Thursday, December 28, 2006

Head Scatchers' Forum

Inspired by recent posts from Traveling Chica and Renee, I am proud to present Bone's First Annual Head Scratchers' Forum. A place you can come to discuss those inexpicable, unusable gifts you may have received this year. It sort of combines the Airing of Grievances part of Festivus with the crappy gifts aspect of Christmas.

Almost all of us receive at least a gift or two each year which leaves us scratching our heads. Gifts that make us say things like, "You really shouldn't have. No, really."

Gifts from friends that cause us to reconsider our life choices. Gifts from parents that leave us wondering if our real parents were abducted by aliens without our knowledge and replaced by alien clones. Because the people who raised us for eighteen years would surely have some clue as to our likes, dislikes, and interests. Or at the very least, our age.

Here now, for your enjoyment, are a couple of my head scratchers for 2006:

"Cool! It's a keychain that's also a flashlight! What will they think of next?" Because sticking a real flashlight in the glove box is just too difficult. And also because I LOVE carrying large, hard cylindrical shaped things in my pockets.

"Wow! It's a Scooby Doo... candy dispenser... which turns into a piggy bank when you're done with the candy!" Ruh Roh Shaggy, I think I lost it already.

"Oh my, a magnetic dartboard." Because I'm 33, and evidently not old enough to be trusted with real darts. Or even the pointy plastic ones with the tiny holes all over the board.

"Ooo, regular fit, straight leg jeans!" Just like they wore in the early nineties! Uh, you know what. Actually, do you have a receipt for these? I have a sneaking suspicion already that these aren't going to fit.

"Aww, it's a... Christmasy... wooden... decorative... thingy. How did you know I collect these?!" I'm gonna put this up right now before I break it... on purpose. I'll put it right beside all the others. In the back of my closet.

So what gifts did you get this year that left you scratching your head? Share them here. Without fear of repercussions or persecution. We're more likely to sympathize with you.

And keep in mind my motto before you buy someone a $10 or $20 crap gift that they're only going to throw away, bury in a closet somewhere, or regift:

Cash. It's underrated as a gift. This public service announcement brought to you by Bone. A proud user of cash since 1977.

"Return to sender. Address unknown..."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

3 Word Wedesday #16

This is Wednesday, isn't it? The holidays have my mental calendar screwed up.

Each week, I will post three (or more) random words. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write something using all of those words. It can be a few lines, a story, a poem, anything. This is a writing exercise. It doesn't have to be perfect. The idea is to let your mind wander and write what it will. I'll also attempt to write something using the same three words.

Be sure to leave a comment if you participate.

This week's words are:

Tony Culver was a bully. He was mean. His family was mean. And everyone knew it. Unfortunately, my grandma lived on the side of Culver Hill, home to every Culver in Clarke County.

My grandma's house was the first house you came to once you left the paved road. After that, the gravel road twisted upward until it disappeared into trees and shadows. My uncle had driven me about half a mile up the road one time to someone's house he knew. Other than that, I'd never ventured past grandma's driveway.

Even the cops were afraid to go up on Culver Hill. At least that's what my nine-year-old mind believed. Of course, I also believed my mother was fourteen at the time. And I was more than a little afraid that a watermelon might be growing inside me at that very moment.

On this particular day, my cousin Brian, two years my junior, and I were throwing rocks from my grandma's driveway towards the gravel road that wound up the hill. A favorite pasttime of ours, that we sometimes got in trouble for, although I was never quite sure why. There wasn't much to hit besides trees, the air pipe on top of grandma's storm shelter, and more trees.

We stopped when we saw an old, rusty Ford truck creeping up the gravel road. The driver was eyeing us. At least that's what I imagined.

"That's Old Man Culver," Brian said, as we both almost subconsciously scooted a few steps closer to grandma's porch.
"I know," I answered, wide-eyed.
"Did you know he beats his kids with a big leather horse whip," Brian stated more than asked, as our eyes remained glued to the old pickup.
"Does not!" I snapped. I had asked my Dad about the horse whip and he said it wasn't true.
"Does too!"
"How do you know?" I was easily convinced.
"Daddy and me was up at Mister Roy's one day and I heard it."
Brian's imagination was bigger than the sky, but I was afraid not to believe him.

After the truck disappeared, talk soon turned to who dared walk farthest up the gravel road. Tony Culver had told us both several times that we'd better not ever come up there. He was twelve, and probably bigger than me and Brian put together.

Brian told me that he had once walked as far as the third house, and dared me to do the same. Gullible as I was, and not willing to be bested by my seven-year-old cousin, off I went. Traipsing down grandma's long gravel driveway.

I turned around every few yards, checking to see how far away I was getting, and making sure my cousin was still there by the porch. Then I'd turn back around and look up the hill, imagining mean ol' Mister Culver, rabid dogs, and listening for the faintest sound of anything that would send me immediately scurrying back the way I had come.

