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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

J’evah notice that around this time of year, there is always some sum—bitch who gets pissed off about Christmas. I saw a house recently where the roof was being reshingled. They’d removed the old shingles and had covered the wood with a rubberized blanket. In beautiful block print lettering on this undercoat, the manufacturer, the builder, or someone had written “Put Christ Back in Christmas.”  It’s a beautiful sentiment; doesn’t mean a goddamned thing to those people who are hip-checking your ass out of the way so they can grab the last of the toy du jour; nor does it really mean a friggin’ thing to those who drive through the mall parking lot like they’re on the track at Daytona, to find the nearest exit so they can go home and wrap the gifts they’ve just bought with the money they don’t have to give to people who will only bitch about the gift being the wrong size, shape, color, or model and who, without considering the intent with which it was given, will only bitch about having to exchange it and the lines in which they’ll have to stand..whew!.

Right now I happen to be reading Bill O’Reilly’s latest book, Killing Jesus, so that really puts me in the holiday spirit. It appears that the Romans knew more ways to torture and kill Jews that anyone before them…and they worked at it. They didn’t even crucify you until they’d beaten your back and upper legs down to the bone; then they made you carry the cross piece to a pole in the ground where they promptly tied you to this cross piece, drove nails into your wrists; hoisted you up – how, I have no idea – broke your ankles and tied your legs to the pole and left you there to die. Ha, and you thought the Grinch was a rotten bastard! I’m beginning to think Jesus should have kept his mouth shut and sold one of the Apostles down the river!

In addition to learning what Jesus was in for at a time when we’re supposed to be celebrating his birth even though we know he wasn’t born in the twelfth month, it seems that the second week in December, at least for me, is designated as visit the doctors’ week. Every single year this seems to happen: Monday it was the ophthalmologist…who told me that my eyes were aging – “and that ain’t the only part,” I wanted to say. What the hell does that mean, your eyes are aging? Of course they are. There was a time when I wore trifocals. Then this very same doctor removed cataracts, put in some new lenses and gave me back my 20/20. Now he has the audacity to tell me my eyes are aging…and at Christmas time…screw you, you son-of-a-bitch; go ahead, make my day. Tuesday was an appointment with a gastroenterologist. This is a follow-up to my recent colonoscopy – if you need further clarification, I invite you to see Billy Connolly’s description on YouTube. This doctor’s news was better; my colon evidently is not aging, but it is becoming a bit wrinkled. “Don’t let it get any more wrinkled,” he informed me. Now what the hell can I do to get my colon unwrinkled? If anyone can answer that, I’ll trade colons with them. He did give me the good news that he doesn’t want to see me again for five years. Holy Jesus, by then my colon ought to look like a Hungarian Komonder or a friggin’ Puli. Wednesday was pulmonary day, the day I see Dino. This is a doctor of whom I think the world. He treats patients as people. He doesn’t see me as another patient with emphysema and C.O.P.D. He sees me as Dick, the late Joan’s husband; the guy who loves to cook and read. When Dino is teaching young doctors, he reminds them, “Never forget that behind that patient with the lung disease, or the cancer, or the this or that, is a person who still has the same needs and desires that you have. The patient is a person! Treat them like one.” So what does he have to say? “I’m putting you on a new medication to allow you to breathe better. You want a one-month supply or a three-month supply?” With winter coming on, I figure a three-month supply is not a bad idea. Then I get a call from the pharmacy.  It-is-impossible-to-imitate-the-Walmart-voice, but listen to this…”This is your Walmart pharmacy. A person in your household has….one…prescription ready to be picked up. The total cost will be three hundred forty-seven dollars and four cents.”

“X-fucking-scuse me? Are you shitting me?” I say as I close my phone. “This is the season of giving, not of taking. You couldn’t even give me the goddamned four cent discount…where the hell does the four cents come from?” Juli was just staring at me. Finally, without breaking into a grin, she asks, “Walmart?” All I can do is glare until we both begin laughing out loud at my tirade against a recorded voice. I just love these miracle drugs…and the doctors who think nothing of prescribing them.

Today is Thursday. We went to Walmart to buy a few things and to pick up my prescription. Linda, one of the pharmacy assistants, just looked at me as I approached the counter. The pharmacist behind the counter stopped what she was doing and peeked out from behind her computer screen.

