Christmas Eve Bowling

What’s Your Holiday Tradition?

All families have their holiday traditions. Our family has Christmas Eve Bowling. It all started back in the sixties, when my two brothers, sister, and I were just little bowlers. A few years earlier, Christmas Eve had become the big day around our house. Keeping four hyper kids from doing midnight recon missions on Christmas Eve proved to be too much of a challenge for my Mom and Dad. The solution was to move the main event to Christmas Eve, after dinner. Even with the earlier start time, I can only imagine the pandemonium my parents had to put up with. That’s when they hit on a brilliant idea. Take the kids up to the local bowling alley and leave them there!

And that’s just what they did! I was about eleven years old when Dad took us up to the Fantasy Lanes on the east side of Detroit and left us there one snowy Christmas Eve afternoon. Then he hurried home to help Mom finish the holiday preparations. Being the oldest bowler, I was left in charge of these temporary orphans. I really don’t remember much about that first bowling competition. There’s a good chance that I threw my weight around a little, drunk with my Dad’s gift of Christmas Eve Authority. As we grew older, the tradition eventually faded away.

However, when my oldest son Jeff was three years old, and my brother Steve’s son Bret was two, we decided to start it up again. Since then, this annual bowling event has grown in size to include my other brother and sister, their kids, and their kids’ boyfriends and girlfriends. Since Mom and Dad have passed on to that big bowling alley in the sky, they are surely attending in spirit. Smiling down on us, as we continue the cherished tradition of Christmas Eve Bowling. A few years ago, one of Dad’s trophies was added to the competition. The Jerry Walker Lambert (J Dubbs) Trophy is fought over every year with great relish. Merry Christmas, Mom & Dad! We love you and miss you!

In recognition of the holiday season, this blog is going on hiatus until after the New Year. Please check back on January 3rd for a new posting. To you and yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Coat Wars 2: The Reckoning

Kids vs Coats

Unlike my article Coat Wars, this isn’t about choosing the right coat, but choosing any coat at all. Driving into work one day, I saw a young lady walking down the street. All she had on was a white hoodie. No hat, no gloves, no coat. It was 32 degrees! She didn’t seem bothered by the cold. Honestly, what the heck is the matter with these kids? At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling, “Get off my lawn!”, I really want to know. Have we somehow managed to create a mutant race of genetically superior children who are impervious to cold? If so, this is amazing news! Professor X is going to need a bigger school!

This phenomenon first came to my attention back in the early 2000s. My oldest son had a job at the local AMC Movie Theater. Since he was only fourteen at the time, my wife and I took turns driving him to and from work. My toasty car was pulled up in front of the building while I waited for his shift to end. As the theatergoers came and went, I couldn’t help but notice that many of them under the age of 18 (I’m guessing), weren’t wearing any coats. Normally, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but it was 10 DEGREES! Honestly, what’s wrong with these people? With recent advances in clothing technology, coats have gotten smaller, not bigger. Is it really that much of a burden to wear one?

When we were kids, our moms bundled us up like Randy from A Christmas Story. Between the boots you wore OVER your shoes, hats, scarves, mittens, and parkas, we were ready for anything Mother Nature could dish out. My hair used to be as unruly as Harry Potter’s, and my mom would deal with it by using my dad’s hairbrush and LOTS of water. This would result in any hair that snuck out of my hat icing up. Invariably, my head would thaw out during first period, dripping all over my handwriting homework and drawing the ire of the Nuns at St. Brendan’s. I might not have been the smartest kid in school, but at least I knew enough to wear a coat when it was 10 degrees outside. So the next time you see some kids in hoodies and shorts in January, marvel at the genetic miracles you see before you! I know I will.

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Go Find Christmas!

Don’t Wait Around for Christmas to Find You!

At this time of year, it’s easy to get bogged down in all of the daily planning and preparation of the Christmas Season. You may find that you haven’t taken the time to enjoy the little things the season brings. The Christmas Spirit has to be pursued, it doesn’t just land on you like an errant dropping from a Christmas Goose. Making a donation to your favorite charity, or tossing some loose change in the Salvation Army kettle can go a long way to get you into the Spirit. Visiting old friends and watching classic movies like It’s a Wonderful Life can enhance your Christmas Spirit as well. Personally, listening to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, while taking a walk on a snowing evening does the trick for me.

That said, one of the best ways to get into the Spirit is Christmas Music. However, as I pointed out in my article Beware of the Christmas Police, it’s way too easy to overdose on Christmas songs. If I hear Holly Jolly Christmas ONE MORE TIME! I purposely try to play holiday tunes I haven’t heard in years. I have put together a playlist of songs that meant a lot to me when I was a kid. Nothing will get you into the Spirit faster than hearing a song you loved when you were in the second grade! Singing along with the music will really help get you into the Spirit as well. Really belt it out! Otherwise, it just turns into background noise that becomes way too easy to tune out.

That reminds me of something we did as kids to make some Christmas Shopping money. We took to the streets of our Detroit neighborhood, Christmas Caroling. We would spread our off-key Christmas Spirit from door-to-door. Starting with Deck the Halls followed by The First Noel. If they hadn’t set their dog on us by then, we would finish up with Away in a Manger. Our older audience was initially delighted to hear a Christmas tradition being carried on by a new generation. However, by the time we left, I suspect they were just paying us to go away. In any event, we returned home with our bellies full of Christmas cookies and other treats from some of our nicer victims. Plus, we had earned some cash to spend on Christmas Presents for our parents, brothers, and sisters. What could be better? A White Christmas, perhaps?

