Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Things I Won't Miss About the Holidays

Well, they are all gone…..and I miss them. The kids, the grandchild, spouses, boyfriends have all moved on after a warm and happy holiday visit. On the whole it was a very successful and satisfying time. All major family groups and sub-groups were checked in with. Friends were wined and dined.

Still, as I sit in my easy chair gazing at the Christmas tree wondering whether I will put it out for the birds or just chuck it for pick-up, it occurs to me there are things I won’t miss about Christmas.

Father Bill’s Holiday Homily. We all pack up and head for Mass on Christmas Eve at the local parish. It is, in general, a very pleasant if not inspiring event: great decorations and good music are the highlights. The low-light is the pastor’s Christmas sermon. Any presentation (or at least the two I attend annually) usually contains references to the latest motion pictures, sometimes including reviews, and also to bodily functions. This year the theme was water and the good man was linking water with the divinity. He is not the first to do this. The Druids did it several thousand years ago and burned at the stake for it. He also did a clinical description on how our bodies use and excrete water. How this tied in to the higher message, I am not sure. The classic in this genre was the Jesus Farts homily he delivered a number of years ago. Granted, he was trying to make the point that Jesus was a human being, but he could have done it in a way that didn’t send the first three rows of the faithful into cardiac arrest.

Eating. Each year prior to the holidays I sit myself down for a lecture that goes like this:
“Look you do not have to shove everything that comes down the pike in the next two weeks in your pie hole. It’s embarrassing that you are always the guy with two plates at the buffet. Really, no one else even eats fruit cake. Do you really need three slices?” However, when the festivities start the little Christmas elf that lives in my hypothalamus starts to sing: “We need another cupcake, right this very minute….”

Snow. We have had more than our share of ice and snow this holiday season and I hate every infernal chunk and flake of it. Whenever guests are expected, I have to make sure every square inch of the place is shoveled and sanded and then hold my breath that someone doesn’t fall and test the boundaries of my home owners insurance. Every time I hear Bing whining about a white Christmas, I think that he didn’t deserve to die on a warm, sunny California golf course, but should have perished in a bone crushing fall on a snow covered Jersey walkway.

Christmas cards. The politics of Christmas cards in our household would give a Hapsburg diplomat the heebeejeebies. Weeks before the big day we review our lists and axe those people who have not sent us a card for two years. This is kindly Kathie’s policy. I have more of a hair trigger when it comes to non-senders and one slip up would dispatch them. Then there are the people on our list who send us a card every year, but we have either forgotten who they are, or never knew in the first place. We considered striking these people this year, but when Kathie mentioned a few names she was considering lopping, I countered by saying they sounded like my relatives and, in fairness, we should also strike some of the unknown that sounded like her relatives as well. A stalemate resulted and they all stayed.

Trips to the mail box are filled with angst or anger: either we will get a card from someone we didn’t include, or worse, realize we are not going to get a card from someone to whom we sent. I hope those rats realize they have entered their one year probationary period. Our response to getting a card from someone to whom we did not send depends on when we get the card. A few weeks before Christmas, and we fire one off to them, even if we don’t know who they are. A few days before the holiday and we are flumfloxxed. In our household, senders of cards that come after Christmas go on the probationary list because it is obvious that they only sent us one because we sent them one. Kathie has proposed that we either send e-cards or New Year’s cards to those we omitted. I don’t think e-cards count because you can’t clutter up the mantel and window sills with them like you can with real cards. Those who receive a New Year’s card will be pissed because they will think they have to send us one next year at a time when they believe they are clear of the whole stinking card mess.

The FedEx Guy. The regular delivery guy has a hard time finding our house, the holiday reinforcements are hopeless. We wind up chasing our packages all over creation. This year one showed up at our door with a nice and expensive looking package. A Wii, I’m thinking. Needless to say, it was not for us. On the way out, he backed over the spotlight that was a key element in my outdoor lighting display. We need another cupcake, right this very minute.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Naked Jen Aniston and Me

Jennifer Aniston appears on the Cover of the January 09 issue of GQ Magazine naked save a strategically placed necktie.

This apparently is big news. A few nights ago she presented the tie to David Letterman on live TV. This apparently is even bigger news.

This story caused a media firestorm. Just google “Aniston tie” and you will get some idea of what I am talking about.

I will not belabor the injustice of it all: you and I labor mightily at whatever we do and no one seems to notice, while Ms Aniston drops drawers and the world has an aneurism.

Still, I heard the sound of opportunity knocking. I have a web site,, that offers advice to men on how to dress and present a professional appearance. Not that they are interested. So far it has been about as successful as this blog. Still I saw the opportunity to ride Jen’s coattails (this is what is called a figure of speech since she wasn’t wearing a coat. I was going to say piggy-back but it sounded lurid.)

So I issued the following press release:

Aniston Could Have Found
A Match for That Tie

New York- Jennifer Aniston, who appeared naked on the cover of the January 09 issue of GQ Magazine wearing only a tie, could have benefited from a visit to the new fashion advise for guys web site.

