On Christmas Eve I attended a little get together with my neighbors. I made an entire chocolate peanut butter poke cake and ended up bringing 2/3 of it back with me, so that tells you everything you need to know about that shindig. It was a good idea in theory, but a total bust. That’s Christmas in The Manoverse nowadays.
I’ve written about the traditional Italian Fish Fest that was a Christmas Eve constant throughout my childhood and into middle age, first at my grandparents house then hosted by my aunt for the past couple of decades. Sadly that gathering “ended” a few years ago…my inclusion in it anyway. I’ll leave it at that. C’est la vie. I always hoped I’d find a lovely wife, have a couple of kids, and serve fish to our extended family at my house, but that dream never came true, which is my responsibility.
In 2021 I attended a couple of quite lovely church services on Christmas Eve, and had intended to go to one this year. Unfortunately Mother Nature decided to rear her ugly head. I am not a fan of cold, ice, & snow. They say discretion is the better part of valor, so I decided to be mature & stay home. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify being lazy. I hope God understands.
Instead of venturing out into the wintry landscape I stayed home with RedZone & my Steelers. There was a full slate of games in the afternoon, then the Steelers played the Raiders in the nightcap, celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Immaculate Reception & retiring the recently departed Franco Harris’ #32 in the process. They won with a thrilling last minute touchdown, which sadly was the highlight of my Christmas weekend.
It wasn’t the Christmas Eve I loved for most of my life, but it wasn’t too bad. Christmas Day?? Well, that was kind of tough.
I don’t want to paint the wrong picture of my nuclear family. We love each other, and we’re close. That being said, a variety of circumstances have altered our Christmas celebration thru the years. I won’t bore y’all with details, but suffice to say I spent the day in solitude watching Christmas movies and a little bit of football. No one is at fault…it’s just how life has happened.
Having said all of that, my mind wanders to much sadder holidays spent in hospitals & “skilled” nursing facilities. As uneventful as it was this year was so much better than any of that. My father has always opined that there is a difference between being alone & being lonely. Am I lonely?? Perhaps a little. Do I wish I had a lovely lady in my life & some kids running around?? Sure. Would it have been fun to attend a big gathering full of food, music, and mirth?? Of course. But that’s not my life, and that’s okay. The choices are looking pretty slim for New Year’s as well, so I’ll probably end up doing the same thing, which is fine. I really do think God has an impish sense of humor. I captioned a photo of my goofy neighbor last New Year’s Eve “I’m hoping for a younger, prettier, more feminine date next NY Eve”, but the joke’s on me…even he has plans this year, so it’s either go to a party by myself or stay home & watch the College Football Playoff.
At any rate, I feel oddly peaceful about these circumstances because I understand how much worse it could be. I am also blessed to know that Christmas isn’t about gifts or any of the other stuff we get caught up stressing over. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, who would grow up to permanently change the world & die for my sins, paving the way for an eternal life I certainly do not deserve. Come on…the Steelers, eggnog, Ralphie Parker & George Bailey, eternity with Jesus…how cool is that?? It was certainly a Christmas worthy of celebration.
We have reached the conclusion of our project. If you’d like to see everything you may have missed please go here, here, here, here, & here. I have truly enjoyed the mental & emotional exercise. It’s really easy to give lip service to gratitude, but actually having to give some thought to what you are thankful for is a whole different ballgame. I don’t know if I will ever do this again (atleast for awhile unless my life significantly changes) but I’m glad I decided to do things this way instead of simply giving superficial answers in a Facebook post. As we transition into the Christmas season let me encourage everyone to continue practicing, expressing, & being mindful of gratitude.
26 What form of expression are you most grateful for??
Writing, no question. I am not particularly artistic and can’t really sing. I respect all forms of expression, but have always felt much more comfortable communicating thru the written word than verbal communication. Of the many regrets I have, near the top of the list has to be the fact that I never knew how to pursue a writing career.
27 What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for??
Let’s be honest…most of us are pretty darn spoiled. We have access to things to make our lives easier that our parents & grandparents could have never fathomed decades ago. I have gadgets that hadn’t even been invented when I was a kid. Narrowing it down is nearly impossible, but I’ll play along & single out a few apps on my phone. I’ve mentioned ad nauseum my love for music, and the evolution of how we enjoy it is fascinating. 8 tracks & vinyl gave way to cassettes, which were replaced by compact discs. Big ol’ record players that you couldn’t move without help were replaced by component stereos & boom boxes, which then gave way to handheld Walkman CD players & eventually iPods. Now, most everyone has a music app on their phone allowing us to listen to whatever we want whenever we choose, and that technology has been a godsend for me as I’ve spent many lonely nights in places I didn’t want to be in the last few years. Allow me to also give a shout out to weather, photo editing, & personal banking apps.
28 What small thing that happened today are you thankful for??
Peace & quiet. I’m not going to go into details, but suffice to say that I had more tranquility in my world today than usual. The older I get the more I enjoy being alone & not bothered by anyone’s foolishness. Unfortunately one cannot avoid it altogether. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice serenity to get things done. I always enjoyed the sitcom Frasier and fancied myself a bit like Frasier & Niles Crane, only cooler. I crave conversations about literature, history, philosophy, music, and various other subjects. Instead I’ve found myself as a character in a Roseanne-seque dramedy in which most of the “conversations” (trust me…I use that term very loosely) I’m forced to endure are cringeworthy at best, and occasionally have me fantasizing about hurling myself out of my fifth floor living room window. I am grateful for an occasional respite.
