Saturday, December 31, 2011



That's the sound of me blowing my own horn again.

(This was the first instance.)

I've been published in The Boston Herald for a second time. God bless them for being such poor judges of talent that I was able to bamboozle them once more!

This time around, the horn I am tootling is a New Year's Eve party horn. Go, read, enjoy (or, at least, pretend to do so, by leaving a comment that lets them know they have discovered the most spectacular writing talent since Mark Twain fathered Ernest Hemingway.)

(I suppose I should let you know that Mark Twain didn't actually father Ernest Hemingway. I figure if you're gullible enough to buy into the notion that I'm a writer worth paying, you probably need to have such things made unambiguously clear.)

HERE is where you should go to read my latest desecration of the language. My byline will be there someplace.

(However, if you'd like to learn how to draw things, such as the horn at the top of this page which I stole, go to How To Draw Cartoons Online! All in all, I'd say that would be a better use of your time.)

Soon, with a brand new year of idiocy!

(And I'll be back writing some more stuff, too.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roddy's Christmas Miracle

[Roddy The Wondercar]

It was a small puddle.

And Green.

A small green puddle. Under my car.

Every morning.

A small green puddle under my car every morning. For the last month.

It was a small green puddle under my car every morning for the last month.

I noticed it, and MY WIFE noticed it. It bothered me a little. It bothered MY WIFE a lot.

"Daddy doesn't care about you, Roddy", she would say, as she got in on the passenger side.

"I check his fluids every day", I would reply, "And I only have to add water once or twice a week."

To which, she would query, "Well, do you remember the story of The Boy Who Didn't Get His Radiator Repaired?"

"Yes", I would say, shamefaced, because I did.

Back in 1995, we owned a different car. It was a Chevy Cavalier with a leaky radiator. I checked the fluids and kept adding water. Then MY WIFE's Father died. While driving to his wake, the leaky Cavalier died, too.

(I believe the car was only acting in solidarity. During the previous twelve months, my father died, MY WIFE's mother died, and now her father had passed away. The Cavalier was just trying to be one of the family.)

The engine seized on the Southeast Expressway. As a result, we ended up driving her father's pick-up truck to his funeral. It had a bumper sticker that said, "Follow me to Bub's Barbecue!", which was humiliating enough to MY WIFE, she being a woman who doesn't eat anything with her fingers, let alone having everyone else in her family know she was married to a doofus who could have saved about $2,500 if he had only brought his car in for a simple check of the radiator for leaks.

Anyway, we had to have the engine replaced. It was either that or buy a new car. Since I was still paying off the Cavalier, I decided I'd rather send off two payments a month for a car we still had, as opposed to sending $350 a month into the ether for a car that was living in a junkyard.

And now, let us return to the present day (more or less.)

It is December 24th. We are preparing to drive to Weymouth, in order to celebrate Christmas with my mother's side of the family. It is a drive of some 25 or 30 miles each way. As we get in the car, Roddy has his usual small green puddle underneath him. MY WIFE says something about getting him into the shop to be checked out. I say something about it will happen in a couple of weeks, don't worry, I've checked the fluids, etc., and she says, "A stitch in time...", etc., which I know she is right about, but it's Christmas Eve, for goodness' sakes, and I really don't want to think about that sort of stuff right now.

Then, as we are on Route 128, still about 20 miles from Weymouth, the "check engine" light comes on.

(You should know something about Roddy [aside from the fact that Roddy is his name, and if your car doesn't have a name, then one of you has no soul, and it ain't the car.] His instrument panel does not function. It hasn't for about six months. I could get it replaced, but it isn't a necessity. The odometer and trip meter still function, being mechanical rather than electrical, so I can always tell if I need gas. I can judge speed fairly well, so I don't really have to have the speedometer. And I check the fluids regularly, so most of those idiot lights aren't needed. Anyway, a car doesn't need a functioning instrument panel to pass inspection, and if I get a different one, it will not have the true mileage reading for Roddy. I'm not at all sure why this matters to me, since I am never planning on selling Roddy, but it does. So there you go.)

