Puppies and Rainbows

You have to know Brian. He’s a man of slender build with years of height near mine, definitely more scalp than hair, a hurried gate accompanied by slightly longer arms than the average human, and – without giving him too much credit – near perfect execution of the “puppies and rainbows” gesture. A gesture, mind you, having its genesis in the midst of what I believed to be a fine proprietor/customer relationship.

See, Brian owns The Capitol Hotel. If you are a frequent reader, you’ll recognize this place. It’s a gateway to my morning silly-zone where I can be a sitter out of sorts with a crew of ne’er-do-wells I call my friends. There’s an old retired guy, another retired guy, a slightly older lady, sometimes a guy my age, an artistan I write about on occasion, … Oh, and a waitress. At times, slithering by I see peripheral pals and palettes passing by as well. I have examined, appraised, and evaluated all … concluding if a week went by without them in front of my bad jokes and goofy morning temperment, life wouldn’t be the same – for any of us.

This past January wasn’t much different. The first week of the new year began as any other. I walked in through the first set of glass doors taking a few steps before knobbing my way past the creaky old door into the main counter area. With huge glass/brass mirrors and dark, beet red booths always there to greet hungry patrons like me, this hotel in the ‘burg is like no other even in 2021. Covid seating restrictions forced my eyes downward to the empty seat poles strewn intermittently across the counter floor. Some booth seats then, and to this day, are tilted up to prevent seating on one side. Masked matrons scurried about taking orders as I strode my way over to the far corner booth to take my place among the sort-of welcoming warmth I saw on the faces of my friends.

Something was different that day, however. Quiet isn’t the norm … and then I figured it out.

They were waiting to see my reaction regarding a story broadcast the previous night. Our local news station ran a small story about something I did New Year’s Eve with my business. What I did isn’t relevant here, however, what I said during the interview is…

Prior to the interview, I agreed to talk with the understanding I could promote this blog site. She agreed. Cameras rolling, we discussed my event New Year’s Eve, then it happened. Now, I don’t really recall saying the words, but upon review later, I did.

She asked me, “Could you tell me about your blog, Doug Hugs?.” “Sure, I write about happy things. You know. Like puppies and rainbows.”, came the reply out of my unprepared, stunningly oblivious orifice.

I got it. If I had a friend entering the hallowed breakfast nook after seeing his blogous facial faux pas the night before, I’d remain silent until he spoke. After all, maybe the word circus had more crazy out-of-context clowns in his tiny mind’s blather bus.

Turns out, I didn’t. That circus left town. It was in-tents for a few seconds, though. Once all the laughter settled and good-natured ribbing calmed into friendly conversation about the entire interview, the morning unscrambled and life went about its normal routine until … until Brian – yes, that same Brian who finds his way into my wallet almost every day – decided to animate the very three words I’ve come to regret ever saying: Puppies and Rainbows.

“Hey, Doug! …”

With two hands dangling in front as puppy paws then extending upward and outward (gracefully, I may say) in a rainbow arc, he changed, forever, my idea of a Richard Simmons/Mikhail Baryshnikov collaboration with Bob Fosse for an adaptation of “Three Words of Regret.”

Why today, over three months later? This gesture migrated beyond The Capitol. Today. In a friendly local bread aisle where others were rising with the sun’s expectations, Brian and I had a moment at his insistence. A puppy and rainbow moment, mind you.

What was once a simple recognition of my slippery mouth muscle inside an isolated hotel, has now become a greeting – in Brian’s brain – outside the hotel café when he sees me. Oh, boy.😏. A reflex of two hands inside another building when he saw me later this morning. A Hollidaysburg happening hopefully no one saw occurring between two fifty-year-olds picking up a few items to sooth an already busy day for both.

This isn’t a secret handshake to enter a treehouse, or a password to get into some secret society. Apparently, now, it’s a dude-thing and I don’t know how to respond except to say, “Whelp, thanks Brian. At least your kind, err, gesture today took my mind off an extremely busy day and gave me some pleasant, kind thoughts as I ran my butt off for twelve hours.”

Next time an interviewer asks me about Doug Hugs, I may just say, “Kangaroos, and yoyos”. Let’s see Brian pull that off!

S’Mores Amore

It took me a few tries. Four to be exact. “Gerbil, hamster, rat, mouse?”, I commented frantically to my good friends who own this precious little being. Their Facebook comment header: “The terror in her eye is for the rapids ahead.” “Guinea pig!”, was the response with an expected exclamation mark as I should have remembered. As well, I needed to reconnect via text for her name. “That one is S’Mores. The yellow one is Nilla.” Ah, Nilla … the second of the two I also forgot they had. So, to summarize here: four attempts at the pet type? Failure. Remembering her name? Failure. Recalling they had not one but TWO? Failure. Oh, boy.

Acknowledging the cuteness of this guinea pig? Success.

