Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “comedy”

Biff’s Weekly Top Five, Jan 20 2018

pool-snooker-ball #5

I am starting a weekly feature of providing my top 5 favorite things I’ve read on WordPress for the past week.  These will usually take the form of single-sentence quotes, though some may be multi-sentence. 
Most of them will be humorous, because that’s what I’m all about. 
They are presented in no particular order.
I invite you to visit the blogs I’ve linked to and give the bloggers some love (and likes).  I’d rather you give THEM the likes than me.  Enjoy!

#1

“Aintright isn’t a massive fan of golf, partly because he nearly fractured his skull many years ago when trying to retrieve his ball from under the windmill, but also because when he hears the words ‘walk’ and ‘fair way’ in the same sentence he automatically starts looking for his car keys.”

Post Title & Link:     Golfers won’t be putt off

Blog Title & Link:     The Summerseat Skylark

Posted on:                 January 13, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

I’m not much of a golf aficionado and so I nearly skipped over this post in the Humor stream because it mentioned golf.  However, I was lured in by the pun and was not disappointed.  I also love “bureaucracy runs amok” stories, and this one delivered on that count as well.  This post suits me to a tee!

 


#2

“Procrastinators unite! But, maybe tomorrow, or next week.”

Post Title & Link:      Friday:) From Chaos To Organized

Blog Title:                  TONI ANDRUKAITIS

Posted on:              January 19, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

This is Toni’s hilarious take on that special drawer we all have in our house … the one that contains the thousand little bits of this-and-that that make us question our sanity for keeping it.

 


#3

“It’s not an easy life, of course,
the life of the aesthete,
but it helps to nibble fruitcake,
and wear satin on one’s feet.”

Post Title & Link:     The calculated life

Blog Title:                  LONE WORDS (Poems etc. by Catweazle)

Posted on:                January 7, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

I’m not much of a poetry aficionado, but Catweazle’s poems are right up my alley.  They are short, pithy, and very witty (as opposed to merely funny).  It is relatively easy to be funny, but it takes skill to be witty.  I invite you to peruse Catweazle’s offerings.  They are all quite charming and amusing!

 


#4

“I once got completely freaked out because I found a lump on my shoulder. Naturally, after years of watching medical shows, I assumed the worst. “Oh my God,” I thought. “It’s shoulder cancer! It’s an absorbed Siamese twin! It’s…wait, there’s one on the other side. What the…?”

It was my collarbone.”

Post Title & Link:      I Sing The Body Eclectic

Blog Title:                JENNIFER INGLIS (Writer-ish)

Posted on:                January 20, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

This was truly funny!  It was an essay on how our bodies and our brains constantly plot, like Pinky and the Brain, to thwart our quests for normalcy.  I’m sure we can all relate to Jennifer’s description of how her feet attempt to trip her up with every step, how her brain convinces itself that a collarbone is an absorbed Siamese twin, and how her nostrils refuse to work as a team.   And her description of her experiences with a Neti pot had me laughing out loud.  Her essay is a wonderful read … because it describes most of us.

 


#5

“According to Inspector Fuzz, the police are deploying standard crowd-control measures, such as tear gas, water cannons, and a series of public-address systems broadcasting lengthy lectures on modern macroeconomic theory.”

Post Title & Link:     News Flash: Mobs Riot to Celebrate Richard III Debate Contest Result

Blog Title:                 The Punnery’s Commentary

Posted on:                January 21, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

 I clicked on this link simply because of the title.  I do love me a good title!  And this one had everything:  The “News Flash” splash to grab your attention, the shock of the word “riot”, followed by the comedic sucker punch of “Debate Contest”.  Brilliant!  The faux-news report itself was awesome and I found myself wishing that someone would turn this into a YouTube video.   An awesome read!  

The Punnery’s Commentary contains a host of humorous “news” stories that are just the sorts of dry and subtle humor I like to read.  Go check it out.


 

So there you have it:  my second installment of Biff’s Weekly Top Five.  I hope you enjoyed it!  And remember … go to the blogger’s sites and show them some love and appreciation!

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Biff Rambles On … Friday, Josie & the Pussycats, Rush, & Literate Felines

Biff Hiking #3

I am speaking to you this morning through the miracle of “scheduled posts”.   If I were to actually write a post this early in the morning, it would sound like complete gibberish.  You would no doubt think that my cat had walked across my unattended keyboard, back and forth, for an hour or so until an accidental blog post appeared.  And I would be more than a little perturbed that it would be better than anything I could have written.

And it would have been written by a cat!  Think of all the “likes” that would garner!

But as much as I hate to disappoint you, this blog post was not written by my cat.  I am pretty sure she is illiterate.  I only say that because the only thing I have ever seen her read is old “Josie and the Pussycats” comic books.  I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure she is only looking at the pictures.

Now is as good a time as any to admit that I had a crush on Josie for a brief period of time when I was a wee lad and their cartoon came on every Saturday morning.  Up until then I had been completely faithful to Daphne on the Scooby Doo show, but when I first saw Josie with her lovely red hair and her little cat ears … well … what can I say?  I was swept up in her music and her stage presence.  But the dalliance was brief (only a single season).  After all, how could I resist Daphne with her long red hair?

I was always a little confused by the fact that J&tPC’s music had a bass and a keyboard line, but nobody in J&tPC played bass or keyboard.  They managed to get all of that sound out of just an electric guitar, a drum set, and a tambourine.  It is still one of the mysteries of modern music.  People sometimes wonder the same thing about Rush.

(Note to Alex, Geddy, and Neil … I love you guys!  Big fan!  I saw your Moving Pictures tour.  Please don’t hate me!  It was just a joke.)

If you’re still reading at this point, you’re probably beginning to suspect that perhaps my cat really did write this after all.  This post is all over the place!  Sorry, even though it’s not REALLY early in the morning, my brain seems to think it is and so it is just sort of stumbling around in a fog.

Okay, I’ll wrap this up and let you get on with your Friday.   I wish you good things today.  Like bagels or donuts in the break room.  Or an extra french fry at the bottom of the bag.  Or finding a five dollar bill in the pocket of a coat you wore last winter.  Dream big!

How Not To Fly Under the Radar

Biff in Flying_Car #1

Even though I was trying to keep a low profile this week, Thursday managed to find me anyway.  I attempted to fly under the radar, but that leads to getting tangled up in clotheslines, barbed wire fences, and those strings of triangular banners that adorn the fronts of used car lots.

Do you want to know how not to make a good impression?  Show up draped in strings of used car lot banners.

And I am so tired of starting conversations with, “Oh, this?  Funny story ….”

Anyway, everything I wrote above is just an example of a little something I call “humorous writing” and what makes it humorous is that I could not possibly lead a more boring life if I set out to do so with a vengeance.  The only way I could be more boring would be to speak only in Latin while describing obscure chess moves in a Holiday Inn conference room to an audience consisting of nothing but crash test dummies dressed in beige jump suits.

Even then, I’m not sure that that wouldn’t be more exciting than a typical day in the life of Biff.

How bad would it be if the crash test dummies got up and walked out of my lecture?

And how difficult would it be for someone to crash such a gathering?

And what if a car DID come crashing through the wall of the Holiday Inn and into the crowd of crash test dummies?  Would someone yell out, “Oh, the faux humanity!”

Could any useful crash data be gathered?

Do crash test dummies make good witnesses?  Or would they choose to remain silent?

Would the police draw chalk outlines around all the dummies?

And when the police interviewed the driver, would he say he was listening to a podcast of some guy speaking in Latin about obscure chess moves, and that caused him to nod off behind the wheel and crash through the Holiday Inn?

Well, I’m putting an end to this before it gets even MORE silly.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — The Alarm Clock Giveth and the Alarm Clock Taketh Away

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1 with Alarm Clock

It was another quiet day in Biffville (population:  me).

That is not to say it wasn’t busy.  It was.  It was VERY busy.  But it was the kind of busy that just makes time pass by and doesn’t really leave anything behind (like, say, a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment).  It was the kind of busy that suddenly, right after you wake up, makes it late evening.  This can leave one feeling a little disoriented.  One minute you’re slapping the snooze alarm and struggling to sit upright in bed, and the next you’re making sure the alarm is set as you turn out the light and crawl back into bed.

I think we can all see the problem here.  It is alarm clocks.

If our lives weren’t regulated by these obnoxious little so-and-so’s, life would be much sweeter.  A little more chaotic, perhaps, but a lot more pleasant.

For instance, I could get up at ten AM every morning the way my mind and my body would prefer.  That would be bliss for me!

However, I might find that there’s no coffee in the house, because the thousands of people it takes to get coffee from the coffee plantations of Peru and into a little red bag on my kitchen counter ALSO slept in and just couldn’t be bothered to carry out the mundane, tedious, monotonous tasks required to successfully carry out this miracle of the modern world.

But that wouldn’t matter, because there would be no electricity to power my coffee pot because the thousands upon thousands of people that it takes to get oil out from underneath the Gulf of Mexico, refined, and to the power plant that generates my electricity to power my coffee pot would have ALSO slept in and so that entire, beautiful, perfect chain of events that turns Gulf-of-Mexico sludge into coffee would have come unraveled and fallen apart.

Long story short:  No coffee for Biff.

So, buzz on, Ye Noble Alarm Clock!  Wake us from our peaceful slumbers and send us out into the world to do things we don’t want to do so that we can enjoy the fruits of the labors of others who also got up and did things they did not want to do.

All of humanity is being driven by our mutual dissatisfaction of what we do, and our mutual desire to have others continue to do what they don’t want to do.

It is a house of cards.  But for Gosh Sakes!  Please, nobody stop doing what you’re doing!

 

Captain’s Log: Monday

sailing-ship-cartoon-silhouette-hi #1

The reefs and shoals of the Strait of Monday have been successfully navigated by the S.S. BiffSockPow.  Repairs to the ship are underway.

All unessential crew (which is apparently all of them) have been given liberty and told to please not get involved in drunken brawls or with people of dubious character.  Unfortunately, that means that the crew cannot associate with themselves, and that is making for some feelings of isolation among the crew.

The ship’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Buck Uplads, has published a bulletin in which he advised them to, “just grow up, ya big babies!”  Results have been mixed.

While in dry dock, the ship is being subjected to a long overdue hull-scraping to rid it of a year’s accumulation of barnacles.  It was assumed this was covered under the ship’s extended warranty (which cost a pretty doubloon), but apparently it is considered routine maintenance and I was presented with a bill that took the wind out of my sails.

I told the port maintenance authority that I could not afford such an extravagance, and to please put the old barnacles back on the hull and that I would try to get another 20,000 leagues out of them.  They did not seem happy and informed me that my old barnacles were showing signs of wear and that if I did not have them replaced it constituted a safety hazard and might void the ship’s warranty.  But I silenced them by telling them that I had lost my booty while suffering from a bad case of the doldrums when in the horse latitudes.  They nodded and said that would explain my long face.

The ship was eventually returned to me, the crew staggered back aboard, and preparations were made to set sail towards the Sea of Tuesday at first light tomorrow.

Poor Biff’s Almanac — My Weekend So Far

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

It was a quiet Saturday here in Biffville (a suburb of Dallas).

Weekends always start Friday evening with such promise, optimism, and hope.   However, those things evaporate like morning dew as soon as the rising sun hits them on Saturday morning.  Not long after staggering out of bed and towards the coffee maker, it becomes apparent that there will not be much in the way of progress or accomplishment this day.   Gone is the big dream of finally cleaning out the attic, replaced by the more attainable dream of having both eyes open at the same time and pointing in generally the same direction.

