The Christmas Spirit Will Blindside Me Any Day Now


christmas-spiritI’m desperately trying to get in the Christmas Spirit.  I know they wanted me to be into this as early as three weeks ago, but I can’t get anywhere close to feeling Christmassy until December anyway.  We bought a new tree a few weeks ago, but didn’t put it up until the day after Thanksgiving.  That sounded somewhat correct.  My parents used to put up the “real” tree a few days before the big event.  It would have been purchased from the tree lot a week or two before, but would be sitting in the garage in a bucket of water waiting for my father to decide it was time to string on the lights.  Yesterday I unpacked the train and put it underneath my new tree.  I hung a wreath on the front door.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I didn’t “feel” anything remotely resembling Christmas Spirit.

Tomorrow, if it warms up some, and the wind doesn’t blow, I might start putting up the lights out front.  Since it’s not expected to warm up, and the wind always blows here, that probably won’t happen.  But I should, I guess, I just don’t know why.

I used to love putting up the Christmas lights on the house, often risking life and limb to string twinkle lights on the eves of two-story houses, but as I’ve grown older it seems like an awful waste of energy and, well, energy.  I’m still going to do it though.  I’m sure that the Christmas Spirit will blindside me any day now.

Our first Christmas in Reno, NV, I kind of went a little nuts on the house decorating.  It all started when the neighbor catty-corner from us put up his lights after I had finished mine.  He had more, so I went out and bought some more.  Then he went out and bought some more.  And then I went out and got some more stuff.  It went on like this for a couple of weeks.  A week before Christmas, the neighbor’s wife walked across the street towards me while I was stringing up yet another set of blinking colored lights.  “You’re house looks beautiful,” she said, “but would you please stop!  My husband is not going to give up, and we can’t afford to spend anymore on decorations.”  I couldn’t either, so I promised that this would be it.  We’ve lived on a cul-de-sac.   Nobody could see our fabulous Christmas displays anyway. 

Even the angel has her back to me.

Even the angel has her back to me.

That new tree I mentioned earlier cost over $400.  The only thing the purchase of that did was send me straight into Buyer’s Remorse.  We needed a new one, I guess.  We convinced ourselves that we did.  The old tree had been around for well over 15 years.  It still worked, but it only had white lights on it and the new tree has colored lights, white lights or both alternating.  I got tired of the white lights only, and wanted to get some colored ones.  That was my reasoning anyway.  The fact that it has both was an added bonus.

 Even though the old tree had been around for 15 years, you only use it once a year, but last year I had to spend hours getting the pre-lit branches to light.  One by one, I searched for the bulb that was causing me this grief and I didn’t want to have to do it again this year.  So I gave it to my oldest daughter (actually I sold it to her for fifty bucks…hey I needed to recoup some of my $400.) and she put it up last week too.  The lights were working fine, go figure.

Christmas Shopping isn’t fun anymore either.  Now that I think about, it never was “fun,” but there was a purpose in doing it at least.  When you get older and you don’t have any little ones around anymore, it just seems pointless.  When I want something during the year, I just get it, if I can.  If I can’t, I don’t have a Santa Claus I can ask for it, so I do without.

Christmas Shopping didn’t use to officially start until the day after Thanksgiving.  Downtown stores would unveil their fantastic window displays of toy trains, dolls, bicycles, scooters, and other kid Bacchanalia.  Kid drool and nose prints would be all over the window glass at differing heights.  Now we have this thing called “Black Friday,” where we subject our kids to their parents fighting over limited supplies of this or that video game in limited supply at unbeatable prices.  The stores start to put out the Christmas displays the day after Halloween.  I guess people needed more time to shop for Christmas, and I understand that the retail industry’s make or break season is the holidays, so they’re giving themselves more time to meet targets.  It’s all kind of screwed up holiday shopping for me though.   