When the "check engine" light comes on, I am amazed. NOTHING on the instrument panel has functioned for six months, but now the "check engine" light flashes on? On Christmas Eve? Just after I've told MY WIFE, for the umpteenth time, not to worry?

Now I'm worried.

If Roddy's engine seizes, I may just as well hop out of the car and commit hari-kari in the breakdown lane. It would be a financial tragedy, but, more important, it would also mean that I never again would have any chance of convincing MY WIFE that I knew, in any way, shape, or form, what I was talking about. The be-all and end-all of any argument would be, "Do you remember The Story Of The Boy Who TWICE Ignored Green Puddles?"

So, having no better option as I drove, I said a prayer. I said, "Dear God, please get us to Weymouth. And then to church tonight. And then home again. And then to Brookline on Christmas. And home again. And I absolutely promise I will take Roddy in for a check-up on Tuesday morning."

(It was probably a bit much to ask for five successful trips, rather than just one safe arrival to our current destination, but I knew we would have to make all five. Those were the plans, and too many people were counting on us, and getting repairs on Christmas Eve or Christmas would have been near-impossible anyway.)

We made it to Weymouth. We had a wonderful time. We made it to church that evening. It was a beautiful service. We made it home, uneventfully. Then, when we were on our way to Brookline on Christmas Day, Roddy gave up the ghost.

Of his "check engine" light, I mean. It went out. And, lo, the driver (me) was mightily relieved. And thankful. And he said, "Thank you, God. I am still most definitely bringing Roddy in for a check-up on Tuesday, though, as promised!"

Fast forward to Tuesday. As usual, there is a small green puddle under Roddy. I am feeling a bit lazy, though, so I say to myself, "Self, the check engine light went out of it's own accord. I know Roddy has enough fluids. I'll definitely bring him in for a check-up, but maybe next week."

And I get into the car, put the key in the ignition, and start it up.

But Roddy doesn't start. He cranks, but sputters. I try a couple more times. No go. There is power, but it appears to be diminishing steadily with each attempt. I know I am going nowhere. I know I need to call AAA, to get a tow to the repair facility. Whether I like it or not, I am being made to keep my promise.

God will do that sometimes.

And I have nothing to say, other than "Thanks, God!"

Roddy could have crapped out on any number of highways. If so, our Christmas celebrations would have taken a hideous hit. So, also, would my wallet. Had Roddy died on the road, it no doubt would have been because of something far more hideous than a belt tensioner and a dead battery, which is what turned out to be the case once Roddy was inspected by someone who knew a bit more about his workings than whether or not he had enough water. As for the radiator leak, it wasn't a radiator leak at all. It was only a loose clamp on a hose. All in all, the repair bill came to under $300, which I consider a major victory any time a car goes into a garage.

Roddy failed to start in the best possible place, his own garage at home, and the only inconvenience I got out of it was making a call to AAA and missing about one hour of work. And this morning, no green puddle, and I drove with peace of mind and a knowledge that God likes me enough to have allowed me to get through the celebration of His Son's birth with no true inconvenience, even though I was The Boy Who Hadn't Learned His Lesson, Twice, But Now I Am (I Think.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Gift

[Christmas, 1965 or thereabouts]

The boy was very young; perhaps 7 or 8 years old. He loved everything about Christmas - the lights, the music, Santa Claus, the trees covered in tinsel and shiny ornaments - but especially the snow. For as long as he could remember (which wasn't very long, but it was a lifetime) there was always snow at Christmas. The whole thing was magical.

He walked down the street, on his way to a store near his home, and it was beginning to snow again. There was already an inch or two on the ground from yesterday and it was shiny, bright, white, and made everything it covered pretty. He opened his mouth and turned his face to the sky, trying to catch a couple of snowflakes on his tongue. He thought he succeeded, but it was hard to tell because snow melted as soon as it hit your tongue, so you couldn't collect a mouthful of it to prove that you caught some. He jingled a couple of nickels in his pocket, sliding his green rubber boots along in the snow as he walked with his face to the sky.

