More Complicated?

Was Christmas less complicated when we were kids?  I mean pretty much all you did was agonizingly count down the days before Christmas Break, watch the Bob Hope Christmas Special and wait for Santa to deliver the loot.  Now it seems we either get overwhelmed or it sneaks up on us.  Although to be honest, if Christmas sneaks up on you there is really no one to blame but yourself.  C’mon the decorations are up in October.  It’s not like Christmas arrives all stealthy.  The songs have been on the radio since before Thanksgiving and the decorations are up in all the stores minutes after Halloween is over.

I think what really happens is we let it overwhelm us.  Every year we vow to shop earlier, get the Christmas cards done over Thanksgiving and to help Mom wrap the presents.  Well, that last part is a complete falsehood.  I’ve never done that.  I stick the labels on the gifts.  That is extent to which Mom trusts my wrapping skills.  I’m a strong proponent of the widespread use of gift bags.

Now I’m must spitballin’ here but I’m pretty sure my appreciation for gift bag usage is based in the Christmas story.  And I’m not talking about the 1983 movie in which Ralphie told us, “”Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.”  No, I’m talking about the traditional telling of the actual Christmas story…updated for levity during this busy time of year.

Feel free to let me know if you remember it a bit differently.

According to yuletide folklore, Mary and Joseph traveled a long way to Bethlehem, inadvertently obligating couples from thenceforth to the customary holiday journey to visit family and friends while dealing with delayed flights, snowy roads and impatient whining children.  Or, depending on your current parental situation, know-it-all, eye-rolling teenagers.  Nary a mention of wrapping gifts.  Also no condemnation of the rampant use of gift bags in place of traditional wrapping.  Go back and look.  Pretty sure the Biblical scholars are going to back me up on this.   Mary made a list of what they needed and Joseph stupidly viewed the list as suggestions and instead only brought egg nog, chips and a list of where all the rest areas were located.  Thankfully he was smart enough to observe a star in the sky which guided them to the Inn where they were told their reservations had somehow been lost and had been “upgraded” to the stable.

Anyway, Mary and Joseph, settled in next to the manger in which they placed the baby Jesus.  Next to the manager was a small conifer.  In this case, a fir.  Possibly a spruce.  Biblical arborists disagree.  Regardless, Joseph, having driven the cart all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, suggested that they just put all Christmas gifts for family and friends in gift bags.  After all it would be quicker and the important thing is the gift not the wrapping paper.

Thankfully, the three Wise Men also saw the star and began their trek to see the baby Jesus.  Lesser known is the story of the Wise Men.  They saw a star and began a trek to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.  This, of course, began the age-old practice of dudes everywhere driving aimlessly through mall parking lots searching for open spots whilst their wives and girlfriends incessantly sent them pics asking which gifts they should buy.  Unbeknownst to them at the time, the three Wise Men doomed husbands and boyfriends throughout the ages to consistent criticism for the gift decisions because of their weird gifts choice of gold, frankincense and myrrh .  Maybe some 0-6 month onesies or some diapers?  Or even a gift card to Rock Bottom for Mary and Joseph would’ve been nice.  I mean they are going to want to get out of the stable for a few hours here and there.

Anyway, key thing to remember is the story does not include anything about:  1) wrapping gifts, and 2) saving Christmas cookies for some unnamed post-holiday reason.

So, feel free to use gifts bags for any type of gift and don’t worry about saving any Christmas cookies for later.  Nobody makes New Year’s cookies…unless they help with hangovers…



Christmas and…beer

Nothing goes together like Christmas and beer.  Well, yes, family and friends, the baby Jesus, and large conifers placed inside your house are all more important than beer.  But does anything feel more yuletidy than these:




Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Christmas Lists

Growing up we made lists.  We’d wait for the JC Penny and Sears Christmas catalogs to arrive with a feeling of anticipation only a Gen Xer can truly appreciate.  When those 10 lb. bundles of wishes arrived it was magical.   We’d grab a pencil and a legal pad and get to work.  I’d roll through several versions before finally whittling the list down to those things that I desperately wanted and felt comfortable submitting to the powers that be.  I’d always chuckle softly inside when I’d see my sister’s lists.  They’d have 45 things on there.  I’d think to myself, “you simpletons, interest rates are like 20%, there’s no way you’re getting all that stuff.”   My list would be narrowed down to 10-12 specific items.  If you wanted Santa, and later your folks, to get it right you needed give them clear and unambiguous instructions.  Because nobody wanted to end up with this:


If you wanted Chopper Command for your Atari 2600, you needed to spell it out.  Now, as I’ve become older, it has come to my attention that there are some folks who don’t appreciate getting lists.  If fact, they will ignore the list.  These individuals will go and buy something that they think you’ll like despite having an actual list of things they know you’ll like.

This makes no sense.  Like Bernie Sanders’ view of economics.  Or casting Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.

It’s not that I view it as disrespectful or dismissive of all the work I, or someone else, may have put into building the list.  I simply do not understand why anyone would intentionally choose to make their own life harder by ignoring the list.  And make no mistake, that’s what you’re doing.  You might church it all up by convincing yourself that you’ve thought about it and have really come up a sincerely heartfelt and profoundly meaningful gift.  But you’d be almost always wrong.

Sure I get a benefit from you choosing something from my own Christmas list.  I put it together therefore I obviously have a fairly high level of affinity for everything that made the final cut to get on the list.  But the real beneficiary is you.  The real advantage is the simplicity for you the buyer.  The time saved.  The hassles eluded.  The avoidance of that awkward realization that the gift you gave someone has become a garage rag or been returned for store credit.  Why in the name of all that is holly and jolly would someone purposefully choose to add needless decisions to a time of year that is already overrun with extra stuff?

Especially when you were given a list!  A Christmas list is a yuletide map to joyous merriment.  Literally the only decisions you have to make, outside of how much beer you’re going to drink during the period of time when everyone else is still shopping, is which store to visit first and whether or not you should pity laugh at all the holiday shoppers without lists to guide them.  Do you really think the three Wise Men showed up at the stable in Bethlehem with gold, frankincense, and myrrh because they had spent most of the summer and fall contemplating the perfect baby gifts for Mary and Joseph?  They are dudes.  And dudes need a Christmas list to go shopping or they will always – ALWAYS – come back with a six-pack, a gift card and a t-shirt with the logo of their favorite NFL team.  Because they want you to be happy while you’re watching the playoffs drinking the six pack.  To remedy that, the Angel Gabriel showed up one night and gave the three Wise Men Jesus’ Christmas list.  Scholars still debate why Jesus chose those things.  But its in the Bible so who are we to question it.  So if you still want to be one of those people who ignores the biblical foundations of Christmas lists whilst deriding the gift choices of the three Wise Men, go ahead, but don’t expect me to follow along.  The Angel Gabriel and I will be at the mall with our lists shopping for gifts…

I-76 Christmas

Every other year we travel to Colorado for Christmas. You could do worse. Colorado is cool place. It has mountains, a crap ton of microbreweries and both of my sisters live there. It was also 65 degrees in the middle of December. Not too shabby. This trip not only gives us the chance to spend time with my side of the family but also affords us the opportunity to really evaluate the interstate system, grade the exits and their dining opportunities along with the scenery along I-76.

So, Colorado, you have legal pot now. I am sure this reality has drawn a certain demographic to settle within your borders. Congrats, I guess. But you did not have to hire all them to work at the Department of Transportation. Because one of two things is happening as a result. Either the Colorado DOT forgot to take care of their roads because they got hungry or Colorado isn’t using any of the pot tax revenue on its roads. Granted, you probably have other needs which need funding. Off the top of my head, I guessing more law enforcement. But geez, c’mon Colorado, you suck at highways. Badly. It’s like you deliberately laid each concrete section of I-76 a half inch off of the last one. Describing it as washboard effect does not do washboards justice. The right lane going west was like driving on the brain waves of Nancy Pelosi. So we switched lanes to the less annoying but still shoddy asphalt in the left lane. It was like we were driving on pillows. And not the crappy Wal-Mart pillows, the expensive ones at Pottery Barn. Regardless, how about throwing some of that new drug money at the interstate?

