Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Came home this evening to find that two houses on our street already have Christmas lights up in their windows. Just documenting it for future reference.

lightening | 5:19 am CST
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Sunday, November 6th, 2022

Heard a Christmas carol on the radio for the first time this season while driving to the bakery. Always a traumatic experience. Now I’ll have to deprogram at least half a dozen radio stations from the presets on the car radio. The van’s easier — I’ve got about 50 of my favorite CDs in there so I’ll probably just listen to those until the week before Christmas, which is when Christmas music is supposed to start AS EVERY SANE PERSON KNOWS.

BAM | 10:50 am CST
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Monday, December 16th, 2019

We spent most of our second day in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry, but before that we had to find a place to get some breakfast, which I thought would be relatively easy because there is no shortage of places to eat in Chicago if you’re okay with waiting for an hour or more. We ended up at the counter of the Pittsfield Cafe, not the trendiest of places but even so more popular than the chic tea shop next door. We had to wait in a long line that thankfully moved very quickly, and we were seated in under twenty minutes. The food was hot and delicious and they served mimosas, so quite a successful breakfast after all.

An MTA double-decker commuter train whisked us south to 57th Street where we walked a couple blocks to get to the museum, where My Darling B was looking forward to seeing exhibits of Christmas around the world, mostly dozens of Christmas trees decorated with ornaments they said were most popular in each of the represented countries. B liked the tree representing Japan the best. I was there for the scienc-y stuff, so while she snapped photos of the ornaments, I ducked into the exhibit halls to watch avalanches form and pendulums swing and, while she was resting her feet near the end of our visit, I took a quick side trip to the space center to say hi to Apollo 8, the first crewed spacecraft to leave earth and fly to the moon. The gumdrop-shaped command module sits behind a high wall of plexiglass but I managed to snap a few photos over the top of the wall without dropping my phone. Might have been embarrassing.

Back in Chicago we stopped at the Adams Street Brewery for some cold suds and a pretzel before heading to a comedy show. I unreservedly recommend the Imperial Stout they brew on the premises.

Chicago day two | 10:12 pm CST
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Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Got back this afternoon from a weekend trip to The Windy City with My Darling B. We’ve been talking for years about visiting the Christmas market they have there every year, and this year we finally stopped talking and did it. B did all the hard work of planning the trip and booking the rooms; I did the easy part: driving. We drove down Friday morning, arriving around one o’clock to check in at our hotel, and left at about eleven o’clock this morning. Short trip, but we got a lot done.

First thing we did after checking in at the hotel was walk down to Daley Plaza where the Christmas market takes place. It was not exactly like the Christmas markets we remembered from Berlin, but it was pretty close. The vendors sold a lot of the same ornaments and other Christmas trinkets, they served the spiced wine known as gluhwein, and there were so many people jammed into the market it was almost impossible to move.

Wandered around at the market for an hour or so before walking a few blocks north to see the sights along the Magnificent Mile. The idea is we would walk from store to store, taking in the Christmas sights and maybe doing a little shopping. Spoiler: It’s all high-end shopping. Macy’s. Saks. Tiffany’s. Not the kind of places we would be stopping to pick up a stocking-stuffer. So we finished our walk up the Magnificent Mile a lot sooner than we thought we would.

We were supposed to join up with a guided tour of the Christmas lights but it wasn’t scheduled to depart until five-thirty so to avoid getting there very early we backtracked just a bit and ended up at an Irish pub called Pippin’s where we could grab a beer while we passed the time until we could meet the bus. It was one of those buses that’s made to look like a trolley and it went out to Wrigleyville where there was another Christmas market we wandered around in for about a half-hour, then looped back to stop at Lincoln Zoo where they had draped the trees and wrapped the bushes in lots and lots of colored lights, and they gave us special glasses that made us see elves and reindeer floating around the lights like some trippy holiday hallucination.

