Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

bummer @ abate

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December 2014

    Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of....MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

   As I write this I’m thinking about going shopping later today for a few particular gifts that I can’t seem to find on the internet. Last year I went out and spent a whole day running around doing Christmas shopping, and it confirmed to me how much I dread it. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving at Christmas! I just hate the bullshit that goes with shopping. I try to get it out of the way before it becomes too much of a pain. In fact throughout the year I usually use the internet for buying most of it, that way it’s all done and delivered to my door well before “Black Friday” even hits.

   It’s just so much easier and relaxed that way (and cheaper). But last year on a day when I had absolutely nothing to do, I decided to go out amongst the masses to see if anything has changed about the way people act during “shopping madness”. And boy was that a mistake!

   Right off the bat, a car full of four women hurriedly slid into a parking space in the local mall parking lot which I was patiently waiting to become vacant. The former occupant of that space had loaded his stuff into his car as I waited, and as he did he even nodded and raised his index finger to assure me that he’d just be a moment. But then as soon as he backed out, these “parking vultures” swooped in out of nowhere and stole it! Giving them a dirty look (which they ignored) I rolled down my window and raised one of MY fingers for them as I shouted sarcastically, “Have a Merry Christmas LADIES!” Then I moved on to find another one asking myself, ‘What the hell am I even doing here? I HATE the mall!!’ Then I remembered that there was something specific here that I wanted to get for a grandkid.

   As I walked inside I recalled when this place was built. It used to be a beautiful and sprawling 18 hole golf course where I caddied for a few summers when I was about thirteen. Though I never got into actually playing golf, it WAS a good way for a young kid to make some money. Then I lost that job when they built this mall.

    Temporarily unemployed, I used to ride my bicycle here and listlessly “hang out” like many kids did. But that was before I actually began buying things other than an occasional Orange Julius. Then as I matured I began to despise the over-priced merchandise, the crazy traffic, and the rude shoppers. I even worked at the mall for a few months as a stock boy in a clothing store when I was sixteen. That’s when I began to notice the rude shoppers.

    But getting back to last year, I was amazed at how early the Christmas shopping season began. I mean, this was in way-early November and I thought I would be one of the few people starting this soon! Most of the shops had their Christmas displays out, and the rest were working on it. I thought that crap didn’t start until after Thanksgiving. Of course Salvation Army Santa Clauses weren’t yet ringing their bells, but a “photo” Santa was sitting on his throne with a kid on his lap who wore shorts and sandals (it was unusually warm, like 70 degrees out.)

   But the weirdest aspect of the whole thing was that although the Christmas stuff was being spread out, it seemed to compete with some of the Halloween stuff that hadn’t even been taken down yet. In one store, two side-by-side displays showed what looked like a rotting, flesh-eating zombie preparing to bite into the ass of poor little Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer as Santa sat on his “photo” throne in the background barking, “HO HO HO!”

    While all this was going on, a real-life little kid sat in his stroller smiling, drooling, and staring at this whole scene with crazy eyes. His mother chatted with a girl friend unaware of the fact that because of what he was watching, that kid is undoubtedly headed towards a life of insanity and will probably end up becoming a serial-killer.

    But aside from all that nonsense, Christmas is still the best time of the year. I think even IF the heavy commercialization, the frantic shoppers, and the pure GREED of the merchandisers tend to ruin some aspects of it, nostalgia alone usually makes it worth what little disappointment we may have. We ALL have some fond memories of Christmas; of our own childhood memories, of our kid’s childhood delights, and of that time when we all were still naive enough to believe that it was a time for peace on Earth and goodwill towards mankind. I prefer to retain some of that naivety no matter how old I become. I just wish I had some little kids around me now so I could have the thrill of watching them enjoy it since my grandkids are all so far away.

    I remember way back in the “B.I.” (Before Internet), the wife and I would HAVE to go out and shop the shops....and it didn’t seem this crazy! People didn’t seem as pushy and impolite to each other. Complete strangers would often smile and offer a “Merry Christmas!” when you passed them on the sidewalks (even if you were a bearded and long-haired biker).

    She and I would drive around every year seeking out and admiring the decorated houses while we sang Christmas carols, often with another couple who were close friends of ours (usually after going out and celebrating at a tavern). Later when my boys were with us, we continued the tradition (sober of course) and made a game of it by pretending we were all judges on a serious mission (I favored the blue lights). I can recall my youngest son Ben being too young to sing anything except, “Jingle Jingle Jingle” no matter what the rest of us were singing. And it sounded great! He was the background sound-effects! Even then the boy had a sense of rhythm. Now as an adult he dances like a madman...with rhythm! LOL!

    And the FOOD!!

    The wife would stash away baking supplies she bought on sale well in advance to prepare for it, then she’d spend days baking cookies, pies and cakes which she often gave away as gifts. She also made this thing that was a cross between a bread and a cake called a “Swedish Tea Ring” that was incredible! And poppy-seed rolls and kolachi (sp?) and all different kinds of fudge! I have a photo of my oldest son Jason at age five with chocolate marshmallow fudge smeared ALL over his seriously panicked face after raiding one of the fudge containers insisting, “It must’ve been Ben!” (Ben was two). I didn’t get too mad because I understood. Hell, I’d come home hungry from work, climb out of my car in the driveway, smell the air, and I’d just wanna eat the HOUSE!

    I remember we’d often try different things for Christmas dinner. One year we made two ducks simply because that sounded so cool. In Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” Tiny Tim’s family ate a Christmas goose, so why not a duck? The recipe told us to stuff them with an apple/raisin combination. But what the book didn’t tell us was that’s only to flavor the meat and to absorb the grease, not to eat. I love stuffing, so I tore into that mess and got sooo sick! Never ate duck again because of the memory.

    I know sometimes it might seem that Christmas is all about money. Sometimes the pressure from what you THINK is expected regarding spending money on your kids and/or spouse, well it shatters your holidays and breaks your heart. I know back when money was tight for me it seemed that way occasionally too (being the sole provider). But if bucks are scarce for you right now, don’t let that ruin Christmas for you and yours. Don’t let the lack of f&%#ing money, and the people who want your money, ruin this wonderful holiday. And for God’s (and your family’s) sake don’t go deep into debt because of it either, no matter how tempted you are.

    Looking back, I think the merriest Christmases were the ones when we had no extra bucks to spare, when me and the boys had to go into the woods for a tree because all our money was spent on what little gifts we could afford.....back when driving around in a rusty old car singing and looking at houses produced memories that are still etched in my mind and treasured by me to this day, while many other, more prosperous Christmases have been long forgotten.

    The saying, “The Good Old Days” is simply a matter of perspective. It’s where you were in life, what you were doing, and who you were with. For many of you, no matter what financial shape you’re in, these ARE the good old days. So enjoy them while you can, be good to each other, and.....

                        Merry Christmas Everybody,

    PS...Troubled about what to give someone? Here’s an idea for a PERFECT no-hassle Christmas present for anyone: Buy a money order (or simply write a personal check), enclose it with a blank ABATE application and an unsealed, stamped envelope addressed to ABATE of Ohio into a Christmas card. They can fill it out and send it in immediately if they’re not members, or when their dues come up if they are.

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