Monday, October 29, 2012


Yup. Here comes the bitter old fart, out of hiding, for one more pre-holiday-season rant. Yes, boys and girls, it's time once again for my annual imitation of Sisyphus. It's time to roll the Thanksgiving Comes First boulder up the mountain of Christmas advertising that seems to inundate us earlier and earlier with each passing year.

(I was going to forgo this rant this year. I'm tired of beating my head against the wall. I figured maybe I'd just shutter myself and ignore as much of it as possible. I've since come to realize, however, that there are a bunch of you who have fought the good fight with me each year who don't deserve having me quit on you. So, here we go again! Yay!)

For those who are somewhat new here, I do this same thing, around this same time every year, because I am an optimist at heart. I truly believe that the cheapening of our holidays can be stopped. Do I believe it will happen right now, because of this post? Hardly. I've done the same sort of thing for seven years now with limited success. It could happen eventually, though. It will take your help, and help from your friends, and then help from their friends.

I'm extremely gratified that many of you, in years past, have joined in the effort. Perhaps you'll find some entertainment in doing so again this year? I hope so. As always, I'll do a follow-up post, in a couple of weeks, with links to all blogs and websites that have helped in any way. To make sure I don't miss your efforts, drop me a line if you're joining in.

(Much of what follows, aside from having appeared here for a number of years, was printed in The Boston Herald last year. I assume their permission to re-print. They paid me for it, though, so if they'd rather I take this down, I'll comply immediately.) 


When I was a kid, Christmas was magical. The lights were colorful and amazing, making the night a warm, bright, wonderful place to be, even if it was 20 degrees outside and the snow was up to your waist. If you're old enough, you'll recall that Christmas carols gave you the same sorts of butterflies in your stomach that would be associated with love at a later time in your life. Cities and towns put up decorations on the main streets, with the larger municipalities erecting lovely Christmas trees in central spots.

All of the above worked, on a spectacular level, because it happened at an appropriate time and was limited in duration. No retailer (or city, or homeowner) dared breach the unofficial line of demarcation – Thanksgiving. It was an unwritten rule that one holiday would play out completely before speaking of another was allowed.

Now? Few retailers care. Whatever you can peddle, whenever you can peddle it, is the mantra. It matters not a whit how many people’s memories are trampled, nor how irreligious the displays and advertisements. The only thing that counts is that ledgers get into the black. Restraint and taste are passé. It seems the more outrageous the spectacle, the better for the bottom line.

Make no mistake about it: I’m a capitalist. I’m all for everybody making as much money as they can, as fast as they can, in whatever way they can, so long as nobody is physically hurt in the process. I’m not looking to enact laws against early Christmas advertising. What I am in favor of is standing up and being counted. That's fair. Opinion can drive a market in the right direction without resorting to the force of government intervention. If you decry this incursion upon our holiday ground as much as I do, I hope you'll join me in raising a slight ruckus. My hope is that we make enough noise to affect the situation. If we can’t, then I suppose we deserve this deplorable state of affairs.

I’m going to give it a try. I hope you'll help.

If you believe, as I do, that Thanksgiving should play out fully before Christmas season begins; that Christmas carols should not be heard on the radio before at least Thanksgiving evening; that advertisers who dare to encroach upon Thanksgiving - or, God help us, Halloween - should be told in no uncertain terms that you despise their hideous advertisements and that you will not shop at their establishments unless they cease and desist; that malls who put Santa Claus on display before Veterans Day should be ashamed of themselves; then please consider doing something about it.

Should you be as depressed as I am, concerning Christmas schlock, please post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry on your blog. Write from the heart. Everybody who visits your blog will find out how you feel. My guess is they'll agree with you. If you invite them to write a blog about it, perhaps they will. And maybe they'll ask their friends, and so on. If enough of us do this, we might have some success.

Please title your post "Thanksgiving Comes First". If we all do that - use the same posting title - it will make a bigger impact. If you wish to reference this post, or other posts with a similar title, please do so. It isn't mandatory, of course. I'm not looking to drive people to this blog. I'm only trying to make a bit of difference concerning something that truly rankles me.

[This cartoon is a favorite, so I choose to run it even though I don't know whose original property it is. If you are the artist, or know who the artist is, I'll gladly give a great big link, and credit.]

