Monthly Archives: December 2022

one more Christmas post

When I was in second grade I won the Christmas poster contest at our school .

My poster was printed in the local paper with an accompanying story and a copy was put on display in the front windows of several local businesses . I had my picture taken with my teacher , Sister Carmel Mary and , I think , the newspaper editor , or maybe he was the honorary major for that year . I stood for the photo next to Sister Carmel Mary in her long black habit . I don’t have the photo in front of me now , so I can’t remember if I wore the school uniform , a salt-and-pepper pull-over shirt and corduroy pants , or if I had on a sport coat and a little tie . I remember the expression on my face , though . The photo was published next to the copy of the poster and anyone and everyone who walked down any street in town could see it .

The poster I still have a copy of somewhere in my garage . My mother had saved it for me and gave it to me several years ago . It pictured a large Christmas tree , with decorations , and presents underneath . It was colorful. A prominent caption read : CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING AND WE’RE GIVING A CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL . The artwork was good , but I suspect that it was the clever caption that won me the prize .

The school was about to hold a Christmas festival and every student was required to turn in a poster to promote the event . Out of the hundreds of students who turned in their posters , mine won !

There was a little problem , however . I was procrastinating and procrastinating as the deadline got closer and closer for the poster to be due . I wasn’t artistic and not too swift on any creativity bent either . My older sister Pat , however , was artistic and was creative , and evidently had sympathy for my approaching doom , so she made me a poster . She drew the poster . It had my name on it . It won the school-wide poster contest , but it wasn’t mine .

I didn’t tell my teacher that the poster wasn’t my creation . I didn’t tell my teacher anything in those days . I hardly spoke a word , truth be told , until I was a thirteen or fourteen . I was a bit shy in my early years ( in the same sense that Jeffrey Dalmer , for example , was a little off , or that Elon Musk has a little money ) . Had I spilled the beans right off the bat , my life might have been easier , at least in the long run , after some embarrassment , but I wasn’t going to be able to do that . As it was , I had to swallow the true humiliation of being honored for something that someone else had done and to just play along to the end . I didn’t see any other way out .

I think my sister was a tad irritated by the whole thing , too , by the way . After all , she had made the winning poster but had recieved no recognition for it . It was her poster but it was my picture in all the shop windows around town . And those newspapers remained there for some time , too . It was humiliating . I was trapped in a lie , so to speak , with no easy way out . This wasn’t supposed to happen to a quiet little Catholic school student who just tried to get through his days without bringing down the wrath of God upon himself .

I can visualize my expression in that infamous newspaper photo . I can still feel , somehow , the intense burning humiliation of the moment . The nun next to me , my teacher , was so proud of little Danny , I imagine , her student . Little did she know ! Little did the news photographer or that man in the photo know ! Little did all of those unsuspecting people who saw the newspaper photo know !

I was pretty sure at the time that my guardian angel knew the truth . If the guardian angel wouldn’t tell God , I figured , then I might be alright . God was , hopefully , too busy with other stuff . Ah , but then there was my sister , Pat !

Luckily , I survived winning the poster contest when I was in second grade . What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger . I’ve heard that .


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Christmas time

We were riding home in a cab last night when the driver thought the cab had been bumped from behind . He stopped and discussed the matter with the alleged culprit in the car behind us. Then he drove the cab a block or so away , to a quieter street , and the other driver followed , to continue to parley . I routinely expect the worst results from these situations . There’s nothing wrong with an uneventful cab ride , is there ?

Ada’s son was sitting up front. He suggested that the driver was fishing for a quick cash settlement . He’d make more on that kind of a deal than he’d make on our meager fare . Unfortunately the other driver was not in a mood to admit any guilt . Luckily the deliberations were short .

It was Christmas . I kind of thought that our driver might have had a little bit too much Christmas cheer to be driving a cab , anyway , but I guess I was alone in that suspicion . At any rate , the whole cash -for -crash thing didn’t work out for the driver , if that was what he had in mind . Evidently no noticable damage had been done to the cab , the other driver was entirely sober and resolute , and so the cabbie got back in behind the wheel and we all scurried along home on damp roads and paid our meager fare when the time came .

Earlier in the evening we were at a couple of friends’ house for Christmas dinner . There was fish and cold cuts , cheese , potato balls mixed with cheese , olives and tomatoes , and pickles . The hostess had made a delicious tart filled with sauerkraut . It had a lattice pie crust that was exceptional in look and taste . Oh , and we started out with mushroom soup made from wild mushrooms. The host had gathered them not in Poland but in Germany . He was explaining to us the German rules regarding mushroom picking and the heavy fines when the rules were broken . Ada and I have been mushroom hunting with this guy several times in Poland . He’s an expert and he knows the right spots , all secret , to find the most and best mushrooms . Anyway , the soup was delicious . Very delicious.

