Friday, February 10, 2012

December 28, 2011 The 2009 Christmas Letter

When I start writing this letter, I am always looking for some Christmas inspiration at this time of the year and I found it at the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza in Chicago. A life size manger scene brought to us by a group insisting that we “keep Christ in Christmas”. So I began thinking about Jesus. What would happen if Jesus came back in 2009? My first thought was that he would be all over You Tube. Everyone posting videos of them with Jesus, making Jesus walk on water, turn water into wine and heal all that ails them. In a strange twist of fate or is it irony, the Republicans would hate Jesus because he would reform the healthcare system all by himself. Jesus would probably end up on all the reality TV shows. “Dancing with the Stars” (kind of tough to dance in a robe and sandals). A “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” makeover (say goodbye to the robe, long hair & beard). Jesus on “Survivor” (his team should win easily). There’s no way Jesus could take the modern world. At his Last Supper 2009, he would tell Judas to text the Romans with his location or else he is going to crucify himself just to get away. That’s enough about Jesus Christ, this letter is all about me and my attempt to laugh at another year in my life with a wife, three dogs, a bunch of friends, a loving, slightly off kilter family and hoes in different area codes…wait that’s Tiger Woods story….here’s mine.
Every year I attempt a different photography project. This year it was a daily photo blog. If you’d like to read about every single day of my 2009, here’s the web site On the blog I do explain why it is called “Does He Still Shit In His Pants?”
In January we flew to NYC for my Aunt Maryann’s 65th birthday party. The party was a great time despite the winter storm that day. My aunt was definitely surprised by the whole affair and the food, Italian of course at Joe Abbracciamento’s, was great. The story of this trip was saving money. Chrissy found a really cheap fare but we had to fly into Islip on Long Island. My aunt lives 15 minutes from LaGuardia Airport but we land at Islip and catch a cab to the Long Island Railroad. The cabby says the Ronkonkoma Line isn’t running due to a freight train derailment. So he takes us to Sayville on the Montauk Line. While on the platform in Sayville, we are told that the trains are not running due to a locomotive breakdown. Now we are taking a bus to Hicksville to catch the Port Jefferson line. We finally get to Jamaica and take the subway to my Aunt’s house. On our way home, we are running late for the 3:30pm train from Jamaica. I don’t pay attention and take the F train instead of the E train. This doesn’t take us to the LIRR, we backtrack two stops to Van Wyck to catch the E train. Guess what? Three F trains later, we find out the E only stops during rush hours. Back on the F train to Sutphin Blvd, looking for a bus or a cab, running out of time, we decide to run 20 blocks with suitcases to LIRR stop. We barely catch the train. As soon as the cab drops us off at the Islip Airport, we hear “The flight to Chicago has been canceled”. After I strangle the life out of the Southwest agent, I stuff him into Chrissy’s suitcase and send him to SFO. Back to Ronkonkoma at 5:45pm, a 2 hour wait for the next train, we find a cabby that promises to get us to Sayville by 6pm. This trip includes driving 50 MPH on the shoulder of the road and across somebody’s lawn but we catch the train back to the city. Next morning on the LIRR, I tell Chrissy to spend the extra money next time or she will get the same treatment as the Southwest agent.
In February I went skiing with a group of friends. We rented a nice house right on Schuss Mountain in Michigan. The first day we skied at Schuss. It turns out that the Special Olympics had ski competitions that day. This lead to several jokes about my skiing ability and I jokingly said it would be funny to get a group shot under the Special Olympics banner. There was a debate about the appropriateness of the idea, I thought it would be making fun of us not them. We decided to take a picture of the banner and photoshop our group under it. Technology saves the day. The next day we skied at Boyne Mountain. About 4pm Walter & I were done and decided to wait for the rest of our group in the bar at the lodge. We quickly noticed several groups of rich older women. The more they drank, the wilder they got. As the bar filled with young, mostly male skiers, the cougars began to lick their claws and started to prowl. I swear it was like a feeding frenzy on a National Geographic special watching the cougars hunt their prey then defend it from the others. We barely escaped, laughing with a few facial scratches and claw marks across our backs.