We didn’t get to bed until ten-thirty that night. I must have been beat because I slept until seven-thirty the next morning.

windy city | 6:59 pm CST
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Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

After the Christmas feast and the weekly Playing Of The Boggle, after a slice of pie slathered with a daringly large dollop of real whipped cream, we began to stir in the general direction of the living room and talk about watching a movie, a nicely inert activity especially suited to days when our bellies are stuffed with hundreds of pounds of juicy pork product. Nobody was really sure what to watch, though; would it be Elf, or would it be It’s A Wonderful Life? Or would anybody like to discuss a third possibility? While they dithered, I slipped away, slipped The Wizard Of Oz into the DVD player, and stretched out on the sofa. Soon, the others joined me and settled in, too. Well, one of the others settled in. The third stood by, nervously trying to decide how to sneak out the front door without upsetting the decorum.

“I never really appreciated this movie,” Tim said diplomatically as he watched the sepia-toned introduction out of respect, I suppose, for my choice. He stayed all the way through Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead, his favorite song from the movie, but when it was over and the representatives of the Lullabye League emerged from the crowd en pointe, he fetched his jacket from the closet and took his leave, returning to the munchkin-free peace and quiet of his bachelor pad.

Odd. I honestly never realized he didn’t like The Wizard Of Oz. I thought everybody liked The Wizard Of Oz, literally everybody. I mean, do you know anybody who doesn’t? I’ll bet you don’t. And I almost feel as though I’m to blame; as if, for instance, I should have done more to expose him to the movie more regularly. That’s how I got hooked.

I grew up watching The Wizard Of Oz every year on television. We never missed it. We weren’t allowed to. It was on TV the same time every year — not sure if it was Easter or Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty sure it was a holiday. I don’t think it was Christmas. That’s when It’s A Wonderful Life was on, if memory serves, which it doesn’t, not really, because I also seem to remember that there was always a parade being shown before the movie. It could’ve been the Rose Bowl parade, or Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, I’m not sure now. They seemed to be televising a lot of parades back then.

I must have seen it at least a dozen times that way and maybe half a dozen times more as a video rental. Last year, My Darling B got me a DVD as a stocking stuffer along with several of my other Christmas favorites: The aforementioned It’s A Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and at least one more that I’m forgetting right now. I told you my memory was for shit.

Tim was out the door before Dorothy was following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, so he missed just about the whole movie. Well, at least now I know what I’m getting him for Christmas next year.

bad parenting | 6:50 pm CST
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Monday, December 26th, 2011

My Christmas morning prezzie from The Great Big Cosmic FU* was a plugged-up bathroom drain. It was starting to drain slowly earlier this week so that by Sunday morning I was standing in a deepening pool of my own effluvia as I washed up. There is but one way to unclog the bathroom drain, but it was Christmas morning so I said sod it and let it go until this morning when I mustered enough motivation to climb into the garage attic, haul out a garden hose and connect it to the outside tap, drag the other end in through the bathroom window, attach the clogbuster, shove it down the drain and turn the tap wide open. Had to jump up and down on the drain with a plunger a couple times, too. The one good thing was that temps were in the 40s today so my fingers didn’t freeze solid and break off while I was draining the hose and wrapping it up before hauling it back up to the attic.

The rest of Christmas morning was excellent, though. Tim came over, we dumped the contents of our stockings on the table so we could ooooh and aahhh over the prezzies, then we hung out for a while playing with the Nerf guns that Santa left under the tree. They came with velcro darts that would stick to fuzzy fabric, and they also came with a couple fuzzy targets we were supposed to strap on so we could play Nerf paintball but we didn’t do that. We hung the targets from chairs and other stuff and just shot for practice. Tim got pretty good.

Dinner was a great big ham and enough mashed potatoes to feed Coxey’s army, and we stuffed ourselves until we couldn’t hold any more, except for Sean who can always hold more, somehow.

Just before I busted the clog in the bathroom drain this morning, we gathered again for brunch – scrambled eggs, ham and womp biscuits, the kind that come in paper tubes you open by banging them against the edge of the kitchen counter until they explode – WOMP! Always the one to add that perfect touch, My Darling B mixed up a couple Bloody Marys with peppers she grew herself in her garden last summer, and garnished them generously with pickled onions, pickled cukes, jerked beef and a cube of cheddar, but without asparagus spears, because who eats those damned things, anyway?