As I walked, my steps became slower, my glances back more frequent. I tried to think of any way I could get out of this deadly dare.

I had just reached the end of the driveway and started up the perilous road when I heard my grandma whistle. Grandma had the softest voice, but when she put those two fingers in her mouth and whistled, I bet you could hear it in the next county.

Oh I had never been so glad to hear her whistle as I was that day. I stopped in my tracks and turned to see the two of them--her and Brian--standing on the porch. The little rat had told on me!

I gladly took off running towards the house. Whatever punishment awaited me, I was certain it would not involve a horse whip.

"Muddy roads, muddy feet. I didn't live on no blacktop street. Things have changed a lot but I never did..."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Festivus 2006 Recap

They came.
They grieved.
They left.

Pizza has been consumed. Grievances aired. The pole is back in the crawlspace. Another Festivus For The Rest Of Us has come and gone.

This year's attendance of fourteen Festivians was a 75% increase over last year's total of eight. I hereby deem the 2nd Annual Festivus At Bone's an unqualified success. Thanks to all who attended.

It warmed my heart to hear everyone's grievances with me. About three or four of which involved me not answering my phone, returning calls, or returning emails. Do my friends know me or what!

Unfortunately, it never crossed my mind to take pictures. Fortunately, some of the festivities were captured on video. This is my first venture into the world of YouTube. For those of you who were unable to attend, I hope this gives you a small taste of what it was like:

Festivus 2006

I'm looking forward to next year. However, if Festivus '07 is any bigger, we may have to expand out to the patio.

OK, I gotta get in bed or Santa's never gonna come. I hope you all have a merry Christmas.

"Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight..."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Presents under the tree...

Bringing back an old holiday favorite: Penguin Baseball (Thank me later.)

I really wanted to do another Dear Santa letter again this year. But things have been hectic with shopping and wrapping and Festivus preparations and such.

However, I am all done wrapping gifts. So in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures for your enjoyment. This is my tree and my OCD present arrangement:

Notice the unwrapped book in the lower right corner? Yeah, Axl thinks wrapping gifts isn't very manly. So that's what I got him.

And here is my front yard:

OK, not really. I don't even have a yard. That's from last year's Ice Exhibit in Nashville.

Here's wishing you all a Happy Festivus Eve!

"Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents under the tree..."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

3 Word Wednesday #15

Each week, I will post three (or more) random words. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write something using all of those words. It can be a few lines, a story, a poem, anything. This is a writing exercise. It doesn't have to be perfect. The idea is to let your mind wander and write what it will. I'll also attempt to write something using the same three words.

Be sure to leave a comment if you participate.

This week's words are:

aging face
mirror shows
only quickens
never slows

seconds, hours
days and years
mem'ries seen thru
homesick tears

reaching out
fingers clasp
handle lacking
empty grasp

always hurry
in a rush
they say it flies
it really does

like sand
we watch it

"We look to our future. We make all our plans. As if we control what is out of our hands..."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Raw Eggs & Pugilism

Hello, and welcome to movie phone. If you know the name of the movie you'd like to see, press one now.
Using your touch-tone keypad, please enter the first three letters of the movie you'd like to see.
*beep beep beep*
You have selected, Rocky Balboa. If this is correct, press one.

Dah da da dah da da dah da da dah
Dah dah da da dah da da dah da da daaah
Dah da da dah da dah da daaaah dah daaaaah

Am I the only one who just got chills?

Attention, aficianados of outstanding cinema. It's coming. Tomorrow.

After sixteen years of dormancy, everyone's favorite sixty-year-old five-foot-eight-inch prize fighter is back. Sylvester Stallone returns in Rocky Balboa. The final chapter in this sextrilogy that has captivated America for thirty years. And I am so ready!

I get chills everytime I hear the Rocky theme song or "Eye of the Tiger." (On a tangent, how cool is it to be that guy was the lead singer of Survivor? Your career includes Eye Of The Tiger and those Bud Light real men of genius commercials!)

Also, there's only so many Judge Dredd's, Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot's, and Get Carter's one can take.

And besides that, I'm glad the series isn't ending with Rocky V. Because admittedly, it sucked. Even though at the time, I figured surely that was the last one. Because, well, Stallone was 46 and it had been five years since Rocky IV, which at the time, I also thought would be the last one. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe this isn't the final chapter.

One thing I've noticed as I've traveled the internets in recent days promoting the film, is that some people don't seem to share my enthusiasm, excitement, yea, delirium, over the release of Rocky VI. Women especially.

That started the old cogwheel turning, and I began to ponder why, as a general rule, men seem to like Rocky more than women. Not surprisingly, I have come up with a couple of ideas. Let's toss these against the wall and see if they stick.

