There Goes My Career As A Lumberjack

I told a little white lie yesterday.  When I was talking about going Christmas tree shopping and I said, “Most of [those trips] just blur together and fade into the background.  Except one…” I meant except two.

That first story I told you about was an adventure and one helluva challenge.  This trip was more of a living nightmare!  The first mistake that we made was going without my father.  Every trip was either my dad and me, or both of my parents and me, or my parents and both of us kids – we were never sans Dad.  But Mom reeeeeally wanted to get that tree home and the ball rolling on the decorating before Dad got home (I don’t even remember what the rush was) so my mother and sister piled into my car (my baby, an ’89 Ford Probe – this is important later, file it away).

We drove to our favorite Christmas tree farm and trundled out into the snow.  It was horrendous weather (as always) and it was going to be a real trick to drag this tree through the deep snow.  To make matters worse, the place was packed and their parking lot was full, so we had to drive up the road and park by the ditch on the shoulder.

We got out and made our way to the trees.  It was beyond cold!  The windchill had to be below zero and it was whipping around and cutting through all of our winter layers.  I was so worried about how long this was going to take (my mom can be a bit particular when it comes to the family Christmas tree) because I was already going numb just from the walk from the car.

To my surprise, my mother found one she loved right away!  It was close to the entrance and the ground was well travelled there so the snow wasn’t deep at all!  I pulled out the saw and got ready to start hacking away.  This is where I discovered problem numero dos – I did not inherit my father’s know-how of tools and what equipment was required for certain jobs.

Did you know there was a difference between this:

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And this?

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Sure you did.  I however did not.  I just thought a saw is a saw.  After about the millionth pull of the saw when I finally made it through the bark I realized the foolishness of that assumption.  Nevertheless, I kept hacking away.  When I was a little over halfway through, I heard my sister’s little voice ask, “Who’s Hooper?”  If you remember other posts about my sister, you’ll remember that she is 11 years my junior – so at this time she was probably still in the single digits; an age when random questions and nonsense is normal.  I ignored her and kept sawing.  But my mother pressed her for further information wanting to know what she was talking about.  My sister went on, “Hooper.  It’s written on this ribbon on the tree.”

Ugh.

Well, whoever the Hooper family was, they had a beautiful tree picked out and half of the work had been done for them.

The second tree that we decided upon was not nearly as quickly chosen, nor was it anywhere near the entrance to the tree farm.  And it was a BIG tree – not as big as the behemoth I told you about before, but still quite a beast.  How that hacksaw blade didn’t break is a complete miracle.  We managed to cut it down and with A LOT of effort we dragged it back to the car.

Next issue, my mother and sister are extremely short and standing in a ditch didn’t help.  Why not bring it to the other side of the road?  Well there must have been an Amish parade that went by while we were walking around the tree lot because the road was a virtual patchwork quilt of horse poo.  My mother is a very strong woman – athletic in her childhood and a hard worker her entire adult life – however, if you can’t lift your arms high enough to get the tree onto the roof of the car, strength doesn’t really help you too much.

Eventually, we managed to hoist the tree up to the roof of the car, which buckled and sagged under the weight of the snow and ice-laden tree.  It was a Probe – it would sag under the weight of a lightbulb – and here it is being a flatbed for a redwood!  My poor baby.

We tied the tree down as best as we could.  It was a two-door with no anchor points on the inside.  The doors and trunk would not close if there was a rope in the way.  So it was held together by knots and the windows clamping onto the rope as tightly as they could.  Oh and by my elementary school aged sister.  We told her to hold tightly to the rope in the back while we drove.  Because, you know, if a hundred pounds of frozen tree decides to shoot off a car doing 60 miles per hour, your best line of defense is a 40-pound ballerina.

We took off for home and had not gotten very far before we became painfully aware of a strong, unpleasant odor filling the car.  Oh yeah…the horse poo.

The smell was so horrendous we had to crack the windows a bit.  Which A) sent freezing winter wind through our ears and B) loosened the tree ropes a bit, which was evident by my sister’s bulging eyeballs that seemed to fill my rearview mirror as she realized how much she could control the movement of the tree on the roof if she had the strength to do so…and also how incredibly aware she now was about that lack of strength.

It was a long ride home.  The icy winds, the thick smell of equestrian dookies, and the panicked whimpers of a young girl was holding on so tight to the rope that she was being lifted off of the seat (and she also freely shifted left and right with each roll of the tree on the roof, which would have been amusing if not for the constant fear of her getting yanked completely out the window).

Fortunately, we succeeded in our journey albeit a little worse for wear.  And we never, ever, went tree hunting without my father again.

“Can I refill your eggnog?  Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhereleave you for dead?” ~ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

RETURN THESE SOCKS! I REFUSE TO GROW UP!

You know the biggest difference between kids and adults?  Adults have learned to fake happiness and appreciation when they receive lame gifts.  We’re supposed to be practical and responsible and blah, blah-blah, blah, blah blah-dee-blah.  “Yay!  Tongs!”  “Antifreeze?  How did you know I needed this?!”  “One of Oprah’s biographies because you remembered six months ago when I said I could tolerate her in small doses.  How thoughtful!”

Well I’m here to say the world has severely failed its immature adult population!  How many of you out there have ever snapped some Legos together when the kids weren’t around?  How many of you have tiny little adventures with the action figures or dolls you are picking up off the living room floor – even just to make them walk a couple steps or yell in terror as you pitch them into the toy box?  How many of you mold PlayDoh with your little ones and you say you’re making a snake, but that devious little inner child knows you’re making a wiener?  If you can relate to any of these, there’s still that little bit of you that holds out hope that there is something “cool” for you under the tree on Christmas morning.

