TOP 10 REASONS IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS

Okay, so it’s time to blog about Christmas I suppose. I don’t really feel like it. It doesn’t feel like Christmas. I think that’s the problem. Here’s why:

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1) I’ve spent the last six weeks going out of my way to avoid Christmas carols on the radio, the television, in the stores. It’s impossible. You have to try though because if you don’t you will go insane before December even begins. I used to like Burl Ives’ song Holly Jolly Christmas, but that was before the radio put it on heavy rotation between Halloween and Christmas Day as if it were the National Anthem and every fifteen minutes a ballgame was starting.

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My Christmas ‘party’ was here.

2) Last night was my work Holiday Party. My wife looked stunning in her dress. The in-laws were prepared to take the kids overnight. All that was left was for me to get dressed. Then the eight year old came home from school in tears and with an earache and a 101.9-degree temperature. Instead of the party, we spent the night at the Immediate care center, then in line at Walgreens getting coughed on by strangers. Instead of a pasta bar, fresh salmon, and free beer, I dined on some bland bowl of something from Chipotle, or as I like to call it, the place with $7 flavored rice.

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3) I live in Chicago and it’s going to be 40 degrees tomorrow. They’re calling for rain on Christmas Eve, which should turn to snow. In other words, slush is going to fall from the sky. I’m dreaming of a slushy, sock soaking Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. The really pretty snow, the kind we associate with Christmas even though we rarely have it which is why Bing Crosby had to dream of it will come. We will get snow. We will get that pretty, heavy blanket of white, but you can bet it is going to fall after Christmas, just in time to bury the decorations my wife will want me to take down, now.

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This is what kids who don’t believe in Santa Clause get for Christmas.

4) The kids are getting older. My eldest is in high school and what he wants is either high-tech, too expensive, or it’s clothing. The other two are at the point where the clothes and the toys are about even and Santa is something they either aren’t quite convinced of, or haven’t the heart to tell mom and dad that they don’t believe anymore. Once that magic is gone, the whole thing becomes something else entirely.

5) I won’t be spending all-night, and I mean all-night, putting together little flimsy plastic toys with instructions that would make the people at Ikea scratch their heads in their complexity. ‘This was supposed to be Barbie’s Dream house, why does it look like a Pepto-Bismol factory post-apocalypse?

6) Of course it doesn’t help that right now my house is a cluttered mess and the whole place smells like chili.

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7)   It ain’t like it used to be. I don’t have to go into detail on that. If you grew up in the 1940’s, it ain’t like it was in the ‘40’s. If you were a child of the 80’s, it ain’t like it was back in the day. If your formative years were the 1990’s, it’s not like that anymore is it? Our place of reference might be different, but when I say ‘It ain’t like it used to be’, we all get it. We grew up and so did the world. What a shame, huh?

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8) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Charlie Brown are On-Demand. It used to be that those shows were Specials, events to be watched all together at the same time, and only one time each year because once it was over, it was gone. If you missed it, you were shit-out-of-luck. Now you can watch them all day any day as many times as you’d like whenever, wherever, nothing special, no event, just another damn show to choose from of the thousands on that digital jukebox of television and movies. Play it again, Sam. No need for a quarter, just hit ‘enter’ on the remote.

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9) I’m lucky. Sounds strange but, it’s a reason. So much of secular Christmas is wishing and getting. Well, there isn’t much I’m wishing to get. I mean, at least not material things. My wife and I make a decent enough living that if there is something we really and truly want, we buy it. So, there is no excitement for that gift I’ve been dying to get. Nor is there much excitement for the gift I can’t wait to give, because there is nothing special on her list either. ‘Let’s get through it without getting the flu’ seems to be at the top of the wish-list this year. Can’t circle that in the Sears catalog.

10)   I’m getting older. Shit, I’ve been through this rigamarole now forty-two times. This will be the forty-third. I have to admit, it’s losing some of its charm. I mean, I get it, Bing sings, we go to Mass, the presents get opened, I eat too much, I feel like shit, and tomorrow is depressing because it’s been weeks of anticipation, a flurry of momentary excitement, and then it’s over until next Halloween when Burl Ives starts singing A Holly Jolly Christmas.

