We will go to bed tonight, with family in the air.
Safely and softly to land.
They will be home again.
Godspeed and God Bless.
This past October took I took a ride to the Deerfield Candle Factory with Pamela and our Australian friends Maureen and Mark.
The place was decked out in the traditional Christmas array of sights, sounds and scents.
It’s a magical place and if you have the time to get there before December 25th, I highly recommend that you do.
There’s even a nighttime Bavarian Village lit by vintage flickering streetlamps where it snows every 4 minutes.
It’s a place filled with secret wishes, sugarplum dreams, amazing tree ornaments and obviously every imaginable scented candle you
could ever dream of including, ‘Brown Paper Packages’ and ‘First Down’,
a mancandle that may possibly smell of broken NFL dreams and dirty jock straps, or not.
The ‘Man Candles’ gave me much in the pause department: Riding Mower, 2X4 and Mantown?
No Super Sweaty Golf Balls?
And lastly the weirdest 2 candles (to me) were ‘Whiskers on Kittens’ and ‘Schnitzel and Noodles’.
Don’t bogart that joint my friend, pass it over to me.
What the hell do whiskers smell like and how would they actually make that scent?
Be on the lookout for my own list of the top 10 rejected Yankee Candle Scents.
Turns out that this post isn’t about candle scents and snowflakes it’s about the letter that you see at the top of my post.
A good portion of the DCF caters to children during the Christmas season and I happened to walk by a corkboard filled with letters written by children of all ages to the holiday machine we created and called ‘Kris Kringle’.
Most letters were as you would suspect:
Please bring me an Xbox 360 with at least 2 games and a new Nano Ipod because I lost mine.
An Ipad would be great but I won’t count on that. My parents are too cheap to buy me one.
Say hi to Rudolph for me. And I promise to leave you cookies and milk this year.
I love you!”
“Dear Santa, Hi! How are you? How are your reindeer doing?
What are you doing in the North Poal? I am so ecxited about Chrismas.
I woud like a CD player and a Gameboy Advance and a backpack.
Let me see if I got this right;
Bella doesn’t want anything for herself,
She wants happiness for her Mom because her Dad is a jerk,
She wants happiness for her family,
And she wants Santa to make her cousin Chrystal’s life better.
This little girl ‘gets’ the holiday while the world goes on not even taking notice of this most simple prayer.
And yes, it is a most vibrant Christmas prayer.
We are bombarded on a daily basis with commercials, videos, signs, radio commercials, TV commercials
and pop-ups on our computers telling us to be happy because that’s what this season is all about.
Where the hell did we go wrong?
This little girl sent me a personal message in the most innocent of ways telling me that this most blessed of holidays
is not about acquiring the most expensive of gifts.
It’s not about the stuff under the tree.
It’s about the people AROUND the tree that make the difference.
Right now, this little girl doesn’t have that.
Her letter made me cry inside because it was absolutely true.
This disjointed familial stuff pervades our society and the world at large.
A happy holiday?
Maybe for some.
Sadly, not for all.
Try to see through the commercial glitz and glamour of a holiday that has literally spiraled out of control in terms of meaning and substance.
Get away from the artificial joyful noise and the constant jingle bells where you will hopefully arrive at a place where your heart can be happy without the need for the stuff that the Media says you need to be happy.
I want BellaM to get every single thing on her list this year.
Maybe even a pony for good measure.
I will say a prayer for her on Christmas Eve even though I don’t even know her.
And I will pray she gets love.
Stockings full of love.
How about you?
just saying . . .
On holiday starting next Saturday.
Writing has been a bitch for about several months now, hence no new posts.
Let’s see about November.
Catch you guys on the flipside . . .
About a month or so ago Pamela decided that we needed to modify and improve our eating habits.
We shied away from calling this a diet and settled on what we consider to ultimately be a change
What we’re doing is in no way groundbreaking but it does make a lot of sense.
Based on your height and current weight you are allowed X number of calories a day.
Pamela said, “If you want to drink Guinness all day, you can. But when you’ve reached your calorie limit, you’re done.”
Obviously a diet consisting purely of Guinness draft would never work for me.
Just for shits and giggles I did figure out that I could have 12 glasses of the dark magic to equal my daily allotment.