He was on his way to the store to buy a gift. He enjoyed receiving presents, of course; what child doesn't? However, he also very much enjoyed giving them to others. He loved to see people's faces when they opened their gifts. It was another magical thing about this time of year. He rarely saw anyone unhappy around Christmas and he never saw anyone unhappy when they opened a present.

Being very young, the boy didn't have much money. He received an allowance, but only one dollar. He had already bought presents for his mother and father. For his mother, it was some cheap perfume. For his father, it was some cheap cigars.

(Realize that when I say "cheap", I don't mean to imply that the boy had gone out of his way to buy inexpensive and shoddy presents. He hadn't. He had lovingly picked them out, albeit within his modest budget. The cigars and perfume were cheap, though. Being a young boy, he had no appreciation of perfume and thought they all smelled pretty much alike - stinky. He also had no idea that some cigars, when lit, smell like innertubes burning. However, these had come in a package with a big white owl on the front, and he did know that his dad liked owls.)

He had ten cents leftover from his original dollar, which will give you an idea of the value of the cigars and perfume. In any case, he now wanted to buy a present for his aunt.

His aunt was the older relative closest in age to the boy. She was around 19 or 20. She had lived with the boy and his parents for a short while when the boy was much younger. They had grown very close during this time. She was close enough in age to have been the boy's older sister and, in some ways, that's what the boy thought of her as.

The boy reached the main street. The store was on the other side, so he pressed the button that made the light red to stop the traffic. He loved how even the traffic lights joined in with the season, flashing red and green and yellow just like the lights on a Christmas tree. He looked both ways and then crossed the street.

He walked through the parking lot of the store, again noticing how people were so much happier this time of year. Everybody had a cheery "Hello!" for the people they met. As he entered the store through the automatic door (how did it know?) he heard Christmas music playing over the store's speakers.

He felt great. He was in love with the world.

Now he had to find a present for his aunt. He hadn't really given thought about this part of the task. He just assumed that he'd be able to find something nice. After all, a dime would buy a comic book, or two candy bars, or even twenty of those 2-for-1 Mint Julep candies. Certainly he'd be able to find something his aunt would love.

What sorts of thoughts go through the mind of a small boy? Many and varied, of course, but some are unfathomable. As he was walking down one of the aisles, he spotted something very colorful and pretty. He had always liked how these things looked. They were useful, too. And, when he checked the price, it was ten cents - just right! This is what he would get his aunt for Christmas.

He brought the gift up to the checkout and paid for it. Now there was nothing to jingle in his pockets, but that was OK. His Christmas shopping was done.

He made his way back home, enjoying the big colored lights that were on just about every house in the neighborhood, again catching (or trying to catch) snowflakes in his mouth.


When he got home, he took off his boots (which was always troublesome – he always seemed to leave one sock inside of a boot) and then ran upstairs to his room, to wrap this newest gift.

He was an only child. He spent many hours by himself, in his room, and he very much enjoyed that privacy. He didn’t dislike other people - far from it, in fact - but he did enjoy dreaming and using his imagination. He discovered early on that it’s almost impossible to dream when someone else is in your room. Someone else almost always wants to talk, and you can’t carry on a decent conversation with someone else and dream at the same time. Anyway, as a result of spending much time alone, he became fairly self-sufficient.

(Whenever anyone asked him if he wouldn’t rather have a brother or sister, he would firmly say, “No!” and he hoped that the people asking him these questions would see to it that the proper authorities – whoever was in charge of bringing brothers and sisters – did not make any deliveries to his house.)

Being such a self-sufficient boy, he mostly wrapped his own presents. He had already wrapped all of his other gifts for family. Many of his relatives got handmade gifts of one sort or another. For instance, every year since he was able to handle crayons, he had made his grandfather a hand-drawn calendar, which his grandfather treasured receiving. Now, he wrapped the gift for his aunt in colorful paper, once again admiring how colorful the gift was, too.