Now, if you find yourself traveling on I-76 in eastern Colorado, here’s a few things to remember:

First, your cell reception will be as reliable as a French armored division in the spring of 1940. Two, if you enjoy watching barbed wire fencing, cattle and a complete lack of trees, you’re in luck. If you’re driving west and you forget to get gas in Ogallala, here’s a rundown on your options just over the pot frontier in Colorado.

Julesburg. We’ve never made it past the Shell station or Wagon Wheel right at the exit so I can’t comment on the town itself. The Wagon Wheel has more room and nicer bathrooms. Also it has an impressive about of trinkets and baubles.

Segewick. I’m not sure what Segewick looks like or actually entails. Lucy’s Café is right off the interstate and had a couple gas pumps. Lucy also had a General Store. I assume the General Store sold more than gun powder and sasparilla. But one thing Lucy’s didn’t have was pavement. I don’t want to cast aspersions upon Segewick or Lucy’s Café and General Store but we haven’t been back since we stopped there in ’08.

Sterling. I recommend stopping here. Although we never have. It appears to be the biggest small town you’ll pass until you get to Ft. Morgan. So I guess there’s less chance you’ll be mauled by a rabid elk or something.

Atwood. There’s a Sinclair station. We stopped there on our way home. It looks like its located on the moon. And there was a small café-type restaurant attached. We were there pretty early on a Sunday morning so it wasn’t real busy. Not that anything is busy at any time anywhere on I-76 in eastern Colorado.

So, in conclusion, getting gas before you cross the Nebraska-Colorado stateline is a good idea. Also having a large capacity bladder.

Uptown Funk’s Parental Application

Nothing brings teens and soon to be teens together with their folks better than Mom and Dad liking the same songs they like. This also gives you the chance to introduce your kids to your stuff. Mom, the girls and I have been bonding over this song:

It is impossible not to like that song if you’re a Gen Xer. Might not be your favorite, but you like it. Not as much as a 15 year-old girl, but you still like it. Why do you like it so much?

This is why:

Morris Day and The Freaking Time. This dance ain’t for everybody, just the sexy people… Uptown Funk clearly has drawn some influence from Morris.

Furthermore, somewhere deep down in your childhood, this song has taken up residence:

I got bodyguards, I got two big cars, That definitely ain’t the wack, I got a Lincoln Continental and a sunfoofed Cadillac. You’re welcome. Bruno Mars is awesome and everything, but let’s not forget Sugarhill Gang cause Bruno obviously hasn’t.

I really wanted to add Parliament Funkadelic but I don’t think Bruno Mars really sounds like them. You don’t remember hearing P-Funk. But you did. You were over at the neighbor’s house and their teenager had it going on the record player and without you knowing it, you identified this stuff as cool because you were 8 and a teenager was listening to it. And teenagers could drive. And swear.

Yeah, Merry Christmas. You’re going to be singing this stuff all day.

Christmas is well underway

Every year I lament the tendency of, well, everyone to jam as much stuff into December as possible. For whatever reason, we all feel the need to schedule EVERYTHING for December. Its not like December is longing for more stuff either. It already has NFL football with playoff implications and Christmas. But we have to fit a Christmas lunch in for every single group with which we have even a passing involvement. Every activity in which girls participate has to have a Christmas performance. Every brewery has to sell us a Winter Lager or a Christmas Ale. Granted, that last one really isn’t that upsetting.