29 What friend/family member are you grateful for today??
I love my family, but I’ll seize an opportunity to heap praise on my father. I’ve always felt an underlying current of guilt, knowing that my Dad was a young man of 26 with a wife & daughter and pretty decent life until I came along. Decades of dealing with my problems have followed, from dozens of surgeries & hospital visits to more comprehensive personal care than most kids require. I’ve always felt like a burden to family & friends, which is why a) independence has been a focus of my life, and b) I mostly keep to myself to this very day. I know my situation isn’t my fault…but it’s not anyone else’s either, so I do anything & everything in my power not to bother anyone else if I can possibly avoid it, which gets pretty lonely sometimes. At any rate, Dad would give all the credit to my mother for the care she gave me growing up because that’s just how he rolls. He’s not wrong…Mom deserves a ton of admiration for everything she did for me, which is probably why I’ve never been the same since her death. However, she’s been gone for over two decades, and Dad has really went above & beyond for my sister and myself since both of us have had our fair share of issues. That sense of guilt has evolved & intensified because at this point I feel like I should be taking care of Dad, but he continues to be there for me. I’m actually a bit verklempt as I write this, pondering just how crucial he has been to my life way after most adult children have moved beyond needing their parents so much.
30 What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for??
I don’t feel like I’m all that talented or skilled at much of anything. However, I am thankful for a trait that has developed over the course of time. This may not make much sense to anyone else, but I’m grateful for the ability to roll with the punches. I know life hurls curveballs at everyone. Very few people lead an effortless existence. I try not to wallow in the challenges that I face, but I am honest about things & don’t avoid them. To that extent, I think my disposition has mellowed thru the years, to the point that I don’t get too bent out of shape about things. Once upon a time I resided in a “skilled” rehab facility for about six months, followed by about a year of being homebound. During that time an acquaintance asked me how I handled it because they’d be beating their head against a wall. I don’t know how or why I handle certain circumstances. Perhaps it is because I have no other choice. Maybe I inherited my low-key demeanor from my parents. I definitely believe my faith plays a part. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I take whatever is thrown at me and swat it away like an annoying pest. I’m not a home run hitter, and really don’t get on base all that much. But I’ve spent a lifetime hitting foul balls and keeping my at-bat going.
If you’d like to peruse the previous entries go here and you’ll find what you seek.
I had the best of intentions…really. Things didn’t work out though, but in the best possible way. Instead of authoring a wordy post about Thanksgiving I was actually living in the moment & celebrating the holiday with my family. After I got home the decision was made to vegg thru my carb overload stupor & watch football, and I’m not sorry. It’s all good though. It has always struck me how we tend to anticipate & plan for certain occasions, and then five seconds after it’s over we just move on to the next thing. Understandable I guess. As that sage high school slacker Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast”, but he also said “if you don’t stop & look around once in a while you could miss it”. Perhaps we should consider still being thankful even when Thanksgiving is over.
21 What song are you most grateful for??
My taste in music is eclectic to say the least. I like hard rock, soft rock, jazz, blues, & a little bit of country. Occasionally the mood to chill with some classical hits me. I love parody songs. I enjoy anything with a lot of harmony…like a barbershop quartet. Some contemporary Christian stuff is okay, but I tend to prefer old hymns. I really dig old crooners like Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin. Big band music is cool. Music is a mood thing for me, although no matter what kind of mood I’m in at the start, once I start listening to some tunes it calms & centers me. I’m so thankful for music in general that it’s really difficult to choose just one or even a few songs, but I’ll throw out a few from different genres. Amazing Grace. The 1812 Overture. Almost anything by Billy Joel (I celebrate the guy’s entire catalog). Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd). Gimme Some Lovin’ (IYKYK). Ain’t That a Kick in the Head (Dean Martin). I really could go on & on.
22 What story are you grateful for??
What an odd question 🤔. Books?? Short stories?? A story that someone told me?? I’m not sure I understand the intent. Given that, I will give a shout out to my man Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote 56 short stories (and four novellas) about the amazing Sherlock Holmes.
23 What tradition are you thankful for??
I wrote in detail about it a couple of years ago, but I am thankful that for over four decades I was privileged to enjoy a somewhat traditional Italian Christmas Eve with my extended family. Sadly those days are gone now, and I miss it. I miss my mother and all my grandparents, and I miss gathering for what seemed like a magical night of fellowship & food. I don’t even like fish all that much, but for one night every year oysters, calimari, & baccala were the stars of the menu, and nothing else tasted quite as delicious.
24 What challenge are you grateful for??
The Bible says there is privilege in suffering (Philippians 1:29), but I have to be blatantly honest…I’ve had enough challenges to last a lifetime. Occasionally I’ll run across a person who seemingly leads a charmed life. Everything apparently comes up roses for them, and it’d be deceitful for me not to admit that I am envious of folks like that. I am self aware enough to know that much of what has gone awry in my life is my own fault, but sometimes the losses pile up and it’s exhausting. Having said all of that, I do understand that things could be much worse, and I recognize God’s guidance in my life. Those who know me personally are aware that I have used a wheelchair my whole life due to being born with spina bifida. I have faced more challenges than anyone will ever realize, and though I can’t truthfully say I am grateful for the cards I was dealt, I have pondered what kind of a person a healthy, able-bodied Me would’ve been like. Cooler?? Healthier?? Better looking?? Maybe. But would I have also had a totally different personality & outlook…and would that be a good thing?? Might healthy Me have been a total assclown?? If attracting women would have been easier what kind of trouble might I have gotten into?? If more options to distract me had been available how would that have affected my schoolwork?? What would my relationship with my family have been like if I didn’t need so much help as a kid?? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I know that I like the person I am, though that is far far from perfect. I have always believed that things happen for a reason, so I suppose it’s not a stretch to opine that we should be grateful for all of the challenges that ultimately influence who we become.
25 What moment this week are you most grateful for??
That’s easy. I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my father, sister, & two nephews. My Mom passed in 2000, and almost every year since then we’ve gone out to eat, with the exception of a few occasions in which my health prevented me from participating. That was fine. However, earlier this year my youngest nephew bought his father’s old house, and he wanted to host Thanksgiving. Like myself he is a bachelor (although he’s a lot younger so that’ll change eventually), but he did most of the cooking himself, and everything was quite tasty. Food. Family. Football. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Okay, let’s pause one last time. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…coming soon!!
