HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY AND WELCOME TO OUR TOWN

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. If we still lived in Boston, there would be a lot of celebrating going on. Not the parade … they cancelled it this year because of all the snow. But every bar or pub, every fast food joint, would be serving something green. Bagel bakeries would be offering green bagels. Silly green hats would adorn the heads of many people who should know better.

Not around here. Nothing happening here. Nope, not a single thing. It’s just another chilly day in March.

Garry In Cong

Last night, late. We’re watching CSI. It’s late even for us (and we are not “early to bed, early to rise” people) because I’m backing up my photographic library to a new external hard drive. I didn’t expect it to take that long. I also didn’t realize I had 100,000 photographs. Okay, 99,487. Close enough.

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The show is a rerun. Newer ones aren’t great, but some of the original ones from the first seven years are pretty good. Before they swapped out most of the cast. Gary Dourdan was still playing Warrick Brown, a CSI Level 2 who has a gambling addiction.

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I commented that if you have a gambling addiction, Las Vegas might not be your best choice of places to live. I then paused, and said “You know, I think the hardest addiction to deal with is food. You can not drink and that’s a healthy choice. You can not smoke and your body will thank you. You can avoid illegal and most legal drugs too. You’d be in better condition as a result. But food, you gotta eat, so you are going to be confronting the enemy every day, at least two or three times. Up close and personal.”

Benches on the Rumford

Garry started to laugh. “Not if you move here.” By which he meant Our Town.

I laughed too. “You’re right. Eventually, you give up hoping for a good meal and eating becomes something you do because you have to.”

“You can barely find a bar. I mean, how many bars are there in the area? Four? Maybe?”

“Maybe we could advertise Our Town as the cure for sin. Because whatever it is you are addicted to … sex, drugs, food, gambling? Not here. We have churches. Grocery stores.”

“Hairdressers,” I added.

“Fingernail salons,” Garry continued. “We are the cure for evil of all kinds.”

“A little weak on the entertainment front,” I acknowledged.

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I thought about it. No movie theater. No really good restaurants. No casinos, strip clubs. No clubs of any kind. Not even a classy neighborhood bar. We have churches and good, clean, family activities. Beautiful scenery.

You can’t even shop till you drop because there aren’t any stores. It’s not because Walmart drove them away. We don’t have a Walmart. That’s a couple of towns over. Thing is, I don’t think we ever had much in the way of shopping.

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You couldn’t commit adultery without everyone knowing in a nanosecond. I remember when I had lost a lot of weight. Garry and I went out to grab a hamburger. The next day, Garry got the third degree. “Who was that blond we saw you with? Where’s Marilyn?”

Poor Garry trying to explain that was Marilyn. Just thinner. And her hair is white, not blond.

So if you are struggling with gambling, sex or drug addiction, a lethal love of fine dining, or shopping mania? Come on over to Our Town. We don’t have any of that stuff here.

No kidding. We don’t.

HONORING MILLARD FILLMORE

Monday, February 16th was President’s Day. It used to be Lincoln’s Birthday. Yesterday used to be Washington’s Birthday. It was a separate holiday honoring the “father of our country.”

Garry was waxing nostalgic for the good old days. When George and Abe had their own special days. Modern times are egalitarian. Now, we honor all presidents equally. We know this because they all share a single holiday — President’s Day.

“Poor George and Abe,” opined Garry, “They lost their days. Now we honor William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Zachery Taylor …” Then he asked me what Tyler’s first name was. And by any chance, did I know when Martin Van Buren was president.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore – in urgent need of a good haircut

I didn’t remember Tyler’s first name, so I looked him up. Turns out, he was John Tyler. He got to be president when W.H. Harrison died after one month in office because he got pneumonia standing around in the rain on inauguration day. Which is what my mother always warned me about. Not becoming president, but standing around in the cold and rain, catching pneumonia.

When I was a kid, I had this book called 33 Roads To The Whitehouse. Which means there have been 10 presidents since I was a kid. I read the book a bunch of times. Used to know all about each president up to and including Dwight D. Eisenhower. Which was when the book ended.

William Henry Harrison - Noteworthy serving the shortest term as U.S. president

William Henry Harrison – Noteworthy for being the president who served the shortest term as U.S. President

Because of that book, I knew Martin Van Buren followed Andrew Johnson. Who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated. In order, it was Lincoln, Johnson, Van Buren, William Henry Harrison (as opposed to Benjamin Harrison), who died after 30 days in office. John Tyler was Harrison’s VP, which is how he got into office. Got that? There will be a short quiz at the end of the period.

All presidents are the same in the eyes of our government, or at least the part of our government that decides on which holidays we get time off from work. Thus we honor, without discrimination, Washington, Lincoln, Harding, Taylor, and the inimitable Millard Fillmore. Even if they did nothing in office. I know for sure Harrison didn’t do anything in office, except die. He wasn’t in office long enough to do anything else.

If you are curious, Wikipedia has a pretty good article titled “List of Presidents of the United States.” It includes lots of presidential trivia. I love historical trivia. It’s those little twists and turns which change destiny.

Maybe next year I’ll buy a car. That’s what real, red-blooded Americans do on President’s Day. And, as everyone knows, I’m a traditionalist.

HAPPY UNICORN APPRECIATION DAY!

I wouldn’t want everyone to feel I’d failed to note this important post-holiday holiday. Today we appreciate the Unicorns in our life because — (trumpets, drumroll) — it’s Unicorn Appreciation Day.

No, really. It is. All day.

music unicorn

I have a couple more — or I used to — but I’m not sure where they are. Sorry other Unicorns. I am not sure what shelves you are occupying.

