For years I’ve complained about journalists misusing the Grinch metaphor around the holidays. Every evil-doer is a Grinch if the crime involves holiday anything. What they miss is this: to be Grinch-like, you must not just seek to ruin someone’s Christmas, but in the end, discover the holiday’s meaning and find redemption.
A few examples of misplaced Grinchitude:
Grinch steals Christmas from multiple Shreveport families
Grinch steals gifts meant for 3 year-old girl
Sparks Grinch Gets Six Months In Jail
This year I noticed another type of Grinch story, people who are stealing Christmas lights, wreaths and other decorations:
Upstate Grinch Steals Holiday Lights
“Grinch” caught stealing holiday decorations
Grinch swipes $800 in Christmas lights from New Dorp home
Consider this for a second: are people who steal Christmas decorations actually Grinchy? Not if they want to use the stolen decorations to deck their own halls. That is absolutely not Grinch-like.
One encouraging note: this story about a school in Missouri that’s using the Grinch tale to teach kids to be better people. As a bonus, these children will grow up understanding the significance of how the Grinch is not just bad, but good. Yes, it’s unfortunate that they’re making the kids watch Ron Howard’s hideous Grinch movie, but it’s a step in the right direction.
This year’s Christmas tree harvest at Bob’s Trees bent tradition a little. We couldn’t go the day after Thanksgiving, but instead headed out the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Secondly. number two son was not with us, stuck in California with the Marines instead of stuck with us.
Based on those factors, I was leery about our prospects, particularly considering the warm weather we’ve had. Nothing makes the tree cutting more miserable than ankle-deep mud. Was there any way we could beat last years score of 90 on the Christmas Tree Index? It seemed doubtful.
The Index rates the tree cutting experience on a scale of one to 100 based on mood, weather, field conditions, tree quality and transportation. Each of those criteria account for 20 points.
Well, surprise, surprise: this year we hit 100.
It was a relatively warm day and ground conditions were surprisingly firm and dry. We got two beautiful trees and tied them to the roof of my car like a boss. Many factors can subvert the mood score, but there was good cheer all around.
Now, all we have to worry about is ticks jumping out of the tree.
It’s a well-known fact that real Christmas trees are superior to fake Christmas trees, but who am I to judge?
Really, it’s OK to have a plastic tree, just as it’s OK to have a house that looks like the Christmas section at Lowe’s vomited all over your property. No, no — all that stuff obviously goes together. The five different types of lights? The inflatable figures? Those illuminated candy canes? Yes, yes and yes. It’s all good. Why not put some of that shit on the roof, while you’re at it?
Speaking of real trees, this season’s news story du jour is a doozy: watch out for ticks hitching a ride indoors on your fresh-cut Tannenbaum. Yes, they say the warm weather means your tree could be infested with insects.
One story, on WTEN, warns:
If you do find bugs in your tree, don’t spray pesticides on the tree. It’s toxic to breathe in and could cause the tree to catch on fire if it has Christmas lights.
It’s hard not to think about this when I slither under the tree twice a day to water the thing. That would be the ideal opportunity for a tick to launch itself down on me. You may suck my blood, but you won’t sap me of my Christmas spirit. So there.
My office is at the corner of State and Pearl, squarely at the crossroads of downtown Albany. It’s certainly not Manhattan, but the sidewalks bring an interesting blend of people.
On the way out of my building to get a cup of tea, two men, apparently Orthodox Jews, stopped me and asked if I’m Jewish. I said no as I held the door for them, and they cheerfully wished me Happy Hanukkah. “Thank you,” I said. “Happy Hanukkah!”
That may not sound unusual, but I don’t think anyone’s ever wished me Happy Hanukkah. I walked off with a smile because it really made my day for them to share their celebration with me in that small way.
Much is made of how to greet people this time of year and whether it’s OK to say Merry Christmas or whatnot. Look, stop thinking and just go for it. If someone’s offended by your Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Saturnalia or whatever the heck you celebrate, that’s on them.
Now, what did I do with that dreidel?
The whole running thing is not what it used to be. Ten years ago I ran a marathon and today three miles is sometimes a struggle. But you get out there and do it. Why? As the man said when asked why he’s hitting himself with a hammer: because it feels so good when I stop.