27777393 Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Halloween too I suppose, it’s all running together now.

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Hollywood Cowardice: George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone In North Korean Cyberterror Attack

I’m not much for re-blogging and I try to stay away from politics on here, but this is an important read and raises some very poignant questions. Take a read and give it some thought. From Deadline.com :

Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: As it begins to dawn on everyone in Hollywood the reality that Sony Pictures was the victim of a cyberterrorist act perpetrated by a hostile foreign nation on American soil, questions will be asked about how and why it happened, ending with Sony cancelling the theatrical release of the satirical comedy The Interview because of its depiction of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. One of those issues will be this: Why didn’t anybody speak out while Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton were embarrassed by emails served up by the media, bolstering the credibility of hackers for when they attached as a cover letter to Lynton’s emails a threat to blow up theaters if The Interview was released?

George Clooney has the answer. The most powerful people in Hollywood were so fearful to place themselves in the cross hairs of hackers that they all refused to…

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Blessings & Curses and Trouble on the Horizon – A Passage from the Novel In The Sanctity of Revenge

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse…

– Moses, Deuteronomy

Skeletal arms trembled, struggling to lift the old steel revolver. Blue and purple veins popped through celluloid skin. Shaking hands with frail fingers and rusted joints fought with the trigger to pull the heavy hammer back. Jack Hanlon smiled at the sight.

SATURDAY JUNE 5, 2010

The sun hung high in the cloudless afternoon sky, drying the sidewalks and baking away the evidence of the viscous storm of the night before. Small branches and twigs littered the lawns and gutters of the sleepy Chicago side street. The two opposing rows of brick bungalows, most redbrick, some yellow-brick, that lined either side of Mobile Street had weathered the storm as they had done for close to a century now. There was no major damage. A few basements had taken in water, but just enough to make a mess before receding back into the floor drains.

Saturday morning was uneventful at the Hanlon home. Amy had gotten up with the boys and made them blueberry pancakes for breakfast while Jack slept in. Around noon, dressed in the gym shorts he’d slept in, cheap slippers, and an old softball shirt that read “Mad Dogs” in script across the front from his Wednesday night 16” league (on the back was an ad for their sponsor Windy Ray’s Tavern), Jack lifted the lid to the black, iron mailbox hanging on the wall just outside his front door. It was empty. He stood on the front porch, and peered up and down the quiet street in hopes of seeing the mailman walking his cart down the block. No luck.

Across the street Mrs. Kelly watered her flowerbed despite the heavy rains that had doused them overnight. When she saw Jack, she waved. Jack waved back and tried to duck back into the house before the old lady could trap him into a conversation but it was too late. She’d already dropped her hose and was heading across her small patch of perfect lawn calling his name, “Jack, oh Jack. I want to talk to you.”

It’s not that Jack disliked Mrs. Kelly. In fact, he liked her very much. She reminded him of his grandmother, and he felt a sort of responsibility toward her since her husband passed. Jack would spend weekend days doing little jobs around Mrs. Kelly’s house, fixing this, patching that. Amy would take her shopping if the weather was bad and the buses were running slow. But lonely widows can talk an awfully long time, and make a big deal about things of no consequence, and frankly today Jack wasn’t up for one of those conversations. His mind was elsewhere.

“Jack,” she called hustling across the street. “Jack, I want to talk to you. Don’t go anywhere.” She hurried as quickly as a seventy-eight year old woman in Walgreen’s sneakers can. Jack stepped off his porch and met her on the sidewalk.

“Hi Mrs. Kelly, how are you?”

“Oh, I could complain, but who would listen,” she replied.

‘Apparently, this morning, it’s going to be me,’ Jack thought, but held his smile.

“Anyway, did you hear that storm last night? It woke me from a sound sleep. I thought lightening hit that big tree and that it was going to fall in on my head. Thank the Lord it was just a clap of thunder. Did it wake the children? You look like you missed a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Timmy woke up a couple of times, but went back to bed pretty quick. Once I was up though, I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I wish I was more like Amy, she gets up with the kids, and as soon as her head hits the pillow again, she’s out cold.” Truth was, Jack was already up. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.

“That’s because women work harder than men,” Mrs. Kelly gave a wink and a smile.