I’m glad this deal is 30 Days of Gratitude, because I don’t think I’ll finish before Thanksgiving, which comes a little earlier this year. I have no excuse except outright procrastination. My life is not that busy or exciting, I just experience some…inertia…occasionally. At any rate, please peruse Parts 1, 2, & 3, then meet me back here. Enjoy.
16 What about your body are you grateful for??
That’s a tough one because, to be honest, my physical body hasn’t been much to brag about. I’m overweight. I’m disabled. I don’t think I’m especially handsome. However, in the spirit of the exercise I will coax myself into positivity by acknowledging that I have a pretty decent head of hair. It’s not as wavy as it was in my youth, and there’s a whole lot more grey than there used to be, but I don’t think I’m in danger of going bald. So atleast I got that going for me, which is nice.
17 What knowledge are you grateful for??
Knowledge is power. Isn’t that the old saying?? I don’t feel especially powerful, and my standard joke is that I used to be rather smart but I’ve gotten dumber thru the years. I possess alot of useless knowledge, which comes in handy if you’re playing Trivial Pursuit or somehow make it as a contestant on Jeopardy!, but practical skills are more helpful in the real world. There are lots of things I wish I knew – how to attract women…how to lose weight…how to fix a car…how to make a living doing this writing thing. However, the question pertains to knowledge for which I am grateful to possess. As citizens of The Manoverse may know, I have served on the board of directors of our local literacy organization for 15 years, and it’s a topic near & dear to me. My knowledge & ability to read is probably something I take for granted, but books have added so much to my life that I need to appreciate it much more.
18 What piece of art are you grateful for??
I am certainly the kind of geek that would happily visit an art gallery & enjoy it tremendously. However, that doesn’t mean I’m particularly well versed about specific works or that I own anything like that. So I’m going to think outside the box. What is a piece of art?? According to my extensive research (😉) “a work of art is any work regarded as art in its widest sense, including works from literature & music”. Given those wide parameters I’m going to give you three answers. First, I’m not a photographer (probably one of the many callings I missed), but I do get an endorphin release out of taking a nice photo. Plus, pictures are a fantastic way to capture memories that one can appreciate forever. I regret that I’m not well traveled and haven’t had the opportunity to take cool photos of amazing places. Secondly, I’ve talked about my love of music. This isn’t the time to go into details about favorite songs or performers, but I am immensely grateful for music in general. And finally, y’all know I’m a bookworm. More specifically I have become an expert in tsundoku, which is a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature. An old friend once opined that I live in a library. Much like Ron Burgundy I have many leatherbound books & my apartment smells of rich mahogany. I waste too much time engaged on other time wasting activities and need to read more. When that day comes I am grateful to have a plethora of books to choose from, but in the meantime they sure do look lovely lining the walls of my humble abode.
19 What touch are you grateful for today??
Physical touch is something severely lacking in my life. It’s not even about sex. Sometimes it’s nice just to hold someone’s hand or get a hug or give (or receive) a nice shoulder massage. Having said that, perhaps it would be wise to think outside the box. Anyone who has spent any time in church or who has read their Bible may recall numerous accounts of Jesus touching people or them touching his garments & being healed. He may not be physically on Earth at the moment, but I believe in the touch of God in our lives. That touch is God’s power contacting us to influence or change our circumstances in a myriad of ways. We can be touched thru prayer, reading God’s Word, or thru simple, ordinary, oftentimes unexpected interactions with people. I sincerely believe that God puts people in our path…maybe for a brief moment, sometimes for the long run…who guide us, comfort us, give us perspective, teach us, and help us thru tough times. I don’t pray or study my Bible often enough, and that’s my fault. Still, though my life is less than ideal & not what I dreamed it could be once upon a time, it is undeniable that I have felt the touch of God.
20 Who in your life are you grateful for??
I’ve met a lot of good people in my life, but I want to focus on the ones who stayed. I was taught at an early age that if you can honestly say that you have one true friend you’re very blessed. We throw around the word “friend” quite freely, when the fact is that what we really have are co-workers, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, acquaintances, fellow congregants, people we happen to be related to, associates, pals, & buddies. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, but most of those folks won’t be anywhere around when you really truly need them. Truth bomb. The point is this: the only people you can count on is family. There is no one more important than your family. Since I don’t have a wife or children that means the three people I’m most grateful for are my parents & my sister. We lost Mom more than two decades ago, but her impact on my life is immeasurable. Of course that means her absence has had a staggering effect as well. I am fortunate to still have my father & sister, both of whom I speak to almost daily.
Let’s take another time out & meet back here on Thanksgiving.
Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens
I will skip a wordy preamble and just encourage you to check out Parts 1 & 2 if you have not already done so.
11 What holiday are you grateful for??
I really love holidays. Sure, some are more meaningful than others, but each & every occasion we celebrate annually is marked on the calendar for a reason. A few go back centuries, while others are only several decades old. A handful are uniquely American observances, while others are recognized across the globe. I have a healthy respect for all of these days, but there are four that I am especially pleased to acknowledge. Obviously the entire reason any of us are participating in these gratitude exercises is due to Thanksgiving. Someday I’ll take the time to do a deep dive into the holiday, but for now I’ll just say that I believe it is fantastic to set aside a day to really appreciate our blessings, mark the very beginnings of our great country, and of course munch on stuffing & pumpkin pie. I also love New Year’s Day, partly because it’s a fun reason to go out & enjoy some (safe & responsible) revelry the night before, but mostly because there’s something very cool about fresh starts & new beginnings. As a Christian (though admittedly not a very good one) I love Easter as an opportunity to reflect on the gift of eternal life provided to us thru the sacrifice of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. And of course I adore Christmas, both because it marks the birth of Christ and also for the beautiful things…lights, music, movies, etc….that have become lovely accessories to the Reason for the Season.