Snow is important for the Christmas Spirit as well.   We probably won’t get any snow before December 25th, but there’s always a chance.  I don’t know how anyone in warm climates like California or Florida can do Christmas.  Christmas needs snow.  We lived in Arizona for 12 years and it never felt like Christmas.  No crackling fire.  No chestnuts roasting.  No sleigh rides, so no sleigh bells.  No “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  No chimneys or fireplaces.  Santa Claus comes through the front door in Arizona, probably driving that red Lexus from the “Lexus December to Remember” commercial.

Christmas music helps conjure up the Christmas Spirit some.  They started playing Christmas music on the station I listen to out in the garage two weeks before Thanksgiving.  That’s just too early for me and it wasn’t having any of the desired effect, so I changed the channel.  I guess I’ll change it back now that it’s December today.  It’ll be too cold to work out in the garage though, so it doesn’t really matter.

grinchI’ll just continue to wait for that cherished Christmas Spirit to sucker-punch me.  Right now I’m starting to see a lot of conformity with this guy.  I know for sure I look like this when I get up in the morning.  I’ve looked in the mirror. WTF.

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About the Mayflower, and Thanksgiving, and Things


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When the Mayflower left England in September of 1620 it was carrying 102 passengers and 26 crew.  As far as we know, 31 of these passengers were children.  The Mayflower actually set sail three times.  The first in July 1620, but they had to turn back twice.  July would have been a much more advantageous time to make the three-month voyage because of the weather in the new world.  They turned back both times because the ship they were sailing with, the Speedwell, was leaking.  They decided to leave the Speedwell behind and the Mayflower finally got underway on September 6, 1620.  I don’t know about you, but the fact that the sister ship kept springing a leak, might have made me think twice about even going.

They weren’t actually Pilgrims either.  That name didn’t stick until Daniel Webster called the settlers “Pilgrim Fathers” two hundred years later.  They were originally called “Old Comers.”  Later, a manuscript was found written by William Bradford, who was the Plymouth Colony governor.  In that manuscript he referred to his fellow settlers as “saints” and “pilgrimes.”  The Old Comers weren’t from England either, they were from Holland, and not all of the passengers on the Mayflower were members of the separatist sect.

One-hundred and two people were stuffed in living quarters that were 5.5 feet high, 80 feet long and 25 feet wide.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  For over three months these people were living in a tossing and heaving box designed to carry goods and supplies.  An area the size of a modern-day, double-wide, mobile home.

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The Mayflower had been used to trade with Norway in the past, and that cargo was fish.  You know they couldn’t get that smell out of the hold, but I’m sure that wasn’t the worst of the pungent odors.  What did you do for three months sitting in a box?  I can’t imagine doing anything like that for even a few days.  Tending to the sick, burying the dead at sea and birthing babies passed some of the time.  Peregrine White, son of William White, was born on the Mayflower in late November 1620.  He was the first Pilgrim born in America as the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod harbor at the time.

More than 35 million people are direct descendants of the Mayflower voyagers.  John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood are some of the more notable.  If your last name is Turner though, you can’t trace your ancestry to the Mayflower.  Thomas and his two sons died in the winter of 1620.  In fact, almost half of the settlers died on the voyage or during the first winter in America.  James Chilton and his wife; Moses Fletcher;  John Tilley and his wife, Joan; Degory Priest; and Thomas Rogers, were some of the Pilgrims who died in that first winter at Plymouth Plantation.

The original Mayflower, obviously, no longer exists.  Plimoth Plantation’s full-scale replica does.  (That’s not a misspelling of the word Plymouth either.  William Bradford who recorded the history of the Pilgrims, used the phonetic spelling of the word, as there were no rules for spelling English words in the 17th century.  Sometimes the same word could be spelled differently on the same page.)   It was built in Devon, England and crossed the Atlantic to America in 1957.  Christened the Mayflower II, you can visit the ship today.  The renovated Mayflower II returned to its home in Plymouth Harbor at 2 pm on June 6, 2016.  The Plantation is hoping to raise $8 million to finish the restoration in time for the 400th anniversary in 2020.  

