December 28, 2014

De-Lighting Christmas

De-lighting Christmas
By John R. Greenwood

Christmas in reverse tastes bittersweet as temperatures tempt me outside to de-light and de-decorate the holiday. Time travels quickly pre-Santa but slows to a frozen crawl when Times Square signals a calendar change. Holiday cheer comes at you like a freight train and leaves you at the station leaning 
out over the tracks, head tilted, wondering what just happened and how many days has it been since you added water to the tree. Does it even matter now? It’s universal and carries a mix of emotion; empty wallet regret versus the realization that spring is next in line. When the Christmas lights come down you know the Superbowl is close behind and CVS will soon be unpacking the Valentine's Day cards. There are so many holidays now they meld together like a bag of sun baked Hershey bars. 

I tote up the lights and pack them away in the back of the shed. Dampness sets in and my mind smells hot coffee and the NFL. With Christmas #59 in the books I smile inside. I think of all the other husbands and fathers who no matter how much they might complain about the hanging and unhanging of lights and decorations can't wait to flip that switch to kick off Christmas #6 or #60. 

I've been wanting to add a voice recording to some of my posts to see what kind of reaction they might generate. 

Here's a Sound Cloud Recording of: De-Lighting Christmas

December 27, 2014

Year End

Year End
By John R. Greenwood

It’s 5am Friday the morning after Christmas and there’s still a day left in the work week. I, like everyone reading this, am pretty well wiped out by the hustle and bustle that led into the holiday. 2014 is approaching the exit ramp and my mirror clearly displays the face of a tired man with the aches and pains of one who’s been “rode hard and put away wet”. 

2014 delivered more good than bad and it did it faster than any other twelve month span in the fifty eight years that preceded it. Time really does fly, even though I have yet to. Maybe 2015 will bring a change to that statistic. As I sit here in semi-darkness listening to the quiet and preparing my mind for another day on the job I can’t help but write about gratitude and what the last six decades has blessed me with. I’ve experienced a ton of things on my watch including: observing man’s first steps on the moon, the day Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot, the birth of the internet, seeing the Beatles first gig on Ed Sullivan, and the advent of phones that take pictures. A lot has happened from the fifties to the fifteens and I got to see it all including a Boston World Series and a few Redskin Superbowl's. 

Even with all that on my resume I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what life has to offer. Obviously my family is the biggest accomplishment of my life but more recently I find that my reflections take a u-turn and send me off to think about what’s next, what’s left? My passion for creating something to share is as vibrant as ever, even if the sit-on-the-couch default switch remains a frequent choice. I quickly blame years of physical labor and teenage boys for that energy void. 

It’s now 6am and a hot shower and shave are next, followed by several hours at work toning my skills as a professional “shit fixer”. I’ll come home and take the trash out, catch the last case of Judge Judy, plop on the couch with a laptop placed where it belongs and start looking for another less traveled path to wander down. I probably won’t find a cure for cancer, invent Velcro, or write a, “To Kill A Mocking Bird” clone but whatever I do I will do it with gratitude. I will always end up there no matter what 2014 or 2015 hands me. I am here for the moment while others are not. I should be further ahead but I'm not behind. I am however, grateful for where I am. 

It may be another year-end but they’re always followed by a fresh one. Let’s call 2015 the year of, “Common Sense,” and hope the world plays along. I watch the news and repeat the phrase, “The world has gone nuts.” I am hopeful for the return of, “Think before you speak,” and, “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.” 

At work today we were talking about Christmas gifts and I mentioned that my wife had given me Norman Lear’s book, “Even This I Get To Experience.” My twenty-something boss looked at me with question-mark eyes. “Norman Lear, All In The Family” I responded. Another blank stare. I panicked. “Archie Bunker, Carroll O”Conner!” I said, confident that would be the switch that turned the light on? “Nope, never heard of any of them.” My shoulders slumped and my heart began to ache. I had outlived Archie Bunker and yet I felt like the world was right back where we started. I had to calm myself down by taking a deep breath and a sip of coffee. I mustered a comeback for the man/kid who never heard of Archie Bunker, and I let him have it, right between the ears, “I’ve never watched a full episode of, ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ‘South Park’, or more than 45 seconds of ‘Two Broke Girls’ ever.”  

Silence filled the office. 

Thanks 2014, look out 2015 here I come...

December 19, 2014


By John R. Greenwood

A simple December scene plays out across the world. A tender moment captured with the wink of an eye. A child’s bravery tested within reach of his mother’s protective arms. Santa has arrived in full regalia, smiling, laughing, larger than life itself. A child sees through Santa’s glow a sleigh brimmed with toys wrapped in reds and greens and topped with silver bows. His world condensed into one short moment, one tall man with a beard and a hearty tone. Tis’ the season built for the joy of child-gifts and grownup hopes, for peace on earth and goodwill toward men. 