I’m not a small pet kind of guy. Maybe you are. Any living creature worthy of one hand palm-holding while eating a ham sandwich out of the other isn’t really a pet in my mind. It’s just me. A book, pack of baseball cards, phone, remote, the inside of a half-eaten bag of caramel popcorn? … Anything keeping that other hand busy at the moment is more valuable to me than something small, inhaling, and furry. I wouldn’t do a thing to harm them, mind you, or be critical of anyone – like my friends – who love them. Just not my thing. I can, however, look at pictures like the one above and say to myself, “Geesh, that’s cute.”

We have to be willing to concede softness in our lives. Make room for pleasurable moments and at the same time accept they aren’t for us, but for others. A kind-of half way, emotional embracing when we can say to ourselves, “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”

The other afternoon, I sat alone in a restaurant and observed the most curious of events. An older man sat near the middle of the small room with whom I can assume was a friend. Next to them, nearby, sat two ladies – younger by a few years in their late 60’s early 70’s. Behind both tables in a booth, a dad and his daughter sat quietly. Neither said a word as each was intently staring at their phone except to occasionally request a refill or condiment. One other booth next to me was occupied by one laborer on a lunch break who decided a b.l.t. with a side of fries and coke satisfied his quick half hour lunch time.

I didn’t expect that small community of eight – including me with hungry eyes full of a juicy burger with dripping swiss cheese and mushrooms, a side of hot fresh-cut fries, and a large glass of cold diet Pepsi – to develop into a connection between that day and a guinea pig. Somehow, it did. The last day in March and the second day in April, 2021. Here we are.

A discussion began at the table where the two men sat. I believe it started over the concern about our area needing to change the way local calls are going to be dialed. There’s a change to a ten digit numbering system from the standard seven digit norm. Change is hard … especially for an older generation. I get that. The one gentleman became a bit agitated at having to remember the slightest change (remembering to dial those extra three same digits before every call). His demeanor and vocal rhythm changed with every attempt at understanding the new system. The ladies at the nearby table gently explained the timing of the phone company’s implementation and the reasoning behind it, but this didn’t matter. He wasn’t disrespectful or rude, just becoming less comfortable. I believe this was the catalyst for what followed.

His attention a bit distracted, he leaned over my way and commented about the dad and daughter sitting over in the booth. “See. That’s what’s wrong with society today. Nobody is talking to each other anymore. Those darn cell phones! Look at that!”, as he clearly, and loudly, directed those words toward them.

I nodded my head in the direction of the dad and daughter, silently eating their fried haddock and burger, as if to say, “It’s ok..”, and put my hand up in a conciliatory manner to avoid any confrontation. Fortunately, they understood the situation and continued on with their screen time. I quietly agreed with the gentleman because this was the best way to ease the tension at the moment.

I’ve been thinking about that exchange for a few days. Why didn’t he take a second, look over at the dad and daughter, and say to himself: “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”? Well, because he’s old and really set in his ways, probably.

I’m fortunate to have the mind, still, to look over there and think: Did they just lose a loved one and can’t talk to each other yet? Is she having a difficult time in school and doesn’t know how to ask her dad for help? Is he a single dad trying to raise his daughter? Did they just need some nice time together? … The possibilities are endless. Yes, these phones are a problem. I get that. I can say, though, looking at those two in the booth a few days ago, it was nice seeing a dad and daughter together. I won’t judge why they weren’t talking. It was fascinating to look over every few minutes, granted, but the why behind the silence is their business. Period.

I will concede that pleasurable time and quiet to them, however, it’s not for me. I like to talk to those in my company at the table. Yes, I DO occasionally text and check my phone when dining with friends and family. These darn cell-mates have become personal prisoners with whom we’ve become very friendly.

As to the cute guinea pig in the kayak? I have S’Mores amore until I forget her name again. She has some rough rapids ahead according to the comment. We do, too. Life isn’t easy.

We can make all this a bit simpler by backing off our pre-conceived ideas about right and wrong, good and bad. Look at others and appreciate their moments – accept their lives, their situations and nothing more. See that? “That’s really nice. Not for me, but I won’t judge. Just not my thing.”

Be silent. Talk up a storm. Own a guinea pig or a large giraffe. Whatever you do, I will acknowledge your cuteness in doing so. Don’t ask me to hold a ham and swiss on rye in my free hand while doing so, however.

The Phantom and the Hinge

It’s hard not to be an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. As a musician, I’m drawn to his music. Also, as one who enjoys a good cook-out and one less “b”, I can enjoy a Weber grill as well.

A connection beween the two may seem a stretch, but give me some latitude here … A lot of space, please. It’s been a long week.

This is Raoul from Phantom of the Opera. One of them, anyway.

I feel so connected to him right now. Unhinged. More on that word association soon. For now, a mask would be warranted. Oh, and it wasn’t a Weber grill, either. Doesn’t really matter, though. The chamber full of propane, I inserted the flaming end of a lighter into said grill and saw half my life flash in front of my eyes in a nano second. The screen in the top of a once calm concession trailer blew out as a loud bang took off facial hair and solar flared all the moisture out of my right eye – at least this is what my optometrist friend said ten minutes later when she graciously stopped by at my blurry insistence.