Linda: “Hi, er, hi, Dick…ah…um…are you sure you want to pick up the three-months worth of this?”

Pharmacist – from behind her computer screen, with exceedingly large smirk: “You can get the one-month supply if you want.”

Linda: “You..ah…um…you know this is over three hundred dollars, right?”

Me : “Three hundred, forty-seven dollars…and four cents…that about right?”

Linda: “Yeah?”

Me: (sotto voce so only Linda can hear) “Ring the fucking thing up, Linda!” Linda cracks up to the point where it appears she may lose bladder control. In as soft a voice as I had used, she replies…”fucking’ A!” and proceeds to abuse my debit card for the entire amount…chuckling! I’m certain she told the pharmacist of our exchange but frankly, I don’t give a damn. Ring your bell just as much as you want Mr. Salvation Army man with your big red kettle and your “Ho-ho-ho;” You won’t get as much this year as you did last…sorry about that…blame my freakin’ doctor.

Tomorrow is Friday. I have no doctors’ appointments. I have neither plans to visit Walmart nor any other store. My car is fully gassed, and I am going, very early, to the gym. I will then come home, change back into my pajamas, hide my wallet under my pillow, and sleep the day, arising only to take my pills and my new – three hundred forty seven dollar and four cents – prescription.

Merry Christmas?

Bah…Humbug!

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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We are entering – once more – the season of insanity.

Thursday, November 28th is the fourth Thursday of this month and, by tradition, a day on which we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Defined, it is often referred to as “…an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.” Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. George Washington named Friday, November 26th, 1789 as a day of “public Thanksgivin,” and until Lincoln, every President made a declaration of when Thanksgiving should be celebrated. The Sixteenth President declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. That was fine until…

…In 1933 and again in 1939, November had five Thursdays. In ’33, some retailers asked President Roosevelt if he would move the celebration back a week indicating…”You will appreciate the importance that an additional week incorporated in this great holiday season will have upon the distribution activities of the entire United States and the added impetus that will be given thereby to the efforts of the administration and the N.R.A.1 to increase employment and purchasing power.” Roosevelt declined but in 1939, he did relent and move the celebration back a week. It was until 1941 that a Congressional declaration set aside the fourth Thursday in November as the official date for Thanksgiving. Two things become clear here: (1) Retailers pushing for more shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t a new thing; it’s been going on since the nation was coming out of The Great Depression, and (2) Congress has been sticking their fingers in the pie as far back as 1941 [the pie, of course, being mince or pumpkin].

Today, retailers are even more aggressive in their approach to relieve consumers of the contents of their wallets, and while most appear to desire green, any color will do if it happens to be plastic. The Friday following our day of thanks for the bounty that we, in some cases, have is known by many names, among them “retailer-salivation-day,” “come-on-suckers-and-bring-your-cash-day” “Ooh-have-I-got-a-deal-for-you-day,” and by its more acceptable terminology, “Black Friday.” This term has been applied because it is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year, and the one that will put retailers firmly in the black. Saturday is now being named “small-business-Saturday.” Thanksgiving, the day when families are supposed to be gathered around the harvest table and giving thanks is now being called “Brown Thursday.” It would appear that some retailers’ greed exceeds their consideration for family togetherness and therefore, their doors will be open on this national holiday. Woe befalls the employee who calls in sick or declines to work this day. Managers and supervisors need only remind them of the seven point three unemployment rate in the country or some other bullshit story, and they will be at work.

I don’t shop on Black Friday and I can tell you right now that I sure as hell will not be shopping on Brown Thursday. Next thing you know, we’ll have mauve Monday, taupe Tuesday, and Wisteria Wednesday…and those will be before Brown Thursday. This year, the day after Christmas is going to be renamed “Take Back Thursday” while “Find Bargains Friday” will follow.

I’m happy that our economy is on the rebound. I’m delighted that the Dow finally broke sixteen thousand. I’m pleased as hell that the United States is no longer dependent on foreign oil. I’m happy as a clam at high tide that I have a roof over my head, heat in the house, a new ‘smart’ television set, a car – albeit thirteen years old – in the garage, and a new puppy that is already housebroken. I’m even more delighted that I have a wonderful partner with whom to share all of these things plus all of the joys of the holiday. The pup was an early Christmas present to her and Widget has already brought great joy to both of us.