***On the other hand, if you answered “no” to all of these, you are officially lame and I am no longer your friend.***

When did we start getting weird looks for playing with stuff?  When were we supposed to be too old to ask for fun stuff on our lists?  And I’m not talking about things adults call toys: cars, televisions, gerbils (don’t ask).  I’m talking about being in your 30s and asking your family for a giant Nerf shotgun or the big ol’ $400 Lego Death Star or the Barbie Dream House that you always wanted as a kid!  You’re a grown-ass man and/or woman (B4P: for all your gender progressive blog reading needs) – you should be able to get all the stuff you never did as a kid!  Instead we settle for socks and undershirts and accept them like their long buried pirate booty.

***If you didn’t at least think about butts for a split second when I said “booty,” you are officially lame and I am no longer your friend.***

We can’t rely on OUR children because their toys suck!  How many of you are guilty of steering your children toward certain toys because YOU want to play with them?

***If you answered “no” to this, you are officially lame and I am no longer your friend AND YOU ARE A LIAR!***

But times have changed so drastically and toys just don’t seem fun any more.  They have to be either educational and creative, minuscule and featureless, or weirdly asinine.  I don’t always want to expand my mind and create things out of rubber bands or beads or at-home science experiments.  I don’t want little rubber toys that don’t move and that are so small I can’t even have them interact with each other without covering them with my hands while I play – these are extremely detailed (and expensive) pencil toppers, nothing more; we used to get something like a Shopkin or a Squinkie as a freebee with our Scholastic book order in elementary school. Finally, I don’t want a Hatchimal or a Fingerling – what the hell people?!  “Daddy, can I have a mutant animal in an egg?”  NO!  We will only buy cool toys in this house!

I say we need a resurgence of the good ol’ days.  If you are over the age of 20, you need to ask for one guilty pleasure toy as a gift at some point in the coming year.  And OF COURSE, if you get it, you need to share it here so we can all enjoy the victory for our inner children’s revolution.  Power to the Immature!  Viva le Fun!

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“That’s just for starters. Now this is what Christmas is all about.” ~ A Garfield Christmas Special

Pining For You

My parents, needless to say, are a wee bit obsessed with holidays.  And I’m not just talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fourth of July.  I am talking about Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day, and on and on.  Their year revolves around when certain decorations need to come down as to allow enough time to enjoy the next holiday’s decorations.  However, Christmas is king in their house and the centerpiece to every holiday season is the tree.

When I got married, that was the first time I had ever had an artificial Christmas tree.  Before then, my family either went to a local greenhouse and looked at the ones they had already chopped down for us or, when we were feeling extra adventurous, we channelled our inner Griswold and made the trek out into the cold to hunt down our own.

I spent 24 Christmases living with my parents and I participated in the vast majority of those years’ Christmas tree hunts.  Most of them just blur together and fade into the background.  Except one…

It was just my father and me and we assured my mother and sister we would come back with the PERFECT tree.  We weren’t lying.  We drove about 20 minutes from our home and visited one of our favorite Christmas tree farms.  We walked up and down the rows, working out way into the deep back corners of the property.  And there it was.  Beautiful, full, dark green, and you could even smell the pine despite the frigid winter winds.  The only hesitation it gave us was that…well…it was a little big.  I couldn’t even venture a guess as to how tall it was – it towered over the two of us, that’s for sure.  But, no joke, it may have been taller than us combined!  My father measured to see how high up from the ground we would need to cut to even have a prayer of getting this into the living room.

He marked the trunk and started sawing away.  It took a long…loooooong time.  The trunk was thicker than a man’s thigh, the snow was deep, the wind was chilling, and the little handsaw we brought was not prepared to be David for our Goliath.  Finally, we heard the telltale snap of the trunk and we moved!  Neither of us were dumb enough to think we could catch the falling arbor and lower it nicely to the ground.  So we pulled back a safe distance and let gravity do the rest.  The trunk snapped, the tree fell, and it landed with a echoing “WHOOMP” (There it is…) and we both felt the ground shudder under us.  It felt as though an elevator lurched ever so slightly downward beneath our feet.  It was then we realized we may have made one helluva mistake…

I grabbed the bottom branches to start pulling the tree back to our car.  With one tug, I found myself under the tree – it hadn’t moved an inch, but I succeeded in dragging myself beneath its branches.  I crawled out from underneath and my father joined in and it took everything we BOTH had to get that tree to budge.  It was impossible to estimate how heavy this tree was – definitely in the hundreds of pounds range – because A) it was huge, B) it was covered in snow, and C) it was so cold all of the water and sap had frozen inside.  Add that to the fact we were dragging it through shin-deep snow and you can see how it took us a while to reach our vehicle.

Once back at our car we needed to rely on the kindness of strangers because there was no way the two of us could hoist this behemoth onto the roof.

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Notice how low that chassis is riding on the tires in the last one!  What you can’t see is how the tree caved in the roof of the car!  We had to pop it back out after we got the tree off and it never did look quite the same after that!

On the drive home, whenever we hit a bump we were in danger of bottoming out.  The tree shifted on the roof after only 5 minutes of driving and we needed to pull over in fear that if the tree rolled off the roof it would flip the car with it.  The 20 minute drive took the better part of an hour considering the snails’ pace we were driving at to make sure we didn’t launch a half-ton pine battering ram into the cars in front of us.

When we arrived home, we realized this sucker wasn’t going through the front door so we needed to bring it to the back porch where we had double doors that opened into the house.  Then we realized it wasn’t going to go up the steps to the porch so we had to hoist this tree-zilla up over the bannister before we began removing every piece of furniture we owned in the dining room and living room to make a path.

It took hours of manpower, hundreds of feet of lights, hundreds of ornaments, gallons of water to keep it hydrated, and heavy gauge steel cable to mount it to the wall so it wouldn’t fall over and kill us all on Christmas morning as we peacefully pulled our toothbrushes and tube socks out of our stockings.  We were tired, sore, mildly injured, sustained some damage to the car, and we’re pretty sure the tree ate one of the neighbors when they went hiking through our living room – but it sure was pretty!