Men like to have something that women don't like to do. Take fishing, for example. It's not that we enjoy sitting out in the middle of a body of water for hours on end all that much. But these are the lengths we've been forced to go to.

I think perhaps movies such as Rocky are like this. Men like to have things they can rally around and discuss amongst themselves that women either don't understand, or don't want to be part of. Like carburetors, Hooters, and the two-deep zone defense.

We just want to have something to call our own. I mean, we don't intrude on you when you want to go see a play, or talk about your feelings, or cook us a delicious meal.

Another reason men like Rocky is that he's a man's man. Who else can dress in red, white, and blue trunks and not be made fun of? And he doesn't mince words. With a simple, manly "Adriaaaan!" he lets his woman know he loves her.

But I think perhaps the main reason men like Rocky is that, in our minds, we are Rocky. Allow me to explain.

Every man has gotten the crap beat out of him at some point in his life. Oh sure, maybe not always literally. Physical altercations serve only to crease our Dockers and scuff our finely cobbled shoes.

But figuratively, we've all been beaten down. Seemingly defeated. By jobs. Women. Child support. The Bush regime. Life, in general.

But like Rocky, we always get back up. (Or turn to a life of drugs and alcohol to drown our troubles.) Either way, in the end, guess who wins? That's right. Rocky...

And for those of you naysayers who think Rocky, at sixty, is too old, I offer this. This is America. Where the government has squandered Social Security, and men have to work everyday of our wretched lives until we die. There's no retiring in America! Rocky, Sylvester, or Rambo is probably just providing for his family like the rest of us.

We've watched over the years as Balboa has defeated Apollo Creed, Mister T, the Russian, and that guy who had AIDS. But now comes Rocky's toughest foe of all. Some guy named Mason "The Line" Dixon? Uhh... I mean, Father Time.

And we have faith that he will be victorious. Why? Because he's Rocky, that's why! And also because it's a movie and to end it otherwise would just be wrong and cruel.

Man, I'm really feeling the testosterone pumping now!!! Reeeaaaarrrrr! I think I might go crack open a couple of raw eggs and drink them....

OK, so maybe not. Maybe I'll just sleep tonight in my red, white, and blue undies.

"Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet. Just a man and his will to survive..."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dear Mamaw

Dear Mamaw,

It's a week 'til Christmas. I know if this were twenty years ago, you'd be going to town with Mom or one of the other girls and buying a gift for every single person in the family. Eleven kids, their spouses, and all twenty or thirty-some-odd grandkids.

I never thought about it then, but looking back, it's amazing how you made each of us feel special. I had no doubt you'd do anything in your power for me. And I'm confident the other grandkids felt the same.

I miss you, Mamaw.

It's especially hard around the holidays. We still get together on Christmas Eve. And it's still my favorite time of the year. But something's missing. Every year, I look around at everyone talking, laughing, singing. And I wonder if they think the same thing I think. Someone's missing.

Some of my absolute favorite memories in life are Christmas Eves at your house. I remember the year it snowed and the pond iced over. The year one of my cousins was getting a bicycle for Christmas and I could hear my uncle beating and banging and putting it together. The year we were driving home from your house and I saw Santa Claus knocking on someone's door, and got worried I wasn't going to get home and get to sleep in time.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year I spent the night with you on the 23rd. And being there the next afternoon when all the family started arriving. I wish I'd done that every year. I'll always regret not spending more time with you, Mamaw.

I know you understand. But it was my loss. We don't realize certain things when we're young. But anytime I passed up an opportunity to spend time with you, it was always my loss.

Do you remember the last time I saw you, Mamaw? I don't. I can't. And it makes me sad. Although I guess it's good for you that it happened quickly. That you didn't suffer or go thru some prolonged illness. I just wish I'd been able to say goodbye.

I'm worried about Mom lately. Work has been very stressful for her the last couple of years. She's having health problems more frequently. She's started repeating herself a lot. I don't know what to do, or say. I wish she had you to call and talk to about things.

I try and spend time with her whenever she asks. Even though she called me Thursday night to see if I'd ride to Walgreen's with her. And I told her no. I feel guilty about it now. But we went shopping Saturday. And I'm gonna keep trying to do better.

I still remember your phone number. To this day. That must mean I called you a lot, right Mamaw? That must be a good sign or something. If I remember your phone number after all these years. I wish I still had you to call and talk to.

Sometimes I wonder what things about myself I got from you. I remember how kind you were. How giving. How you put others ahead of yourself. You lived in an old two-bedroom frame house, never had a car or even learned to drive. And you let me borrow money to go to my junior prom.

I don't know if I ever said thank you for that. I don't even know if I ever paid you back. But thank you, Mamaw. I hope some of your good rubbed off on me.