However, I’m mad as a son-of-a-bitch at the greedy bastards who have decided to open their doors on November 28th and who have pressured their workers to come in. I’m madder yet at the idiots who will elect to go shopping on that day. If you are one of them at least have the courtesy to apologize to the sales person who is ringing up your purchases. But, for cripes sake, don’t wish them a “Happy Thanksgiving!”

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“Tis the season to be jolly…fa, la, la,, fa, la, la, la, la, la.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, particularly here in America. Yet, it appears to me that for far too many Americans, it becomes a season of terrible tragedy.

As I watched the news this morning, it occurred to me that there has not been one – not one – morning newscast this week where people were not thrust out into 20 to 30 degree weather, many in their pajamas and robes, because their apartment building was on fire. Fortunately or ‘un’ as the case may be, only one person has so far lost his life. There appears to be some direct correlation between dramatic fires and cold weather, at least here in the Northeast. There was a time when we attributed this to the use of space heaters; however, either they’re making safer space heaters or idiots have found other ways to burn down their domiciles. The one man who was killed was using a plumber’s torch and dollars to donuts he didn’t have an asbestos shield behind where he was working.

There will be more fires before Christmas 2012. In some cases they will be caused by candles left unattended; in others it will be because someone had a few too many holiday ‘spirits’ and fell asleep with a cigarette in his/her hand. Speaking of which, I heard a man complaining this morning that his apartment building fire meant he had no place to stay. There he was, casually smoking a cigarette and saying that he’d lost everything and had no insurance. I wanted to say, “Hey, asshole, with cigarettes at $70 per carton, it’s your own damned fault if you don’t have insurance! Renter’s insurance runs a little over $500 a year. Don’t bitch when you’re not trying to do anything for yourself.” I don’t want to appear holier than thou but I cannot begin to conceive of the amount of money that I’ve saved since quitting cigarettes in 1998. Okay, that was “holier than thou;” sorry.

This is also the time of year when too many people lose their collective marbles about spending. When the bills begin rolling in after January, they suddenly realize that the great deal they got on that 104” television, the one for the sixteen by twenty foot living room, is one that in hindsight they really could not afford. As a consequence, the joys of Christmas morning are suddenly replaced by the realities of beginning 2013 in way over one’s head. The marketers of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, oh joy, oh joy Sunday, and Cyber Monday have suckered us in another year. They really don’t have anything for Sunday yet, but it will probably be Joyous Jesus Sunday when you can celebrate the upcoming birth of Christ day – which isn’t when He was born anyway – by “Saintly Spending” to celebrate His birth!

We are such a friggin’ materialistic nation that it’s beginning to turn my stomach. However, and this is a very large, very bold faced underlined and italicized ‘however,’ I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a woman who loves me, a roof over my head, food on the table, a furnace that works, a couple – not many but a couple – of extra coins in my pocket and a POSBIR in the garage . Wealthy? Hell no, I’m not even comfortable, but “Ah has what ah has…and that’s all I need.” I have some very wealthy neighbors who take all sorts of trips and who have the latest toys…but I don’t want to be them; I don’t need to be them. What they do is what they want; what I do is what I want. I will say this, “My neighbors are also just as frugal in their spending as I am. We will not be conned by the marketers who would have us go in debt over our collective heads. I have driven through parts of this country where the dwelling is a broken down mobile home and in the front yard is the biggest damned television receiver you have ever seen. I suppose that to those folks television is more important than the cracked windows in the place where they live. It’s not my idea of responsible living but then, to each his own.

So, the fires will continue. At least one toddler will die because he or she played with an extension cord; Christmas trees will fall over and a family will be overcome by smoke. But look on the good side, Roland Dow and Jessica Linscott will be spending this holiday season behind bars, and won’t have the opportunity to torture and burn her child ever again. That’s really a cause for celebration

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During this Holiday Season when peace, joy, and love toward our fellow man is most appropriate, I thought I might just turn things around a bit and talk about the assholes who really piss me off this time of year.

