Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the category “Christmas”

I Am Not Scrooge

WE ARE INTO OCTOBER NOW and in my mind that signals a major shift in my world. Leaves are falling along with temperatures and everyone seems to be already gearing up for “The Holidays.” I’m sorry that I can’t whip into my Happy Dance along with you.

“The Holidays” are structured around two groups – children under fifteen and people with more disposable income than me. I left the first group a long time ago and I’ve never had a secure foothold in the second.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Take My Sermon, Please

PulpitJUST ABOUT EVERY SATURDAY my wife, the lovely and officially Reverend, Dawn, sits down and writes her sermon for Sunday’s services. She starts planning each sermon days or even weeks ahead of time, but does the actual typing on Saturday. It is a lot of work. She doesn’t get up there and wing it on Sunday morning. It takes her a lot of preparation time and it shows in her sermons. Just ask anybody who hears her.

This past Saturday she was busy working on her sermon when I announced that I was heading out to St. Arbucks to work on this blog.

“I’m going to attempt to be somewhat creative,” I said.

“Me too,” she answered. “I’ll tell you what – how about it if I do your blog and you do my sermon?”

In the past I have volunteered to write a sermon for her, but her better judgment stepped in and said, “No way, Bucko.” I guess she was afraid that I would hand her a sermon that was a cross between St. Paul and Daffy Duck.

“Jesus and the twelve apostles walk into a bar. The bartender asks, ‘What’ll you have?’ Jesus says, ‘Water for everybody,’ and St. Peter moans and says, ‘Here we go again.’”

I must admit that my writing style is a bit different from Dawn’s. Her sermons rely on Scripture and Theological Philosophy while my sermons would tend more toward what I saw at Kroger’s and “Knock-Knock jokes.”

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

“God”

“God who?”

“God, the Father, who gave his only begotten son…”

Most people know that verse from looking in the endzone at any NFL football game.

I’m still in the market for some inexpensive Biblical bobblehead dolls to use as visual aids. I think that if I could just illustrate the Christmas story with bobbleheads or some sort of Action Figures it would reach out to people in a whole new way. I mean, really, if they can market Jimi Hendrix and Travis Bickle Action Figures at Toys-R-Us I don’t see why they can’t carry the Holy Family or the Three Wise Men (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh accessories sold separately).

I think that my wife is afraid that I might step over any number of lines of propriety and say or do something offensive. I would never do that. Just because I have a background of working in saloons, comedy clubs and assorted dives it doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to behave in polite society. I’ve even made presentations in front of Kiwanis Clubs and if you can do that and get out alive you can do anything.

If I were the guest sermonizer one Sunday I would get the audience’s, er…congregation’s, attention by being interesting, making my words relevant to their everyday lives, and by requiring a two think minimum.

There is no doubt that Jesus had a sense of humor – just look at the people He chose to pal around with – a bunch of misfits, some “outdoorsmen” worthy of their own show on the Weather Channel, and a tax collector. And one of that crew turned on him.

It was so hard to get good help in those days.

I’ll be the first to admit it – Dawn does better sermons than I could ever do. She has “the calling” for that work. The only “calling” I ever got was trying to get me to refill a nonexistent prescription with a Canadian pharmacy.

If Dawn ever decides that she would like a Sunday off I would be more than happy to step up and knock one out of the park.

I think there is room enough for both of us in the pulpit.

Well, maybe not.

A Basket Of Brisket

WELL, HERE WE GO – OFF TO TEXAS! Surprisingly our flights were uneventful – which is what you want. Eventful airplane flights make the news and that is never a good thing. Things even went smoothly in our dealings with the TSA aerobic organisms. I think they were having an “On-The Job Slumber Party. They were just waving people through without even looking at them. I bet I could have walked through there toting a Howitzer and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It always makes me feel so safe.

Once we got to our ultimate destination (Corpus Christi) we did what any sensible person would do – we stopped for lunch at Whataburger. It’s a tradition that goes back to the days of the Alamo and Davy Crockett I think. A Family thing, you know.