Look away, I’m hideous. I should be masking my idiocy. Raoul I’m with you, my friend … Artificial tears run down my rosey, now shaven cheek as I think of you. Where is MY mask hiding this scorched half-face of shame?

Yeah, ok. I’m dramatizing the moment. Everything is fine. For a few moments, however, I was worried. My vision was blurry and the smell of burnt hair overtook the usual sausage and hotdog aroma inside my trailer. Blinking sucked. No tears were available for my comfort.

I am now comforted knowing time will give rise to more follicle frolicking. Eyebrows coming back full and robust, a salt-and-pepper semi-beard surrounding a smile, and lashes blinking to awaken a moist eyeball will all befriend me again. Time is the healer of bangs both hairy and gaseous.

I will be extra cautious in the future. Uhm, that’s what I said the last two times, anyway. So, how’s the weather in your town?

Speaking of weather, the Pentecostal winds whacked my concession window cover yesterday. Yes, those higher than average gusts lifted not my spirits, but a heavy, hinged swing roof causing two hydraulic arms to snap off. Hinged? Well, I was able to generate tears from one eyeball, anyway, as the roof slammed itself down against the concession window so elegantly holding a menu sign and my last nerve. No cracks after a quick scan and no patience remained in my already winter season ending, battle-weary skeleton of a body.

Yesterday was my last day at that location. In ten days, I will be relocating to summer spots. An ice cream/shaved ice concessionaire guy will be plopping down where I’ve been these past months. As planned, scheduled maintenance days appear ahead in my book … alas, I will be abandoning those for repairs to my trailer. Back and forth I shall go. Best to forget what I had hoped for and live for what is: fate.

Fate has me paying more money for repairs I didn’t plan on and extra work not scheduled. Fate waited five months for me to flash-freak my face with non-serious, look-back, kinda funny, now, blue flaming frivolity. Fate also gave me a schedule off-site event to cater with my smaller concession cart during a beautiful Saturday in March. A day in which I could not have opened, anyway, with a damaged 20′ trailer and slightly bruised ego.

Tomorrow, that large trailer will be back home for a clean-out before going to the metal shop for repairs. Scott, the proprietor of the fabricating shop, assured me he can fix the damage. I have confidence he can. A spit and polish after replacing the two hydraulic arms with a tweak and pull here and there … I’ll be back in business in no time.

Gosh I hope so. There is redemption at the end for the Phantom. Sure, Christine dies from an accidental gunshot … yada yada … go see the show sometime to appreciate all the twists and turns. Love, intrigue, and … exceptional music as only Andrew Lloyd Webber could write.

I could send him some ideas for his next opus. Perhaps a pianist who reignites his passion for excitement and high energy bursts of gale force winds? “The Unhinging of a Man”?

I do have years of experience in music theory and arranging, one good eye, and one hell of a story to tell so far.

Pipe Down There, Sailor

Clearly, or maybe not so understandably, all of us have better things to do than take an hour out of our beautiful in-tune lives to view – over and over – a two-minute video of an atonal, should-not-have-happened rendition of our national anthem. Orchestrated from time taken out of a wonderful Saturday evening with friends, this is exactly what I did last night. Cellos, BB Shop Quartets, Guitars, Banjos, Pianos, … all instrumental in making my twilight musically marvelous. Kinda.

Sailor Sabol. CPAC 2021.

I wasn’t aware of this video until a high school friend mentioned a casual viewing after a meal from the local Chinese restaurant. I, along with his sister and mother, sat around a small, intimate living room laughing our collective, musically educated asses off as every quasi-crochet not so shyly dropped from the audio air waves. Hitting all of us with rocks – larger than the sofas we barely sat on from laughing so hard – would have been less painful. By some estimations, any school janitor’s dangling jingles hanging from a loosely belted pair of pants would hold less keys than Sailor went through while singing. With one exception from a vocal coach on YouTube who went on a mi-fi-la apologetics tour, all other videos were brilliantly accompanying her … and we watched a boat load of them.

As we wept our way through happy, un-regrettable tears, my individual mind wandered a bit. For a minute or two, I looked over at a friend I had not seen in years. A guy not much in my life as a teenager, but in a class of hundreds who – like all of us – graduated and went on to live life. We talked briefly before diving into the eye-rolling, ear-wrenching oh-say can you ever unhear version thrust upon us. His family, … his experiences, and everything he brought to the shrimp, noodles, and chicken resting momentarily on a table last night were so refreshing for a guy like me. I listened more than talked. Never have guitars, wars, bands, gyms, and family matters outside my own crazies been so interesting lately. Nice guy.

So nice to have the musical bond with him, too. It made watching Sailor’s shipwreck even more gratifying. To view a disaster like this with friends of equal caliber, respect, and admiration … one can relax and enjoy the waves of emotion without judgement. After years of not knowing I needed this hour, the friend-ship I was on cruised along quite pleasingly. Yes, ultimately at Sailor’s expense, but she capped the evening off and I’m ever so grateful.

