Category Archives: christmas

Lists Are Good For You

And now a tribute. To the mighty, the daunting, the beloved…the list.

dw parade m+mI don’t have a real bucket list. If I did, Disney World® wouldn’t be on it; I didn’t know it was any good. I went to Disney in my 40s by chance. When most people hear, “I’m goin’ to Disney World!” they think Sooperbowl. I think: time capsule, spinning teacups manned by deranged nieces, and Christmas parades with “princes” in wigs with many hair follicles per square inch. Also: pack well. Unexpected weather and unplanned befoulment demand backup.

SW1While a winter trip to a theme park ain’t exactly Christmas in New England, a good way to steel yourself is to get a flu shot then go to one. Disney’s a good bet because as the sweat of many nations and the sputum of the Lands settles upon you, you are exposed to virtually every germ currently available. It is, after all, a small world, certainly for a microbe. And as you build character standing on lines for rides and hear songs that won’t leave your head ever, you leave the prior year behind entirely—often a good idea.

Before I get into a favoured list of deep importance, the annual Fake New Year Predictions, here a short list of things overheard at Disney World:sw3

-Will all the lines be this long?

-I don’t think this line actually goes anywhere.

– It makes the line longer.

-We’re definitely under surveillance.

-Disney World is a young man’s game.

-I don’t want to go peeeeeeee peeeeeeeeeee! (said by more than one child from more than one nation in more than one Land on more than one day.)

– Did you say “teeming thong?!” NO, teeming THRONG.dw parade olaf

-This. Line. Is. Going. Nowhere.

Lists! Weekends generate lengthy lists. Line ‘em up and knock ‘em down.  Dump? Check! Tenny? Check!! Margherita – rocks – salt at Richardson’s Tavern? Checkarooni. Another…good day.

On to the prescient populist predictions for 2015, submitted by you the people from ME to FL, NH to CA:

North America will break up along the Mississippi and drift apart.

Angelina Jolie will have an affair with Jennifer Aniston.

Office betting pools explode on which former Disney child star will implode next.

Congress will be fined for not working; fined members will be unable to run again.

3D printing will be applied to implants from cheek to calf.

Jenna Bush Hager and Chelsea Clinton will decide to run for president in 2016.

With cheap gas, the price of vintage Hummers will strengthen.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will steal the rights to his own life story from himself, then turn it into a multi-billion dollar video game called Zuckerville, a place where he has the rights to all players’ personal information.  Suckerville?

The first smart refrigerator will arrive, voicing the caloric, fat, sodium, sugar, protein and fiber content inside.  It will lock after 8pm and won’t admit entrance until 6am.

Texas will secede.

Quebec will secede.

Killington will secede.

Punxsutawney Phil will be canned when he is bitten by a vampire and no longer casts a shadow.

ISIS will splinter off into new factions, one of which by year’s end will become the world’s most popular boy band.

More people will buy VW campers and park in Walmart lots to avoid campground fees, accumulating decals for amusement parks, roadside attractions, and states.

Americans will be required to rescue an animal by paying for its care or adopting it.

Vladimir Putin will be poisoned by an elite squad of journalists.jw mkaltydotorg

Putin will come out as gay, step down as President, and marry figure skater Johnny Weir.

The inane patter on award ceremony red carpets will worsen.

People will leave [followed by unintelligible gibberish].

 

I will be befuddled by new social media I’m supposed to master (Yik Yak?).

I will not gain weight (glad you said fake.)

I will stick to my New Year’s resolution to be happy and smile at everyone I meet.

I’m going to have sex every day.

 

Due to Equatorial Vortex Irene, we’ll have 90-degree days at the end of February.

Candidates vying for the presidency will optimistically fund new dog breeds, the Dachsoodleman (dachshund, +poodle + Doberman) and Cockzerstiff (Cocker Spaniel +Schaunzer + Mastiff) for his/her Whitehouse dog .

And my ties for Personal Favorite:

Rather than “predict, I “wish” we could all just slow down, get our faces out of electronic devices and embrace the outdoors…but silly me, then corporations wouldn’t make bank.

We will have weather.

A unifying figure will emerge.

 

sw adiosWith that, I wish you great list-making, great outcomes, great incomes, and good day.

Mix & Mingle in the Jingling Beat

bgs windowWhen you hate change as much as I do, things that remain constant are a necessary comfort. Holiday traditions that recur year after year, such as Randolph’s caroling with Santa’s arrival on the green, Woodstock’s horsey Wassail Parade, the Holly Jolly project, and mitten trees provide the longboard I need to surf life’s erratic vicissitudes.

 

Wrapping presents while watching treacly movies on Lifetime (theme: buff, middle-aged guy new to town chooses charmingly disorganized single mother over outfit-wearing sports-car/golfing lady) or the Hallmark Channel (title: A Bride for Christmas) soothes my holiday prep time no matter what’s going in real life. Which might not be all that good. I’m not mocking these shows. Christmas in Conway enchants, and The Christmas Hope is a bawler. I’m a sap. Akin to treacle.

hitched

 

Another lifesaver is the expressionless decorative light-up pilgrim I bought years ago at Rite-Aid. plastic fanny About three feet high, he gets dusty after a year in storage and I have a good hoot washing him off every November when I get to his little plastic fanny. Should have purchased the whole expressionless family (stalwart group!). And when Grandma Al and her granddaughter make magic cookies (not the Grateful Dead kind) in their aprons, or I look up Alex Hanson’s gravy recipe online yet again, all is right in the world.