Coffee restores a little bit of my Friday evening optimism, but not much.  My dreams of writing prolifically throughout the weekend are put on hold while, instead, I attend to such mundane tasks as laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping, getting a haircut, talking to various people on the phone, and filling up the car with gas.

Eventually, Saturday evening rolls around and I can finally sit down at the keyboard.  I stare at it for upwards of 30 minutes, trying to remember what exactly it was that just yesterday evening  seemed like such a brilliant idea for a blog post.

Perhaps I should have written it down.

But that doesn’t work either.

I have received cryptic notes from myself before that I stared at like an Egyptologist who was the first to set eyes on hieroglyphs.  I scratch my head as I read cryptic words that are the equivalent of a bird with a cat’s head.  Alligator body with a dog’s head?  Koala on a pogo stick?  A wheel of cheese on an escalator?  What the hell was I trying to tell myself?  If only I could decipher it, I might perchance get a blog post out of it.

But it is too late.  My energy and enthusiasm of Friday night has dissipated into a sort of inert lump of lethargy.

And that’s where blog posts like this one come from.

 

Biff’s Weekly Top Five, Jan 12 2018

pool-snooker-ball #5

I am starting a weekly feature of providing my top 5 favorite things I’ve read on WordPress for the past week.  These will usually take the form of single-sentence quotes, though some may be multi-sentence. 
Most of them will be humorous, because that’s what I’m all about. 
They are presented in no particular order.
I invite you to visit the blogs I’ve linked to and give the bloggers some love (and likes).  I’d rather you give THEM the likes than me.  Enjoy!

#1

“Two Dead as Restoration Hardware Catalog Falls Off Coffee Table”

Post Title & Link:     Two Dead as Restoration Hardware Catalog Falls Off Coffee Table

Blog Title & Link:    Gerbil News Network

Posted on:                 January 12, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

This was actually the title of the blog post and not a line from the post, but I thought it was awesome.  It’s the sort of line I wish I’d written myself.  The post itself is very funny, too.

 


#2

“I believe that when you go to bed for the night, you should stop shouting at your husband.”

Post Title & Link:  Ask Me Anything. I’m a Billionaire.

Blog Title:              DOES WRITING EXCUSE WATCHING?

Posted on:              January 12, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

This was one of the best and most accurate (and funniest) descriptions of what cryptocurrencies are and how they work.  It should be the Wikipedia entry for cryptocurrency.

Bonus points for the blog post title itself.  Very funny!

 


#3

“Switzerland may be famously neutral and their knives more functional than deadly, but their aloof contemplation can be withering.”

Post Title & Link:     it is Rapperswil, not rapper swill

Blog Title:                 TRASK AVENUE

Posted on:                January 12, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

This is easily one of the best travelogue posts I have ever read.  Maybe even THE best.  And by “best, I mean hilarious.  It makes me actually want to go to Rapperswil and drink some huckleberry gin and go up to look for my contacts at the summit where Rapperswil Castle sits majestically. 

The quote above wasn’t the funniest line from the post, but most of the humor was multi-sentence and I needed something single-sentence.

 


#4

“I live in a small house, but I just discovered how roomy it really is. I took down the Christmas tree.”

Post Title & Link:     Still alive and thinking

Blog Title:                 Monica’s Pen

Posted on:                January 12, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

A warm, cozy, humorous post about something we all struggle with:  coming up with ideas to write about and the inspiration to get it written.   (Happy birthday, Monica!)

 


#5

“On my deathbed I’m not going to think, ‘boy, I wish I ate less junk food.’ I feel like I’m more likely to think, ‘maybe I shouldn’t have tried cocaine.’ I’m certainly still going to be ruing my decision to go to grad school.”

Post Title & Link:     Life is Sweet

Blog Title:                 Welcome to the Cubicle

Posted on:                January 12, 2018

Biff’s Comments:

 This is one of those introspective post-new-years posts that we can all relate to.  It is written in a very humorous way that makes us nod our head and smile because we see ourselves so clearly in in the writer’s words.

Bonus points for the blog title.  I am always drawn to anything referencing cubicles.  I think cubicles are a singular sign of humanity’s collective insanity.

 


 

So there you have it:  my first installment of Biff’s Weekly Top Five.  I hope you enjoyed it!  And remember … go to the blogger’s sites and show them some love and appreciation!

A Ramble About Rambling (Now With Cheez-Its

Biff Hiking #3

Or

“A Rambling Rambler Rambles About Rambles”

Look, I know we all dislike “ramble” posts.  But sometimes the only way to cure writer’s block is to just get up and go for a ramble  I’m sure there are several of you who wish I would just up and ramble away, but that’s not quite what I meant.

One of the problems of having a blog while leading a spectacularly uninteresting life is that it is hard to find things to write about.  Often I will just sit here staring at this darned blank “Write” screen and go back over my day minute by minute, hoping to find something, anything, to write about.  The conversation in my head goes something like this.


There was that time I was on the phone and wrote down something on a sticky note, but when I went to stick the note on my wall it just fell off, because I had used an ordinary notepad instead of a sticky one.

Um … no … I don’t think so.

Oh, how about when I was driving at lunch and I saw that sock laying in the middle of the road and I was like, “What?  Why is there a sock in the middle of the road?

No … keep looking.

Remember when I stopped working on that report and I leaned back in my chair to stretch and almost toppled over backwards, but I caught myself just in time, and I was like, “Whoa!  I almost fell over backwards.”  But I didn’t.  That was sure something, eh?

Umm … I think we should just save that one for when we’re REALLY desperate for something to write about.  Keep thinking.

Oh, I know!  Remember when I went down to the vending machine to get a package of Cheez-Its™ and I was putting my money in, but it kept returning that one quarter and wouldn’t take it, so I just kept putting it in over and over until I was like, “Hey, what the heck?” and I was getting really torqued off, but then I noticed I had already put in enough money so that’s why it kept returning it and then I was like “dur-hay!” and just got my Cheez-Its™ and went back to my desk?

Wow!  Dude.  We really need to work on getting you out of the building more often.  Come on.  Surely there’s something you can write about.

Well, there were those two Cheez-It™ squares that were still joined together.  I guess they didn’t break them apart at the factory or something, so I got a double-square Cheez-It™.   How cool is that?

You know what?  I give up.  You’re on your own.


 

A conversation like that can go on in my head for an hour or more with not a word making its way down onto the computer to be posted in this here blog.

Now do you know why I like to ramble away sometimes?


Author’s Note:  I didn’t receive diddly squat from the Kellogg company for endorsing their fine Cheez-It™ product in my blog.  However, I’m sure I could be persuaded to write Cheez-It™ themed blogs regularly (if you know what I mean … wink wink nudge nudge).

 

Tastes Kinda Like Victory

 

0 - Man Asleep on Desk

I am ready to declare victory on my New Year’s resolution to write sporadic, disjointed posts on my blog with no sense of regularity, and interspersed with days upon days of inactivity.

Nailed it!

You can’t see me, but I’m giving myself a high five right now.

I can now cross that resolution off the list.  Normally it would take an entire year to amass enough blog posts to determine if I had been successful or not, but I think 4 blog posts in ten days is a statistically significant sample and it certainly allows me to extrapolate where I might be 355 days from now.  Oh yeah!  Looking good!  There’s really no need to write any more posts.  I think we can all see where this is heading.  Pardon me while I take a victory lap around my living room.

Ow!  Dang-it!  Stubbed my toe on the coffee table.   Give me just a second …

Please Stand By

 

Okay.  I’m back.  That table leg must have hit a nerve just right because it caused my eyes to sweat profusely. Ha ha!  Who would’ve thought that the toe bone is connected to the eye bone?  I may not know much about anatomy but … well … I know that song.  Parts of it anyway.

Okay … enough silliness.  I know my blog readers well enough to know that you don’t come here looking for levity, jocularity, or interesting topics.  I’m pretty sure you think of my blog like an 8 AM Monday morning meeting.  That is, you only go if there are doughnuts.

Sorry, no doughnuts today.  There are, however, some little packets of faux Parmesan cheese left over from the pizza party we had last month.  Feel free to tuck in.  I’m pretty sure they don’t have an expiration date.

This, then, is what this blog has come to.  Don’t we deserve better than this?  Don’t we deserve something better than packets of faux Parmesan cheese?  Sure, there may also be a packet or two of red pepper flakes, but does that really make anything better?  Is it too much to ask to get an occasional doughnut?  Even those weird ones that no one ever eats?

Rest assured that I shall send a strongly worded email to the management to let our demands be known.

In the meantime, let us enjoy these packets of Dijon mustard and lite mayonnaise that were left over from the company picnic back in August.  What is the worst that could happen?

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Post Christmas Edition

 

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1 with Christmas Tree

Today was the first normal Saturday I’ve had in about 5 or 6 weeks.  Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and all of the hullabaloo surrounding those things, I have been out of my routine far longer than is good for me.

Yes, I am a creature of habit.  I can’t seem to stop myself.

But even today doesn’t quite count as “normal”.  I spent a portion of the day de-Christmassing the premises.  This involved getting a lot of empty boxes and bins down out of the attic.  These are the same empty bins I put up there only about 2 weeks ago after decorating the house.  And the same ones that I took down from the attic a week before that (albiet full).

I am getting quite adept and moving boxes and bins up and down out of the attic.  I wonder if that is a marketable skill?

Today, I took down the yard decorations.  When I put them up about two weeks ago, it was about 25 degrees (-4 C) outside.  Today, as I took them down, it was about 63 degrees (17 C).  It is bad enough deconstructing Christmas decorations in and of itself.  It is sort of a depressing ordeal.  That is because, while dismantling life-sized, light-up plastic snowmen and large faux light-up Christmas presents (designed to withstand the outdoors), and brilliant fuchsia metallic Christmas trees (also designed to withstand the outdoors), one cannot help but be a little melancholy thinking back over the joyous activities of the past few weeks.   And now it all seems a bit gaudy.

But then couple that with unseasonably warm temperatures and … well … it seems a trifle disrespectful.  It seems as if even Mother Nature has turned her back on Christmas.  I can almost see her, dusting her hands and going, “Well, that’s the end of that!  Time to move on.”  I don’t know why, but she is wearing an apron and looking suspiciously like Mary Poppins in this image in my head.  (Hey … I can’t control the way my mind works!)

So, even though I very much want life to return to normal here around chez Biff, it is proving difficult.  I want to put Christmas behind me, but it keeps calling me and leaving me awkward voice-mails.  It is proving to be a very messy break-up.

Okay … Let’s Do This

Man-Typing-Silhouette-2400px

I can’t believe that it is already the 4th day of the new year and I have only written two blog posts.  For those of you who like to do complex math problems as a hobby, that is only a half a post per day.  Or, for those of you who like pointless acronyms, 0.5 PPD (Posts Per Day) .

At this rate, I will only have 182.125 blog posts completed at the end of 2018.   That would be tragic!  Of course, that is a significant improvement over 2017, but I’m not one to let math get in the way of my emotional tirades.

Now, my more astute readers are now saying, “But Biff … this is the 3rd blog post of 2018, so that means your PPD is now 0.75, which means that by the end of 2018 you will have written 273.1875 blog posts.

Really … who says things like that?

But you make a good point.  I would be quite happy with 273.1875 blog posts within a year.  However, I am a little curious as to what that 0.1875 post would look like.  That is three sixteenths of a blog post and I’m guessing it is one of those posts wherein in hit the “Publish” button accidentally before I’ve finished writing it, but I’m too lazy to go back into it and finish it.

If ever there was a time that I should not click the “Publish” button, it is right now for this very post … but I’ve got my PPD to think about.

