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Christmas Old and New

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That was then. This is now.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Christian believer.

Maybe it’s because Don Draper and all the advertising Mad Men crawled inside me and wouldn’t stop ringing Christmas bells and playing the jingle-script of Kris Kringle perfection.

Maybe the Charlie Browns and Grinches and Rudolphs and Ebenezer Scrooges were like multiple-personality Sybil’s speaking at me in an unstoppable constant repeat.

Xmas TV

Yes Virginia, I like the modern tradition of Christmas gift-giving.

I love to spend hours watching others  – one by one – open a beautifully-wrapped present. A personal gift given to a loved and/or admired one is as close to my definition of “Christmas spirit” as the other “meanings” of Christmas.

But in days long gone, I’ve been panic-struck while Christmas shopping. If I was migraine-prone, I would have OD’d on opioids from the tension I layered over me like a searing winter duvet.

I can remember years where I drove the streets of my birth-city like a crazy man, battling snowstorms, madly seeking out some sense of Yuletide perfection that could never be possible. Always dangling but never attainable.

Ho Ho How will I ever send everyone – friends, relatives (large families are wonderful until you count up your two dozen nieces and nephews on December 1st) – to the pinnacle of joy unless I have the perfect gift?

Cheery-fluff snowflakes laughed at my misery as they drifted by my face beneath the streetlights.

Anxiety and anguish were my shopping companions. All to the accompaniment of joy and peace and good tidings shared with a thousand (hmmm… felt like a million) other crowded shoppers.

I was captive to my consumer culture.

That’s one hand. And as my good Fiddler friend Tevye says: “On the other hand…

… this old dog has found a new trick.

My culture, my time, has provided me with the greatest shopper’s gift called … the INTERNET.

BUY, BUY, BUY

Yes, I’m still a captive to the consumer culture. I buy. I buy more than my initial budget tells me to. I still agonize over what my peeps will tear open and beam at with delight.

But the anxious hours I used to spend uneasily traipsing the mobbed aisles of department stores and scented boutiques (I really do love the sweet scent in small boutique shops) are pared down to minutes now that I do my window shopping gazing through the windows of the menagerie of online stores.

Once I find the treasure I’m seeking in the “Internet Mall”, I’ll call or visit my local merchants. If they offer the same or similar item at a similar price (I’m always willing to pay a few dollars more to support the local), we have a sale!

Otherwise, Amazon or Hudson’s Bay or LL Bean or TicketMaster suck in my conspicuous consumption $$.

Either way… it’s… Relaxed … Easy … Anxiety-Free.

I love Christmas morning. It’s the same as every other morning, except it isn’t. Does that make sense?

Christmas awakening is a release of all the merry tautness, all of the mental and physical effort that pours out over a month of anticipation and sugar and alcohol.

Even for us non-believers, there’s a sense of spiritual awareness and warmth and a magical aura that comes with the harmony of hymns and cheerful “Merry Christmas“es. Joy to The World feels more real on Christmas Day.

When I was a child, Merry Christmas was all we had.

Today I can share the pleasures of the many cultures that surround me. There’s no need to toss aside the calling out of Merry Christmas, or Happy Hannukah, or Gung Hay Fat Choy or Happy Kwanzaa. And sure, even Happy Holidays…

We can all participate in the joy of each other’s celebrations.

That’s the gladness I find in this “new” Christmas that I want to share with my friends of all beliefs.

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13 Ways To AVOID Checkout Diarrhea & Vomiting

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General-Store

grocery aisle

Supermarket shopping is kind of routine fun, isn’t it? Sometimes?

Most weeks, like children with baby carriages, we roll our little buggies up and down long concrete-floored aisles, each side of those aisles filled to the gunnels with FOOD.

How things have changed.

One hundred years ago, you’d walk into a shop with a bell above the door that jingled when you entered.

Then, you sidled over to a counter where a man or his wife, that you’ve known your whole life, stood with a neat apron ready to gather the provisions you’d need to eat and live for the next week, or two weeks, or a month.

Once collected together, there were no plastic or paper bags to put it all inside. Perhaps you had a hand-sewn sack you brought with you to carry your sugar and salt and flour.

It’s a scene plucked right from Anne of Green Gables; Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert place their order while Anne fantasizes about puffy-sleeved dresses in the window and Matthew fantasizes on buying a butcher’s knife to hack out his sister Marilla’s tongue to stop her incessant nagging and chatter!

But… I have yet to see a historical film or photo that showed ANY magazines lined up in neat racks beside the counter for the amusement or education of the shopper.