My employer wouldn’t like it nor would my MD (who already put the kibosh on my past Guinness intake)
One or two beers a night doesn’t seem like much in the scheme of things but it does add up over time.
I’ve since limited myself to several on the weekend.
I am breaking my own rule tonight as I write this by having one but I have counted it and still have 600+ calories to consume before bedtime.
I have lost close to 14lbs since embarking on this diet change and I have noticed some changes in my body.
It’s easier bending over and the edges of my underwear don’t roll up anymore like a tightly made burrito from Taco Bell.
And I will need to look for some new khaki’s and pants soon because when I tighten my belt the trousers reek of hillbilly feng shui.
Maybe I just need a rope belt.
Walking is easier and sleeping is more sound these days so I’m thinking I’m on the right track.
But with everything good comes something not so good.
I am realizing that two visits to 5 Guys Burgers in one week is not a good thing.
Fried Clams are not my friends anymore (sadly) and Ben and Jerry’s should actually be illegal.
I think back through my eating history and just wonder, ‘what the hell?’
But fried clams are sooooo good.
As is Chunky Monkey ice cream.
But I also want to be around to see my grandkids, too.
You can’t have both.
Fried clams or grandkids?
How about fried grandkids with a side of Chunky Monkey?
I digress . . .
At 53 years old, I have seen the light.
It’s not pretty to look at but it has shown me that the food I was eating was killing me.
Sodium, saturated fats, sugars and little bastard carbs have been swirling around my body wreaking havoc on everything from my triglycerides to my cholesterol and more.
Now before you start thinking I’m going all health-nut on your ass, I’m not.
We all make choices everyday in terms of the food we eat.
I’m just thinking we could all do a bit better.
This little nugget came to me after a friend inhaled an entire plate of Dan Dan Noodles from P.F.Chang’s a week ago.
(I call the restaurant Poof Changs)
On a whim, I checked out the nutritional value online and was gobsmacked.
One order of Dan Dan’s supposedly serves three people, not one.
One serving contains 990 calories.
Sat Fat: 23gms
Sodium: (a drum roll, please) a whopping 6190mgs!
I do hope I was reading the chart wrong and maybe I was.
A dish with over 18,000mgs of sodium can’t be possible, could it?
Your heart would just stop, yes?
Either way at over 6K mgs of sodium, divided three ways you’re still talking close to one daily allotment of salt.
Smack my ass and call me Sally, that’s a shitload of salt.
All I’m saying here is you should weigh your options in terms of what you eat.
I will get off my dietary soapbox now and go back to wherever it is that I go when I’m not writing.
It’s a low-sodium place these days.
When our friends from Australia get here in October, Mark wants fried clams.
I’m hoping he’s up for splitting an order.
I want him around for a long, long time . . .
and you guys too.
A year ago about this time the talk around town (and Facebook) was all about Pamela and me going to Australia.
It seems like yesterday but it feels like years since we were talking about it.
That said, here I am still reminiscing about the 2 weeks in time that I will not soon forget.
I began writing about our journey a while back and stopped short for reasons that now elude me.
Let’s just say that life sometimes gets in the way.
Please forgive me.
My last post got us to Townsville in Queensland where Moe and Mark live.
I remember descending into the small airport and thinking, “So, this is where we Skype every weekend,” not knowing that there was much more than meets the eye behind this place called Townsville (aka, Paradise).
After taking a badly needed shower, Pamela and me proceeded to do what you do on holiday.
We sat our asses in the backyard and had a few drinks, a few cigars and talked about our flights over.
The QLD sun was hotter than I thought it would be and I found a slice of shade to sit in.
I kept mentally pinching myself as if to notify my tired brain that I was really sitting in Oz;
being that far away from home can disorient you into believing you’re not really there.
I got the piss taken out of me 244 times that afternoon. (yeah, I counted)
The plan for the day was to chill out for a bit and go to Mel and Steve’s
(Moe and Mark’s daughter and son-in-law) later that day for our first authentic Australian barbecue.
The details of our first afternoon are a bit foggy but I do remember shitting my pants on our drive over when Mark went into the first Aussie roundabout I had ever encountered.
I mentally made the sign of the Cross knowing I was about to die because he was going the opposite way that people in the States go.