220px-squantoteachingEver heard of Squanto?  Me neither.  He was the Patuxet Indian who spoke English and taught the Pilgrims to successfully plant corn.  He could speak English because he was taken hostage and kept in England for a time before he was returned to his homeland some time before the Pilgrims got there.   You might imagine how surprised the Pilgrims would have been to have one of the heathen Indians speak to them in English.  The Pilgrims used to bury their dead at night to hide from what they  considered hostile Indians.  The corn he taught them to plant was an important crop for the settlers, but they would have called it “Indian corn” or “turkey wheat” because, in the 17th century, the English word corn meant, rye, barley, oat or some other grain.

Remember that lie, one of many, that they told us in elementary school about how the Indians taught us how to make popcorn?  Total lie.  The type of corn grown would have been Northern Flint which does not pop at all well.

And while we’re on the subject of fact or fiction, has Thanksgiving ever been held on the last Thursday of November?  I always thought it was, and truth is President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving in 1863.  (Do the math.  It took 242 years before anyone decided to make Thanksgiving a holiday.)  And it stayed that way until 1939.  President Franklin Roosevelt decided it should be the fourth Thursday in November, not the occasional fifth, because the National Retail Dry Goods Association didn’t want it cutting into their holiday shopping season.  Of course, the president’s decision sparked great controversy and wasn’t resolved until two years later when the House of Representatives and the Senate made the fourth Thursday in November a legal national holiday.  Now it doesn’t really matter, because the holiday shopping season starts before Halloween, doesn’t it?

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving, aside from the turkey and the pumpkin pie, is, of course, football.  The NFL didn’t start playing on Thanksgiving Day until 1934.  The Detroit Lions had just arrived in the city, (From where you ask?  Okay, you didn’t, but I’ll tell you anyway.) from Portsmouth, Ohio.  They were originally the Portsmouth Spartans and were bought in 1934 for a little over $7,500 and moved to Detroit.  So what better thing to do than to stuff 26,000 stuffed fans into the University of Detroit stadium to watch them lose to the Chicago Bears 19-16.  The Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day every year since, except during World War II (1939-1944).  College football started it though, back in 1876.

And finally, I can’t think about “turkey day” without remembering one of the funniest shows I ever saw on television.  To preface this, just so you know, turkeys, domestic turkeys, the kind you eat on Thanksgiving, CAN NOT FLY.  Wild turkeys which are much smaller, under eight pounds, can fly for small distances pretty fast.  Which is why there is such a thing as a turkey shoot.  It will take a lot more wild turkeys at around eight pounds each to feed the Pilgrims, say, so that wasn’t the main staple on their Thanksgiving table.  Another lie they told you in elementary school.

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October 30, 1978.  WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkeys Away.”  Mr. Carlson, station manager, decides to organize a  free turkey giveaway promotion.  Twenty live turkeys.  His final words in the show: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

WKRP Turkey Giveaway

Happy Thanksgiving ( a little early) everyone.

 

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Keep That Up, You’re Going To Get In Some Real Trouble


kid-in-trouble-1000x750“You keep that up and you’re going to get into some real trouble.”  My mother used to say that all the time.  What kind of trouble was I in at the moment, if it wasn’t real trouble?

My mother used to run after me when I was little, flying down the steps of the back porch, slamming the screen door, grabbing a stick off the ground and chasing me as I ran circles around the yard.  She would say something like, “you stop right there.”  Yeah, I see a mad woman with a stick chasing me and telling me to stop.  That doesn’t sound like a good idea.  “You better stop or you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”  So I would stop.  Thankfully, by that time, she was pretty winded and couldn’t do much damage to my backside.

The wooden screen door would vibrate on its hinges and then slam  into the frame as the giant spring pulled it back.

We were always getting into trouble for slamming the screen door.  It was virtually impossible to not slam the screen door when you were exiting the house unless you held on to the screen door and slowly let it shut.  But you were going out the screen door and you weren’t thinking about holding on to it, and the spring would invariably pull it back towards the frame.  You would see it closing and you would try to grab it really quick, and bam.  “Stop slamming the screen door.” 

“I didn’t.”  Well, in reality, the screen door slammed itself.

“You keep it up, you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”

It seems like I was always in trouble when I was a kid, rapidly progressing into some real trouble.

