Thursday, December 31, 2009


A good synopses of this year, finance wise can be found here. It was the end of the housing bubble but now we are either in a stock bubble or this is a great time to invest in the market. Heard of lots of people I know losing their jobs in the past 16 months, but over the holidays I heard about an out of work individual who found a job. At any rate, this is the year that most people stopped maxing out their credit cards and credit lines. It was also the year when twenty somethings gave up the dream of having their own pad and have to contend themselves to living at home, eating Mom's cooking and getting up when the family decides it's the appropriate time. I didn't run away from home til I was 25.

I have a few bests. Not many. My favorite movie this year was Sunshine Cleaning. My favorite new TV show is Being Erica, a Canadian dramady (on the Soap Channel on Saturdays). I now read sodium contents on food at the supermercado and allocate my liquor scientifically (well sort of). I avoid potato chips. I eat oat meal. I live a healthy lifestyle without being crotchety about it. Someone told me that anyway. She doesn't know what I'm like in the morning.

Hope you all still have your jobs, your relatives, your credit, your cars and your driver's licenses. Happy new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gruesome Christmas tree chopping stories

Like many college English majors, I have an unpublished novel on my hard drive. Here, we visit Colorado of the eighties and attempt to chop down a Christmas tree:

One of the great pleasures of life is having breakfast in an all night diner at four o'clock in the morning with good friends. The night changes to day. You get to watch truckers and delivery men come in with full loads and empty stomachs. The harsh cold fluorescent light of reality finishes off an evening of rock music, drugs, skinny dipping and unrequited love. It's four a.m. and you're ordering eggs with friends. Waylon Jennings is on the jukebox. The sun will be out soon and with it all of the expectations of the evening. You're drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and being your old grouchy selves.
So it came to pass that I was eating breakfast with Nancy and Gail at Mary and Lou's Cafe. Nancy invited me out to Jamestown to help chop down Christmas trees with them and the youngin's. I said I'd go.

There was some federal land by the old abandoned tungsten mine in Jamestown. Technically it was off limits to all poachers, but the locals treated it as their own private tree farm, and during December, were known to discretely cart off an evergreen or two in the spirit of the season.
Me, Nancy, Gail, and the two kids drove from Denver one cold morning in Gail's truck to carry off Christmas plunder from Jamestown. When we got to Jamestown, we stopped at Nancy's father's house and he gave us some cutting instructions. We were told, for one thing, that if anybody asked us where we came by our trees, we were to say that they came from the old Hill place, and that Daddy had been carting off trees with permission from the Hill family for thirty years. We carried axes instead of the usual power saws, because Nancy said it would be more authentic and we'd keep the noise down.

There we were with axes on a hill full of evergreens. It was the two women, me and Nathaniel. The consensus was that Gabriel was to be left with Grandpa. I chopped down the first tree. Boy, it was a lot of work. I must have hit that damn tree with that dull ax twenty times before it came down. Then Gail and Nancy chopped down their trees. Male chauvinist as I am, I have to admit that they disposed of their tree more swiftly than I did with mine. And theirs was bigger.

Within half an hour of chopping and stumbling over the icy meadow, the tree cutting duty was finished, and we got to the fun part of dragging the two trees down the hill and tying them onto the roof of the truck. This was actually more work than the cutting down of the evergreens had been. Fortunately, Nancy had brought a bottle for walking and so we were all in fine spirits by the time we got back to Dan Woodson's abode.

He was baby-sitting his grandson, and he let us in. We listened to old Jamestown Christmas tree cutting stories and drank beer. I almost cried when he told us about how old Uncle Jake lost his thumb one year cutting down balsam pines. But then he was a professional poacher so he probably deserved what happened.

Nan-u had one more house she wanted to visit. It was getting dark as we drove past Tim Hardin's old house and got to the cabin of Nancy's old school chum. Deloris was living with her affable but perennially out of work husband Fred. They greeted us with beer, tequila, sandwiches, and their two year old nymphomaniac daughter Tiger. While the adults were recanting gruesome Christmas tree chopping stories, Gabriel and Tiger retired to the bedroom to play doctor. A few bhongs into the evening the two youngsters flamboyantly entered the living room in their birthday suits.
The two moms started yelling, "Put your clothes on right now before we whip your butts!" They made so much noise they almost woke up Nathaniel. It was great to watch a recreation of the Genesis scene. It really got me into the spirit of the season.

