselves to follow the Holiday Spirit down whatever road it leads us, in any given year, be it happy…or as it happens, sometimes, sad…then we can’t help but truly experience the gift and the wisdom of Christmas, the way it was intended…for this year and every year to come.

Each is new …each is different…with nothing guaranteed and nothing to measure up to other than what you allow it to be.

Happy…sad…or somewhere in between…there’s always magic to be found in Christmas, but the magic begins with you.

That’s the Christmas Wisdom that’s come to me…slowly, quietly, evolving even still.

Enjoy the Christmas that is, while it is…and let the night be bright.

Certainly not easy to do…but definitely worth a try.

Hey, why not…it’s almost Christmas….

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, December 22, 2013

The Sunday Archive of Retort - 12/14/12

Well the party turned out to be a pretty big success. 

The Druids were well behaved...I think...and the Zombies turned out to be the life of the party...sort of.

Who knows...maybe next year we'll just open things up and invite the werewolves and the witches...but not the Vampires.

The Vampires get a little too touchy feely around the mistletoe...if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm putting the finishing touches on all my holiday wrapping, which is even more of an adventure that inviting ghouls to a Christmas party.

I'm not the best when it comes to wrapping....

From 12/14/12:

"Not a Wrapper"

Friday, December 20, 2013

Doorway to Christmas

So here we are…on the doorstep of Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, which carries us swiftly into Christmas Eve…the doorway to Christmas Day.

All the shopping done…all the decking done…all the merrymaking…just about done…done and done.

That is, unless you’ve been living in a cave the last month and just woke up and said, “Crap…I forgot all about Christmas!”

Then you’ve got some work to do, not to mention finding a more suitable place to live.

We’re having our annual Christmas/Winter Solstice party this weekend…tomorrow, actually.

Hard to believe…I’m still cleaning up the mess the Druids made last year.

Yeah…you heard me…from last year.

I actually found some Druid paraphernalia down in the basement, stuck behind the boiler.

I know…right?

Which gave me pause, because I shudder to think what the Druids were up to in the basement, let alone behind the boiler.

But I guess when you allow Druids to come to your Winter Solstice Party, you have to expect weird stuff like that.

I mean, they’re Druids.

At least I was able to finally talk them off of that whole “Human Degradation” ritual they always insist on…especially since I banned the “Human Sacrifice” thing, right from the get go.

I’m not going to go into it now, since I’ve mentioned it before, but besides embarrassing the guests, it’s difficult to figure out when to schedule any of that.

Before the main course, or after? 

With desert, but not before the cordials are served?

Then a couple of years ago the Morris Dancers nearly kicked over the tree.

I mean Morris Dancers at the Summer Solstice is one thing, because there’s plenty of room for all their shenanigans, outdoors…but we live in a three bedroom Colonial, with an average size living room and a fireplace…indoor kicking is not what you’re looking for.

And now this year we have a whole new issue to deal with….

I sort of invited a few of the Zombies across the street to the party…by mistake.

 I mean, I was just being polite when we were all out shoveling the latest round of snow, the other night.

And if you’ve ever seen a Zombie shoveling snow, you know it’s painful to watch. It can take them hours just to do the front walk.

So I was helping them out a little; just being neighborly by giving them a hand, whenever they lost one in the snow.

So I mentioned the party, never thinking they would actually be into that sort of festive holiday thing.

But was I waaaaaay off base on that. You should have seen them all light up like a Christmas tree at the mention of the word party…and I don’t mean like the Uncle who ignited when the outdoor lights he was hanging over the door short circuited that time.

I guess no one’s ever thought to ask the Zombies to a Christmas party before.  

Why would you?

Not after that Caroling debacle from a few years back.

What a ruckus that stirred up…not only in the neighborhood, but in the whole town.

People just aren’t ready for Zombies showing up at their front door, in the middle of the night singing Little Drummer Boy. Not because they sound bad, at least not by Zombie standards. No…but because they don’t know all the words and they don’t have a real grasp on the concept of time. 

So they tend to linger…a little too long....which tends to make people uncomfortable.

Anyway, they’re coming and now Z’s in a bit of a tizzy.

“I wasn’t planning on the Zombies…now we have to order a second sandwich tray!”

I said, “Maybe a third,” knowing that once the Zombies start eating it can be hard to get them to stop.

“And what do the Zombies drink?” Z said, always the conscientious hostess.

 “I’m guessing anything we serve them will be fine. Zombies aren’t all that picky.”

“Well, you better talk to the Druids and let them know the Zombies are coming. I don’t want a repeat of what happened with the witches.”

“Nobody wants that.” I said. “Besides, I think the Druids will be happy to have something else to take the focus off of them for a change.”

So, if nothing else, it should be an interesting party this year. 

And the Zombies even asked if they could bring desert, which really isn’t a surprise. I mean they’re not stiffs…well, I mean they are, but not in a cheap way. 

They’re actually very giving…Zombies or not.