2018 Day Two: I Remember Where I Work

Today was my first day back at work since December 14, which is a whopping 18 days off.  I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that I have not thought of work a single time since December 14 (except for being glad that I wasn’t there).

So, when I hopped in the car this morning and started driving, it is a miracle that I headed off in the correct direction.  I could just as easily struck out in the wrong direction and ended up at a Starbucks or a Barnes & Noble or in Fort Worth while staring out the windshield in bewilderment while saying, “Hmmm … this doesn’t seem right.  This is an open field.”

I won’t take any credit for having the mental faculties to get to work this morning.  It was purely muscle memory.  That happens when you drive to the same place every work day for 8 years.  Therefore, my brain had nothing to do with it.  My brain was, in fact, trying to thwart the enterprise by telling me stridently that this endeavor was hopeless and that we should just go back home and go to bed.  But I reminded my brain that this was the price for spending too much on Christmas.  I then set about to ignore my brain.

I managed to make it through the revolving door in only one revolution and without losing my briefcase or a glove or my sanity.  I wandered through the hallways in a daze.

giphy-downsized.gif

It was like deja vu.  It sort of seemed familiar … and yet totally alien, too.

I stepped into my office and was about to set my briefcase down but then, just to make sure, I took a few steps backwards out into the hallway.  Yep, that was my name on the door.  Just making sure.  It never hurts to be careful.

I fired up the ol’ computer.  I stared blankly at the login screen.  It seemed to be wanting some sort of password.  Hmmm.  What could it be?  This serves The Company right for making us change our passwords every 45 days (while making sure it contains at least 12 characters, a mix of alphanumeric and special characters, a mix of upper and lowercase letters, nothing even vaguely similar to something we’ve used in the past, and no words found in the dictionary).  Hell, it’s a miracle I remember it from day to day, let alone after an 18 day sabbatical!

I finally managed to get logged in.  My email inbox was packed with emails sent by people before the holiday break who wanted everyone in the company to think they were busy the week before Christmas.  Who ARE these people?  Should I recognize these names?   There’s only one way to resolve this.

<Select All>

<Delete>

There.  Problem solved.

Now, what was I doing before the holidays?  I seem to recall some sort of spreadsheet.  Or maybe it was a PowerPoint.  I’m pretty sure there were numbers in it.  And a graph of some sort.

Maybe I’ll just hide in my office and hope everyone else is in the same boat as me.

[Note to self:  Next Christmas, leave notes for myself before Christmas to remind me after Christmas what I was working on.]

 

 

Rambles With Biff — The First Writer’s Block of the New Year

Biff Hiking #3

It is only 19 hours into the new year and already I am struggling to think of something to write about.  I hope this is not a harbinger of how things are going to be in 2018.  So I’ll just start off with a ramble because it’s a cheap trick effective method for coming up with a topic to write about.

Weather … ‘Tis Colder in the Mind to Suffer

First I’ll talk about the weather.  Regular readers of this blog will be quite familiar with how much I complain about the oppressive heat here and how we really only have two forms of weather here:  (a) hot and (b) scary.

But once in awhile Mother Nature will toss us a curve ball … that has spikes on it … and explodes.  This time she has tossed us some extreme cold.  Now, I realize that compared to everyone north of us, this is just typical winter weather.  It might even be laughably mild to someone in, say, International Falls, Minnesota.  But to us Dallasites, when the temperature gets down into the teens (~ -8 C), it is like the apocalypse.   It is even worse if it gets down that low and stays there for more than a few hours.  This time she has sent us temps in the teens and 20s and she has left it there for several days.  For your typical Dallasite, it feels like the end times.

It is so bad that I had to dig out a winter coat that I almost donated to the Salvation Army a few months ago because I have not needed it for about 4 or 5 years and thought I never would again.  But I’m wearing it now!   It is getting a good workout, along with gloves, scarves, and a toque.  And if you think the weather is frosty, try wearing a Green Bay Packers toque down here in the heart of Dallas Cowboys territory.  I have been teased mercilessly.  But I don’t care.  I would wear a Pretty Pretty Pony toque in this weather if it was all I had.

To Diet, To Sleep — Perchance to Dream

Now that the holidays are over, I can return to my normal sleeping and eating patterns.

It is a pretty common topic here in Blogville to discuss post-holiday dieting.  Don’t worry.  I’m not about to resolve to go on a diet.  I’m not going to give you my recipe for tofu fritters or grilled breast of hummingbird.

No, I don’t think it counts as a diet if I just go back to eating normal amounts of food.  Over the holidays it was not uncommon to eat three meals a day of about 2,500 calories apiece … and to spend the time between meals gorging on chocolates, cakes, pies, etc.  Is it sad that I am actually looking forward to scaling back to a mere 2,000 calories a day?  My body will thank me.  My clothes will thank me.  I will thank me.

The grocery store, on the other hand, may go into mourning and send me a polite inquiry, asking me if all is well in the Biff household.

Ay, There’s the Nub

So there you have it.  The perfect cure for writer’s block is just to start typing and hope something comes to you.  What dreams may come?  You never know until you start writing and see what your brain is capable of thinking up.

Biff’s Top Five Posts of 2017

pool-snooker-ball #5

Self-promotion does not come easy for me.  In fact, it is antithetical to my personality.  However, every “How To Blog” article I have ever read says that one must be relentless in one’s self promotion.  So, I am going to hold my nose and do this.  I apologize up front to everyone.

Here are my top 5 blog posts from 2017 according to my stats page.  I excluded my “About” page and other miscellaneous things that never change.


Numero Cinco (#5)

There was a tie for fifth place between the following two blog posts:

I Was Wrong … and I’m Glad I Was

Posted:  December 29, 2017                                   Views:  46

In this post I waxed philosophic and with thankfulness and gratitude about the past year of my blogging activity on WordPress.

How To Have An Existential Crisis For Fun and Profit (and Maybe a Few Yucks)

Posted:  December 15, 2017                                          Views:  46

In this post I attempted to give some insight into a humor-writer’s brain and thought processes.  It was really me expounding upon the old saw “write what you know”.  But what is a writer to do when he or she has strip-mined everything they know for every single word possible and have run out of ideas?  This post doesn’t offer any answers, but it was very cathartic to me.


Nummer Vier (#4)

T’is the Season — To Crank Up the A/C

Posted:  December 4, 2017                                   Views:  51

The weather here in Dallas is a writing well I keep going back to over and over again.  I know everywhere in the world thinks they have the most unique weather there is, but the Dallas weather changes so often it makes my head spin.  Anyway, I don’t think the weather theme was the cause for so many hits on this post.  I think it was my attempt to be humorous and to come up with Texas-themed Christmas carol titles.


Uimhir a Trí (#3)

In a Vacuum, No One Can Hear You Blog

Posted:  July 8, 2017                                   Views:  54

I have no idea why this post broke the top 20, let alone the top 5.  It was just me moaning about how hard it is to blog frequently and consistently.  The ideas dry up.  One becomes repetitive.  One tries new things only to find the reception tepid or non-existent.  I know these things are not unique to me.  I am not special, nor do I deserve special consideration.  Everyone who blogs struggles with these things.


Номер два (#2)

Haircut Roulette

Posted:  March 12, 2017                                   Views:  57

Again, I have no idea why this post struck a chord with my readers.  I would have placed it down around 127th place.  I was merely bemoaning the fact that the guy has cut my hair for the past 25 years up and moved away, and how hard it was for me to find another barber who could cut my hair to my liking.  I guess it is just one of those universal things we all go through in our lives.


[Insert drum roll here …]

Tau Tuatahi (#1)

An Open Letter To My Fellow Bloggers

Posted:  November 15, 2017                                   Views:  232

As you can see, this was by far my most-read blog post.  It was also my most commented on and my most reposted blog post.

In it I wrote about how hard it is to keep up with everyone else’s blog.  There are just so many wonderful writers, photographers, and artists out there who post so many awesome things!  It is nearly impossible to keep up.  I guess this really struck a chord with everyone, because it generated a lot of hits.  And thank you to everyone who reposted it for me!  That certainly helped.


Well, there you have it … my Top 5 Blog Posts of 2017.  I started to make it a top ten, but I am feeling lazy.  Besides, taking my own advice from my number one blog post, I didn’t want to make it even harder for you to keep up with everyone’s blog.  🙂

Happy New Year, Everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful 2017, and I hope you all have a fantastic 2018.  Thank you all for everything!

 

 

 

 

I Was Wrong … and I’m Glad I Was

Man-Typing-Silhouette-2400px

It is almost one year to the day that I kicked off this blog with a promise to myself that I would actually do it.  And maybe even stick to it for a little while.  You can read my promise to myself (and my lack of faith in same) at the following link:

Higher Resolution … or Highly Resolute … or Just High

Overall, I would rate my progress over the past year as a solid “E” (i.e. exceeded expectations).  I honestly thought I would only get six or eight posts into this thing before I gave it up.  That had been my track record up until then and I saw no reason why the pattern wouldn’t repeat.  After all, I have lived a life made up of started-but-never-finished projects.  It just seems to be part of my DNA.

But I am happy to report that I have not only stuck with this blog for an entire year, but that I have written over 200 posts, have had over 2,000 visitors, and have received over 4,700 views.  Those numbers far, far exceed what my expectations were when I started this little venture.  After all, I only started this blog to try and become more regular in my writing.  Therefore, I figured that my record at the end of the year would be more along the lines of 8 posts, 21 visitors, and 63 views.  I also assumed that most of those visitors would be me checking my blog from different IP addresses.

Anyway, I want to thank you all for allowing me to have such a stellar year.  The best part of it all is not my stats, but the friends I have made, the amazing blogs I have gotten to read, and the knowledge I have gained.

You all make blogging fun!

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — What Day Is This?

Poor Biff's Almanac Graphic (Colored) #1

Hello, Everyone!

I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.  I have been off from work for about two weeks and as I explained in a post back in July, I have lost all sense of time and timeliness.  I don’t know what day of the week it is, what the date is, how many days are left before I’m supposed to go back to work.  Heck, I hardly even remember what year it is!  Christmas has compounded that issue somewhat.

Though I am enjoying the heck out of being off from work, there is a slight price to be paid.  The first price to be paid is the nagging question, “Why can’t my entire life be like this?”  I know there are very obvious answers to that, not the least of which is, “Because.

Still, it is frustrating.

The second price to be paid is a constant feeling of disorientation and discombobulation.  The past few weeks have been filled with questions such as the following.

  1. Why is this TV show coming on on Tuesday night?  Oh .. wait … it’s Friday.
    .
  2. Wow!  Chic-Fil-A is open on Sunday!  Oh … wait … it’s Tuesday.
    .
  3. This milk is still good.  It doesn’t expire until the 22nd.   *spewing*  Ugh!   This is the 29th!
    .
  4. I don’t have to set the trash out by the curb for another 4 days.  OMG!  They’re here!
    .
  5. This 75% off coupon doesn’t expire until the 27th.  Oh … wait … that was 2 days ago.

And a dozen other things like that.

In addition to those things, I am starting to feel a growing sense of uneasiness about going back to work.  The following worries are starting to haunt my every waking moment.

  1.  Will I remember all of my passwords on my first day back?  I can’t seem to remember them at the moment.
    .
  2. What was I working on before I left for the holidays?
    .
  3. What if I accidentally miscalculated the number of vacation days I had left in 2017 and I actually owe the company money now?
    .
  4. What were the names of the people I work with again?
    .
  5. Did I have any meetings scheduled for my first day back?  If so, what were they about?

My only hope is that all of my coworkers will be going through the exact same thing I will be.