After getting through the roundabout I once again made the sign of the Cross and began a deeper understanding of the phrase, ‘DownUnder’.
Please pass me the vegemite.
We arrived at Mel and Steve’s and got a tour of the place which was under some serious renovation.
With the help of Caleb and Lucas (M&S’s sons) we toured the house which was in a transition phase.
In about six months this place would be a palace.
I still badly want Mel’s kitchen which was any true chef’s dream.
Appetizers came out; Prawns (huge ass shrimp for you folks in the Northeast, but they’re sweeter than shrimp), Cabana and cheese (Cabana is like a really nice mild but spicy kielbasa), fruit, veggies and more than one could ever eat. [just you wait for my description of the amazing Brie in Victoria]
But Steve had a plan for me in terms of Australian beer.
XXXX Gold: (rat piss in a can, and Steve told me I could just toss it, which I did)
Toohey’s New: (not bad but reminded me of Sam Adam’s lager, which I hate. I drank it though)
VB Victoria Bitters; once again not bad but not much better than Toohey’s.
James Boag; a total winner for me, hands down. A great beer with flavor and strength to boot.
With multiple beers under my belt I watched in amazement as Steve grilled our food.
The smell coming off the grill should be made into a MAN cologne. [truth]
Snags, lamb chops, steak and grilled onions made my stomach yearn for some food.
Snags, btw, are beef sausages and not available in the US.
The aroma of grilled snags is simply wonderful.
Steve also made some snags w/ vegemite.
How do you spell AWESOME?
We sat and ate a BBQ that just blew my mind (and our caloric count for the day)(like I was counting, right?)
Life was very good that night at Mel and Steve’s.
To them we were in a sense strangers but they made us feel like family.
And maybe we were; I like to think that.
The blazing sun had set hours before we got done eating and it was time for yours truly to look at the Australian night sky.
Me, Mark, Steve, Caleb and Lucas went out into the front yard.
“There it is,” Mark said.
As he was pointing, I saw it.
I’ve loved stargazing for as long as I can remember but never have I wanted to see something as bad as this.
“The Southern Cross.”
I gazed at it, totally spellbound, tears forming in my eyes.
My first night in Oz was now complete.
That was until Mel brought out the Pavlova.
to be continued . . .
ps. Snags and eggs? I love you.
The next several days are going to be somewhat hectic as I sell the masses cigars, humidors, pipe tobacco and everything you can possibly smoke to make the holidays memorable.
I want to thank all that have visited and commented here in the past year.
Although I have been a slacker in the ‘Department of Replies’ know that I have read each and every comment left and that I really appreciate your visits.
I will be celebrating the holidays with family and many close friends and consider myself blessed.
This is a time for the celebration of love.
And there is so much that I love.
I wish for all of you, tender and sweet dreams, hot chocolate memories, stockings filled with holiday confections and joys of heaven, healing conversation and the ultimate love of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes asleep in a manger.
Somewhere in Bethlehem . . .
I even wish for you some snowflakes on Christmas Eve.
Just not too many.
“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~Andy Rooney
A Merry Christmas to all,
It is about this time of the year that my spirit usually spirals seriously downward.
Christmas commercials that are out of whack with reality and songs that say I should be happy do anything but depress the living shit out of me.
That said, I am fortunate and blessed although I don’t often realize that I am.
I have family.
I have three beautiful daughters that love me and are home on Christmas.
I can hug them and tell them that I love them.
I can cook delicious foods that we will all share.
I have friends that stop by on Christmas Eve to join in a celebration of the simplicity of love.
And yet I continue to bitch about anything and everything.
It takes a very special friend to tell you that you are a total Holiday tool.
And I am.
Why I am the Grinch that I pretend to be sometimes eludes me.
Maybe it’s easier being Grinchy than happy.
Or maybe I have to look at the true meaning of the holiday.
This video touched my inner core.
I cried and had goosebumps all over my body.
He is the Reason for the season.
The sooner I truly accept that in my heart, the better off I will be, I guess.
Seems I have already accepted.
That didn’t take long . . .
ps. Thanks to my friend GerryM for the video link!
After we arrived in Brisbane we needed to get ourselves over to the domestic terminal for our final flight to Townsville.
