Tag Archives: christmas

Away In A (smelly, cold) Manger

When it comes to church, I am a strict traditionalist. I want to sit in my pew, stand when appropriate, sing from a hymnal, put a dollar in the collection plate, listen to a sermon, take communion, go home, repeat next Sunday. I don’t want to wave palm fronds around, get my cues from a Powerpoint presentation, or bang a tambourine.

But my kind is on the verge of extinction, and I accept that. Grudgingly. I currently attend a church that is very into non-traditional worship. It’s a long story of how I ended up there but the bottom line is we really like the minister. So I put up with “Our God Is An Awesome God.”

So I wasn’t necessarily shocked when The Wife came to me and said,

“Tonight’s worship service is taking place in a barn.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s to bring us closer to the Baby Jesus.”

“Have you been in a barn? Because I’ve been in barns. They are dirty and smelly. They are hot in summer and cold in winter.”

“That’s the point.”

“I don’t need to be reminded that the Baby Jesus had it hard. I know the Baby Jesus had it hard. I’ve read the Bible story. I don’t need to reenact it.”

“Well, we can either go to the barn tonight, or go to Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. But if we go tomorrow night, it will cut into our time at Caroline’s dinner party.”

“Point me in the direction of that barn.”

In our family we do most of our Christmas celebrating on Christmas Eve. There would be a big dinner followed by present opening. For many years Laurie’s mother was in charge and then eventually it fell to Laurie. A couple of years ago, our niece Caroline decided she wanted to take over. Laurie gladly handed over the reins.

Caroline decided to forego the traditional turkey, ham and green bean casserole. The first year she threw a Mexican fiesta. last year it was Chinese, this year it’s Italian. Traditionalist I may be, but I am fine with this. I get my fill of turkey and stuffing over Thanksgiving. I’m good with tamales or pot stickers or veal parmigiana for Christmas Eve. Besides, we eat more traditional fare the next day.

So no, I wasn’t going to miss a minute of Caroline’s X-Mas Eve extravaganza. So yes, last night I drove all the way out to Pacific, Missouri, to sit in a barn and worship Jesus. It was cold in the barn. It smelled of horses in the barn. There were horses in the barn. Straw bales are not comfortable to sit on (although to be fair, neither are pews. But it’s easier to get up from a pew than from a bale of hay).

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Now at this point you’re expecting me to have my Grinch moment where my heart grows 3 sizes and I have a religious awakening and I tear up and tell you what a wonderful experience it was and how I was forever changed for the better.

But the Baby Jesus would not want me to lie.

Oh, it was fine. I’m glad I went. The sermon was good. I enjoyed watching the horses. I’m sure they were wondering what the heck was going on. I’m sure Andrew was wondering the same thing. But at least he had the foresight to wear a cap and gloves. I foolishly thought this was going to be a heated barn. It’s possible that the Holy Spirit flowed through me but I was too numb to notice.

But hey, The Wife enjoyed it and Andrew seemed to have a good time and any experience I can get a blog post out of is a good experience, right? Now, bring on the pasta and wine.

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men. God Bless Us, Everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

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RRandom Thoughts This Holiday Season

When did people stop sending Christmas cards? Most of what I’m getting now are postcards with family photos plastered on them. Have we really become so narcissistic? If I want to see pictures of your kids, I’ll log onto Facebook. The only baby I want to see on a Christmas card is the Baby Jesus.

xmastreeMy HULK Christmas tree does not have a Thor ornament. HINT. It is also missing a Wonder Woman ornament, but she does feature prominently on the Superfriends lunchbox ornament that Gena gave me. 

Top 3 Christmas movies:

  1. Batman Returns
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  3. Die Hard

The worst Christmas song of all times is not “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. It is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I actually become angry whenever I hear that song start playing.

Christmas tradition I miss: Nun Bowling with West Pod.

Favorite Christmas present this year (so far): A post-it note with the words “I appreciate you” written on it by Amy. It’s the little things.

We did not make it to Kansas City this year, but that’s OK because not all holiday traditions need to take place every year. 