Everything changes so fast now we can’t keep up. My fairly new TV is apparently already a “dino” (cable installer guy didn’t think I’d understand this high-tech lexicon on phone call to his mother ship in front of me—get a less obvious code word, pally!), and suddenly we don’t need to connect our computers to a cable for internet connectivity at home, even without a router (what?). My shiny, year-old TV remote is archaic, outmoded, useless; my router obsolete. Cableboy won’t take any of it away with him.

gift wrapWhat do I do with these antiquated accoutrements? The remote, the cables, the router…are others pouring same into landfill? Je refuse! I’ll find a home for them if it kills me. When I said to the Comcast guy and the TV wall-mounter guy in my living room, “Wow, I didn’t know you could tilt the TV like that on its brackets, there should be a remote for that,” they looked at me like I was some kind of sci-fi future-predicting genius. “I’ve never seen that!” one said. But I don’t want another damn remote. All I need is a sled, snow pants, hot cocoa with marshmallows, gift wrap, Jingle Bell Rock, and some people. That stuff doesn’t need upgrading. It never gets old.

Change: no! I like when people do their lights the exact same way every year. There is a little blue-lit tree outside somewhere (Tunbridge?) that, unlike nieces, never seems to grow up. That’s good. It’s bgs xmasdistressing when houses change hands and the usual trimmings change or disappear. Driving by my parents’ empty house is saddening. It’s been empty in winter in recent years, but this time it’s permanent – and no change is worse than permanent change. When the Barnard General store quit selling penny candy 30 years ago, I never recovered. It’s all still there, right where it belongs, the little wax bottles filled with colored ick, the caramels and the Smarties®, in my mind.

Some change is not so awful. That I moved from my beloved Bethel — not great. But I stay over a friend’s house (whom I used to live so close to that staying over never occurred to us) and we have spiked nog by the Christmas tree after her cat punches me repeatedly while I write (love the Siamese—naugh-ty) and, well, maybe a new tradition is in the making. When the old traditions fall off, due to death or dismemberment or some horrible new technology, they need replacing or we’re left with nothing.

I’ll start one now. Something you can see and think, “Oh good, there’s that thing again. A constant!”

You may enjoy what autofills in Google’s search box before you finish typing … endlessly amusing. Monthly, I might post the winners. For December:

Does a…” autofills with

-root canal hurt

-straight beat a flush     does a

-duck’s quack echo

-photon have mass?

Et voila. Your inaugural autofill of the month. Little gift fer ya there, as you jingle around the clock. Good day.

Bumper Sticker Suggested by Harry One Year Ago when I Wrote we Were Told as Children (by the Catholics?) That Writing “Xmas” Instead of Christmas was Literally a Sin:

Let’s keep the X in Xmas!

Coffee Helper Helps

coffee helperFor people with precious little time, those with dexterity issues, and anyone who likes to distance himself from paper or, at the very least, coffee filters,  it’s the perfect gift.

 

Happy Eastern Orthodox Christmas!

Santa and Me

Santy Claus, Cyn and me poss. 1989…a really long time ago. This was the official shot you got in SantaLand at Macy’s Herald Square, avec “frame.” If you’ve never read David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice, which includes his stint as an elf there, it’s a heartwarming holiday classic not to be missed.

This guy clearly wasn’t “Santa Santa” (read the book). I think he was more like “Hungover Santa” or “This Is My Lucky Day So Why Ain’t I Smiling Santa.” “Busted Femur Santa?”He may have been concentrating on the cameras or sensors in his beard.

The Home Stretch of Holiday Hell

snowy xmas ballYou’re almost there, people. You are almost through the holiday gauntlet.

A gauntlet is an odious form of punishment wherein the victim is forced to run between two rows (the gauntlet) of soldiers that repeatedly smite him. The victim is slowed down by various means, preventing him from running the gauntlet—God forbid—too quickly. A magical holiday metaphor for you there.

Mercifully, the figurative holiday gauntlet is more varied and less severe. There’s the endless conveyor belt of cookies, booze, and dips that make you blow up like Santy Claus. There’s forced gaiety, perhaps—in, say, the workplace. Secret Santas you want no part of. Malfunctioning decorations. Fighty fights over tree placement. Hernias, ruptured disks, rocketing cholesterol. Concerts, pageants, fundraisers, and parties demanding special gifts, attire, or baking. Aversion to pine. Aversion to sugar plums.  Aversion to family. To holiday-themed newspaper columns. 2014, take me away! Not so fast, dear Reader. Remember:  you are not allowed to run the gauntlet too quickly.

Maybe your gauntlet has your kids driving you lunatic on one side, your parents on the other. Sadly, advances in technology are exacerbating the digital divide within families, amplifying holiday tensions. The grandparents just can’t seem to grab a hold of technology a lot of the time, and the kids are so much savvier than the parents (us) that it’s annoying.

