Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paying Thanksgiving Attention

By this time Friday, all the drumsticks will have been drummed, all the stuffing unstuffed all the potatoes mashed, turnips turned, veggies sautéed, pureed and candied…and all the good china put away, at least for another month.

One more Thanksgiving will have come and gone, along with another collection of holiday memories and smiles sorted, filed and stored, both in our minds and on our hard-drives.

In fact, by this time, a lot of it will all be just a jumble, mixed in a kettle with all the dozens of holiday memories past.

Like the time Aunt Betty sat on the cranberry and nobody would eat it, except for Uncle Joe who ate anything that was put on the table.

Or the time Pete the Pug decided to sample the right turkey wing, except no one noticed but you, and you weren’t about to snitch.

You only ate white meat that year.

Or that 5 year old kid—not saying what kid—who decided to stuff his pockets with sweet potato pie, just because it felt warm….

What?  November was cold that year, too.

All the details that make our holidays all that they are….

Unless you’re not paying attention…which a lot of us aren’t.

Especially now, when it seems holiday after holiday stacks up to the rooftops and beyond, so many, so quickly.

Last year I wrote how the holidays seem to come in waves now, one after the other, overtaking us, threatening to wash us out to sea.

The year before, I talked about all the old holiday photographs we have stuffed in boxes, somewhere in the attic…the roadmaps to our past, staring back at us from countless Thanksgiving tables long gone by.

And the year before that, the significance of all those small town holidays shared with family and friends, some still with us, many rejoining us ...and many now past.

Nostalgic themes, all, connecting one holiday to the next, each with its own special flavor, blended into a whole.

A lot of people ask me how I remember so many details of those special days….I mean, the ones I don’t make up.

I respond, “I pay attention…to everything.” 

I always have…and I hope I always will.

To my grandmother’s aprons, festooned with all the holiday embellishments, such as gravy, sweet potato, mashed potato, stuffing, string beans, carrots, onions, pumpkin pie….

You could always tell the menu at Grandma’s house whenever she walked by.

My dad’s bad jokes…my aunts unbridled laugh, my mom’s harried frown, my uncles’ fiery debate, my cousins playing hot potato with the hot potatoes…and my gramps contented smile as he too took it all in, from the head of the table.

So it’s important to pay attention…not to your smart phone, or tablet or whatever particular celebrity booty is prancing across your TV during the parade…but to all the little things and big things, little people and big people, things being said, things being done and everything in between.

It’s those details that make it all special…that make your holidays…that make your life.

Sure, it’s a recurring theme of mine and a struggle, always, still, to practice it.

Not just for the holidays, but for every day in between

But as long as we have the chance to try…it’s enough to give Thanksgiving.

So think about that tomorrow, when you’re carving up the turkey, worrying about your pie or trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on Aunt Betty’s specially prepared cranberry.

Take it all in…the good the bad, the laughs and the sad. 

You’re making memories…it’s what Thanksgiving’s for.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Odd Goings On…it’s elementary

When we were kids, back in elementary school, we always heard the refrain from our elders…

“Why when I was you age we didn’t have it as easy you do…why we would….”

You can fill in the blanks with whatever horror story you can recall being told.

And it was true… they did have it tougher than we, the privileged young whippersnappers of their day.

We had things like lights and heat and paper and pencils and buses and lunch and other modern conveniences.

So it should be easy for me to sit here today and say the privileged young whippersnapper school kids of today have it so much easier than we did….

But they don’t.

I mean, just the added history that they have to learn is mind boggling; 50 years or so we never had to cover.

Plus with all the social media to track, it has to be that much harder to remain relevant, let alone cool.

Back then I only had to worry about looking cool when I leaned over to get a drink of water. And, as you might imagine, it’s not easy looking cool when one is slurping water at a low hung fountain…but I had this hair flip thing, I did when I stood back up, which I finished off with a sly little wink, which most of the nuns appreciated.


But we weren’t without our tribulations.

We had some very odd goings on…going on, ourselves.

Some peculiar rituals, traditions and rites of passage.

And I don’t know where they came from or who started them, but every now and then something occurred that had you scouring your closet in fear that you might be one of the offenders.

What am I talking about?

Offender of what?

Oh…don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. 

You did it too.

In fact you might have been one of the perpetrators.

For some reason—some unknown perverse reason— if you had a little loop on the back of your shirt, it was open season for anyone to sneak up behind you and rip it off.

Yep…just grab the thing, yank on it and rip it right off.

Just why the little loopy thing was there, in the first place, is unknown…and to be honest I never knew I had one until Marybuttercup Pennyloafers snatched it right off my back…along with part of my shirt.