There are three days of Christmas in Poland . As far as I know , the big event is Christmas Eve . That’s when the big meal comes around . Ada prepares the twelve-course dinner every year . This year , although we are away from home , she nevertheless managed the meal in the same extraordinary manner as usual , as traditional .

Well , I say away from home , but we are at home here in Szczecin in our cozy apartment . So we are at home here too .

I never saw Santa Claus this year . I know that he was around somewhere , but I didn’t get a peek at him . I looked up at the sky a few times , but it was pretty cloudy and sometimes drizzly , and I never was able to spot him Or the reindeer. Or the sleigh .

Just after our Christmas Day meal with our friends , it came to our attention that an upstairs neighbor was lying out in the front yard. Ada’s son and his daughter had a small problem opening the front gate because the neighbor was blocking the way . Our host went out to address the issue . He returned several minutes later . He told us that the man had imbibed perhaps way too much alcohol , had an argument with his wife , and was outside taking a little break .

An hour or so later another neighbor , a woman , called to tell our host that she had been able to help the guy back up the steps . She had seen our host try to help the guy earlier with not so much luck . She wanted to tell him : problem solved ; Merry Christmas !

Oh , I didn’t mention that the Christmas eve meal is meatless . Remnants of religious meaning , as is the tradition of twelve courses . Christmas has religious meaning too , of course . We discussed that at dinner on Christmas day , how contemporary Polish Christmas traditions have originally been more religious than they are now , and how the early Christian church absorbed and co-opted some earlier pagan traditions . I was looking at the Christmas tree in the corner and thinking about this . But let’s not talk religion . Let’s not talk politics , either —– the old rules . Peace on Earth , after all !


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Merry Christmas Everyone !



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warsaw to szczecin

As I write this , snow has covered Warsaw . Ada and I flew from California to Munich to Warsaw to visit family there . Ada’s son and his wife bought a comfortable apartment up on the fifth floor of a relatively new building . Some well-known Polish electronics company built a cluster of buildings to house their workers, he told me . By Polish law , anything above four floors has to have an elevator so they built each of the buildings four floors high . Then , after the inspections they added a fifth floor on each one . I’m not sure that the company is still around . The elevator-less buildings are all still standing and we watched the snow fall from the fifth floor of one of them . Let’s just leave it at : One gets their exercise hiking those steps every day .

It was cold around the town , of course , too . I’m a southern California guy not used to cold weather . I hear it’s about 70F in LA about now . If it dips much below that over there , people will be reaching for their sweaters and commenting about the cold Christmas weather . Everything’s relative , I guess. Warsaw weather was about 22F when Ada and I were there . We were warm and toasty up on the fifth floor inside the apartment . A tad too warm , if the truth be known. I forgot how well -insulated cold weather homes usually are . We’re used to more fresh air , but of course that’s not freezing fresh air .

We had some good meals in Warsaw with the folks , and some good conversations . I had brought a duty-free bottle of Irish Whiskey with me and a couple of us ( participants will remain anonymous ) had a couple of short snorts from that . You know , just to keep warm . Just to keep warmer . Ada had a deep cough for a couple of days while there in Warsaw . The whiskey would have helped , I’m pretty sure , but she’s not a whiskey drinker .

We took a train to Szczecin. Lots of trains had been cancelled , or were late , evidently because of the heavy snow . Ours , by chance , was on time . At first . There were a couple of unexplained delays on the route and we sat not moving for several minutes at a time . Well , the delays were explained vaguely as technical issues . But there was no one to meet us ; we were on an open schedule ; no pressure . We got to the train station in Szczecin after dark and walked to our place . No trudging through snow . The air was crisp .

We passed one bar where there was lots of noise . Probably a private party Ada said . Loud . You see , Ada commented , how quiet the patrons in Irish pubs are compared to Polish people in pubs . I guess so , I said . I sounded like poor Freddy Mallen in that John Huston film ” The Dead “. “I guess so ,” says Freddy with a bewildered look on his face , trying to sound attentive but not knowing up from down about the matter . I think of that now because I always watch that film around Christmas . It is supposedly a telling of the James Joyce short story ” The Dead ” , but I’ve never seen any real connection . It’s the story of an Irish dinner on the Epiphany (January 6) in 1905 . Irish motifs . Good film , anyway , in a quiet sort of a way ; but I watched it with a friend of mine once and he has probably ever since wondered about my taste in movies . We all have our Christmas traditions and different tastes in film.

Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your particular traditions !

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A whining post

So , what have we got ? I guess I’ll whine right now about the flight over here. No leg room. Even the isles are smaller. The flight took off over an hour late .

We would miss our connecting flight in Munich. Ada said we wouldn’t run after we landed trying to make it. When we exited the aircraft she took off like a sprinter nevertheless and I did my best to keep up. We had to take an airport shuttle , fly up and down escalators that were working and not.

I think our connecting flight was still on the ground. The bored guy at the desk told us we were too late. Go to the service desk, he said. Like he cared !

