The lights are up! This is not a repeat. There were more lights that needed to be done, because Wife decided that the trunks needed to be wrapped.

Are they cold? Er, wrong question. How would you like me to do it? Right question. She helped, and also did the lights around the boughs. I put up lights in the back on the Evil Tree, the one that's so knobby and twiggy it fights you every step of the way and snags every strand. One of these days it's going to put my eye out. I considered putting lights in the low row of bushes, but jeez, enough. Even though I always liked the look when the snow came and glowed from beneath like celestial frosting, and it was something of a tradition and I wondered how much Daughter remembers those early Christmases, and how the lights everywhere made everything seasonal and happy. But Jeez, enough.

Then I realized I hadn't removed them from last year. Okay! Fine.

A few berries still on the tree.


he squirrels inch their way out to the edge of the branches and pluck them. I wonder if they like them, or if it's just a case of "it'll do." You wonder if it's like that for everything they eat. It'll do.

The absence of snow cuts into the holiday mood a bit, but we will carry on as best as we can.

There was a guy in the elevator library on his phone, explaining that he was going into meetings, but that he would check to see if there were any tweets. I found this interesting: he was youngish, so it stood to reason he wouldn't check his email. Email is an impediment, an encumbrance, an incrustation on your life. When you reply and reply and respond and reply you have this long interminable document with lines and colors and indents, a sad parade of words that will be archived Forever for Legal Reasons, and never read unless something goes horribly awry. It will sit on a server, a fragment of conversation preserved in digital amber, something intended to be ephemeral but cursed with immortality. Texts are fleet of foot; Slack is chatter; this is how the up-to-date team communicates. But Twitter as a business messaging tool? I guess. Certainly works for that, but in my mind it's the conversation in the hall outside the courtroom, not the steno's transcript.

He asked which floor the Strib was on; I told him it depends, then offered to take him to the front desk. Neighborly thing to do. He asked if I was a writer, and your name is . . . yeah! Of course, I love your stuff. I mention this only because A) it's nice to see I have readers in the hip young demo, and B) I am an insufferable egoist, I guess. Which reminds me:

I mentioned Building Culture, and how MY building has a Farmer's Market. Well. Wandered down the other day, and there was a booth selling hot sauce. I like hot sauce. I asked what made theirs special, and the guy said they used no artificial colors, no high-fructose corn syrup, and only used locally grown fresh peppers. I said in all honesty, none of that matters to me. What does it taste like? Because that's what really matters, doesn't it? If it tastes like donkey snot amplified with pureed scotch-bonnet peppers, but it has no artificial colors, no one's buying a second bottle. It's as if the recitation is a liturgy, something that indicates a virtue that matters more than anything else. If he'd said "each one of these sauces has a unique blend of ingredients that combines familiar flavors with our own additions to achieve unexpected results. "Here - try this one. Is this like anything else?" And then you try it, and your eyes widen, and you say "that's amazing. What is it?" And he says "it's jalapenos, but what really helps it along are the carrots." Then you're talking about ingenuity and trial-and-error and the process of making something new, which is much more interesting than Local Peppers.

Having said that, I felt compelled to buy a bottle. I sampled everything and bought three. They weren't about gradiations of heat, but subtle flavors emerging in the burn. I'm going to write them up in the paper in February. Almost sweating just thinking about the stuff. I'm serious: when I write about hot sauce and think about it, I can feel the area under my eyes start to moisten. It left an impression.

I went over to the Booth of Soaps, because you'll never go wrong giving Wife or Daughter a bar of hand-milled artisanal soaps for Christmas. They were all delightful, except for one which was too chocolatey, and another which made me stop, sniff again, and hold it out to the vendor: "This," I said, "is Turtle Wax."

"I'm sorry is what?"

"It's Turtle Wax. If you renamed this Summer Garage Perfume you would sell a million bars to men who like to wax their own cars." I don't know. I was in a mood. A good mood. Talkative! Mr. Chatty who ALWAYS HAS TO HAVE AN OPINION. I bought two bars.