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We did, however, make it to Bass Pro Shops over Thanksgiving. They have alligators and a free merry-go-round, which they don’t have at the Plaza. We didn’t buy anything. We (or rather, she) would’ve bought a lot of stuff at the Plaza.

If shopping malls are dying because of online purchasing, why can’t I find a parking spot at the Galleria?

Dear whoever is in charge of Marvel’s marketing: I would really like a nice Marvel Christmas sweater, but not one with Deadpool. Why is Deadpool on all the Christmas sweaters I find when I go out shopping? And why are there no Batman Christmas sweaters anywhere I look? Shouldn’t that be a license to print money?

(Yes, I am aware you can get a variety of Marvel Christmas sweaters and Batman sweaters on the internet, but I don’t like to buy clothes online. I want to see it, hold it, check it for flaws and make sure that it fits before I buy it. I’ve been burned before.)

It seems like a waste to spend 2 days decorating the house for the holidays when nobody comes over to see it.

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We were a day late for Wreaths Across America at Jefferson Barracks, but that’s OK. I prefer to be there when it’s not crowded.

Sometimes I can’t believe we’re still doing the Executive Committee Holiday Dinner.

Christmas isn’t as much fun as it was when I was a kid. Thanksgiving is more fun as an adult.

3 animated Christmas specials you should watch every year:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  3. There really isn’t a third

I don’t need anymore post-it notes with thoughtful sayings on them. That ship has sailed, cheapskates.

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The Gift Of Gifting

There’s so much to love about Christmas: The movies (well, a few of them), the music (well, some of it), the TV specials (well, “The Grinch” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”), the lights, the decorations, the cards, the food, the day off from work, nun bowling, the ECHD and all that business with the Baby Jesus.

But best of all, of course, is the presents. Presents, presents, presents. Who doesn’t love a good present? Even a lousy present is better than nothing. Sure, I’m old enough and have my own money — I can buy my own stuff. I usually do. But getting stuff, and saving money in the process, is hard to beat.

Giving gifts is also pretty awesome. It feels good to give something to someone and see that look of genuine joy when they open it. Good gift giving, like everything else in this world, is a talent. Giving the perfect gift means knowing the recipient and studying them and listening and paying attention when they don’t think you’re paying attention. It’s hard work.

For example, this year I came home one afternoon and there was a large package on the front porch from JC Penney.

“Did you order anything from JC Penney?” I asked The Wife.

“No. Did you?”

“Do I look like someone who shops at JC Penney?”

“No, I don’t believe they sell comic books.”

I bring the package inside and notice it’s squishy. Why would someone send me something squishy? There was nothing squishy in the RROY REPORT Holiday Gift Guide. I squish it some more. It feels like a pillow.

I rip open the package and sure enough, it was a pillow. Why would someone send me a pillow? I have a pillow. In fact, there are about 2 dozen pillows on my bed. Most of them get thrown on the floor every night because no one sleeps with 2 dozen pillows. Why do women feel the need to decorate beds with lots of pillows? They just take up space and while I get that they’re supposed to be decorative, no one’s going to see them. You generally don’t invite guests into the bedroom. It’s just an odd daily ritual — toss the pillows on the floor at night, put them back on the bed in the morning. I don’t understand.

I check out the packaging on the pillow: Royal Velvet Essential Down Pillow. Fill: White Duck Down.

Someone bought me a feather pillow? And then it all falls into place.

Back in June my beloved feather pillow got a tear in it and I had to throw it away. As is always the case when I lose a beloved inanimate object, I wrote a poem in its honor. I published that poem on June 12 here at the Report (you can look it up in the archives). Someone (obviously Jan) read that poem six months ago and remembered it and sent me a feather pillow to make up for my lost love.

And that, Virginia, is the true meaning of Christmas. Have a merry one.

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Ronnie, Laurie and Andrew’s Kansas City Christmas Spectacular

Part 3: Day at the Museum, Night at P.F. Chang’s

100_2311After one day and two nights on the plaza we were ready for something different. Laurie suggested the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art because, well, she’s classy like that. Since I had already been to the comic book store I had no further agenda. Art museum it is.

We had a pleasant breakfast — many of the kids had left — and were looking forward to an evening at the pool/hot tub without any distractions. When we went to schedule the van ride we were told the art museum didn’t open until noon (despite its website saying it opened at 10 a.m.). So we went to Crown Center to kill some time.