As for me, Mamaw, I'm doing well. I've rediscovered a love, and perhaps some talent, for writing. Sometimes I've written things that have made someone cry. This is the first time I've ever teared up while writing.

I'm 33 now. Next year will be fifteen years since you left us. It's hard to believe I've been without you nearly half my life. I'm trying to remember as much as I can about you. And writing it down, in case I forget.

I remember how you'd sit up late watching Carson. He retired just a few weeks after you left us. I like staying up watching Letterman. I remember how you'd snack on bananas and Doritos. And how you'd always send me home with a bag of candy, fruit, and other goodies.

One thing I miss the most, Mamaw, is how you were always proud of me. I think that's the greatest gift anyone could ever give. Unconditional love. I guess I don't have the greatest job now. I'm not rich and famous. Not married. No kids. But I know if you were here today, you'd still be proud to call me your grandson.

And I'll always be proud to call you Mamaw.

I miss you.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Silver Pole

Today, December 15th, is the first-ever (as far as I know) Reveal Your Blog Crush Day, instituted by the prolific Ms. Sizzle. Click here to view the guidelines.

I am honored to have been mentioned by the lovely Mz. Circe. And to have been named Traveling Chica's 2006 Male Blog Crush! Thanks, gals. The blog love is reciprocated. You are two of my favorites, as you can probably tell from your site meters.

Last night, I thoroughly enjoyed The Office hour-long Christmas special, which I had been looking forward to way more than I should. Some quotes:

"I marked her arm."

"Permission to join the Validity Committee?"

"It's a bold move to Photoshop yourself into a picture with your girlfriend and her kids on a ski trip with their real father. But then again, Michael's a bold guy. Is bold the right word?"

"We're going to Asian Hooters."

"Bro's before ho's."

"You have been compromised. Abort mission. Destroy phone."

I've also begun to compose some songs for Festivus. Now, before you get too excited, I need to tell you that while the lyrics are mine, I kind of ripped off the tune.

Also, to add to the madness, I've included a clip of yours truly singing the Festivus song! There's no turning back now, babee! (Keep in mind I've had no formal vocal training. I'm more of, what you might call, a lyrical stylist.) But without further adieu, I present:

A Festivus song by Bone.

Silver Pole
(Words by Bone. Sing to the tune of Silver Bells, pretty much.)

all these worksheets
grievance worksheets
lined with blanks yet to fill
in the air there's a feeling of terseness
there'll be laughing
people shouting
maybe a marriage will end
and in the midst of the room, you will see

silver pole (silver pole)
silver pole (silver pole)
it's festivus in the city
tinsel free (tinsel free)
so sturdy (so sturdy)
soon it will be festivus

there'll be meatloaf
maybe pizza
at the festivus meal
after grievances aired hearts are heavy
then it's time for
feats of strength, it's
frank costanza's big scene
festivus won't be o'er till someone's pinned

('neath the...)
silver pole (silver pole)
silver pole (silver pole)
it's festivus in the city
tinsel free (tinsel free)
so sturdy (so sturdy)
soon it will be festivus

"You, you, you, you, you, you, you oughta know..."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Three Word Wednesday #14

Each week, I will post three (or more) random words. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write something using all of those words. It can be a few lines, a story, a poem, anything. This is a writing exercise. It doesn't have to be perfect. The idea is to let your mind wander and write what it will. I'll also attempt to write something using the same three words.

Be sure to leave a comment if you participate.

This week's words are:

"Hi. I'm calling to inquire about the pool table you had for sale in the paper. I was thinking of getting one for my hus-"
"Sorry, it's already sold."
"Oh... well thanks anyway."
"No problem."

James hung up the phone. Then unplugged it. He looked around at the apartment that had been his home for the last year. Now it was only barren walls and cardboard boxes, yet it seemed smaller than it ever had before. He placed the cordless into the last open box, as Kevin came thru the front door, holding a lamp like it was the Olympic torch.

"This lamp. Staying or going?"

"That goes."

"What's wrong?" Kevin asked.

"Nothing. I'm fine."

"Come on, bro. What is it?"

"You wouldn't understand," James answered, shaking his head and looking at the floor.

"Look, man. I'm the only friend you have to talk to who won't consider you gay afterward."

His statement drew a smile and a shove. "Shut the-"

"Seriously," Kevin interrupted.

James began to close and tape up the last open box. "I dunno, Kev. It's just... I was married, dude. And now, I'm not. You know? I mean, it's not supposed to be like this. We didn't even last five years."

Kevin, the shorter and pudgier of the two, breathed in deeply and let out a long sigh, "God, man. I don't know what to say."

"I mean, met in college. Married after graduation. We did everything by the book. And... you knew her. She was perfect."

"She was sweet... and hot. Remember that night she did that dance on the-"

"Thanks, man," James stopped him. "You're really a huge help."