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“Hey Griswold, where do you think you’re gonna put a tree that big?”
“Bend over and I’ll show you.” ~ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

TOP TEN MOST SANTA-ESQUE MOVIE SANTAS

First I have to apologize for my recent missed posts – I’ve been under the weather AND normal Christmassy stuff got in the way.  BUT, I said there would be posts for every day leading up to Christmas and I WILL deliver on that promise!  I plan on doubling up a couple days and giving you guys a couple doses of popcorny goodness between now and the time jolly ol’ St. Nicholas squeezes his rump down your chimneys.

Speaking of which, this is THE LAST Top Ten Tuesday before Christmas, so what better focus could there be than the top portrayals of Kris Kringle?  So here we go: the TOP TEN BEST PORTRAYALS OF SANTA.

#10 – Tom Hanks in “The Polar Express”

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Not gonna lie – this movie creeps me the hell out.  The characters are too real and not real enough at the same time.  Like those creepy Asian “service” dolls they’ve invented.  Just skeeves me out looking at the dead eyes and the mouths that are kind of moving to the words but seem to be a bit too fluid.  Yeesh – gonna have nightmares now.  HOWEVER, Tom Hanks lends his voice (and his actions via motion capture) to combine a portrayal of your favorite uncle’s warmth and a superhero’s majestic poise to bring about a Santa Claus that raises the hair on the back of the neck of your inner child.  That “star struck” feeling of your childhood when you got to that line at the mall and saw HIM sitting on his throne waiting for you to come sit on his lap.

#9 – Oliver Clark & #8 -Douglas Seale in “Ernest Saves Christmas”

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Ernest movies are a guilty pleasure of mine – along with Pauly Shore – and I have a soft spot for Jim Varney’s lovable doofus.  However, I could never ask you to take me seriously ever again if I were to include ANY Ernest movie on the top 10 list of cinematic masterpieces (“To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Citizen Kane,” and “Ernest: Scared Stupid” just doesn’t seem that credible).  However, it fits on this list not once BUT TWICE.  The Ernest storyline is garbage, the reindeer in the airport storyline is forgettable, the homeless kleptomaniac who sees the err of her ways is a barf-worthy redemption story that even the Hallmark Channel thinks is too cheesy.  BUT Douglas Seale plays an aging Santa Claus in search of his replacement and Oliver Clark plays an actor who is topping the list of Santa Claus successors.  Both Santas are human and flawed men and they let the chinks in their armor show, but they both know that children need Santa and no matter what hubris or missteps they have been guilty of, they never put the children’s beliefs in the Holiday Spirit in jeopardy.  “Y’know what I mean, Vern?”

#7 – Charles Durning in “Elmo Saves Christmas”

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What the hell is wrong with Christmas that it always needs to be saved?!  And why is it alway up to people like Ernest and Elmo to save it?  Why not Batman or Rambo?  What’s Elmo going to do – look how he saved Sesame Street – Ernie and Bert are all but on public assistance, all of Big Bird’s songs have been rerecorded with Elmo taking the lead; it’s basically Elmo Street.  And he’s too fuzzy and cute for you to realize he’s Napoleon!  That’s one reason I love Charles Durning’s Santa Claus; St. Nick doesn’t put up with Elmo’s crap!  He’s like the second Dumbledore – the first one was soft spoken and warm; the second isn’t afraid to lay the smackdown.  The movie is called “Elmo Saves Christmas” but in all actuality he’s the dumbass that puts it in jeopardy in the first place.  Here enters Santa who, without being mean and scary for the kids, tells Elmo, in no uncertain terms, “You done messed up, you furry little meal ticket, now man up and fix what you broke.”  Sometimes Santa needs to lay a healthy helping of tough love on you.

#6 – Andrew Hill Newman in “A Wish For Wings That Work”

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This little-known Christmas cartoon, featuring Opus and Bill and other Bloom County/Outland favorites, is a hidden treasure.  If you have never seen it, forget hunting down a streaming version or a rental option, just go to Amazon and treat yourself to a copy to keep.  Irreverent humor like the comic strip and true holiday warmth mixed together in equal helping.  As for Santa’s role, it is very small but Newman’s voice is what I’ve always thought Santa truly sounds like:

Also, he doesn’t give the protagonist what he wants for Christmas – in an original twist away from the perfect gift showing up at the last moment – he gives him a solution to his underlying problem thereby improving his life permanently.  Santa is better than any guidance counselor any of us has ever had.

#5 – Tim Allen in “The Santa Clause” Trilogy

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Okay, we’re going to skip over the whole part about how he only got the job because of the involuntary manslaughter that caused the original Père Noel to plummet to his death leaving his crumpled corpse at the feet of a small child who is already in need of counseling due to his parents’ ugly divorce EXCEPT that his stepfather IS a counselor who psychoanalyzes the kid at every turn.  DESPITE the grim premise, Tim Allen turns into one of the quintessential modern day Santa Clauses who adds the extra twist of balancing his duties of being Father Christmas and still being just Dad.  How can Santa play favorites among millions of children?  And how can a father neglect the needs of his only child for the needs of strangers?  Forget Tim “The Toolman” and Buzz Lightyear, this will be the role he will be remembered for.

#4 – Ed Asner in “Elf”

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This movie is just plain old Christmas fun and childlike silliness.  Ed Asner puts aside the usual teddy bear-like Santa character and just lets the jolliness show.  He is still warm and festive, but there is just an extra dash of fun and whimsy that feeds into Will Ferrell’s…well…Will Ferrellness.  Santa’s advice about “free candy” is absolute genius and should be added to all parenting books.

