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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Post-Holiday Hangover Of An Andropausal Male

Warning: At the risk of being labeled Mr. Grinch, I'm about to take a leak on the annual guilt-induced, corporate-shakedown madness known, ironically, as "The Holidays." I waited until after Christ's big Birthday Bash, in hopes I might avoid eternal damnation and hellfire. 

It started when I had to kill time while standing in a long, slow moving checkout line full of glazed faced shoppers. In keeping with the spirit of the Holidays, I decided to kill time instead of the penny pincher who threw a wrench in everyone's day by quibbling over the sale price of several items."Price check on register three, please; another price check on register three." I took a few deep breaths to slow a rising pulse, then tried to amuse myself by perusing the ridiculous headlines on covers of "Hollywood" type magazines—Woody Allen to divorce daughter in order to mary Granddaughter; Tom Cruise critically injured after torrid love scene with ex-wife.

I stumbled across a holiday survey that asked which of the following best represents my Christmas mood: Afterglow, Hungover, Broke, Depressed, Suicidal. Looking around, I couldn't decide. It was more a feeling of hopelessness, as I was sandwiched between a gum-popping, pink-haired, tattooed teenybopper gal, holding a text-a-thon on her smartphone in loo of giving her whiney toddler the attention he so desperately sought, and an angry looking tattooed stud who didn't acknowledge my cheery holiday smile and nod… I'm guessing because I had stared too long at the frightful red and blue inked rattlesnake coming out of his shirt and wrapping around his massive bull neck. Screw 'em. If you don't want people to stare, then don't make a neon billboard out of your body. It was a reality bite... a cultural head-on crash between modesty and "no limits" conventions.

Perhaps the Cranky Geezer mutation in my disadvantaged gene pool has finally manifested its destiny (thank you Grandpa Carder), for it seems the balder I get (thank you Grandpa Carder) the more challenging "Holiday Seasons" become, particularly now, since they seem to commence the day after Halloween. Over my lifetime, the Holidays have slowly evolved from a "fun run" into a track meet, where only the strongest and wealthiest among us come out unscathed.  

It would help if we could break up the monopolistic stranglehold retailers have on the last quarter of the year, put a little breathing room between shopping stresses, culinary messes, and "in-law" invasions. New Years is, by definition, "fixed," so how about further separating Thanksgiving from Christmas… maybe move one or the other to a month in need of an extra day off from work, say March, when Spring Fever and Seasonal Affective Disorders are reaching their peak? 

Why endure the three most traumatic travel holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all crammed together like Final Exams, especially during a season when Old Man Winter and "Murphy" reek havoc on "Domino" airline schedules. Holiday travel is akin to Sudden Death rounds in playoff brackets. Winners get fair weather and happy landings; losers get to spend the night in O'Hare Hell, waiting for someone to reset the toppled "dominos." For the unlucky at love and travel, it usually happens on the way home… when Monday morning's are of the essence and we are the most "gassed" from gluttony, alcoholism, and the strain of making small talk with non-blood relatives.
Not so long ago The Holidays were more relaxed... a time when the spirit of Christmas honored financial realities. For most, meals were hunting-dependent—sparse and plain— Christmas gifts few and simple—handmade or hand-me-down. Gifts were not "measured" nor "counted," rather, they were given and received with sincere appreciation, love, and a mutual understanding. Ah, nothing to bond a family like farm chores, fourteen hour work days, and starvation. But "The times they are a-changin'."

Over the past six decades I've noted how Christmas and other holidays have exploded with competition and excess.  Imagine the outrage today if there was but one gift under the tree, and that it was something dull and non-electronic, like socks. My dear mom grew up during the depression era of the 1930s and had stories of truly hard times, like when her dad walked to the dairy to fetch their weekly quart of milk, which, during dog days of summer, often turned sour before he got home. Grandma found a use for sour milk by making a "buttermilk" pancake supper. 