However, I wisely declined their offer of desert—don’t ask—and told them they should  just bring themselves, hopefully in as few pieces as possible.

So I think it will be fine.

It’s Christmas….

Goodwill towards men…and Zombies.

What could go wrong…?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Movies - Redux

Sorry for the Redux today. 
The holidays have me somewhat flummoxed....

Original Post: 12/16/11

It used to be a treat to stumble on a great Holiday movie on TV this time of year.  If I stumbled on it in July it wasn’t as much of a treat, but I still watched it. 

They weren’t trumpeted or turned into big, exclusive events, the way they are now. They were mostly late night or afternoon programming fillers. You didn’t look for them as much as they found you.

I remember the very first time I came across “It’s a Wonderful life",“Charlie Brown’s Christmas”, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”. The 1951 “A Christmas Carol” with Alistair Sim, the Scrooge by which all other Scrooges are judged.

Now, like everything else, there’s a Holiday movie mill where you can find something new almost every day of the week. I’m not gonna say where these movies run or who makes them, but I will say the place is a Hallmark of Christmas schmaltz.

But I won’t tell you who they are exactly….

The first time I came across, “It’s a Wonderful life” was after I served as an altar boy at midnight mass. Yeah, I know…I did those kinds of things back then; before I grew a mind of my own, and escaped unscathed to tell about it. I enjoyed the midnight mass, mostly because it was midnight, and churches are spooky at midnight with all that dark stained glass. Plus all the incense that was flying around had a pleasant effect on my reality, and I got to bong the cool acoustic bell thing, which kind of sounded like the network ID tone for NBC. 

But again…I digress.

So there I lay in my room, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, still buzzed on holy fumes, when I turn my old circa 1940’s black and white TV to this odd little Jimmy Stewart movie with a bunch of people, looking way too old for high school, dancing on this gym floor that suddenly turns into a pool…and that was that.  There I sat, lost in the twin worlds of Bedford Falls/Pottersville for the very first time.

No fanfare, no color, no horde of lame NBC celebrities cutting in every 5 minutes to relate their useless reminisces. Just me and Jimmy and Donna and Lionel.

I remember, the day after Christmas, telling my friend and fellow altar boy, Phil, about it, and he had the same exact moment and reaction I had…except for ringing the bells. That was mine.

All of that public domain spontaneity lost when NBC paid a gazillion dollars for it and it became an “NBC Holiday Tradition” instead of ours.  

I’ve had a few other pure Christmas movie moments like that over the years, most of which I mentioned earlier.  There was also the original “The Bishops Wife”…the Carey Grant/David Niven version, not the Denzel.
Caught that one on a Christmas Eve while I was waiting for my mom to pick up my dad at the train and trying not to peek into the garage to check out the bicycle I was sure was being hid out there…which it wasn’t, cuz you know I had to look and ruin my Christmas Eve, because I’m nothing if not materialistic… yet, there it was by the tree the next morning.  A Christmas miracle if there was one.

So maybe you can understand if I politely refrain from the countless slew of new Christmas “films” that roll of the sentimental production line this time of year. There are only so many drunken dead beat dad’s who stumble on an angel that turns his life around and reunites him with his family or his dog or his dog’s family…or worse, some tiresome Little Red Christmas Ball that falls off the tree on Christmas eve and enlists the help of some itinerant rodent and a pair of insects to help him reclaim his one true purpose by shining bright for Santa.

I mean really…come on.

Gag me with a spoon, why dontcha.

Who writes this stuff??????

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sunday Archive of Retort - 12/19/11

We're getting pretty deep into the Holiday season now,
where people start to do "unusual" things...and there's no turning back.

Say, like us...we made our annual sojourn with friends Rosie and Frank, and Cousin Jim the Baker, last night...despite the fact there was a semi-blizzard blowing all around.

But a good time was had by all, despite the frostbite, despite the soggy shoes, and the despite the lost couple of hours it took us to dig Rosie out from the drift that suddenly blew in under the Rockefeller center Christmas tree.

Luckily, there was plenty of Holiday music to keep our spirits bright throughout the night.

From 12/19/11:

"Holiday Tunes"

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Tree Attitude


The tree is finally up and decorated.

It takes a while.

I mean Z only has so many hours in a day…especially with that whole saving lives thing…at least that’s what I’m told.

And she doesn’t like it when I suggest there are more hours in the night.

So it’s a process...one described in detail, in the past.  

Anyway, now the tree is up and doing its whole Christmas Tree thing…despite its previous bad attitude.

Yeah…that’s right.

Our tree had a bad attitude this year.

Notice I said “had”…it doesn’t any more.

I straightened it out…but it wasn’t easy.

And to be honest, which is always an uncertainty…especially with trees…especially with trees with bad attitudes…I was a little surprised.

Not something you’d expect from a Christmas tree…especially this time of year.