I have developed an intense dislike for people who wish me, “Happy Holidays.” If you don’t have the courage to wish me a Merry Christmas because you’re not certain I’ll be offended, say nothing. In all probability, it’s just a bunch of words coming out of your mouth anyway. You don’t know me; you don’t know whether I’m Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or maybe a freaking Zen Buddhist. Do you want me to wear a wreath of thorns on my head or my cross outside my coat? It’s Merry Christmas shithead and if I don’t like you I won’t return the greeting but instead tell you where you can put your Christmas tree. My Jewish friends wish me Merry Christmas and I, in return, wish them a Happy Chanukah. I know who they are. When we exchange greetings, it should be for a purpose, not just because someone thinks it’s the thing to do…and how do you know whether or not it might be impossible for them to have a Merry Christmas because their kid is in the hospital, etc.  (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is “Grinch Day.)

It seems that people shopping in stores say all the right things during the Holidays but promptly proceed to demonstrate that they don’t really mean it. As much as you might believe she was an idiot – she really was – the woman in Los Angeles who sprayed her fellow customers with pepper spray in order to grab an X-Box 360, was my ideal of what Christmas shoppers are really like. Merry Christmas as long as you don’t get in my way, you son-of-bitch!

People seem a bit more hurried during the Holiday Season. It’s one of the reasons why I stick strictly to the speed limit when I’m driving. On highways it’s not so bad; they fly by me, usually noticing my Mass. State Trooper hat that I bought at a local novelty store. Brake lights suddenly appear; the traffic behind me begins to slow down; and when I’m certain I’ve gained a bit of attention, I remove the hat. Cars speed up and I let it go on for a while before donning this realistic Trooper hat.  You can also stick a black hair dryer out the driver’s window; that makes for some fun!

I live in a ‘conspicuous consumption’ neighborhood. That means that everyone vies for the biggest light display and who can be firstest with the moistest. I have one neighbor who puts his lights on the bushes and each blade of grass (just kidding) November 1st. Thanksgiving evening, those lights come firing up. I don’t have the heart to tell him that someone in the next town over, a house I pass on the way to the gym each morning always beats him by a couple of weeks. He is the baseline from which everyone then develops their displays “Lights, lights, bring me more lights; colors, colors, find me new colors!” It’s rather quite asinine. My next door neighbor is the Rabbi who brought the first Synagogue to town. Although I’m not Jewish, he has served as my counselor on a few occasions, and I’m certain he gets as big a kick out of the light competition as I do. Our big thing is to put Santa hats on the four Alberta spruce trees that are in front of the house. It’s sort of our definition of “tacky and tasteful!”

This is also the season of “handicapped my ass.” I happen to have a Handicapped placard. I have it for several pretty good medical reasons. However, I notice that this is the season (a) when people totally disregard parking spaces for the handicapped or (b) they have the placard but everyone in the car jumps out and runs like hell for the store. What’s up with that? I can’t really understand the disrespect that younger people show for those who are handicapped or who are just obviously older and less able to move quickly. Get close enough you little bastard and I’ll still give you a swift kick in the ass!

Do I really dislike the Holiday Season as much as it seems? No, that’s not the case at all. Historians, Biblical scholars, and anthropologists tell us that December 25th was not the day on which Christ was born. It’s as good a day as any though, I guess. For those of us who are Christians, it is a good time to remember our beliefs; to renew our faith; to come together and share warmth and fellowship. If Father Christmas is the glue that pulls us together, great. If thoughts of exactly how we can bring happiness to others, amen. Just think a bit about the true meaning of this particular holiday. It’s not how much; it’s why.

My lady friend happens to be an avid knitter and crochet fanatic. Her favorite saying is, “I knit so I don’t kill people!” Once each year, she sells her wares at a craft show. She always does it this time of year (Christmas, in case you’re a bit slow). She has scarves and mittens, afghans and hats, critters of all types. When the craft fair is over, she will give the sponsors almost three quarters of what she has left. They have a children’s charity to which they will give her ‘stuff.’ When she learned where the ‘leftovers’ would be going, I thought she was going to cry, she was so happy. That’s my idea of Christmas spirit. I’m not certain she thinks of it that way; she merely wants to ensure that her good works are shared…preferably with children. Perhaps that and a lot of other things are why I care so much for her.

I don’t wanna get too maudlin here, but have a nice holiday…oh, and Merry Christmas.

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