“Obviously, she couldn’t find a shirt or suit to go with that boldly patterned necktie,” says Gerald Andersen, founder of and former Executive Director of the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association. “If she had visited my site and played the matching game, she would have realized that there are many stripe, plaid and check patterned shirts that coordinate beautifully with that tie.” The matching game is an interactive feature of the site that teaches visitors how to match patterned ties with patterned shirts.

He also takes issue with her choice of pattern. “The tie is the most expressive item of male apparel. You can find a tie that expresses any taste or personal interest,” he notes.
“If she had gone with a Labrador retriever theme tie, she could have gotten in a subtle plug for her new movie, Marley and Me. Women, who always look at a man’s tie, would have noticed and said ‘Hey, let’s go see that movie’ .”

“Clearly, the look works for her, but a guy showing up for a job interview similarly attired is going to have a problem,” Mr. Andersen cautions. also has tips and advice on how to dress for a job interview.

Since the tie is unknotted, she seems to have issues in this important accessorizing step.
Once again, comes to the rescue with step-by-step tie knotting directions. “Halle Berry, who appeared on the cover of the November Esquire wearing only a jacket, bra, and tie, got it right. The tie was perfectly tied and dimpled.”


Pretty slick, huh? I, of course, expect an avalanche of press on this and am already picking out my tie for the Letterman appearance. Either that or I will get a cease and desist from her lawyers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Holiday Party

I went into to New York City last week to attend the holiday party of an association of which I had been a member for many years.

After I was no longer working, I let my membership lapse. So I plopped down 85 bucks to attend as a non-member thinking it money well spent to touch base with old friends and network in the forlorn hope it may lead to employment.

The party was held at the shopping mall of the Time Warner Center in the showroom of a consumer electronics company. I was later told by one of the attendees that this is the latest trend in event planning: holding activities in commercial sites like stores and malls. I guess it makes sense because no one is using the stores anyway.

I made my way through the holiday shoppers and tourists and went up the escalator to the party site. I picked up my name tag and checked it out. In big letters it said “Gerald” and on the line below my full name. In the space where a company affiliation appears it had my name again. At least it didn’t say “Consultant” which is badge-speak for “Unemployed.” I scanned the crowd for familiar faces. There were few because, in a cost saving move, our group was co-sponsoring with several others. I spotted our Executive Director, a man I have known for 20 years, and went over to say hello. As I approached he smiled the tentative smile of the lost as his eyes went straight for my name tag. Either he was checking out my unique badge, or it was a case of out of association, out of mind.

It was an unpromising beginning. I wandered off to the men’s room. To get there you have to leave the cordoned area and mingle with the Uninvited. After washing up, I searched for a paper towel or blower. On the wall was a gizmo that resembled the kind of pants press you occasionally find in hotel rooms. I reasoned that this must be a hand press. I hesitated to put my hands in the device as I feared it would grip me and I might not be able to figure out how to release it. I would be trapped in the men’s facility. I had a flashback to the first grade when I inadvertently locked myself in the boy’s room stall and Sister Anita Therese had to crawl under the door to get in and release me. I will never forget the sight of her habit encased head glaring up sternly at me from the bathroom floor.

I dried my hands on my handkerchief.

As I was leaving, a homeless man was entering. He must have been going in to wash up and try out the new hand press because it was obvious from his cachet that he had already taken care of business.

Back at the party, I headed for the bar. My friend, David, greeted me there with the sobering news that they were not serving red wine. This is our libation of choice at these gatherings. I asked the bartender for an explanation and was told that red wine could not be served because it might stain the floor.

This left us bemused because the floor appeared to be some sort of industrial grade composite stone that people nowadays insist on having on their kitchen counters and the exact same stone that is used throughout the mall. If red wine can damage the material, I shudder to think what would happen if the homeless guy, a veritable walking sack of stone staining toxins, downloaded upon the stuff.

After chatting with old associates in the bar area, David and I wandered into the showroom where the younger attendees were playing with the many devices and gizmos on display. Since I couldn’t figure out the hand dryer, I thought it best to refrain from this activity. The last thing New York needs is another black out.

I asked a friend where she got the stuffed animal she was carrying. As a new grandfather, and an unemployed one, I am always on the prowl for free toys. She said if you have your picture taken with Santa he gives you a toy. After determining that I didn’t have to sit on his lap, I submitted to this procedure. Santa asked if I had been good and what I wanted for Christmas. I gave him an honest reply: a Porsche Boxter. He gave a jolly ho-ho and said: “Everyone has been asking for peace and prosperity. Finally someone has asked for some good shit.”

The resulting picture of two red faced, bearded, overweight, old men was too terrifying to ever show my grandson, or my wife.

I shoved the stuffed toy in my pocket and went forth into the cold New York night.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This is my fiftieth blog.

That’s right the big Five-Oh.

When I started back in March, it was my goal to reach this number. Of course, I thought I would be picked up by New Yorker Magazine or the talent hunters in the book biz, who I assumed regularly prowled the internet, long before I reached it.

