The Last Cut


Have you ever had to mow your lawn in a snowstorm? Do you keep a heavy quilt on your lawnmower in late fall? Have you ever had a mix of leaves, grass, and snow in your grass-catcher? If so, you probably live in Pure Michigan.

This November, Mother Nature threw us a huge curveball and dumped 7” of snow on the Metro Detroit area on Veterans Day. I’ve been trying to catch up with my yard work ever since. Normally, our fall weather routine is pretty well-established. Leaves change color from mid-September to early-October, then a screaming rainstorm strips them off the trees by early November. Shortly thereafter, that colorful carpet is collected and bagged up for the garbage man. There’s only one problem with that scenario, this year it never happened.

Instead, the leaves just kept hangin’ on. They finally started to drop in mid-November, only to be buried under half a foot of snow. After all the white stuff melted, the leaves still on the branches had turned brown and hung on even harder. Here we are in December, and some trees still have a full inventory of leaves remaining to drop. Both of my trees out front finally gave up their clingers after a wild windstorm. Once the grass dried up, I was ready to polish off the remaining grass and leaves. Then I could concentrate on getting my Christmas decorating in gear.

When the day came for the last cut, it was a crisp 34 degrees. I had my lawnmower under a quilt, warming it up for a quick start. I have a locust tree in my front yard that deposits millions of teeny-tiny leaves and twigs. They would kill my lawn if not sucked up by my mower. The front yard was done quickly. Before tackling the backyard, I took a quick break for lunch. 

There was snow in the forecast, and as I fired up my mower, a snowflake drifted past my nose. Ruh-roh! I got mowing as fast as I could, all the while listening to Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas. The grass was thick from weeks of rain and snow, so it made for slow going. In addition to all the leaves in the yard, I had to look out for biological hazards. Since we lost our crazy dog, we have been frequently visited by treacherous raccoons. Because they are unable to open our garbage cans, they choose to take their revenge by using our backyard as a litter box. So I have to keep an eye out for their land mines as well. Little bastards!

I finished up the backyard without too much snow in the grass-catcher or coming across any Raccoon IEDs. As I stored away my mower, I smiled. Knowing full well that I wouldn’t have to break out that sucker until mid-April. There’s a certain satisfaction you get once the last cut has been completed and all the leaves and grass have been bagged up and dragged down to the curb. It’s an exhilarating feeling, when you realize that your weekends now belong to you for the next four months. So enjoy it while you can fellow yard warriors. Before you know it, that lawn will need to be cut again. But for now, there’s nothing to do but relax and watch the snow. Enjoy.     

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The HD Generation

Lucky Kids

Have you seen the latest selection of TVs these days? Do you know the difference between 4K and 8K? How about OLED and QLED? The vast selection of today’s video technology is truly staggering. The other day, it occurred to me that there will soon be a whole generation of kids who have never seen SDTV (Standard Definition Television).

These rugrats will never know the joys of cable, or over-the-air television. They will never be asked to act as human antennas, or fine-tune rabbit ears with tin foil. There are now children who will have never known life without cell phones, iPads, laptops, Netflix, Hulu, Xbox, and so on. 

However, baby boomers should feel lucky to live during these times as well. Think about it. We’ve seen astronauts land on the moon, bounce around like happy idiots, and even drive a lunar dune buggy. We’ve also been on the front lines of the computer revolution. We’ve heard data communications go from a screechy 1400 baud modem to the silent fiber optic technology of today.

Not to mention the amount of data that can be stored on a flash drive or the ever-expanding cloud. Boom, mind blown! This is from a guy who used to screw disk packs the size of curling rocks, into disk-drives that held an amazing 288 Mb of data. Like I said, mind blown. 

Kids today have seen technology migrate across all platforms. That’s geek-speak for “You can watch what you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, on whatever you want.” Gone are the days of running home in time to catch Batman on your family’s RCA console monster. We didn’t have no stinkin’ DVRs!

My son moved back home for a year and brought with him his 65” Sony 4K TV. Honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed with the cable picture. It was blotchy and fuzzy. Cable is really lagging behind in the tech wars. Having a 4K TV with cable is like having a Lamborghini you can only drive up and down the driveway. Unless you switch over to a streaming-only service with 4K content, you’ll never see all that pizazz you saw at your local Best Buy.

If you’re in the market for a new TV, my advice is to do your homework. If you have a friend who owns one of these hi-tech beasts, ask to come over and check out the picture on cable, Netflix, Blu-ray, Xbox, and so on. Also, don’t be afraid to pick up last year’s model.