If you wish to use the snazzy graphic at the top of this page, or any of the other original graphics here, either on your blog entry or as a semi-permanent graphic on your sidebar, please feel welcome to do so. I'd appreciate it. Having a visual symbol that folks see repeatedly would be a big help.

Following are my most personal reasons for wishing to see something positive occur. Yours certainly don't have to match mine, by any means.

I'm a Christian, so I have more than an annoyance factor at work here. I think that cheapening the holiday, by expanding it beyond reasonable bounds, does a world of disservice to my religion. It gives people a false view of it, by making Christmas seem just a huge greed-fest. However, if you aren’t a Christian, your take on matters is certainly as important. If you're Jewish, for instance, or maybe a Muslim, it might make you mad to see some of your own holy days being given short shrift because of this overkill. If you're an atheist? I imagine it doesn't make you happy to be bombarded by this stuff. Whatever your reasons, please consider telling the world that you've had enough.

(I'm not encouraging obscenity, but I won't discourage it, either. Make it funny, or use it to emphasize a point, but I’d prefer that you don’t be gratuitous just for shock value. Obscenity always works better when it is an organic part of the whole. Be creative.)


So, to reiterate:

If you believe as I do, that Thanksgiving Comes First, then please let your readers know where you stand.

If you post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry to your blog, please let me know by leaving a comment here. Next week, I'll write about this again. If many of you join in, it will be a joyous post detailing all of the successes, pointing folks to all of the other blogs, including yours, that have decided to fight the madness. If it turns out to be a dismal failure, I'll write about that, instead.

(Image courtesy of Thanksgiving Corner)

In order for this thing to have any real effect, it has to keep spreading via others. While I truly LOVE anything you do in response, we have to ask others to do the same. If we don’t, then we’re just ranting. While that's certainly fun, it doesn’t accomplish as much as making our feelings known and also getting others to make their feelings known.

I firmly believe – and I’m sure you do, too – that the great majority of people are sick to death of the way Christmas has been commercialized. I’d be willing to bet that whenever you talk to anyone about this stuff, they almost always say, "Yeah, that's how I feel, too!"

Don’t you think we hold the majority opinion on this? If there were some way we could vote on it, wouldn’t we win easily? I sure think so. I think that for every person who loves hearing Christmas music at the beginning of November, there are ten of us who want to blow up the radio it’s playing on. I know that’s the way I feel. And I really, truly LOVE Christmas music. I honestly do. I own some 35 or 40 CDs full of Christmas music. But it has its place, and November (or, God help us, October) really isn’t it.

Are we tilting at windmills? I’d like to think we're not. The response in previous years, from all of you kind folks, gives me hope.

Sooner or later, if we speak up and ask others to do likewise, I honestly think we can have some effect. I’m not saying that we’ll bring the corporate world to its knees, nor is that even slightly what I hope we accomplish. This isn’t a power trip. But, if we can get them to ramp it down a bit, that would be an accomplishment of which we could be proud.

What this is all about, truly, was brought home to me while watching an episode of Mister Rogers.

On one of his shows, Fred was explaining the concepts of noisy and quiet. In order to illustrate the difference, he took his television audience to see a musician friend of his.

Fred had the musician, a percussionist, play his many instruments. Some were very loud, while others were soft and gentle. Afterward, Mister Rogers looked into the camera and spoke. He said, "In music, the silences are just as important as the loud parts."

The silences are just as important as the loud parts.

That’s a very profound statement. It’s true, isn’t it? Without the silences, it’s all just noise. The silences – the pauses, the gaps, the unfilled spaces – are what give the notes their power and meaning. And when it comes to a holiday, the silences – the quiet times preceding (or even within) the holiday – are extremely important. They give the celebration its power and meaning. That’s why I care so deeply about this. We all need some silences. They’re just as important as the loud parts.

Please keep writing, as well as asking your friends to write. Maybe send off a letter or two to your local newspapers. I've had a couple published, and some of you are much more eloquent than I am. Let us know what sorts of responses you receive. As promised, I’ll list (and link to) all of your blogs come next week.

For now, Google the phrase "Thanksgiving Comes First" and you'll find some past postings. Even that simple act, in and of itself, helps to spread the message. Getting many hits on Google, for the phrase, will bring it to the attention of some more good people.