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Gotta Go Joes

Let’s Be Careful Out There

In the writing of this blog, I don’t normally get on my soapbox. That said, there is an urgent issue I feel the need to discuss. Tailgating. Not the fun kind. With good food, good friends & good football. I’m talking about the kind where a tap of your brakes can get your rear end smashed in, and possibly send you to the hospital. If you read my article Green Highway Signs, you’ll remember my commute is over 30 miles. As a result, I have been exposed to a large number of these individuals who feel their main goal in life is to ride my bumper until I get out of their way. There doesn’t appear to be a speed that will placate these jerks. Whatever my speedometer reads, I’m not going fast enough.

I call these people Gotta Go Joes. What really irks me is after I change lanes, they’ll often pull up next to me, driving the same speed I was going! They just want me out of the way, I guess. I get it. I don’t like being stuck in the middle lane behind a bunch of cars who seem like they’re actually driving BELOW the speed limit! I do have a personal code when it comes to highway driving. If I am in the left lane, and you come up behind me at a safe distance, I’ll get over at the first opportunity. However, if you have plenty of chances to pass me, but choose to ride my bumper and flash your lights like some demented snowplow, I won’t budge. It’s just a matter of principal. I can hear my wife’s eyes rolling again.

My highway code has led to some humorous results. The ride into work does a natural slowdown in two spots. The Telegraph Curve and the I-275 Interchange. One day, a very irate person didn’t appreciate the fact that I wasn’t breaking the land speed record. Even though there was plenty of room to pass, he rode my bumper, laying on the horn and flashing his lights for a couple of miles. He finally gave up and went around, giving me the middle-finger salute, and changing lanes way to close for comfort. However, I had home field advantage. He didn’t know about the two bottlenecks up ahead. I kept tabs on him as we crawled our way through the first slowdown. When he came to a screeching halt at the second stop, I couldn’t resist laying on my horn and returning his salute as I sped by. Was I proud of myself? No. But you know what they say about karma buddy!

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A Visit to Ralphie’s House

It’s Worth The Trip!

Back in the late 80s, I discovered a great little movie on HBO. It was called A Christmas Story. Using my top of the line Magnavox VCR, I quickly recorded it onto a blank VHS tape. Watching the exploits of Ralphie, Flick, Schwartz, and Randy, became an annual Holiday Tradition at our house. Then, a strange thing happened. Ralphie blew up! TBS started it’s annual 24 Hours of A Christmas Story in 1997, and my little discovery went nationwide. A Christmas Story joined the ranks of movies that had originally flopped at the box office, like It’s A Wonderful Life, but achieved cult status on cable in annual holiday reruns.

The other night, I decided to watch the movie from start to finish, instead of the bits and pieces I usually catch during the annual Christmas marathon. However, this screening had a special meaning for me. In early November, my wife and I made a pilgrimage to Cleveland, to visit the actual House on Cleveland Street. In 2004, Brian Jones, a guy who loves the movie as much as we do, bought the Christmas Story House on eBay. He restored it to its original glory by going through the film frame by frame. Then he opened it up for fans to enjoy. So this airing of the movie inspired me to recall the inside of the house and to make special note of the camera angles for each scene. It definitely turned this screening of the movie into something special.

As you can see from the photo above, the house has been restored to all of its 1950s glory. Guided tours run every hour starting at 10:15 am. You spend about 15 minutes in the house, and 10 minutes or so in the Museum across the street. You could get lost for hours in all of the Ralphie Memorabilia. The only missing items are the Bunny Pajamas and Cowboy Outfit. Both were kept as souvenirs by the movie’s star, Peter Billingsley. However, the Oiled Blue Steel Beauty is on prominent display. Of course, the Gift Shop across the street has everything any serious fan could want. Jars of Ovaltine, Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pins, Bars of Lifebuoy and of course the Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. It is certainly worth the drive, and I highly recommend it. When you get to Ralphie’s House, be sure to check out the Major Award, prominently on display in the front window! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Triple-Dog Dare!

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A Night at the LCA

Checking Out the New Barn!

Last night, my wife and I attended a Detroit Red Wings game at the new Little Caesars Arena. Since the Wings were playing the once-despised Colorado Avalanche, we jumped at the Groupon offer. It was only my second visit to the new arena, and I wanted to compare it with the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (much better legroom at the TMA). Back in September, we had attended a Journey concert there. Since we were still new to the whole LCA experience, I was glad to find nearby, relatively inexpensive parking. Thanks for the tip, Tim Gietzen!

My family’s love of hockey and the Red Wings, in particular, goes back a long way. My sister, Cynthia Lambert, covered the team for The Detroit News during their glory years. Over the past few seasons, the team has fallen on hard times. However, they have shown signs of life lately, and it was going to be an interesting game. Previously, our family has taken our love of the Winged Wheel on the road. We have been to games in Chicago, Toronto, Columbus, and St. Louis. With the exception of one incident in St. Louis, when a woman intentionally poured beer down my wife’s back, we have been free of liquid contamination.

Last night, our evening was almost ruined before it got started. A brain-dead individual, who apparently doesn’t know how to carry a tray of beers, wound up dumping them all over the seats to my left. I felt a little splash on my neck, but thankfully, that was the extent of the collateral damage. My wife handed over all of our napkins and the spillers gave one of the seats a cursory swipe. A girl in their group actually said, “A least we’re not sitting there!” Really? Shortly thereafter, four fans came down the row and were about to get an unpleasant surprise. I warned them that beer had just been spilled all over their seats. Then, the REAL cleanup effort began. Good Lord! Was I ever this inconsiderate? If so, I apologize! In this day and age, common courtesy and good manners have become virtually extinct. On the way home, I thanked God that the bozo hadn’t lost control of the beers a few steps earlier! I also put in a prayer for our Wings!

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