My Favorite Holiday Quotes From Fellow Bloggers, Volume 2

Here is my second volume of these!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Backstory:  While reading holiday posts from other fellow bloggers, I had the brilliant idea to capture some of my favorite quotes from some of the posts I’ve read.  Below are the ones I have so far.  I’ll add to it as I read more posts.

Be sure to visit their awesome blogs!

mailbox &amp; Presents


“I doubt if there will even be peace on earth, especially when Monopoly comes out.”

“Christmas Already?” at nothinglikeadane


“You know, all I really want for Christmas is a few hundred more blog followers. ”

“Grinchy Christmas Musings and a Holiday Party to Remember” at Popcorn and Pigtails


“I spent the morning watching the kiddie-winks in our local church nativity and answering the question ‘so, Mary, what are you doing now then?‘ at a rate of 10 per hour.”

“The Gift of Laughter” at Mary. She Wrote.


“Thinking up what comes next is hard when you’re dying on the inside from lack of sleep and screaming children.”

“Christmas morning” at J.R.Polkinghorne


 

“They Were Terrible, But Handy” at Struts and Frets

[It’s visual … you just have to see it.  But well worth the visit! – Biff]


 

“Today, e-cards are about as cutting edge as AOL or Netscape Navigator (remember those?)”

“Why I don’t like e-cards.” at Dream Big, Dream Often

 


 

 

 

My Favorite Holiday Quotes From Fellow Bloggers, Volume 1

 

While reading holiday posts from other fellow bloggers, I had the brilliant idea to capture some of my favorite quotes from some of the posts I’ve read.  Below are the ones I have so far.  I’ll add to it as I read more posts.

Be sure to visit their awesome blogs!

mailbox &amp; Presents


“You have to be in good shape to hit the mall, though, because the mall hits back.”

“Reindeer Games” at Charron’s Chatter


“My house basically looks like Ghost of Christmas past, present and future came in and threw up in here.”

“Holiday Help” at Carbie Courtney


“I promise to behave myself this year and not to take anything out of another person’s basket – unless, of course, they got the last good item and I have to.”

“Dear Santa” at Humor Columnist Blog


“Hook’s Drug Store! Hook’s Drug Store! Hook’s Drug Store! They say power comes in three’s.”

“The Xmas Gifts That Almost Weren’t!” at Sparkyjen


“And nobody’s smiling. Why is no one smiling? It’s Christmas, you jerks. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year and yet all these people out here acting like feral animals.”

[bonus quote]  “You’re like an emo Krampus.”

“Stop. You’re missing Christmas.” at Chick Writes Stuff


“… I was expecting to see a mob of surfing Santa’s in Byron but alas that has not happened.”

“That’s Festive…” at Element’s I Love…


“I pronounce it care eh mel and the say carmel. It’s an age old argument.”

“Daily Prompt: Bliss” at The Bag Lady

 


“I used big brown boxes as a kid. We put on shows, made a backyard fair, flattened them into stupidly fast ways to slide down wet grass in the spring, and generally used them as canvases on which we drew our childhoods.”

“Big Brown Box” at Trimbathcreative’s Blog


“Icy rain can be quite beautiful… Don’t worry, the broken leg was totally worth it!”

“after-eight-moments-151” at Cyranny’s cove


 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, Episode 8

Vintage Christmas 10_shopwindows_hz

Link to Episode 7

I felt the time had come to do a little Christmas shopping.   The previous year I had put it off until the very last minute and it had been a disaster of epic proportions, rivaling the Jamestown flood, the stock market crash of 1929, and the closing down of the last Choc-o-dillo candy bar factory when I was a boy of ten.

I come from a long line of Callington men who were not good Christmas shoppers.  It must be a particular gene we are missing, for there has been a continuous line of ill-conceived and tone-deaf gift ideas dating back to when the very first Mr. Callington presented to the very first Mrs. Callington a whale-boned corset, which the salesman at the store had assured him were all the rage in Paris that year, but to which Mrs. Callington took extreme umbrage to on Christmas morning.  As there were no return policies at that time, the corset was given to the dogs as a chew toy and Mrs. Callington was instead given, as a palliative, a summer home in the Hamptons.  Things have not improved much in the 150 years since.

Therefore, when I climbed into the back of the limo without my customary joie d’ vivre in tow, James seemed a bit surprised.  He seemed even more surprised when I asked him to please take me to the mall.  Callington men, as a rule, are not the sort to go to malls.  My ancestors were no doubt turning over in their graves in dismay (or at least raising their eyebrows) at the mere suggestion that an heir to the Callington name and fortune was even considering such a thing.  However, desperate times call for desperate measures.  As the famous chappie once said (and I paraphrase), “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the mall up with our American bread.”

After confirming that I had indeed said mall, James drove me thither.

That is how I found myself standing in the middle of the Heather Meadows Mall looking down the long promenade towards Mackadoo’s upscale department store at the far end of the mall.  Throngs of Christmas shoppers surged here and there like human eddies in a slow-motion river of humanity.  Tennyson no doubt had shopping malls in mind when he wrote:

And down the river’s dim expanse,

Like some bold seër in a trance

Seeing all his own mischance–

With a glassy countenance

Did she look to Camelot.

But if I am to make it to Camelot (or, as we call it locally, Mackadoo’s), I must pass hundreds of little stores, all of which were after the money I had allotted to spend on Christmas, plus more that I had not allotted to spend.  If previous years were any indication, these ruthless merchants who peddle joy and cheer mercilessly would want about 50% more than I was planning on spending.

I stood and racked my brain trying to think of what to get for Alexis.  Perhaps a nice plush robe or elegant nightgown?  Or maybe a pre-made basket of soaps and lotions and loofahs and other assorted bath items that women never seemed to actually use but instead just gush at upon opening and then set them in the bathroom like a $29.95 air freshener.  But one thing is certain; I mustn’t forget the jewelry!  I remembered with a shudder the Christmas three years before when I had forgotten the jewelry.  No amount of pre-basketted bath items could make up for such an oversight.  There were no robes so plush or so soft that they would compensate for a total lack of jewelry.  And of course, the personal foot spa had just been salt on the wound at that point.  It was the final present to be unwrapped and it was obviously too big to be a ring or a pendant and so it had been opened with skepticism.  Then came the stunned, pained expression of someone who had just received a foot spa instead of a tennis bracelet.  It became known among our circle of family and friends as The Christmas of the Foot Spa Chutzpah.

Well, I wouldn’t be making that mistake again.  I might make some other mistake, but I wouldn’t make that particular one.  I thought briefly back to the year I had gotten her the gaily decorated basket of what was billed as holiday sausages and cheeses.  The potential debacle of holiday sausages had only been avoided by the subsequent appearance of a ruby necklace.  Even the fact that they were lab-created rubies had been enough to obtain absolution for the sin of holiday sausages and a sprinkling of some non-dairy cheese-like products and sesame sticks.  Besides, in all likelihood, the holiday sausages had been lab created as well.

The children were easier to shop for.  At least, they used to be.  I reflected fondly over previous Christmases and birthdays.  I loved going into toy stores to pick up Evangeline a book or a doll or a bead-stringing set.  Edrington was always ecstatic to receive a car or truck or train or, more recently, electronic games in which he could pit dinosaurs against each other.  I would get down on the floor with them on Christmas morning and together we would play for hours with Evangeline’s dolls, each of which came with their thousand microscopic accessories (each painstakingly taped, tie-wrapped, or sewn-in to the box) or with Edrington’s trucks or train set.  It would be a grand time!  Their faces would be beaming and angelic and they would often hug me, albeit distractedly, with their eyes never leaving the toy they were playing with, but at least it had been some acknowledgement that I was quite adequate as a masculine accessory to the house.

Okay.  Enough reminiscing.  It was time to get shopping.  As a wise shopper once said, “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.  These were obviously the words of a seasoned Christmas shopper.

I stepped out of the calmness of the sort of shopping tidal pool I had been soaking in and found myself swept away in a fast current of grim shoppers with set brows and comic-book-hero grimaces.  One would think they were saving the metropolis from some masked, tights-wearing menace rather than trying to get the last of the year’s latest smart phones or celebrity scents.  I allowed myself to be carried along towards Mackadoo’s, bobbing along like a piece of flotsam (or perhaps jetsam) in the teeth-gritting rip-tide of people.  I noted with dismay the passing of several stores I had meant to go into, but couldn’t seem to tear myself from the current in which I now found myself, swirling relentlessly and helplessly towards Mackadoo’s, where I was deposited unceremoniously in front of, and almost on top of, a table piled high with wind-up weather-channel radios, solar powered card-shufflers, and furry slippers with reindeer antlers on them.

A well-meaning girl wearing a sparkling red knit dress that emphasized her elf-like stature, suddenly encased me in a cloud of Musque du Homme, perhaps to ward off any aphids or green fly that happened to be infesting the area.  Coughing, I reached down to pick up the few wind-up radios and reindeer novelty slippers I had accidentally knocked to the floor when I’d been ejected from the surging crowd.

“Would you care to try some Musque du Homme?” asked the wraith-like girl in the tight knit dress trimmed in white faux fur, a Scylla dressed to attract passing ships.

“I think I just did,” I said, coughing, while I re-stocked the wind-up radio table with inventory from the floor.

“If you’ll present this card at the men’s scent counter,” said Miss Scylla, handing me a 4 x 6 card made of heavy, expensive stock and apparently steeped in a vat of Musque du Homme for a week, “You can get the one-quart size spritzer of Musque du Homme for the special holiday price of only $34.99.”

“Ummm, thank you,” I said, taking the card.  Though I prided myself in never being rude to anyone, I felt as if I should be handling the card with tongs in order to prevent the permanent scentification of my fingertips.

“Are you crying?” asked Miss Scylla, suddenly very solicitous (even more so than her job description required her to fake).

“No,” I said, pressing my eye into my shirt sleeve.  “It is allergies.”

“Yes,” nodded Miss Scylla sympathetically.  “It has been very dry this year.  There is a lot of pollen and mold in the air.”

“And musk,” I said, pressing my other eye into my other sleeve.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Miss Scylla brightly, “But the cedar count is way up.  My dad is having an awful time of it right now.  So that’s probably what you have since you’re about his age and all.”

I smiled a wounded smile.  A sort of et tu, Brute? smile that was lost on Miss Scylla, who viewed all men over the age of 28 as contemporaries of her father and several interred presidents, many of which graced modern currency.

“Yes, no doubt it is the cedar,” I said, blinking my eyes and taking several deep breaths to try and rid myself of the olfactory delusion that I had been taking a tour of a petroleum refining plant or taking part in a Limburger cheese tasting contest.

“Well, you have a happy holiday,” said Miss Scylla, slipping back into the chirpy, smiling harlequin mask for which she’d been hired.

“You, too,” I said, mustering a smile and then creaking away from the wind-up radio stand, suddenly feeling 90 years old due to the off-hand remark of a 19-year-old musk-spraying nymph.

I stopped at a nearby counter and set down the accursed musk-reeking card while I fumbled in my coat pocket for a handkerchief to try and wipe away the funk on my fingers.  I halfway expected my fingertips to be changing color, as if I’d gripped an iodine-laced murder weapon that the DA would be shining ultra-violet light onto during a cross-examination.

“I see you would like to take advantage of our special on Musque du Homme,” said a young man’s voice.  I stopped my out-out-damn-spot! ministrations to my fingers and looked up to see a perfectly tanned young man with perfect teeth, perfect eyes, well-tailored clothes, and a beaming bonhomie disposition.  I figured that, having just managed to escape Miss Scylla, this must be her colleague, the young Mr. Charybdis.

“Well, actually …” I began.