Really, it smelled like car wax.

Anyway. So I walk the guy to the front desk, and ask what he's here for; meeting with advertising about a buy. Local restaurant group; they have some new stores, including an entry in the hotly contested Fast Casual Burger Genre, a subject I find fascinating. Really. It's meat. Meat is America. So we talk about that, and I tell him about that DC place where I learned more about the business in half an hour than I'd learned about restaurants in a decade, how they messed up with the graphics on the sauce and spice labels, blah blah etc, and how I'd had the conversation about Locally Sourced and No Artificial. Told him that the hamburger that made the most impression on me as a kid was the King's Food Host hamburger, and that was probably because A) you got to order from a phone at your booth!!! and B) the secret ingredients, being salt, pepper, and MSG.

I would have liked to talk more, but he had a meeting and I had to finish a column. Nice guy; he liked his work. I mean, working on marketing strategies for mid-sized price-point quality hamburgers, I'd like my work too. It's only the unimaginative who think that's not creative.

I think I have about 150 of these.

My mother saved them, but they were never sent in. It's as if she thought they were scrip that could be used if the Depression returned. As for the club, a 1949 ad says:

"The Christmas Ckub started in 1937 and has grown ever since. Last year Butter-Hut customers provided for 25,000 gifts These went to childrens homes in all states where Butter-Nut Coffee is sold.


The gift list includes sleds, dolls, books, games, marbles, jump ropes, balls, jacks, wagons, roller skates, scooters, kites, teddy bears and tons of nuts and candy."

Of course, you knew from the picture that Orphans were involved. We'll have more of these as the week goes on.

Oh, by the way!


  I'm in it! Buy it. Makes an excellent gift. But I would say that, wouldn't I.






We'll get to holiday movies nex week. Now it's a comedy. One of the Hitler comedies! It's spelled incorrectly for the sake of HILARITY:

Not Natzee. Nasty.

We start with a laff riot:

It's not often a comedy begins with a vessel torpedoed and sunk with significant loss of life, and I'd bet some people in the audience reacted poorly.

A few sailors are cast adrift, and we expect we’ll learn something about them soon, but we’re off to Germany, to Hitler’s Secret Mountain Base.

It's his Alpine redoubt, Mattschotte.

Heeeeere's Adolph:

He learns he has to make a treaty in person with some native leader, so he tells Goebbels to lie about where he’s going.

Of course, his allies - by which I mean the Axis - show up in person to see him off. Hilarity!

Since he doesn’t want Mussolini running the show while he’s away, he takes Tojo and Benito with him on the secret mission. We cut back to the castaways, who've made land and met the natives.

Basic tropical island styles and garb and ethnicity:

The strange thing about this movie: Hitler is always exasperated by his situation and his bothersome partners, and does so with a certain amount of style:

And Mussolini’s kinda fun, too. Everyone shares a laugh at Adolph’s stupid ‘stache:

The pasha was Ian Keith. Wikipedia says there "were a lot of B level movies of everything from the comics to murder mysteries to mark a downturn said to be the result of too much nightlife. He still did Broadway intermittently throughout his career amid early TV theater and episodic fare from the late 1940s through the 1950s." Sounds like one of those characters from a Twilight Zone or "Suspense" radio show - the plummy-voiced has-been who just wants one more big role. Perhaps he got it: " At the time of his death he was appearing in "The Andersonville Trial" (1960) on Broadway."

The marooned sailors, realizing they have the heads of the Axis powers nearby, masquerade as natives, grab weapons, and stab Hitler to death, ending the war in ’43.

No, of course not. They pull gags. You want wine? Here’s some kerosene! Ha ha more pepper in your soup. There’s also a monkey. Anyway, the Yanks commandeer the sub, Hitler and the gang gets on the sub, and they fool him into thinking the sub is sinking, so they have to escape by unconventional means.


The last shot has all three dictators buried in the sand, kicking thier legs. Which of course didn't happen because bloody war was still raking the globe, but anyway, ha ha.

Oh, and by the way:

That's it for today! See you around.



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