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It Has Been A Slice

pizza1WHO SAYS WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO BE SOCIABLE? We can be just as sociable as any other group of semi-civilized men who spend their Golden Years discussing the important issues of the day: Which was better – “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” or “The Bionic Woman?”

The “Usual Suspects” as I call them, or my “Play Group” as my wife, the lovely and sarcastically fine tuned, Dawn, calls them, hold our meetings in the Chapel at St. Arbucks almost every morning over coffee.

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Flarp

28ea868f-2859-4737-add3-12fa449ec6f9_1-edfc2e689dc9ad33570c7bbd1526ec65IF I SAY THE WORD “FLARP” TO YOU WHAT COMES TO MIND? If you are over the age of 12 probably nothing – I hope. Unfortunately, it does carry a very specific meaning to me and I can blame several children and one adult for that.

“Flarp” is a product that is gloriously described as “Noise Putty.”

Indeed.

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Six Kolaches Over Texas

kol1SOME THINGS ARE WORTH EATING.

Other things are not.

A nicely done “medium-rare” steak – Yes. A “well-done” steak – No.

 Fried Chicken – Yes. KFC – No.

Airline Cookies, Cheap Mexican Food, and Beets – No, No, and No.

Kolaches – YES!

Kolaches? Wazzat?

Sit and learn, my child.

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I Intend To Rock Their World

front-deskTHINGS WERE GOING SMOOTHLY… TOO SMOOTHLY.

All we wanted to do was get on the airplane to Texas and do the whole Christmas thing. Perhaps we were asking for too much. To put it in just a few words – “Anything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

We had a scheduled flight to take us from Indianapolis to Houston. Our liftoff time was 7:45 AM. Rather than get up at 2 in the morning to pack the car and drive to Indy we did our usual thing. We went up the afternoon before, and checked in at a hotel near the airport. That way we could get a good night’s sleep, leave the car at the hotel, and take the hotel shuttle to the nearby airport. We have done this a dozen times without any problems.

Our shuttle was set for 6 AM.

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Yo, Ho, Ho, And A Bottle Of Eggnog

eye7BEING THE COMMITTED CHEAPSKATE THAT I AM I have given up a number of expensive hobbies in favor of others that are cheap – like me.

I used to drive in Sports Car Road Rallies and for a while I flew Sailplanes – two ways to burn up income faster than was rational. Now that I’m retired I have taken up the cheapest of all hobbies: People Watching. I wish I had started doing this years ago. It would have saved me a lot of money and rescued me from a diet heavy on Ramen Noodles.

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Merry Christmas To You All!

christmas

 

 

 

Enjoy this day with your Family and Friends!

 

Fa, la, la, la, la.

Cleared For Takeoff

texas1WE ARE FAST CLOSING IN ON CHRISTMAS and shortly we will be winging our way down to Texas. Airports in December – Such fun.

Experience has taught us that the best day to fly during the Holiday Season is on Christmas Day. The airports are not nearly as crowded. You can get a seat in any airport restaurant without waiting or having ten thousand other travelers (and their carry-on baggage) crammed in next to you. On the plane things are not as crowded either. We can stretch out a bit and the Flight Crew is generally in a better mood.

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Stop, Look, And Breathe

anger1 IT MAY BE THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH LOADS OF HO! HO! HO! and your basic good cheer all around, but it seems to me that there are still a bunch of angry people walking around out there. Seriously angry people. Fearful people.

They are angry about a variety of things – some of which are worth being angry about, but so many of these people are worked into a lather about things that are not worth the effort. If you were to stop and ask these folks what it is that has their dander up, most of them could tell you, but a fair portion might be hard put to put their finger on it. They are angry to be sure, but it is a rather non-specific anger. It is like they’ve shot off their arrow even though they couldn’t clearly see the target.

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I Am Leftovers

food1YOU WOULD THINK THAT AN ENTIRE WEEKEND would be enough time to recover, but I still feel like that beached whale. I am still giving thanks – only now it is thanks that I’m still alive, having survived my gluttony.

By this time of life I should know better and be more into a Zen-like state where I don’t engage all of my senses in a spate of overdoing it at the dinner table.

“Oh, Grasshopper, you are personally responsible for the famine in Asia. Because of you millions of people will go to bed without any pumpkin pie. The children will never know the meaning of Kool-Whip.”