Bails recently had her orchestra concert. It is the third and last of our 5th grade Winter Orchestra concerts. This makes us happy. For the first time, the concert wasn’t held in the junior high’s gym, it was held in the high school’s brand new Performing Arts Center. Rumor has it the stage is equipped with a massive hydraulic lift system. Yeah, that’s taxpayer money well spent…

So she’s supposed to be at the Performing Arts Center, or PAC as the cool kids are calling it, between 6 and 6:30. But like I said, this is our third 5th grade Winter Orchestra concert. If the PAC is anything like the gym, then we need to be there at 6:00 if we want a seat. After she eats dinner, I tell her to get ready. She’s dressed and ready at 5:45. Weird. Ready with a few minutes to spare. What happened next should not be a surprise however.

“Bails, get your viola and music stand in the car, we gotta go.”


Quick review of the relevant facts: She’s been home for over an hour and at no time did it even occur to her that she’d need a viola for an orchestra concert. It’s almost 6:00 which is H-Hour if you want seats and it also happens to be the time in which the school locks down. There is an after school program that ends at 6. You ain’t getting into that school after 6:00 unless you have leverage with the janitor. And the janitor isn’t a cool janitor like Carl from The Breakfast Club. Our janitor is the guy who wields the power of the keys over all who need access to the building and her rooms. Like Lando with his limitless power in the Cloud City…wait that’s a bad example, Lando didn’t have power to do anything except cave to the Galactic Empire.

So we have 11 minutes to get to school before it locks. And we have to hope that the music room isn’t locked. Then we also have to hope that we can make it to the high school in time for me to get a seat and save one for Mom who is coming right from work. Since I’m not a community organizer, I don’t like to base strategies on hope.

My truck is pretty cool. It seats five and has a trunk underneath the bed. The trunk also has a drain so it can double as a cooler. I know, right? But one thing it doesn’t have is the cornering abilities of a Corvette. But we have 11 minutes. Depending on your activity, 11 minutes is a good deal of time. For example if you are watching the Steelers in the playoffs and they have the lead with 11 minutes left and you have to depend on the current sieve of defense, 11 minutes may seem like a lifetime. Or if you have 11 minutes left in an Insanity workout, it seems like a really, really long time. When you are racing to school on a residential road with a speed limit of 25, then driving through a parking lot with an unnecessary amount of speed bumps, then hoping the music room is unlocked, then racing up another 25 mph street before guessing what door is the right door to enter at the massive new PAC, 11 minutes really doesn’t seem like a very long time.

Somehow we did it. Not only did we make it to school before 6:00, but music room was unlocked. Only problem was we parked on the wrong side of the high school for the concert. But we found our way through the building and Bails made it to the stage with plenty of time to spare. I began the dreaded seat search.

No parent likes this process. No parent likes to save seats. No parent likes to continually ask if these seats are saved. So I just thought, hey this place is massive, I’ll just go up to a corner near the top and grab a couple seats. Easy enough.

I find two seats in a row near the top right on the aisle. Sweet. I sit down, begin taking off my coat to place on the seat next to me and the woman three empty seats away from springs into action. She had the speed and quickness of an NBA point guard. Within seconds of my arrival, she goes from mom reading a book not really aware of her surroundings to the Darth Freaking Vader of Seat Saving. Out of nowhere, three coats arrive on the three empty seats next to me. Not kidding. It was like she used some kind black magic to conjure up some coats to save the seats. It couldn’t have been more than 5 seconds from the time I sat down to the time I took my jacket off to the save the seat next to me for Mom. I was too slow. This woman was a seat saving savant. Or a huge jerk. Either one. You choose.

Once Mom arrived, I stood. Not too bad. But the place was about 800 degrees. Millions of dollars to build this place and it retains heat like a brick oven. But the concert was only six songs. 5th graders can’t really behave longer than that.

Christmas pic of the day:

I Finally Saw Something Today…

Why do brewing companies make the best Christmas commercials? It’s a legit question. Lots of companies run Christmas themed ads. Toy companies, candy companies, fast food companies. But it’s beer commercials that I remember. Granted, I like beer. And it doesn’t have to be Christmas. But I don’t like coffee. At all. But this ad has always stayed with me.