Driving home, I took a few minutes to erase those awful notes. I tried to find the normal ones. The pitch-blackness outside retained more hope than what was inside my head. Ten minutes. With no expectation of national pride emoting vocally, I gave up. Finally, the phrase, “Pipe down there, Sailor” came rushing into port. PLEASE stop singing in my head! Ultimately, a request for silence. I needed to purge the two-minute video from my memory. Get that video below deck … retire for the night … dismiss the memory.

Until, of course, I walked into my home … and returned, once again, to view three more of the same.

Because I’m addicted to vocal disasters. Same old, Sabol. I’ll never change. Neither will you. It was so bad, you’ll need to see it. As a matter of fact, I’ll make it easy for you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vga0M4ia5Mc

Pick up a kazoo, theremin, or chapman stick and play along. You, too, can be a YouTube star by accompanying this wonderful version of pick-a-key and play along with Sailor.

I’m positive CPAC and all associated with the organization had no intention of this getting out of tune. That said, when a political operation doesn’t vet the, err, talent before shoving it on stage … that’s on them. She’s probably a nice girl. I imagine the fall-out from this hasn’t been kind. Someone, somewhere, told her she could do this … and encouraged it. A connection to the Republican, conservative group, perhaps?

Whatever the cause or reason, I’m glad it happened. So glad … because I laughed heartily. Overwhelming merriment. Joyous Joy with slappy tears.

Deeply felt chuckles. Understandably so, at this moment in my life.

Breaker, One Two

They’re called step-twos … and, no, I’m not a dancer. You don’t want to see me swash a chasse, shall we say, across the boards any time soon – if at all. I can smooth the 88 keys on a moment’s notice and gracefully step off a curb, but to stride an Astaire memory or click an amazing Hine’s tap? Nah … not even close.

Dancing my way through life with other skills than, … well, … dancing are my commodities. My sellable contributions to society. All of us need to know what we’re good at … and what we’re not for the sake of all that’s sane in our heads. To attempt small household repairs such as I tried this evening, one must know, truly know, his place in life and recognize the historical pattern BEFORE attempting such a simple task.

Enter these step-twos as I’ve named them.

I must have a gnome. An invisible little pain in the ass who interjects delicious little detours into every industrious home improvement project I attempt. He shows up every time. Every. Single. Time. Look, I’m no do-it-yourself pro sitting here claiming the ability to challenge even the most amateur wood and screw guy to a nail gun duel. In my circle of friends, there are plenty of electricians, wood dudes, roofers, lawn ladies and gents, … all of whom couldn’t play Chopin or Scriabin, but would know far more than I about a two-cycle engine or metric vs standard tools.

Still, with that, I do know some basics … like how to turn a screw. Seems a bit simplistic, right? Step one.

My day started swimmingly. Other than a major snowstorm, lunch with dad was pleasant. Delicious pot roast at the local chain restaurant surprised my appetite as a breakfast cancellation earlier unexpectedly appeared. A few small banking issues and run-arounds aside, the day shoveled up nicely. Light winter snow moved easily as did my attitude throughout the hours.

At 4:08 p.m., a suggestion came across and into my right ear. “Do you think we could go to the store and get a replacement for the breaker that’s defective?”. As the driver picking her up from work a few days a week, it’s necessary that I listen. With the radio down in volume and attitude up in attention, I reluctantly agreed … knowing I have the evening free and quite confident the simple act of replacing a broken tandem breaker is very … very, uhm, simple. Step one.

I’m relaxed, yet very absent-minded at that moment. During the three minutes drive home, “Remove the cover plate, snap out the old breaker, loosen the two screws, pull out two wires … and place an old breaker into my happy pocket”, casually organized its grammatically graceful self in my brain. All set. Step one.

Ah, but step-two – the forgotten bastard child of my plans and the future success of any home repair project – had yet to appear. The gnome. I should have gnome it was coming.

Aaaaand … there it was. Twenty minutes into trying to remove the breaker, I couldn’t. The lady of the house, from the stairs above, spoke words I always like to hear: “Just let it go. It’s not working. Maybe if I try. Can I hold a flashlight?” It’s not her fault at all … except, maybe, I hadn’t planned on doing this project at all … today. Sure, it’s been six months. Sure, the breaker may not even be the problem with the dining room lights. Sure I’m no Tesla or Edison here, but … I’m a husband and need to try. The damn breaker wasn’t coming out, so I called my friend – an electrician … on my cell … that doesn’t work in the basement.

Are you starting to see the pattern here?

He stops by an hour later, being the kind person he is, of course. I’m a bit miffed at this point since supper is on hold, already in step-two attitude mode (marginally inconsolable), and considering a séance at that point. With an expected bad breaker in hand, I head off to Home Depot for a replacement … in the snow which, by the way, doesn’t seem nearly as friendly as it was only three hours prior. John, my friend, headed home after a long day. Can’t say I blame him. I was nearly an overloaded circuit of emotional distress.