I busted that clog after brunch, then washed up and we all settled in the living room to watch a movie. FYI: “Hobo With A Shotgun” is not a Christmas movie, just in case you were wondering. Also, it’s not something you should watch if you’ve just eaten. Or ever eaten, come to that. Just don’t watch it, is I guess what I really want to say.

When the movie didn’t work out, we moved into the dining room to play “Boggle” for an hour or so until we were tired enough to break up and move off to our separate napping places.

*My use of the phrase The Big Cosmic FU in no way implies that I believe that the cosmos is, in fact, flipping me off, or is even capable of it, but sometimes it sure feels like it is, doesn’t it?

swag | 4:03 pm CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, entertainment, movies, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, Seanster, T-Dawg | Tags:
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Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I just finished disposing of the Christmas tree. Yes, I know that Christmas was six months ago. No, it’s not a point of pride. I’m lazy, and I admit it.

After the holidays were over and we all went back to our jobs, I threw the Christmas tree into a corner of the garden because My Darling B asked me to. She said it attracted birds and bunnies and all kinds of other creatures she not only liked but wanted to give shelter to during the winter months. It sat in the garden until mid-May, when B began clearing out the garden in preparation for planting.

That’s about when the tree ended up just outside the garden fence on the lawn, where it languished for another several weeks. I mowed around it a couple times, each time wincing a bit for not taking care of it sooner. I moved it out of the way once to mow the grass that was growing tall through its branches. But I didn’t get rid of it then. Well, I said I was lazy.

This afternoon, when I was done with my other chores, I offered to help B weed and she suggested I dispose of the tree instead. Oh, hey! Good idea! Dashing to the garden shed, I came trotting back with a bow saw and a pair of gloves and started to work hacking the branches off, but not before stopping to admire the biggest damn jumping spider I’ve ever seen, hunkered down on the trunk between the branches. It wasn’t an especially large spider, as spiders go. Jumping spiders are usually pretty small, though, and this was about the size of my thumbnail, so I had to stop and try to get a good look. He kept scooting around to the underside of the trunk as I turned the tree over, but the few times I spotted him he looked like a daring jumping spider, not that I know one spider from another. The google knows, though, and I trust the google.

When I was no longer distracted by the spider, I cut the tree up into individual branches that I could feed to the wood chipper and reduced it to a half-bushel of chips and needles. “Is that all?” My Darling B asked, when she saw it. She was expecting bushels and bushels, but Christmas trees are like cotton candy: Big and bushy, but they don’t have much of substance to them.

chipped | 4:07 pm CST
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Saturday, December 25th, 2010

We opened presents last night because I couldn’t wait any longer. The kids aren’t as jazzed about Christmas as they were when they were wee little bugs, but I was so excited about seeing My Darling B open the prezzie I got for her that I knew I’d pee my pants if I had to wait until the next morning, so I lobbied for early Christmas and won.

I didn’t get her diamonds or anything like that, because she’s repeatedly warned me that, if I did, she’d only hock them and use the money to pay for a tropical cruise or a trip to Japan. I think she possibly overestimates the amount of money I’d feel comfortable spending on jewelry.

So I got her a zip-up hoodie and a t-shirt from Batch Bakehouse, our favorite bakery, just opened on Willy Street and always filled with fresh, delicious baked goods, except on Monday and Tuesday, which must be their weekend because they’re closed then. Probably a good thing because it’s just three blocks from the office where I work, so I walk over there once or twice a week for something to nosh on. I know I shouldn’t. All that butter. But it’s so good.

She got me a copy of The John Varley Reader. Remember the dream I had about trying to find the name of a science fiction story? It turned out to be Air Raid by John Varley, and it’s in this collection of his short stories. I read Air Raid again this morning and it’s every bit as good as I remember it. Much better than the novelized version (sorry, Mister Varley).