“In my house, that is certainly the case. I won the lottery when I married Amy. She’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t you forget that Jack Hanlon,” she said, her eyes narrowing, then flashed him a wink and a smile. Jack had often thought that Mrs. Kelly had probably been a very beautiful woman in her youth, and now and then a flash of that girl would appear in that wink and smile she often gave to let you know she was teasing. “Ah, she coulda done worse herself too ya know,” Mrs. Kelly continued, “Anyhow, the reason I stopped you is because I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure Mrs. Kelly, what do you need?”

“Well, the storm last night did knock a huge branch off the neighbor’s tree into my backyard. I’ve been telling them for months now that the tree needs to be pruned, but that good for nothin’ bum sits on his backside all day doing nothing, and you know she’s not much of a housekeeper. I’ve never been inside, but from what I hear there is crusted food all over the kitchen and dust bunnies everywhere. How people could live like that is beyond me. Anyhow, I know he’d never move it from my yard, or at least I’d be waiting till my last breath for him to do it, so if you wouldn’t mind just stopping by – when you have time of course, no hurry – and just put it out in the alley for me?”

“Of course Mrs. Kelly. Give me a minute to put on a decent pair of shoes and grab a saw and I’ll be right over.”

“You’re a doll Jack, thank you. You know, since Harold died I’ve really come to realize how nice it was to have a man in the house. I am certainly for women’s equality and what not, but there’s no denying that there are some things men are better at taking care of. Maybe I’m just an old woman, I don’t know. And don’t you dare tell a soul I said that or so help me God I’ll shoot you right in the face,” she smiled and winked at him again with that twinkle in her warm blue eyes. That’s when Jack had the vision of those skinny little arms struggling to raise a pistol to eye level and fighting to pull the trigger. The thought had made him smile and he wondered if she noticed. Of course, if he knew what would eventually come of them all, he never would have found such a scene amusing.

“Okay, see you in a few minutes.” Jack turned to go inside, then stopped and turned back toward Mrs. Kelly who was about to cross the street back to her house. “Mrs. Kelly, did you happen to get your mail yet?”

“No, he hasn’t been by yet Jack. It’s that new fella. I don’t like him very much. He’s slow. When we had the black fella…” she said the word ‘black’ a little quieter than the rest, almost a whisper but not quite, “… we always got our mail by ten o’clock, even on Saturdays. This guy though, you never know when he’s gonna decide to show up. I’ve complained several times.”

“I’m sure you have. Thank you Mrs. Kelly.” Jack took another look up the street for the mailman, then dropped his head and went in the house to fetch his shoes and chainsaw.

Fog and smoke in Chicago at 4 am – a Passage from the Novel: In The Sanctity of Revenge

Jack reached in his shirt pocket for his cigarette pack, but it wasn’t there. As if snapping out of a dream, he was suddenly aware of his surroundings. It was nearly four a.m.  His kitchen was dark except for the lights under the cabinets at the far end of the room that shed just enough glow to cast faint shadows on the opposite wall and door. Jack looked around and found the cigarette box on the table in front of him. He picked it up. It was empty. He got his shoes, reached in his pocket and found a balled up ten-dollar bill, grabbed his keys and went out the back door toward the gas station at the corner.

The morning air was humid with a slight chill. Fog hung high in the alley, gathering around the lamplight like a swarm of mosquitoes. Though it was six miles east of his alley, Jack could smell the lake in the air, a mix of fresh water and stale fish. He liked it.

The city was quiet on Sunday mornings. The four o’clock bars were just emptying out and a few muffler-less cars roared down Montrose Avenue, but for the most part, everything was still. Jack breathed in the Lake Michigan air as deep as he could and exhaled slowly.

At the gas station, the store area was closed and locked. Jack had to make his transaction through an aluminum drawer and a tin speaker. From behind the glass, the muffled voice of the attendant reverberated through the speaker in a thick accent. Jack assumed he’d said something along the lines of ‘how may I help you’ or ‘what the fuck do you want’.

“Box of Marlboro Lights,” Jack pulled the ten out of his pocket and placed it in the waiting drawer. The drawer closed then opened again. The sawbuck was gone, a box of cigarettes and some change left in its place. Jack walked off smacking the pack against the palm of his hand.