"Come on, J. You gotta go out, dude. It's been a whole freakin' year."

"A year and twelve days."

Kev sighed again. "Look, I'm meeting Tim and Vanessa at The Breeze tonight. She's supposed to be bringing some girls..."

"I don't wanna meet anyone," James raised his voice in a futile attempt to end the conversation, or at least change it. It was his usual reply, given partly out of guilt, partly out of fear. But mostly it was easier than saying or doing anything else.

Kevin continued, "OK, you don't like that approach. How about this? Life, my young friend, is like a book. When one chapter closes, you turn the page and begin another."

"Oh, that's brilliant, oh great one. Especially considering you've never opened a book. What's that from? Doctor Phil?"

"No. Fortune cookie. Loosely translated. Anyway, Vanessa really wants you to come out tonight. Farrah's supposed to be there. You know... No Panties Farrah..." Kevin lifted his eyebrows and waited for a reply. His remark drew a laugh.

"Don't do the dance," James closed his eyes and turned away as he said it, but it was too late. Kevin was dancing and chanting.

"No pan-ties Faaaar-rah. No pan-ties Faaaar-rah..."

The Idiot Dance, James thought, as he named it on the spot.

"Come on, bro. What can it hurt? Give it a twirl."

"Twirl? It's whirl, jackass."

"What?" Kevin squinted.

"The phrase is, give it a whirl."

"Well, excuse me, Mister Business Management major. How's that degree working out for you down at the mall, by the way?"

James sighed and put his hands over his face. "I'm divorced. I work at the mall. And I'm moving back home with my parents. What the hell happened to my life?"

"You should've done like me, man, and never left home in the first place."

"Gee, I don't know what I was thinking."

"Come on! New chapter, bro," Kevin grabbed his friend's shoulders and shook. Then patted him on the back. "Focus! Confucius say, turn the page."

James rolled his eyes. His cell rang. Thank God for small blessings.

"Who is it?" Kevin asked nosily.

"It's your Momma. Now can you go outside and give us some privacy?"

Kevin didn't move, except to lean over and try to sneak a peek at who was calling. James warded him off with his right arm while holding the phone in his left hand. He answered.




"Hi, this is Farrah... Vanessa's roomate. Remember me?"

"Oh, uh, Farrah. Um, yeah, of course. Hey!"

Kevin got a giddy smile on his face and began to dance around again.

"These clocks keep unwinding and completely ignore everything that we hate or adore. Once the page of a calendar is turned it's no more. So tell me then, what was it for?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So many Christmases

One of the best things about blogging to me is meeting so many wonderful people, like my fellow-Southerner Shayna. This is my week to be featured at her My Music Highway Project.

I love music. When I began blogging, I wanted to do something different to set my blog apart. So I came up with the idea of including song lyrics at the end of each post. I encourage you to surf over and check it out.

Thirteen days. That's all. In the time it took to diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis, Christmas will be here. Somehow I have a feeling this will seem to pass much faster than that.

Thru a complicated process of inventory and comparison research (aka counting the gifts I've bought and dividing them by the number of gifts I need to buy), I've determined that I surpassed the all important 50% barrier with my shopping this weekend.

(Note: I employ the one-one-one-one-cross count-by-fives method of gift counting. Also useful in games of tic-tac-toe.)

So now that I'm over half done with my shopping, what does that mean? I will begin to wrap some presents this week. Also, I need to write and address my Christmas cards today. And of course, there's more shopping to do.

All the while, I'll be trying to stop and grasp a few blessed moments of the holiday season as it goes flying by. Breathe in the cold air. Listen to Christmas songs. Watch holiday movies. Try and find time to ride around and look at the lights and decorations.

Once I thought of life in years. But now, sometimes, I think of life in Christmases. It seems shorter that way, but it helps me appreciate the days more. Especially this time of year. We only have so many Christmases left.

When I was a kid, these last few days seemed to take forever. I wished I could speed them up. Now I wish I could slow them down.

Such is life, I suppose.

"Every Christmas Day makes every other day seem long. What seemed would never get here has so quickly come and gone..."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Festivus 101

This time of year, many of our thoughts turn to family and friends. And all the ways they have disappointed us over the past year. Yes, faithful readers, Festivus is just around the corner. So get the pole out of the crawlspace and begin preparing your list of grievances.

I am planning on hosting my second annual Festivus at Bone's celebration this year. Details are still being worked out by my assistant, Darren.

To tide you over, today I'm bringing back something I originally posted a couple of years ago. For you newcomers, hopefully it will explain some of the traditions and history behind this wonderful holiday. And for the rest of us (get it?), consider it a quick refresher course. It's all part of my neverending quest to be the #1 blog for all things Festivus.

