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.

Chicago day two

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.

windy city

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.

bad parenting

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.


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?


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.


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.

Christmas card

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 letter

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.