And since I tend to live in my own little world, I thought that blogging, while not a unique thing to do, was at least somewhat unusual. This is not true. There are a lot of bloggers out there. I have recently learned that there are 13 right here in town who are signed up at Blogspot. Califon has a population of 1,300 which means that one per cent is blogging. Sounds like a small number but if one per cent of the American citizenry is blathering away, it means there are 3 million bloggers out there from Blogspot alone.

One more thing about numbers: according to my SiteMeter, about 1,200 people have read these pages since I started. Of course, you have to factor in that SiteMeter counts me every time I go on to see who has been on. Since I do this about 10 times a day, this thins out the crowd of Wry Bother aficionados considerably. In fact, I suspect it produces a popularity rating for my efforts of near Bushian proportions.

I am aware that there are ways to pump up my readership. Writing about things that people are interested in would surely help. Using key words that people might Google is another way of suckering in readers. I noticed that many misguided souls seeking information about Irritable Male Syndrome land here because it is a subject about which I have written. I recently read that “sex”, “money”, and “big tits” are three of the most frequently Googled words. There, I’ve just increased my readership.

Had you read this, you might well have asked: “Jerry, which of your 50 (congratulations, by the way) essays is your favorite?” That would have been a very good question. I would have responded by saying that I like them all, but have a special fondness for “The Unemployment Office” (July 12) because that actual event was so surreal that the piece wrote itself. Weigh in with your choice and I may actually re-run it, thus sparing myself several hours of needless effort.

I will end with a poem (maybe someone Googling “doggerel” will land here) to mark this special occasion.

Happy 50th, Wry Bother, my favorite spot,
Full of wit, humor, and Tommy-rot.
There is no quit in this old dog
As my laptop I happily flog
Grinding out wit and drivel in equal measure
Because in so doing I take great pleasure.
It’s fine to be stroked by an adoring nation,
But there’s much to be said for self-gratification.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deck the Walls

The outside Christmas decorations went up yesterday.

No Griswaldian displays for us, we are low key all the way. The colored light vs. white light dispute was resolved years ago when the colored adherents, the kids, left the premises.

Here are the Outside Decoration Commandments:
. Large wreath with white lights on gable end of the house highlighted by spot light.
. Large fir tree at front corner of house draped with white lights.
. Electric candles in every window.
. Spotlight highlighting front of house.
. Wreath on front door.
. Spotlighted wreath on barn.
. Skating frogs in front yard pond.

It takes me just moments to list these because I know them by heart. This is the way it is every year. My family is very tradition oriented when in comes to holiday trappings. If there is deviation from the scriptures above it will be commented on, noted, and complained about. I am as bad as anyone, I guess, because Christmas feels incomplete unless everything is in its assigned place.

The wreath in the gable is the keystone of our scheme and it is the most acrobatic installation I face. It requires my climbing to the porch roof, then to the kitchen roof, and from there, via stepladder, up to the gable. It’s easy enough in nice weather, but a challenge when there is snow on the roof. I take great care to avoid creating a headline like “Local Man Dies in Tragic Holiday Fall” for my neighbors to tsk and cluck over.

We like to think that the spotlighted wreath against the stone of the house creates a look that would please Andrew Wyeth……or at least Jamie Wyeth.

Placing the spotlight to shine on the front of the house is easy, but takes some tweaking. I know I have got it right when guests leaving the front door throw their arms over their eyes and stagger blindly down the path. One told me once that he thought he had stepped out into a police raid.

The real challenge is getting the lights on the tree at the corner of the house. Kathie suggested that I might not want to attempt it this year which inspired me all the more to do just that. I refuse to make compromises to age and circumstances, particularly when it comes to holiday decorating.

I used to be able to get all the lights on from a stepladder. However, the rapid growth of the tree combined with my equally rapid shrinkage has forced me to change my strategy. I duct tape two broom handles to a scrubbing brush, place the light cord on the brush and hoist it to the top of the tree. I then feed more cord and place it with the brush until I get to a point where I can finish flatfooted. I originally tried a rake but the wire would get tangled on the tines. The brush works nicely because it holds the wire in place without gripping it. So if you got to this page by Googling “putting lights on a tall outside tree”, I hope this helps.

Last year I wound up with the female end of the light string at the bottom. In some human endeavors female on bottom or on top is equally satisfactory. However, in tree light stringing it is an irreversible error. I had to start over.

Things went smoothly this year, though the damn tree swallows lights like a black hole. I ended up with about 1200 bulbs. Still, the total impact is worth it. Kathie said that the effect was so dramatic that it should be the town tree.

Not to boast, but she is right. The present town tree is a forlorn little fir that sits at the edge of the funeral parlor parking lot.

It used to be a modest, but handsome, tree next to the railway station museum. However, the gas company pronounced it a threat to its line that ran underneath and lopped it down. This was a tad on the Scrooge-ish side since it did not seem to bother them that the path of the line soon proceeds straight into a forest where it is surrounded by 40 foot trees.

However, caroling at the Califon tree lighting in the very shadow of the funeral parlor adds a gravitas to the festivities that visitors to the Rockefeller Center event never get to experience.