Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year 2010: Arrivederci and a Shredder

While the Times Square Alliance set up an industrial shredder for ‘Good Riddance Day,’ so that people could shred bad memories of 2009 and start out fresh in 2010, in New York City; The Community of South Philadelphia set one up out in front of Mama Mia’s at the Italian Market.

As a just-in-case strategy maneuver (if the shredder breaks down), Louie “The Lug” and Nicki “Three Fingers” placed a sledge hammer and torch nearby. Hundreds of participants are expected over the next few days, ending at midnight Thursday.

My friend Annette Giordano, who owns Mama Mia’s, called and asked me to find out what the folks are shredding. I showed up wearing my “Rosie’s” press badge.

Annette is also writing a book, “The Buck She’s a Stop Here.” Annette has never heard of President Harry S. Truman, she thinks it means money and the “Where’s George?” tracking system. She has paid Vinnie “The Stump” to use his good hand to go online and put "Mama Mia’s" as the starting point on all of her dollar bills. She drools when she sees a strange one with “Where’s George?” in the register. Annette figures it’s good business.

A notebook is sitting by the front door of Mama Mia’s. People are ripping paper out of it to write down their shredible memories of 2009. I walk over to Vito Giordano, who just used the shredder.

“Vito, what did you write down?” I asked.

“Hey, I can’t tella you.” He said. “It’s like a chicken wisha bone.”

“Vito, you weren’t supposed to make a wish. What did you write?”

“I wisha the Yankees would die,” he said.

“Vito!” I responded. “That’s not right. It will bring you bad luck.”

“No,” he smiled, “I lose $5,000 business when dey beata da Phillies. Annette shes already giv 'em da evil eye.”

Next, I spotted a young couple laughing as they shred.

“What memory did you just destroy?” I asked.

The man spoke up. “Three months ago, our landlord gave us an eviction notice, we were down to $20 in our savings account and couldn’t afford a car. Last month, we hit the lottery for $100,000 and just got the check. I said goodbye to abject poverty and public transportation,” he laughed.

Some of the other responses included:

“I found out that my son was paying kids to do his homework. I shredded his allowance.”

“I got a new job and shredded my old boss.”

“My old New Year’s resolutions.”

“My ex-boyfriend and his pitbull, the snot-eyed bumdwarf.”

“I just torched my old Timex. It was making me late for work. Now, I have to go buy a new watch.”

My friend, “The Paisano,” (no one knows his real name), is taking a nap in the local park. He has not yet stopped by Mama Mia’s. I believe he is more Amish than Italian by nature, as he does not use modern conveniences and travels only by donkey.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Solstice: Hunkering Down in Philadelphia

Folks in the Philadelphia area had a great white Christmas this year; about 23 inches of the white stuff engulfed our neighborhood last week. It also engulfed our cars, pets, and driveways.

Our daughter and four of our grandchildren live with us, so we are in charge while she is working.

Schools closed due to snow before Christmas arrived and presents were opened. So, all the good movies and games that usually occupy the kids were useless; hidden, waiting for Santa.

Snowmen and snow angels were outside everywhere. So were hoards of snowballs, stock piled in strategic places near intersections, destined to be tossed during rush hour traffic if schools closed again. Perish the thought.

Our local station, 6ABC, with Cecily Tynan and FoxNews are now predicting more snow and accumulation - just what we need.

However, since it’s after Christmas, we have enough games and movies, action heroes, and sports attire to survive two days of school closings. Then, we’re in trouble.

We asked ourselves. After what we just went through, do we really want to set our grandchildren loose to terrorize the neighborhood?

The answer was a simultaneous “No!”

So, we made a disaster recovery plan.

Two spare TVs are set up in a corner hub of the house, each with game consoles attached. On a nearby table are electronic games, playing cards, board games in the event of a power failure, and DVDs.

I am making a Wal-Mart shopping list: Flour, eggs, butter, sugar, shortening, baking soda, and baking powder. That takes care of the cookies, ensuring that the kids will have enough energy to play with all their new toys. Then we need candles, batteries, milk, cocoa, marshmallows, bread, hot and cold cereal, meat and veggies, pet food, toilet tissue, and plunger. The other plunger took a beating when the sewer system backed up during the last storm.

My husband is in the garage, getting out the rock salt, small pieces of carpet, shovels, and deicer.