I was walking past it with my bowl of soup on Monday—the day after we lugged it into the house and got it situated in its usual spot in the living room—and I swore I heard muttering.

Nothing harsh or unusual, as far as muttering goes, but different from the normal muttering I’m used to hearing from my stomach around lunch time, which usually has to do with disagreement over my particular soup selection on any given day.

No, this was more of a mild, non-descript muttering, the kind you might hear when someone is making a passive aggressive point of displeasure.

I casually put my soup down on the table and walked back over to the tree.

“I’m sorry…I missed that.” I said.  “Were you talking to me?”

Okay, I know…that sounds weird…me putting my soup down and talking to a tree.

You’re right…normally I would have eaten the soup, first…but this just seemed like something I needed to nip in the bud, before it got out of hand. The last thing I need during the holidays is a disgruntled tree badmouthing me to dinner guests. The guests are pretty adept at doing that themselves without help from an arbor-ant life form.

“No.” the tree said.  “I was just talking to myself. No one usually eavesdropped when I was alone in the forest.”

Okay…now that’s a dig, I know…but I was big enough to let it go.

Instead, I thought I’d try a little tension breaking humor to lighten the mood.

“So I guess it’s true, then …if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear, it does make a sound…get it?”

“That’s not funny,” the tree said in a sharp, condescending tone. “Do you have any idea how many good friends I’ve lost in forest falls?”

“Uh…no…not really,” I said feeling somewhat admonished.

“No…I didn’t think you would, Mr. Oh look, there’s a perfect tree to stick in the corner of our living room…let’s just hack it right out of the ground, stuff it into our car and drive it home.”

“Oh, that…but—”

“But what?”

But you were on a Tree Farm…not really in a forest forest.  It’s what you were there for…to be chosen…honored, really.”

“Oh, please…just stop. Who told you that?”

“The guy down the hill who owns the place.”

“The chubby bald one who drives that insipid little mouse trap he calls a hay ride?”

“I guess…wait, there are mice in the hay?”

“Of course there are mice in the hay, moron…it’s a farm isn’t it?”

Okay, now first, this annoys me because I’m not used to being a called a moron by a tree; they usually just call me dumb head. And second, I’m a little disappointed to find out it wasn’t that cute blond trying to get my attention on the back of the wagon, after all.

“Listen”, I say to the tree. “You had to know, one of these days someone was going to wander by and say, now there’s a tree I’d be proud to have decorate my house for Christmas! I mean isn’t that why you were planted in the first place?”

The tree just flipped one of its branches in my direction; an assortment of ornaments rattling and clanking together, holding tight to their new home.

“I don’t know why I was planted…sometimes I wish I never was. That no good, loser pinecone I sprang from should have just left my seed to rot inside….”

Hoo boy, I thought.  A tree suffering an existential crisis with daddy issues, to boot.  We picked a doozy this year.

“But just look at how good you look, right now.  Lights, tinsel, shiny bright ornaments of every shape and design hanging from limb to limb.”

Really?” the tree said.  Is that the argument you’re going with…the whole, you light up the dark holiday night, bit….really?”

“Well, you do”, I answered. 

“How would you like all this glitz hanging off of every one of your appendages, Holiday Boy…every one?”

An image raced through my brain that made me wince. “Okay, look, I get it.  A few days ago you were planted squarely in the woods, hanging with all your squirrel, bunny and bird buds.”

“And now look at me….”

“Now, you look amazing…you’re everything you were always meant to be…look.”

I showed the tree the picture I took of it last night. “Not too shabby, huh?”

“I suppose, there’s a certain charm to me…different from before, but charm none the less.”

“Charm…are you kidding?  You’re the focal point of the room…the whole house.”

“I always did picture myself as an attention grabber…but year after year people just walked right past me…as if I didn’t exist…as if I didn’t matter.”

I noticed a small trickle of sap rolling down the tree's upper most limb. Ahhhh…now we were getting to the root of the problem…so to speak.

“But you did matter,” I said.  “You just had to wait until your time had come…until both our times came together.  And now you matter to us, and you will to everyone who walks in our house and makes a fuss over you.  To all the little kids and their holiday hearts, young and old…you will more than matter….right through the New Year.

I wasn’t really sure where I was getting all of this stuff, but I guess all those endless hours spent watching Hallmark Christmas movies were finally paying off.

“I suppose you’re right,” the tree said. It was standing a little taller, a little straighter, now… proud to finally apply Christmas to its name.

“I know I’m right!”

I gave a little tug of solidarity to one of its lower limbs and jangled a couple of ornaments loose in the process.

The Christmas tree just shot me a look. “Don’t push it…okay?  I think you’re lunch is getting cold….”

And with that, we shared a smile…or what passes for a tree smile….and I ran off to reheat my soup.

“Hey”, the Christmas tree called after me.  “What happens after the New Year….where do I go then?”

“What…?” I shouted from the kitchen.  “I can’t hear you…the microwave is making too much noise….”

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