Thank you for listening. God bless you if you help.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Three Items

Sometimes, you find things to write about. Other times, things find you. Two of the items below fairly jumped off the pages of my extremely part-time employer, The Boston Herald, and begged for me to type a few words about them. The other assaulted me while I sat in my La-Z-Boy (and was also brought to my attention by my Uncle Jimmy, who loves me and shares my outrage.)

Item 1: Sunscreen Recalled After People Who Applied It Caught On Fire

To quote from the story in The Herald:

The maker of Banana Boat sunscreen is recalling one of its spray-on products after reports that a handful of people have caught on fire after applying the lotion. A spokesman for Energizer Holdings said there have been five reports of people catching fire after applying the UltraMist sunscreen in the past year.

“Come on, Jim, we’re all going swimming!”

“You know how badly I burn in the sun. I need to put on some sunscreen. OK, I’m spraying it on and… AUGH! AUGH! AUGH!”

It would be hard to imagine a more surprisingly unintended consequence of applying sunscreen. It would be like putting on a condom and, instead of preventing pregnancy, your girlfriend instantly went into labor.

(I have to assume there was another source of flame involved; perhaps cigarettes. I doubt that folks have spontaneously combusted when applying the stuff. It’s much more fun to imagine it that way, however, and if that IS how it happened, it makes me doubly sad that The Weekly World News ceased publication a few years back because this would have been the stuff of front-page headlines.)

Item 2: Eddie Yost Is Dead.

Most of you (heck, maybe all of you, with the exception of Craig and maybe Skip) have no idea who Eddie Yost was. Let me rectify that. Eddie Yost was a major league baseball player. He played in the big leagues for 18 seasons, plying his trade with the Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, and Los Angeles Angels. After his retirement from playing, he coached for another 22 years. Among the teams he coached was the Boston Red Sox.

So far, I’ve told you about a nice career in sports, but now I’ll tell you why I care. Eddie Yost was one of my all-time personal heroes in baseball. Why was Mr. Yost my hero? Because he made the drawing of bases-on-balls his particular specialty. He was so good at it, he gained the nickname “The Walking Man”. He led the American League in bases-on-balls for 6 of his 18 seasons. Of his career 8,960 plate appearances, 1,614 resulted in walks. If he played in today's On-Base % conscious days, his .394 lifetime OB% would have made him a millionaire.

When I first heard about Eddie Yost, I was a kid. I immediately knew, upon hearing of his specialty, that he had to be the smartest man in baseball. He made a career out of standing at the plate and taking advantage of mistakes made by the other guy. He let his fellow batters have the ups and downs of hitting slumps, the mental anguish of trying to figure out what pitch was coming and then a less than one-third chance at successfully getting on base when they tried to hit it. Eddie learned that you could stand there, look at the ball coming, and then just let it go by four times (if it was high or low or inside or outside) and they had to give you first base just the same as if you had stroked a frozen rope. Not only that, you got to WALK down to the base instead of running.

Eddie was a genius. And not only did he turn NOT swinging the bat into an art form, he also cashed another 22 years of paychecks for coaching third base, another form of standing around. While young macho idiots sweated their nuts off running, he told them to stop at third base or keep on going.

For FORTY YEARS, Eddie Yost got to stand in the sun on green grassy fields, collect a good paycheck, and know all the while that he was the smartest son of a bitch on the field. Hard to beat that.

And, since I admired him so much, I made a career out of imitating Eddie Yost on a softball diamond. I hold the Bomber team record, by a wide margin, for drawing walks (926 plate appearances, 173 walks.) There are no league-wide stats to which I can refer, but I have no doubt whatsoever that I hold the lifetime league record in that category. I might also hold the lifetime record for The M Street SoftballLeague in South Boston. I’ve led every league I’ve ever played in, at least once, in bases-on-balls. It has probably extended my playing days a good five years, maybe ten. And I’ve had the great joy of pissing off more pitchers than just about anybody who has ever stepped onto the field. There probably isn’t a pitcher alive who hasn’t believed, in his heart of hearts, that he could get me out every time I’ve stepped into the box to hit. I’ve beaten them over 50% of the time.

God bless you, Eddie Yost. The example you set for me - never run when you can walk - is one I’ve tried to apply in every aspect of my life. I hope we meet someday in Heaven. We can have a nice walk together.

Item 3: Christmas Advertising In October

I saw the ad while watching “30 Rock” last Thursday. My Uncle Jimmy phoned the next day to alert me to it.