My mother had other “motherisms” as well.  Although her favorite seemed to be the “real trouble” warning, she also used the “people are starving in China” a lot when you didn’t want to eat your peas, or liver, or carrots, or stuffed cabbage, or some other disgusting, non-kid friendly, food.  “EAT YOUR LIVER.  There are people starving in China” she would say.  “They would love to have that liver to eat.”  Once, and only once, I suggested that she could wrap it up and send it to them.  I didn’t progress to real trouble.  I was in real trouble from the get go.

I would sit at that table, by myself, well into the evening, the plate of cold congealed liver staring up at me.  No playing hide and seek with the kids I could hear having fun outside.  I mean, come on, warm liver wasn’t going to go down, what made her think cold liver was even going to be tried.  I was never sure how long I was going to be sitting there, but I knew I wasn’t eating whatever it was that was still on my plate.  Just before bedtime, she would grab the plate off the table and say, without hesitation, “You’re not getting any dessert.  Get on up to bed.”  If she had just given me the option of eating the liver or no dessert, we could have saved a lot time.

Needless to say, I never got any dessert on nights when we had liver, fish, peas, carrots, or stuffed cabbage.  Stuffed cabbage was known as “Galunkies” in our house.  I don’t know why, and I’m not sure if that’s how it’s spelled or if it’s even a word.  Certainly not an English word, maybe Hungarian.  (My grandmother on my mother’s side was from Hungary.)  It was hamburger and rice, with assorted seasonings, wrapped in a cabbage leaf and baked in the oven.  I watched her make it once because I wanted to know why it tasted so bad.  It was the cabbage.  Smelled up the whole house while it was baking.  That night I didn’t get any dessert.

Another favorite of my mother, was, “if you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.”  The face was being made because something unpleasant was yet again being served for dinner.

My mother firmly believed that drinking coffee as a kid would stunt your growth.  I never risked it.  She also believed that sitting on the ground when it was cool outside would give you a cold.  That never stopped me.  I would get colds, so I’m not sure if that was the reason, because going barefoot would also lead, unmistakably, according to my mother, to a cold.  “You got that cold because you went outside barefoot.”  There were other medical warnings about where things might have been before you stuck them in your mouth.  Terrible things could transpire for sucking on a quarter.  And God help you if you picked something up you dropped on the ground or the floor, and ate it.  This would later be blamed for any number of ailments.

We were always being told to be quiet.  This was mainly because my father worked a swing-shift and would be asleep during most of the day.  Or at least trying to sleep.  “Quiet down, your father is trying to sleep.”  As a kid, and I don’t know about you, but it is virtually impossible to “play” and not make noise.  And how could you be held responsible for the level of noise from the neighborhood kids?  Taking that a step farther, how is yelling out the back door to be quiet, being quiet?  Anyway, we spent a lot of time trying to play quietly.  “Not so loud, my Dad is trying to sleep.”  To this day, I’m not really sure how much sleep my Dad got, when I was younger.    

Looking back, I think you can say that most of my youth revolved around a slamming screen door and not being very fond of the dinner menu. 

 

 

 

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Outright, Overt,Blatant, Shameless, Unmitigated Self Promotion…Again.


cooltext117841331049172It’s that time of year, well, almost.  Craft Show time.  I’ve been working all year making toys and wood crafts for the upcoming Holiday Season.  This year we’ve decided that we’re only going to do one show.   (Actually I’m the one who pretty much decided it.)   The one at the Rio Rancho Baptist Church.  Not because we’re lazy, and not because I’m really the only one of the “artisans” at LoBo Canyon that can do this full-time, and not because we don’t like doing craft shows, and not because we don’t have enough inventory to do a show,  and not because we’re Baptists (We’re not.), I guess, just because.

I remember the first time we did the show two years ago, my daughter was worried that Baptists, according to her, didn’t accept women in pants.  She was wearing jeans.  My first response was something like, “Where the hell did you hear that?”  She tried to convince me that it was common knowledge so I became concerned that we were going to be shunned and embarrassed,  and she was going to be sent home to change.  Of course, everyone there was wearing pants.  Crisis non-existent.