“This is an excellent fragrance,” said Mr. Charybdis, beaming charismatically at me.  “I got some for my dad last Father’s Day and he loved it.  Wears it all the time.  And this is an excellent price.”

“The thing is …” I began, attempting one more time to get the train back on the rails.

“This stuff has been flying off the shelves.  In fact,” he said, reaching under the glass counter containing an array of brightly-colored boxes, blinding halogen lights, and price displays made of faux brass letters, “This is our last one.”  He hoisted it proudly out and set it on the counter as if he’d just pulled a rabbit out of a hat and was waiting for applause.

“I’m not actually …”

“Would you like it gift-wrapped?” asked the boy Charybdis, and I was almost certain I’d seen a gleam of light reflect off of his perfect teeth.

“No, I …”

“We also have an unadvertised special today.  With every quart of Musque du Homme you buy, you can get a six-ounce bottle of either Saddlehorn or Pommelhorse, both very masculine scents, for a mere 19.95.”   He indicated with a game-show-model wave of his hand two pyramids of brightly-colored boxes with the names he’d just mentioned.  Both boxes were festooned with masculine iconography on them as if to say “Serving Suggestion.”

“I’m not really …”

“Oh, and I forgot.  You get this little bobble-head elf wearing chaps.  Isn’t that cute?  Great stocking stuffer.”  He flicked the elf’s head with his finger to make it bobble.

“I just came in for a nightgown …”

The boy Charybdis’s expression suddenly changed as if he’d realized with dismay that he’d been using the wrong sales technique.

“Oh, I see,” he said.

“Or maybe a bathrobe,” I said, feebly realizing my mistake but helpless to correct it.

“Well, the lady’s department is on the next floor up,” said Charybdis with the aloofness of a sales person who realizes all hopes of a sale have vanished.  He hefted up the jug of Musque du Homme and returned it to its place in the showcase.

“It . . . it’s . . . for my wife Alexis, you see,” I stammered.

“Yes, sir,” smiled Chaybdis politely.

I decided that the time had come for a strategic retreat and so I turned and walked away from the counter.  What else could I do?  Some verbal pits could not be dug out of.  Better to just cut one’s losses.  Years from now after Miss Scylla and the young Charybdis were married and had two beautiful, perfect children, they would no doubt look back on this amusing episode of their youth and laugh.


Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

 

We Interrupt This Blog to Bring You … Yet Another Christmas Post

bells-40s-card-1

Hello, Everyone!

I have been so busy writing and posting my Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, that I have not had a chance to actually write any blog posts about how I feel about Christmas.  So here it is in a nutshell:  I’m all for it.

I know it is all the rage nowadays to be cynical about Christmas, to be snarky and satirical about anything and everything to do with Christmas.  Hey, I have been guilty of that myself.  For decades I just called my hip, edgy  Christmas comments “comedy” and believed in my head that I was entertaining everyone around me.  But with age came wisdom and I realized that I was just being a jerk and a Scrooge.  Even if you don’t enjoy something, depriving others of their right to enjoy it is just plain mean.

I love Christmas for the most part.  What’s not to love?  Getting to visit loved ones.  Christmas cookies and cakes and drinks.  Presents.  Joyful, happy music.  Everyone (for the most part) happy and in a good mood.  Pretty decorations.  Being off from work.  These are all wonderful things and worthy of our thankfulness.

And, yes, I recognize that there is a lot about Christmas to dislike.  The over-commercialization.  The relentless and brutal over-exposure to all things Christmas starting in September (see over-commercialization above).  The stress of trying to get everything done, often with very limited time and very limited resources.  The demands (often imagined) that everything must be absolutely perfect or else Christmas is ruined.  And sometimes we are even forced to make nice to people we don’t particularly care for.

But, honestly, a lot of these things are self-inflicted.  I have learned to tune out the commercialization and just concentrate on the things that matter to me.  I deliberately do not pay attention to or participate in anything to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving … and usually about 2 weeks before Christmas.  That keeps me from getting burned out on the concept of Christmas.  It also keeps me from becoming what I thought was a Christmas comedian (i.e. snarky, cynical, and satirical).

So, while I’ll never be one of those over-the-top Christmas lovers who begin their preparations in August, I do love the season and all it brings.  Simple is better than complicated.

I hope everyone has an absolutely wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

 

The Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special (A Shameless Plug)

vintage-christmas-cards 1

What better way to relax and get away from all of the stresses and craziness of the holiday than with a comic novel about the stresses and craziness of the Christmas season?

All of his family’s money can’t seem to buy the easy-going Alistair a moment of peace and quiet from Alexis (his wife’s) grand ideas and complex schemes for the Christmas season.  Alexis  is determined to not only outdo their Christmases from previous years, but to also to top whatever the neighbors are doing to celebrate the season.  Alistair does what he can to keep his beloved wife happy, but it is mostly dumb luck that keeps him on Santa’s “Good” list.

Below is a handy list of links to the Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, Episodes 1 through 8. I am writing new episodes as fast as I can and hope to have another one out very shortly.

I hope you are all enjoying a very merry Christmas season so far!

 

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

 

 

 

The Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, Episode 7

vintage-christmas-cards - Family Decorating Tree 1b

Link to Episode 6

“Right this way, my Adorable Amaryllis,” I said, holding her hand and leading the way.  It was slow going.

“I can’t see a thing,” she said, holding on tight to my hand.

“That is because it is pitch black,” I explained.  I thought it would have been obvious to even a casual observer, let alone my keen eyed little Sunflower, but I have never been above stating the obvious if I thought it would help shed some light on things (so to speak).

“Yes, I can see that it’s pitch black,” she said, I thought, a little peevishly.

“Technically, you can’t,” I said, trying to be helpful.  “But the brain is a marvelous thing and it interprets a complete lack of light as being darkness.  It has to do with rods and cones and all that sort of thing.”

“Ow!” she yelped suddenly.

“Mind the dog,” I said, again trying to be helpful.

“We don’t have a dog,” she said.  Her tone did not seem to be improving any in spite of all of my helpful banter.

“Then I’m at a loss as to what that was.  Perhaps a free-range ottoman or a roaming occasional table or some other piece of errant furniture.  One never knows.”

A tiny voice from somewhere behind Alexis reiterated her desire to have a cat someday.  Alexis vetoed this almost before Evangeline managed to get out the word “cat”.  Another voice further back said, for the second time today, that dogs were definitely the way to go.  Alexis also vetoed this motion from the floor and went on to say that there would be no animals of any sort allowed in the house or anywhere on the Callington estate.  The silent sound of disappointment floated up from the rear of our human chain.

“We’re almost there,” I said.

“That’s good,” she said, “Though it’s too late to save my toe.”

“You’ll forget all about your little piggy in just a moment.”  I pulled out a pen light and switched it on, but took care to only illuminate my face.

“You had a pen light this whole time?” asked Alexis, seeming surprised and agitated.

“I did indeed.  I had secreted it in an inside pocket of my jacket.”

Alexis inquired, in her own inimitable way, as to why I hadn’t used it before now.  I cautioned her about the use of expletives around the children, and she reposted something that was ironic due to its use of expletives.

“I didn’t use it before now because I wanted to surprise you,” I said.

“Surprise me with a broken toe?” she said, a bit petulantly, I thought.  “Well, mission accomplished.”

I decided that the time had come to steer this conversation away from her charming little toes, so I used the pen light to find the switch and I flicked it.

The Great Room was suddenly illuminated with thousands of tiny white Christmas tree lights that had been carefully and painstakingly wrapped around each branch, sub-branch, and trunk of our 20-foot-tall Christmas tree.  At the very top of the tree, a winsome angel glowed with a warm, benevolent light, no doubt from bearing tidings of great joy (and also because of a low-wattage bulb secreted modestly within the folds of her robe).

“Oh, Darling!” said Alexis with pure delight in her voice, her toe forgotten.  She released my hand so that she could clap her hands together as she stared in ecstasy at the massive and well-lit tree.  “It’s absolutely gorgeous!”

“Thank you, my Darling Delphinium,” I said, beaming with pride at her compliment.  “It is rather eye-popping, isn’t it?”

“It is breathtaking!” she said as she gazed up at it rapturously.  I glanced at the children to find that they were similarly impressed and had apparently been struck dumb by the sight.

“How on earth did you manage to get the tree lit and the angel on top in just the few hours we were out shopping?”

The time had come to fess up and admit that I had not worked alone.

“I had a little help,” I admitted modestly.

“Did you call the fire department and use their hook and ladder truck?”

“No, nothing so dramatic as that.  I consulted with James and he said he knew a chappie –”

“Not the baggage handlers again?” asked Alexis, her eyes widening.

“No, not them, though I’ve no doubt they could have done a stellar job moving the tree if we’d needed it moved back and forth across the room.  No, this called for moving up and down, rather than back and forth.”

“And James knows a circus trampoline act?”

“No.  Better.   He knows a roofer who, apparently, collects ladders as a hobby.  He had a truck that fairly bristled with them.”

“A roofer, eh?”

“Named Rufus.”

“A roofer name Rufus?”

I held up my hand.  “I swanny.  I could not make that up.  His motto is Let Rufus Roof You.  It was printed on the side of his truck.”

She eyed me keenly for a moment as if trying to determine if I was just making up this entire story, but then she glanced back at the tree and apparently satisfied that there was no way I could have done this on my own, and so finally came to peace with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Well,” she said, “I’m sure he was a little out of his element, working beneath the roof instead of on top of it,” she said finally.

“He adapted quickly.  Apparently, he puts up Christmas lights for people as a sideline.  The results speak for themselves.”  I indicated the tree with a flourish of my hand.

“Yes, they do.  It is absolutely gorgeous!  Thank you, Darling!  The whole time I was shopping with the children I had a vague sense of dread as to what we would be returning home to.”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” I said, shaking my head.  I may have also tsk’d in disappointment.

“I expected to come back and find you crushed beneath the tree or hanging from the highest bough by your necktie.”

“I was spared such indignities by the appearance of Rufus and his collection of ladders.”

Alexis turned to the children, who were still looking a bit gobsmacked at this colossal conifer in our Great Room.  “After your baths and after you’re in your pajamas, we will come back down and decorate the tree just like we do every year.”

This seemed to incentivize them greatly and they streaked out of the room in a state of great excitement (and ear-piercing vocalizations).  Alexis said she would follow them and supervise their ablutions and dressing.   For my part, I said I would coordinate with Mrs. Fournier on the making of hot chocolate and fresh cookies.  We agreed to meet at this exact spot in precisely 45 minutes.


 

Later that same evening, as I browsed through our mind-boggling collection of Christmas music for something to put on the hi-fi, Alexis was on her knees in front of the many bins and totes and storage boxes that held our vast collection of Christmas ornaments.   The children, freshly washed and wrapped in a protective layer of flannel, were “helping” her.  Their helping consisted of excitedly tearing the lids off of storage bins, pulling out boxes, which they also opened to pull out ornaments.  I shook my head.  I could have told them they were making a rookie mistake.  Obviously, they were not familiar with either Alexis’ color coded charts nor her patented “method of doing things.”  I had no doubt they were about to be schooled in both.

I finally found and put on some gentle, soothing Christmas music to set the tone.  Mrs. Fournier brought in a steaming cauldron of hot chocolate and a silver salver of homemade cookies.  This had the effect of distracting the children from the bright, shiny ornaments.  While they sipped at their chocolate and giggled with each other about biting the heads off of the cookie snowmen and elves and reindeer, Alexis tried to conduct a seminar on her method of decorating the tree.  She was explaining to them the importance of good tiering, of balance, and of form.  The trick, she instructed, was to avoid “clumping” of either colors or textures or thematically similar items.