Santanticipation is a wonder we carry through life. It’s an ageless feeling about never letting go of the what-ifs or the if-only’s. One small boy reminded me of that feeling at this pre-Christmas breakfast with Santa generously hosted by the Saratoga Knights of Columbus. 

To all who find themselves here I thank you for your friendship and readership, your supportive comments and faithful visits. This blog was a gift to myself several years ago. It’s a place to give and receive gifts of words. Priceless gifts that provide comfort and joy-- hopefully in two directions. 

So gather up your Santanticipation and fill your sleigh, I see snowflakes falling outside the picture window. 

I guess it’s time...

December 13, 2014


By John R. Greenwood

Do you believe in Miracles?

I do. 

Last night after the snowplows had made their last swipe through the neighborhood; after the budget conscious homes had shut off their neatly hung Christmas lights; after the late news had taken one more swing at scaring Aunt Thelma into thinking she might run out of bread and milk; after the alarm clock was set and my head dropped to the pillow like a bowling ball; I finally dozed off. 

Long after midnight I awoke to the sound of jingle bells. They were barely audible but their identity was unmistakable. My first reaction wasn’t one of questioning the source but more simply; “Why is Santa here two weeks early?” I threw back the quilt, swung my legs around, and pulled back the curtain. It was snowing those big heavy kleenex size flakes that are so heavy you can hear them dropping on the hood of the car. The motion-light on the side of the garage was on and illuminating the yard like a broadway stage. I could still hear the bells but they were fading high in the snow-filled air. 

Then I looked down.

There in the blanketed yard next to the garage was a set of sleigh-width parallel lines, large V-shaped tracks and a huge four-foot long set of antlers. Now, I’ve run across some pretty unbelievable things in my life, but this took my breath away. Here I was a splinter away from ancient and I’d just had my closest Santa encounter ever. The funny part is I didn’t feel all that surprised about almost seeing Santa and a reindeer, I was more consumed by why he stopped by so early? Was he doing a test run? Maybe Mrs. Claus ran out of milk? My mind went in one-hundred directions until I remembered one thing; there was a set of reindeer antlers in my yard as proof that Santa really does exist! I needed to get out there grab the antlers and get a picture of the sleigh and reindeer tracks just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. 

I yanked on my pants and grabbed a sweatshirt from the hook on the back of the door. As I bent over to pick up my boots I lost my balance and fell headlong into the closet smashing my head on the door casing. I went out like I’d just taken a Mike Tyson shot to the chin. I ended up in a heap like a coiled lab in front of a warm stove. 

The next thing I remember is waking up to my wife gently shaking my shoulder saying, “John, are you okay? You fell and hit your head. What happened?” 

I shook out the cobwebs, looked around to make sure Mike was gone and climbed back up to the edge of the bed. I don’t know how long I was out but there was no blood and no bump. My head didn’t hurt one bit. It was very strange. My wife looked at me like she usually does when I tell her, "I have an idea!” She had that, “Now what?” look. As I began to tell her about the bells and the tracks I realized I hadn’t gotten the pictures or the proof yet! I slid into my all-weather slippers and ran to the door like a kid running down the hall Christmas morning. I didn’t have a second to waste so instead of getting my camera from the other room I just grabbed my phone from the table in the hall. “I’ll just use this.", I muttered to myself.

I burst out the back door and my jaw dropped. 

There must have been another half-foot of snow on the ground since my semi-Santa sighting. The tracks were all gone. There wasn’t even an indentation in the snow. I stood there with slumped shoulders and snow-filled slippers. I looked up at the backdoor to see my wife shake her head, turn around and walk back into the darkness. 

But wait!

There poking out from snow at the edge of the garage was the tiniest tip of an antler. I shuffled over to it, bent over and gently pulled on it. There in a backyard in northeast New York a kid with grey hair and a pounding heart pulled out the most majestic set of reindeer antlers you’ve ever seen. They had a golden hue and were the size of Texas. I've seen pictures of reindeer with beautiful antlers but none of them possessed the trophy-like quality of the ones I had in my hand. 

I snapped the picture below as undisputed proof that Santa Claus does exist and that he stopped by my backyard two weeks before Christmas. I Googled reindeer antlers and sure enough they do shed them every year. The strange part is they usually last until after Christmas. Just like me, Santa's reindeer must be having trouble keeping track of time. 

It's okay though because I might have missed this picture in February.

"Happy Holidays" everyone. 

May all 'your' Christmas miracles come true! 