I can remember, and I really hope this doesn’t date me too much, that girls in my high school were not allowed to wear pants unless it was a snow day.  See, we didn’t close the schools in Wyoming in the 60s and early 70s when two feet of snow fell, drifted and temperatures dropped below freezing.  They get an inch of snow around here and the kids get a snow day.  No, we were expected to be there and not late.  But the girls were excited because they could wear pants.  Not jeans now, but dress slacks, if there is such a thing.  This was clearly to do with modesty I guess, however lame this might sound, but dresses and skirts had to be at the knee also.  How “tight” a pair of pants could be was not clearly demarcated.  Needless to say, the boys looked forward to snow days as well.

But this isn’t about pants.  This is about things we’ve made.  First up for bragging rights is this toy Freightliner Semi Truck.

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I made two of them,  but the other one sold on etsy.  Speaking of which, you can go to the online store here LoBo Canyon .  I also made this truck, which I call the Lowboy Hauler.

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This has a working bulldozer on the flatbed and I’m convinced it will get broken at the show because you just can’t not touch it, and that smoke stack you see on the top is not as strong as I should have made it.  It’s how you release the blade in the front.  I’ll have to display it up high, I guess, which kind of defeats it’s purpose.  It’s for kids to play with.

The landlord replaced the side gate on the house with a metal one, and all I saw was aged cedar that I had to use.  So I made Tommy Turkey.

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece

 

And then I made some reclaimed wood crosses.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have some Christmas ornaments as well.  I had a lot of craft sticks and Popsicle sticks lying around that we had purchased for other projects that didn’t get done, so I tried to come up with some uses for them.

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter buys bags of costume jewelry from the local thrift store and we came up with these reclaimed-jewelry crosses.  The pictures don’t do them justice, as they say.

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve got birdhouses, and bubble gum machines. 

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I went through a pull-toy phase this summer, so we have pull toys like cyclists and grasshoppers.

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That’s only some of the stuff.  We have over 200 items for the show which runs November 4th and 5th from 9-3 both days.  If you can’t get to the Rio Rancho Baptist Church in November, go ahead and check out our etsy shop at LoBo Canyon  and see what else we have.  Follow us on etsy and see what else we come up with.  It makes us look successful .  All in-stock items ship in 1 to 2 days.  Everything is lovingly handcrafted in the USA. 

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I Have A Monet Hanging In My Bathroom


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Yes, it’s true, I have a Monet hanging on the bathroom wall.  The painting is titled “The Garden at Vétheui.”  If you look carefully, you can see the bathroom window and the photographer reflected in the glass.  Painted in 1880, or 81, depending on who you believe,  it was part of a project the artist started to paint things he enjoyed before he died.  His name is Claude-Oscar Monet, or Oscar-Claude Monet, again depending on whom you believe.  Something you might not know, neither Claude nor Oscar was his middle name.  Middle names were not used for hundreds of years and didn’t come back in to vogue until the nineteenth century.  In fact, only three of our first seventeen presidents had middle names.  Yeah, go ahead, think about it.  What was George Washington’s middle name?  Didn’t have one.  How about Abraham Lincoln?  Nope.  Thomas Jefferson?  I wish I didn’t have a middle name.  I hate mine.

Monet is considered the father of “impressionism.”  His first financially successful painting was titled “Impression – Sunrise.”  The title actually gave name to the movement, “Impressionism.” What is an impressionist?  Do you really think I know.  All I know is I suffered through “Art History” as a freshman in college because I had to, and because of that I know the term, and I can immediately recognize a Monet (even without the identifying label on the bottom of the painting in my bathroom), a Van Gogh, an El Greco, and a bronze by Frederick Remington.  I even know what an altar piece is.  I appreciate fine art, but mostly because it is something I could never afford to own, and I have to go to one of those stuffy art museums to see it.