Like that Lamborghini, new TV models come out every year. The difference between this year’s model and last year’s might only be visible to a nerd with a magnifying glass. Last year’s HDTV could save you a whole lotta bucks, and still have an amazing picture. If you’re in the market for a new TV, check out the breakdown of all the current TV types, and see which one is right for you. Good Luck! 

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Have you ever convinced yourself that an upcoming event was one thing, and it turned out to be something entirely different? Have you ever convinced yourself of this so thoroughly, that you were completely flabbergasted when you realize how wrong you were? Last week, I had one of those moments when my wife and I attended a concert at our local community center. I had somehow led myself to believe that we were going to see a Christmas concert being given by active-duty choir members of the Armed Services. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Turns out this particular show was performed by a senior citizens theater group. It was designed to be a salute to the military, along with some Christmas songs from the ’40s and ’50s thrown in as well. The minimum age for this ensemble was 50, but most of these folks were waaaay past that age requirement. This troupe of geriatric entertainers fumbled their way through various song and dance numbers, in addition to what I will generously call comedy. For the most part, these folks couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Although, there were actually a couple of ladies who weren’t half bad.

However, after tackling a yard-full of leaves, all I could think of was the well-earned nap I was missing out on. At intermission, my wife and I debated hitting the road, but we decided to stick it out. This resulted in sitting through Act Two. Thankfully, this included a Christmas sing-a-long. Five carols that were straight out of the red hymn book at church. These songs were guaranteed to make any secular snowflake run for cover. It was nice to hear them being sung by such a large audience. My wife and I joined in as well.

Then the moment came when I suddenly became very self-conscious. To be honest, I had been dozing off during most of the show. However, towards the end, the cast members asked for veterans in the audience to stand up when their service branch was mentioned. When the Marines were called, I immediately thought of my Dad and felt a pang of guilt. I became ashamed of how I was acting. It finally hit me that most of these folks were veterans, and they were actually enjoying the show.

I also felt a little ashamed because of my lack of empathy for the entertainers. I suddenly remembered that performing onstage, in front of a large audience, is one of the most terrifying experiences you can have. Back in the day, I was in a couple of plays in junior high and high school. These productions had me acting in front of a theater full of students, family, and friends. So, I understand the intestinal fortitude it takes to get up there in front of a large crowd.

That said, I wish these elder thespians well in their future performances. I would tell them to break a leg, but at their age, it may be more of a curse than a gesture of good luck. All I know for sure is that I will skip next year’s performance, and take that nap instead.

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Visiting Ol’ St. Nick

Do you remember taking your kids to the mall to see Santa? Hoping in vain that the line didn’t stretch all the way back to Terre Haute? All the screaming, crying and whining, and that was just from the parents? Oh yeah, those were the days.

Recently, I saw a picture of a toddler who had fallen asleep while waiting to see Santa. St. Nick wisely asked the parents not to wake the little guy. He arranged himself on his chair, with the toddler in the crook his elbow, as if they had both fallen asleep while reading The Night Before Christmas. It was a spur of the moment photo, that I’m sure the family will treasure for many Christmases to come. I’m pretty sure Santa will treasure it as well, since the photo went viral, and turned him into an instant celebrity.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about my visits with Kris Kringle when I was little. I vaguely recall hitting up the reindeer driver with a laundry list of expected presents, before turning over his lap to my sister, or one of my brothers. I can’t even remember where we used to visit the big guy. Since Eastland Shopping Center had only been built two years before I was born, I don’t think we would have been to Hudson’s to see the jolly old elf. More than likely, we went to another local department store, such as Federal’s, where my Aunt Aurilee worked. However, I do know we saw St. Nicholas, I have photographic evidence.

Santa has played a prominent role in many movies over the years, but none as great, at least in my opinion, as in A Christmas Story. If you are somehow unfamiliar with this classic, our intrepid hero Ralphie is on a quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun and seeks out Mr. Hohoho’s help in a last-ditch effort to acquire his blue-steel beauty. However, Santa hits him right between the eyes with that famous line, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Ralphie is crushed.

Given the state of the retail industry these days, I’m concerned that many Mall Kringles may be cast out of their work-homes and onto the streets. This will certainly start a turf war with the Bell-ringer Santas, who have already staked out their territory at local shopping centers. This could get ugly. So the next time you’re at your local mall, give Santa a wave from me. Who knows, maybe next year the fat man will be fighting it out on the mean suburban streets. Peace on Earth, indeed.

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