C’mon man, tough not to get all sappy syrupy sentimental about Peter making it home for Christmas and surprising his family with the smell of Folgers in the morning. Because, seriously, who doesn’t like waking up on a snowy morning to smell of fresh brewed coffee coming from the kitchen? No one. Because coffee smells like morning. So does toast. Gotta have toast. So coffee and toast on a snowy morning in December. Well, donuts too I guess. And probably a raspberry coffee cake. But they don’t quite have the powerful aromas that can travel up a flight a stairs to wake you up. Not too many things do. And some of them aren’t pleasant. But we are talking donuts and coffee cake. So then those things, plus the Folgers and Peter making it home for Christmas – all those things together is what makes this a great Christmas ad.

Then you have this classic:

Everybody getting along, singing, smiling, furnishing things with love and snow white turtle doves while wishing we all could just sit down and have a coke. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray did it. You can do it too. Plus it was the 70’s. And aside from the 25% interest rates, the complete loss of confidence in governmental institutions and Tony Orlando and Dawn, what’s not to like? You had the Steelers and Cowboys duking it out to be the greatest teams of the decade. And I guess the Raiders, Vikings and Dolphins too. And the Rams. Chuck Knox had some good teams. Plus you had Mr. Kotter, Schoolhouse Rock and Delta Tau Chi.

Then there’s this ad. The all-time best Christmas ad in the history of Christmas ads.

It just screams Chronicles of Dad vintage Christmas from back in the day. Beer, overcast snowy day, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, small town decorated with lights, gallivanting about town in your sleigh filled with presents. If your sleigh is a ’77 Oldsmobile and the presents are backpacks and the gallivanting is my Mom dropping my sisters and I off at school. That’s probably beside point. But, and this is a key component of this commercials inherent awesomeness, it always ran during NFL games. Like this one from December of ’78. Steelers 35 Colts 13.

Rocky Bleier-1

If you’re in your 40’s, you remember these ads. Maybe not snowy Steelers games but definitely the ads. And they always help you remember the golden days of yore. When gifts like Stratego or a hand held Mattel Electronics Football game could occupy me for days. Plus I always kinda hope somebody will go out and top these ads every Christmas season. But that’s tough task. Not only do you have to overcome nostalgia and the dreaded double bomb Stratego flag defense strategy but you have beer to deal with.

Now I know 30 million of you beat me to it, but then I finally watched this:

Teared up. I did. If I could do this every Christmas, I would. Good job outta you WestJet. Putting that look on so many folks’ faces is yuletide awesomeness.

Chocolate Butter

December is an awesome month. You get all the Christmas themed episodes of your favorite TV shows. Like this:

You get Christmas music 24-7 on at least one local radio station. Can’t really figure out why the Peanuts theme is a Christmas song though. But I have found it virtually impossible to get keep smirky grin off my face every time The Christmas Song is played. If you’re a nostalgic sentimental sap like me, you can’t help it. Because Nat King Cole nails nostalgia in this song the way Mean Joe used to plant Brian Sipe. Except for the roasted chestnuts. Because nobody actually does that. Nobody. If it’s Christmas time and you’re sitting in front of the fire you either drinking Christmasy beer with nutmeg and cinnamon…mmmm…or your watching NFL football in the snow with playoff implications. Or both. Because nothing beats the awesomeness of sitting in your house with the NFL Sunday Ticket amid all the Christmas lights and decorations in front of a blazing fireplace drinking Christmasy beer while watching fans dressed up like they’re about to spend a week outside in the woods on Cold War-era foot patrols along the Norwegian-Soviet border.