That night, Christmas Eve, he did what most Christian boys and girls try to do. Almost immediately after dinner, he went to bed. He tried to go to sleep at an abnormally early hour, hoping to thus wake up sooner and make Christmas come quicker. Before going to bed, he hung his stocking on his bedroom door (since there were no chimney or fireplace in his house.) He turned on the little transistor radio he had received as a gift on his last birthday and searched out a station playing Christmas music. In those days of his youth, it seemed the only time they ever played Christmas music on the radio was starting on Christmas Eve and he loved hearing all of the songs he heard (and loved) a year ago. His favorite was “Silver Bells”, and they played it not long after he lay down, much to his delight. Slowly, to the strains of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, he drifted off to sleep.

(A curious thing about being a boy is that sometimes you can will yourself to dream what you want to dream. Not always, of course, but sometimes. You might think it an odd thing to dream, but the boy had dreamed of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound every Christmas Eve [that is, every one in the memory of his short life] and he hoped that he’d have that same dream again this night, as it was great fun running around with cartoon characters. He did.)

Since he had gone to bed so early, he awoke at 3 am. He got up to go to the bathroom, but when he opened his door, he felt the heaviness of a full stocking on the other side of it, so thoughts of peeing suddenly took a backseat to seeing what Santa had left. He gently took out the tack that was holding the stocking to the door, making doubly sure he had a firm grip on the stocking and it wouldn’t fall on the hall floor (in case there was anything in it that might break) and he took it back to his bed, flipping on the bedroom light switch as he did so.

He wasn’t a greedy sort of a boy and so he didn’t just dump everything out on the bed in one fell swoop. Instead, he took the items out one at a time and carefully, lovingly, examined them. There were candy cigarettes with little bits of red food coloring on the ends to simulate their being lit; a set of jacks with a small rubber ball; a wind-up dog that did backflips until there wasn’t enough wind-up left (so then it landed on its head); a pinkie ball (great for three-flies-out on the front steps); one of those puzzles that you have to move around the pieces until you get it to read 1 through 15 in order; and a pencil with his very own name engraved on it! He attempted to solve the puzzle for a little bit, but then he remembered that he had to pee, so he did.

(He went to the bathroom to do so.)

After washing his hands and brushing his teeth, he went downstairs and plugged in the Christmas tree. He considered a Christmas tree the most beautiful thing on earth, and this one was filled with enormous colored lights, ornaments of all shapes and sizes, big handfuls of tinsel on every branch, and a long garland of popcorn (which he and his mother had strung one evening last week.) Topping it off was a white star with a red bulb inside it. He sat down on the floor and just stared at the tree for ten minutes, bathing in its warmth, both real (from the gigantic lights) and metaphysical.

He probably would have stared at it a bit longer, but his cat came along and started playing with one of the low-hanging ornaments and that broke him out of his reverie. He loved the cat very much and he loved watching her play - even more than he liked looking at the tree. After she failed to defeat the ornament - it still hung on the branch and she now wriggled on her back, enjoying the pine needles that had fallen - he went out to the kitchen and opened a can of cat food. Hearing the opener whirr, she came running like a shot - for a cat will take food over ornaments, every time (thus proving, once again, their innate intelligence.)

The boy poured himself a glass of milk and added some chocolate to it. He then took this back upstairs, drank it while eating a candy cigarette, and went back to sleep, listening to “The Little Drummer Boy” and imagining himself a poor boy playing drums for Jesus. The cat came upstairs and joined him in sleep, though what she dreamed of remains a mystery.


When he awoke again, it was 7am and his mother and father were also awake. They all went downstairs and opened presents, enjoying some cocoa while they did so. The boy received wonderful presents of games and toys, as well as a couple of shirts and such that he knew he should be more thankful for than he was. The cat received a catnip mouse (from Sandy Claws) and was very thankful for it. The parents exchanged gifts with each other and were thankful for those, and they received the stinky perfume and the smelly cigars with warmth at the thought behind them.

