Today's Newspaper Column is about a very nice store in our neighborhood that has very nice gifts and nice children's toys and all kinds of holiday items that combine a traditional sensibility with a cheeky, modern twist. Like this!



I didn't use the word in the paper, for obvious reasons. I have used the word in person. Yes: I have said it. No: my daughter has not heard me say it. Yes: my daughter has heard the word elsewhere. No: we cannot shield our kids from the rude world, nor expect well-designed lip balm packaging not to be vulgar. I just recall an era where if you said that word out loud in a store you would get hard looks.

In fact, if I walked up to the owner of the store and said the word, the owner would probably be a bit surprised: why the aggression? Why are you saying that word to me? If the owner had a small kid and I bent down at face level - where the lip balm was, more or less - and said the word, why, I'd be a creep. If I complained about Lip Shit, I'd be a prude. I don't get it. Oh, I get it. Believe me.

The column is here.


In the olden days I sat on the marble slab over the radiators in the living room, waiting for the bus, waiting for child to get off and come up the long sidewalk: so small, so self-contained. I always wondered what she was thinking about. You never know. Ask, and you’ll get no answer; they just don’t believe you could possibly care about the random things that occupied their mind between bus and house. But there’s nothing you want to know more.

But now she goes off in the morning, and I don’t watch for the bus. Now she comes home and I don’t sit on the warm slab, waiting, feeling a tick of eh? when the bus isn’t on time. Except I did today, because there was a Creepy Man at the bus stop yesterday. Something about him spooked the kids. The way he parked, the way he got out of the car for a few seconds, then got back in, then left. “His license plate was dirty,” daughter said. “I couldn’t see what it said.”

That was the detail that made my antennae go up, although I’m sure it was nothing. Still: I went down this morning, making sure to keep my distance so no one was EMBARRASSED by my presence. Used the dog as cover. He was surprised to get a morning walk, and all the more surprised by the route.

Stood across the street behind a dumpster, thinking: now I’m the suspicious guy.

Cold. Not that aching vacant godless cold, but close. About 17 degrees above. Wish i’d worn gloves.

Back up to the house and back to work. Wrote on and off all day, then looked at the clock: time for the bus. Sat on the slab and watched . . . and there’s the bus. No creepy guy. No gaggle of moms at the corner; the kids outgrew that a few grades back, and would be insulted to find you standing there. They’d be worried. What’s wrong? Who died? Nothing’s wrong; just wanted to pretend this was normal, just once. That you’ll take my hand without question and we’ll walk back to the house and have hot chocolate.

There’s always a new form of normal. Doesn’t mean you can’t have hot chocolate ready when the door opens and she says I’M HOME. That you are.

Doesn’t mean there’s not some creepy guy somewhere planning something. Not to spoil the Christmas spirit, but I not only believe that child molesters should be put down, the method should be uniform across the land: drag them behind a school bus.


I forgot a few stills from the Dean Martin Christmas Special. Remember, this is a round-up of the toppermost pop-culture figures of the late sixties.



That's just a lot of Burr, right there. Then there's this frightening apparition:



Imagine Red Nichols as a lounge singer, perhaps. Blame the makeup and the lighting, maybe. However it worked, Roy Rogers was pretty smooth for a fella in his mid-50s.




One of those shows boomers love: the Grinch. As I noted on Twitter - a statement of boundless self-regard if ever there was one - I have no particular love for Dr. Seuss. Something about the stuff annoys me, and it’s probably summed up in the song that starts the program. Those words. WHAT ARE THEY.

What’s the Grinch’s motivation for hating Christmas? It’s not because he’s evil, really. He can’t stand the noise. Seems peculiar, since he lives very high up, but once you see the sequence that describes what he objects to, you cannot help but agree. It’s really irritating.

Also, they eat, which bothers him. They feast on “ Who Pudding” - made, apparently, from liquified members of their species?

Also, they sing that song, which he hates. I’m with him.

What did the adults have? Repeats, perhaps, of this:




Right away you know you’re not in 1968, or 1983, or 1991. It can only be 1957.

It was shot in color but broadcast in black and white. Frank starts it out. Is it just me, or is he flat?



Then Frank sets the table, which he probably did once in his life, in 1957, for this show. Look at those colors.



Enter Bing with an album and . . .a hubcap? A steering wheel?



Bing hands his coat and hat to the houseboy, and utters the greatest line of the entire show so far: “You want to grab the drape and take the skimmer?”

Later he asks for “a little toddy for the body.”

Bing had a cool sense that made Frank still seem like was from the neighborhood.

This is the album, by the way:


Then they sing Jingle Bells and a drinking song and talk about the virtues and pleasures of drinking alcohol, after which they discover there are carolers outside, and then they go to Merrie Olde England for a semi-Victorian Christmas before going back and singing with manly self-containment at each other.



They have a spat! Oh Bing, don’t go away mad, I didn’t mean it:



It’s artifice from start to finish, and it feels unforced and genuine. I mean, they genuinely don’t care that much, and that keeps it from having that forced sentimentality that turns celebrity specials into treacly kitsch.




Yet somehow it ended up here.



Bing was always smart about those things.

Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this week, so yes: I'll have a Bleat. See you around!

(Note: comments problems should be fixed by Monday - I may have set the permissions a bit too strict.)



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