But one of the best things about December is the gift baskets delivered to your office. Today’s basket lasted about as long as Jamie Farr’s career after MASH. Pepperidge Farms cookies (Sugar and Chessman), Hershey’s kisses, summer sausage and gouda cheese, water crackers and cheese spread along smoked almonds. The cookies and almonds have virtually no chance at survival. Like a can of mousse in the 80’s. The kisses disappear at a fairly steady pace. They’re easy to grab and eat without anyone knowing how many you’ve taken. The crackers and cheese spread require some utensils so they last a bit longer…until somebody breaks down and puts a knife on the table.

Now, the summer sausage and gouda are an entirely different story. Nobody wants to be the guy who finally breaks open the sausage. Which I don’t really understand. It’s not like the rest of the office is going to berate you for eating something unhealthy…while they are chomping down cookies and cheese spread. But not together. That would be gross. I assume eating the sausage and gouda represents some kind of snacking escalation from the cookies and kisses. Because it is actually not a snack. It’s a meal. A mid-afternoon meal of meat, salt, fat, sausage casing, and dutch cheese.

But that’s not all. Noooo. Somebody always bakes. And baking means some type of homemade cookie or coffee cake. Today, in addition to the gift basket, we had cookies. Homemade chocolate chip cookies. Although, after a decent of amount sampling, I determined they weren’t really cookies. They were in fact round cut-outs of chocolate flavored butter. Sure there were some extraneous ingredients used to give them a cookie-like appearance. Like sugar and alarmingly high amounts of four. But this was straight up chocolate butter.

Not that any of that is bad…

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving is to Christmas what the Raiders were to the Steelers in the 70’s. Awesome in it’s own right, but still not the best. And that sucks for Thanksgiving. I decided the theme of this year’s Thanksgiving would be pie. I hope you held up your end of the bargain on that. I did. Damn you pumpkin pie and your tasty pilgrimy flavorsome goodness! Pumpkin pie is the Immaculate Reception of Thanksgiving. It’s good every time, it never gets old and people will argue about its rightful place in the lore of the day for eternity.

Anyway, in our school district the kids get the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off instead of Veteran’s Day. You can make your own value judgments regarding that decision. I’m not joining you. The convenience of having the girls with that Wednesday off cannot be overstated. Last week, as has become our tradition, they helped me get out and put up the Christmas decorations. And by helping me, I mean they didn’t help and instead watched TV.

Well that’s not totally true. Kinsey actually did provide some real bona fide assistance as I removed the boxes and bags of Christmas decorations from the storage shelves in the basement. I do a fairly decent job of making sure the decorations are easily accessible but after a year’s worth of storage, stuff builds up. Also we have a lot of them.

But here’s the dirty little secret with Christmas decorations; you can’t start putting them all up until you’ve cleaned and dusted the areas in which they will be displayed for the yuletide enjoyment of all. Which, or course, sucks. Plus you can’t discount the fact that you are purposefully cleaning for the sole reason of getting the aforementioned display areas ready for Christmas decorations and you are doing it in what is clearly marked on all calendars as the day before Thanksgiving. There’s no getting around the fact that its still Thanksgiving season. And listen, if you’ve spent any time on this blog, I have a certain distaste for the early Christmas epidemic that takes over America in November. But I’ve rationalized the “getting a headstart on the Christmas decorations” behavior as most Americans do. Hey, if the President can say Obamacare is working, then I figure we’re all allowed to just do whatever the hell we want.

Regardless of the administration’s hold on their approval rating, I figured since we’re leaving for Mom’s folks house later the same day, unpacking and putting up the outside Christmas lights doesn’t really qualify as cheating on Thanksgiving since we won’t turn on the lights or actually enjoy any of the decorations until after Turkey Day. Yeah, I know, it’s a giant crock of sh..crap. It’s like Big Ten football fans convincing themselves that the additions of Rutgers and Maryland make the conference better at football. Still not okay with Penn State being in that league by the way. I miss Pitt-Penn State on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Thanks for killing tradition ESPN, Nike and Jim Delaney.

Anyway, whilst I’m bringing up the boxes of Christmas stuff I notice a couple things. First, I’m working far harder than I expected. Which in turn could mean a few other things; 1) Stamina is not what it used to be. 2) We have way too many Christmas decorations. 3) I’m old.

