America 2020

Time to Bury the Hatchet

Are you concerned about what’s happening to this country? Do you remember when you could speak your mind without a troll from the Cancel Culture plotting to destroy you? When was the last time you were able to open your mouth, without editing yourself fifteen times before speaking? Our country has turned into a very dangerous, Us vs Them place. That hasn’t ended very well in the past. It’s my belief that the only way we’ll be able to reunite as a country, is to focus on the common beliefs which do unite us. 

As this year, and decade draw to a close, I thought it would be a good time to take a hard look at these issues. Without sounding too conspiracy theory, certain elements of our government and media have done all they can to divide our nation and keep us divided. Why? Because it helps to shape and expand their power over public opinion. It’s no secret these scumbags want us at each other’s throats. Why? It’s good for business. Their business.

By keeping us outraged at each other 24/7, we stop seeing what’s happening right under our noses. We’re being led around like sheep. This has left us in a pre-Orwellian world. One where our children are beginning to side with the state over their own families. How long will it be before mom and dad are sent off to re-education camps like Winston Smith? Reported by their own brainwashed offspring?

When Donald Trump was elected, he rode a wave of resentment that had been building in this country for years. Under the Obama Administration, folks on the Right were routinely told to sit down and shut up. Now, people on the Left are being told the same by a giant Oompa-Loompa with bad hair. His daily tweets toss gasoline on an already burning bonfire of hatred. This has resulted in a level of hysteria not seen in this country since the Civil War.

So what’s it gonna be America? Are we going to continue being manipulated by the media, as well as the Right and the Left? Or, are we going to try to find some common ground with our neighbors, and bury the hatchet? Will 2020 be the year we can finally agree to disagree with our political opponents, or will we keep hoping they get flattened by a city bus?

It’s time to sweep away all of the BS, and finally be able to have some unfiltered conversations with our fellow Americans, without being offended by every word that leaves our mouths. After all, that’s how this country got started, and I’m fairly certain it’s the only way it will be saved. So, what do you think? America 2020! I like it, how about you?

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Boxing Day

Put ’em Up

Have you ever heard of Boxing Day? If so, have you wondered what the heck it is? I know I have. I live in suburban Detroit, which is a stone’s throw from Canada, geographically speaking. For everyone in Canada, as well as the rest of the former British Empire, the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day. To me, it always sounded like a very violent holiday, after celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. If any day should be called Boxing Day, it should be Black Friday.

This side of the Detroit River, the day after Christmas used to be the second biggest shopping day of the year. Second only to Black Friday. These days, that title goes to Cyber Monday. When thinking of a non-violent definition of Boxing Day, “boxing up” all of the Christmas gifts you wanted to return came to mind.

Turns out I was way off both times. In the United Kingdom, Boxing Day is traditionally a day off for the servants. It was the day when the master would give the servants their Christmas Presents or “Boxes”. The staff, in turn, would head home and give their families their Christmas Boxes. Think Downton Abbey and you get it.

However, one definition of Boxing Day is from a M*A*S*H episode. In the UK military, it’s the day when officers and enlisted men trade places to have some fun and build morale. To me, it sounds like just another “blow-off day” at work around the holidays. I wonder what they call the day after Boxing Day? Anyway, for all of my family in The Great White North, as well as any readers in the UK, Happy Boxing Day! And Happy New Year as well!

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Being the Host with the Most

‘Tis the Season

When was the last time you hosted your family’s Christmas dinner? Do you remember all the frantic preparations? While getting ready for the big night, could you see the clock hands spinning like a demented hamster on a wheel? Did you actually hear Jack Bauer whispering in your ear, “There’s No Time!” I remember that feeling from a couple of Christmas Eves ago. It seemed like no matter how much time we had to get the house ready, we weren’t going to make it.

Back in 2017, we had an extremely rare Christmas event. It snowed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And not just flurries, a major dumping on both days. The snow began coming down on Christmas Eve morning during our annual Christmas Eve bowling tournament and didn’t let up all day.

Since Christmas Eve dinner was at our house, I was ecstatic that old man winter had chosen our year for a White Christmas. However, I was so preoccupied with our preparations, I didn’t give any thought to the traffic nightmare that awaited our family, as they fought their way to our house. Although, the additional half hour did give us time to finish getting our house ready for the big night.