Early in the morning when it’s dark, odors are amplified. You can smell the cigarettes people are smoking in their cars. Sometimes their smoking weed, even though it’s 5am.
Skunks, garbage trucks, wood stoves. Wet leaves, cut grass. Sometimes the smell of rain coming. After rain there’s that peculiar odor which I used to think was the smell of worms, but is actually not.
But every year you really know the holidays are here when you smell the Christmas trees. There’s a garden store along my route and every year a tractor-trailer shows up overnight full of evergreens. The store sets the trees up and strings of those bare bulb lights so people can shop at night. Then, for one or two mornings, the area near the store has that smell.
The smell of Christmas.
Ah, Thanksgiving, the most American holiday.
There’s so much to be thankful for this year, that I don’t know where to start. I could only be more thankful if Donald Trump were walking down the street and a safe fell on his head. Anyway, a few holiday observations:
Electric Turkey Fryers
Electric countertop turkey fryers are all the rage this year. No doubt these are considerably safer than the outdoor propane versions, but any time you’re around enough boiling oil to fry a turkey, there may be trouble. Please be careful. It is my sincere wish this Thanksgiving that you don’t burn your damn house down or suffer hideous grease burns.
According a story in the Times Union by food writer Deanna Fox, local strip club Night Moves will offer turkey and exotic dancing on Thanksgiving. Club owner Steven Dick Jr. tells the paper, “We offer a chance to get a nice, hot meal and enjoy the show.” Yes, his name is Steven Dick!
Early Black Friday
Are you one of those people who will be starting your Black Friday shopping early by heading out on Thanksgiving? Well, fu*k you, then. Yes, some stores should be open for part of the day, like supermarkets, but c’mon, do you really need to go shopping at Best Buy on Thanksgiving? If you do shop on Thanksgiving, you’re part of the problem. Give it a rest.
Finally, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if I didn’t share one of my favorite holiday recipes, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since I first urged you to cook this extraordinary side dish that will guarantee you praise and adoration. Remember, don’t ever use canned sweet potatoes. That would be as bad as shopping on Thanksgiving.
The orthodontists where I sent my kids are at it again with their Halloween candy buy back program.
Here’s how it works: patients receive $2 for each pound of candy they bring to the braces factory. As an added incentive, for each pound collected the orthodontists donate $2 to a scholarship fund. That’s nice — they’re putting $4 per pound behind this.
But wait a second, look at this:
Candy will be donated to the Capital Region Food Bank
So let me get this straight: candy is bad for our patients, but it’s OK to give it away at the food bank to kids who are too poor to afford braces.
In defiance of this stupid idea that kids shouldn’t have candy on Halloween, I decided it was time for a gesture: full size candy bars. That’s right, no of “fun size” nonsense at my house this Halloween.
It’s my sincere wish that none of this candy ends up at that orthodontist office — and by the way, if you ask me, there is nothing fun about “fun size” candy bars.
When did Halloween become about teaching children not to eat candy? I’m sorry if it means you have a few extra brackets and bands to fix this week, but save your lessons for another day and let children be children.
If you really want to stop the little darlings from munching on chewy treats and ruining the tooth scaffolding, charge the parents a pile of money to fix the damage. That might work.
An actual conversation while watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:
“God, this is awful. When do they drag Dick Clark on?”
“Dick Clark is dead!”
“Well that will really be something if they bring him out, then.”
No, that’s not a head in my refrigerator, it’s a standing rib roast that’s been in there dry aging for a week. But it does look sorta like a head, doesn’t it?
It’s the main course for our family Christmas celebration on Tuesday 12/30, delayed almost a week because that’s when my son flies in from California. The Marines had important work for him to do that kept him away from us on Xmas.
The result is that the holiday feels like it’s never going to end.
Don’t get me wrong, I freakin’ love Christmas, but I swear to God it’s going to kill me. It seems that ten years ago I was a much more resilient merrymaker, able to eat, drink and party with greater abandon. Now? It takes much longer to recover from holiday indulgences.
But nobody said Christmas would be easy, did they? Consider the Maji, travelling through the desert for the original celebration of Christ’s birth. Their difficult journey — on stinky camels, probably — is thought to have taken six to eight weeks. Next to that, driving to Syracuse is a piece of cake.
So enough of my ungracious Christmas kvetching. Celebrate until it hurts this season and understand that in the pain you will certainly gain.