When he got back home, he sat on the back steps smoking and admiring the peacefulness of the pre-dawn, the sky dark as night but on the verge of daybreak. Jack teetered between the peaceful city around him and the clanging clatter in his mind.

         — In The Sanctity of Revenge is a gripping tale of anger, betrayal, and vengeance set in Chicago in the wake of the Great Recession.

Available for purchase:  http://www.inthesanctityofrevenge.com http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/

Lyrics to Live By Volume 2 – Sadness and Sundays

My mood is often affected by such arbitrary factors such as weather, time of day, and day of the week.  I don’t know what it is, but I know I am not alone.  I hate dusk.  To me dusk is depressing.  The day is dying and the cold darkness is creeping in.  Once it’s dark, I’m okay again, but that transition between day and night is depressing.  I should add though, that in my mind, dusk does not exist in the summer months.  In the summer, that same period is called sunset and it is warm and beautiful and romantic and soft and lovely.  In fall and winter it is cold and hard.

There is no dusk lonelier, nor more depressing, than a Sunday evening dusk.  In fact, Sunday is, in my opinion, the loneliest day of the week.  It is no accident that Church is held on Sunday.  It’s no mistake that the NFL plays the majority of its games on Sunday.  It is a sad day in dire need of hope and distraction; enter church and football. Sunday is the lonely nursing of the resulting hangover from Saturday night’s fun, Sunday, especially in the cold of winter is dark even when the sun is shining.  Sunday is the deathbed of the weekend and the dying breaths of the week.  Sunday is sad.  Always has been.  I assume, it always will be.

I know I am not alone in feeling this way, because Kris Kristofferson wrote, and Johnny Cash brought to life, a beautifully sad and lonely song that truly captures the way Sunday has always felt to me.  It’s all here, the sounds, the smells, the emotions.  One of my favorite songs because it puts into words my feelings of my least favorite day.  Gotta love a song that sounds like the songwriter was following me around one day.  Enjoy.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well, I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad
So I had one more for dessert

Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt
Then I washed my face and combed my hair
Stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I’d smoked my mind the night before
With cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched a small kid
Playing with a can that he was kicking

Then I walked across the street
And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken
And oh it took me back to somethin’
That I’d lost somewhere, somehow along the way

On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone

And there ain’t nothin’ short of dyin’
As half as lonesome as the sound
Of a sleepin’ city sidewalk
And Sunday mornings coming down

In the park, I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl who he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs that they were singing

Then I headed down the streets
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On a Sunday morning sidewalk
Oh, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
That’ll make a body feel alone

And there ain’t nothin’ short of dyin’
Thats half as lonesome as the sound
Of a sleepin’ city sidewalk
And Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

Songwriters
KRISTOFFERSON, KRIS

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Christmas Eve Remembered – a passage from the novel, ‘In The Sanctity of Revenge’

From the new novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge available now on Amazon:

Mrs. Kelly awoke Christmas Eve morning to WGN radio on her alarm clock. She shuffled to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. Sitting alone at the kitchen table, she remembered Christmas Eves past. She could recall the children bouncing off the walls almost as soon as they got out of bed waiting for night to come so they could go back to bed and get up for Christmas morning. She remembered Harold getting up, grumbling his way through the morning’s first two cups of coffee and first three or four cigarettes. Then he’d announce to the kids that it was time to get dressed. The kids would immediately rush upstairs to their bedrooms and change out of their pajamas and into the day’s clothing.

Once dressed and back downstairs they would tug at Harold’s arm begging to head out to the stores for the day. It was their annual tradition. Harold thought it important to include the children in the shopping for their mother’s Christmas presents since it was they who benefitted most from her hard work and sacrifice.

He’d finish off his coffee and take a last drag from his cigarette, then he’d head off to the bedroom to get dressed in his cleanest white t-shirt and a pair of brown polyester pants for a day at the department stores. He’d take the kids to Sears and they would shop for dresses and slacks and scarfs for their mother. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know it, but Harold saved a few bucks a week all year long for her Christmas present. Whereas Jack shopped on Christmas Eve because he liked the fun of the spontaneity of it, Harold Kelly shopped on Christmas Eve because that was when he finally had saved enough money to give his wife a proper Christmas. Along with his yearlong savings, each child contributed a little from his/her allowance. Money that, upon their father’s orders, they were supposed to have been saving for their mother’s Christmas since August.