Now it was time for mass, after which the family would head over to the aunt’s to exchange gifts, before heading off to the house of the boy's grandparents.

Mass was as mass usually is – something which cats are thankful not to have to attend. It wasn’t that the boy didn’t want to wish Jesus a happy birthday and all – he really loved the bible stories very much, and he admired to no end someone who would lay down his own life for that of his friends – but the priest saying the mass this morning just went on and on and on and on. Even though he had slept close to ten hours, the boy could feel his eyes drooping as the interminable homily crept, s-l-o-w-l-y, towards a conclusion that had stopped being meaningful to all but the most die-hard some ten minutes before. Finally, after the homily died its excruciating death and communion was served, and after everyone had sung a rousing “Joy To The World”, it was time to get on the road and go exchange presents with other family members. After a 15-minute drive, the boy and his parents arrived at the aunt’s house.

They went inside to a warm welcome from the aunt and the rest of her family gathered there, which included a few other adults and a couple of infants, the boy's cousins. After a few minutes of small talk (mostly complaints from the boy’s father concerning the length of the homily at mass) it was time to open presents.

The boy watched with delight as everybody opened packages and smiled. Here was the magic again. Everyone oohed and aahed in the appropriate places as they received the presents that others had purchased for them. And now, his aunt had his gift in her hands and she carefully removed the wrapping paper, revealing the gift for all to see.

There were some smiles. Not that the boy noticed, but there were also a couple of glances exchanged by the grown-ups with some muffled laughter included. The aunt regarded her gift and looked lovingly at the boy. He looked back at her with love in his heart.

She said, “Oh, Jimmy, they’re just what I needed! Thank you, darling!”

She reached over and kissed him. He blushed and said, “You’re welcome.”

Never before had a package of red and green kitchen sponges brought such joy to two people.


True story.

My Auntie Ba could have laughed at such a ridiculous gift. Some of the other adults might have joined in and then I would have been mortified. Instead, she taught me a marvelous lesson that Christmas, and she did so just by being her wonderful loving self. She taught me that there is no such thing as a bad gift, so long as there is love behind the giving of it.

My Christmas wish for all of you is that the gifts you give, whether large or small or precious or ludicrous (like sponges) be received as lovingly. My Christmas request to all of you is that you receive with love every gift given you. You never know how profoundly your love might affect someone.

My Auntie Ba is gone now, and I miss her, but her spirit lives on with me every Christmas because of the love she showed a well-meaning boy and his silly gift.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Uncle Jim's Christmas Stocking

Grand Uncle Jim

First things first: This is a story about an Irish family. While my name is Jim, and I’m an uncle, I also have an Uncle Jim of my own. There is an Uncle Jim mentioned in this story, but he’s not that Uncle Jim, although that Uncle Jim is the one who told me this tale of the other Uncle Jim. Actually, he’s Uncle Jim’s Uncle Jim, making him my Grand Uncle Jim (and some folks prefer the title 'Great Uncle', but let’s not open that can of worms.) It’s very confusing to the uninitiated, I suppose, so if it will keep you from getting a headache, feel free to think of the main character herein as Uncle Aloysius.

Anyway, when my father was very young – five or six - his Uncle Jim taught him a very valuable lesson.

My father had hung his stocking on Christmas Eve, as did all of the family. This included the older relatives, and that group included his Uncle Jim. Come Christmas morning, everybody took down their stockings and looked inside to see what Santa Claus had brought them.

The usual things were found inside the stockings - little toys, tasty candies, and other such trifles. Nice, of course, but nothing unusual. That is, until Uncle Jim inspected the contents of his stocking. He turned it upside down, and out rolled a lump of coal and an onion.