#3 – David Huddleston in “Santa Claus: The Movie”

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WARNING: This movie sucks like a Hoover vacuum.  It is an ungodly massacre of modern cinema.  The fact that you need to put “The Movie” in the title for a movie is a red flag.  “Hey audience, by the way, this is a movie…hence why you’re all sitting in a movie theater.  Don’t try to talk to, or touch, or in any way try to interact with the giant people who are about to show up on this big light up wall, because they aren’t real.  That’s why this is ‘Santa Claus: The Movie’ and not ‘Santa Claus: The Real Person You Can Talk To,’ or ‘Santa Claus: The Dancing Puppets Made Of Tropical Fruit Slam Poetry Extravaganza.'”  However, despite it being 99% unwatchable – that last remaining 1% shows us a portrayal of Santa that proves to children how magical he really is.  Not good enough to save this movie, but if you come across this movie somewhere, do yourself a favor and just fast forward to Huddleston’s scenes – he instantly sparks the Christmas Spirit no matter what time of year it might be.

#2 – Richard Attenborough in “A Miracle on 34th St.” (1994)

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The only downside to this performance was that he couldn’t find a way to work in the line “Welcome…to Jurassic Park.”  I usually balk at remakes, ESPECIALLY movies so well-done and classic they should be deemed untouchable.  There have been other versions of “The Wizard of Oz,” but no direct remakes.  No one would stand for a reboot of “The Godfather” or “Gone with the Wind” – so this one made me reeeeeeeeally skeptical.  But Richard Attenborough channelled the spirit of the jolly ol’ elf, stayed true enough to the original, and still made his performance unique enough to stand on its own.  Come to think of it, I’m not even really sure I remember anything else from this remake – just Santa.

#1 – Edmund Gwenn in “A Miracle on 34th St.” (1948)

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Nothing compares to the original.  Gwenn won an Academy Award for this performance, but more than that he became what we think about when we think of Santa.  Whimsical, funny, warm, kind, the protector of children, and a moral compass (and Lord knows we need help in that department).  If you ask me (which you didn’t, but you don’t have a choice because it’s my blog and I say what I want) I wouldn’t be surprised if Santa used Edmund Gwenn as an alias and portrayed himself in this movie.  It’s fitting that in a movie where there is a fight to believe in Santa’s existence there is a performance that removes any doubt in your mind that he’s real.

“Whoow! Now I know there’s a Santa Claus. Oh, you may laugh, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not so easy to be certain, you know. He’s a most elusive little fellow. He turns up in all sorts of places under all sorts of names and disguises.” ~ Edmund Gwenn from his acceptance speech after receiving the Academy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Shopping…

I want you to read my title through gritted teeth in a manner that would make Yosemite Sam proud.

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Every year I look forward to making my list of what treasures I will be hunting down for my loved ones. Every year I look through the ads and prepare my battle plan for how to most efficiently navigate the consumer world and cross off all the items on my list. Every year I honestly forget how much I hate shopping. It is never an easy experience no matter where I go!
Where I live, our options are extremely limited. We have a “mall” – I put quotes around it because it is technically a mall for all intents and purposes, however if you need to buy something besides women’s clothes, you’re going to have a bad day.

One day my father told me I needed new clothes and I should go to Sears. I told him I’ve been there and they don’t have anything for me. He refused to believe me. Now, my dad is a wise man (and a wise guy, but that’s a whole separate issue) and most of the time when he draws a line in the sand between what he thinks and what I think, he’s going to win, I’m just too stubborn to concede (much like certain skeevy Alabama Senate candidates – you lost, move on).  However, in this case, I was right.  He tried to surprise me with a Dad/Son bonding shopping trip and he took me to Sears – he was even going to pay.  However, all the work shirts that were not horrendous looking, I already owned.  That’s right.  I collected all the shirts.  Why don’t I buy new clothes?  I have them all.  The important thing is, I will always remember my father saying, “Huh.  They really don’t have much, do they?”

You’d think with Sears/K-Mart in such dire straights, they’d really try to beef up their “A” game!  But it seems like they’re just taking their downward spiral with as much “meh” as they can muster.  Our K-Mart is no better.  I won’t delve into my whole Croc-worthy loathing of stores that end with “Mart,” but it’s pretty biblical.  However, once in a great, long while I need to venture into a “Mart” for something quick.  The last time I Marted, my purchases and I were greeted by no registers.  None.  All lights off.  I looked up at the service desk…no one was there.  I looked at the jewelry counter; nada.  Well, this sort of narrowed my options down significantly – the only other time I was in a situation like this I was buying produce off of a wooden cart on the side of the road; so I looked around for a coffee can to leave my money in.  They didn’t have that either.  I even pathetically started calling, “Hello?” out into the store.  My mind started racing, had I even seen anyone else in here?  Are they even open?  Isn’t this how Dawn of the Dead started?  Finally, someone came sauntering by and was not going to acknowledge me, but I got his attention and he hit the nail right on the head first try: “You need to check out?”  I thought it was a normal part of the shopping process, but apparently I’m not as versed in the world of retail as I thought I was.

Then someone told me of a mystical place of shopping fantasies…Kohl’s.  We don’t have one, so we loaded up our car one year (back when we were a single child household) and drove the hour necessary to do our holiday shopping at this merchandise mecca.  It took me mere moments to have an epiphany…I hate Kohl’s.

I KNOW, I KNOW!  That is an offense punishable by public stoning – or at least a pretty firm noodle whipping.  But I can’t help it!  We started by strapping our small child to the front of the shopping cart.  Sure, it follows the same concept of a stroller, except you’re in a store, not going for a leisurely stroll.  If you run into anything or anyone, you’re leading the charge with your child’s face!  Second, I quickly noticed how much stuff they had!  Lots of selections, yes, but everything was so close together we had trouble maneuvering our cart through the racks and shelves and, oh yeah, we kept hitting all these things WITH OUR CHILD’S FACE!  After we spent an hour in there looking for a pair of gloves and a sweater (averaging 30 minutes per item is definitely not going to catch the attention of the people at Guinness) it was time to check out.  Unlike K-Mart, ALL of their registers were open!  Now I was impressed!  There were so many lines open that they each only had ONE customer in them!!!  YAY KOHL’S!  Oh wait, there’s a pre-line line.  We had to wait in a line, until a line opened up and then the first person in the pre-line line was ushered to the first open register.  So instead of being second in one of the checkouts, we were sixth in line and had to wait for five other people to be the only people in one checkout lane before we could be the first ones in a checkout line…confused?  Good.  I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that one for years too!  The cashier asked me if I wanted to apply for a Kohl’s card; I took a deep breath and as calmly and sincerely as I possible could I said I probably wouldn’t be coming back.  My son agreed, or at least I think that’s what he said, his voice was kind of muffled with his face pressed against the checkout counter.