100_2320Crown Center was all decked out and we were able to get some nice photos. The shopping wasn’t much to speak of but we did spend quite a bit of time in the Crayola store. There was a large canvas there where The Artist was able to occupy his time while Laurie shopped.

After about an hour we had done all there was to do and it was getting crazy crowded anyway so we called the hotel and had them pick us up and drop us off at the museum.

 

100_2335The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art  is about as nice a museum as you’re going to find that doesn’t have dinosaurs. It has a mummy and some knights in armor and a giant Buddha and giant shuttlecocks and a room full of Impressionists’ paintings for The Wife. We spent a few hours wandering about and waiting on Laurie to catch up. Fortunately there are many benches there.

Caught the shuttle back to the hotel where we discovered water all over the floor next to the wet bar. Not our fault. Someone came up with a bunch of towels and mopped it all up but didn’t seem to concerned about where the water came from.

100_2339That night we walked back to the plaza for dinner at P.F. Chang’s. I was in the mood for Chinese and it looked like a nice place and I’d heard of it and had never been there and besides it was on the edge of the plaza closest to our hotel. The problem is Andrew can be picky and he doesn’t like sauce on things, but he does like egg rolls even if he makes a mess eating them. We got him the sweet-and-sour chicken with sauce on the side (in other words: no sauce) and that worked out well. Everything was delicious. Not eating lunch every day makes dinner much more tasty.

100_2314We returned to the hotel, which was now free of little ones, and decided to end our visit with a night at the pool. We got down to the lobby as a large, loud contingent of young adults showed up all dressed in suits and dresses. Wedding party or something. None of our concern.

Went to the pool and it was empty but there were four people in the hot tub. No big deal. We can be patient. We’ve waited three days, what’s another half-hour. A half-hour later the large, loud contingent of young adults we’d met earlier had now converged on the pool area. There were now 20 people in the hot tub (which should really only fit about six) and it was clear they were here for the long run.

We packed up our things and left. One nice young man did come out and apologize for his group, but hey, that’s the price you pay for trying to use public facilities. I would like to say we went back upstairs and there was something good on HBO, but we all know that’s a lie.

The next morning we packed it up and headed out. We stopped in Columbia for lunch at Shakespeare’s Pizza — the greatest pizza of all time. Went to one of their new locations and holy crap, that town has exploded with retail. I don’t recall any development in that area when I was a student there.

Lunch was delicious and we made it home with no problems. Laurie immediately began planning our trip for next year. And lo, a Christmas tradition is born.

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After a week back home, she’s now planning on going there monthly.

Ronnie, Laurie and Andrew’s Kansas City Christmas Spectacular

Part 2: City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style

The Cheapskate’s Rules for Vacationing:
1. Meals are expensive. Find a hotel with free breakfast. Fill up, skip lunch.

Our hotel had a very nice breakfast spread. More than made up for the weak happy hour spread. They even had an omelette bar. Unfortunately, they had a guy dishing out the bacon and sausages. I don’t need help piling on the bacon and sausages. But I guess that’s why the guy was there.

Sadly, they also had 16.5 million little kids running around the breakfast area. Why aren’t these kids in school? I don’t care if it is Saturday.

After breakfast we caught the shuttle back to the plaza. It was time for some Serious Shopping. I had no shopping to do. Andrew had no shopping to do. But someone in our party did. I should point out that Country Club Plaza has many, many stores — few of any interest. There’s a Barnes & Noble and a toy store called Zoom, but that’s it. Guess who had no interest in going to either of those stores? If you guessed the person who would be doing the shopping, you guessed right.

I didn't take any pictures of the shopping, so enjoy more pictures of the plaza at night.

I didn’t take any pictures of the shopping, so enjoy more pictures of the plaza at night.

I learned over the next 4+ hours that there are good stores and bad stores. Good stores always have comfortable chairs and couches for their customers. Bad stores do not. Beauty Brands is a bad store. A very, very bad store because we spent a long time in there with nowhere to sit. Do you know what they sell at Beauty Brands? Beauty products. You can’t even pretend to browse in a place like that if you have a Y chromosome.