This sort of Holiday Tunnel Vision goes both ways. When somebody else is hosting Christmas Eve, I never give it much thought, other than who’s hosting and when we need to be there. Conveniently forgetting about all of the additional work and preparation that goes into pulling off a great night.

This year, my brother John is hosting not only Christmas Eve, but our annual Lambert / St. Croix Party. Where cousins from both sides of our family get together for the annual blowout. It’s a lot of fun, and I always look forward to it each holiday season. Personally, I think he’s crazy for hosting both parties only two days apart. But I guess, in for a penny, in for a pound.

So this Christmas, as you make your way from one family gathering to another, please be sure to thank your host, and ask if there is anything you can do to make their night a little easier. I know I haven’t always done that in the past (if ever), but I plan to make it a personal Christmas Tradition from now on. After all, what goes around comes around, and who couldn’t use a little Christmas Karma at this time of year?

Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you!

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Shrapnel Hill

Let’s Hit It!

When was the last time you went sledding? When did you last feel your face turn into a block of ice, as you rocketed down that hill towards certain death? Or at least a severe bruise? I know, it’s been a while for me too. However, when my boys were young and fearless, every Snow Day we headed to Shrapnel Hill. 

I gave the sledding hill behind Madison Heights City Hall that nickname for a reason. Once you huffed and puffed your way to the top, all you could see were shattered pieces of sleds at the bottom. God only knows what happened to their passengers. It was a pretty terrifying sight. However, after applying the required logic to the situation, you were good to go. You didn’t see any blood on the snow, and there wasn’t an ambulance carting off the latest victim, so you rocketed face-first down that hill.  

The Flexible Flyer of yesteryear has given way to saucer, and multi-rider sleds that have no pretense of steering at all. To be honest, I never understood how to use the crossbar on the Flyer to steer either. Let’s face it, you were a missile with no control whatsoever. That was all part of the thrill! Would you reach the bottom alive, only to do it all over again? Give it a shot and find out! If you reached the base of the hill in one piece, you had to have your head on a swivel. The next daredevil was right behind you.

It’s amazing to me that sledding hills haven’t been outlawed in this litigious, politically correct society. It says a lot about the quest for fun. Plus, the fact that helicopter parents don’t make their babies wear bubble wrap snowsuits while sledding, speaks volumes as well. There must be enough belly-whoppin’ kid left in these adults to allow their offspring to risk life and limb. All for the rush of making it to the bottom of Shrapnel Hill in one piece. Way to go, mom and dad. Well, we made it down alive, let’s go again!  

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The Forgotten Tradition of Christmas Cards

Don’t Let it Slip Away

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to Christmas Cards? Do you remember receiving piles of holiday wishes from family and friends in the days of Christmas past? Have you seen your received pile dwindle year after year? I know I have, and I’m not happy about it. I just finished up our cards and took them up to the post office, for speedy delivery to their Christmas destinations. As I dropped my bundle of cards into the slot it made me wonder, how much longer are people going to be sending out Christmas Cards?

Growing up in Detroit, I remember checking the daily mail for the next batch of seasons greetings. Along with the Christmas catalogs, which threatened to rip the mailbox right off the side of the house. After we received our cards, my Dad would tuck them into the molding on our ceiling. Since we had a coved ceiling, he was able to put up a colorful display that surrounded our living room with holiday wishes. When my wife and I were house-hunting over 25 years ago, the two things that instantly attracted me to our house were the fireplace and coved ceiling in the living room. I have continued the tradition my Dad started all those years ago.  

Since we live in a digital world, it seems like something as old-fashioned as Christmas Cards is on the endangered species list. Kids these days seem to have no interest in picking out just the right cards for their family and friends. I’m sure Hallmark is greatly disturbed by this trend and the alarming dip in their Christmas Card sales. It probably explains why their cable channel starts pushing out those cheesy Christmas movies as early as July and keeps them coming right up until the big day. 

To be honest, I get it. Christmas Cards can be a pain in the butt. Many years ago, I automated as much of the process as possible. Generating printed labels, and using stickers to seal the envelopes, has sped-up the procedure considerably. It used to be a much bigger job, but we don’t send out as many cards as we used to either. However, I have recently added all of our nieces and nephews to our Christmas Card list, and that has pumped up the card total considerably. Hopefully, this will encourage them to send out their own Christmas Cards, thereby preserving a beloved holiday tradition. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for your Christmas Card in my mailbox. Don’t leave me hangin’ like Charlie Brown. 

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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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