Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Second Hand Christmas Tree and Other Coniferous Musings

We have a second hand Christmas tree this year.

It’s a little smaller than the ones we usually get, but is very nicely shaped. We purchased it from the Boro of Califon. It had been used at the Nellie Hoffman House, the restoration project with which we are involved, for a Christmas reception two weeks ago.

Kathie and I thought it was a shame for it to sit there and go to waste, so we bought it back from the town. However, since it has some miles on it, we fear that it might not make it to Christmas. I have this vision of waking Christmas morn to a brown stick and a pile of needles in the living room.

This was not the official town tree, however, which is a scrawny little thing next to the funeral parlor parking lot. This has only served for the past two years. Before that the tree was a rather splendid, large pine in front of the Historic Society Headquarters at the old train station. Unfortunately, it was planted on the right-of-way for a long distance gas transmission line.

The gas company said that the tree had to go because its roots were threatening to compromise the pipeline. This is a lot of hooey because the line, after it leaves Califon, runs through miles of heavy forest where enormous oaks and maples grow right up to the edge of the right-of-way and whose roots must surely “compromise” it.

But what town father wants to see a headline that reads: “Town Citizens Die in Fire Ball Caused by Village Christmas Tree”? So they caved-in and the funeral parlor tree became the official conifer. To me, the proximity of the parlor casts a pall over the tree lighting festivities and caroling that takes place in its very shadow. Lord only knows what mourners think when they see Santa has shown up on a fire truck at their loved one’s wake.

Many years ago, when our kids were young, I was Chairman of the Town Recreation Committee and in charge of the Christmas tree lighting. Unfortunately, I created a controversy with my music selections. At the time we were struggling financially and only owned one Christmas album. It was Walt Disney characters singing carols.

Well, there was outrage and I was forced to appoint a music director who had a more extensive and traditional collection.

I don’t know what the fuss was about. I liked the Disney album and my kids loved it. How could you not admire Goofy’s “five onion ring” riff on the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” or the way he artistically adlibbed a series of “dootey, dootey, doo, doos” through various other standards? And it’s all low brow, secular stuff like “Frosty”, “Here Comes Santa,” etc.

It’s not as if Donald Duck had a go at the “Ave Maria.”

And frankly, I’d rather listen to a duck with a speech impediment do “It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter” than Johnny Mathis. If I hear him simper “it’s a yum,yummy world made for sweethearts,” one more time, I’ll toss my Christmas cookies.

Kathie and I are down-sizing. Several weeks ago, our son, Kris, and grandson, Owen, came down to go through his childhood possessions and to bring back home those he wanted to keep.

One of the things that went back was the Disney album. And so, another generation of kids will chime in and bellow “FIVE ONION RINGS” whenever they hear the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Hark! Do you hear what I hear? Pine needles falling everywhere….

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Bad Idea

I fell off the ladder today.

I fell off the ladder because I don’t have a car.

I don’t have a car today because it is in the shop.

Since I don’t have a car today and the wind chill outside is in the single digits, I am house-bound.

When I am house-bound bad ideas come hatching out of me like the aliens in the movies of the same name.

Of course, I was only house-bound for an hour or so. This morning I took a four mile walk in the frigid wind. It was lovely. My new down coat was up to the task and I saw a flock of bluebirds.

As soon as I got back and finished my lunch, the bored, guilty feeling came over me. I had to find something to do.

Of course, it’s all my mother’s fault. When we were kids we could not be in the house during the daytime reading or watching TV. She insisted we be out in the fresh air, despite the fact that we lived in Jersey City in the 1950’s, a time when chemical production was in full swing and the air actually tasted worse than it smelled.

This rule even applied when she took us for afternoon visits to our grandmother’s house which was up the block from a gentian violet factory and where the fresh air literally turned our clothing blue. My mother said this was okay because gentian violet was a “medicine.”

As I sat in the empty, quiet kitchen trying to think of something to do that would take me out of the house, I thought first of raking the leaves. Since I had raked most of them and the survivors were being whipped about in a 20 mile per hour wind, this was a weak option. I briefly considered chasing them down with the pool skimmer, but decided this was desperate even by my standards.