While good little boys and girls receive toys and candies, a lump of coal and an onion are, by tradition, what bad boys and girls receive. Seeing those things come from Uncle Jim’s stocking, my father laughed and laughed. Uncle Jim was a bad boy! He got a lump of coal and an onion!

While my father was laughing, Uncle Jim said, "Oh! This is wonderful! A lump of coal and an onion? These are just what I needed!"

My father thought his Uncle Jim had gone round the bend. How could someone be happy to have received a lump of coal and an onion in his Christmas stocking?

Uncle Jim picked up the lump of coal, then took my father’s hand and led him to the basement. They stopped at the furnace. Uncle Jim said, "It’s so cold today, this lump of coal is the perfect gift. I can put it in the furnace and we’ll be nice and warm all day!"

Uncle Jim then led my amazed father back upstairs. They returned to the family parlor, where Uncle Jim now picked up his Christmas onion. He led my father into the kitchen. While my father sat and watched, Uncle Jim chopped up the onion, and then mixed it with celery, bread, and spices. During all of this, he went on rapturously about how his stuffing for the turkey would have been no good whatsoever without an onion.

Later on, as my father sat in a warm house eating delicious stuffing with his Christmas dinner, the lesson was permanently burned into his memory: It doesn’t matter what you’re given. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Commercial Christmas

[From Amazon. As you'll hear later, I underestimated the price.]

I've set it to music (or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)

Hmmmmmmm. Some of you seem puzzled. Oh! You're asking me what I've set to music. Why, this, of course!

Commercial Christmas

Up your bum with sugar plums
It's November, when Santa comes!
He's bringing you a credit card
And he wants you to charge it hard
It's Christmas
It's Commercial Christmas
Jesus Christ got nothin' to do with this

Friday's black, they're on attack
At Wal-Mart, Costco, and Radio Shack
They won't stop until you've bled
They need your green to get out of the red
It's Christmas!
It's Commercial Christmas!
Jesus Christ got nothin' to do with this

It's Veterans Day! Put up your tree!
Slide on down the chimney with me!
We'll go on a spending spree!
Bend over nine times, the tenth one's free!

(lots of stuff - crummy solo, spoken words, etc.)

Hey, hey, Rudolph! Whaddayasay?
Are you all set to pull that sleigh?
I'll drink until my nose gets redder
Then we can light up the sky togedder
It's Christmas!
It's Commercial Christmas!
Poor old Christ, up on his cross
His eyes bulge out, He's at a loss
He remembers bein' in the manger
But He can't remember anything stranger
Than Christmas
Commercial Christmas
It seems He died for your revolving credit account!

Yes, it's a good old fashioned Christmas Carol. You can hear it in all it's putrid glory, if you click this here thing.

Tell all your friends. In the true spirit of the commercial season, I want to see this thing go viral and make me a million bucks. I'm not quite sure how it will do so, but I expect the cash will just flow into my pockets magically in some way. Isn't that how things work on teh intertubes?

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Some production notes for those who care (I think they may be the same people who stand in line at midnight on Thanksgiving waiting for Target to open, but...)

My partner in this production was Dan Nelson (who, considering his reputation in our industry as a really fine producer, is probably pissed that I'm doing him the disservice of attaching his name to this, but that's just the kind of guy I am.)

All instruments were made to produce their noises by me. It is a fine example of what happens when a bass player is left alone in a studio with guitars that have more than four strings. The lone exception are the drums. I didn't play them. I did, however, string them together in such a way as to make them sound they way they do, so there.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this tune to whatever greedy bastard decided that making a replica of Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree, and selling it, would be in keeping with the "Christmas is too commercialized" message of that show. Way to go! You are, without a doubt, the person who didn't get it most of all (and you no doubt would like to figure some way to sue me over this song, and I can't say that most folks who have listened to it would blame you.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

O, Christmas Trees!

MY WIFE bought me a Christmas tree. It is silver and shiny and I love it.

There will be a photo later. Be patient. In the meantime, here are a few of the Christmas trees I've known and loved.

