“When The Absurdity Of It All Becomes Real”


I am not a fan of Walmart, but they do have the best prices on Christmas lights, so I suck it up and give them my money. The same lights at Home Depot are double what I pay at Wally World.

The parking lot was full, people streaming into both entrances.

There is a line in the personal scooter queue. Seems Walmart purchased new ones that are comfier and a bit faster. I notice that many of the riders are suspiciously fit and healthy; maybe just too tired to walk. One lady had her Chihuahua in the scooter basket; the dog seemed afraid, probably knows she can’t drive the thing. Finally, the Walmart starter gives the group the checkered flag, and they roar into the store.

I snag a basket and proceed to the Christmas Decor isle, which is about one-third of the store.

A family of 15 is fighting over which lights will look better, multi-colored or red. Arguing in Spanish and some English, as to not offend us Anglos, although I know most of what they are sputtering. They finally grabbed two dozen or so boxes of the lights I wanted. Bam… lights cleaned out. Mission aborted, done, canceled.

I ask a lady that seemed to be wandering around in a daze checking her cell phone. She wears a Walmart vest and name tag, so I assume she knows something. Wrong, she doesn’t know if there will be more lights or even more Christmas decorations once the shelves were empty. I get it, supply chain problems, or perhaps clueless employees. Take your pick. I settle for similar lights, but not the ones I needed.

Standing in line, five people are ahead of me and one is a woman with an overflowing basket of groceries. Mostly junk food items; chips, beer, Hostess cupcakes, frozen dinners, cookies, Mountain Dew, and Coke. That might explain why she is as broad as tall. Not one healthy item in her basket.

What the hell? This is the garden / Christmas decoration department, not the market. The poor checker, not used to scanning grocer items, is bumfuzzled and doing the best he can. The line grows longer, now about 15 people behind me. The checker is getting slower, people are getting irritated, low blood sugar is kicking in. Christmas decorations need to be installed; the hours are ticking away.

A smallish Asian lady is in front of me; she’s done with it, walks over to the grocery lady, and loses it. Arms waving, jabbering in Chinese, but I could be wrong. She has lights that need installing and glass balls that are growing mold. The grocery lady tells her to F..k off. The checker finishes her groceries and the 20 six-packs of Mountain Dew, then she reaches into her purse and proceeds to write a check. The checker boy panics. A check, who writes checks? It’s doubtful he’s ever seen one before. He calls for a manager. Things are getting growly. My arms are going numb from the 8 boxes of lights I am holding.

The line behind me is now up to about 30 bodies, some with full carts of Christmas decorations and whiny kids. One man about halfway back is carrying a sidearm, possibly a 9 MM. We open carry here in Texas, everybody has a hog on their hip, in their car, or hidden in their purse. He is scowling, not a happy shopper.

My turn arrives. I plop my lights onto the counter. Checker boy starts scanning. ” Wait a minuet here buddy,” I say. ” These lights are suppose to be $6.79 a box not $10.79.” He scans again, then checks his cell phone and scans with that.

” Nope, they are $10.97,” he replies. Well, holy crap, all this waiting and I am getting screwed. I tell him to keep the lights and walk out.

Exiting the Garden / Christmas Department, I pass by a guy sitting on a Home Depot bucket just outside the gate. He has a sign that reads, “Homeless, Anything Can Help.” His bucket has a few coins and maybe four dollars in bills. I drop in a fiver. He says thank you and God Bless.

I’m a sucker during the holiday season. Why not. I have more than a lot of folks, and a lot less than many, but I can afford a five-dollar bill.

He looks up, our eyes meet for a split second, so, I ask him his story; everybody has one.

His name is Ted. He’s a Vietnam vet, has some PTSD and alcohol problems, and his daughter won’t let him live with her and his grandchildren, so he and the small dog sitting beside him sleep behind Walmart or wherever. So, I give him another fiver for the pooch.

I am humbled for being such a winy assed old man over a few boxes of Christmas lights. I am inwardly embarrassed. I quietly ask God’s forgiveness, hoping he is listening today.

Before I leave, I tell Ted, that he might want to find another store, people shop at Walmart because they “don’t have any money.” He laughs and wishes me a Merry Christmas.

Post Christmas Thoughts …


Before Christmas day arrived, I had intended to publish a few short stories about my family and how we spent our holidays when I was a child. For once, real accounts of a typical 1950s family Christmas. One thing led to another, and my time was stolen for numerous menial task, and not a word was written, so I will post them next season, and write them early, maybe July, when there is no seasonal sentiment or Jim Beam involved.