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Monet Self Portrait with a Beret

Monet is credited with over 2,500 works of art in his 86 years of life, and another interesting little bit of trivia is that his paintings, especially his later ones, often appear out of focus, or soft focus.  Did you ever wonder why?  Of course you didn’t, but I discovered that it was because he suffered from cataracts.  You can use that little bit of information when you are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC where the original of my Monet is displayed.  Stand in front of the painting, admiringly, and say to the stranger that walks up, “Did you know that Oscar-Claude Monet suffered from cataracts and that’s why his paintings are out of focus?”  Don’t go all redneck and call him “Mo-net” either.  His name is pronounced “mo-nay.”  And don’t say something like you know a guy that has that exact same painting hanging in his bathroom.

Just to give you an idea why the painting in my bathroom is not an original Monet, and probably retails for $24.95 including the gold frame, but I probably bought it at a yard sale for $5, is this:  in 2008 Christie’s sold “Le bassin aux nymphéas” (from the water lilies series) for $80,451,178 with fees.

In 1881 Monet launched himself into a painting project around Vétheuil. He concentrated primarily on his garden which stretched out in front of his house at a lower level than the road, down to the Seine. This way, he was able to capture on canvas the memory of the places he would soon be leaving. These works compete with each other in terms of luminosity. Monet suggests the downward slope of the ground using the canvas in vertical format and through the play of shadow and light on the ground, which gives the image a feeling of depth and perspective. The figures, Michel Monet and Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, liven up the composition and emphasize the sense of the garden’s vast size in relation to the human scale. But above all, Monet brings together his previous experiments in this work: the fragmented touches of colour illustrate his mastery of the optical mixing technique and make the vegetation shimmer even more vibrantly.

Here’s an oil painting reproduction of the painting so you can see it better.

One other thing about the Monet in my bathroom.  Obviously I see it every day as I walk past to shave and shower.  For the life of me, I always thought that was a little girl in the garden by the wagon in the foreground.  It’s not.  It’s Monet’s young son.  Back a ways in the painting is his wife and another child.  Oh, and he planted that garden at a rental house.  I guess I’m not the only one that landscapes the  yards of the houses I don’t own.

Enough with the art.  You know who William Faulkner was, right?  William Cuthbert Faulkner (Yep, he had a middle name and probably hated it too.) was a famous American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi.  President Kennedy, in 1962, invited Faulkner to the White House for dinner. The cantankerous author, then living in Charlottesville, Virginia, declined, explaining: “Why that’s a hundred miles away. That’s a long way to go just to eat.” Source: The New York Times.  You got to be somebody special to turn down dinner at the White House.  He died July 6 that same year.

 

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Here’s a self-portrait of me in a beret. Kinda scary in so many ways.

Well, that was what was on my mind this morning when I sat down to write this.  Two things, unrelated as usual, but maybe they’re both about middle names.  Maybe not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Come To My Door Holding A Clipboard


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I don’t like door-to-door salesmen.  In fact, hate is not too strong of a word here.  I absolutely hate anyone coming to my door who is holding a clipboard.  Maybe it’s the clipboard, I don’t know, but when I approach the door and see a clipboard it immediately sets me off.  I’m in a foul mood before the intruder even opens their mouth.

Lately it seems that cable TV, or more specifically, satellite TV is a ripe opportunity for the door-to-door salesman.  Okay, salesperson.  Whatever.  I’ve been intruded upon now by three different satellite TV sales persons in the last month.  Two of them were with major providers, Comcast and DISH, and the other guy a few weeks ago was with a local satellite company out of Albuquerque.  The DISH representative actually made it into the house and was sitting at my dining room table when I walked in from the backyard and saw the clipboard.  My wife was responsible for letting the intruder in.  She wasn’t “in” very long.

I tell them all the same thing.  I’m not shopping for satellite TV.  I’ve been with DirectTV since the service was available to me in the early 90s in Tucson AZ.  I wanted DirecTV for one reason, and one reason only: “NFL Sunday Ticket.”  I pay way too much, I have 400 channels that never have anything on worth watching, but I get pretty much fail-safe HD reception on my 70″ LCD Samsung television.  And believe me when I say this, it’s all about football.

The guy a few weeks ago, actually said to me that he doesn’t have “NFL Sunday Ticket” but he has something similar.  No you don’t.  Get off my porch.