I DJ’d a bunch of really fun weddings this year. There are two reasons I love DJing. One, it is the only time that hot drunk girls talk to me. Two, I get to hear great speeches, some very funny, some emotional. Here is one really stuck with me. On Valentine’s Day I DJ’d a mixed race wedding, white bride, black groom. The bride’s father gave an incredible speech that included inviting the groom’s father up for a toast to the joining of the families. He ended the speech talking about his mother, Grandma Lorraine, who had died recently. At her funeral, everyone got a chance to say why they loved her. When it was the groom’s turn he said, “I loved her because when I started dating Andrea, Grandma Lorraine was the first one to welcome me into the family unconditionally.” As I decided she would be my Valentine this year, I thought the world would be a better place with more Grandma Lorraines in it.
Early in the year, Chrissy injured her knee at work. After wasting months at rehab, another doctor decided her torn ACL needed to be surgically repaired. Before the surgery I called her Forrest Gimp. So when I picked her up after the surgery and yelled to the nurse, “Bring out the gimp”. She did not laugh. I guess she never saw Pulp Fiction. After the surgery, Forrest Gimp became Robo-Chrissy because she had this huge brace that I had to hook up to an ice filled cooler that pumped cold water through the brace. It was a twenty minute fiasco every time she had to move. Ice cold water spilling everywhere, me trying to move Chrissy and get the dogs out of her way, buying giant bags of ice everyday. I think I took more of her Percocet pills than she did. Chrissy toughed it out all summer long and eventually finished the post surgery rehab in December.
This year I finally signed up for the Long After Twilight Ends charity ride through Chicago. There were about 10,000 people with bicycles when I arrived in Grant Park about 11pm. My group started at 1:30am. I watched the band play, walked my bike through the sponsor booths, realized I might be the only one riding without a friend, waited near Buckingham Fountain and became certain that everyone else came with friends. It was a beautiful night and I had a great time. Everyone I met was very friendly. I rode along for a while with a Mexican who had a custom made chopper style bicycle that had speakers playing old Motown songs. We passed a White Castle about 3am. It had about one hundred bikes parked all around it. I was tempted, damn those sliders smelled good, but continued on. The rest area at River Park on Foster Ave. was a giant party at 3:30am. The final leg of the ride was the lakefront trail back down to Grant Park. I stopped about 20 times to take some incredible sunrise pictures. I saw a few people strip down and jump in the lake, couples huddled on the shore and a family eating breakfast on a blanket while watching the sunrise. It was a perfect way to spend a beautiful summer night. Maybe next year I can find some friends to ride with me.
The weather has been awful this year in Chicago. The winter was very cold and dreary. The spring was rainy and dreary. The summer was cool, rainy and mostly dreary. The fall, well November was nice. So I self diagnosed myself with seasonal affective disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic website the symptoms are depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, the urge to shoot up a Walmart, weight gain, difficulty concentrating and processing information. Damn, I have had SAD for years according to that list. One of the treatments is phototherapy; I guess I need to take even more pictures to cure myself.
In August my sister-in-law Marcy came to visit and go to Lollapalooza in Grant Park. For some reason she brought Georgie along. Three straight days of rock & roll for my old fat ass, I hope it is easy to sneak drugs into the park. I had a great time. The city of Chicago & the Lollapalooza people did an amazing job. The sound was perfect at all the stages, the concession prices were reasonable & the food was good. Some quick highlights… Kings of Leon, Gaslight Anthem, Of Montreal, Silversun Pickups, Kaiser Chiefs, Glasvegas, Dan Auerbach, hot girls soaked by the rain on Friday, hot girls in bikinis on Sunday, drugged up hippie chicks asking me for ecstasy and seeing the skyline of Chicago as the background to the whole weekend. Of course Georgie provided one of those moments that prove he is his father’s son. The forecast called for a chilly rainy day on Friday. I told Geo I had two ponchos that he & Marcy could use. George decided he didn’t want to carry both so he only brought one to Grant Park. We weren’t there for 15 minutes when it starts to drizzle. He immediately takes out the one poncho and puts it on. So I give Marcy my raincoat. After 2 straight hours of rain, I’m soaked. Marcy has offered my jacket back to me several times and I asked her why she didn’t marry a man. George finally says we have to get Marcy a poncho. Too late, they are all sold out. So he steals a garbage bag from a cart & hands it to Marcy. She gets the thin garbage bag while Geo keeps the poncho. Apparently she is use to this kind of treatment and puts on the garbage bag. Just to finish the Lollapalooza story, when I visit SoCal in December George has grown a full beard. I ask why the beard. He says “didn’t you notice everyone at Lollapalooza had a beard?” I answered honestly that I had not noticed that many beards because unlike you I spent the weekend checking out the hot women, not the men”