We were tired. We were stinky. (well, I was stinky anyway)
We needed some food.
We needed to brush our teeth.
All was accomplished when we finally got to our last boarding gate.
We both fell into the chairs nearest the gate and looked around the terminal, in awe of where we were.
“Hey,” I said to Pamela, “we’re in Australia.”
After 5 minutes, Pamela had crazy legs and red ants in her pants and couldn’t sit still so she was up and went to check out the few gift shops near the gate.
I just sat and looked around the busy terminal with people flitting about like so many fleas on a used and abused mattress.
It was then that I noticed a smell, a very nasty smell, the smell of something ripe and obviously gone bad.
Maybe even a badly soiled mattress smell.
It didn’t take long to realize the source of the smell.
It was yours truly.
I must have been too tired to engage my gag reflex.
A shower would be the first thing on my agenda when we got to Chateau Harrod.
On the short flight to Townsville we looked out the little oval bubble of a window at the alien terrain below us knowing that there were people we knew down there.
It was at once a bit strange but oddly comforting.
After we landed, we grabbed our bags from the overhead compartment
(giving me yet another nice big whiff of my seriously stinky underarms).
We came through the gate to see six smiling Aussie faces; Moe, Mark, Mel, Steve, Caleb and Lucas.
[Mel being Moe’s daughter]
Moe came running up to me and threw her arms around my neck before issuing a bear hug of leviathan proportions.
She had tears in her eyes and I was wondering if they were there because she was
#1) happy to see me and relieved we were both finally there or
#2) the natural repellant that was partying all over my body made her spring tears like she was cutting 100 onions.
Turns out she was just relieved and happy.
We all hugged and got hugged which is a really nice way to enter a country you’ve never been to before.
It was our first (and not the last!) time meeting Mel, Steve, Caleb and Lucas.
They were as warm and welcoming as we thought they’d be.
No surprises there.
It was like we’d already met but hadn’t seen each other in a long time.
It was very comfortable.
As me and Mark loaded our bags in the car, I looked at Pamela and said,
“Guess where we are? We’re in Australia!”
(a reoccurring theme, btw, right Kel?)
We pulled into the driveway of Chateau Harrod and both me and Pamela just stared at a house and its surroundings that we’d only seen via Google Earth and weekly Skype calls.
After a guided tour of the house and our simply amazing bedroom we felt like we were ‘home’ in a particular way.
We both forgot about how tired we were (second wind, thank you) and immediately started unpacking while laughing and telling stories about our multiple flights.
I stepped out the backdoor in the kitchen and into the brilliant Australian sunshine and stretched, both arms over my head.
Good God, it was time for a shower.
I was attracting flies.
There were oh, so many little things we enjoyed while in Oz, some we expected and others that caught us off guard.
The shower at Chateau Harrod was one of those surprises.
The bathroom was small and modest, sporting a toilet with a power that could flush away the body of Elvis in the wink of an eye.
The shower/bathtub had two tallish windows that opened out onto the sideyard but still allowed for privacy.
The sun poured in through the window and seemed to illuminate every single droplet of water coming from the showerhead.
It was not unlike bathing in a sea of shooting stars.
And those stars can get you clean as a bastard, let me tell you.
I could have stayed in the shower all afternoon but where’s the fun in that?
We still had our first real Australian Barbie to attend at Mel and Steve’s and the bus would be leaving soon.
I looked into the mist-covered bathroom mirror and said, “Holy shit, we’re in Australia.”
To be continued . . .
Ps. the post pic? It made me belly laugh but the ‘Danni Minogue’ thing simply killed me . . .
It began as an innocent and seemingly serendipitous friendship that came by the way of my personal weblog some 5+ years ago.
If you’ve read my blog before you will know the backstory of all that I am about to say.
If you haven’t, this will be a good time for reading a pretty amazing story.
How this friendship happened seems to defy any logical explanation because that’s how many friendships start.
What happened in the ensuing years is the stuff of fairy tales and Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’ stories, all but true.
I still have to pinch myself some days though; days when I find myself woolgathering about whether me and Pamela did actually visit Australia for two simply incredible weeks this past July.
It’s taken some time to not only process the whole experience but also to figure out
just what I want to say . . .