Television commercials during December are calculated and crafted to tug on your heartstrings. Smart producers pull out the stops to turn every add into a Hallmark mini-movie. Dogs and kids are the ones that get me;¬†save Chewie Dog from the shelter, Dogs visiting kids in the hospital, let Uncle Stan and his dog Ringo come to Christmas dinner even though he is a junkie felon. The Peloton “bike to nowhere” is especially irritating. The young wife, clearly fit and healthy receives a Peloton stationary workout machine from her husband on Christmas morning. Hubby is insinuating that she is too fat so he drops $2500 as a hint. The skinny wife will spend the next year video documenting her stationary “trip down hell street” with everyone on Peloton. She loses thirty pounds while riding fifty-thousand miles in her living room. How inspiring is that for young girls? A few weeks later, in her next commercial, she is guzzling Vodka like a Russian soldier while her two girlfriends ask, ” don’t you need to go home and ride your Peleton?”

The adds that send me over the top are the car and truck commercials. Beautiful young wives in designer snowsuits giving their husbands a pickup truck that costs as much as a South Padre condo. Then you have the hunky young husband surprising his lovely wife with an ultra-expensive exotic SUV parked in the driveway of their multi-million dollar home, and yes, everything is covered in snow, and the mansion is in the mountains. Who are these people? Do they exist? Well, they do in the minds of the Mad Men that manufacture this fantasy.

What they don’t show us, and for a good reason, is the receiving spouse chasing the other through the house, screaming and cursing, wielding a 12-inch carving knife, because now, they have additional crippling debt that neither can afford because they are paying off college loans, living above their means, and one of them is unemployed. That’s real-life folks. I have a friend that pulled this stunt a few years back, and even though his wife feigned surprise, she didn’t care much for the car because it wasn’t a Lexus. Art does not imitate life.

The final assault on healthy parenting and the Christmas spirit, is the “everyone gets a trophy” and the “helicopter” parenting commercials. One popular vignette shows an average looking spousal pair wrapping a roomful of “Frozen” toys for their little princess. In a moment of illumination, the little princes burst into the room to announce, ” I want to be a movie producer!” That’s it, folks, to the trash go the other gifts, and they come home from Walmart with movie cameras, computers, screen editing software, and a trophy. All for a girl of seven years old. Parents thirty years ago would have said, “you’ll get what Santa brings you and like it” and then given the kid a butt busting just for being an insulant brat. You have to hand it to Walmart, they now go after those parents with money, good credit, and no backbone, because they realize the kids run the show. Where is Doctor Phil and Doctor Laura? Someone on TV needs to address this syndrome.

That’s my take on what Christmas. My wife thinks I’m a Grinch, and I may be a bit of one, but not by choice. Many like myself remember the innocence and sacredness of the holiday, and wish, against all the odds, that one day that feeling might return. I have to sign off now, the Hallmark channel is running a Pat Boone Christmas Special marathon and my smores are ready.

The Black Plague of Friday


It’s raining and cold here in North Texas today. Perfect weather for Black Friday, my most reverently hated day of the year.¬†While driving home with my wife from Thanksgiving supper in Fort Worth last evening, we passed the Walmart in Granbury. The first impression would be the zombie apocalypse was attacking the store, but then we both knew it was ” that day” pushed back by twelve hours so the Walton family could make an extra billion while their employees have to eat and run to work instead of spending the day with their families. I don’t think this is what old Sam had in mind when he started the store decades ago. But alas, here we are, and the greedy children are running the show.

The weather was wet, cold and miserable, so who in their right mind would put themselves through that to save a few bucks. That single 65 inch HDTV for $39.99 will be gone within thirty seconds. Then, because of that retail trickery on other featured items, there will be numerous brawls, knifings, shootings, and thefts. Black Friday at any Walmart brings out the worst in humanity.

My last outing on a Black Friday was more than a decade ago with my son and grandson. We were in Frys Electronics, and my son Wes had managed to grab the last Epson HD Projection TV for the incredibly low price of $200.00. He turned his back to look at cables, and a full-grown idiot man grabs the box from his basket and takes off down the aisle sprinting like OJ Simpson through the airport. Wes was and is a big old boy, and my grandson, a young teen at that time, is also a large boy, so what does this guy think that he could get away with this? They tackled him within 30 feet, and after a gentle roughing up, they returned the goods to their basket while the thief and his young son were removed from the store. All of this for a TV.

To put the final nail in the holiday coffin, the Dallas Cowboys went tits up, at home, in front of a sold-out crowd and a pissed off owner, but yet today, the Howdy Doody hand-clapping coach still has a job. Its going to be a rough holiday season here in DFW.