He has his own shopping list for Pep Boys: fluids, extra deicer and wipers, scraper, and snow tires.

We both double check the sale coupons in the Sunday paper, just to make sure we don’t miss out on anything important.

“Hey, look at this,” my husband said. “Buy one sun screen, get one free.”

“Is that a local paper?” I asked. “Any sale prices on batteries?”

“Hey, Pop, does our TV run on batteries, if the electricity goes out?” our grandson asked.

“No, you’ll just have to play ‘fish’ with your little sister.”

“Oh, no!” he pouted.

“I told you to teach her how to play ‘Texas Hold ’em,” my husband said. "Why didn't you?"

“Because, she thinks if she gets two-of-a-kind, she should win. She cries if she doesn’t win,” he said.

“Give her a crash course, I’ll referee.”

Meanwhile, I am making sure that schoolbags, coats, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots are in the foyer.

I just found a half-gallon of lantern oil in the cubby hole under the cellar stairs. Maybe we won’t have to dig out until spring!

“Where are the other kids?” my husband asked.

“They are out watching some guy trying to free his Corvette.”


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas - Bah-Humbug!

The only good thing I can say about Christmas falling on a Friday is Saturday. It gives me a weekend day to recover from the blur of the previous week. This included two last-minute trips to the supermarket for some sugar-free desert, as one of our guests finally came out of the closet that he is diabetic; some no fat milk for Santa, hopefully he will be in better chimney shimmy condition next year; and another trip to the pharmacy for some Airborne.

Why the Airborne?

We got at least five e-mails that said some of our guests were experiencing symptoms. We were not sure what kind, but ruled out rabies, since Aunt Clara reported she was still able to drink water.

We ran all the errands before festivities began on Christmas Eve.

I lost count of the number of guests that crossed our threshold on Thursday night. Some were sneezing and wheezing, as expected. Most went home DUI offenders, as designated drivers got trashed one-by-one. We don’t have that many friends, who wanted to share a sofa and rug with a demented tabby named Chubs, and a high-strung Weimaraner that is barely house broken. So, they opted to menace the highway on their way home.

I pasted an address label on each of their windshields as they left, in case they got lost. They were my least favorite labels anyway, relics done in CGA resolution. I got them free from the missionaries, who are still trying for a donation. I think the return address is a stable somewhere in Bethlehem, PA.

I am now zoning and brewing strong coffee. The house is a mess.

As I look around the living room and watch Chubs chase fragments of Christmas paper, some with scotch tape are sticking to his tail, I laugh. He still gets spooked by the twinkle lights on the tree and gets into his attack position every time a bit of tinsel hits the floor. Someone locked him out of the house last night and he kept company with a family of chipmunks under the pool deck. His face is all dirty.

Chubs’ idea of excitement is chasing his eye floaters, so Christmas means he’s getting close to cardiac arrest. I have to calm him down.

“Bah-Humbug!” I yell, as the tree breaks loose of its moorings and takes a nose dive - Chubs zooms past screeching into the bathroom.

My head is pounding like Buddy the Elf on the table in the mail room:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'A Christmas Carol' Junkie

"It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour." - A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens


OK, so I’m a Scrooge junkie. I have every film adaptation ever made of the 1843 Dickens Classic “A Christmas Carol.” I watch them during the holidays and sometimes in June. My children make fun of my habit and call me the Yuletide Grinch. They say the storyline scares my youngest grandchildren.

My marathon usually begins with the 1934 version starring Lionel Barrymore; a gift from my youngest daughter in a Christmas paint can that also includes popcorn and a straight jacket, the 1938 version with Reginald Owen; the 1951 version with Alistair Sim; the 1970 musical with Albert Finney; the 1984 version with George C. Scott; the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart; the Henry Winkler rendition; and the whole laundry list of spoofs. I don’t watch the cartoons.

I don’t have a favorite, I like them all. I also have the audio book by Gerald Charles Dickens.

I actually met Gerald Charles Dickens at the Byers’ Choice doll factory when he did his one-man tour during the holidays a few years ago, and I got a book autographed. The tour was a tribute to his Great-Great Grandfather, Charles Dickens, who did his one-man show every Christmas in London, near the end of his lifetime (1812-1870).

I also collect first edition Byers’ Choice Christmas Carol dolls and have the 1870 Memorial Edition of Dickens' works.