“Yeah. And you know? I think I learned something today, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Hindu. Christmas still is about one very important thing:”
“Yeah, ham.” ~ South Park: The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas Cop-out Post

I am sicker than a dog (an expression I never understood until I found myself scooting my bottom across the rug – now I get it).  So please forgive my cheating on this post.  On December 24th, 2012, I very foolishly went on a trip to the grocery store.  The experience was horrendous and inspired me to write a poem a la Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”  So, please enjoy, and excuse me while I go slather myself in Vick’s vapo-rub and try my hardest not to die of whatever plague my preschooler bestowed upon me.

MY TRIP TO WEGMAN’S – by Me.

‘Twas the day before Christmas,
I had my family to feed,
But as I looked in the fridge
I saw we were in need.
I thought to myself,
“I must go to the store,
How bad could it be?
I had been there before!”
But my conscience chimed in,
As consciences do,
And it said, “Are you nuts?!
Whatsamatta wit you?!
It’s just milk, eggs, and juice.
Another day wouldn’t hurt!”
But I ignored him
Because I’m dumber than dirt.
So I took to the road
And the drive was not kind;
Mr. Magoo was in front of me,
And Jeff Gordon behind.
I took my life in my hands
As I pulled in the lot
And I parked my car
In the very last spot
As I trekked toward the store
I looked and I saw
So many drivers
With a parking faux pas.
Taking up two whole spots?!
How is that even fair?!
‘Cuz GOD FORBID anyone
Dings their crappy Corvair!
Then I passed by another
Who was breaking no laws
But their bumper sticker caught me
And made me give pause.
“Keep Calm and Go Shopping!”
Today, of all days,
I fantasized lighting
That dumb car ablaze.
I made it inside
And grabbed a small cart
Then through all the shoppers
I was beginning to dart.
I made my way back
To the dairy case quickly
But what I saw there
Had me feeling quite sickly
There was a lady with eggs
She was so deep in thought
Contemplating whether
These eggs should be bought
She stood there and pondered
For way, WAY too long!
I mean SERIOUSLY lady!
What could possibly be wrong?
They’re just basic eggs!
They came out a hen’s butt!
Toss them in your cart!
Snap out of this rut!!!
Are you reading ingredients?!
Pretty sure it says: Eggs.
I’m getting quite desperate
I’m ready to beg!
Finally she moves
And it’s my turn in line
But as soon as I grab some
I hear someone whine.
“Hurry up,” someone says
And I turned ‘round to see
A young, angry mother
Was ticked off at me!
She had two kids running,
Going nuts in that place
And a sleeping infant
That she held by the face
A toddler in the cart
Screamed above the fray
And, of course, in her belly
There was one on the way.
Her anger grew when I laughed
She must find me bizarre
But I thought, “She must own
The ‘Keep Calm/Shopping’ car.”
I got to the check out
Fifteen items or less
But then I realized
I just found a new mess.
Ahead in the line,
Much to my woe,
Was my friend the egg lady
And she’s still moving slow.
It took her a year
To empty her cart.
And she had something in foil
That smelled like a fart.
And of course she had coupons.
And of course paid by check.
And of course had no license.
What a pain in the neck!!!
After manager approval,
It was finally my turn,
My head started pounding
Feet beginning to burn.
I snaked my way out,
The end was in sight,
I was nearing the exit,
I had come out all right.
And I yelled as I realized,
In a very loud bark,
“I forgot to buy cheese!
And where the hell did I park?!!”

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” ~ A Christmas Carol

There’s Always That One Person On Your List

We all have one – the person who always has you straining your brain to figure out what you can get them for Christmas.  For me it’s my grandmother.  I’ve posted about her before, but, long story short, she’s a feisty 91-year-old Italian who has a very sharp wit and a solid hand to smack you with if you are not fast enough to dodge her (which, believe me, you’re not).  I love her dearly but, God help me, that lady is tough to shop for.

For one thing, she’s not an “old lady.”  She doesn’t sit around and knit.  She doesn’t have dozens of cats.  She won’t be excited if you send her a care package of prunes.  She’s a one-of-a-kind who still plays on the floor with her great grandkids, dances around the kitchen (usually after a couple two-finger shots of liquor), and can fluently cuss you out in three languages (English, Italian, and her own brand of gibberish).

For another thing, she’s the queen of regifting.  Except she’s savage about it.  A) She won’t usually wait until the following Christmas to regift it and B) She regifts it back to the person who gave it to her.  Seriously, I have a set of Christmas dishes in my possession that my mother gave me…after my grandmother gave them to her…after my mother gave them to my grandmother.  If my mom didn’t read this blog (hi, Mommy) I’d probably wait a couple more years and give them back to my mother wrapped like they were brand new.  Do you see the sacrifices I make just to entertain you guys?  You’re welcome.

She’s a little gentler with her grandkids.  She usually returns our gifts to us and makes it sound like it’s for our benefit.  She is ALWAYS cold (and enjoys proving it by putting her arctic hands on your neck when you least expect it) so I thought she would like some super warm winter pajamas.  I hinted around the subject around Thanksgiving and she admitted to always wanting a set of the footed pajamas.  Huzzah!  I was finally going to successfully buy her something cool for Christmas.  Long story short (again), I ended up buying her three sets.  The first one freaked her out because of the “access panel” in the back.  “What the hell is this?  My culo hangs out.”  The second one was too big.  The third one was probably also too big but she gave it to me with the subtle message to stop exchanging it, “I’m too old for this – give it to your wife, she might like it.  It’s nice and soft and warm.”