As most of you know, I'm all about Thanksgiving Coming First. The wretched over-commercialization of Christmas, and most of it at the expense of a truly lovely family-centric holiday such as Thanksgiving, has been a major pet peeve of mine for many years. So, allow me to congratulate this year's prime offender. Here is my reaction, arrived at after much deliberation and considered thought.


And your little dog, too.

That is all.

Soon, with more bitter vitriol.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Lucky Bug

While on our hideous ride to the Fryeburg Fair, MY WIFE said:

"Aagh! A hornet of some kind just flew in the car!"

I asked her where it was. She pointed toward the rear passenger side window. I turned to look. I saw a bug that was most definitely NOT a hornet.

I had captured a similar bug in our hotel room the night before. I trapped him inside of a plastic drinking cup and then walked to the lobby door of the hotel to send him on his buggy way. He was a slow-moving creature with no visible stinger. I assumed it was a beetle because I often capture and release bugs (I see no reason to kill a living thing, so long as it's doing me no harm) and beetles are very easy to capture; slow and very trusting.

With the traffic being what it was (which is to say, crawling like a beetle) I was able to take a piece of paper in my right hand, reach behind me, and put said paper under the bum of the bug. With a slight bit of coaxing, I got him to slide onto the paper. I then opened our sun roof, shoved the paper outside, and shook it to give the bug the idea that he was now supposed to fly away and never again hitch a ride with us. He understood and flew off.

Next day, back at the hotel, I found another one of these bugs on our window. I opened the window and let him fly out.

Fast forward three days. We are driving home to Massachusetts. Somewhere near the border, MY WIFE sees that another of these same bugs has once again invaded our car. This time, though, we're moving along at about 60 mph and the bug is on the rear window. I can't reach him, nor would it be prudent to do so while careening down the highway, so I decide to just leave him be. I've already determined he's a harmless sort of bug, so I figure he'll fly out one of the windows sooner or later. I forget all about him and continue driving.

We reach Medford, about two miles from our home. I hear a loud buzzing coming from my left side. My window is up, and there's nothing readily visible there, so I look down. There, on the sleeve of my jacket, is the bug. I roll down the window to let him fly away, but he doesn't take the hint. I lift my arm and blow on the bug. Nothing. He doesn't move. I blow again, hard. He still doesn't budge. I now take a deep breath and blow as hard as I'm able. Nada. This is one immovable bug. He doesn't want to leave. And since I'm trying to drive us home safely, and since home is so close, I decide to let him stay on my arm the rest of the way. What the heck; I can get him off of me once I'm safely parked in our garage.

I forget about the bug until we pull into the driveway. Then I remember him, except now the bug is not on my arm. And I don't know where he is. I can't see him or hear him. I assume he thought about his options and decided to fly out the window after all.

But then we're unloading our luggage and I hear "BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ". I still don't see the bug, but my guess is he just flew out of the car since we have the doors open for suitcase removal. I close the car doors and we go inside. End of story.

Except the next morning, I decide to drive to the store and buy a newspaper. I get in the car and there's the bug on the inside of the windshield.

I say, "You silly bastard! You spent the entire night in the car? Here's a nice yard. Go live there."

I slide a piece of paper under his ass, he climbs onto it, then I take the piece of paper a few steps to our backyard, shake it, and the bug falls on the grass. He starts slowly crawling away. I go back to the car and drive to get the newspaper.

OK, so far I've told you about our encounters with a certain bug. Now we'll backtrack and you'll hear about some other stuff. It will all tie together, I promise.

Our first night in New Hampshire, I bought us a couple of lottery scratch tickets. One of the things we like to do while on vacation is try to get rich. In some places, it's easier than in others. Our vacations in Las Vegas were mostly profitable, or at least free (excluding the one time I went by myself, leaving my conscience - MY WIFE - at home, and on that trip I handed back almost everything we had won and/or been comped.) In New Orleans, I made a short trip to the casino and won a hundred bucks. In most other locales, we play a lottery ticket or two. We've been fairly lucky. We haven't become astoundingly wealthy, but we've come out ahead a few times. Anyway, I bought the scratch tickets and MY WIFE won on hers.

At the Fryeburg Fair, there is harness racing. That was what gave us the incentive to go to the fair in the first place. We played a couple of races. MY WIFE came out ahead a few dollars.

