Merry #@$#@ Christmas!

Apparently, I have been part of the War on Christmas for a long time without being aware of it. This is because my Christmas Spirit was removed long ago by 4 years of working in retail. At Radio Shack (RIP).

Working retail is an unpleasant way to make a living in the best of cases, but the Christmas season tends to bring out the worst in people. Crowds, hard to locate parking and inane elevator music playing over and over again will do that for you. The first four bars of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album can still cause me to crawl under my desk to lie in a fetal position.

The worst part of the whole experience was the endless variety of noise making toys that were required to have fresh batteries at all times. This created a cacophony of whistles, buzzes and howls. The whistles and buzzes came from the toys, the howls came from the toddlers who had to be dragged away by their parents to go to another store. Frankly the howls were probably hard to differentiate from the sobs coming from the back room as we snuck back there to have a smoke and try and recenter ourselves.

My favorite part of the experience was helping the dads. My philosophy of buying toys as a dad is to buy toys you want to play with. This is not entirely a selfish motive, since if a dad wants to play with a toy, they’re more likely to play with their kids with the toy. RC cars were always a big hit. We also sold slot car sets and those were also very popular.

I only have one Christmas tradition I insist on keeping. The week before Christmas, I read “A Christmas Carol” and then watch every adaptation I can find. My favorite is the Patrick Stewart version, followed closely by the animated one Jim Carey did for Disney.  The only other story that comes close is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” But only the Chuck Jones animated version.

I think something appeals to me in someone who is a grouch being redeemed somehow. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

OK Boomer

I had my first exposure to “OK Boomer.” the other day. I was aware of it prior, but it was the first time I experienced having it directed at me. I am a boomer, though I was born at the tail end of the era, so I could be considered a (snort) late Boomer.

Some find the phrase condescending and obnoxious, but I would like to think I have a more nuanced view of it. I think it is a natural reaction of the millennial generation to being shut down by their elders without having their ideas and desires fully heard. I think the baby boomer generation has definitely made some serious mistakes, and has tried very hard to avoid taking responsibility for those mistakes.

At the same time, “OK Boomer” is the mental equivalent of a meme, which means much to those who are in on what the cool kids are saying, but doesn’t really contribute much to the actual process of understanding. In my opinion, it’s a sign of intellectual laziness.

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten more mature (a never ending process) is that the more I learn, the more I come to realize that I have to learn. Unfortunately, by the time most people learn the lesson of intellectual humility, they have lost much of the time they could have spent taking advantage of it.

Being willing and ready to learn from everybody, is one of the things I try to do, though I still don’t always get it right. I still suffer from prematurely thinking I understand something fully, only to learn after the fact that I missed some small detail that would have completed my learning.

I will continue to learn and study and even more so, listen to others, no matter their age or experience.

Midwest Cuisine

It looks better than it tastes

If you aren’t from Iowa, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, you probably aren’t familiar with the joys of Great Plains Cuisine. This is not something to regret to a large extent.

Great Plains Cuisine, for the most part, consists of three main food groups: Protein, Starch, and Jell-o. This is because everyone’s tastebuds froze off during one of the horrific winters that they most certainly went through during infancy where their food preferences were established.

The protein portion of the meal will most likely be red meat, like pork or beef. Chicken is only allowed if it has been broasted and picked up at a roadside convenience store. Fish only counts if it has been either fresh caught, or removed from a can, drained and combined with egg noodles, potato chips and possibly peas in a concoction known as tuna casserole.

With the possible exception of the peas, the color pallete is limited to shades of white and brown. The peas having been most likely dumped from a can and thus being an unappetizing shade of gray-green, get a pass.

Other delicacies if you can call them that, come from the desire to avoid wasting any part of the pig or cow that is now gracing ones plate. This results in “Eating everything but the oink.” as my grandpa used to call it. This results in eating what is politely termed as organ meat, or offal. The first time I heard that word I heard it as “awful” which certainly described my initial impressions.

Organ meats, include heart, kidneys, liver, tripe (stomach), sweetbreads (thymus gland), brains (one of the worst things I’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth), and tongue. Now I will admit I like tongue (if it’s cooked right, it’s incredibly tender), and didn’t mind sweetbreads so much, but the rest of it gets a hard pass.

Then there are the Rocky Mountain Oysters, or Calf Fries, which is a kind way of saying bull testicles. Actually they are delicious, but not if you know what they are up front.

Chicken doesn’t escape this treatment either, as gizzards are considered a delicacy, but only if deep fat fried and pulled out of the warming rack in the aforementioned convenience store.

Another delicacy which can only be found in South Dakota to my knowledge, is called Chislic. Chislic is cubed mutton, steak or venison dropped into the fryer and served with saltine crackers, a tooth pick as a utensil and hopefully a tall schooner of beer.

But you have not lived in the Midwest unless you’ve been exposed to the food abomination known as lutefisk. Lutefisk is a Norwegian delicacy which consists of cod fish preserved in lye. Most people will not admit to liking it, because IT’S COD FISH PRESERVED IN DRAIN CLEANER, but you will find the occasional person at a church dinner who piles their plate high and goes back for seconds if given a chance. I don’t talk to these people, because they are just masochists.

There is one variety of Norwegian delicacy that I do enjoy, lefse, which is best described as a potato tortilla. Rather than salsa, seasoned meat, and cheese, however, lefse is best served with butter and brown sugar and rolled into a wad of deliciousness and carbs.

Pickled herring is also a common delight, especially during the holiday season. I spent a couple of my formative years in Minnesota, so I acquired a taste for it. The rest of my family makes me eat it outside.

Well I better let you go, I have relatives coming over and they asked if I had headcheese. (That’s not a skin condition, it’s meat jello)