Other stories mom told were about Christmas's with no gifts under the tree. Once, during a particularly rough time, Mom and her siblings were told to expect nothing for Christmas. But when they awoke they found three gifts wrapped in newsprint under the tree. Mom slowly and carefully unwrapped her gift, drawing out the suspense and pleasure like… well, like anyone would if they had only one gift to open on Christmas morning. At first she thought her gift was a small ball, but as the last peel of paper fell away, she was left holding a shiny orange. Mom described her elation, how she was enraptured by the citrusy smell, the vibrant orange color, and a little sticker that said it had come all the way from Florida. 

It may not have been the biggest Christmas Mom ever had, but it was certainly the most memorable and cherished. She never tired of telling that story, about her Christmas orange. 

Merry Christmas to all the faithful readers of this humble blog. We appreciate every click and comment. 

As 2014 readies itself to fall into the deep abyss of "past," and 2015 prepares takes its place on the walls of our respective "futures," may we remember that our greatest joys and successes in life can only happen in the "present."
Remember, the gift of time is the greatest gift of all. Use it wisely.

Peace out,
Mark and Bobbie


  1. A shiny bright fresh orange beats the hell out of most presents I have seen in my 68 Christmasses. Of course the Calendar that I get each year now of a years worth of grandkid pics beats an orange at my age.

  2. I want to know, was that bird really standing on the sheep's back?

  3. Wise use of my gift of time, reading your blog and seeing the postcards. Somehow the postcards seem unrelated to the words, unless you are ready to be on the road again. Reading the words made me a bit happy that my offspring are not well to do enough to either get spoiled or spoil their kids the way I tried to do and the way that you talk about in your jaded commentary. Retirement has simplified it for me a bit as well, and living 40 miles from town so I don't really "shop". Thanks for a great read, Mark, and I do hope your Imax windows lift your spirit.

  4. Amen to what you said brother! Each year gets worse!

    As usual I love all of the photos, but especially the kitteh!!! Happy Trails to you and Bobbie in the new year!

  5. Those pictures are good enough and geographically-dispersed enough to be your Best Pix of 2014. Are they??

  6. What a lovely trip down memory lane...both visually and historically speaking.

    I couldn't agree with you more about this time of year...and the religious part of it means nothing to me so it's all just forced commercialism in my view. Living with peaceful intentions on a daily basis regardless of the date is a more agreeable lifestyle to me!

    I've loved reading your stories all year long and look forward to enjoying more in the year ahead...I hope you don't get tired of writing the blog! Wishing you and Bobbie a healthy and adventurous year ahead!

  7. Mark, I loved the story about your Mom's orange......reminds me of when my grandchildren ask me about the depression, I have to say "what depression".....we were so poor we didn't even notice it.....but we were happy..

    Your pictures are always heart warming...Thanks


  8. I love your mother's Christmas orange, what a beautiful story. Being one of those that works for Amazon during the pre-holiday season, it is very sad to see that rampant American consumerism is alive and thriving. Perhaps the 10 weeks I work there is not completely using my time wisely, but it does help me use the rest of my year much more wisely than I used to. Happy 2015 to you both.

  9. I agree very much about the tattoos. People must be in desperate need of attention. Really wild thing to me is the prevalence of them! I caught myself a few months ago noticing that a person in front of me had bare--- bare--- skin exposed! I thought, gee, she's an oddball like me, with no tattoos on her arms or legs. Also agree with the commercialism that dominates the holidays. Such a shallow world we live in when some people have so much money they make a game of spending, while others barely make it from one check to the next. If, indeed, there are any checks. It's a bit hard to feel the "joy of the season." Thanks as always for your thoughts and your wonderful photos.

  10. Bravo Mark!....your Mom's remembrances of Christmas was much the same as my parents. Your remembrance of your Christmas' past & present are in line with mine...oh for the simpler times!
    Looking forward to BCB 2015.
    John & Mary

  11. Is that last picture of you in....long pants? Nahhhh, couldn't be.


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