We started the year with two dogs, Oslo (the Fanook) and Fluffy (the old girl). I spend more time with these two than anyone else. As soon as they realize I am not going to work they start driving me crazy until I say “Want to go for a ride?” I usually take them to the nearby forest preserves or to the beaches along Lake Michigan. Since Oslo is much younger (by that I mean he can outrun me) I keep him on a leash but Fluff is very slow so I let her walk on her own. She falls behind and Oslo will stop and look back to check on her, then wait until she catches up. One day at Sweet Woods, I saw a mountain biker coming our way along the trail. I pulled Oslo to the side and called Fluff to me. The man yelled “are those dogs on a leash? I told him not to worry about the old girl. He kept yelling to leash the dog. I was thinking what kind of pussy mountain biker is this as I put the leash on the most harmless dog in the world. It turns out he was a Forest Preserve cop. He starts saying he could take the dog (I laugh “Fluff in cuffs”), write me a ticket (I continue to laugh), and then he adds I could be arrested. A thought crosses my mind, I’m in a prison. Bubba asks me “What’re in for?” I say walking my dog without a leash. Bubba laughs so hard that he forgets to ass rape me. I tell the cop, he doesn’t laugh and says he will remember my dogs and they better be on a leash. One day in the early spring, I took the dogs the beach. The water was too cold for me, so I took Oslo’s leash off and let him run into the lake. The first time, he ran right back to me, the second time he didn’t. He took off running about 200 yards down the beach then out of site over the dunes. As Fluff & I walked over the dunes, Oslo saw me and ran full speed back to me. I wanted to beat the shit out of him but since he came back I told him, “good boy.” In November we added Roxy, another Great Pyrenees. She was orphaned by a divorce and we are foster parenting her until she finds a permanent home. She is about 25 lbs overweight, but who I am to talk about being fat. After a rough start, she has adapted very well to being with us. She loves to snuggle right along side me on the bed, lick my face, rest her head on my chest and snore like a freight train. Then she constantly adjusts her fat ass on the bed until she either pushes you to the edge or ends up as 130 lbs of dead weight on you. What a pleasant way to end every day. On Christmas Eve, Roxy was sleeping between us. She woke Chrissy up by throwing up on her head. I guess that makes me Roxy’s favorite. Good girl Roxy.
Since we got Roxy, it is much easier to take the dogs for a walk if someone else comes along. So I asked my niece Kristian if she wanted to help. It was during our walk in the woods that I realized she has finally become fun to spend some time with. I can have a conversation with her and she answers with a full sentence. She also has cogent thoughts of her own. She even made me laugh a few times with a smart ass comment. I have absolutely no idea who she gets that from. As we walked along the trail with the three dogs, she started singing, “Lions & Tigers & Fanooks!” really loud. After I laughed, I reprimanded her for yelling Fanook. I explained it wasn’t a nice word. Then I told her it was funny anyway. She spent the day helping me clean the house, then bake cookies. I wouldn’t let her touch the cookie dough and explained that kids are disgusting depositories of germs and if she touched the cookies then I wouldn’t be able to eat them. So while I make the cookies, she reads the magnets on our refrigerator. Then she says she wants to show me a new dance (FYI - she takes dance classes). She starts singing GUT, BUTT, THIGHS and dances while pointing to each of these body parts. I look at the magnet showing a three piece highway sign with lanes designated for “Tendency to gain weight in the GUT or BUTT or THIGHS”. She is all excited with her new dance. I smile and am relieved that she didn’t create a dance for the magnet that shows exit signs for “NO SEX FOR A WEEK or A MONTH or A YEAR”.
Chrissy was off gallivanting for most of the fall. In September she spent two weeks in Seattle. She hiked and kayaked in Olympia National Park, visited Pike Place Market, bought heroin from the homeless kids, you know all the things tourists do in Seattle. Then attended a zookeeper conference where she gave her presentation for her Trees For You & Me project to help save the polar bears. Visit the website to donate a dollar or more to plant a tree for the Brookfield AAZK Chapter. In October she spent two weeks in Churchill, Manitoba as the polar bear expert on the Tundra Buggies. People from around the world come to watch the polar bears on the shore of Hudson Bay. The bears congregate there because it is the last place that has ice in the summer and the first place the bay freezes in the winter. The bears don’t eat for several months on land while waiting to hunt seals on the ice. The bay was not frozen by early December and a few cases of polar bear cannibalism occurred so please donate to the plant a tree project. Also check out for more info. You can search You Tube for videos of Chrissy, sorry Todd not those videos. In November she was in San Francisco to attend a bear conference. I have no idea what she did there. Call her and ask her yourself. I have to finish this damn letter.