12 What texture are you grateful for??
I’m going to be honest with y’all…I’ve really struggled with the question. It’s just not something one thinks about. Of course I suppose that’s the point…to provoke thought. At any rate, I have a few ideas. First, is a particular texture really what you’re grateful for…or is it what that texture represents?? 🤔 Secondly…are warmth & cool considered texture?? I ponder that query because the first things that popped into my mind were the warmth one feels when you snuggle underneath a cozy comforter on a cold winter night, and conversely, the coolness of a cool summer breeze or the rush of cold as you walk into an air conditioned room on a hot summer day. As far as tactile texture, I immediately thought of my boy Rocco’s soft fur. I really miss that.
13 What abilities are you grateful for??
I suppose we all have abilities, although I don’t feel like I’m all that talented at anything. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. Anyway, as a person with a disability it is interesting to consider the idea simply because oftentimes the focus…understandably…is on what I can’t do. So, thinking more positively, I am grateful for the senses that I do have…sight, hearing, taste, touch. On a more personal level, I am obviously grateful for whatever level of writing ability I seem to possess, even though I haven’t been smart enough to turn it into a profitable vocation. Also…and this is going to sound strange, but you’ll understand my point…I am grateful for the relatively tranquil demeanor & ability to roll with the punches that I inherited from my father. Trust me…I’ve needed every ounce of that throughout my life.
14 What sight are you grateful for today??
Sight in & of itself is something for which I am deeply grateful. As a wheelchair user I have often said that I’d much rather deal with the disability that I have rather than blindness (or being deaf). There are so many cool things to see. Right now I am looking out my living room window, and even though it’s cold & a lil snowy outside the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day. Later on tonight I will curl up with a good book, so that’s a sight I’ll enjoy. Soon enough the landscape will be littered with lights & decorations celebrating Christmas, and that’s a sight I look forward to every year.
15 What season are you grateful for??
My typical smartass answer to this question is football season. It’s true though!! I haven’t been able to attend a lot of games in person thru the years, but on weekends in the fall, unless I am engaged in other activities, there’s nothing better than vegging out & watching hours upon hours of gridiron action!! A more conventional response to the probable spirit of the question would be summer. I hate cold, snowy, icy, dark, depressing weather. Give me hot summer days & nights with plenty of sunshine.
Okay, let’s pause once again. Stay tuned for more though!!
And we’re back!! If you haven’t perused Part 1 please take a moment to do so. You won’t regret it.
I’ve been using the words grateful/gratitude & thankful/thankfulness interchangeably and will continue to do so. However, it occurred to me that there might be a slight difference officially, and this is what I found. Thankfulness is feeling pleased & relieved, while gratefulness is showing appreciation for something done or received. Being thankful is more about expressing afeeling, whereasgratitude is action in responsetosomething or someone that you appreciate. Thankfulness involves how we feel in the moment. It is a temporary emotional response to a temporary circumstance. Conversely, gratitude is an attitude under any circumstance, appreciating daily life even when nothing exciting happens. I get it. I don’t disagree with any of that. However, I will continue to utilize both terms as synonyms, and I’m pretty sure The Manoverse is sharp enough to keep up.
6 What in nature are you grateful for??
I think I’ve mentioned that I’m not at all outdoorsy (for legit reasons), and neither am I really into “saving the environment” (whatever that means). Having said that, I do have a healthy respect for God’s amazing creation. Many years ago I self-diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I do not like grey, cloudy, rainy, depressing days, and I’m not a fan of snowy, cold, icy conditions. Television & movies romanticize snow, but I find it rather inconvenient. I guess what I’m saying is that I really appreciate sunshine. I simply feel more energetic & focused…more alive…on beautiful, sunny days. I always say that any day that I can wear my sunglasses is a good day,
7 What memory are you grateful for??
That’s really difficult to narrow down. I hope that most of us have a plethora of great memories. However, I’ll give the spotlight to two. First, I’ve talked a few times about the lovely Thanksgivings & Christmases of my youth. Sadly, with my mother & all the grandparents gone those occasions are forever in the mist of bygone days, and since I don’t have any kids it’s impossible to create new memories that measure up. At the other end of the heartwarming nostalgia spectrum are my days as a drunken frat boy. That is probably the favorite era of my life, although I have no desire to relive those crazy times. I am so grateful for my childhood, my family, and my college friends & good times. It’s all been downhill from there.
8 What book are you most grateful for??
I’ve ranked everything from movies to TV characters to cartoons in this space, but I’ve never done any such thing with books. Why?? Well, I don’t believe it’s feasible to compare & contrast books, and I definitely can’t choose just one as my favorite. That being said, in the spirit of the task at hand, I’ll give a shout out to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories. I cannot remember exactly when & how I stumbled upon Holmes, although I think it may have been junior high. Thru the years I have reread those tales many times, and it is always like the literary version of comfort food. I don’t know how many youngsters are discovering Holmes these days, but I encourage anyone who has never had the pleasure to give him a whirl. It’s a decision you won’t regret.
9 What place are you most grateful for??
This one is easy: The Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center. When I was a little boy the Robinson Grand was the local movie theater. I don’t have any specific memories of seeing anything there, although I know I did. Then malls became a thing, and when our local mall opened (complete with a shiny new cineplex) downtown died & the theater faded into oblivion. Flash ahead to 2018, and The Grand was renovated & reopened as a performing arts center. I happen to live about a mile away, so it is really convenient to drive down the street for a show. I live in a small, economically challenged town, and the theater holds about a thousand people, so the latest greatest rock band or that hot new country star isn’t walking thru the door, which is fine. I’ve seen several tribute bands, a handful of acts whose heyday was quite awhile ago, a couple of very well done local theater productions, and alot of other things at RGPAC. It’s always a nice way to spend the evening, and the staff has been first class from Day 1. I’m reminded of The Eagles 1979 song The Sad Cafe that says “oh it seemed like a holy place protected by amazing grace, and we would sing right out loud the things we could not say”, although I don’t want to give anyone the idea that there is anything sad about The Grand. To the contrary…it is my happy place.
