Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The weather outside is frightful

Christmas scene
Each year at this time I swear I am going to get a smaller tree next year. I’m not young and spry anymore and hoisting the critter onto the top of the car, wrestling with the saw to clean-cut the bottom and then staggering up the stairs to my second floor apartment with the tree grabbing at every step to prevent me from keeping forward momentum is truly exhausting. So, with JT’s Christmas album on the CD player and the tree now sitting comfortably in its green plastic stand, happily nursing up copious amounts of warm water, I am at rest in my recliner and making these few notes.

It really is a nice little tree, Charlie Brown. I tell the poor, toothless young man who sold me this baby for $28 (I gave him $35) that he could sell this same tree in New York City for a hundred bucks. He gasps in disbelief and I see the remains of his rotten teeth; I’m hoping the takes the extra few bucks and finds a dentist.

I buy my tree from the same place each year, from the same kid, and I tell him the same thing. Fifteen, no make that sixteen years ago that young man was a boy of about 12 years and was shocked when I gave him a tip to carry the tree to the car. He had a full set of teeth then. Years of candy bars and soda pop no doubt. He tells me this year he will use the money to buy something for his unborn baby who will be arriving in the spring. What can you say to that?

I recall the scene in Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story when the family goes down to the local Xmas Tree emporium to haggle with a savvy and feisty salesman. The Old Man thinks he’s getting the better deal, but we know better.

I will have none of that. This tree really is worth a lot more than what I pay for it; maybe not a hundred bucks, but at least $60 - $70. It’s just that we live here in Maine among forest of trees and this baby probably spent its life growing just a few miles down the road.

We had about three inches of fluffy white snow today. Two days ago it rained three inches and yesterday – the transition day back to winter – I was walking around in sneakers. It’s boots and scarves today, the air a frigid 17 and everything white.

My tree was completely covered with the white stuff at the Christmas tree lot so I have it standing in the window with a couple of sheets of black plastic underneath. The sound of the dripping has slowed and the fragrance of pine has now joyfully filled the room.

I am not sure if I will decorate the tree tonight. I may want to let it dry out more before crawling around with electric wires and such. We’ll see.

Well, JT is done and I have to go back out in the arctic freeze to get stuff for supper. Keep warm. I’ll post a photo of the tree when it’s all decorated.

Image credit: Licensed by Creative Commons by Hiking Artist

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas sucker

You may have noticed that cutey little widget appearing on the right panel of my Blogger site for the past week. I was looking for a simply Christmas countdown feature - there are millions of them out there - I picked the first one I found from Widgetbox. Well it was fine for about a week until I looked at it today. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear? An ad...a crummy commercial.

So innocently, I click on the button that says "Remove ads" and what to my wondering eyes should appear....?

"Look, Charlie, we all know Christmas is just a big commercial racket." 

Bye bye widget.

Monday, December 06, 2010

George Bailey needs your help

Jimmy Stewart Museum logo
While attending my last year of graduate classes at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in the Borough of Indiana of Indiana County, PA, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of The Jimmy Stewart Museum. Located on the third floor of the Indiana Public Library, next door to the County Court House, and across Philadelphia Street from where Jimmy's father owned and ran the town's hardware store, The Jimmy Stewart Museum (JSM) opened in the spring of 1995 on Jimmy's birthday. The namesake did not attend the festivities as he was still devastated by the death of his beloved wife Gloria a couple of years earlier. He did send his twin daughters who thanked the Indiana townsfolk for their generosity and honor. The whole town showed up for the parade and gathered in front of the Museum to hear brief comments from the daughters.

I became a Charter Member of the JSM that day and even volunteered most of that summer, working in the gift shop, selling tickets and giving tours of the Museum. I was already a big fan of Mr. Stewart's work, but learned much more about him that summer. My admiration grew. For Christmas that year, my homemade card was a drawing of Zuzu's petals.

So I was shocked to learn today in a story on MSNBC that the Jimmy Stewart Museum was in trouble financially. There was never any big endowment and the Museum has apparently survived these past 15 years on memberships, attendance fees and gift shop proceeds. Read the story for the details.

Like the final scene in the movie that everyone associates with Jimmy Stewart, It's A Wonderful Life, I am hoping that Jimmy/George Bailey's friends come through again and rescue the "Old Savings and Loan."

If you have a couple of bucks left in your pocket, perhaps you could send it down to Indiana, PA. I can assure you it is a good cause.

Oh me? I just sent them a check to renew my membership.

Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

Update: NBC's Nightly News Saturday did a great little piece on The JSM. Here's the link:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I’m wearing a colander on my head

man with colander
One of my father’s favorite stories about when he was a young FBI agent in the NYC office was the call he and one of this colleagues made to a man living in a very expensive apartment on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. The man had called the FBI claiming that “the Russians” were spying on him. As my father was on a squad that dealt with Soviet espionage, this was a call directed to them.

They arrived at the very swank abode and were ushered in by the doorman who rolled his eyes a bit when the agents explained where they were going. They soon found out why.

The man was very reluctant to open the door and the agents had to show both their credentials and badges to the man through the peephole before he would open the door. Upon entering my father noted that the man had a metal colander on his head and was wearing only his underwear. Every inch of the walls was covered by aluminum foil and the man had placed a series of wire hangers around the rooms, interconnected and touching the foil in various locations. The man explained that the hangers were used to “ground” the foil as it was absorbing the radio waves that were coming in from “the Russians.”

I believe that my father and his partner left at this point and went back to the office to file their report as a “man in need of a psychiatrist.”

I thought of that story as I read this Yahoo Health missive entitled Is Your Health on the Line? The article details information about the hazards of radiation caused by cell phone use. It goes on to express concerns about many popular household appliances that emit radio waves. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was living in a soup of radiation. With the exception of the “baby monitor,” I have and use all of the devices listed in the article.

Enjoy…I’m heading to the kitchen to get my colander.

Photo credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by ortizemj12