The next day, we bought two more scratch tickets. Once again, MY WIFE won on hers.

After we got home, we had lunch with My Mom and My Stepfather. It was the afternoon following the morning when I released the bug into our backyard. After lunch, My Stepfather bought us all scratch tickets to play. Here he is, with My Mom holding up the possible wealth instruments.

(They're less fuzzy when not in my photos.)

If you've been getting the general gist of this thing, I probably don't have to tell you that MY WIFE was the one who won money on her ticket.

Now we're sitting at the dining room table, drinking coffee and eating cookies, and I tell my folks about how the same sort of bug showed up everywhere we went, including that morning. I still have no idea what sort of bug it was. My Mom suggests that maybe we can find out on her computer. I describe the bug to her and she types stuff in. I also draw my approximation of it, and Bill (My Stepfather) is trying to puzzle it out from that. The bugs My Mom is bringing up don't look like the bug, but I'm at a loss as to how to describe it so that we can find out just what it was.

Meanwhile, MY WIFE is on a separate laptop computer and, since she felt it looked kind of stick-like, she puts "stick bug" into Google.

Google says, "Do you mean STINK bug?"

She decides to click onto one of those links. And, yes indeed, here come shitloads of photos of the same bug we've been playing around with for the past week. They were STINKBUGS!

To be exact, they were Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs. And I found out it was a good thing I was such a nice guy and don't just crush a bug for no reason. It turns out that if you crush a stinkbug, the stench is brutal. Also, if they are scared or fear harm, they shoot vicious stink juice from their bodies. I'm damn glad the stinkbug didn't think I was attacking him at anytime, and especially when I was huffing and puffing and trying to blow him out the car window. I could have ended up with a face full of stink.

OK, so now I know what sort of bug it was. And I realize I just transported one (at least one) across the border into Massachusetts. Not only that, I basically told him to make himself at home in my backyard. I am now fervently praying that it was, indeed, HIM, and not HER.

(I've since found out, Thank God, that I am not the buggy version of Typhoid Mary. They've been around here for a little while. Just because I was ignorant about them doesn't mean they didn't exist. If that was the case, a whole bunch of things wouldn't exist; calculus and good photography, for instance.)

Here's the semi-interesting part of all this. Thinking back on the timeline of these events, I've come to realize that every time a stinkbug was part of our lives during the past week or so, MY WIFE won money gambling. Ergo, stinkbugs are lucky (but only for MY WIFE, and I was the guy who defended them and gently captured them and released them to go about their stinky ways unharmed, so why didn't I win any money? It's a mystery.)

Since there was hardly any point to this, I thank you for your patience. And if you see a stinkbug, be kind. Maybe your spouse will hit the lottery.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. I swear I am not making this up. As I was writing this during my lunch hour at work, I heard a "BZZZZZZZZZZZZ", and a stinkbug landed smack dab in the middle of a piece of paper to my left. If Paris Hilton had flown into my office and landed on that piece of paper I wouldn't have been more surprised. I stared at him for a few seconds, decided he wasn't just some blog-induced hallucination, and then I took him outside and dropped him in the little bit of grass near our parking lot. I am going to buy a scratch ticket for MY WIFE on the way home from work. If it hits, I will buy a farm and raise stinkbugs. That would be the logical thing to do, right?

P.P.S. My Mom wrote the following, sung to the tune of "Shrimpboats Are Coming":

Stinkbugs are a-coming
Their wings are in sight
Stinkbugs are a-coming
They’re dancing tonight

You better hury, hurry, hurry
You better hurry hurry hurry home

Cause, Stinkbugs are a-coming
From New Hampshire
Thank Jimmy
They’re coming
They’re coming tonight

Now you know who to blame for my sense of humor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Floppy-Ears & Bubba

Let me tell you about the Fryeburg Fair. It’s a decent place to be, but a hideous place to get to.

As I told you yesterday, we were in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for our vacation. The town of Fryeburg is in Maine. We decided that it might be enjoyable to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of their annual county fair. It seemed like a nice vacationy thing to do. So we set off on the 90-mile ride to Fryeburg.

It was a pleasant enough ride for the first 75 miles or so. Once we hit Conway, however, it turned into a vehicular nightmare.