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

THIS JUST IN: MISSION COMPLETED!

It’s the day before the day before Christmas. Christmas Eve, Eve, as it were.

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The very last presents are wrapped. All the decorating is done, except for (of course) putting away the paper, putting out the special table decorations. Which I will do today, now that the wrapping is done.

Garry wrapping christmas

Garry only had two boxes to wrap and he insisted he do them himself. I wonder for whom those boxes are intended? Could it be … moi?

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By the end of the day, we will OFFICIALLY be ready for the Jolly Old Elf to visit our home. I’m sorry, Santa, we haven’t had the chimneys cleaned in a dog’s year, so it may be a sooty trip. Maybe you should use the downstairs fireplace.

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I’m afraid the wood stove will get in your way up here. But I’ll leave you some cookies. And a few carrots for the reindeer. Promise!

HARK! THE HAROLD CHRISTMAS RINGS

A SUNNY FLORIDA HOLIDAY, By RICH PASCHALL

It was the Sunday before Christmas and all through the house the only creature that was stirring was Harold, the well-organized man from the Midwest. Harold had retired and moved to the beautiful and somewhat peaceful community on the gulf coast side of Florida. There he carried out his days according to the perfect retirement schedule. Everyday had a purpose, and Harold executed the day as if he was the sole architect of the universe. Sometimes the universe cooperated.

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On this beautiful Sunday morning the Oracle of Organization marched to the front door to collect his newspaper as always. As he stepped out onto the small cement landing he called a porch, Harold discovered that the weather was already warm and delightful. The 7 am temperature already hit the mid 70s. Harold just knew the day would be everything he planned when he reached retirement and moved from a snowbound city to a place where he would never shovel snow again.

He took in the pleasant atmosphere for a moment before seeking the paper. “He missed the porch again,” Harold said to himself referring to the “paper boy,” who was actually a hard-working college student. He then went to the walkway to retrieve the local news and sports.  He did not mind this time as the weather was better than can be expected in late December, even for Florida.

When Harold finished his breakfast, his coffee and his local news, he was preparing himself for a thorough cleaning of the apartment that was already cleaner than anything you have ever seen. It was the Sultan of Sanitation’s normal Sunday routine and even a sunny day with a deep blue sky would not deter Harold from his appointed rounds about the apartment.

As he gathered up his cleaning supplies and retrieved the vacuum from it storage room, the phone began to ring. Harold was quite surprised as few people had his phone number and the device rarely rang. He could not imagine that marketers would disrupt a Sunday with their meaningless calls. “Perhaps it is Bill,” he thought. Bill only called on Mondays to make a joint venture to the supermarket, so the ringing was totally out of character for a Sunday. Reluctantly, Harold went to the phone.

“Hello?” Harold said as if asking a question.

“Hello, Harold, it’s George.”

“George?” Harold said, unsure of the voice at the other end.

“Yes, George. You know, your former colleague.”

With that clarification Harold could place the voice. When he was the chief mechanical engineer at a Midwest manufacturing plant, Harold worked with George. He had even run into him in St. Petersburg when he went to a baseball game. He could not imagine ever hearing from George again.

“Well, George, what can I do for you?” Harold replied in a rather business like way.

“Do for me?  Why, nothing Harold. Martha and I just thought we should call and wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Really?” Harold said rather incredulously.

“Of course,” George said with a laugh. “We just wanted you to know we were thinking about you and want to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“Well, uh, that’s so nice, George. Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Perhaps we will run into you again on our next trip to Florida. Take care, you lucky retired guy.”

“Thanks, I will” and at that George hung up. There had been no phone calls on Harold’s Sunday itinerary but he was glad for this one.

As the week wore on, Harold wished a very Merry Christmas to the few people he encountered. On Monday, he wished his neighbor, Bill, and all the folks working at the supermarket a Merry Christmas.  The same happened Tuesday when he went into town.

On Wednesday, it was Christmas Eve. Harold saw no reason to vary his schedule and at the appointed hour, he headed out to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. He greeted everyone with a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” As usual, the crowd shouted out to Harold, but they were surprised when the normally reserved retiree from the North answered with robust greetings.

To add to the Christmas joy, Harold’s favorite waitress, Tiffany, was on hand to serve up the soup and sandwich special. “Harold, you are in a festive mood,” she told him when she came to take his order. Harold beamed as he had never done before.

When Harold was ready to leave, Tiffany rushed over and gave Harold a big hug. “Merry Christmas, Harold, it is so good to see you in such a joyous spirit.”

Harold did not know how to respond. He was unaccustomed to such a show of affection. He stood there with a rather embarrassed look as he tried to collect himself.

“Thanks,” Harold said sheepishly. “I am glad to be here on Christmas Eve.” At that he waved to the staff and they all shouted holiday greetings in return. Harold marched out of the restaurant and into the warm Christmas Eve afternoon with the biggest smile Harold had in many years.

For Harold, a short phone call from a former colleague just days before Christmas brightened his mood for the entire week and was the best gift he had received in many years.

Evil Squirrel’s Nest Comic #138 — 12/18/14

Marilyn Armstrong:

If this doesn’t perfectly sum up the spirit of Christmas, I’m sure I can’t imagine what does. I’m also including the lovely portrait of Lil which Bill sent to me. It arrived — actually ARRIVED — via U.S. Postal Service. A Christmas miracle?

Lil is beautiful and so is Bill and so is Evil Squirrel, his alter-ego. Walt Kelley is smiling down from somewhere.

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Originally posted on Evil Squirrel's Nest:

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