This is not my new shiny silver tree. This is a really old shiny silver tree. It belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa, on my Mother's side, and the first time I saw it, I thought they had both lost their marbles. My eight-year-old brain could not process the idea of a tree that wasn't green, smelling of pine, and otherwise real and traditional. I was a staunchly conservative eight-year-old. Anyway, there it was in their living room, with the only lights on it coming from one of those spinning disks of color (which is not seen in that photo, but here's one, anyway...)

(MY WIFE also bought one of these for use with my shiny new silver tree. You'll see the whole shebang later, I promise.)

Well, once I got used to my grandparent's weird aluminum tree, it was kind of cool and I looked forward to seeing it each year. Having such a thing in a house full of people who love you - and give you presents - will tend to make you like it more, I think. I've had fond memories of it for many years, but the last remaining vestige of the thing is the photo I showed you. The tree itself is long gone.

(But, I have a shiny NEW tree of silver, AND a color wheel! Hang on, pardner! We'll get to it.)

The person standing next to this somewhat odd-looking bush is Aunt Pat, my great aunt, sister of my grandfather on my father's side, a.k.a. Aunt Agnes to some others in the family. You may ask why she was Aunt Pat to me and Aunt Agnes to others. It seems that she did not actually care for the name Agnes, and had decided that she would prefer Patricia. I never knew she had the name "Agnes" until I was a teenager, so she was apparently pretty successful in convincing me that her name was Pat.

(Aunt Pat had an outstanding physical characteristic that I found utterly fascinating as a child - one of her eyes was a milky sort of light blue, while the other was hazel or brown. This came about via an accident at the eye doctor. He mistakenly put ether into her eye and she was immediately blinded on that side, permanently. To show you the non-litigious nature of things in those days, she did not immediately sue him for everything he owned, which she no doubt would have had a chance at if she had sued, but instead just chalked it up to a human mistake and went on with her life. Can you imagine that happening now? No, neither can I, not even at Christmas.)

This Christmas tree was at my paternal grandparent's apartment in Roslindale. From the curtains, the wallpaper, and the date on the back of the photo, I'd say it was 1961.

One of the things I always liked about the Sullivan side of my family is that they were mostly not sticklers for symmetry. Whatever branches the tree came with would likely remain with the tree for the duration. Also, if a bigger clump of tinsel was on one of the branches than was on any of the others, so what? Live and let live (and if you don't like it, drink until you do) was the motto. Notice the clump of branches hanging over the doorway. Waste not, want not (especially when it comes to the drinks) was another motto.

(I don't want to leave you with the impression that they were a bunch of total drunken inebriates. They weren't. They were wonderful people whom I dearly loved. Many of them did enjoy their alcoholic beverages, though, and that sort of thing does tend to bring out the beauty in sparkly things and perhaps lead to pinning up the trimmings over the door frame. For what it's worth, I think it's a lovely tree, and I'm disgustingly sober at the moment.)

From my childhood in Dorchester comes this photo of the best use for any tree, as a giant toy for a cat to play with. Another shot of the same thing...

I could watch that sort of action hours at a time when I was a kid. Heck, I'd love it now. I'm still easily amused.

A tree of more recent vintage, perhaps 1995. You'll notice that I took the classic Sullivan approach to things like trimming off branches and distributing the tinsel evenly.

Actually, I did prune this tree a bit. When I got it home, I discovered that it was too tall for our room. I had to cut about six inches off of the trunk. The problem was, the only tool I had to work with was a coping saw. If you're not familiar with what a coping saw looks like, here's a photo of one.

Notice the very thin blade. A coping saw is used to make intricate cuts in mostly thinner pieces of wood. It is not meant to take the place of a rip or crosscut saw, the types usually used to tackle such things as logs, which is basically what I was cutting. Also, a coping saw blade builds up heat very quickly and snaps very easily because of it.