10 What taste are you grateful for today??
Forgive me if I take these questions far too seriously. I suppose a simple, trite answer would suffice, but that’s not how I roll. In November 2015 I had a medical issue. I’ll spare you the details, but there are about three days of my life that I don’t remember at all. When I woke up in the hospital the plan was to perform surgery within 24 hours, so I wasn’t permitted to eat or drink, and I was so thirsty. I was given a tiny wet sponge, just enough to moisten my lips & tongue. If you’ve read your Bible you may recall in the book of John, as Jesus is hanging on the cross, He says “I thirst”. It goes on to say that “there was set a vessel full of vinegar…they filled a sponge with vinegar, put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth”. Don’t misunderstand…I am not comparing myself to Jesus, and I wasn’t given vinegar, but in that moment I thought of that scripture & truly understood thirst for probably the first time in my life. I don’t drink enough water even now, but that’s not the point. There are a ton of delicious food & beverage choices out there, but when you’ve experienced real thirst you deeply appreciate anything that will quench it.
Okay, let’s pause once again. Don’t worry…we’ll continue soon.
People have been doing this on social media for several years, but I’ve always avoided it. Don’t misunderstand…I am quite thankful for many things. It’s not even the idea of posting something new on a daily basis. I’ve been doing a Song of the Day for the past two years, which has been fun, and anyone that follows me on Instagram knows I’m the Master of Memes. I suppose it’s more that I find this particular task both fascinating & challenging and believe it deserves a more thoughtful approach than flippant Facebook posts. Citizens of The Manoverse are familiar with my occasional verbosity, and I don’t want to blow up anyone’s timeline in such a manner. Why have a blog if it isn’t going to be used for stuff like this, right?? At any rate, I’ve decided to break things down in increments for the sake of readability, so non-sports fans of this space can rejoice…you’ll be getting something else other than football picks over the next couple of weeks.
1 What smell are you grateful for today??
Unlike most guys I’m really into nice smells. I have multiple wax warmers in my apartment & enjoy keeping the ol’ Bachelor Palace fresh & cozy. I tend to prefer seasonal scents. Eucalyptus & lemon in the sunnier months. Pumpkin-ish aromas in the fall. Anything food related, so my humble abode smells like I just baked cookies or muffins or pie. Vanilla is a go to year round. I enjoy buying soap & body wash that smells nice, and I’ll usually throw on just enough cologne (there is such a thing as too much). I’m not an expert, but am protective of my smoldering machismo, so I try not to smell like flowers or anything too girly. I know that’s a pretty broad & verbose answer to the question, but now you know why I didn’t do this on Facebook.
2 What technology are you grateful for??
I’m not old enough to be one of those geezers that whines & complains about how much simpler life was before machines took over, but I have witnessed the rise of a plethora of amazing technological advances in my lifetime. I am not a tech guru, but neither am I intimidated by it. My mother has been gone for over two decades, and occasionally I ponder what she would think about some of the things we’ve become accustomed to in that time. Social media. Smart phones. Streaming television. I appreciate much of what has come down the pike thru the years, but a couple of things come to mind. First, I really love having a decent camera built into my phone. I’ve been around long enough to remember flash bulbs & film. You’d drop your film off at the drug store, be forced to wait a few days to see the finished product, and ultimately the photos weren’t that great. Digital cameras were cool, but the cell phone cameras we have nowadays are incredible. Secondly, I have seen a lot of music tech come & go. I vaguely recall 8-tracks. I owned vinyl when I was a boy. Then cassettes came along. CDs were awesome. But now?? I love having an app on my phone where I can find almost any song that pops into my mind and listen to it immediately. Music has become very important to me. I find it therapeutic, and occasionally will spend hours just chillin’ with my favorite tunes. Doing that very thing has helped me navigate some rather choppy waters in recent years, which would’ve been alot more challenging with a boom box or the sweet rack system stereo I saved my birthday & Christmas money to buy when I was 14 years old.
3 What color are you grateful for??
I’ve never pondered the idea of being grateful for a color. Perhaps I’m not approaching the query from the correct angle. Anyway, I’ll just say that my two favorite colors are blue & purple. I don’t know why. There is no particular reason or meaningful story to tell. I just really like blue & purple. Perhaps a therapist could discover some profound reason for that.
4 What food are you most grateful for??
Wow. Okay. This is a difficult choice. First, let me say that I am thankful for food in general. I am well aware that, despite the whining & complaining all of us do sometimes, most of us here in America (especially if you’re reading this, which means you have internet access) are extremely fortunate and have so much more than many do in impoverished areas of the world. Of course even here there are some that may struggle for their next meal. I’ve been rather blessed in my life & have rarely lacked food & drink. Having said that, I have dealt with medical issues & stayed in some unpleasant places where the food was…substandard (I’m being kind). Therefore, I am very thankful to be in my own place eating food that I choose & enjoy. As far as something that I specifically appreciate, I have to say chocolate. I know it’s bad for me, but I do have some level of self-control & enjoy my favorite candy, pastries, & assorted treats in moderation.
5 What sound are you most grateful for today??
In 1964 Simon & Garfunkel released one of their biggest hits, a song called The Sound of Silence. I am somewhat of an introvert, which means that I’ll happily attend a party, ball game, concert, or any kind of public gathering. I can be a fun dude!! However, there always comes that point in the festivities when I’m done. I’m over it…I need to go home & be by myself. I don’t mind dealing with inane “conversation” or incoherent babbling for a short time, but inevitably the moment arrives when I simply want the person annoying me to shut up & go away. I require a certain amount of peace & quiet. Poet May Sarton opined that “loneliness is the poverty of self, while solitude is the richness of self”. I experience both on a regular basis, and solitude is preferable. I wish I was more outdoorsy, because I could really get into the whole communing with nature thing. Since I’m more of a inside cat, sometimes I really just enjoy turning off the TV, closing my eyes, & basking in the glow of noiseless tranquility.