Grocery store mags.jpg

Through today’s eyes, how did we ever survive without this information and hot tips, advice and enlightenment? 8 Ways To Easily Gut A Hog or Pick Your Perfect Corset would have sold faster than buckets of lard or molasses in 1906.

All of this is to say that shopping has changed dramatically and is changing even more at this point in history.

The mags and tabloids play on our insecurities of how we do everything from painting window trim to whether anal-oral sex is A-OK (yeah, it’s not!).

The headlines foment worry and anxiety.

One of the best ways to avoid anxiety and stress – to avoid fears of inferiority or inner terror – I’ve learned in my many many years of shopping, is to avert my eyes totally from the magazine shelves at the checkout cattle chutes.

DANGER & CAUTION warnings should be placed in front of each display where photos of beautifully coiffed stars and starlets, or grotesquely photoshopped pics of Jennifer Aniston or the latest Bachelorette adorn the covers of the glossies along with the BEST information and advice ever offered for incredible sex or amazing beauty or stupendous rock hard pilates abs.

Which all brings me to my point. Sorry to have subjected you to 400 words of nonsense. But thanks for sticking with me this far.

The meat of this post comes now…

Magazine advice

I will share my expertise with you and it won’t cost you a dime.

To save you the bother and distress of exhausting your psychic energy and hard-earned dollars on next week’s grocery run, look away from THOSE headlines and ingest the following simple and succinct (AND free!) advice on trouble avoidance as I offer you …

MY top magazine-style tips:

  1. AVOID STD’s easily don’t get naked with anyone other than yourself. This will also avoid the laughter that accompanies your lover’s first views of you al fresco.. who needs that?
  2. AVOID Childhood Obesitydon’t feed your children. Today’s kids spend far too much time indoors glued to technology. Healthy children will get tons of exercise foraging outdoors for sustenance alongside rats and raccoons.  
  3. AVOID Holiday Weight Gain don’t feed yourself. However, if you insist on pigging out, consume only foods you’ve left at room temperature on the kitchen counter overnight or salads prepared on cutting boards where raw chicken has recently been dissected. 
  4. AVOID Alzheimersdon’t grow old… ever. Participate in fun sports like mountain-climbing, scuba diving, running of the bulls, and skydiving to nudge the avoidance process along.
  5. AVOID saying SH*TKeep your mouth shut. Opening it results in 4-letter profanity of all kinds + obesity, so just keep it closed. If this is too difficult, Home Depot carries staple guns that are invaluable in achieving this objective. Think those words all you want in the wasteland between your ears…
  6. AVOID Airport Security Worry stay home at all times, bombs are everywhere. Want to travel? Watch Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves on your phone or TV.
  7. AVOID Climate Changepurchase BEANO or anti-gas tabs of your choice… it’s not only cows that produce climate changing methane gas. Mens’ clubs are a dying breed for a reason.
  8. AVOID Gun and Knife Deaththe knights of old wore chain-mail… cops and soldiers wear bullet-proof kevlar vests… so what’s wrong with the rest of us? Why don’t grocery stores and Walmart offer fashionable anti-missile wear for the everyday person? Trés chic … DUH!
  9. AVOID ProcrastinationLook down at your shoes. Are you wearing NIKE runners? Good … then JUST DO IT!
  10. AVOID Food Wastestop buying food that is healthy for you but you hate. Have you seen how much green leafy vegetable matter goes into compost piles and landfills? Nobody throws out potato chips or deep fried fish sticks. Simple, eh?
  11. AVOID Unwanted Pregnancy – see Point #1 above… nobody ever got pregnant masturbating…
  12. AVOID Shark Attacksmove inland and stay away from any water source that contains NaCl. FACT: There have been NO recorded deaths from shark bites in ANY freshwater lake in all of human history… moving inland also offers good anti-tsunami protection as a side benefit.
  13. AVOID naming children Angelina, Brad, Jennifer or Britney – these names are the kiss of death and will bring you a lifetime of astounding wealth but also heartache and unrelenting paparazzi attacks far worse than any shark bite.

Brad pitt.jpg

So there.

You now know how to live a satisfying, diarrhea- and vomit-free grocery shopping life.

Of course in today’s shopping world you could easily avoid ALL “checkout distress” by simply ordering your groceries online with delivery to your door.

Truthfully, I’d hate to miss the myriad joys of grocery shopping: the harsh fluorescent lights, the spills in Aisle 7, shopping cart handles saturated with bathroom bacteria and snotty viruses, pumped in Muzak, screaming children and exhausted parents, frigid cold frozen pizza aisles, cart wheels that won’t run straight, and supermarket dents in your car door.

