The Lonely Train

Can You Hear It?

Sitting in my leather recliner in the wee small hours of the morning, I hear it. The Lonely Train. Where I live, there are train tracks a few miles to the east and to the west. Because of all the midday traffic noise, most of the time you can’t hear a train passing through town. However, when you’re up before the birds like I usually am, you can clearly hear the whistle blow, and the wheels rolling on the tracks. In the past, this has always been a comforting, small-town kind of sound. One I always loved hearing as I wrote my latest blog post, and enjoyed my morning coffee.

Since I’m one of the few people awake at this hour, I’ve always felt like that sound was just for me. Now, however, hearing that whistle creates a wave of crushing loneliness, that stays with me for the rest of the day. Since losing our beloved hound dog, that lonely feeling in the morning has really started to weigh on me. When Skittles and I used to hear a train whistle, she would raise her head, let out a huge sigh, and then go back to sleep. Now, it’s just me sighing. 

Hearing a train at this hour reminds me of the Hank Williams’ song, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. However, there’s a certain feeling you get when the rest of the world is still fast asleep. It’s lonely, but special at the same time. I guess it’s all in how you look at it. There goes another whistle now. I try to smile, remembering how much we loved and miss our crazy dog. Then I finish up my latest journal entry and start the day. With a sigh.

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E.T. Comes Home

I’ll Be Right Here

Well, it finally happened. My friends Larry, Renate, and I had tossed the idea around many years ago. E.T. and Elliot are finally reunited! As I recall, we had a pretty good plot all worked out. It’s Halloween. Elliot opens the door to find a squashy kid in a ghost costume on his porch. When the ghost asks, “Elliot?” Elliot passes out. The story takes off from there, reuniting many of the original cast members from the Spielberg classic. It seemed like a sure-fire moneymaker to us. However, time went by and nothing happened. It didn’t help that we never sent our blockbuster idea to Steven Spielberg.

However, over the holiday season, Xfinity made our dream come true. Well, at least four minutes and eighteen seconds of it. They put together a short film to be used in their holiday spots. Like Apple’s Share Your Gifts commercial from last year (which was also a short film) this little E.T. movie pulls at your heart-strings. Although, I’m sure many Millennials were wondering who that squashy little alien dude was, and why the father of the family welcomed him into their home. Mom and Dad, please explain this to your kids. Better yet, sit down and watch the original film with them.

I have had a host of problems with Comcast (Xfinity) over the years, both as a customer and in general. I’m not a fan of monopolies, and it seems like they are doing everything within their power, to become the Big Brother of entertainment. Trying to control everything we see and hear. I guess Big Brother didn’t test well with the baby boomer demographic, so they brought back E.T. instead. Putting all of my feelings about Comcast aside, it’s an excellent short film. The scene of E.T. wearing virtual reality goggles is priceless! So, welcome back E.T., we hope to see more of you and Elliot in the future. As E.T., always says, “I’ll be right here.” Major throat lump.

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Lights Out

The Time Has Come

Now that Santa has made his yearly trip down our chimney, and the ball has dropped in Times Square, I turn to the unpleasant task of taking down Christmas. Most of the time, I dread this chore and put it off as long as possible. For some reason, this year it’s a little different. I’m more than ready to pack up everything and store it away ’til next year. Maybe it’s because the New Year is so full of possibilities. It’s like an overlooked present you find behind the tree, waiting to be unwrapped. Or maybe, I’m getting a little tired of watering our tree and ducking every time I go downstairs, so I don’t get clotheslined by low-hanging Christmas lights.

As I detailed in my article, The Christmas Clip, there is nothing more depressing than taking down Christmas. When you realize that the view outside your window isn’t going to change until the grass turns green in April, ugh. Until then, our Michigan world is brown and gray, with just a little sunshine thrown in to give us the strength to make it through another winter. Putting up all that Christmas stuff can be exhausting. However, I do love that it’s the one time of year when most of the houses on our block look brighter and cheerier than usual.

Once summer comes, with green grass, trees full of leaves, and yards full of flowers, the memory of spring wind and rain is washed away. However, during that time, I always like to think back on our tree, lights, and decorations that brightened our Christmas season. So, as you store away Christmas for another year, don’t let it get you down. Do what I do, listen to Bing Crosby crooning I’ll Be Home For Christmas as you pack away all of your decorations. After all, Christmas will be here again before you know it.   

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Merry New Year!

Better Late Than Never

Have you ever noticed that here in the Detroit area, we may not always have a White Christmas, but we ALWAYS have a White New Year? Just like clockwork, it happened again. About two inches of pre-shoveled beauty landed on New Year’s Eve morning. I didn’t think it was going to happen again this year, because we’ve had temperatures in the mid-50s as recently as Boxing Day. After last year’s Polar Vortex and corresponding subzero temperatures, we’ve earned a break. 

Then Mother Nature came through, again. As I have shared in previous articles, I’m a bit of a snow junkie. However, I fully understand the traffic headaches and shoveling backaches the white stuff can bring. Winter in Southeast Michigan is no picnic. Generally, we suffer through months of brown grass and gray skies, hoping for an occasional glimpse of the sun. That said, there’s nothing like a sunny, 25-degree day, with four inches of fresh powder covering the ground. Nothing can lift your spirits after months of gray, like Mr. Sunshine bouncing off of all of that snow.

I know what you’re thinking. Is this guy crazy? I would kill for 50-degree temperatures in December. However, around here, that kind of warm-up is generally accompanied by wind and sideways rain, like we had yesterday. Heavy-duty, city-supplied garbage cans were tossed around like rag dolls. Compared to that mess, I’ll take a sunny day and a blanket of white anytime. Thank you very much.

Regardless of how you feel on the topic of the white stuff, I hope you have a happy, safe, and prosperous new year!  

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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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