From there, they would take the bus to the Ideal Pastry bakery where they would buy their mother her favorite cookies and donuts, plus a cookie for each kid. After that, he’d take them to the Irish Imports Shop, where they would usually purchase a record of Irish songs like the ones Mrs. Kelly’s parents would sing when she was a child.

Her folks had both been born in Ireland and met here in the States. While little Irene was growing up, her parents would play songs from the homeland and dance around the front room of their one-bedroom apartment with their little girl. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know what happened to those records after her parents died, but every Christmas Harold would surprise her with a record album of the songs of her youth.

Harold was a stickler for tradition, and so, there was never an artificial tree in the Kelly residence, and there was no tree in the Kelly residence until Christmas Eve. So after the Irish Imports shop, it was straight to the C-Davis Truck Rental lot, where the trucks had been temporarily replaced by Christmas Trees, to choose the perfect tree for the Kelly family Christmas. Mrs. Kelly often wondered if it was truly tradition motivating her husband to shop for trees on Christmas Eve or if it was the fact that he could haggle the salesman down so easily at such a late date. The pickings were scarcer, but you couldn’t beat the price and he always managed to bring home a tree that, once decorated at least, would be brilliant.

She smiled a bitter-sweet smile as she conjured up the vision of her husband dragging a six foot tall Christmas tree onto a city bus with children in tow dragging shopping bags from Sears and the Irish Imports, bumping into other riders, needles flying and falling off the tree throughout the bus, bags and packages bumping against knees and seats. It was no wonder she never got a porcelain tea set or Waterford crystal for Christmas, it never would’ve survived the journey.

Once home, the children would run the shopping bags up to their rooms where they’d wrap them while Harold took the tree and a hacksaw to the yard and sawed off the bottom few inches. She could see him in her mind’s eye out there in the dark snowy yard in his work boots, polyester pants and plaid winter coat sawing off those few inches of tree trunk so that the fresh cut could soak up enough water to make the tree last until the Feast of the Epiphany when it would finally be taken down and the Christmas Season would officially end.

Next came the annual hour of Harold lighting the tree, mumbling words not appropriate for such a sacred Holiday, as he fought with tangles and burned out bulbs and flashing strands that had never flashed before.

Then, with the tree firmly placed in its stand and fully lit, Harold sipping from a fresh brewed cup of coffee (with a three count splash of Jameson), and enjoying a well-earned cigarette after a long day of children, store-clerks, crowds, tree salesmen, and those goddamn Christmas lights. Then Mother was presented with one record from the Irish Imports (the others to be saved for the morning). The sounds of the Emerald Isle would play on the phonograph as the children decorated the tree with the family ornaments Mrs. Kelly had brought up from the basement while they were out shopping.

With the kids in bed, the stockings stuffed, and the presents beneath the tree, Harold and Irene Kelly would slip off to bed where it was time for another Christmas Eve tradition. Both of them bursting with love – love for their family, love for their blessings, love for their Savior, and love for each other – they would nestle in beneath the covers, legs rubbing the other’s to produce some warmth, arms wrapped around the other, bodies pressed together, they would embrace and envelope each other in a physical love that only years of marriage can invoke. That well practiced tradition complete, they would both settle in to drift off into a solid slumber.

In The Sanctity of Revenge can be purchased at Amazon.  If you buy a paperback, you get a free Kindle version.

http://www.amazon.com/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor/dp/0986297410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418233642&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

Available world wide on Amazon:

United Kingdom-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774369&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+sanctity+of+revenge

Brazil —

http://www.amazon.com.br/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774530&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor

Austrailia –

http://www.amazon.com.au/Sanctity-Revenge-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774619&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+sanctity+of+revenge

France –

http://www.amazon.fr/Sanctity-Revenge-English-Brian-Schnoor-ebook/dp/B00Q41PODW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418774686&sr=8-1&keywords=brian+schnoor