I recalled an observation Kathie had made a week or so ago about our outside Christmas decorations. We have a pine tree at the corner of our house that our son planted as sprig when he was a sprig some thirty years ago. Each year I would string it with lights and, along with a wreath here and there, that was our Christmas display.

I gave that up when the tree developed Rockefeller Center Syndrome, perhaps picturing itself being aahed at by Al Roker and sung to by Josh Grobin, and suddenly shot up at an alarming rate. Or maybe, I just got older.

Kathie said that she thought that, since the tree was located facing our driveway and our lane, it was a shame that people approaching the house would not see any festive seasonal d├ęcor. This was not presented as a criticism or a challenge, and I did not take it as such at the time. It was just an observation.

Still, as I sat at the kitchen table, it formed the seed of the evil alien that would soon burst out of me as a fully developed bad idea.

“Yes,” I thought, “It is a shame that people approaching our house will think that the Andersens don’t know how to keep Christmas.” The fact that this sounded like something Clark Griswold would say, did not deter me.

By Jove, I would string lights on that tree! Since the tree had grown, I thought surely it would hold my 20 foot ladder extended to its limit. This still would not enable me to get lights to the top of the tree. However, by duck taping two brooms together and balancing the lights on the end, I would create a device that would enable me to place them at the top of the tree from the top of the 20 foot ladder. This was the bad idea.

I extended the ladder and leaned it against the tree. Carrying my placement device with the end of the light string cleverly gripped by the bristles of the broom, I ascended the ladder. When I got to the top and full extended myself to place the beginning of the string, I felt the ladder slowly sliding to my left.

I knew something bad was about to happen. The soft pine branches were gradually sagging away from the ladder carrying it away and downward in the direction of the living room window.

On the other side of that window is my comfy chair where I have spent many pleasant evenings reading in front of the fire. I wondered if my glass-shredded corpse carrying the ducked taped brooms landed in the chair, whether anyone would solve the mystery of how I perished.

Just then, the ladder snagged long enough for me to leap off with just a sore knee to show for my misadventure.

From where I am sitting in my comfy chair I can see the cursed evergreen. If I can cut it with my chain saw, I just might to able to drop it between the two power lines that come into the house on either side of the tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Interview

The moths ate my crotch.

Kathie says its my own damn fault because I hung the suit up without sending it to the cleaners first.

I put it in the closet two years ago at the end of my last day of work, and apparently the moths fell upon it like the Greeks and Trojans struggling over the armor of Achilles at the death of Patroklos.

(I am sure you “regular” readers of this blog are stunned to see a classical reference. Rest assured, I don’t plan to make a habit of it. It’s just that I recently finished a book titled “The War That Killed Achilles.” No, I haven’t read everything else.)

The reason I am down to one moth eaten suit is that I tossed all the others when I stopped working, but kept one all-season and one summer model in case I needed a suit for a wedding or a funeral.

Now I have a dilemma because I have an honest-to-God job interview tomorrow and can either wear Mothra or my Big Daddy seersucker model.

I am leaning toward the pre-chewed version, since nothing says clueless and out of work like some schmuck wearing a seersucker suit in December.

I will just keep my legs crossed. On second thought, this might send the wrong message body language-wise. It might indicate I am uptight and not open to new ideas and directions. And besides, since real men spread their legs and sprawl, it might be a sign of passiveness or submissiveness on my part to be sitting there like one of the stenos in Mad Men waiting to take dictation.

Maybe I will just face it out and dare the interviewer to gape at my tattered nether region. If he is worth his Blackberry, he will realize that doing so would create a hostile work environment for me and subject him to onerous penalties. Neither can he ask what’s up with my crotch without breaking many State and Federal codes.

Still, I wonder why the moths went for my crotch? If it was salty sweat they were after they might have struck the armpits as well, but they did not. I suppose I will never know what was oozing from down there that was like a dinner bell for moths. Here’s an even creepier thought: I wonder if the larva was already down there squirming and oozing while my family jewels were in residence.

I won’t go there. I have an interview to prepare for. It’s a shame this thing took the direction that it did because I intended to write a blog about how morale building it is to have a real interview and how great it feels to be in the hunt for something…..anything! Instead, I wrote about bugs in my britches.

Maybe my pants weren’t the only thing that got moth eaten.