I would like to pay less for satellite TV, of course I would, but until “NFL Sunday Ticket” is available on other services, that isn’t going to happen.  My DirecTV bill is currently $197 a month.  Sixty dollars of that amount is the six monthly payments for “NFL Sunday Ticket” that I start paying every September through February.  Sounds like a lot of money, but I get to see every game, every Sunday, up to six games at the same time, and most importantly, I get to see my team.

broncosWell, that’s how it all started anyway.  When I moved to Tucson in 1991, the local market for network TV was the San Diego Chargers, and, of course, the Arizona Cardinals (Known as the Phoenix Cardinals at the time.)  My team, the Denver Broncos, weren’t on unless they were playing San Diego or Arizona.  So I had to find a bar that was telecasting Denver games.  I finally did, but I wondered how they were able to get those games out of market.  The answer was satellite.  How was I going to get me a satellite setup?  Where was I going to put a 10 foot diameter dish in my backyard, and where was I going to get the more than $5,000 I needed?  The answer to those questions was, I wasn’t.  So for two years I hung out in bars on Sunday to watch the Broncos play.

Then on June 1, 1994 the NFL began its “NFL Sunday Ticket” satellite TV service.  The package was offered through DirecTV and it was being offered for free for the first year.  Of course you had to sign a contract for two years, but I didn’t care.  I was at the consumer electronics store the first payday in June.  DirecTV was absolutely unbelievable.  Hundreds of channels, more hours of television than there were in a day, and you could record shows you didn’t have time to watch, so you could watch them later when you didn’t have time to watch.  They installed the dish for free, and starting in September, I was able to watch every game on one screen, most importantly, watch my team every Sunday.  I was in football heaven.

I probably wasn’t the first subscriber of “NFL Sunday Ticket,” but I’m sure I was in the top 100.  I’ve paid over $7,500 over the last 22 years to watch my team, watch your team, watch teams I don’t even like, and I almost never miss a Denver game.  When we moved to Reno, NV in 2001, “NFL Sunday Ticket” was a requirement.  Again, because the Denver Broncos were not televised in that market.  The hated Oakland Raiders were on every Sunday, and the San Francisco 49ers, and, secondly, we were now able to go to the local sports book and bet on the games.  You can’t bet on the games if you aren’t able to watch all the games, because you need to know how the teams are doing if you want to place logical bets.  At least, that was our argument.  We would sit every Sunday, watching the “Red Zone Channel” and checking scores, as we watched our parlay cards dissolve into unprofitable slips of paper.  Yeah, we didn’t get rich betting on football, but we won some.

We call Sundays at our house “The Church of the NFL.”  Services start at 10:00 am and last until 9:30 pm every Sunday.  I go to church religiously.

So if you’re a cable or satellite TV salesperson, don’t waste your time ringing my doorbell.  I know you see the DirecTV dish on my house.  It’s clearly visible from the street, and unless you somehow manage to get the exclusive contract for “NFL Sunday Ticket” it’s staying right there.  WTF.

 

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The Secret Life of Wal…O.Leonard


Rio OlympicsYeah, a lot of us grow up with childhood dreams of being great athletes.  Professional athletes.  Olympic atheletes.  Some of us actually do… become world-class atheletes, or at least end up being pretty good at some sport or another along the way.  Last night I was watching the Rio Olympics, and I started thinking about all the things I tried in my attempts to become one of those world-class athletes, or just be pretty good at one sport or another.

Bart StarrFor example:  I wanted to be a professional quarterback.  At the time I saw myself as another Bart Star, the Hall of Fame quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.  Also, at the time, I was a sophomore in High School, weighed a massive 118 pounds, was slow as a snail, and could throw a football maybe 20 yards.  I was a quarterback on the Junior Varsity team, third string, and rarely played in games which nobody went to see anyway.  I read every book I could find, studied playbooks, worked out, practiced hard, and hoped that all of the effort would make up for my total lack of natural talent.  It was never going to happen, and of course, it didn’t.  I got discouraged after my junior year, realizing I would never start varsity, never play in college let alone get a scholarship, and gave up football to work at a fast food restaurant