My wife is 5’7″.  My grandmother is 4’9″.  She was just trying to get rid of it and let me down easily.

She even gave me back gift cards!  She loves to go out to eat – her favorite is Red Lobster.  And her favorite person to go with is my oldest son – they’re seafood junkies.  So I gave her gift cards and told her take him out for a  feast; just the two of them.  A couple months go by and she gives them back to me (multiple cards from several different gift giving occasions) and told me take my family out on her.  Though, it’s not really on her…I bought the cards…the meal is still on me, there just happens to be a couple more middle men involved in this transaction.  The real kicker is, a short while later she decided to take my son out to lunch and asked for her cards back.  So I guess I’ll count that as a win…or at least a solid tie.

So, I don’t know what you do for your tough-to-shop-for person, but for mine, I stick to the three Bs.  Books (mysteries – the seedier and more violent the better; don’t waste her time with jewel heists, she wants cold blooded murder), brain teasers (puzzle books that keep her up well into the wee hours of the morning), and booze (because…well…she really likes liquor).

“Wings, Mr. Santy Claus, I need new wings.  Not fancy wings, just plain-jane, low-rent, barely-bent, home-grown, bare-bone, off-the-shelf, two-part, Kmart, no-frills flappers.  They would be an improvement over my own.  As your records should show, I am a bird.  Specifically, a penguin, an embarrassing accident of birth for which I do not blame my mother.  I prefer to blame Congress.” ~ A Wish For Wings That Work

TOP TEN HOTTEST TOYS OF 2017 (THAT MIGHT NOT BE ALL THEY’RE CRACKED UP TO BE)

Toys have changed from when my generation was writing letters to Santa. Video games were just getting started, Saturday morning cartoons made action figures and dolls rulers of kids’ Christmas lists.  Nowadays… well… kids are weird and the toys reflect the weirdness.  There used to be Barbies – now there are scrawny teen monster high school girls.  There used to be GI Joes – now there are little weird rubber pieces of trash (I’m not being cynical – the Trash Pack and Grossery Gang toys are literally characters modeled after garbage).  But one thing that never changes: every year there are toys parents rush to the stores for and channel their inner William Wallace as they battle for these hot holiday commodities.  Cabbage Patch Kids, Nintendo Entertainment Systems, Tickle Me Elmos, Furbies… but this year, I don’t know.  I don’t foresee myself risking life and limb for these things.

#10 – THUMB CHUCKS

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One excited reviewer said this could be the next fidget spinner.  Oh can it, please?  Because nothing calms a fidgety child like toys that never stop moving.  Fidget spinners and fidget cubes do nothing to calm a fidgety child – you might as well give them drumsticks and Jolt cola!  Now they create this little doodad, that looks like someone neutered Tigger, and connect two little clackers together with a piece of fabric thus making it easier for these little “zen masters” to whap each other in the head with their calming tool.  Next they’ll come out with air horns with strobe lights to help children with anxiety issues.

#9 – MARVEL LEGENDS SERIES “THOR” MJOLNIR ELECTRONIC HAMMER

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This impressive looking bit of Nordic weaponry has a retail price of $100.  Why?  Because it is a solid 5-pound plastic sledgehammer with a die cast metal handle.  If you are a parent, there is no way you should ever buy this for your child.  Can you imagine your insurance premiums skyrocketing by Valentine’s Day?!!  You’d have to have a concussion protocol at the dinner table!  However, if you are an aunt or an uncle of multiple children, buy it for just one and then just wait and watch the chaos you have created.

#8 – SKY VIPER V2400 HD STREAMING DRONE WITH FPV HEADSET

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This drone is top of the line with ease of control, stealth motors, and the capability of streaming live HD video from built in cameras.  Recommended for ages 12+.  Now, if you were buying this for me, I’d think you were awesome!  This is a cool gadget with all sorts of bells and whistles.  However, stealthy aircrafts with high definition spy cameras in the hands of a pubescent boy (or Alabama senate candidates) is probably not the most comforting thought for your neighbors.

#7 – OONIES MEGA STARTER PACK

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“Oonies are the coolest way to create! Take an Oonies pellet, place it in the inflator and watch it magically grow into an Oonie! No glue. No water, no mess. Just air filled balls of amazing fun!”  Seriously?  C’mon people, they’re called balloons!  You’re telling me you’re going to drop $65 on the starter kit for an air pump, mini balloons, and glue dots?!  Tell you what, just give me $65 and you won’t have to have this hunk of plastic and countless deflated oonie creatures laying around your house after your kids get tired of this toy after a day and a half.

#6 – SHOPKINS BUBBLEISHA

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For all your little girls who love shopkins, there is now Bubbleisha, the girl who shops for Shopkins.  A Shopkins shopper?!  Can we just call it a day and admit the toy companies are officially out of ideas?  First you bought thousands of these little rubbery do-nothings (how does one actually play with a minescule purse with a face?) and now you have to buy this doll, who in all actuality is the epitome of irony because you are essentially buying a version of yourself because this doll likes to buy thousands of these little rubbery do-nothings that you have already bought.  How meta is that?!!

#5 – L.O.L. SURPRISE FIZZ FACTORY

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Actual Product Description: Make Fizz balls again and again with the L.O.L. Surprise Fizz Factory! Mix ingredients, include any surprise, add glitter and then press into a surprise Fizz ball! Surprise your friends again and again with endless surprise Fizz balls! L.O.L. Surprise Fizz Factory includes everything you need to make your own Surprise Fizz!  Plus, you can make endless Surprise Fizz balls with household ingredients!