While visiting my parents, I was told not to write about them in the Christmas letter. Sorry Ma. But you two are a goldmine of humorous stories. Let’s start with their visit here in August. Chrissy picked them up at O’Hare because I had a hockey game. When I got home, it was raining & they were sitting on the stoop. I swear this is true; Chrissy locked them out of the house. I couldn’t stop laughing. Chrissy thought they were upstairs so she locked the doors and went to bed. We did have a nice trip to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland with them. While at our house my parents get to sleep on a pillow top king size bed. When I am at their house, I get to sleep on a single trundle bed. The first morning there I took a hot shower for twenty minutes just to be able to stand up straight. Then I used a Q-Tip knock-off my mom bought at Big Lots, my ears didn’t stop bleeding until after lunch. My mom took a day off work supposedly to spend a day with me. After two hours which included breakfast, shopping and sitting on the pier, she was done spending the day with me. Apparently she had to get back home to spend an exciting day watching my father move from the patio (reading newspapers) to his chair (watching CNN) while ranting about the news. As I am leaving to fly home, my dad says let’s go shopping at the mall in Newport Beach. I have to catch a flight but I agree to go with him. Big mistake. Just picture this as an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. A crowded Macy’s with my father frantically looking for a bathrobe for my mom while talking to himself way too loud. Phrases like “this is cheap shit!” causing heads to turn to find the source. To my relief, he finds a bathrobe then he says he needs perfume too. Great! He accosts some lady shopping and demands to know where the perfume counter is. She is scared and wants to get away, so she points upstairs and runs in the other direction. I tell him to calm down & he blames me for him having to rush. On the escalator he keeps repeating “she likes Estee Lauder” like a mental patient. This causes heads to turn on the down escalator and a path to clear out on the up escalator. Circling the perfume counter, he finally finds my mom’s favorite Estee Lauder fragrance. I think it was called “Husband Repellent”. Then he starts yelling, “Where the fuck is the girl?” A lady peeks around the corner & says she’ll be there in a minute. She says she can ring up the robe here but won’t have a box for it. He complains she should since this is the same store. As she explains that he can get a large box in the clothing department, I am standing behind my dad using hand gestures & mouthing to her “I am not related to this man!” Later at the security check point in LAX, I insist that I have a bomb and should be placed on the suspected terrorist list so I can never fly here again.
Mr. D (Phil Delgado) passed away this year. He was more than my friend. He was like a second father to me and many others. You can read what friends and family wrote about him at a website created by his daughter Kathy. The stories are amazing how one man can affect so many lives. He really was a special person and continues to bring a smile to my face…
…I did have a truly wonderful moment while in California. Georgie, Marcy & I were having dinner in the Farmer’s Market at the Grove. As we walked through the market looking for food, we stopped at a bar full of people in Santa hats. They were singing the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. A different person or group of people had each day, and the whole bar would sing “Five Golden Rings”. It was a really cool holiday scene. After all 12 days, there were hugs & holiday toasts. I thought to myself, I wish Mr. D was here, he would have loved this. And as I looked around, I realized he was there, on the smiling face of each person, in the voice of each person singing, in the arms of each person hugging a loved one or a stranger. Mr. D was there. Because this was how he lived his life, enjoying every moment to the fullest. Some people walk by and see a bunch of drunken fools, Mr. D would see people having fun, walk into the group and join in singing as loud as he could, and he would have made several new friends by the time he left. Well Mr. D I joined in too. I sang “five golden rings” each time. It made me smile to find people with your wonderful spirit and join them for a few minutes. In my eulogy for Mr. D, I wrote that when he passed through the Pearly Gates, God was standing there with his hand extended saying it's my pleasure to finally meet you. So as Chrissy & I wish you a Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years, let’s try to enjoy life to the fullest and bring a smile to the faces of those we meet and maybe we’ll get the same greeting at the Pearly Gates.

Please send me your e-mail address to  so I can save a few trees next year.

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