If you’re familiar with New England and its tourist destinations, you know that getting anywhere near North Conway will set you up for sitting in traffic for a long while. And I knew that fact. I was expecting to perhaps hit a slight bit of congestion, but I also knew that with a final destination of Fryeburg it might not be too unbearable. At Conway, the road to North Conway splits off from the road to Fryeburg. I figured once we were past Conway it would be clear sailing. I had been to Fryeburg a couple of times in the past and I always flew through it.

What I failed to take into account was that the damn fair wasn’t going on when I had previously driven through the town. Add that to it being foliage season, and the road to the fair being a one-lane road for ten miles, and that not only were people going TO North Conway to vacation, but vacationers were also driving FROM North Conway to go to the fair…

Suffice to say the final fifteen miles were not pleasant.

(MY WIFE would like me to add, however, that the company was wonderful.)

It took us three-and-a-half hours to make 89 miles. I say “89”, and not “90”, because we parked about a mile from the actual fairgrounds and walked the rest of the way. This means we also walked back to the car afterward. Additionally, there was a lot of walking around from one thing to another on the grounds themselves. I didn’t take home any stuffed animals, but I transported two nice blisters on my left heel to our hotel that evening.

Live and learn, I guess. Had I any idea that the traffic would be so horrendous – that is, if I used my brains and thought about it a bit – I don’t believe we would have undertaken the journey. I mean, it's nice to walk around the fairgrounds and notice that you're the fittest specimen there, which makes you feel a whole lot better about eating those two sausages with peppers and onions, but probably not worth as much aggravation as the drive brought us.

Then again, you see some things at the Fryeburg Fair that you wouldn’t see if you stayed in Portsmouth. Bubba, for instance.

Photography being what it is, and MY photography being even more so, Bubba is not represented here in all of his ginormous glory. His ass stood about seven feet tall. Here is the sign that stood just outside of Bubba’s stall.

That is one huge pot roast. And Bubba must have sensed my preference for tasty meats. He never took his eyes off of me. And he spoke to me in threatening tones. His vocalizations were not the friendly sort of moo one might hear from Daisy the dairy cow. Bubba possessed a bovine voice about two octaves lower, but infinitely more menacing, than James Earl Jones. This won’t do it justice, but I have no good idea of how to recreate Bubba’s voice in print, so here’s my best approximation:


I had never before heard a farm animal growl, let alone with such force that it would have blown my hair back if I had any.

Bubba was securely chained to the stall, but happy 1930’s theatergoers had been assured that King Kong was securely chained, too, and I remember what happened in that movie. I pictured Bubba breaking loose, grabbing MY WIFE in his massive jaws, and climbing the Ferris Wheel while being shot at from the airplanes on the kiddie ride. If they were able to bring him down, the rent-a-cops would say…

“Well, the planes finally got him!”

To which I would have had to reply…

“It wasn’t the planes. It was beauty killed the beef.”

After my encounter with Bubba, I decided that I’d like to view some friendlier (and smaller) livestock. I wandered over to the goat barn.

I think goats have always been underrated. We are perpetually shown cantankerous old billy goats in cartoons, eating tin cans and headbutting people in the ass, but I’ve yet to meet a goat I didn’t like. Admittedly, having lived in Boston and environs my entire life, my experiences have been limited. The few times I have met them, though, they’ve seemed to me to be charming creatures given a bad rap.

When I first saw her (I know it was a “her” because there was a small sign informing me that goat butter and goat cheese could be purchased) she was eating the paint from the rail of her pen. I thought that was rather clichéd and would feed into the stereotypes. She seemed like a nice goat, and I didn’t want folks to think her parents didn’t raise their kids right. I approached and said, “Oh, come on, you don’t really want to be eating paint, do you?”

As I said it, I reached out to pet her. She stopped chewing the paint and hungrily licked my forearm. I jumped about two feet sideways.

A lady standing next to me said, “You shouldn’t have scared him!”

I said, “I didn’t mean to!”

She replied, “Oh, I wasn’t talking to you! I was talking to the goat!”

I now realized that my arm must have seemed a nice treat, being a bit sweaty and salty from the heat of the day. She wasn’t going to bite me. She just wanted to lick me (and even though I haven’t solicited such services from outside of my own species too often, it was nice of her to offer.) Somewhat red in the face, I gathered up what tatters remained of my courage and dignity and once again approached the goat. Being careful to keep my arm out of mouth’s reach, I skritched her on the head. She seemed to enjoy that. And she was so damned cute, I decided to take the photo up above. After taking it, I figured I owed her something for doing me the favor of posing in such a beguiling way, so I stuck out my arm and said, “Go ahead. Have a lick.”