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The Odds Are…Odder Than Most

ticket1Well, plans for Christmas are now in place. We will be flying down to Texas and spending  a week or so visiting with Family. I can’t think of a better way to spend the Holidays. OK – maybe hitting the jackpot on the lottery while there would be better, but the odds are not in our favor.

My wife, the lovely and optimistic, Dawn will go for a “Quick Pick” lottery ticket on occasion. She doesn’t do it all the time. She has standards – the jackpot has to be at least $100 Million Dollars or it’s not worth the investment of a dollar bill. I can’t argue with that. It really is a game of “Go big or go home,” so she goes big and then goes home anyway.

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Making Out My Christmas List

catalog1WHILE THIS IS THE HOLIDAY SEASON, a time of Joy and Happiness, there is one thing that always mars that sense of glee. Seeing our USPS Letter Carrier (aka The Mailman) lumbering up the street. This time of the year he is toting a bag filled with tons of Christmas Catalogs.

Yesterday we found six different catalogs and a couple of bills stuffed into our mailbox like a blivet. Look it up. Some of the catalogs were from companies we had never heard of before.

Only one item missed being put immediately into the recycling bin and that was because it was one of those catalogs that offered items that have no good reason for even existing.

Answer me this…

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I Think I’m Going To Be Stuffed

christmas-1TODAY IS THE LAST WORKING DAY IN OCTOBER. November starts tomorrow and that means it is Unofficially the Official start of the Holiday Season.

It always seemed to me that Thanksgiving used to be the kickoff for all of the holiday madness, but over time, and with aggressive retail marketing, everything has pushed up so far that ads for Christmas toys and such are now rubbing shoulders with the Fourth of July.

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Flying To Texas Can Be Fun

monorail cat

A LONG TIME AGO in a galaxy far, far away I grew up in Western Pennsylvania on the edges of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Most people refer to them as the Amish. That is an oversimplification of course. There are a large variety of “Amish” communities and sects – each with their own set of rules.

The date of the community’s founding determines some of the rules. Many will not use a technology that came about after the founding date. That is why some groups will not use motorized vehicles while other will. Some will use telephones, others will not.

Last week while we flew to Texas I saw something new. Passing through the Indianapolis airport I saw an Amish family heading toward baggage claim. This was the first time I had heard of Amish flying. “Must be a new community.”

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Throwback Thursday – from December 30, 2014

I’d Like To Know The Rest Of The Story

deer eating popcorn

 

GETTING OLDER IS NOT for sissies. It takes guts and imagination. But it also demands that, as Dirty Harry Callahan hissed in one of his films, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

I know that I can no longer play golf like I used to, and that is a blessing, because I was a terrible golfer. People always claim that it is such a sociable game. Well, the way I played it I was always off by myself somewhere. So – No more golf, no great loss.

A lot of the things that I can no longer do, I really don’t care about: golf, tennis, tap dancing (scratch that. That’s a lie. I never tap danced in my life).

I have had to use my imagination to add things into my life that give it spark and entertainment value while eliminating the need for special equipment – This blog being one of those things. Another being high-impact people watching.

Being a writer, in one way or another, I have always been a people watcher, but now I do it with the enthusiasm of Michael Phelps looking for a fresh bong.

This trip to Texas has presented me, the people watcher, with a target rich environment – The Airport!

Ain’t no place better for people watching than big city airports.

 This trip has us wading through airports in both Indianapolis and Houston.

Just recently, on Christmas Day, I witnessed literally dozens of people who had decided to travel while wearing antlers. I assume that, if I came back to the airport in July, the numbers would fall – I hope.

I saw one fellow who looked like Santa, wearing a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, standing in front of the Arrivals/Departures monitors, looking decidedly undecided. Mrs. Santa was nowhere in sight. She may have been out antler shopping in the gift shop.

I can understand that airports can be bewildering. But, Santa? After circling the globe in one night spreading joy and happiness to billions?

Must have been some righteous Jet Lag for the old guy.

 He should have brought along an elf or two to help him out.