So if your airline works as it should , why do you need a service desk with eight or ten clerks on duty. The service desk is longer than the check-in desks. Ada liked it. It worked efficiently. I saw an integral contradiction. They know the whole thing is set up to fail. They have a service desk for that instead of fixing the flaw in the system. Maybe it’s just me.

The clerk booked us immediately on the next flight out. Another airline. We were going to Warsaw. Four hours to wait. Oh , but we each had 15 euros to spend in the Munich airport in the meantime. Maybe enough for a sandwich or a beer.

What luxury ! Ah , but I won’t whine about that. The guy in the seat in front of me on the flight from L.A. was one of these guys who likes to rock the seat. A little guy (yeah , I’ve got a bias about the little guy syndrome !) Meanwhile my knees are up against the seat ahead of me. I was taking those thin magazines out of the pocket to gain another centimeter of two of space.

When I become Procurator I’m immediately ordering the arrest of airline seat designers , airline CEOs , etc. They should all be put away. Made to spend the rest of their miserable lives in aircraft seat- sized spaces.

Other than that , it was just a fine flight. Fine . It didn’t ditch into the ocean. I didn’t have to find out if those air cup devices are real or not. They look like something snatched from a preschool room. And no vicious terrorists commandeered the flight. That’something.

But I digress.

Here we are in Poland. Life is good. Someone slap me. Stop your whining! Here for Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS !


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some things


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say what ?

Went to the local theater last week to see a movie . It used to be the Krikorian , at some point owned by Krikorian , but he evidently skipped out a while ago and sold the place to a larger corporate entity who refurbished it and made it into the place it is today .

It’s now one of these food- and- drink- in -the- theater , eat -as- you -watch places . In fact there’s a long bar in the lobby area just beyond the ticket window . There were two women sitting at the end of the bar . No one else was around . Ada and I wandered in , past the ticket window , past the bar , along a cavernous hallway , to a wooden podium where they used to check tickets and direct you down another hallway to one of the multitude of screens . No one stood at the podium , so we walked on .

There were , so far , ten or twelve young employees beetling about . No one bothered with us . Most of these young people were dressed in black and seemed to be connected with food service .

Didn’t see any other customers yet .

The remodeled place now was dark . Walls were covered in dark glass ; the tiled floors were shiny but dark . My long-forgotten claustrophobia began to creep back into my brain .

We could have easily chosen any of the multiple films showing, strolled in and sat down sans tickets . Seemed like no one cared . But we , being honest folk , walked all the way back to the ticket booth area . A young woman was now behind the bar stocking supplies . We asked her about buying tickets . There was still no one at the ticket booth . She could help us , she said .

She used the cash register at the corner of the bar . The price was a few dollars higher than expected , higher than Ada had found earlier that day on the website . ” Yeah ,” the girl said , ” people have told me that . They’re like ‘What?’ and I’m like ,’Yeah , the website has the wrong price .”

” What ?” I said . She gave me a look of confusion , like I was speaking a different language .

” It’s thirteen dollars ,” she said .

” Both , or each ? ” I said . She gave me that puzzled look again .

Ada surprised me and agreed to the deal . I expected her to protest and announce that the website should be accurate and until it is we won’t be patronizing the place . I fully expected to be following her out the door in a triumphant march and leaving the poor dopey employee to go back to her stocking bar supplies, not caring that she had already fumbled the lesson and failed the class .

But Ada said okay and we paid the toll . We walked back along the long passage and found our movie on our own . We both agreed that we hadn’t really needed to buy tickets . No one of the several young black-clad employees showed any concern . I wondered if any of them even recognized us as customers . Having customers seemed not to be a priority in this place . There were two others sitting in our movie . They each had a beer as they watched . No meal ; no snacks.

Ada speculated that the place wouldn’t be in business long . I wondered if it might be part of a money-laundering scheme . Ada thought that sounded likely . No one ever checked our ticket or , as they say , gave us the time of day . The movie was good , though . At least that .

On the way out we noticed computer screens mounted near the ticket window . An old man was buying a ticket on one of them. He was choosing his seat using the seating chart that showed on the monitor . We had been required to choose our seats , too .

Two other people in there to watch our movie. We were bold and sat somewhere else higher up , not where we had agreed to sit. I wondered if those two other people in there had already taken the seats that Ada and I had chosen . We could have insisted that they move , I guess . There were plenty of other seats available . But Ada said no , they were not in our seats . We would have been just in front of them.

Each seat had its own little table . In case you were hungry and had extra money in your wallet that you didn’t need . In case you had no other idea about how to spend your day , didn’t know any local restaurants , felt nostalgic about airline -flight meals , or something .

I had a beer when I got home and saved myself a load of money by doing so . Now that’s something , I think . I even had a meal later and was rolling in clover . By the way , I felt loaded after that one beer . Well , you know , not loaded , but loaded . Now that’s something !


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