The boys didn’t get us anything for Christmas, so we stiffed them right back. Just kidding! T-Dawg got a recipe box, already loaded up with three or four of his favorite recipes, shepherd’s pie and stuff like that. The Seanster got a crisp new fifty-dollar bill because he gets harder to buy presents for every year.

And then we hung out until a little after nine o’clock before we started drifting off to bed, because we’re all lightweights, except for Seanee-boy who lives on Moscow time. We still have the stockings to dig into this morning, if and when the boys turn out of bed and gather round for Christmas cheer.

Prezzies! | 10:09 am CST
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster, T-Dawg | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, December 26th, 2009

christmas family photo

Who the heck is that guy in the back?

It’s like I’m this guy who happened to be walking past and I saw these three posing for a photo so I ducked in behind them quick before they could stop me, stopped long enough to glance at the camera and then, maybe, I got lucky enough to escape before they grabbed me and dogpiled me.

This photo captured Boo’s utter contempt for holiday photos, didn’t it? Never have I seen an expression of such pure hatred on the face of a cat.

Happy Holidays to all from the O-Folk!

Christmas card | 6:29 am CST
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We were supposed to be on our way to Mom’s place this morning to share a Christmas dinner with her, but the weather isn’t cooperating. Although yesterday we experienced what was very nearly a heat wave, the temp up to forty-six and rain melting all the snow we got last week, after the sun set and the snow started falling again the temperature plummeted to twenty-four degrees, turning every flat surface, such as roads, into snow-covered ice skating rinks.

Mom called just after supper to tell us Jim & Sue wouldn’t be making the trip, and after talking it over we agreed it wouldn’t be such a hot idea for us to make the attempt, either. It’s a three-hour drive on a good day. Weather like this could easily make it twice as long.

So we’ll be staying here this weekend, probably staying inside all day as temps have dropped into the teens. From what I understand, probably everybody in my family will be. I heard through my Mom that my brother, who lives in Texas and likes to brag on how good he’s got it down there in the winter, says that they had a white Christmas yesterday with temps in the twenties.

Christmas here in Our Humble O’Bode was about the most laid-back Christmas I think we’ve ever had. Tim didn’t come by the house until about nine-thirty, and Sean didn’t even get out of bed until Tim had been here a while and was threatening, very loudly, to go wake Sean up.

We didn’t exchange presents this year, even though we had a tree. B bought a bunch of stocking-stuffers for me and the boys, and I bought her a few trinkets for her stocking as well, but it was all over in about five minutes and we spent the rest of the day in various states of repose, lazing around the house reading or surfing the web. Mostly reading.

Our sumptuous Christmas repast was leg o’ lamb and mashed potatoes, with a pecan pie for dessert. After that we were too stuffed to play Risk, funnily enough, and we couldn’t decide on a movie, so we all ended up reading books until bedtime. Big change from the days when the boys rousted us out of bed at the crack of dawn and tore through the house all day long, playing with their new toys.

Christmas letter | 6:20 am CST
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Friday, December 25th, 2009

All four of us, Tim, Sean, My Darling B and I, sat down for a Christmas dinner that B knew the boys would gobble up, her world-famous pasta dish (I can say that without lying even a little bit because she’s prepared it in every place we’ve lived) that we call pepperoni-rigatoni. It’s pasta and pepperoni in a casserole dish smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. The boys have always loved it and it’s quick and easy to make, which left us for the one other thing we do when we all get together: Play a board game!

Last night it was Monopoly. There was a sort of lukewarm feeling about playing a full-blown game of Monopoly so I suggested we deal all the deeds randomly and go from there, and everybody went along with that until we’d made two or maybe three laps around the board, when it turned out everybody really missed the part about buying the property, so we started over and everybody had a great time after that.

I bought all the railroads. I always do this because nobody else does. “Nobody ever lands on the railroads,” is the reason I hear, and yet I notice that, when I buy up all the railroads, the refrain quickly changes to, “Two hundred dollars to ride on the Reading? I didn’t even want to ride on your stupid railroad in the first place!”