It took me a good 45 minutes and I went through four blades. I think I lost two pounds in sweat and five years off of my life due to the aggravation. My hands were covered in pine resin and as sore as if I were a 112-year-old arthritic. Of course, I could have hopped down to the hardware store and bought a big cheap saw for about ten bucks, saving myself a half-hour, but what's the fun in that?

This was the year that we used Pointy The Poinsettia as our Christmas tree.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't re-run that story yet, as is my wont, and instead only gave a link to it here. I hate to break the news this way to those of you who may be fans of Pointy and who hadn't yet heard the news, but Pointy, alas, is no longer with us. He went to poinsettia heaven, a couple of years back, due to a case of root rot. I had been so successful in anthropomorphizing him, even to myself, that I actually cried when I put his remains out for the trash pickup. Anyway, it just seems wrong to re-run the story, with its happy ending, since I know he's gone. What can I say? I'm a sentimental goof.

My office manager, Kim, knew how I felt and she gifted me with the altogether wonderful replacement, Simon Peter Poinsettia...

... who is, I'm happy to report, still living (but will not be the Christmas tree this year since I have a SHINY NEW SILVER TREE, which, yes, sooner or later I'll get to here.)

Last year's bunch o' tree. And here are a couple of previous incarnations...

MY WIFE once worked in retail. She had an opportunity to snag five trees of varying heights that had been in window displays. For most of the past ten years, we've used those five trees (or random combinations of them) for our Christmas tree. But now, I've got a SHINY NEW SILVER TREE!!! and I guess it's about time I showed it to you, so here it is!

Sorry... My shiny old silver digital camera bit the dust somehow over the past few days. Even though I've scoured the manual, I can't figure it out. It won't take a charge, it won't do anything at all. It flashed an error message once, but before I could read it, it conked out completely. So, no photo. But now you know something you could get me for Christmas, if you feel the desire, so this whole thing was worthwhile, I suppose.

(I would have preferred ending with that sorry excuse for a joke, but I have the sinking feeling that, if I leave you with that last line, one or two of you might actually go out and buy me a camera, or maybe send me one you have lying around. While I would certainly appreciate that generous gesture, please don't do it. With my utter lack of skill as a photographer, it would be similar to sending sheet music to Roseanne Barr. I don't want that sort of pressure for future ignominy.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. I almost forgot! Inspiration for this post came from Growing Up In Waldron and Down Silly Rabbit's Hole. So there.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Christmas Carol

This is a Christmas carol I wrote this morning. These are just the words, but I think you can imagine the music, an up-tempo blues rock sort of thing. Hope you like it!

Up your bum with sugar plums
It's November, when Santa comes!
He's bringing you a credit card
And he wants you to charge it hard
It's Christmas
It's Commercial Christmas
Jesus Christ got nothin' to do with this

Friday's black, they're on attack
At Wal-Mart, Target, and Radio Shack
They need your green to get out of the red
And they won't stop until you've bled
It's Christmas!
It's Commercial Christmas!
Jesus Christ got nothin' to do with this

It's Veterans Day! Put up your tree!
And we'll go on a spending spree!
Slide on down the chimney with me!
Bend over nine times, the tenth one's free!

(yackety sax solo)

[spoken, over steady beat]

Hey, there's Charlie Brown! I love that pathetic little tree! I sure wish I could buy one just like it...

I can? And only $10.00? Excellent!

Hey, why is Linus spouting that shit about shepherds? What the fuck does THAT have to do with Christmas?!?

(guitar solo)

Hey, hey, Rudolph! Whaddayasay?
Are you all set to pull that sleigh?
I'll drink until my nose gets redder
Then we can light up the sky togedder
It's Christmas!
It's Commercial Christmas!
Poor old Christ, up on his cross
His eyes bulge out, He's at a loss
He remembers bein' in the manger
But He can't recall anything stranger
Than Christmas
Commercial Christmas
It seems He died for your revolving credit account!

(glockenspiel solo, and fade)

Soon, with more better stuff