She licked my forearm four or five times before I pulled it away from her. I figured it was probably provident to do so before she got the thought into her head that there might be even more salty goodness under the surface of my skin and maybe a little nip would release it.

MY WIFE, who did not accompany me to the goat barn, did not seem overly jealous when I told her of the attentions paid to me by my floppy-eared pal. If she had gone unattended to Bubba’s stall and returned with a similar tale, I’m not sure I would have been as magnanimous.

Soon, with moorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr better stuff.

Monday, October 15, 2012

For My Lovely Friend

[I have more tales from our vacation, but those will wait a day. This is more important.]

While I was away, a wonderful person breathed her last. She was a faithful reader of mine. I was the same, of her.

Moannie, as we all knew her, passed on Monday, October 8th, at age 78. She was last able to write to us, without aid, on August 14th. Since that time, her wonderful daughter, Saz, took over the correspondence. It was from her that we heard of her Mum's death.

Molly Anne Fabre was a writer of some considerable talent. If this is the first you're hearing of her, I urge you to go back into her archives, prior to the onset of her final illness, and read a few of her tales. I especially recommend those concerning her childhood. One that comes readily to mind now is entitled A Christmas Story. If you can read that one without a small bit of moisture coming to your eyes, you are a mean and callow sort. What sets it apart from the sort of melodramatic piffle that others might write is that Moannie kept a sense of humour about the whole thing. She manages to combine a bit of a laugh with a rather sad tale. That's not easy, but she did it.

All of her stuff is worth a look, but please allow me to direct you to one more that particularly tickled me:

The Prune One

It is not easy to laugh at the moment, but I can't help it when reading that story.

She had a rough go over the last few months - cancer will do that to you, I guess - but her spirit never seemed to diminish considerably. Obviously, I am not family. I never actually met the woman in person. I only knew her via our shared stories on blogs and via some e-mail correspondence. However, she never betrayed a lack of spirit in her writings, and showed considerable fight, too. I was proud of her for that. I would like to think I'll be able to do the same someday.

I do truly consider her a friend and I am heartbroken that we shall never meet in this life. I tend to think that, somehow or some way, I'll meet everybody who regularly reads me or whose stuff I regularly read. Not tremendously realistic, I suppose, but I would have loved to have met Moannie and shared a meal. As a Christian, it is my belief that we will, someday, have a chance to do so, but I hate being denied that possible pleasure until my own eternity sets in.

I would say, "God bless you, Moannie", but I have no doubt He is doing so even as I write this, so God bless US.

No. For that matter, forget that "God bless US" stuff, too. He already did that when he gave us you.

Here I Am Again

Here I am again.

Here’s a quick rundown of some stuff we did on vacation:

1 – Saw Bob Newhart in concert.

2 – Got licked by a goat.

3 – Came face-to-face with close to a ton-and-a-half of angry pot roast.

4 – Transported a bug across state lines.

5 – Had oysters on the half shell for breakfast.

6 – Hit the lottery three times.

7 – Got lost in Amesbury.

8 – Had a stranger rub my naked body with oil.

9 – Took a subway to an island.

10 –

Ah, hell, I can’t think of a tenth thing right now, but the first nine are enough to whet your appetite, right? If not, you’re pretty damn jaded.

There will be some photos, but I can’t vouch for their quality. I’m a rotten photographer. Those that I steal from elsewhere will probably be decent.

MY WIFE may remember one or two things in a slightly different fashion than I do. In other words, she will remember them incorrectly. I will, however, offer her a chance to read the things I’ve written and I may insert her re-imaginings as I’m in the mood.

I will tell you about some of the things listed – those that I think I can squeeze a stand-alone 1500 words out of without need to prop them up with some other event - in the coming days. Right now, I’ll give you the general outline of where we went and what we did while we were there.

A week ago last Thursday, we started our vacation by driving to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s a lovely little seaside community not too far over the northern border from Massachusetts. New Hampshire has the smallest amount of coastline of any of the states that HAS a coastline – eleven miles, as I recall. If it’s a bit more, my apologies to the tourism folks up there. In any case, you see the “Welcome To New Hampshire” sign, the person you’re driving with says, “Oh, look, there’s the ocean!”, and then you’re in Maine.