Even though nobody ever lands on the railroads, I had to promise My Darling B she could ride on them free if she sold me the Pennsylvania so I could have all four. And she did, and then landed on them almost every time she rolled the dice. Saved herself a thousand bucks, easily.

The game ended in a draw at about nine-thirty when nobody was coming out ahead but nobody was really going under, either. All I had was Baltic, Oriental and all the railroads, couldn’t develop any property, the rest of the players had houses all over the board that I kept landing on, and still somehow I had more money than anybody else. When nine-thirty rolled around we called the game on account of not being able to bankrupt anybody.

Tonight’s game: RISK!

Game night | 10:26 am CST
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Thursday, December 24th, 2009

My Darling B made peppermint bark! Huzzah!

peppermint bark | 10:34 am CST
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Tuesday, December 25th, 2001

To celebrate Christmas this year, I hung the mid watch from the night before, if you can call staying awake an hour or so longer than usual “hanging the mid.” Most people call that “wussing out,” though. I came through the front door at about seven in the morning to find Barb and Sean still asleep! But Tim was wide awake and waiting for me at the top of the stairs. We woke up the sleepyheads and trooped down to the living room to see what Santa had brought us. It was a remarkably relaxed Christmas morning, which didn’t help me stay awake. I hung on long enough to see everybody open their presents; in some cases, I saw people open the same present twice when my eyes were crossing. Finally, when I couldn’t focus at all, I plodded upstairs and crawled into bed.

The boys got bicycles they couldn’t go out and ride, although I’m pretty sure Tim would’ve tried if we’d let him. Might’ve been pretty comical.

They each got plenty of books, too. I mentioned to somebody at work that the boys were getting lots of books, and she screwed up her face and said something like, “Books? How do you get them to read books?” Pretty simple, really, and here’s the secret in case you want to pass it along: You read to them every day when they’re young, starting as soon as they can hear your voice, and you teach them to read as soon as they show any kind of aptitude for it. You spend all your lunch money and pocket change on books, and keep them stacked everywhere in the house. You read good books whenever you can, and never discourage them from reading, even when they pick up the book you’re trying to finish. I can’t stop my kids from reading books, and we’ve never in my memory hesitated from buying books because we couldn’t afford it; if credit is good for anything, it’s got to be good for buying books you can’t pay for yet.

Speaking of which, I’d forgotten that being in the military is good for 10% off all the books in the BX book store. Yes!

[11/25/14: “Hanging a mid:” When we worked mid watches in my younger years, we would sometimes “hang” the last mid by staying awake all day, then go to bed at a normal time that evening. In theory, this would reset our biological clocks. In practice, we did it mostly as an excuse to hang out together at the club all day and drink beer.]

buy books | 9:08 pm CST
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Monday, December 24th, 2001

Today’s that magical day – yes, it’s the day we start a new work cycle, our first mid. For the next two weeks I’ll become a completely different person, working all night, sleeping all day. For several days at a stretch, I won’t see some of my family for more than fifteen minutes, and some of them I won’t see at all for days. Mids get pretty surreal sometimes.

Dawg flight relieved Charlie for the Christmas mid watch, and after SSgt Baker gave me the pass-down, we settled into the usual small talk: how’d the break go, what’s up with the family, that kind of thing. As the conversation fell into a lull and he seemed ready to put on his coat and go, I said something like, “Better get on home, sleep well,” the usual things I say to let somebody go, then I just barely remember to add, “Merry Christmas.” He settled back into his seat and said, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.”

It was a funny thing to say because I’d been feeling the same way for a while. I know it’s been said plenty already, but the holiday season starts way too darned soon. I had to buy a Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving or do without one, so the poor thing was a dead twig by Christmas eve. Then all through the build-up, hardly anybody seemed to be in the mood. It was a surprise to me whenever I heard, “Merry Christmas,” which wasn’t often.