ChixmaslionRegardless, after getting everything off the shelves I made a key decision. The tree and ornaments can wait until after Thanksgiving. Kinda have to do that with Mom and the girls anyway. It’s a family activity. You can’t put up the tree and decorate it by yourself if you are married and have three girls living with you. All you can do it prevent the ornaments you don’t like from being placed anywhere of consequence on the tree. My favorite ornament is small replica of the Chicago Art Institute lions with the Christmas wreaths placed on them. Sentimental. One of my first memories of my family moving to Illinois in December of ’77 was driving by those guys and seeing the wreaths. That and the ice bowl against the Giants to clinch a playoff spot for Payton and the boys.

Second thing I noticed during the my decoration retrevials? Instead of helping, Rye is watching Friends. And not just any episodes of Friends. She’s watching the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. And it totally sucked me in. Go to Youtube and watch them right now. This show is more hilarious now than it was when I was watching it in my 20’s and early 30’s. Don’t get me wrong, Ross is still annoyingly sucky. And it is more than a little concerning that Rye seems to identify with Phoebe. But Joey kills me.

“What’s not to like? Custard? Good! Jam? Good! Meat? Gooooood!”

Also sucks for the Millenials that all the Friends copycat shows don’t really approach the hilarity of the original. Also it just sucks to be a Millenial. Granted its not all your fault. You were raised by Boomers. Thanks for bankrupting the country and never learning financial literacy Boomers. But c’mon Millenials, yeah you’re awesome at social media but you’ve been praised for just about everything you’ve ever done and no, you’re not going to be charge after you’ve been here 5 minutes.

But that’s kinda off topic…

Things that happen too early…

Quick aside before I actually write about what I meant to write about…

“Dad, did you put up your flag with 13 stars in a circle for the 13 colonies because its Veterans Day?” says the bespectacled inquisitive 4th grader in my back seat.

“Yes, yes I did.”

Now I get asked lots of questions. Most of which I answer with equal parts sarcasm, movie references and spur-of-the-moment bullsh…malarkey. When the questions come from the girls I try hard to refrain and answer as a parent and adult. Sometimes, rarely, this involves me being so emotionally affected by the question that I’m moved to tears. That was, however, the case with this question. Not only did she know what that the American flag I usually fly outside the house had 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies but she also knew I put the flag up because it was Veteran’s Day. The Revolutionary War and Veteran’s Day in the same question. Now if she does it again on Pearl Harbor Day, I won’t be able to maintain my composure whatsoever. Additionally, she was picked out of her class to go sing to local Veterans. Only 4 kids from each of the 4th grades were picked. She was excited and we were too. She left with the strictest of orders to behave and show the veterans respect and thanks. They sang America the Beautiful and It’s a Grand Old Flag. Still a little surprised the local chapter of the ACLU hasn’t pressured the local teacher’s union into shutting down this little shindig. I mean these kids are not only singing about the awesomeness of America, they are learning about American history from the folks who lived that history. Seems like a perfect target for termination by the radical left since they weren’t singing about Lenin, whales and wealth redistribution.

Anyway, some things happen too early. Lynn Swann’s retirement. Ted Cruz’ ascendancy to the “Guy Nobody Listens Too.” The demise of hair metal. All happened too early.

You know what else is happening too early? Christmas music. Are there any radio stations near your house which have already begun playing Christmas music exclusively? We have one. Started Nov. 1. And it’s not the station that normally goes to the all Christmas format. Which means we now have two stations doing it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the all Christmas format. And I mean that literally. It’s all I listen to between Turkey Day and Christmas. Mom and the girls think its weird. But you know who doesn’t? Santa. That’s who. But even I have to admit that Nov. 1 is too early. The regular Christmas music station will begin next week. And even that seems a bit early. I think the day after Thanksgiving is the appropriate start date. But I realize that won’t happen since many of you continue to cheat on Thanksgiving by putting up your Christmas decorations after Halloween. I’m mainly looking at you malls. But I do have something to confess…