Tom WatsonThen I decided I was going to be a professional golfer.  I hit a few golf balls with my Dad, and decided this could be something I could be good at.  You didn’t have to be big.  You could be thin and wiry, and you could still hit a golf ball a country mile.  My hero at the time was professional golfer, Tom Watson.  I again started reading everything I could find about how to play golf, practiced hard, and hoped my efforts would make up for my lack of natural talent.  I wasn’t any good, never got any good, and still play some to this day, although “play” has a totally different meaning for how I hack  a round of golf.  For a time, in my 40s, I even thought I could be good enough to make the Senior Tour.  Well, no, I finally gave up when I discovered I couldn’t drive a golf ball straight and over 100 yards no matter what I did.  Most of the time my drives end up on the women’s tee box or just past it, if the ball should actually land in the fairway.

Maybe football and golf weren’t my games, so I decided to try track and field.  Remember, I was slow as a snail, so the only events at the high school level that I might be able to compete in were distance races; the mile, or the two-mile.  So I practiced and ran and ran and ran.  Dreaming, of course, to be a State Champion and then get a scholarship to run for USC, then on to the Olympic Trials, and Olympic Gold.  I ran the mile, once in competition and took third at a time of 5:32.  I was third out of a race of four and beat the fourth place finisher by maybe a half second.  I was damn proud at the time though as you can tell by the fact that I still remember the actual time.  I ran the two-mile twice in competition and finished last in both races, way last, and felt like I was going to die.  It only took me one year to realize that State Champion was not ever going to be in my future.

wrestlingI tried wrestling as a freshman.  We practiced in a room that had the temperature turned up to over 100.  You could lose 5 to 10 pounds every practice, and weight was important.  When I wrestled, I needed to get at or below 103 pounds at weigh in. After you weighed in, you ate 20 candy bars, six oranges and drank as much as you could get down.  I wrestled in competition once against a Crow Indian from Hardin, Montana.  I was losing the match by more than 10 points so my only hope was to pin this guy in the last period.  I took the up position, cross-faced the dude so hard that his nose started to gush blood, and I flipped him over and drilled my chin into his chest until I felt like I was going to drive through his ribs.  The referee hit the mat and blew the whistle.  The fans who were there that night said that I jumped up three feet off the mat.  It just so happened that the junior college was playing a game after the meet, so there was a pretty good crowd gathering in the gym.  When I pinned the Indian dude from Montana, the crowd roared.  It was pretty exciting to hear the cheering as the referee raised my hand over my head.  I quit wrestling the next year.  Beating some guy from Montana as a JV wasn’t going to get me into the Olympics, and I really just didn’t like it much.

I gave basketball a try.  I had never played basketball, when I tried out for the team as a sophomore.  I practiced hard but didn’t make it past the first cut.  I had actually scored a basket in the final basketball scrimmage the night of the cut, and I remember distinctly the coach telling the team that I was “the best player he cut this year.”  Three of us got cut that night, and the other two could barely walk and chew gum at the same time as I remember.

bowlingMy last attempt at sports stardom was bowling.  Not many people will admit that bowling is a sport, and frankly, I agree with them.  I bowled in a drinking league that had a bowling problem, and, as expected, I wasn’t very good.  And yes, I read everything I could find, and practiced and tried different equipment, and took lessons, and still sucked.  There were “moments” during the three or four years that I bowled in league though.  I bowled a few games over 200.  I have some patches and pins recognizing my accomplishments, but the biggest win was the $1,500 I won on video poker at the bar before the bowling started one night.

Needless to say, totally without need, in fact, I was never destined to be good at any sport.  I could try archery, or ping-pong, or cycling, or diving, or swimming, or volleyball, or baseball, or marathons, or shooting, or soccer, or it wouldn’t matter.  As much as I want to be good at some sport, something, I have no natural talent.  I don’t care what they say, you will never be a world-class athlete without natural talent.  It’s in the genes, just not in mine.  And I’m comfortable with that fact, now that I’m older.  It wasn’t like I didn’t try.

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