I could have told her that her words were falling on deaf ears.  The children were much more interested in their ragtag collection of headless snowmen cookies, reindeer cookies with no antlers or legs, and elves denuded of their pointy hats.  They were giggling uncontrollably and composing elaborate stories with each other about the rise of the headless snowmen, and how an army of hatless elves rode in on their antler-less (and sometimes legless) reindeer to save the day.

Alexis sighed hopelessly as she realized she had lost her audience.  I just put my arm around her shoulders and offered her a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

“Don’t fret, my ravishing Narcissus,” I said, giving her shoulders an encouraging squeeze.  “Let them decorate as they will. I predict they will lose interest by the time they’ve hung 8 or 10 ornaments.  Then I will herd them upstairs and put them to bed while you rearrange all of the decorations to conform to your standards for tiering, balance, form, and anti-clumping.

She smiled up at me, her eyes glittering beauteously as they reflected the thousands of lights of the tree.   “You’re right,” she said, taking a tentative sip of hot chocolate.  “I don’t know why I get so worked up about things like this.”

“Because, my Dear, you are a perfectionist.   Which makes me wonder why on earth you ever agreed to marry me.  I am decidedly non-perfect.”

“You are perfect for me,” she said.  “Two perfectionists would have killed each other before the wedding was over.”

“You are probably right about that,” I said, taking a contemplative sip of hot chocolate.  I noted that the mug I was holding had painted on it a sprig of mistletoe, so I held it above our heads and leaned down to give her a kiss.

“Not in front of the children,” she said, giggling and turning her head slightly so that I ended up kissing her on the cheek.

“Well, they’re bound to find out about us sooner or later,” I said.  “We can’t hide our relationship from them forever.”

“You know what I mean.  Later,” she said, conspiratorially.  “After they are asleep.”

She set her mug down and got the children’s attention, which was now much easier since their cookie army had been decimated, with both sides suffering heavy losses.

The tree decorating began in earnest.   Alexis carefully took the delicate ornaments out of the boxes, I affixed the hooks to them, and the children hung them on the tree.   Alexis had a story that went with each ornament.  I was amazed at her ability to remember the story of our family’s life as told in Christmas ornaments.  How she was able to keep track of which ornament went with which life event was beyond my comprehension.  I hadn’t even known where we stored the ornaments, let alone what each one means.  It’s a good thing she did not demand perfection from me like she does with everything else.

I was wrong about the stamina of the children.  They remained engaged and enthusiastic about the entire process from start to finish.  I could tell Alexis was cringing at how they hung some of the ornaments, but one could not find fault in their energy and enthusiasm.   We sang along with the Christmas carols on the hi-fi.  We took breaks to enjoy hot chocolate and a new batch of cookies from Mrs. Fournier.  I, of course, had to get out the ladder to hang up the ornaments above the children’s reach.

Eventually, much to everyone’s dismay, we ran out of ornaments.  I glanced at Alexis to gauge her reaction.  She just stared at the tree, biting her lower lip as if not quite sure what to make of what she was seeing.

The tree looked the very picture of Christmas cheer and beauty.  The ornaments were absolutely lovely.  The shining ribbons of gold and silver that Alexis wove amid the branches were lovely.  Everything was absolutely perfect.

Except …

Except that the decorations only went about halfway up the tree.   The top half of the tree was completely bare except for the twinkling lights that Rufus had weaved into the branches earlier.

I glanced nervously at Alexis, sure that she would be extremely displeased.  Even the children seemed to be holding their breaths as they kept glancing back and forth between the tree and Alexis.

But finally, much to everyone’s shock, she merely said, “It’s perfect.  Don’t you all think so?”

We nodded our heads, stunned, and mumbled our agreement.

“Okay, children,” she said.  “It’s time for bed.”

They protested a little as she stood and begin herding them towards the door.  She stopped in front of where I stood looking at the tree, still feeling a little like the villagers whose village had been spared by the passing tornado.

“And as for you …” she said to me in a low voice so that the children could not hear.  I stiffened, fearing the worst.

But she just smiled and said, “Next year, make sure I only get a ten-foot tree.”

I smiled and kissed her on the top of the head and assured her that I would.  After all, sometimes less is more.  Or, at least it is just enough.


Link to Episode 8
Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

 

The Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, Episode 6

Vintage Christmas - Man on Ladder &amp; Tree 2

Link to Episode 5

Jacques is nothing if not efficient.  The tree practically beat us back home.  He must have had his crew felling it, tossing into the Christmas tree wrapping machine, and loading it on the truck as we stood in his quaint little log cabin of an office while I wrote him a check, the amount of which nearly made me black out for a moment.   However, Jacques did not even have the decency to blush beneath his bushy beard when he looked me in the eye and stated the price.  He waited patiently for me to write that outrageous number on the check, then he took it from me, thanked Mrs. Callington for her business, patted each child duly on the head (two pats for the girl and a hair tousle for the boy), and then gave me a peremptory glance and what I believe was a barely audible “harrumph”.  He then called for “Thor”, his nearly toothless dog, and he departed the office to go off and help other shoppers find trees that were just beyond their budgets.

We had barely gotten the children home, out of their bulky winter clothing and distracted with a hearty meal from Mrs. Fournier, our chef, when a large truck pulled up outside with our tree, bound, gagged, tied down on the bed of the truck, and completely unaware of the new adventure that awaited it.

Two burly woodsmen hopped out of the cab of the truck and rang the doorbell.  A very excited Mrs. Callington greeted them and showed them where in the front room she wanted the tree.

“I’d like it in front of the big window so that it will be visible from the Lane.”

“Yes, ma’am, Mrs. Callington,” said Jeff (according to the name stitched onto his work shirt).  He seemed to be the ranking officer of the two woodsmen, for he was the taller and stronger-looking of the two men.  Plus, he was the only one that could talk, apparently.

“But not too close to the window.  I would like to be able to observe it easily from the chairs by the fireplace.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said again, and I believe he would have tipped his Jacques’ Jolly Jólatré Farm -embroidered ball cap, but his hands were busy taking notes on the clipboard he held.

“But mind the chandelier,” said my impatient little Impatiens.

Jeff and Steve (the other chap, per the stitching on his shirt) looked up and seemed to make a mental note of the existence of the large crystal chandelier that formerly hung in Merton House in England before we picked it up for a song (and several thousand pounds) at an estate auction several years before.

“Steve,” said Jeff, still gazing upwards.  “Mind the chandelier.”

“Sure thing, Boss,” said the taciturn Steve, seeming to make a mental note of the chandelier.

Jeff then gazed keenly at me.  “How high is that ceiling, Mr. Callington?”

I gazed upwards at the ceiling and furrowed my brow as if calculating its height based on angles and hypotenuses and cosines and such, and then glanced at him and said, “I haven’t the foggiest.  It was here when we moved in and I never felt the need to measure it.  I know it is high enough to make retrieving runaway helium balloons from children’s’ birthday parties impossible.  One must wait for them to come down of their own free will.”

Steve suddenly pulled something from his toolbelt and held it up for all to see.  I expected him to say voilà! with a flourish, but he seemed to be the sort of chap that rarely said anything at all, especially things like voilà.  He did turn slightly back and forth at the waist, holding up the gun-shaped item as if he were a magician that had just pulled a rabbit out of a hat and was holding it up for all to see.  Seeming disappointed that no one ooh’d or aah’d, he pointed it at the ceiling and pulled the trigger.  All that came out of it was a point of light on the ceiling.  He then scrutinized the gun and announced, “This is a 25-foot ceiling.”

“Good heavens!” I exclaimed.   “Twenty-five feet?  That seems a bit excessive for a ceiling.  Did you know about this, my bonny little Bellflower?”

“I knew we had a ceiling,” she said, her face revealing that she wasn’t quite sure what I was angling for.  “But beyond that, I knew nothing.  It came with the house.”

I gazed up at the ceiling with a new sense of wonder.  “Twenty-five feet,” I murmured, almost to myself.   “Who would’ve thought?  It makes me wonder who changes the lightbulbs.”

“If you’ll pardon me, Mr. Callington,” said Jeff, no doubt feeling as if he should steer the conversation back towards the subject of Christmas trees.  “Your tree is only 20 feet tall, so you should be just fine.”

“Well, that is certainly a blessing,” I said.  “We don’t have any rooms with higher ceilings than this.  At least, I hope we don’t.  Frankly, I’m surprised we have this one.   Wow!  Twenty-five feet.  I had no idea.”

“Do you want us to bring the tree in, Mr. and Mrs. Callington?” asked Jeff, always the consummate professional when it comes to Christmas trees.

“Yes.  Please do,” I said.  “I believe you have the coordinates from my lovely helpmeet.   Deploy the tree at will.”

“Yes, sir,” said Jeff.  Steve saluted.  Then they departed to go out to the truck to release the tree from its bonds.

I watched them with extreme fascination (causing them to ask me politely several times to “Please step back, Mr. Callington.  We would hate for you to get hurt”).  They used a crane on the truck to unload it onto the drive and then they used sheer muscle (and a few moving dollies) to wrestle the beast indoors and into the great room.  They freed it from its ropes and its confining net and then slowly raised it up to its final standing place (while minding the Merton House chandelier).  They painstakingly leveled and plumbed the tree until it was as true as a compass needle.  They secured it in the stalwart-looking tree stand, filled it with water, swept up and removed all of the bark and needles that had come loose during the tree raising ceremony, and trimmed the tree here and there so that it was more aesthetically pleasing.  As they departed, I tipped them both handsomely and praised them as being the Rembrandts of tree raising ceremonies.  They both thanked me, touched the brims of their Jacques’ Jolly Jólatré Farm -embroidered ball caps, and departed, leaving only a faint smell of diesel and Grand Fir.

Alexis informed me that my mission was to top the tree.  This she said blithely as she herded our brood out the door for a few hours of frenzied Christmas shopping.  Pondering the logistics of getting anything at all at the top of such a towering tree, I summoned the ever-resourceful James into the Great Room for a summit meeting.

“James,” I said, mixing myself a drink, “We have a slight problem.”

“Problem, sir?” he asked.  As always, he had a penchant (as the French would say) for asking pertinent questions.  He inclined his head slightly as he asked it, which made a marvelous pun, but as I knew he did not speak French, I didn’t pursue it.

“Yes.  A most confounding problem.  Drink?” I asked him, indicating the drink trolley with a wave of my hand.

“No, thank you, Sir.  I may need to drive somewhere.”

I nodded.   “Very prudent.  As a chauffeur, I’m sure there is always a high probability you may be called on to drive somewhere.”

“Yes, sir.  It is always a distinct possibility.”

I plunked an olive into my martini and took a contemplative sip.

“You have no doubt noticed the addition of a tree to our décor.”  I nodded slightly towards the towering 20-foot-tall Grand Fir that had assumed a place of prominence in the room and was casting a long shadow due to the recessed lighting in the ceiling.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Callington.  I noticed it when I walked into the room.”

“It clashes somewhat with the art deco theme of the room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Trees tend to be …” I waved my drink in a slow circle, searching for just the right word.  “What’s the word I’m looking for?”

“I’m not sure, Sir.”

“Fauvistic.”  I took a long sip of my martini, nearly finishing it off.

“Fauvistic?”

“I started to say impressionistic, but I think that understates the issue.  A tree of this nature is too bold to be merely impressionistic.  That’s why I said Fauvistic.”

“That makes sense, Sir.”

“I’m not sure it does entirely,” I said dubiously.  “But be that as it may, we still have a problem.  That is why I called you in here.  You have a penchant for coming up with solutions to problems.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“And the problem as I see it, is this tree.  Did you know this ceiling is 25 feet tall?”

“No, Sir.”