Some of the good stores: Vera Bradley, West Elm, White House/Black Market. Other bad stores: Bath and Bodyworks; that place that sells overpriced Royals/Chiefs gear.

One surprising find was Pottery Barn Kids. Why are we going in here? Our kid is 23 years old. But hey, I just follow along. I was less than impressed until I came across the section that was Marvel/DC/Star Wars stuff — there were quilts and sheets and pillows and wall hangings and little wooden Marvel figures. They even had a Hawkeye, but you had to buy it in a set.

100_2294By 3:30 p.m. Laurie had bought all there was to buy and we decided to walk back to the hotel. Why we decided to walk the one time we had packages I do not know. I did know that we had roughly 90 minutes of daylight left and — according to google maps — I was a 13-minute walk away from Clint’s Comics. I used to go to Clint’s back in the ’80s. It was not in a pretty part of town which is why I wanted to get in and out before dark.

Clint’s hadn’t changed much. Large selection, lots of back issues, R-rated section in the back. I picked up a couple of comics and rushed back to the safety of the Embassy Suites. We went back to the plaza that night for dinner at an Irish pub because we can’t stay away from the Irish pubs. Mainly because Andrew loves the fish and chips.

Took in the lights once more and walked back to the hotel. On the minus side of Embassy Suites — they don’t offer free wi-fi in your room. On the one hand that’s good because vacation is a good time to get away from the constant lure of the Internet. On the other hand ohmigod I need the Internet! So I often found myself having to go downstairs to the business center for my fix. And to plan the outings for our final day.

Next: The outings for our final day

 

 

 

 

Ronnie, Laurie and Andrew’s Kansas City Christmas Spectacular

Part 1: But instead it just kept on raining

Sometimes you just have to get out of Dodge. Especially if Dodge in this case is St. Louis.

So The Wife comes to me and she says, “Let’s take a few days off and spend a long weekend in Kansas City. We can get a hotel by the plaza and enjoy the Christmas lights.”

“Does this involve Shakespeare or opera in some way?”

“No.”

“Then I’m in.”

“But there will be shopping. Lots of shopping.”

“It’s too late to back out, isn’t it?”

Now way back in the mid-1980s I spent two years living in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area (Grandview, to be exact) working for the Blue Valley Gazette (no longer in publication). There’s a downtown shopping district in Kansas City called the Country Club Plaza and every winter they deck it out in colored lights in honor of the holiday season. It’s lovely.

During those two years Laurie, who was in school in Columbia, would drive west to Kansas City for a weekend and we would walk around and take it all in. I would get her a nice hotel near the plaza because, you know, there wasn’t space in my one-room studio apartment and we weren’t married and…oh hell, I’m 52 years old, do I still need to lie about this?

Not the train we were going to take to K.C.

Not the train we were going to take to K.C.

Anyway, nostalgia came a knockin’ and we decided to take a break from the insanity all around us and go to the softer, gentler side of Missouri. The original plan was to take the train to Union Station and a cab to the Embassy Suites. The hotel had a shuttle that would take us to the plaza or anywhere else in a two-mile radius. Unfortunately, things got hectic and we didn’t get train tickets in time for the discount so we decided to drive instead.

Friday came and we packed our bags and I loaded up the Ipod with 4 hours worth of good Christmas music (as opposed to the Christmas music they play on Christmas radio stations) and we took off. In the rain. It rained and rained. Pretty much all the way to K.C.

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

To my surprise we found our way to the hotel with no problems. The Embassy Suites is a nice hotel with a unique look. We had a room that had a living room with a couch that folded out into Andrew’s bed, then a separate large bedroom. Free HBO. Sadly, there wasn’t a single decent thing on the four days we were in the hotel room. Also sadly, the remote in the bedroom didn’t work worth a darn. I finally called for a new one but some guy came up and played around with it and looked at me like I was a chump for not getting it to work. It worked, but not very well. You had to hold it at an angle and press buttons repeatedly. I spent what little time I had watching TV in the living room, where the remote worked much better. But if I wanted to watch TV in the living room, I would stay at home.