[Interpretation: this is gonna take a lot of posts]
We left Boston on a sunny, pure and crystal late Friday afternoon in July – our first destination: LAX.
Good weather, nice takeoff, flight is smooth, everybody is happy, life is good . . . piece of cake, right?
As we crossed somewhere over Lincoln, Nebraska at approximately 30,000 ft my gorgeous wife grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t think I can do this.”
“Do what?” I said. [me thinking about the mile high club]
“Flying this far. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“Sure you can,” I said, “we’ll be fine,” as I squeezed her hand harder in mine.
“You promise?” She said.
“You betcha,” I said.
Not what you want to hear from a wife on the verge of tears and only 3 hours from your point of departure.
We still had another 13+ hours in the air to get to Brisbane after getting to LA.
This was not working out as I’d planned.
It rarely does though, right?
It was about this time that I was able to connect to the net with my laptop.
I have never loved Facebook more than I did at that particular moment in time.
“Here,” I said, passing her my laptop, “Play Farmville or chat with someone who’s on.”
Maybe sometimes a human connection is all you really need to get you over a flying hump.
The Facebook diversion worked and we landed safe and sound in the City of Angels at 9PM (PST) Midnight (EST).
Our flights were connecting so we didn’t need to worry about our checked luggage as we would pick it up in Brisbane on our arrival on Sunday morning (thanks in part to the International Dateline)
Turned out that our 11PM flight was delayed and we didn’t take off until 1AM (PST) or 4AM (EST).
We were both sleeping in the terminal like oh, so many homeless people when our plane started boarding.
We made our way onto a V-Australia huge ass airbus and found our seats.
We were ready for some sleep.
After a nice snack we both hunkered down for a long summer’s nap, as visions of the calming waters of the great barrier reef danced in our heads . . .
(alright, I made that part up)
If anyone tells you that flying to Australia is easy and you could ‘do it in your sleep’, tell them they can go pound sand.
It is a long ass ways away and when we finally landed in Brisbane [19+ hours later] if all that we saw was two crazy kangaroos getting their freak on with some abo playing the didj, we would have left happy campers.
That’s not what we found.
The air was different.
The sky was different.
The layout of the land was different.
The spring water was different.
The birds sound were different.
The toilet water flushed the wrong way.
And the people are friendly! [unlike some in Boston]
And they drive on the wrong side of the road (a trip unto itself!)
I think I actually shit my pants as we drove through our first roundabout.
Bringing adult diapers is merely a suggestion.
We found out very quickly that Australia was more than just an island, a huge ass country, and a continent unto itself.
It was a place of incredible beauty and majesty, a place of tropical fish the likes of which we had never seen, wildlife that boggles the mind, food that makes us yearn for more, Cadbury chocolate that will never see the US shores and nighttime constellations that are unique to the southern hemisphere.
We also found out that Australia is a place where one very special family would open their hearts and homes to two American strangers they’d never met before.
We got our suitcases in Brisbane and headed to Australian Customs before embarking on the final flight to take us to Tropical Queensland and the home of Mark and Maureen Harrod, friends of a lifetime.
We didn’t know it then but we’d already fallen in love with this magical place called Australia.
As I looked at the Southern Cross in the sky on our first night,
I decided I should stop dreaming. I was here, we were here.
to be continued . . .
Back in 1972, the Stylistics released ‘Betcha by Golly Wow’ to the masses.
Although I’m not sure just how high it climbed on the charts, it was an amazing song in so very many ways.
The song’s harmonic complexity was something of a rarity for the ’70’s.
I loved the song back then (musically, not really knowing why but understanding it now)
and had all but forgotten about it until today.
A friend had given me the new Pat Metheny CD to listen to,
I put it on my Ipod and completely forgot about it.
Shuffling my way to South Station tonight this old familiar song came streaming into my headphones.
Betcha by Golly, Wow?
Who the hell is this?!?
I can’t believe that there are still people that have never heard of him.
If I can turn one person onto this incredible musician, this post will have done its job.
If you have 10 minutes, please listen to the original and then to Metheny’s rendition.
Maybe you will hear why I am just so amazed by this man (and the Stylistics)
Either way, enjoy them both.
Expect some posts about my sojourn to Australia in the next few weeks.
Right now my cranium us still sifting through the incredible and amazing details . . .