Funny things happen at Christmas. And things not so funny.
One of the best stories at our house is about the year we unloaded a ceiling-high Christmas tree from the roof of our station wagon, heaved it down to the driveway, lugged it across the snowy yard and into the living room, and began to put on the first string of lights when what to our wondrous eyes should appear but two big eyes staring out from between the branches!
It was a baby owl, still standing upright after being knocked around for the better part of an hour and bounced around in various vertical, horizontal and diagonal positions.
This year, a cranky old geezer around the corner from us finally went over to the dark side and beat the air out of his whole string of blow-up reindeers.
Another guy in the neighborhood slipped off his roof while trying to string Chinese icicle lights on the gutter. It's was a low-riding ranch house, so he made it.
What's even worse is being that unemployed guy in his freezing front yard trying to get last year's blinking Jesus from China to light up again this year. Funny, but if we'd just start manufacturing all that Christmas paraphernalia here at home there'd be a better chance that both that guy and the lights would still be working.
Money-wise, the international bottom line for Christmas is that China's rising military, thanks to being on the receiving end of boatloads of our decorating dollars, has more money to spend in expanding its stock of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles while, simultaneously by way of the START treaty, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia are set to be slashed.
President Obama, spelling out his vision for a no-nukes world via a means wholly consistent with his bias for leveling and redistribution, proclaimed that only the world's two top dogs will be required to have their arms cut and controlled. "We're not asking any other countries to do anything," he explained.
That's not unlike Obama's goal of hitting "the rich" with higher taxes and more regulations, painting them as greedy and in dire need of external controls, while simultaneously "not asking" nearly half the U.S. population to pay a dime in federal income taxes.
All told, doctors warn that the days immediately after Christmas are the most risky, given the season's stress. I noticed more swearing and horns blowing at the intersections. My wife always says it's my fault when she hears a horn, even if I'm just sitting in the yard. I'd say the increased honking is due to an oversupply of miserable people, a pre-existing condition that's fully disconnected from any of my unorthodox driving maneuvers.
My favorite story this year at our house is that I was cleaning up for a party and emptied about five pounds of art supplies belonging to my 8-year-old granddaughter, Grace, from the bottom two shelves of our dining room bookcase. "Go through it carefully to see what you might like," I told her, handing over a black garbage bag full of colored sheets of felt, crayons, construction paper, pens, chalk and a couple naked Barbies.
I got a phone call the next day from my daughter-in-law, Lisa. "Did you want to throw away this list?," she asked, referring to something I received via e-mail in 1998 entitled "How would you like to be Bill Clinton's friend?" It was a three-page list of 45 dead people directly connected with Bill Clinton -- murders, alleged suicides, strangely exploding planes with Ron Brown, etc., aboard, a few decapitations, a White House intern killed at Starbucks, everyone from Vince Foster to Ed Willey, Kathleen's husband, plus 11 dead Clinton bodyguards.
I have no idea how the Clinton murder list ended up in Grace's art bag. I asked Lisa to put Grace on the phone. "Grace, what do you think of that list?," I inquired. "I think," she said, "it would be scary to be Bill Clinton's friend."
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