“Well, it is.  I have it on very good authority.  There were actually lasers involved.  Lasers always remove all doubt.  So here is the problem.  The ceiling is 25 feet tall.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And the tree is slightly less than that, coming in at right about 20 feet, give or take.  So, you see the problem.”  I took another sip of my martini and started to mix another.

James looked up at the ceiling and the treetop, and then back at me.  “No, Sir.  I’m afraid I don’t.”

“Well, the problem is as follows.  It’s not quite as complicated as a train leaving Milwaukee at 65 miles an hour while another train leaves Chicago at 70 miles per hour, but it is darn close.  I have it on good authority that the tree is 20 feet tall.  Lasers and all that.  The last time I visited Doctor Billingsworth, he informed me that I stood right at 6-foot 1 inch in my sock feet, though how he knew that I don’t know, because I was wearing shoes at the time.  Drink?”

“No thank you, Sir.”

“So, just tossing about round numbers, twenty feet minus 6 feet is  …”   I gazed at him.

“Fourteen feet, Sir.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Well, there you go.  Fourteen feet, give or take.  That is without lasers, so there’s really no way to be sure.  And how tall are you, James?”

“Six foot two, Sir.”

“In sock feet?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“So even if you stood on my shoulders, we would still be … twenty … minus fourteen … plus six …”   All this advanced mathematics was making my head spin.  I took a soothing sip of martini.

“There would still be eight feet of tree above us, Sir.”

“Yes!  Precisely.  Eight feet.  Now, this is where the math gets tricky.”  I paused to take a sip of martini.  “There is a ladder out in the shed, but it is only a 12-foot ladder.  So, if we set up the ladder.  And then you get on my shoulders.  And then I climb up on the ladder.   I forgot to ask you, can you hold a star?”

“Star, Sir?”

“Well, an angel, really.  There was a vote.  I voted for the star.  But Miss Calgon … Missus Calderon … Calliope … my darling Calla Lily … she cast the deciding vote on an angel.  So, my Jere Dames … dear James.  I will need you to get a good solid grip on the angel.  And get on my shoulders.  And I will climb the afear mansioned … after motioned … aforementioned ladder.  We will have this tree touched by an angel in no time.”

“Sir, I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to climb a ladder at the present time … with or without me on your shoulders.”

“You may be right,” I conceded.  “There would be no one to hold the ladder for us.  And that is just plain unsafe.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh, I know!” I said excitedly, for I’d just had a brilliant idea.   “I could stand on the ladder … at the very top … angel in hand.”  I pantomimed my idea, my martini being the understudy for the angel, who was still in her dressing room refusing to come out for the rehearsals.

“Yes, Sir?” said James, sounding a trifle dubious.  But that was only because he had not heard the full plan yet.

“And then … here is the brilliant part.   And then I jump .. you see … down, onto the divan and it … SPRINGS me … up … graceful arc, you see.  And then, when I am near the summit … I just … spike the angel on top of the tree.  Like those mountain climbing chappies with their flags.”

He was silent a moment, as if he were visualizing what I’d just said.  His eyes seemed to follow my projected trajectory up into the stratosphere of the Great Room.

“Sir, if you don’t mind my saying it, I’m not entirely sure that plan will work.”

“You mean you think the ottoman would work better than the divan?”

“No, Sir.  I just don’t think the plan will work regardless of the furniture we use.”

“Oh posh,” I said, waving away his doubt with my drink.  “It is foolproof.  What can go wrong?”

“I’m afraid lots could go wrong, Sir.  For one thing, I’m not sure the divan is up to being jumped on from off the ladder.”

“Nonsense!  That is pure 18th century oak.  Fine craftsmanship.  Solid oak.  Not the fluffy bits, of course.  The legs.  Solid oak.”

“I may have a better solution, Sir.”

I am not too proud to admit that I was a little hurt.  “Well, I fail to see how another solution could be better than the one I proposed, James; but let’s hear it.  I am always ready to consider alternative solutions, no matter how harebrained they might be.”

“Well, Sir.  I know a guy –”

“One of the baggage handling chaps?” I asked, squinting at him through my martini glass.

“No, Sir.  This guy is a roofer.”

“But I don’t want the angel on the roof.  No one would be able to see her, poor thing.  Imagine her disappointment.”

“No, Sir.  He is a roofer and he has a large collection of ladders.  Furthermore, he is not afraid of heights.  He could have the angel up on the tree within the hour.”

I considered his suggestion as I popped the olive from my latest martini into my mouth and chewed thoughtfully.  “Within the hour, you say?”

“Yes, Sir.  Furthermore, he could also string all the lights on the tree for you.”

I visibly started.  I had not considered the lights.  There were two or three dozen strings of them and they would have to be wound round and round the tree.  That would be nearly impossible to do while spring-boarding off of the divan.

“Very well, James.  Call your chap.  I am going to go to my den and recline in my recliner.  I am feeling a bit woozy for some reason.  No doubt all the excitement of a new tree.”

“No doubt, Sir.  And, yes, Sir.  I will call him right now.  And shall I have him replace that burned out lightbulb on the ceiling, Sir?”

I squinted upwards to where James was pointing, though doing so made the room shimmy somewhat, no doubt due to the strong odor of Grand Fir in the room.

“Yes.  By all means, James.   Let there be lights.”


Link to Episode 7
Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

 

 

 

The Alistair and Alexis Christmas Special, Episode 5

Vintage Christmas - Christmas Tree Shopping 1b
Link To Episode 4

The annual Callington tradition of going to pick out the Christmas tree for the front room was well underway.  We had already made great progress.  To wit:  we had managed to get both children into the car at the same time.  There had been a couple of false starts.  On the first attempt, we were halfway down the drive before we realized our darling little Evangeline was nowhere to be seen.  An interrogation of her brother, Edrington, revealed nothing.  He was too busy building and fighting robot dinosaurs on his handheld gaming console.  Of little sisters he knew nothing.  If she were a dinosaur he might have shown more interest.

On the second attempt, we had actually pulled out of the drive and were tooling along Meandering Pheasant Lane when Evangeline sent word from the rear of the SUV that we were minus one brother.  She assured us she was not complaining, but was merely asking if she could strap her dolly in with the seatbelt that Edrington would normally be using if he was there.  We made a quick U-turn at the entrance to the Hawthorne- Pinckney’s estate and returned to home port to find him in the kitchen tucking into some Sous vide grouse with beetroot left over from the night before.

On the third attempt, we were nearly to the edge of town when we realized neither child was in the back of the SUV, which would explain the relatively peaceful, quiet ride that my darling Alexis and I were enjoying.  We returned home, conducted a search and rescue mission, and found them in the media room watching a movie as if they hadn’t a care in the world.  But it turns out that they did actually have a care in the world, for Evangeline immediately complained that Edrington was making her watch a movie involving time-traveling donkeys who must save the world by making wisecracks while shooting aliens with lasers.  Edrington retorted that he simply could not watch another movie involving large-eyed, mystery-solving girls talking about the power of friendship and unicorns.  I said we would table this discussion for the next family meeting and then herded them out to the SUV and supervised the buckling in of said offspring myself.

On the fourth attempt, we paused the SUV at the front gate before pulling onto Meandering Pheasant Lane, and we both looked far back into the recesses of the SUV to make sure both children were present and accounted for.  Satisfied that they were, and that we were not seeing apparitions, we continued on our way to Jacques’ Jolly Jólatré Farm.

Jacques was a large Norwegian chappy with a bushy beard, a penchant for plaid flannel shirts, suspenders, durable work trousers, and heavy boots.  Even when talking casually, he looked as if he should have an axe resting jauntily on his shoulder.  However, to my knowledge, I have never seen him wield an axe.  In fact, all I have ever seen him hold with any regularity is a Grande mocha cappuccino.   Jacques is the owner of the only Christmas tree farm for hundreds of miles and so he is the go-to guy for all things evergreen, piney, and Christmassy.

The weather was perfect for the outing.  The sky was slate gray and overcast, idly threatening to snow, but without any real conviction.  The air was brisk and slightly below freezing.   This all went well with Alexis’ jaunty country outfit consisting of a liberty shirt, a fleece gilet, a light green Schoffel ghillie coat, chocolate colored moleskin breeks, Le Chameau Andalou Ponti lined boots, a cashmere scarf, and Bordeaux colored knit cap of lamb’s wool with a faux rabbit pompom.  Apparently, she thought we might accidentally end up fox hunting in the Cotswold’s or that we might wander unawares into a photo shoot for “Ladies’ Country Estate” magazine.    Compared to her, I and the children were woefully underdressed in our jeans, flannel shirts, sneakers, and anoraks (though Evangeline’s was pink).    Still, there was no denying that Alexis was as cute as a little Scottish button (except that she is Irish on her father’s side, and Italian on her mother’s side).  It seemed a shame to tell her that we would merely be picking out a Christmas tree on Jacques’ humble little tree farm, and that no one was going to see her except Jacques and a couple of dozen other denizens of our fair city who, like us, like to prepare for Christmas by taking the short drive out into the country to visit Jacques and his trees.  The worst thing we were likely to encounter was Jacque’s curmudgeonly old dog whose growl was definitely worse than his bite due to his advanced years (and poor teeth).

Since Alexis was driving, it meant that, according to the rules of the road (established in an international tribunal convened shortly after the invention of the in-dash radio), I got to select the music we listened to.  I fiddled with the knobs and buttons and pushed this and diddled with that, trying to find something seasonal.  This caused Alexis to remark at various points, “I don’t find zydeco music particularly Christmassy” or “Are you hearing subliminal messages in the hiss between stations that the rest of us are missing?” and, my personal favorite, “Please find a station or so help me I will put you out on the side of the road.”   It was that last one that inspired me to find a local station that plays Christmas music 24/7 between Thanksgiving and Christmas, broken up only by commercials and perky announcers announcing that we should not worry, that more Christmas music will be coming up right after this commercial break.  The children and I even began to sing along with some of the carols we knew the words to.  Sadly, that made me question whether all the money I was paying Madame Gagnon for music and voice lessons was truly worth it.  In fact, I made a mental note to call her and ask her if my delightful little bairn had ever even set foot in her fine establishment.  Perhaps all these months they had been accidentally wandering into the tap dancing school next door.  To test that theory, I made a mental note (the second of the trip so far … perhaps I should be writing these down) to put on “Singing In the Rain” later at home and see if they would spontaneously break out into dance.  If so, strong steps must be taken instantly to undo the damage, for there are few things more vexing to parents than tap-dancing children.

I was so lost in my concerns over the fear that my progeny might be engaging in covert tap dancing that I suddenly found that we were at Jacques’ Jolly Jólatré Farm.  Alexis navigated the SUV expertly through and around other vehicles in the large grassy field that served as the parking lot, which is truly amazing considering that she can hardly see over the dashboard.  However, I learned long ago that asking her if she wanted me to get some of the large coffee table books to put in the driver’s seat for her to sit on was a mistake of the highest order.  One would not think she could get much distance on a large coffee table book of photos of the birds of the rainforest, but she managed to get a good ten feet on it, though her arm mechanics could use some refining and the follow-through needed some work.

We debouched from the SUV after several minutes of chaos caused by the complexity of seatbelt buckles, lost dollies, lost dolly accessories, dying batteries on a handheld gaming console, the finding and putting on of coats and jackets and earmuffs and a single shoe that had somehow ended up in the cargo area.  It made me wonder why people make such a fuss about Hannibal crossing the alps on elephants.  That campaign was a walk in a park with toy poodles compared to a road trip with children.  If Hannibal had to take a boy and a girl, aged 8 and 5 respectively, across the Alps, elephants or no, the whole thing would have been a disaster and the history books would have recorded that Hannibal gave up on the venture a mere mile and a half away from home.