No, I wasn’t visited by any spirits last night. However, I have been pondering Christmases past, present, & future.
Yesterday I was feeling a bit wistful…missing my Mom, missing my grandparents, missing my sweet boy Rocco, and recalling so many years of Christmas Eves met with gleeful anticipation of our annual family fish fest & of course Christmas Day revelry. Death, illness, & other circumstances had allegedly brought those old traditions to a close.
Then I remembered a year ago, when I wasn’t even able to get out of bed & The Sickness had the world tied up in knots, along with similar personal circumstances in 2006 & 2015. This year I have been blessed to enjoy some holiday events, and a few days ago had an enjoyable dinner with my family. Last night I hopped in Sammy Claus’ sleigh & went to a couple of lovely church services (after all, it is CHRISTmas). I roamed thru an affluent neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. I stayed up late in Bedford Falls and have been spending today with Ralphie & some football. It’s not Christmas the way it used to be. Those days are destined to remain fond memories. However, I am content in the knowledge that life could be (and has been) much worse, and I am far better off than many.
I do hold out hope for a brighter future. I hope someday I can attend Christmas Eve services holding the soft & beautiful hand of someone who loves me for who I am, flaws be damned. Well-known sage Britney Spears once sang “My loneliness is killing me”. However, she followed that up with “I must confess…I still believe”, which cannot be overlooked. I hope my nephews get hitched and start producing offspring, because Christmas thru the eyes of a child is a whole different vibe. I hope to begin new holiday traditions & create fresh memories that can eventually stand alongside the old ones. I hope The Sickness is eradicated completely because, although we have found ways to work around it & move forward, it remains an undeniable scourge in our lives. I hope one day to once again eat calimari, oysters, & baccala on Christmas Eve with people who welcome my presence instead of casting me aside. I hope to regain some of what I have lost…self-respect, enthusiasm, & faith. I hope the health of those I still consider family improves enough to enjoy it all. I hope.
Charles Dickens said “Don’t leave off hoping, or it’s of no use doing anything. Hope, hope to the last!”. I’m not 20 years old anymore, but I’m not dead yet. I still have hope, and that’s something.
Yes West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…or atleast there used to be a long time ago. Saint Nicholas was a 4th century clergyman in Turkey. He is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, & unmarried people, and is well known for his practice of secret gift giving. That very real bishop gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus (aka Kris Kringle, Jolly Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Sinter Klaas, et al). As a central figure in our modern celebration of Christmas he is not without controversy, but unlike some of my Christian brothers & sisters I take no issue with Santa’s role in our merriment. I choose to see him as a friend & servant of Christ, spreading joy, generosity, & good cheer thru his interactions with children of all ages. Pop culture has embraced Santa Claus for centuries, and he ranks right up there with characters like Sherlock Holmes & Dracula in the countless times & ways he has been portrayed. In pondering that very subject I began thinking about all of the great & not so great depictions of Santa thru the years, and decided to present…..
from the home office in Santa Claus, IN…..
The Superfluous 7 Best (And Worst) Fictional Santa Clauses:
7 Worst – Santa Claus (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
It is only thru the prism of adulthood that we begin to understand that this Santa is kind of an ass!! While it isn’t surprising that other reindeer bully Rudolph about his…physical deformity…we expect more from Santa, who essentially says the whole red nose thing might prevent Rudolph from making his sleigh team. But then the weather gets bad (as if snowstorms are rare at The North Pole 🤷🏻♂️) and, like so many of us flawed human beings, Santa suddenly warms up to Rudolph when he realizes that red nose just might be advantageous. In other words, Rudolph is disposable until Santa needs to use him, which is pretty disheartening.
Best – Santa Claus (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
For those of us of a certain age the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated holiday specials produced in the 1960s & 70s are quintessential Christmas and represent a huge piece of our childhood. 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the first of those TV specials and is still shown annually a half century later. While Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, & Yukon Cornelius take center stage, The Jolly Old Elf is there as a supporting character, and, despite his questionable attitude, he is the first Santa many encounter on television as kids. He has the red suit, the full white beard, a deep booming voice, & the requisite “Ho Ho Ho!”.
6 Worst – Nick Claus (Fred Claus)
This one hurts because I freakin’ love Paul Giamatti. From his breakout role in Howard Stern’s Private Parts to the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon to portraying quirky writer Harvey Pekar in American Splendor to my personal favorite Sideways (a critically acclaimed yet underrated gem), Giamatti quietly became one of the most undervalued actors in Hollywood about two decades ago. It’s not that Giamatti is miscast as Sadsack Santa because vaguely depressed is kind of his wheelhouse, it’s the fact that characterizing Santa that way simply doesn’t feel right. Fred Claus isn’t a good movie to begin with, despite the presence of Vince Vaughn, Giamatti, & Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, but a milquetoast Santa with family drama who gets bullied by a bitter efficiency expert (🤔🤷🏻♂️👀) isn’t the least bit amusing. To top it off, Santa is unable to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve due to a back injury, so it’s up to his slacker brother to get the job done. And I’m supposed to laugh??
Best – The Norelco Santa Claus
From 1961-89 it was an annual tradition for Norelco (a division of electronics conglomerate Philips) to hawk their electric razor with a commercial featuring Santa Claus. This Santa didn’t say anything, he just zoomed thru snow covered hills utilizing an electric shaver head as a sleigh while a voiceover detailed the latest razor on the market that you might want to gift Dad, Grandpa, or any other man on your list. The irony of a full-bearded Santa shilling for a razor never occurred to me back then, and now those commercials (thankfully available on YouTube) provide a healthy dose of nostalgia, which becomes a huge part of the Christmas experience as one grows older.