Have a great weekend. And remember, just fifteen days until Festivus

Early days
The holiday of Festivus can trace it's beginnings back to 1997, and "The Strike" episode of Seinfeld. The founder of Festivus is Frank Costanza. The Queens, New York, resident had become fed up with all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas.

Let's hear how it all began in Frank's own words: "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reach for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows opon him, I realized there had to be another way! The doll was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born, A Festivus For The Rest Of Us!"

Although not required, you may choose to have someone recite this most famous of all quotes before beginning your Festivus celebration. Since those early days, I daresay tens upon tens of Seinfeld fans have begun celebrating Festivus each year. Now let's look at some Festivus traditions.

The Aluminum Pole
One of the most common questions I get about Festivus is, "Is there a tree?" The answer is no. Instead of a tree, all you need for Festivus is an aluminum pole. It requires no decoration, as the founder of Festivus found tinsel distracting.

Unlike a heavily decorated, lighted tree, the pole will not take away from the real meaning and other aspects of the holiday. Aluminum was chosen because of it's very high strength-to-weight ratio.

The Festivus Pole should be placed in clear view of everyone taking part in the Festivus celebration. Another part of the genius in choosing an aluminum pole is that it's very easy to take down, and may be kept in a crawl space or some other small out-of-the-way storage area.

The Airing of Grievances
Again, in the words of our founder, Frank Costanza: "Welcome, newcomers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna hear about it!"

Once everyone is seated for the Festivus Dinner, it's time to tell your family (and other guests) all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year. This is known as the "airing of grievances." It's an integral part of the holiday. Maybe the most integral.

Each person should have an opportunity to voice any gripes, complaints, or problems they have with any other person present at the dinner. Traditionally, the airing of grievances begins with the host or head of household.

The Festivus Dinner
After everyone has had an opportunity to air their grievances, it is likely that no one will be speaking to each other for awhile. This is the perfect time to enjoy your Festivus Dinner in peace.

The Festivus Dinner may be composed of anything. Many suggest non-traditional holiday foods, such as spaghetti, meatloaf, or pizza.

The Feats of Strength
Once everyone has eaten, it's time for the finale of the Festivus celebration, the "feats of strength." This is a physical contest between two people.

Traditionally, the head of household will choose someone at the dinner for the honor of taking part in the feats of strength. Those two will then engage in a phsycial battle, described by some as a primitive form of wrestling. Festivus is not over until the head of household has been pinned.

Some neo-Fesivites have altered the rules to allow any two people at the Festivus dinner to take part in the "feats of strength." This is OK, as long as two basic rules are adhered to. (1)Two, and only two, persons should participate in the feats of strength. (Otherwise, everyone is fighting, and there is mayhem. And mayhem has no part in Festivus.) (2)Festivus is not over until someone is pinned.

Other info
Festivus is traditionally celebrated on December 23rd. However, since at it's core, Festivus is dissident and unconventional, it may be celebrated on any day. After all, it's not about giving reverence to a particular day. It's about... well, I'm not sure what it's about. But here's hoping you have the best Festivus ever, and may you come out on top in the Feats of Strength.

"It was back when I'd still get things from Santa Claus. Back when he believed in me and overlooked the flaws, that can grow inside until it hides the perfect little boy inside the man..."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

3WW #13

Each week, I will post three (or more) random words. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write something using all of those words. It can be a few lines, a story, a poem, anything. This is a writing exercise. It doesn't have to be perfect. The idea is to let your mind wander and write what it will. I'll also attempt to write something using the same three words.

Be sure to leave a comment if you participate.

This week's words are:

When she talked about it snowing, her eyes would change. They became brilliant. Glowing. Alive. It was as if she were a child again, and all the hope and excitement and innocence of those years had magically returned. When teddy bears could talk and the real world was a million miles away.

If the word snow was even mentioned in the forecast, she'd be giddy. But, of course, the snow never came. It rarely did here.

She handed me her Christmas list. There was one item on it.

"Will you please give me some ideas of what to get you?"
"I did! You asked me what I want for Christmas and that's all I want."

I just shook my head and rolled my eyes.

Over the next couple of weeks, I pored over the usual gifts. Jewelry, perfume, clothes. Nothing seemed right, and time was getting short. Then one day... as soon as I thought of it, I knew. That was it. So simple, yet so perfect.

I told her we'd have to go early in the day on Christmas Eve to visit my family and hers, because I had a surprise planned. We exchanged gifts and smiles and hugs. The entire day, I kept inconspicuously checking The Weather Channel, trying as best I could to curb my excitement.

Leaving her parents house around 3:00 in the afternoon, we began to drive north. Without her knowing, I had packed her an overnight bag and thrown it in the trunk.

I don't know when she figured out what I was doing. Maybe she had an idea all along. Or maybe she didn't.