jtpantsDamn you Karen Carpenter and Josh Groban and you too Andy Williams for your sweet magical melodies! I can’t stop myself from listening even though we’re two weeks from Thanksgiving. It’s like musical crack. It’s the gateway drug to Christmas shopping. Holiday music is to Christmas nostalgia what the smell of toast is to mornings, the smell of burning leaves to fall, the smell of Milwaukee’s Best Light to hangovers. I’m powerless, POWERLESS I SAY, to end my own cheating on Thanksgiving. I’m so, so sorry but its really hard to turn off the songs. Its an excuse, I know. I realize its entirely up to me and I need to take ownership of my failings. I’m sorry to you Macy’s Department Store. You made giant balloons cool and allowed Matt Lauer to host something he doesn’t suck at. And I’m sorry to you John Madden. Since the mid-80’s you’ve made Thanksgiving so much more important than Myles Standish, Abraham Lincoln and FDR could have ever hoped. I’m sorry to you Joey Tribbiani. For it was you who made Thanksgiving pants acceptable. Finally, I’m sorry to you mashed potatoes and gravy…and probably pumpkin pie too. When paired with beer, you make Thanksgiving so delicious I shouldn’t stray.

The solution of course is simple. I should just stay away from things that happen too early. Sounds simple. But its not. You know why I know? Because I had a conversation about bongs with Kinsey and Bailey. I rather talk to them about the dominance of the Steel Curtain. Or the why the conventional history of Custer’s Last Stand is probably incorrect. But instead I’m talking to an 11 and 10 year old about bongs. Thanks a lot hippies.

I’m bringing them home from dance class and as we’re merging onto the highway there is a slowdown on the on-ramp. This, of course, is the most annoying thing that can happen on an on-ramp. On-ramps are meant for acceleration not deceleration. But here we are slowing down. On the right side of the ramp, almost exactly where the ramp turns into a merging lane, there are two police cars pulled off to the side. Pulled off far enough that the wheels on the right side of both cars are well into the grass. Both cars have the lights flashing. In between the cars is a red Chevy Lumina that looks like its been on road for many, many years. The trunk is open on the Lumina. Next to the open trunk, on the grass, are four teenagery looking boys. One police officer is behind the boys on a cell phone. The other officer is standing next to the trunk addressing the boys while holding what appears to be a bong. The officer is alternately pointing at the bong and gesturing towards the boys. Three of them have their hands in the pockets and one has his palms facing upward in what all parents recognize as the universal signal for, “Yeah, I don’t know what that is but it is not mine.”

Luckily for me we were driving slow enough that both of the girls were able to take in most of the details from the scene and wanted to know what the police officer was holding.

“He was holding a…well its a…its a thing that people use…um…well its a bong.”

“A what?” they both ask in a giggly sort of way.

“A bong.”

“What is a bong?”

“Well have you guys talked about drugs in guidance yet?”

“No but we had a police officer come in and talk to us about illegal drugs,”says Kinsey.

“What about you Bails?”

“Yeah, we did too…wait are they using that to inhale? Cause inhaling is bad. People do that with drugs. Is a bong for drugs?”

Wait, what the hell just happened there?

Turns out our local law enforcement is doing a fairly detailed job talking to kids about the dangers of drugs. All I had to add was that a bong is generally used to smoke marijuana. I added that if they see one to just stay away from it and whoever is using it. Because everyone near it is an idiot. And in high school and college, idiocy is contagious.

“So are those guys in trouble?” asks Kinsey.

“Damn right they are. Probably going to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”

With amazing speed, Bails answers, “No. You don’t get to do anything in jail. And they make you eat moldy bread. And you have to go the bathroom in front of everybody.”

“Um, right. And nobody wants that! So don’t hang around people who have drugs and bongs.”

And that, my friends, is how a lot of this parenting thing goes…