Mindfully aware my electrician friend knows I’m not fully charged as a certified replacement tech, he made sure I had the original in hand. I did, showing the same to Mr. Electric at Home Depot. Save a small difference in the clip on the back, he assured me the twin I eventually scanned at the self-checkout would compel me, once again, to enjoy a fine, fine winter’s evening. He freakin’ assured me! … Again, I know what I’m good at … and not good at. Picking out tandem breakers is NOT my thing. I need Mr. Electrical Expert to help me. Side-by-side, the two lined up. That was my single, one and only metric guiding me to breaker box bliss.

Back home, supper at the ready two hours late, I sat on the sofa. Only fifteen minutes prior, off to my concession trailer I had to run in order to get my proper screwdriver. Why would I have a regular tool like that here at the house? Damn gnome took it … I guarantee it! Shrimp and spaghetti was delicious, btw.

Down to the basement I went, belly full this time hoping it would curb my, otherwise, crappy attitude. Step-twos are really unpleasant for a guy like me when looking into an open breaker box with one open slot, a new breaker that would’t snap in because the back hicky-clasp-doodle is different than the old one, I wasn’t able to get one of the wires to stay locked into its hole, and all of this had to be done in relative darkness due to the overhead light being directly behind me … casting a big head shadow over the whole project.

With one final heave-tightening, I got the two wires tightened. With that, as of this moment … one of those three goals have been achieved; however, there’s no cover and the breaker isn’t in place. I’m done. So. Done.

Here’s the kicker – and why step-twos need to chasse of the curb that is my life and get hit by a bus. The very fan-lights that didn’t work … the non-breezy, non-lit part of my life that caused this day of mine to go into a tailspin …

They still don’t work.

Welcome to the breaker hell that could be step-three. Please, Gnome more.

I Berned My Toast

Yes … a bandwagon stopped by my house at 3:05 this morning and I jumped on it:

Did I want to? Absolutely! However, I wanted to be above the fray … not just plop the Bern into a movie scene or local watering hole. I thought through long and difficult evening hours. What to do …. what to do? Then by-crumb, it hit me!

The result? Above.

I’m not a photoshop professional. At 3 a.m. with little sleep the night before, my already lackluster editing skills at the lower end of any elementary entry point were being challenged … but I DID IT. After 4 tries of convoluted, contorted belt Sanders rough drafts, I did it!! The fifth edition was a success. Yeah me!🤪

I considered other options. Winding through mental mazes of what-if I do this and that? Upon every stumbled idea, there was another meme appearing before me on my Facebook page. One after another. Bernie on a bench with Gump, with Sharon Stone’s legs, on Sheldon’s sofa, captaining the Enterprise, molding clay with Demi, on.. and on he lived to this day as no other multi-presidential candidate runner-up has ever lived. Good for you, Bernie, good for you!

We need this in America right now. We need the levity. Boy do we need the soft, mended mittens to comfort us. Good for you!

Glad to see happy once again take over the internet and begin to scrape off the dry, burned scars from all the scorched attitudes we have left over from bread left in our overheated political toasters. Cooling off, calming down … a respite from a rough few weeks, anyway.

We are doing ok. A toast!🥂 …. and my slice of life in the form of toast as well to all of you … Berned, of course, because … well, I had to.

Mother Hubbard is Crackers

This morning’s breakfast fare started with two Full Circle Market Organic Classic Round crackers … and, as of this point in time, ended there. I’m out of options with my favorite hotel cafe closed on Saturdays and Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards open, but as the poem goes, “the poor Doug has none”.

Anticipating no baker, fruiterer, alehouse, or undertaker in my future … no tailer, cobbler, sempstress, or hosier, the remaining three hours of my day before opening my business look to be quite cravingly mad. Throw me a bone here, please. I’ll take anything.

Sarah Catherine Martin, to whom that poem is attributed, could walk through my office doors at this moment. Unless she’s carrying a tray full of bacon, rye toast, … a chocolate Clif bar, two over-easy eggs, and two glasses of iced tea, I’m not interested in what a two-hundred and fifty-two year old woman has to say. Granted, it’d be nothing short of a Guinness World Record miracle to have such a bicentennial-plus moment here in my humble hovel, however, I need food in my groveling belly.

I’ll survive. As they say, “such a first world problem”. A small trip down the road to one of many grocery stores – full to the ceiling with food – would work all this out. My beat up Honda doesn’t have to disengage as I have the option to casually drift through a drive-thru as well. Both of these choices, unfortunately, require I step out. Step out of very comfortable material surroundings such as the cotton garments keeping my apologetically happy appendages warm at the moment. Twenty-five degrees with a slight breeze outside. Yes, I’m not one to step out into that weather at the moment.