Of course once my initial shock had subsided, the panic set in as to how I was going to explain having my clothes torn off by the girl who perpetually sat behind me in class…not that anyone should have been surprised…if you know what I mean…wink wink….

And while I would like to say I was the prime target of this obviously veiled act of affection, I was not, as all through the halls guys were getting their loops lopped, so to speak.

So much so that it sent one of the nuns into a frenzy of prayer in an effort to save our wanton souls; an effort, while appreciated, was basically misdirected as she should have been focusing more on what was going on in the playground on Friday nights.

But I digress….mostly because I wasn’t there…mostly because I had trouble forming intelligible sentences when I tried communicating with girls, back then…and now.

However, I did optimistically buy myself a genuine ID bracelet, which was another ritual that elementary peer pressure dictated at the time.

I think the idea was to have one so on the off chance you could convince one of the girls—at least one of the ones that could make sense of your incoherent gibberish—to be your girlfriend, you could give her the ID bracelet…I guess so she would remember your name.

Not sure…along with not being sure any of them even knew I was actually in their class the previous 8 years.

So while I never had a girlfriend I did have this piece of “silver-ish” jewelry for which I had no use...until years later when I gave it to Z and last saw on her cat, just before she ran away from home—the cat, not Z.

And of course there was the final humiliation of the 7th and 8th grade “Dances” where the room was divided by gender, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I was usually terrified no one would dance with me…but even more terrified that they would.

But much to my surprise, girls did accept my graceful invitations— “Uh…you wanna dance?”

And some even invited me— “Uh…you wanna dance?”— due to what I suspected to be an extra credit list passed around by a teacher, as an incentive.

I guess the thing is, no matter what era you grow up in, the trials and tribulations, rituals and rites of passage, of elementary school—or any school—are going to seem strange to everybody else.

The good news is, years later you get to look back and laugh about it all…with the help of a good therapist, you do.

Except for the thing with the shirts…that you never get over….






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life Becomes Us

We don’t get to choose our lives…even though we might think we do.

We don’t get to decide what we become, or who we become, or how we become…even though we might think we do.

We—all of us—if we’re fortunate enough, smart enough, even strong enough, set out to become something, to make something, to live something…of a life.

Yet in time we come to see, what a fool’s errand we’ve been on.

What a naïve merry go round, we’ve been riding.

Because in time we all come to see that we evolve into what our lives want us to be…not the other way around.

“Say what”, you say.

“Say yes”, I say.


If only that were true.

Because on most days, I mostly say…“Oy vey…what now?”

But somehow, inside, I know, the things I’ve been chasing my whole life—the things constantly just outside my reach—are the things I was never meant to catch.

Just the things I wanted to catch…while all the time life had another idea in mind for me.



Well, not so much…at least at the time.

Which was before its time.

“Say what”, you say.

“Say yes”, I say.

Of course this could be and probably is just some sort of justification for failing to meet the goals I set for myself in my earlier days…in between having my diaper changed.

I don’t know why, but Jungle Explorer always seemed to be my calling…despite my poison ivy problems. 

And I don’t think it was unreasonable to expect Ed McMahon to retire so I could slip into his job as Johnny’s sidekick and eventually assume the late night throne by the 90’s.

It’s not like I wasn’t willing to wait my turn.

And it all would have worked out if it weren’t for just one thing….


Who would have expected such back stabbing?

That plus the fact that the guy from NBC never answered my letters…not one!

Almost as if someone was hiding them…


But as time went on I realized, sometimes the path we seek, isn’t necessarily seeking us.

Sometimes the path that’s meant for us is the one that’s always been there, off to the sides, overgrown in a tangle of weeds and brambles.

The one with the spooky eyes, hidden in the bush, glowing off in the distance.

The one that others take one look at, and then quickly move along to one of the alternate paths; the ones serving margaritas and passing out snorkeling gear.

And who could blame them, especially if that’ll lead them to where they belong.

But there’s always been something about that tangled path over to the side; the one that’s both fascinated you and frightened you.

The one that always drags you back, until one day…maybe out of frustration…maybe out of hopelessness…or maybe just because you’re ready…you step into the dark….

And while you wonder if this is a huge mistake, and are reminded of the time you got on the wrong bus when you were 10 and instead of going home, ended up two towns over, sitting all alone with the driver as he ate his lunch and asked if you liked gladiator movies…it’s not at all like that.

There’s calm in this particular darkness, a warmth and a pull from an indiscernible beacon that locks on to you and makes you feel at home.