Well, what is annoying is their annoyance with us. Teenagers since the dawn of time have considered their parents moronic. Only now, because of parents’ slimmer grasp of the technology their children have been wired with, parents really are dumber than their kids. This has never before been the case.  Kids didn’t know more about farming, sewing, war, factory work, finance…anything beyond pop culture fluff. Now they are more knowledgeable about something of consequence. As a friend put it, “My rocket geek son ‘helps’ me with my blog.  He’s rolling his eyes, ‘Mom, why’d you do it that way?’ like I‘m a complete idiot. When I explain I didn’t know there was another way, this fuels his irritation—and disdain. If I ever acted like him, my parents put the hammer down. I can’t.  Because he actually knows more than I do.”

Sigh! If you’ve had your fill of insults, exploding casseroles, manuals with miniscule print in 47 languages,  watching football teams do things you gave them no clearance to, the good news is you have only a few more games and New Year’s Eve left, and that’s not even a real holiday. Some call it “Amateur’s Night,” referring to those imbibing who rarely drink, an excellent reason to stay off snowy roads. Hell, even pros like Jethro or Granny manning the wheel of a poorly maintained jalopy after a couple pops of spiked nog coming at you in the oncoming lane, that’s just no fun at all. Stay home and, whatever you do, avoid those awful New Year’s Eve shows. They are worse than Honey Boo Boo, Toddlers and Tiaras, Kardashians singly or in groups, and Mafia Plumbers’ Wives combined. The exaggerated merriment of gussied-up commentators excitedly reciting numbers backwards can kill even the slenderest hope of a new and improved year coming your way.  Give yourself a fighting chance. Don’t watch. Ring in the New Year cozying up to your pet(s) or preferred person(s). Sing Auld Lang Syne (first a poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns) softly into their ears.  It’s nice like that.

And as a countermeasure to failed New Year’s resolutions kicking off the year badly, that important media outlet, the woman’s magazine, suggests an alternative: make instead a list of what you accomplished last year.  You’ll be amazed by what you did. Although I plan on more reading/less Candy Crushing with enough conviction to announce it here publicly to complete strangers, and strange completers (you know who you are). If you must resolve, pick something you can handle.

Helpful Reminder: As the highway notification boards proclaim, DUI. YOU WILL GET ARRESTED. Only the “D” is fat, so it looks like OUI, YOU WILL GET ARRESTED. (“But non, awf-ee-sair, I had nussing to dreenk zees evening! I am Canadienne. We drive feefty in ze left lane on ze intair-state, eet’s what we dewww! Alors, your dawg—does eet baht?”)

May you have enough coal in your stocking to keep you warm, and may the last few yards of your gauntlet be kind. Good New Year, good laffs, and good Boxing Day.

New York Botanical Garden Train Show

bot Gardens xmas 2012Some holiday activities are better left till after.  We country mice highly unrecommend  the New York Botanical Garden Train Show during peak season,  but go now if you like trains, tiny special worlds, humidity, and perfect miniature replicas made from bark and twigs by krazy nutters — it’s a trip. This year’s includes the original Penn Station and Yankee Stadium, Radio City, Macy’s, St. Pat’s, The New York Public Library, and a bunch of bridges. Remarkable! bot bridge

Highlight: two B&T men were thoughtfully analyzing in silence one of the more ornate mini-buildings, say, 2 feet high.  Finally one guy goes to the other (insert The Sopranos accent here):

“It’s like there’s so much DE-tail, you can hoddly see it awl.”

I wept in gratitude.

Be It Ever So Humble

Christmas Rubber Tree

…and sometimes it is…there is no tree like the home tree.

If You Like to Drag Out Christmas…

…as I do, go have a pop at Harrington House.  Terrific holiday vibe.

When I worked at Forbes Magazine one million year ago, my co-worker J would ask, “Ann Marie, wanna go have a pop?” She meant a stiff drink. (Is there any other kind?)

Another thing she’d say, every time a cop car whizzed by on 12th Street with its siren blaring, which was often:

“Ann Marie, your ride’s here.”

It’s a Wonderful Life

Wonderful lifeI caught this movie one night in high school on Channel 11 (WPIX–“eleven alive”). At our lockers the next day, Pat Sue said, “I saw the best movie last night.” We felt party to a secret gem. There was even a gender-switched version with Marlo Thomas, and Cloris Leachman (Phyllis!) as the angel. Years later, the original was everywhere on TV, so it was easy to find even before VHS tapes were rentable.

I’ve seen it every year since, and bawl every time. Having lived in LA, I consider work in the Industry overblown as compared to, say, a career in teaching or medicine. But this baby did the world a great service because it makes everyone consider the inestimable value his or her own “small” life.

Sarah Will You Marry Me?

Sarah will you marry meThis may have been, for many, the best part of a Christmasy trip to NYC. It flashed up on the information board in Grand Central Terminal, the correct name for Grand Central Station.

Not a lot of people seemed to notice. I hope Sarah did. I hope she said Yes.

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