The amazing sleep-inducing powers of the passenger seat combined with the heater and the calming low hum of the engine worked their magic, and she was out by the time we hit Nashville. My plan was to drive north until we saw snow, find a hotel, and spend the night.

We were in a hotel room somewhere in Illinois when Christmas Eve became Christmas Day. Standing by the window, watching the snow fall, her eyes were doing that thing again.

I took the red Santa hat off my head, placed it on hers, and kissed her on the nose. Then I pulled her Christmas list out of my back pocket, and marked off the only item on it.

"Just to see you smile, I'd do anything that you wanted me to. When all is said and done, I never count the cost. It's worth all that's lost..."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Plight of the cherry

This is the story of one of the most overlooked and underappreciated fruits in the history of the world: The Cherry.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. And Christmas will come and go. At my family gatherings, there will be many desserts. Puddings, cakes, and pies. Coconut, pumpkin, apple, pecan, chocolate, and lemon. But this year, just as every other year, one pie will be missing. My favorite pie. Cherry.

The cherry, or fruitus apetizus, as some of you may know it, continues to be overlooked in this country. And I have no idea why. It's juicy. Sweet. Tangy. Delicious! Yet it constantly takes a backseat to other fruits and flavors. Not just in pies, but in other culinary avenues as well.

In juices, there's orange and apple. We even have cranberry and grapefruit juice for crying out loud. But no cherry. Heck, you can scarcely find Cherry Coke anymore.

What about milkshakes? Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla. Then pineapple, caramel, cookie... On a list of most popular shakes, you'd probably have to go thru at least twenty or thirty flavors before you got to cherry.

And let's not forget cake. Chocolate, coconut, devil's food, caramel. There's even a carrot cake, for the love of Pete. Who decided to make a carrot into a cake? Why not have a cucumber cake? That makes about as much sense to me.

Oh, but when you want to top a sundae, or a cheesecake, or chocolate cover something, who do you call? That's right, the poor, underappreciated, underutilized cherry. And sure, those things are nice. But cherry can be much, much more than a topping, or a lifesaver, or a cough drop.

About the only places cherry has constantly gotten its due are in the Jello and Kool Aid industries. There's no Jello more popular than cherry. And remember Mister Kool Aid? He was red. Also known as, cherry. Year after year, red Kool Aid is consistently named by kids as their favorite Kool Aid. Sigh. Out of the mouths of babes.

But the lowest blow of all came when some halfwit coined the phrase "American as apple pie." Oh really? The apple, also known as fruitus deceptus. Also widely believed to be the forbidden fruit. AKA, the reason we're all going to die! Yeah. Thanks for that, Granny Smith.

I submit for your careful consideration that no fruit is more American than the cherry. To wit, a little story about George Washington and the cherry tree. Perhaps you've heard of it.

Let's recap:
Apple = death
Cherry = life

I invite and encourage you to join me not only today, but everyday, in honoring the cherry. Request it. Demand it. And maybe someday we'll all be saying, "As American as cherry pie." I have a feeling the father of our country would have wanted it that way.

And if you disagree, well that's OK, too. But next time you ask someone for a favor, try saying, "Pretty please with an apple on top." See how that works for you.

(Disclaimer: This blog is in no way affiliated with or influenced by the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. However, this blogger is not above accepting delicious free cherry pies, or appearing as special guest speaker/Grand Marshall of the cherry festival, or escorting any or all of the Cherry Queen contestants.

"Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don't take it serious. Life's too mysterious. You work, you save, you worry so. But you can't take your dough when you go..."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Home is... where?

Dad sold the house last week. Not the house I grew up in, but the last house I lived in when I left home. The last place Mom, Dad, my sister, and I ever lived, together.

The house had a third bedroom that had been added on behind the carport. The south wall of the bedroom was all brick, having formerly been the exterior of the house. And the ceiling sloped from about twelve feet at the brick wall down to about six feet at the back.

The room was set lower than the rest of the house, with concrete steps leading down from the kitchen. And, most importantly, there was an outside entrance from the carport at the other end of the room. This was my bedroom. It sort of felt like my own little one room apartment. With kitchen privileges, of course.

When we moved there, I was probably nineteen. And I was so excited that I spent two nights sleeping on the living room floor before we'd even moved any of our things. It was just me, a pillow, a blanket, and a telephone sitting on the floor.

So many memories come flooding back about the house and the neighborhood. There was the elderly lady across the street who at least twice gave cars parked in front of our house a gentle nudge. If you saw her backing out, you knew not to be anywhere near the road.

She'd always come and apologize when she hit something. Fortunately, she never drove more than four miles per hour, so the damage was never visible without a microscope.

I fondly remember, especially this time of year, climbing up on the roof to hang Christmas lights. Mom loves Christmas lights and we always tried to have a nice little display for her. Late November/early December was always a time of extension cords, staple guns, and replacement bulbs.