There was a time when cold and hunger didn’t matter. Youth and inexperience colored in the pictures – between the lines drawn by warmth and the need for nutrition. Days without a nugget or morsel tapping around in my belly were common. By choice, mind you, I pushed forward motivated by the words of Zig Ziglar and Earl Nightingale. These men didn’t advocate starvation as a means to an end, of course. I was busy making sales calls, talking to prospects, enjoying my work … that’s all. Youthful exuberance shuffling along with a fantastic company environment. Ah, the late-twenties and mid-thirties in our lives, right?

Enter Old Mother Hubbard in the winter of 2021. Bifocal nose-sliding syndrome is upon me as we speak, the back tweak has returned after a two day respite, my arms are sore after yesterday’s 7-hour work day, and quite honestly, I’ve had just about enough of this year already … with 357 days to go. I’ve gained three pounds since January 1st and since unfollowed a lot of folks on Facebook. Engaging, enlightening political conversations with friends and family aren’t happening anymore and eggshells are strewn everywhere I trod. Looking down at the slight pudge below, my core may be labeled certifiably, organically classic round … just like the box says. “Perfect for Entertaining”?, well … don’t know about that.

The local and national world I live in is crackers. I’m just one of many varieties. Organic classic round as it turn out to be. Tomorrow? Who knows. Would love to be Ritz. Hey!! Speaking of that, I bought a Mega-Millions ticket last night. Better go check the numbers. Odds are pretty good I didn’t win and will be sitting here tomorrow, again, in my cotton clothes wondering if Sarah Catherine Martin ever considered a career in food service. She’d make a great cracker salesperson.

Froliday

Love or hate. Toss portmanteaus aside into mental bins where other words you don’t use reside; or, embrace them everywhere you see such words as brunch and spork. Two separate becoming one new. A concept once reserved for marital bliss also now used for stabbing peas and scooping mashed potatoes. Marvelous.

My portmanteau for this season is froliday. The urban dictionary defines it as a merging of friendship and holiday. That is, a recurring, significant date between friends. I don’t agree. Especially now, the day after January 1st – a Friday – when this particular 24 hour span seems like a Sunday, but is a Saturday. The same weirdo Serling event happened last week as the Christmas holiday fell on Friday, the 25th. These Friday holidays mess everything up. Chief among them, my weak-end mind.

These every-so-often Frolidays are not right. Frankly, of all the laws Washington should consider, I’d be in favor of them passing a “No Holidays on Friday” bill. I’m not twisting a Scrooge-screw here or waving a white flag, … just move the days July forth or back to another day so I can get my Saturdays straight in my head. Certainly you can get behind me here?

C’mon now. As sure as I type, didn’t you once think, “What day is it?” today? Maybe said it out loud into the mirror as you shaved Christmas and New Year’s stubble off your face, or ran ruby red lipstick around once cookie ravaged lips? Holidays, in general, mess us up. Gets us all off our routines, anyway. Hygiene, diets, school, work, … all of it off the rails – and THEN we have to smoosh in remembering a day-after Saturday?

Too much, I say. Weekday holiday, then another weekday after? Yep. Good to go. This three-syllable, gobsmack day after, twice happening letdown that happens roughly twelve percent of the time has to be removed … permanently. How and by what means other than an act of Congress, I’m not sure.

Very few things I’m sure of lately, that’s for sure. How about you? Two days into a new year and to quote one of my favorite comedians “You’re doin’ good!”. Tom Papa nails it. We’re hanging in there with what we’re dragging into this new year. Nothing really changed except the date. If we have a few extra pounds flipping us out, they’re still here. Goofy co-workers sit close by, possibly virtual, and can be just as annoying as they were only days ago. Looking back to the 2020 work-a-day world a few breaths back, I see nothing different today, really.

Not to say we can’t have hope, however. We are doing good if we have hope in what this year will bring. Not false hope. Going back to the moon or becoming a movie star does not a bucket list make. Hope that a hug from someone you love will finally arrive at your doorstep. Hope for a better job you’ve been working hard to get. Hope for small, measurable upticks in your healthy lifestyle so well deserved from early morning jogs and disciplined eating. These are doable, wonderful hope-for soul stuffers.

It’s all what we work and hope for that makes all the difference. If we remember we’re doin’ good – new year or not – we’ll be just fine.

I hope to never again have a Froliday (as I believe it to be) in my life, yet I know this will never be a reality. I must begin to agree with the times and seek out a friend with whom I can have a significant, urban, holiday date. Whoever this happens to be, I hope said individual understands if our anniversary falls on a Friday, I will be understandably absent from the celebration. Saturday following is iffy as well due to my believing it is a Sunday. It’s all messed up, you see.

So glad I have a portmanteau to keep it all straight. Or, do I?

Snow. Beautiful Snow.

As the plow pushes the last of it down our street, it’d be irresponsible of me to not write a few words concerning this first snow event of the season. Here they are: “Beautiful, … and I’m over it already.” Adult words from a guy living seven days away from Christmas. Yes, I’m conveying curmudgeonly displeasure with pride in view of the fact that I’m no longer able to sled without ending up in traction, bend over to strap on skates, or simply walk with confidence outside without the fear of landing on my ass. Just because I can’t see little ice pebbles underfoot due to bifocals sliding off my nose should be reason enough for me to put all this p’erty fluffy stuff to bed. Don’t judge me.