We walked across the field towards the gate leading to where the Christmas trees were.   I won’t say our pace was glacial, for I believe glaciers move generally in a straight line and with a constantly forward direction, but there were some definite similarities in speed.  Betting would have run 8 to 1 in favor of the glacier due to its steady pace and forward direction, whereas we were a bit of a dark horse due to our serpentine path, frequent stops to look for dropped items or examine particularly interesting fauna in the grass of the parking area, and a general lack of single-mindedness.  Progress improved somewhat when Alexis took Edrington’s hand firmly and I picked up Evangeline to carry her.   Edrington, like me, was aware of the dangers of trying to go in a nor’ by nor’eastly direction when Alexis would rather one be heading in a sou’ by sou’westerly direction.  So, he matched her pace and direction with no fuss or complaints.  Experience will hone such survival skills.

We entered through the gate in into Jacques’ cultivated forest.  It was much like any forest one would find one’s self lost in, except that all of the trees were evergreens and they were all spaced apart equally with such precision that it appeared as if an obsessive-compulsive Johnny Appleseed had wondered through the area with a bag full of evergreen seeds, a laser precision GPS-guided measuring device, and a seed-planting robot.  It was a little disorienting while walking through it, but it was also oddly satisfying.  The air was filled with the aroma of evergreen.  Our shoes padded nearly silently on the bed of pine needles we walked on.  We could see our breath when we talked or exhaled.  Once inside where the trees were, sounds were oddly muted and views of the other shoppers were obscured by the trees and so one felt alone.  One could almost hear the lines of Robert Frost,

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep …

I started to recite this as we walked through the uniformly spaced forest, but since it did not involve cage-fighting dinosaurs, large-eyed crime-fighting girls on unicorns, or high fashion, I felt it would fall largely on deaf ears.

“Well, my darling little Petunia, what kind of tree are we looking for?” I asked.

Alexis stood, hands on her hips, looking around at the bewildering array of trees, looking for all the world like the Lady Alexis of Achadh Chraobhan surveying the lands surrounding her manor house.  I felt as if she were about to make a pronouncement and, perhaps it was my imagination, it seems as if a hush fell over the highly symmetrical forest.

“I’m not sure,” she said at last.  “Something … very … you know … Christmas tree-y.”

I looked around at the hundreds of Christmas trees that surrounded us.  “If only there were somewhere we could find such a thing,” I said.  “I wonder if Jacques has a special area he keeps those sorts of trees?”

She cast one of her patented looks at me, designed to visually serve me a cease and desist notice.

“You know what I mean,” she said.  “I would like a tree that is tall.  And fluffy.”

“Is fluffy a characteristic of evergreen trees?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said coolly.  “I mean it should not be too skinny.  I want lots of branches to hang things on.  We have a lot of ornaments.”

“And,” I pointed out helpfully, “It will make it easier for the cat to climb.”

“We don’t have a cat,” said Alexis.

Evangeline, who had heretofore been relatively quiet, suddenly cast her vote in favor of getting a cat.  Edrington, aroused from fighting virtual dinosaurs in his virtual world, asserted that dogs were superior to cats for a variety of reasons that he failed to enumerate.  Alexis, as chairperson pro tempore tabled all discussions of cats and dogs and effectively killed the resolution under consideration by the board.  There would most likely have been a strong protest from the floor, but we were mercifully spared a ruckus by the sudden appearance of Jacques himself.

As always, I was quite surprised to see that he was not carrying an axe.  What is the point of being a 6-foot-6 Norwegian chap with a beard and a plaid shirt if you weren’t going to carry an axe with you everywhere you went?

“Can I help you folks?” he asked.  His voice was deep and friendly and was disappointingly free of a Norwegian accent.

“Yes, thank you!” said Alexis gratefully.

“Where do you keep your Christmas trees?” I asked.

Jacques looked at me keenly with his arctic blue eyes, no doubt acutely aware that we were surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of Christmas trees.  Perhaps it is just as well that he doesn’t carry an axe around with him.

“What I mean to say,” I continued hurriedly.  “Is, where do you keep your fluffy Christmas trees?”

“Fluffy?” he asked and I am pretty sure he was now considering adding an axe to his business attire.

“Something with lots of branches,” added Alexis.   Then, as an afterthought, added, “We have lots of Christmas ornaments.”

“Some of them came over on the Mayflower,” I added helpfully.  Alexis shushed me.

“No,” she explained to Jacques, smiling nervously.  “They didn’t.  We just have a lot of them and need a lot of branches.”

“Well,” said Jacques, “You can’t go wrong with your firs.”

“You’ve always wanted a fur, my Delightful Periwinkle,” I said brightly to Alexis.  She shot me a withering look.

“Firs are very popular,” continued Jacques, unperturbed, “Particularly your Douglas and your Noble firs.”

“Are there ignoble firs?” I asked.  Alexis shushed me with her foot against my shin this time.  Fortunately, her expensive Le Chameau Andalou Ponti lined boots were soft soled and so did no real damage.

“Anything from the fir family will have lots of branches,” continued Jacques.  “The noble fir keeps a long time.”

“Very noble,” I commented, though stayed away from Alexis’ Le Chameau Andalou boots.

“The Douglas fir has a nice aroma to it,” said Jacques, apparently deciding to ignore my commentary.  “And the Fraser fir has upturned branches, which some people like.  It also has good needle retention.”

“Like Grand Pa-Pa’s old phonograph,” I whispered to Evangeline, for at this point, she was the only one listening to me.

“The Colorado Blue Spruce,” said Jacques, “Is a very handsome tree, but it can have a foul odor if crushed.”

“Much like Grand Pa-Pa,” I whispered to Evangeline, which elicited a giggle from her.  Alexis shot us both a steely glance and I put my finger to my lips to shush the irascible Evangeline.  Obviously, she was getting out of control.

“Now your Scotch pines not only have excellent needle retention,” said Jacques, “But they have superior keepability.”

“Like me,” I whispered to no one in particular.  This time Evangeline put her finger to my lips to shush me.  She obviously took after her mother.  I glanced down to Edrington for support, but he was absorbed in conducting a cage fight between a T-Rex and a triceratops.

Alexis wanted to see a sample of each type of tree and so Jacques invited us onto his six-seater golf cart and we began a trek that went from one tree to another.  They all looked quite alike to me, but Alexis nearly swooned at each tree, though she would then begin to find fault in each one.  Our precious offspring could not have been any less interested if we were looking at brown cardboard cutouts of other brown cardboard cutouts of tax returns, water bills, and jury summons.  I suppose in their fresh, undeveloped minds, a tree by any other name is still a tree.  There was no tree ever invented that would hold their interest until it had presents underneath it.  Children are funny that way.  They are not very arborealogically minded.  But then again, neither am I, so perhaps it is genetic.  Unlike Joyce Kilmer, I have met many trees I did not like and, on the whole, can take them or leave them.  I bear them no ill will, but they generally will not hold up their end of a conversation.

After looking at the dozens and dozens of trees that we were driven around to, even Kilmer would have become antipathetic towards trees and would have wandered out to the barn to retrieve an axe.  Fortunately, just as I was about to ask Jacques if there were perhaps any St. Bernard dogs with casks of rum strapped to their necks roaming around freely, Alexis gasped and gripped my arm tightly.

“Alistair!”

“Yes, my delightful crocus?”

“There it is!”

I looked in the direction she was pointing, but I could not see her tree for the forest.

“Could you be more specific, Dearest?” I asked, for all the trees I saw looked exactly alike.

Jacques had stopped the golf cart and she ran and stood rapturously in front of  a towering Christmas tree of staggering proportions.    “This one,” she said, looking up at it.  I’m surprised she didn’t get dizzy and fall down while looking straight up like that.

“I’m not sure that will fit in the front room,” I said dubiously.

“We can trim it to fit,” said Jacques helpfully.  “This here is a Grand Fir.  The big kahuna of fir trees.”

I wondered if “big kahuna” is an old Norwegian expression meaning “really big tree”.

“We’ll take it,” said Alexis.

“But, my exuberant Fiorella,” I protested.  “There is no way this sequoia will fit on top of the SUV.”

“We deliver,” said Jacques dispassionately.  I really think he was doing this just to get back at me for my earlier jests.

I sighed and reached for my wallet.  This battle was over before it began.  If my darling little Daffodil wants a tree that will take up the entire room and pop up through the ceiling and into the master bedroom, then that is what she shall have.  The irony of it is that we probably do not have enough ornaments to cover such a tree.


Link to Episode 6
Copyright ©2017 by Biff Sock Pow

How To Have An Existential Crisis For Fun and Profit (and Maybe a Few Yucks)

panicking

I decided to take a break from my make-it-up-as-I-go-along Christmas-themed blog novel (blogvel?) and write an actual blog post.

I have to be honest with you.  I have not posted in a while because there just hasn’t been much to write about.  How many blog posts can I wring out of my boring job?  How many blog posts can I get out of a very mundane, pedestrian life?  When I first fancied myself as a writer at around the age of 15, I just assumed that every moment of my life would be fascinating to readers if I could just somehow get my writing in front of them.

That was way before the Internet.  The only way you could get your writing in front of readers was to write a very grumpy, complain-y letter to the editor of the local newspaper, and even then there was only about a 0.01% chance it would get published.   I knew writers who would take out those free ads in the “Weekly Shopper” or “Green Sheets” just so they could experience the thrill of something they wrote appearing in print.  (No names … I promised them I would never admit that to anyone.)

Anyway, that was a long, roundabout way of saying that my belief as a 15 year old that my every written word would be fascinating to the reading public has undergone something of a change as I’ve gotten older and especially since I starting writing this here blog o’ mine.  I realized not everything I write is fascinating or amusing.  That came as something of a blow to my writer’s ego.    Worse still, I realized one day that the stuff I write doesn’t even hold MY interest!  That was an even worse blow, not only to my writer’s ego, but to my ego as a human being.  I now live in fear of having a near fatal accident, because I don’t think I’ll be able sit through my own life flashing before my eyes.  I might very well yawn and nod off in the middle of it.

So, I’ve slowed down on the ol’ blog and have been trying to regroup and rethink what I’m doing here.

I love writing humorous things and making people smile or laugh or even just feel good.  But humor writing is a strange thing.  If I were a stand-up comedian, the laughter of the crowd is instantaneous feedback.  It makes you want to write even more funny stuff so you can hear that laughter and applause.  It becomes a drug and you write and perform more and more material trying to get more and more laughter.

But writing humor is completely different.   You write it … you toss it out there into the ether … and there is no (or very little) feedback.  So you question … was it funny?  Did anybody smile?  Did anyone laugh?  Did anyone even read it?

You don’t know the answer to those questions … so the doubt sets in.  The doubt turns to self doubt.  The self-doubt turns to a kind of depression.  And that leads to a lack of energy and thus a lack of output.  The lack of output becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of “I guess I just wasn’t that funny after all.”

I think that is why my posting goes in waves.  When I am prolific it is because my confidence is high and thus my energy levels are high.  When the confidence wanes (because of the aforementioned lack of feedback), so too do the energy levels wane.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not asking for sympathy comments or likes.  I’m just trying to give you a glimpse into a humor-writer’s brain.  The humorist is almost always a self-doubting person who is insecure about their writing abilities … or their abilities to connect with others in a humorous way.  It is no secret that comedy is almost always a defense mechanism.  There is almost always a sort of nervous awkwardness behind every piece of comedy or humor.

Anyway … enough about that.  My next post will be humorous.  I promise!  Or your money back.

 

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