While Santa and the Antlered Ones made for an interesting visual diversion, it was while we were waiting to board in Houston that I heard the following announcement come over the Public Address System.

“Will Mr. Johnston, please return to the Ticket Agent Desk for Southwest Airlines. You are in Houston – not Dallas.”

Now, I’ve gotten a bit confused myself, at times, but even Santa couldn’t top that poor fellow.

I wish that we could have waited around to see how this all played out, but our flight was boarding. We knew that we were in Houston and that we were going Corpus Christi. Mr. Johnson could not confidently, say the same.

I bet his antlers were too tight.

Merry Christmas To You All

Today is Christmas Day – a day to spend with your family and friends. Take the day off and relax.

Christmas-Day-Graphics

ENJOY!

A Christmas Story on Throwback Thursday

Today is “Throwback Thursday” from 12/24/2014

A Christmas Story

FloridaWith this being Christmas eve and all, my thoughts turn to Family. Today, in particular, makes me think of my late Uncle Paul and Aunt Nellie.

It wasn’t that many years ago, on a Christmas Eve, when they seared themselves into both my memory and my gag reflex. Let me explain.

They were both in their late 90’s and living the Retirement Dream down in Florida – in St. Petersburg (AKA “God’s Waiting Room). Unfortunately, they both also had cataracts and couldn’t see a darned thing. For them those 60” plasma TVs were just really big radios.

Unfortunately, they also liked to drive and in Florida you are legally entitled to drive up until three days after death.

It was few days before Christmas when I got a call from a family member in Ohio. It seemed that Aunt Nellie and Uncle Paul had announced that they were planning to drive up North for a Holiday visit. Their plan was to get onto the Interstate System and drive 1000 miles from St. Petersburg, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio, blind as a pair of bookends.

Naturally, the family in Ohio was as frightened as a jeweler seeing Lindsay Lohan come into his store.

The family asked me to intercede. Against better judgment, I did, and soon I became truly scared.

I called Nellie and Paul and voiced the family’s concerns, what with the two of them being in their late 90s and blind as midnight in a coal mine.

Uncle Paul said that he had it “all worked out.”

When I gently said to him, “Uncle Paul, you’re blind. You can’t see and neither can Aunt Nellie. You two could play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for a week and no one would win! Your wife hasn’t seen you in 12 years! You haven’t bought a light bulb since the Carter Administration! How can you expect to drive 1000 miles from St. Petersburg to Cleveland?

“Johnnie, Johnnie, Johnnie, you worry too much.”

That’s how he talked.

The man moved here from Germany in 1933. He still sounded like he just sneaked off the boat.

“Johnnie, Johnnie, Johnnie, you worry too much.”

Now, my friends, this sounds like a punchline, but, with Larry The Cable Guy as my witness, it is a true, verbatim quote.

 “Johnnie, Johnnie, Johnnie, you worry too much. I have it all worked out.”

Here it comes. Wait for it.

“We know we can’t see very well… “So we are going to drive extra fast so we’re not on the road as long.”

Oh, sweet Jesus!

They left St. Petersburg early, before dawn. That would have made no difference to them, I suppose. All I could do was watch CNN to see if they made the news.

Late on Christmas Eve they arrived in Cleveland. How they did it I don’t know.

A couple of years later Uncle Paul was killed in a traffic accident in St. Petersburg – a 19 year old drunk driver T-boned him in an intersection.

Believe it or not, there was a happy ending to this saga.

A year after the accident, widowed Aunt Nellie remarried. She became the bride of a 93 year old neighbor. Since she was almost 100 by this time, we accused her of Robbing the Walker.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

I’ll Try My Best In 2016

Resolutions 1THIS TIME NEXT WEEK SANTA WILL BE BACK IN A BOX until next Thanksgiving. The rumor that he heads to Boca right after Christmas is just that. As soon as the cookies are eaten the old guy heads back into storage.

Now is the time to look forward. Pick up one of the new pens that stuffed a stocking, grab a piece of paper and get down to it. It is time to start making those dreaded New Year Resolutions. It should be easy. We’ve all been making the same ones over and over for decades. We could probably skip the pen and paper altogether and just recite last year’s list.

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