The hotel hosted a happy hour from 5:30-7:30 that offered free drinks and appetizers. The appetizers were pretzels and honey mustard, chips and salsa, and crackers and something that I thought was humus but wasn’t. It wasn’t really worth the wait and we didn’t bother with happy hour again until Sunday night.

If you’re wondering “why the wait?” — well, it seems the RRoy St. Louis Freebie Festival Imperative (question 24 in the F.A.Q. on the ABOUT page) also applies to Kansas City. Everyone — or in this case every 10-to-12-year-old girl who is into cheer or gymnastics — showed up at the Embassy Suites with their coaches and parents. The last time we stayed in Kansas City our hotel was hosting a science fiction convention — which was a far, far better happy accident than finding your hotel is overrun with cheer/gymnastics kids. So much for using the pool and hot tub.

I assumed when it said Embassy Suites On The Plaza that I would walk out the front door and be on the plaza. It was actually a couple blocks walk, which is nothing to champion walkers like the Roy family, but it’s cold in December and besides, free shuttle. We hitched a ride to the plaza which was lit up in all its glory, just like we remembered. Many of the shops were different but then it had been 30 years.

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First order of business was finding food. We settled for Jack Stack Barbecue because it was barbecue and we were in Kansas City and it looked decent and we were tired and hungry and it was right there. Thankfully the wait was not long. Laurie and I had The Big Pig sandwich (ham, pork, bacon, provolone cheese, mustard bbq sauce topped with an onion ring. With fries). It was delicious.

We then did a walkabout and took in all the sights and sounds before catching the shuttle back to the hotel. The shopping would come tomorrow.

Next: The Shopping

Have Yourself A Hawkeye Little Christmas

MARVELTREASURYED13BCPretty much everyone in the entertainment business tries to cash in — I mean celebrate — the holiday season. There are Christmas movies, Christmas albums and most TV shows air holiday themed episodes this month. So it will come as no surprise to learn that comic book publishers also engage in the practice.

The first Christmas-related comic I remember was “The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus” (cheery title, right?) from a 1974 issue of Justice League. I don’t remember anything about the story and I no longer have my copy. I’m sure the League brought the murderer to justice (that is their job after all). It probably wasn’t the real Santa anyway. At least I hope it wasn’t.

Marvel Treasury Edition 13The oldest Christmas comic in my collection is the Marvel Treasury Edition Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag from 1976. It cost a whopping $1.50 and I can’t believe my parents let me buy it. I suspect my dad had nothing to do with it and mom was always a softie. Besides, it was Christmas.

The book reprinted four comics that had nothing to do with Christmas, but there was a framing sequence tying them together that followed the holiday theme. I think I bought it primarily for the Avengers story.

You wouldn’t think Batman would be the subject of many holiday stories — what with him being all dark knighty — but there have probably been more Christmas Batman stories than any other superhero.

Perhaps the best known of the bunch is “Silent Night of the Batman,” another 70s-era story in which the Caped Crusader spends the night singing carols with the night shift at the Gotham City Police Department (yes, Batman used to be in good with the GCPD. Simpler times.) while waiting for emergency calls to come in. But none do because there’s no crime on Christmas Eve — not even in Gotham City! 

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Yes, it’s ridiculously corny, but aren’t all Christmas specials?

This week a new comic was added to my holiday reading list. It’s always a good thing when new things come along that are worthy of being added to one’s Christmas traditions.

2727071-hawkeye_6_coverI’m referring to the sixth issue of hawkeye, the ridiculously good comic by Matt Fraction and David Aja. As has been the case throughout its short run, the book tells a simple story about Clint Barton’s life outside The Avengers.

This month it looks at six days in a life during mid-December. Over the course of the week Clint beats up some bad guys with Wolverine and Spider-Man; calls on Tony Stark to help set up his DVR; watches Christmas specials with some kids in his apartment building; and faces off against some thugs who threaten his neighborhood. It’s funny and clever and poignant and moving and, yes, corny. And the art is so pretty.

hawkeye 6 is available in any self-respecting comic shop now. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer — although you really shouldn’t bend a comic book to stick in a stocking.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a joyous-ass Kwanzaa, bro.

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