I’m going to ignore the fact that the description said “Fizz Balls” way too many times for me to be comfortable and just move on to my confusion.  Fizz Balls have charms in the middle of this dissolvable thingy.  The Fizz Factory gives you what you need to make your own Fizz Balls out of whatever you’d like.  So basically you’re buying a toy that will encapsulate things you already own and then you can dissolve the thing you spent money on this Christmas to retrieve the thingy you imprisoned – like Han Solo in carbonite (so pumped to see the new Star Wars) – that you chose to stick in there in the first place.  How is this fun?

#4 – WHEN I GROW UP, I WANT TO BE…: THE ANNUAL CAREER POSSIBILITY JOURNAL FOR KIDS

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What is wrong with you?  Did you really buy your child occupational counseling for Christmas?  Are you a guidance counselor?  I get it, you want to record everything your kid says every year so you can look back on it when he’s living in your basement at 45 years old and tell him, “Hey, look, remember when you were 6 and wanted to be an astronaut?”  Yeah, well, maybe if you had gotten him a bike instead you wouldn’t be spending your golden years delivering Hot Pockets down to his “command center” where he apathetically beats the high score of every adolescent he can find on his Playstation.  Way to go.  I hope you’re happy with your choices.

#3 – BELLE DISNEY FILM COLLECTION DOLL

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What the hell is that supposed to be?!  I know, we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but come on, that thing is frightening!  Disney can make an actor look exactly like a living candlestick but that’s as close as they could get to Emma Watson?  That’s what Justin Bieber would look like if he dressed up as Belle for Halloween.  How could a room full of executives look at that doll and unanimously go, “Yup, that’s exactly the look we were going for”?

#2 –Plush Holiday Animated Dancing Farting Laughing Poop Emoji In Christmas Santa Claus Hat

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The name says it all.  I’m just gonna leave this here.

#1 – WOWWEE FINGERLINGS

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Actual product description: “Her name is Rose and, along with her funky hair, she loves to grab onto things. Your kids will love monkeying around with this interactive finger toy.  She responds to sound, motion, and touch. It’s like having a friend right at your fingertips. Oh, and if you blow her a kiss, she might just blow you one back!”  I’m not even mature enough to talk to you about this one.  And, if you’re one of my B4P regulars, I know your mind is just messed up enough to see where I’m going with this one.

“And they’ll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing ’round on their wheels.
They’ll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They’ll blow their floofloovers. They’ll bang their tartookas.
They’ll blow their whohoopers. They’ll bang their gardookas.
They’ll spin their trumtookas. They’ll slam their slooslunkas.
They’ll beat their blumbloopas. They’ll wham their whowonkas.
And they’ll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay,
A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they’ll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!” ~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Major Christmas Confession

Please sit down.

I try my best to keep my blog open for all to enjoy and I honestly hate marginalizing people.  I’m politically an Independent who votes Democrat and Republican on the same ticket.  Religiously, I consider myself polytheistic and follow the beliefs of many different teachings with the core belief being, “Don’t be an ass to other people.”  I like the Beatles and the Stones, coffee and tea, I hate both Coke and Pepsi equally, and am working on getting Webster’s to add my picture next to their definition of passive-aggressive.

However, there comes a time in everyone’s life when they can’t keep the lid on a confession this huge and they acknowledge that they need to start some s#!t – and that time for me is now.

I hate Rudolph.

Not SANTA’S Rudolph, kids (why are kids reading this anyway?  I’m pretty tongue-in-cheek – come on parents, do a better job, geez), but the animated movie, Rudolph.  Moreover – I hate all movies LIKE Rudolph!  Heat Miser, Jack Frost, Easter Bunny is Coming to Town – ALL OF THEM!  The animation creeps me out, the songs and scripts are trite, the random celebrity narrator is a cheap gimmick to gain viewership, and, did I mention, THE ANIMATION CREEPS ME OUT!?  What are they?  Clay, plastic, some ungodly ore mined from the deepest pits of Hell itself?!

Every time I watch Rudolph, it angers me – not to the level of Crocs but pretty close – because of the amount of questions I have and the ridiculous things that just randomly pop up and annoy me.  Is it Hermy or Herby?  Could he get any creepier – if Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs was an elf, he would be Hermby (did you notice the female reindeer’s name?  Clarice.  Coincidence?  Hmmm…).  What the hell is a bumble?  Why do they bounce?  How does it get happier after you rip all of his teeth out – that would totally piss me off more!  Isn’t Santa supposed to be nice – why is he just as mean to Rudolph as the elves and why is he banishing faulty toys?!!  You’re Santa Claus! You have a billion elves! Fix the damn toys! Put round wheels on the train and put water in the water gun! And did you notice most of the misfit toys had nothing wrong with them?  The scooter and the doll are perfectly normal.  A Charlie-in-the-box?!!  Call yourself Jack and move on!  A flying lion and a spotted elephant?  That’s just freaking cool!  A bird that swims and can’t fly?!!  They’re called penguins!

And Yukon Cornelius, where do I even start with this guy?  How about right here:

yukon

That’s just gross.  From the “yahoo,” to the slide whistle, to the gerbil-like licking of a pickaxe accompanied by that stomach turning, lapping sound effect, to the fact that YOU DON’T FIND GOLD six inches under snow, to the fact that this process is repeated throughout the movie like we didn’t get the point the first time this snowdrift simpleton tried it.  And he’s packing heat!  If ever there was a poster child for the need for tighter gun laws, it’s this guy!

To sum up: the songs are annoying, the elves and reindeers are hateful little bigots enabled by Santa, two characters are believed to have fallen to their deaths (as a child, this upset me because I thought they were dead – as an adult, this upsets me because they come back), good dental hygiene is frowned upon whereas being toothless makes you as gentle as a kitten feather, and one of our main protagonists will most likely have a suit made out of other elves’ skins by New Year.

Nope.  I’m sticking to The Muppets.