5 Worst – Higbee’s Santa (A Christmas Story)
“Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never work a day in your life” is a quote I’ve seen attributed to both Mark Twain & Confucius, but the truth is that the vast majority of adults hate their job. We have bills to pay & oftentimes families to support, so you do what you have to do. Nobody embodies this ethos more than the department store Santa in our favorite 1983 holiday classic. In his brief time on screen he moans about possibly having to work overtime, shows utter disdain for the children standing in line to see him, grows impatient with a very nervous Ralphie, and literally kicks the boy in the face. Far from the jolly, kindhearted, magical elf we think of Santa being, this version is just Joe Sixpack anxiously awaiting the end of his shift, probably so he can go home, smoke a bowl, watch some porn, and eat a bologna sandwich with mustard dripping all over his wifebeater.
Best – Kris Kringle (Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town)
I love a good origin story, and this is the best explanation of all things Santa. Another well done Rankin-Bass production, it shows how a baby named Claus is abandoned, then found & raised by a family of toymakers named Kringle. When he grows up Kris volunteers to deliver toys to children in nearby Sombertown, ruled by the malevolent Burgermeister Meisterburger. Kris meets & falls in love with schoolteacher Jessica, who eventually becomes Mrs. Claus. He is forced to go down chimneys & leave toys in stockings after Meisterburger orders a lockdown (must be a Democrat). Jessica asks the Winter Warlock for help in freeing an imprisoned Kris, and he does so by feeding magic corn to reindeer, enabling them to fly. While in hiding Kris grows a beard, marries Jessica, & builds a toy empire at The North Pole. He decides that he’ll deliver gifts on one special night each year…Christmas Eve. It’s quite neat to have questions surrounding the Santa mythos answered, and seeing him grow from a baby to a red haired young man to the white-haired old man in a red suit we all know & love is delightful.
4 Worst – Emo Santa (The Year Without a Santa Claus)
Men are infamous whiners when we fall ill, but this dude takes the cake. Voiced by the legendary Mickey Rooney, this Santa Claus just isn’t feeling the good vibes or appreciation that he expects, so he sends forth the decree that Christmas is cancelled. It is this sort of thing that makes a lot of religious folks dislike Santa, as if he has the ultimate authority to cancel Christmas. Hollywood notoriously avoids focusing on the true Reason for the Season, something I reluctantly made peace with long ago. However, to insinuate that Santa Claus is in charge of the entire holiday is a bit much. And really, the guy isn’t even physically sick. He’s desperately seeking validation & an ego boost, and perhaps suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. He should ask himself for some Vitamin D pills or a Sunlight Therapy Lamp for Christmas.
Best – The Coca-Cola Santa Claus
Coca-Cola’s signature red & white colors sync perfectly with Santa Claus, right?? However, it wasn’t always that way. If you look at visual depictions of Santa from the early 20th century or before how he looks varies widely. Sometimes he’s tall & thin, other times (in tune with his role as the Jolly Old Elf) he is seen as…well, elf size. He might be wearing the long & flowing robes of a typical bishop, or even military gear. When Coke began using Santa in advertising campaigns in the 1930s they hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create a warm & friendly Santa with rosy cheeks, an amiable smile, & that twinkle in his eye. He appears as a full-grown man with an ample mid-section. Sunblom’s Santa became the standard, and his nostalgic drawings can still give one all the feels.
3 Worst – The Santas That Killed Grandma & Kissed Mommy
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (recorded in 1952 by 13 year old Jimmy Boyd) and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (recorded by Elmo & Patsy in 1979) are two of the most enduring novelty songs of the holiday season, and I can’t stand them. Despite the title of the song, the kid’s drunken grandmother didn’t technically get killed by reindeer. The lyrics even indicate that the corpse had “incriminating Claus marks on her back” and warns “they should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves”. Santa should’ve been arrested for vehicular manslaughter!! The other song is only marginally better. No one dies, but a child seeing Mom play tonsil hockey with Santa is likely going to need therapy. He thinks Dad will get a good laugh out of his wife being a skank, but that’s probably way too optimistic.
Best – Scott Calvin (The Santa Clause Trilogy)
I love the origin story of The Santa Clause. Rather than having Santa be one guy who magically lives forever it is depicted as a role that one person takes over when the previous portrayer dies. It makes a lot of logical sense. Scott Calvin is just an Average Joe, a middle-aged divorced Dad navigating associated pitfalls like custody issues & the ex wife’s new boyfriend, all while working 9 to 5 as an executive for a toy manufacturer (convenient). The whole deal with Santa falling off the roof is a little weird, but we soon forget it once Scott & his young son Charlie are transported to The North Pole. When Scott fully embraces his new life and becomes ensconced in the ultimate dream job it is truly magical. It’s a very modern perspective on the Santa Claus mythology, but with just enough notes of enchantment to make it special.
2 Worst – Willie T. Soke (Bad Santa)
Y’all know how much I love Christmas movies. Whether it’s a Santa Claus story, wacky family hijinks, or one of the plethora of adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I’m always ready to jump onboard the Holiday Film Train. That being said, while I realize there are folks who absolutely love this “modern classic” from 2003, I’m not one of them. Willie is another mall Santa, but he’s even worse than the guy from A Christmas Story because he & his “elf” sidekick are pulling a long con…working at the mall until right before Christmas, then cleaning out the safe. But wait, there’s more!! Not only is Santa Willie a thief, he’s also a drunken, foul mouthed nymphomaniac who has sex with women in the mall dressing room & parking lot. On top of all that he is befriended by a mentally challenged young boy who he proceeds to take advantage of throughout the film. I’m no prude, and enjoy the occasional dark comedy, but come on man…this movie makes Die Hard look like a rom-com. They actually produced a sequel about five years ago, and it’s less amusing than the original.