Then on Christmas eve, My Darling B made the same remark: “Christmas doesn’t feel the same this year.” Maybe that was the essence of it, that it did feel like Christmas, but the way Christmas feels had changed, like so many other feelings, in the last six months.

un-Christmas | 6:33 am CST
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Saturday, December 22nd, 2001

Washed up after PT, then took B to the post office so she could put in her hours for the volunteer service she does there. She says the post office is feeling the big crush now, getting truckloads of packages many times a day. When I picked her up in the afternoon, they’d just received 400 pieces, some pieces being bags filled with packages.

During PT, I was thinking of something I wanted to search the internet for; even had the search strategy planned in my head, but because I was running the treadmill and didn’t have a pencil and paper handy, couldn’t write it down. Think I can remember a bit of it now? Can’t even recall the vaguest notion of what it was I was going to search for. In the march toward drooling senility, I’m just one step closer.

Japanese workers have begun to put steel shutters around the TOW housing across the street in preparation for demolition; B’s old house is already behind the barrier, almost completely out of sight. Might never see it again.

B’s about a gnat’s whisker from cooking up ramen the way they make it in town. She sorta just threw together a bunch of stuff that looked right – chunks of chicken breast, carrot shavings, diced onion, and some bean sprouts – and what do you know, it tasted pretty good!

Finally received some snow worth bragging about. It was coming down this morning when we first went out, and was still coming down, even heavier, this evening as we were sitting down to supper, only to stop shortly after. We must’ve got at least 4-6 inches, although it sure seemed like a lot more when I was shoveling it off the walk ways over and over again.

[11/24/14: “TOW housing” is what they called the wooden houses built on the hill across the street from our house. The only explanation I heard for this was that “TOW” stood for “termination of war,” the time period when the houses were built. They looked to be about fifty years old, so that explanation is probably as good as any.]

jumble | 6:18 am CST
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Friday, November 23rd, 2001

Our next-door neighbors asked us if they could string Christmas lights all the way around the eaves on our corner of the building. Sure, why not, we said. I didn’t care, so long as I didn’t end up climbing out onto the roof. Well, I thought what they meant by “string Christmas lights” was maybe those drippy icicle-looking lights, hung from the eaves. Turns out these guys are from the “more is better” school of Christmas decorations. They must’ve blown a couple hundred dollars on reindeer and angels and candy canes and about a million feet of garland with woven-in lights. “I didn’t know you were going to so much trouble,” Barb said in her ever so diplomatic way when she went to talk with our neighbor about stretching the bounds of good taste. Our neighbors must have been acting on some weird signal from outer space that’s just above the pitch of our hearing, because just after they covered our building in dripping lights and ribbons, everybody in every other house down the street climbed out their bedroom windows and hung all the Christmas lights ever made in Taiwan across the front of their buildings. The whole street looks the way downtown Green Bay at Christmas time used to look; the only thing missing is animated toys in the windows.

more is just more | 9:43 am CST
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Another beautiful day today; we’ve had a string of four or five days with clear, deep blue skies, lots of sunshine, and temps in the sixties. They keep telling me that we’ll be up to our noses in snow any minute now, and that the earthquakes knock you right off your feet, but what have we had so far? A flurry that hardly amounted to a dusting and two temblors that hardly slopped the water our of our glasses. Feh. There. That ought to jinx me good.

We went a couple miles south to Shimoda today to do a little shopping, some of it for us, some of it for Christmas gifts, thank goodness. Sean gets wound so tight about buying gifts that his head just about pops off and flies spinning high into the air; I think we loosened him up a bit with this trip. In one store I bought a set of soup bowls the size of bathtubs, porcelain soup spoons, and tiny little dishes that you pour soy sauce into for dipping. When I brought my meager purchases to the cashier’s counter, three check-out girls rushed to attend to me with many thank-yous and much bowing. I’ve never been to Tiffany’s my darned self, but I’ll bet the service there is shabby in comparison to this common department store. With three of them working furiously, it still took them at least five minutes to wrap them in more newspaper than you usually find in a Sunday edition of the New York Times.

Christmas shopping in Shimoda | 9:39 am CST
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