I remember Dad and I putting up the basketball goal. Pouring Quickrete for the pole. And that reminds me of Dad's shot. Which makes me smile and cringe all at the same time. Which, if you saw it, you'd laugh. But he's my Dad and I love him for trying, and thinking about it now makes me sad.

I remember afternoons in the backyard chipping plastic golf balls onto the roof. Mom's family coming over on the Fourth of July. The countless times I mowed that yard. When my sister begged for and got a trampoline. When my sister begged for and got a cheap above ground pool. Beginning to notice a pattern here?

And then there was the time I temporarily lost my kitchen privileges. I had put a TV dinner in the oven when I got home from work at 1:00 in the morning. And then promptly fell asleep. I woke up two hours later to smoke, one of the five most awful stenches ever to pass thru the portals of my nostrils, and of course, angry parents.

It was the house I lived in for most of the time I was in college. It was where I lived when I met and began dating Lily. And it was the home I left, when I left home.

A few months ago, a truck arrived at my door, loaded with furniture and cardboard boxes. Dad had begun to clean out the house and we were dividing the things we wanted, before selling the rest. Among other things, I got a lamp, a coffee table, and a dresser that had been my sister's. But what I got didn't begin to compare to what it felt I was losing.

I know, home is where the heart is and all that. But there's something safe and comforting about having a tangible place to come home to. Knowing that no matter how far away you may wander, it's there, waiting. Someplace familiar, filled with memories and warmth. They say a house is not a home. But that one was.

No one had lived in the house for the last six months or so. But still, it was there. And it was ours. Finding out last week that it had sold left me feeling nostalgic. Reflective. And more than anything, homesick.

Homesick for a place that exists only in my memory.

"Then winding down that old familiar pathway, I heard my mother call at set of sun. Come home, come home, it's suppertime..."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Man Versus Machine

I considered blogging in pig latin today, in honor of The Office last night. Ut-bay, I-ay, ecided-day, o-tay, are-spay, ou-yay...

The CD player in my car decided to stop working Saturday. After a few frustrating moments of me inserting CD's and it continaully rejecting them and displaying a "Check CD" message on the LCD, I finally surrendered. At some point, the CD player evidently must have taken on human qualities because I began speaking to it.

Later, a friend of mine noticed that the CD player was still making noises, even after I'd turned the car off. I stopped singing and listened closely, and sure enough, it sounded like it was trying to load a CD even after I had turned off the radio and removed the keys.

Well, I thought it would stop after awhile, or at least after sitting overnight. But nope. When I got in the car Sunday, the CD player was still making those same noises. And it was still showing the "Check CD" message when I started the car. I began to be concerned that this continual "running" would eventually drain my battery.

But it was fine for the next few days, so I wasn't too worried about it. I figured that I would either try and find someone who could fix my CD player. Or that I would buy a new one and install it myself. Since we all know that I have no problems doing that. Besides, the radio and cassette player still worked. So I could still listen to my Milli Vanilli, Donna Lewis, and Deep Blue Something cassettes.

Then Thursday morning when I got out to my car, (I think we all know where this is going), I pressed the unlock button on my high-tech remote keyless entry thingie. And nothing happened. It's the first time that had ever happened. What do I do?

I admit, I panicked for a few brief seconds. Then I remembered something my Dad told me. He said, "Son, when I was growing up, to get into the car, we had to stick the key into the lock and turn... in the pouring rain or a foot of snow, yada yada yada."

That's when it hit me. I held the key! Me! I was reminded of that old Eagles' song. So often times it happens, that our remote keyless entry doesn't work, and we never even know we have the key...

But I digress. I did manage to unlock the door, but then as I had feared, the car wouldn't crank. So I called my mother. Isn't that what everyone does when their car won't start? She came over and jumped me off.

Unfortunately, the CD player was still possessed. And I knew that it was going to drag the battery down again eventually. So when I got to work, I decided to take out the fuse that goes to the radio. (I thought that was pretty clever.) I listened. The CD player wasn't making any noises.

After work, my car started fine. But I left the fuse out. Driving home with the radio completely dark was eerie. And by this point, I figured I was definitely going to have to purchase a new car stereo. Because, let's face it, False Messiah can't roll without his tunes.

Then when I was leaving to go running yesterday evening, something came over me. I don't know if it was the kinship of all living things, or that voice in my head saying, "Put the fuse in." But I put the fuse back in. The "Check CD" message was gone! The CD player wasn't making noises!

And then, deciding it was now or never, I inserted a CD into the player. And waited. And hoped. For what seemed like seconds. Then I heard it. Simon Le Bon wailing, "Please please tell me now!" Yes! It worked!

It's a pre-Festivus miracle!

"I know you're watching me every minute of the day, yeah. I see the signs and the looks and the pictures that give your game away..."