Best – St. Nick (A Visit from St. Nicholas)
Published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in 1823, it wasn’t until almost fifteen years later that Clement Clark Moore claimed authorship. At the time Moore was a middle-aged professor at a New York City seminary. The poem is very descriptive and solidified the Santa Claus persona, creating the perception most everyone has of him to this day. The idea that he is “jolly”. He rides a flying sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (and he gives us their names!!). He arrives on Christmas Eve and comes down the chimney. The twinkling eyes, jiggly belly, white beard, & rosy cheeks. It’s a beautiful story, one that many parents read to their children on Christmas Eve. I have always opined that anything…books, music, film & TV, etc…that we are still enjoying decades after its initial release deserves respect, and in this case we’re talking about a poem & a vivid interpretation of Santa Claus that has stood the test of time for two centuries.
1 Worst – Billy Chapman (Silent Night Deadly Night)
When I was a teenager our church had an active & tightly knit youth group. We shared some awesome times, one of those being our annual Progressive Dinner during which we’d have appetizers at one house, salad at the next, then go to another place for an entree, and finally end up at the home of our youth leaders for dessert. We’d stay there quite late, eating junk food, playing cards, and watching movies (oh to be a teen again). On one of these delightful evenings we watched a slasher film in which a young boy witnesses his parents get carjacked & murdered by Santa Claus. Billy ends up in an orphanage, grows up with…issues (shocker)…and becomes a murderous Santa himself. Look, I know that there are people who love this kind of thing, but horror films have never been my cup o’ tea, and involving Santa in such craziness, while undeniably creative, just isn’t entertaining. Surprisingly enough the movie birthed four sequels, and I think they’re going to remake the original.
Best – Kris Kringle (Miracle on 34th Street)
The first Christmas movie I watch every year actually begins its story on Thanksgiving, at the Macy’s Parade in NY City. When the man originally hired by the department store to portray Santa Claus is found intoxicated, kindly old Kris Kringle is Johnny On-the-Spot and takes over the gig. Along the way he befriends his world weary boss, her precocious daughter, & a quixotic attorney who is sweet on the single Mom. After claiming to be the REAL Santa the good-natured old man finds himself in a looney bin then on trial. Edmund Gwenn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Kris Kringle, and of all the Santas ever seen on the big screen his is simply the best. He makes you want to believe that Santa Claus could actually be real.
Christmas isn’t what it used to be for Sammy Claus. There are lots of reasons for that, and I will spare The Manoverse the mundane details. Suffice to say that I long for the days when our extended family gathered on Christmas Eve to consume copious amounts of seafood and simply relish the joy of fellowship. I miss the cheerful anticipation of being with the nuclear family on Christmas Day when we were happier, healthier, & more sanguine. The absences of my mother & my grandparents are keenly felt years after their departure from this mortal coil. My nephews are grown up and I missed out on having children of my own, so we await a new generation of youngsters thru which we may renew our holiday merriment. If I sound downtrodden it is because I’m keeping it real. Thru the years I have occasionally laid bare my soul in this space. I have been transparent about who I am & what I’m about, good or bad. Having said all of that, it cannot be denied that this holiday season has been a significant improvement over last year. While legit concerns remain…because that’s just life…there is ample evidence for hope & tranquility. It is with that sense of optimism that we once again present the annual Wish List. As always, being Sammy Claus wields no special power. I will not be flying around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer on Christmas Eve. My fervent hope is that a certain inhabitant of The North Pole reads The Manofesto on occasion and might see fit to bestow these gifts upon the entities named here. And of course my biggest wish is that everyone will step away from the presents & the food & the movies to praise The One True Reason for The Season.
a 50% decrease
The Pittsburgh Steelers
A young, athletic, rocket armed, mobile QB, revamped offensive line, and new offensive & defensive coordinators. Is that too much??
The NCAA’s Transfer Portal
Parameters. It’s not a terrible concept, but it is a little out of control.
Utter & complete professional failure and the newly learned skill of knowing when to shut your ignorant piehole.
a swift kick in the ass
Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K)
A very happy retirement…you’ve been amongst the best.
one last hurrah
The Southern Border of the U.S.
A freakin’ wall for God’s sake!! There is a right way & a wrong way for “tired, poor, huddled masses” to breathe free in America. My great grandparents emigrated here from Italy and I’m grateful, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a process be followed and laws respected.
Just as many entertaining shows in the future as we’ve enjoyed the past few years.
My Friends Who Are Leaving RGPAC
Much success & happiness in your future endeavors. You WILL be missed & you better stay in touch!!
That One Dude On City Council
Defeat in the next election & much misery in your pathetic little life…you’re a total prick.
“Vaccine” Mandates & Passports
Annihilation. This is is America. Get the jab or not, whatever makes you happy & makes you feel safe, but no one should lose their livelihood or be denied access to venues over a “vaccine” that doesn’t even prevent the disease it was created to eradicate and has actually caused illness & death to otherwise healthy people who thought they were doing the right thing.
A Mrs. Claus, or atleast a lovely lady to laugh with, go out to dinner occasionally, see a show or watch a movie, and most of all someone with whom I can have engaging, enlightening, intelligent conversations and who’ll challenge me to be a better version of myself.
A giant eye roll. Seriously, stop judging things that were created, stated, produced, or done decades ago thru our modern, politically correct, woke perspective. It’s silly. It’s meaningless. It’s unproductive.
Lack of oxygen, which is the simplest way to put out a fire.
A peaceful life away from an unwanted spotlight.
firearms safety training & a set of steak knives
The Cuomo Brothers
Actually, they’ve already gotten what they deserved.
a mute button 😂
Late Night TV
Atleast one new host that is actually funny & not a complete douchenozzle.
Consolidation & lower prices…y’all are getting out of control nickel & diming us into poverty.
A return to the glory years of being enjoyable, must-see television. The current product ain’t it and we all know it.
A permanent new host that everyone can embrace.
Wisdom. Happiness. Good decision making. Freedom. Peace.
Intestinal fortitude to withstand what is to come. Ride the wave my man. Enjoy the moment. Sadly, we all know it won’t last.
Per tradition I shall end with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:
“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”