Soon, you come to realize—the further along the path you travel…the further this benevolent beacon guides you through unexpected twists and turns—the contentment you feel, is your life taking shape around you...bringing you to where you were always meant to be…and where you’ve always been.

Maybe, not the life you dreamed or the life you thought you’d become…but, instead, the life that became you.

And you can’t help but be happy with that…..

Especially when you realize, Fallon can’t host the Tonight Show forever….

Friday, November 14, 2014

Polarizing Vortex...really?

It’s a big story, right now…
“Polar Vortex Returns!”

How polarizing.

Not sure why.

We used to just call it "Frickin Cold"...or some variation...throw a hoodie on under our jackets and maybe a vest, depending on the degree of frozen nostril we were experiencing, and go about our day.

Now we assign a fancy name to it, buy a $500 North Face jacket, then stay inside and post about how "Frickin Cold" it is...."

Which is what I’m doing….

But maybe I’m missing something…cuz I don’t think it’s all that cold.

At least not here...where I my house...with the heat on....

I mean it’s November.

Cold happens.

Sometimes even snow.

What’s the headline then?

Cold and Snow…”The President’s to Blame!”

And don’t let me hear a sound from all the fall, cozy, schmozy, leaf peeping, cider drinking, pumpkin picking people, about how cold it is.

Okay…you can make a sound.

That’s an unrealistic expectation of me to ask.

Fall, cozy, schmozy, leaf peeping, cider drinking, pumpkin picking people are known for their shrieks of delight.

So I’d expect a few Brrrrrrrrrrr….sounds out of that bunch.

But please keep it to a minimum.

I warned you this was coming.

I mean, what good would all the cozy wool sweaters and toasted tootsies by the fire be without some frigid temps. 

And you wanted frost on the pumpkin.

So now you have it.

And it’s gonna get a lot worse.

But not for a while.

I still have my beach chairs in the car.

So we’re good….for a while.

Until I take them out.

But I’m not…for a while.

So the nice weather will be back.

I can do that….

But don’t tell anybody.

Just ignore the headlines and take it as it comes.

Polar Vortex….

Just a fancy name for “Frickin Cold!”

It’s November…cold happens….
Gotta go turn up the heat.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Less Letters

Do we really need two Ds in address?

I mean, isn’t that a waste of D’s time?

We’d still get it with just the one D.

Notice I’m not even bringing up the S’s.

Pick your battles, right?

If there’s any letter used to excess…it’s S.

Excess being a prime offender.

Who wouldn’t get it without the extra S?

Not to mention the extra F in offender.

Another one.

Halloween just passed, and while we might need the extra E for the “een” effect, did we really need to waste that additional L.

What the Hell…again.

The L.



Works just as well…don’t you think?


Do you?

Who came up with all these wasted letter rules, anyway?

Some guy name Al probably…with L envy.

Because All’s he ever wanted…this Al.

So he encumbered the rest of us with all these extra letters.

When just one leter, like T, would do.

Never thought about it before, did you?

Yeah…that’s how most people are.

Never give much thought to something until it starts affecting you directly, do ya?

Like that F in affecting.

There are so many better things that F could be doing right now, as well as that T in better, rather than aiding your pronunciation.

I mean if you don’t know how the words are supposed to sound by now….

Besides, we could probably use all those secondary, weak sister letters to make all sorts of new words.


What’s it mean?

How should I know?

I just made it up.

It can mean anything I want it to mean…like all the other words when they were first made up.

Do you think the guy who invented “Handle” knew what it meant?

No…he just went around with this great new word, looking for something to apply it to.

One day, he got tired of never being able to open any of his kitchen drawers so he stuck it there and we’ve had handles ever since.

Make sense?

It does…really?

Okay…well then, I think I’m going to assign FLSTDRABIGO to mean the thing that happens when you put your shoes on the wrong feet.

“Damn…FLSTDRABIGO again!”

I mean it’s not something that happens every day…once a week, it should be able to just sneak into the lexicon, gradually.

I was going to assign it to the thing that happens when you put your underpants on backwards, but since that happens a lot more often…at least to me…I thought it would be a little bit of over kill.

So you can see I’m not taking this lightly.

I’ve given it a lot of thought.

Maybe too much thought….

But look…I just slipped an extra O by you…twice.

Although one can argue that in these particular cases the extra O is necessary.

One can argue…but I disagree.

And I don’t think I even need to mention the abomination of excess that “necessary” brings.

Or excess…or disagree….

It an endless battle.

But somebody has to fight it…it might as well be me….

I’ll just add it to the list….


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