Hooked? You bet!

The other day, one of my daughters called me.

“Hey Mom, the new digital 3D Disney film, “A Christmas Carol,” is playing at the theatre. Would you like to see it tomorrow?”

“Absolutely!” I answered. I thought the child had lost her mind, since she is the one, who has been harassing me for years about my Dickens collection.

Wow, I can feed my habit in 3D! I thought.

I immediately went online and bookmarked the Disney website, so I can buy the movie DVD when it is released. I was champing at the bit.

“Who stars in the film?” I asked.

“Jim Carrey” she said. “But, it is partially animated, so he doesn’t look like himself."

“No problem,” I said. “You wouldn’t recognize Hermione Braddley when she played Mrs. Cratchit in the 1951 film either. She’s the actress, who also played Mrs. Naugatuck in “Maude.”

“Mrs. Naugatuck? No, I wouldn’t, mom, that was way before my time.”

She had to rub that in, right?

“What time should I meet you there?” I asked.

“Come over for lunch and we’ll go to the early show.”

I had a feeling that she didn’t want her friends catching her going to the theatre to see Scrooge with her mother. I had that marathon reputation, after all. It was well-known throughout the entire Philadelphia area, most of the graduating classes at Archbishop Ryan High School, and Penn State.

"Psst! They're having another Scrooge marathon after the Capital One Bowl."

The theatre had about six different films showing, including "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" - a risk of getting caught after the 6:20 pm showing. So, I agreed and we went early.

We got our tickets, 3D glasses, and 5 pounds of theatre popcorn with extra butter. We were happening!

"Mom, I hate to tell you about all the bad chemicals that are in that popcorn, including beta-carotene," my daughter said. "Take an extra garlic capsule for your cholesterol and don't inhale directly over the container."

Do you see a role reversal evolving here? I ate most of the popcorn.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was true to Dickens’ original 1843 story, and had a unique quality as well. Jim Carrey had several different roles: Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. However, the credits were longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls. I always look at the credits, to her, another one of my quirks. That took another 15 minutes.

We kept the stealth dark 3D glasses on, until we left the theatre parking lot.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman' or Mushroom Syndrome?

"No, Virginia, I hate to break this to you, but CBS lies, the concepts are false. Snowmen can’t dance. They have no rhythm. They just stand there and succumb to the elements. Viagra won’t help." Rose A. Valenta

Frosty the Snowman has been making headlines. Not “corncob pipe and button nose” headlines, but rather the “thumpety thump thump” variety. We once had a pet rabbit that we named "Thumper" for a similar reason - he had a wood chip fetish.

I don’t know which is worse, the “mushroom syndrome” of my generation or the pop culture of today. Both teach false concepts.

With mushroom syndrome, you were kept in the dark about everything and not told about sex until you reached the age of 18, unless you asked. Life was simple and you were simple minded. Network television was censored and anything aired during prime time had to be family-oriented. You never knew for sure if there was a toilet in Beaver Cleaver’s house.

By the time you were 12, you began asking questions like “Do you think Santa will get my letter?” and “Do you think my snowman will run away during the night?”

People had a sense of pride in those days. My grandmother, who was a professional baker at The Olean House in NY, found a recipe for "Mock Apple Pie" on the back of a box of Ritz crackers. She was curious.

She pulled down the shades before she made the pie, so the neighbors wouldn't know.

In today’s pop culture, we find CBS broadcasting to the world that Frosty not only has a silk hat and dances around, but he also has a porn collection. Although, I can’t imagine what could be in a snowman’s collection – sexy shaped icicles? Snow people created by everyone, who is in the sex offender database in the neighborhood? I’m not sure if Google can map the sex offender database to a GPS, so that you can track down all the creative snowmen in their back yards, while you're out cruising and enjoying the Christmas lights. All I know is at least one of them has infiltrated CBS.

"Look, Harry, we should try that position when we get home."

By the time pop culture kids reach the age of 12, they aren’t asking any questions. They are blogging movie reviews. “Bad Santa” is at the top of the list. Grandma has either a butterfly or flower tattoo, and a license to drive a Harley Fatboy.

No, Virginia, I hate to break this to you, but CBS lies; in either case, the concepts are false. Snowmen can’t dance. They have no rhythm. They just stand there and succumb to the elements. Viagra won’t help.