Who would ever really want to avoid THAT?

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K-Tel vs Amazon… and the Winner Is?

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Capitol record club

Those were the days my friend…

OK, dammit I’ll admit it… it really gets under my skin when people talk about the “good old days”.

Good old days… Did you mean those good old days of cruel slavery and gruesome world wars and where women were unable to vote or own property?

Hmmmm… are we talking about the REAL “Good Old Days” or “New Age Trump days”?

Good old days was one of my Dad’s favourite expressions and I often hear it today when I’m in the company of the elder generation (notice how I’m carefully avoiding placing myself in this category… you know… VANITY is my name!)

I’ll know I’ve crossed the Rubicon to advanced Seniordom (SeniorDUMB?) when I believe that ALL things in the world were better when I was younger. Canned peas definitely were NOT a positive feature of my childhood dinners.

C’mon, every day is fresh and new and has the wide-eyed capacity to be a good day, or sometimes bad. Let’s face it, there are days of exhausting trial.

There are so many exceptionally positive things about the world of 2018 compared to, say, the world of 1918 (speaking of world wars).

Under the category of not better but different makes me search through my inner hard drive for some stuff that was popular in my young days and is now defunct, non-visible, like, gone… gone… gone.

I cast back in my memory banks wondering whatever happened to Capital Record Company, or K-Tel, or Book-of-the-Month Club.

In my 1960’s and ’70’s early youth, I loved all of those companies.

What a delight I’d feel, almost like a Christmas morn awakening, when I opened a cardboard mailing package containing a monthly LP record by Three Dog Night (“One is the loneliest number….), or peeling the plastic covering off K-Tel’s 40 Greatest Beach Hits of 1969… or a brand new shiny hardcover edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

three dog night

It felt like the planet had delivered the Science-Fiction model of humanity that Montreal’s Expo 67 promised visitors with its motto, Man and His World.

The Jetson’s maybe wasn’t just a cartoon. Good dog Astro!

Further, whatever happened to daily milk truck delivery or eggs, or potato chip or soda pop or orange juice deliveries, all brought by separate delivery truck?

It was crazy the stuff that could be trundled up my street by some middle-aged family man (or woman, we had an egg lady) in an old delivery truck. We never locked our house so they could deposit their goods inside the door.

These were iconic entities of my youth along with the one-armed Fuller Brush man who’d regularly appear at our door, or the knife-sharpening guy who walked up the road ringing a handbell and dragging a pull cart.

But best of all for us kids, was the Good Humor Truck, more affectionately known as the YUMMY MAN.

Yup, the ice cream truck with its sing-song jingle and its heavy insulated doors that hid the delectable Strawberry Shortcakes and Buried Treasures and Tiger Stripes.

He’d open one of those doors and big wafts of ice-cold clouds poured out while he reached in for our precious jewels of creamy sweetness.

good humor truck.jpg

Over the decades we lost these services as bigger and bigger grocery chains took control over the shopping experience with lower and lower prices and the convenience factor that put most of our daily needs and wants in one spot.

Gone was the need to traipse from the baker to the butcher to the dairy, the megastore had them all.

Truck-to-door delivery service wilted away like autumn frostbitten flowers… but much like clothing fashion that circles back around… the Phoenix has arisen from the ashes and we now have…

… a return to the past with home delivery of millions of products by the likes of Amazon and Best Buy and grocery stores and hundreds of others online.

The good old days we hear about have returned with steroidal gusto…

The crazy busy, the telecommuters and agoraphobics of the world have found a sweet spot where they really never need leave their safe houses.

Want to watch a movie tonight? Easy-peasy, just order from Apple or Netflix. You can lie back in bed, wireless iPad linked in, while the pizza boy delivers your intermission snack right to your comfy bedside.

The world will once again come to you with low prices and free delivery. Eggs and milk and books and music (oh, did someone mention PORN?) are available in a flash and a click.

Soon enough the Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers and Millennials will be looking back in their rearview memory mirrors and reflecting fondly on their good old days just as every generation before has done.

It’s the Circle of Life where everything old becomes new again and the world wakes up from its humble slumber and forges off to work newly dressed in a shiny tech-happy wrapper.

From time to time in my nostalgic moments, I find myself wondering why songwriters and musicians don’t make music of the quality they used to, you know, like in the good old days?

But know what? I’m kidding myself even there. I’ve paused at the edge of the Rubicon, not quite ready to make the crossing.

In my youth there was only one Three Dog Night.

Today, there are dozens, hundreds… thousands of musicians and songwriters as good as or better than Three Dog Night…

Yes, these ARE the good days my friend…

Good-old-days