“It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” ~ Hermby the Elf

More Crappy Christmas Music!

I received a lot of feedback about Tuesday’s top 10 list of lame Christmas songs.  Apparently I had hit a lot of the crappy classics (“crappics”), but a couple readers threw in their two cents.  In fact, I had enough two cents to think I needed to follow up on my post (pretty much a dime if you add all the two cents up) – but I couldn’t have a TOP 5 list…that’s pretty lame.  And I couldn’t hate on enough other Christmas songs to create another full Top 10 list. So, being Sunday, I deemed it worthy of a NEW Bobbing for Popcorn feature that I could utilize in such cases as this – when you, my dear sweet little kernels (Lady Gaga has her “little monsters,” you guys are my “little kernels” – cuz of the popcorn thing…and I’m like the bowl…and you are unpopped and hurt people’s teeth…you know, never mind, this is stupid) have ideas of your own that you would like to add to my posts which…

*Ahem*

I WELCOME AND ENCOURAGE ALL THE TIME!!!

Please, please, please – like, share, comment, subscribe – on here, or Facebook, or Twitter, or the B4P email – GET INVOLVED AND SHARE THE POPCORNY GOODNESS!

But, without further ado, the first ever SUPPLEMENTAL SEVEN SUNDAY created by a combined effort of YOU and ME.

7.  Jingle Bells – Barbra Streisand

This might be the only Christmas song that would put you into an epileptic seizure.  Maybe it’s because she’s technically used to Hanukkah and Christmas was not in her upbringing but, Babs, calm the hell down.  The stores get their Christmas stuff out in October – we’ve got time.  Besides, it’s Jingle Bells.  Jingle freaking Bells.  The easiest and most common song in the Christmas cannon.  First graders are given this tune when their short-sighted music teachers give them each a recorder to bring home and practice – “Hot Cross Buns,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and “Jingle Bells.”  No need to reinvent the wheel here.

6. 12 Days of Christmas – every-freakin’-body

I’m talking about the original, but I’m posting the Straight No Chaser version for your enjoyment.  I love this version because it illustrates just how ridiculous the original song is.  What are these things?  Why is my true love buying me all this garbage?!  And PEOPLE?!!  Are we even allowed to buy people?!!  And you can count yourself among the very few if you can honestly remember all these lyrics without having to look them up.  I swear when they wrote this song, they had to fill a butt load of time at the end of a concert and decided to make one song and milk it for all it was worth.  Best stalling tactic song in history!  And it says something if a song has MULTIPLE parodies that are played during the holidays as much as the original!  If you can become a Christmas classic by making fun of ANOTHER Christmas classic, then that original definitely deserves to be on this list.  If you haven’t already, check out Bob Rivers’ “12 Pains of Christmas” and, of course, The Muppet cover of this tune.

5. Holiday Feeling – Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme

Though not as bad as “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” this dude is still pretty much only trying to “stuff the stocking,” if you know what I mean.  It’s also chockfull of lyrics that must have been put together by one of those Refrigerator Magnet Poetry sets.  “Look how the snow is snowing.”  Yup, what does snow do?  Snow snows.  Horses gallop, birds fly, and snow snows.  We will also turn mistletoe into a verb and decide we really want to use the word “party” and must logically work the word “smarty” into the lyrics later in this cavity-inducing, syrupy sweet attempt for a woman to feel the spirit of Christmas and her man’s desperate attempts to get said woman into bed.  Fa-la-la-la-la.

4. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano

Did you know that, to win a bet, Dr. Seuss wrote Green, Eggs, and Ham using only 50 words?  He repeated them over and over adding a new twist here and there to keep the story moving, but for the most part “I will not eat,” “Would you try them on/in/with a,” and “Green eggs and ham” were the central words in the text and he supplemented them with “goat” and “tree” and “train” and so on.  But the fact is, these “goats” and “trees” and “trains” kept the cannon words from getting stale.  Jose Feliciano, however, did not.  He used 20 words (21 if you count “Ahaaa!”).  No change, no supplements, just Spanish verse, English chorus, same Spanish verse, same English chorus, ad nauseum.  Aye carumba.

3.  Donde esta Santa Claus? – Augie Rios

I have nothing against Spanish music!  I swear!  But this song sucks!!!  Who is this kid calling “Mamacita,” first of all?  The literal translation is “little mama.”  So either his mother is an elf, he’s using a pet name for his girlfriend (who I hope is also 7 years old like this kid sounds), or he’s doing his best to be the Latino prepubescent Elvis.  Secondly, could we shove any more stereotypes in here?!  Castinets?  The reindeers named Poncho and Pedro?!!  The backup singers mimicking mariachi horns?!!!  And does he really say “I know that I should be the sleeping”?  THE sleeping?!!  You might as well leave rice and beans out instead of milk and cookies!!  This sounds like someone asked the Texas Border Militia to write this song!  Ay dios mio!

2. Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen

What do you get when you mix a beloved cartoon, a World War I fighter pilot with 80 confirmed kills, and drinking?  A Christmas song!  This might be the only Christmas song to feature canon fire and machine guns.  Sure the war claimed between 15 and 18 million lives BUT Snoopy (who was about to get gunned down which would effectively make this the only Christmas song to have a beloved cartoon character die in combat set to the cheery upbeat sound of bells) luckily was shown mercy, landed his plane with his sworn enemy, boozed it up a bit, and then took off in the hopes of murdering each other once again in aerial combat.  Again I say, Fa-la-la-la-la.

1. We Wish You the Merriest – Les Brown

How this one escaped my first list, I have no idea.  I think I just scrubbed it so hard from my memory that it snuck through the cracks.  In any case, here it is; it would definitely vie for one of the top spots on the original list, and I have no words to describe the ear gouging horror that this song emanates on the airwaves.  This song is proof that even Satan celebrates Christmas and has enjoyed writing a carol or two that will torment his trapped souls in the most festive way possible.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” ~ Elf