Kids sure need to enjoy these fun flakes. (I’ll stick to mine that wiggle in and around the grapes in my cereal bowl). After being locked up in virtual learning, these young full-of-energy and nimble children have to burn off the energy somehow. They’ll enjoy it by spreading out snow angels and diving into piles of already heaped banks put into place by adult in their lives. Adults who, mind you, most likely had the same attitude I have at this moment as they muttered under their breath, “Doug is so right!”

As adults, we’ve seen this so many times. Three, or more, days of “it’s coming…” from every news source followed up by the pre-event trucks roaming up and down main highways throwing down that de-icer salt mix (if you’re lucky). Warnings not to go out unless necessary … (soooo old news in 2020, right?), and, yes, the predictable toilet paper, milk, and bread grocery store wipe-out run. School cancellations are mute now as a consequence of the pandemical quagmire, so kids have been robbed of the wake-up knock from dad saying, “Sleep in, no school today!”. That’s been replaced with, “Hey get your butt out of bed. I need you to help me figure out this new math we’re suppose to work on today.”

With all that, I’m so over this. Three shovel events within the day – two involving digging out automobiles – is enough for me. Look, I know so many have it far worse than I. My perspective is skewed in my favor, undeniably. Yes, the events of the day I experienced.

This writer’s elderly dad was pushing a snow blower up a slanted driveway yesterday. Purposefully written in a way to convey how uncomfortable it was for me to see him steadily shuffle his way around puffs of snow coming from a machine twice his size. This, after I couldn’t reach him by phone. Evidently, he was outside doing the very guy thing he’s been doing his whole adult life. Son and dad finished up a few little corners with the two shovels on hand (I got the beat up, short handled old one of course), we chatted a few words, … I left knowing he was o.k. and he wouldn’t be available for a drive-thru distanced lunch – the primary reason for an unsuccessful earlier call. Empty snow-day box checked. (As an aside here, the driveway would have been cleared … ahem … by me had it not been done; However, there was not a snowball’s chance of that if you know any dad out there like my dad …)

Some folks around here summer-drive in the winter. Slush, black ice, wind, snow? … Not a problem. A slice of our population owning sleds with four tires that are connected to a gadget in their car labeled “4×4” feel they have permission to pass at, or above, the recommended speed limit of 20+ miles over the posted number. Apparently, they believe that little chapter in the driver’s exam book explaining safe driving in the winter applies only to Pintos, paneled station wagons, rusted out Hondas, and Prii capable of only going 35 m.p.h. at best even with a hefty tailwind. I spend road time yesterday brushing off equal amounts of bad attitude, cuss words, and snow off my windshield than I care to admit. Once in the drive-thru lane at Arby’s, without my dad, making me hungry enough to swerve out of that lane, drive a mile down the road to Burger King’s drive-thru for a delicious Whopper, fries, and Coke-Zero…

Only to arrive back home – and shovel again. The postman, who I admire, needed a proper clean sidewalk, after all, and the remaining part of the driveway I didn’t clear earlier had to be done. Once that was finished, and my Whopper gobbled up, off to my concession trailer to check on things. This was the first day in a while no smiling customers were available to see in front of my window. As I stood inside yesterday, it was pleasantly calm. Not having to rush around during a time when I’d usually be three-handing orders, grills, and prep tables was unsurprisingly peaceful. I knew it would be. The waterlines didn’t freeze and the electric still pushed it’s way through the lines. The snow, ah, snow. Yes, I’m so over it … My good friend and customer, Jim, bladed the lot wonderfully that night. With that written, our city came by and plowed the whole lot closed. We know how this goes, right? The end-of-the-driveway plow in! … x8! With kindness and grace, Jim came back through later last night and did a snowy-spectacular job opening up my lot again!

One final snow day job left. Everything to this point was Honda-driven. My taller-than-I van still sat idle in the driveway under all the fresh-fallen snow. Broom and ice-scraper in hand, with darkness upon me, I went at it. Snow fell from above … down into my open cuffs and across un-gloved hands, into a loose hoodie, on top of sneakers that are sooo comfortable. I banged and twisted the wipers until they capitulated. Door handles and windows had no choice but to consent. After all this, one more final step: the blow drive. With just a few inches of unreachable blocks of Frosty’s torso on the roof, I had a few items to get at the store anyway, so …

See, in as much as I am somewhat aware of my, err, intellect, I can be so stubborn and kinda impulsive. The whole day was getting to me and I wanted it over. Walking around the van to get in – anticipating my drive to the store, with the fine dusting of snow underfoot – I slipped and fell sideways into a big pile of the crap I spent all day shoveling. Flannel, hoodie, bare hands, face … all of it planted in the white lovely pile of *%$!!. I reacted the only way I knew how…

… I laughed it off like a child. Brushed off my sorry self, drove to the store, bought my macaroni, bacon bits, dehydrated onions, Pyrex plate, and rolls. Twenty minutes later, backed the van into a clean driveway, set the trash out, then settled in for the night.