(If Maine and Massachusetts worked together, to purchase New Hampshire’s section of Route One, they could cut out the middleman. This would save some pot smokers from a whole bunch of confusion since the evil weed is decriminalized in those two states but not in the state whose motto is “Live Free Or Die”. As MY WIFE points out, Maine is the only one of the three that seems to have thought the whole thing through since they decriminalized dope and then slapped an extra tax onto snack foods. However, I digress, mightily, and I’m disgustingly stone-cold sober at the moment, oddly enough.)

We really like Portsmouth. It’s small enough to be totally accessible in every way, nothing is more than a mile from anything else, it has the sort of liberal atmosphere that even a crusty semi-conservative-libertarian such as myself can enjoy (tattoos cover more skin in Portsmouth than just about any other place in America, I think, and nobody would look askance at you if you strolled downtown wearing a mini-skirt, a shaven head, rattlesnake boots, and “I Like Ike” shaven into your chest hair while walking your pet ferret), yet is large enough and politically incorrect enough to attract old-timers such as Bob Newhart to perform there.

Bob is still a hoot at age 83. Except for one piece in his act where he pretends to be a driving instructor, he comes on stage and performs actual stand-up for about 90 minutes; that is to say, he’s on his feet for the entire show, which at his age is enough in itself to garner respect. He tells stories and jokes, of course, and then intersperses a few film clips from earlier in his career (along with live narration), and throws in a few bits of good-natured racism and sexism just to keep everyone on their toes, lest you start to slip into a mindset where you begin to think of him as some sort of harmless grandpa on stage. He still has some edge to his work, I’m happy to report. His only real concession to age is that he does very short tours. His entire itinerary for this jaunt consisted of Portsmouth, Boston, and then on to Vermont, where he is no doubt lionized beyond belief due to his one-time TV role as a somewhat incredulous and befuddled Vermont innkeeper. Seeing a living legend was a very enjoyable start to our vacation.

So, that takes care of number one on the list. I think I’ll tell you about number five next, then leave the other seven things to your imagination until tomorrow, the next day, and maybe the day after (although, knowing the sorts of things you’re capable of imagining, by the time I get around to really telling you about them, you will no doubt have made them into something entirely salacious and rude. If YOU told ME that you were licked by a goat, I’d do the same, so I can’t say that I blame you.)

The raw oysters for breakfast were part of a magnificent Sunday Brunch served at the amazingly swanky Wentworth-By-The-Sea.

As discussed earlier, New Hampshire has only so much seacoast. This huge joint takes up about half of it. Believe me, the photo doesn’t do the subject justice. It’s a very large old-fashioned resort hotel, festooned with tennis courts and gardens, with a golf course on the grounds and maybe a polo field out back, too, although I’m just making that up (I think.) There IS an outdoor wedding chapel, a slew of yachts are docked nearby, and no matter which road you use to approach the hotel you have to cross two bridges so it’s possibly on an island but it may just be an isthmus or perhaps a peninsula depending upon how much you’ve had to drink and which one you’re able to pronounce right at the moment.

The Sunday Brunch is the sort you would expect to find at such a grand old place, full of a wide selection of well-prepared comestibles served by obsequious wait staff. Even if you come into it with some sort of shitty attitude, you’ll be plied with however many mimosas it takes to get you in the right mood. They come with the meal, unlimited. That in itself is enough to sell the thing to most folks, but the buffet of oysters, prime rib, roast pork loin, various exotic vegetables in skillets, swordfish and salmon, the usual classic breakfast items such as bacon, sausage, stuffed French toast, freshly-prepared omelettes, and for all practical purposes an endless array of pastries, breads, tarts, pies, fresh fruit, muffins, bagels, and, uh… I don’t know what I was getting at when I began that sentence, but here we are and I’m hungry again. For what you receive, the cost is a ridiculously low $45 per person. Hell, anyone who hasn’t taken an AA pledge can easily make that up in the mimosas alone. The rest is gravy, except for the things I described above which aren’t.

Tomorrow I think I’ll tell you about the goat. Or maybe Bubba, the angry pot roast. Or maybe both. In any case, drink up and I’ll be back.

Soon, with more better stuff.