Soon, it was time to leave, that is if anyone had expectations of getting to work or school or day care on time the next day. So we departed the cold, wintry, mountain town of Jamestown. With the trees precariously tied to the roof of Gail's truck we all headed back to Denver, our jobs, and our urban lives. When we got to town, first we hoisted Nancy and Gail's tree up the stairs of their place and then we hoist my tree DOWN the stairs of my basement condo.

Wow! I had a Christmas tree! Now all I needed was decorations. Then I found the box with the old family stuff that my parents had given me. This, I knew, was the stuff that neither my parents nor my older brother wanted. Then there was the entourage of decorations I had bought at flea markets in Denver the past three years. The tree, needless to say, was premium grade, and genuine.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow people

There are two types of people when it snows. The brave snow people and the cowardly snow people. The brave snow people were out in their cars on Saturday, driving at 65 miles an hour and having a wonderful time. They had the roads to themselves and the stores full of bargains and no customers.

Most of us are cowardly snow people. We stayed in the house on Saturday and ventured out on Sunday to devote two hours getting our cars ready for Monday. Monday morning I was ready for bear, didn't even need to clean the windshield.

My condo development has a rule that usually works. You park in the unassigned parking space and the snow plows clean all the regular parking spaces and lanes. Unfortunately the trucks didn't finish the job until eight p.m. so I had to leave my car in the unassigned space. Because my neighbor never moved his car, my regular space was never done, or at least left a lot to be finished off before it was ready for my precious car.

Tonight I have shoveled my parking space but there is a two inch sheet of ice that I have salted and am hoping for the best. As for now I'm still in the unassigned parking spaces. The residents did a great job on that lot!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Samuelson and economics

My brother attended a prestigious Eastern college in the sixties. One course that impressed him was Economics 101 taught by Paul Samuelson. At the dining room table (it must have been Sunday dinner) my brother explained to my father, an accountant, how inflation was good for the economy, according to his professor. Apparently, wages went up, prices went up, and everyone was better off. This must have ticked off my father because he slammed his hand on the table and said, "Yes, but that's creating a false economy".

Paul Samuelson died yesterday. He is most remembered for his textbook, read by Freshman economy students for decades. Students liked using the book. They knew they could always sell it come next year to the next batch of Freshman.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

MacDonald's coffee

I've been meaning to try the new MacDonald's coffee and so this morning, with money in my pocket, I drove to the closest MacDonald's. It was crowded and there was a line. Some of the regulars were there, the older men that congregate at MacDonald's in the morning and make a social occasion out of the deal.

There was one man who kept hitting himself on the chest and going, "86!". One of the old timers responded with "Is that your golf score or your cholesterol?"Ha ha ha's were heard from the crew.

I often wonder if a shy person like myself will turn into a garrulous old character when I start collecting Social Security. When you are an old guy you can tell everyone at MacDonald's your age and you can pinch teenage girls in the rump. What would be annoying or even illegal for the young becomes "cute" when you are old. It must be fun. Bring on the Lipitor.

Incidentally, the coffee wasn't bad. MacDonald's coffee used to be terrible. Now it tastes like diner coffee. Definitely an improvement.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thank you Tiger for helping us this holiday season

One of the problems we all have at Christmas parties, dinners, and the like is that lag in conversation. You're sitting next to Aunt Maureen or your friend's Uncle Malcolm and there is that moment where you are struggling for something to say. You already told them what you do for a living and it would be impolite to ask them how they pay their own bills. However, this season, thanks to Tiger Woods, that problem has been solved.

"So, do you think she hit him with those golf clubs or not?"

"I wonder how much booze she had in her when she started chasing him up the street?"

"So I see Tiger Woods was doing more swinging than on the course!"

And for the rest of the afternoon, you have the pleasant give and take of witty repartee, jokes, opinions, and happy fun filled laughter. Thank you Tiger and may you have a happy new year.