Two cleaned off automobiles sit in a snow-free driveway at present. The sidewalks are free of snow and ten minutes ago the trashman beeped his way to and then fro. I’m dry and warm. Today is a new day, right? I’m unquestionably over yesterday. Have other days been worse? Yep! Others better? Absolutely.

It’s a week away from Christmas. Santa lives surrounded by this white stuff all year long. He can have it. I’ll sit in the back of the sleigh with Ebenezer and shout, “Bah Humbug!” all winter long simply because I have an adult-onset inclination to enjoy a few flakes in a bowl so much more than seeing a million frozen ice ones jammed in my dad’s snow blower or experience dirty, stone-filled ice balls thrown on my windshield by wanna-be summer drivers.

That written, I’ve been sitting too long. My back’s sore. Oh, look … snow possible again this coming Thursday – Christmas eve. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Lightening Up Christmas

I have no childish Christmas list. Santa knows I haven’t behaved myself, so what’s the use. My present needs rise above the material. I need answers. One specific, clear one under the tree – to be perfectly understood here.

There’s the always question of “Why? … with no answer … ” that drives me crazy when I see certain things I don’t get. Circumstances or states of affairs driving me so crazy I get stuck on a mental clover leaf with no logical exit ramp to Saneville. This is one of them:

Off the Frankstown Exit here in Altoona, Pa., is the “Lights on the Lake” exhibit. It is a ride through the local park where there are, well, lights. Oh, and the display is beside Lakmont Park. For one price, a car load of humans can 5-mile an hour through, gaze at all the holiday lights that have been displayed for years (unchanged) … then exit. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, families and friends have been doing this for years. We did it once. Once.

This picture is courtesy of a good friend of mine. Here’s the thing. She took that picture at 6:30 p.m. just off the Frankstown exit, sitting well back from the actual entrance to the parking lot – where the line starts to wind around JUST to begin the car line – well back from the actual start of the light show. Confused? Let me clear this up: When her car full of humans arrived at the start, it was 10:00 p.m. … Yes, 10:00 Post Meridiem. That’s two-hundred and ten minutes of car lights before doing anything productive … and I ask, WHY?

At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen Susan to ask that question. Knowing her, the answer will be full of excitement and thrills. She’s a sweet person. Every ten minute update she provided on her FB page gave us heightened anticipation. Every. One. Of the fifteen she posted. What was absent from them? An a accompanying narrative as follows: “This is so logical. Let me explain the sane, rational reason why our family is now sardined in between hundreds of other irrational other families in their cars.”…

I’m not dumping a load of fault on her at all. This is an exciting time of year around here when all the lights are turned on at the park. I can’t understand why everyone decides to line up all at once … like the park is giving away free kisses from Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie … or, some crazy promo like that. Good for them, though (the park). On the day she was there (Friday), tickets per car were $20 each. I hesitate to write, “Lighten up on the prices, there!”, however, I’m going to do it anyway because I like to brighten everyone’s mood.

For all I know, there are good grounds for everyone waiting hours to get in to see these lights. When I was there years ago, the displays were … o.k.. I’ve seen more lit Santas on December 26th in the local bar than along the narrow paths in this park back then. Yes, it had all the yellow, red, and green bulbs on full display strung out like a tired Rudolph and advertising signs from businesses underwriting each display. Yes, it was Seinfeldian Festivus for the rest of us. Yes, I have no qualms about anyone wanting to see this local energy company and parent wallet drain every season … but for all that’s holiday-holy ….

… WHY car-tire yourself for hours upon hours to do it? This is MY holiday wish this year. I’m not asking for much here. I don’t want to know if the chicken or egg came first. I have no expectation of knowing the origin of our magnificent universe. Einstein’s Theory of Everything is still as elusive as it was when he was scratching it on a napkin and I find the need for concordances, study guides, pastors, and priests to explain the bible – a book written to give us simple folk guidance from a god – a being that should know we need clear, precise instruction – the most vexing of all puzzlers.

I just want to know: WHY? … and I’m inclined to believe the ramp off Frankstown Road will be packed again this weekend. A back-up full of cars loaded full of parents with wallets, hopefully, loaded full of 1’s … at least twenty of them … because it’s not cheap. Oh, and another hefty stack of 1’s to refill the gas tank, too, after leaving on fumes.

As others sit in that line this year and next … and next … and next, I’ll sit idly by a few miles away saving gas and time for more worthwhile endeavors. “Why?”, you ask. I believe I’ve answered that question quite well here.

An answer so simple, so easy. One unlike I’ll ever get from Sue, or any other wonderful patron of the lights. Most I’m sure to call my friends, yet, ones who drive me crazy as they sit hours upon hours waiting on the illogical exit ramp in my mind.