December 09, 2014

The Wait

The Wait
By John R. Greenwood

It's a day off from work and I'm at a car dealership. I have a slow leak in a brand new tire they installed just weeks ago. I check my watch as I hand the tech my keys. How long could it possibly take to repair? I should know better than to ask that question. It will take as long as humanly possible. It will take one minute more than my patience or man-mind will permit.
 It will cost fifty dollars more than I've allowed for. 

That's the way my world works.

I sit down in the lobby among the shiny new 2015's as they tease me with that 'look at me' smirk on their grills. I ignore them and continue to type this piece. I wait for that unnerving voice to say "Mr. Greenwood, we have some bad news." The minute I complete the thought, I hear footsteps approaching with the clarity of a surgeon. 

Here it comes. 

"Mr. Greenwood, can I talk to you? We found the problem. It's not the tire, your tire is healthy and full of life. Your wheel needs a 'Fit Kit'".

And all this time I thought my wheels were fit as a fiddle.  

The story goes that the wheels of today with all their knowledge and ability to sensor low air pressure depend on one tiny robust 'O' ring to keep them fit. Therein lies the problem. My wheel's low air sensor 'O' ring was dry and in disrepair. It would require a ten-spot and another thirty minutes of patience. 

We'll see, we"ll see...

My gut is rarely outsmarted. Today was an exception. We'll call it a draw. In the end my wait was less than an hour---kids stuff in the auto repair stratosphere. The bill was less than fifty bucks. The repair is simple but the tire has to be removed and remounted. It's in a man's DNA to mistrust anyone but a blood relative when it comes to a car repair. We want a dirt cheap price with blue ribbon service. 
I guess when all was said and done it was a reasonable deal.

We take for granted the freedom todays vehicles provide us. They are moving apartments with all the same comforts: dual temperature zones, Dolby Surround Sound, electronic lumbar support. A few decades ago I was peddling milk in a vintage GMC stepvan who's heating system was a kerosene heater glowing like a nuclear reactor on the passenger side floor. Talk about "Driving Miss Crazy". 

In the end the visit to the dealership was speed bump and not a Pike's Peak Hill Climb. My heart and my tires were full and ready to tackle the days next challenge; finishing  the Christmas lights. 

Maybe I should have waited and had them change the oil?

December 08, 2014

She Knows

She Knows
By John R. Greenwood

She knows one trip is never enough for me. She knows the man she married will be back. He will forget his phone. He will forget his lunch. She knows after forty years of the same routine he will be back for something. Sometimes she smiles lovingly and cracks open the back door, “What is it today?” It’s turned into a wife’s early morning roll of the dice, “To Lock or Not To Lock”. It’s cold outside, there’s more to forget: gloves, a hat, an extra sleeve of Cinnamon Pop Tarts. She calculates the odds on her 'how many times has he done that before' husband-computer. 

Today I mog back to the house one more time, head face down, to get my prox-card. I reach for the handle with the same anticipation as scraping a $2.00 scratch-off. 

It's open.

I smile.

I hear the weather forecast as it drifts from the bedroom. I pause briefly waiting for a sarcastic comment about my absent-mindedness to follow, but it there is none. 

"Thank you for leaving the door open, I forgot my prox-card." 

"I know Honey." 

"It's on the counter." 

December 05, 2014


By John R. Greenwood

I'm writing this piece on my new cell phone. After waiting several years for a phone upgrade at work I decided to wave the white flag and go off into the brave new world on my own. I'm now the proud new father of an iPhone 6+. I promised myself that I would use it to give my writing a little kick. I thought having easy access to all things creative might give me that spark to keep moving. I know it sounds like Jr. trying to convince mom and dad that buying him a car will save them from having to cart him back and forth to football practice, and it is--just like that. 

I am the king of justification. I need a new skill saw so I can cut straighter lines. I need a motorcycle so I can save on gas. As a society we do it automatically and we've gotten very good at it. Why else would we have wall sized flat screens that make you feel like you're at the drive-in. In general we're simply spoiled. 

I'll tell you my intention is to boost productivity. 

We'll see after I try that app that makes your voice sound like Bugs Bunny.

I'm going to make a conscious effort not to let myself turn into one of those 
neck-bent, zombie-like, oblivious to the escaped mountain lion headed my way individuals, but after thirty minutes on this puppy I think I might be in trouble. It's addictive and even exhilarating, especially when all I have to do is type "exh" and exhilarating pops up to fill the blank spaces of my brain.

I'm conflicted when it comes to technology and progress. On one hand I like simplicity and the good old days; on the other I love being able to explore the world while sitting on the couch with my feet on the coffee table. I know I would survive just fine without a search engine, but I don't want to. I feel empowered with Wikipedia at my fingertips. I've  YouTube'd my way through a handful of plumbing projects and Pandora'd myself to sleep more times than I can count, but I can also sit all day on a tree stump with nothing but a peanut butter sandwich and a cheap notebook listening to a mouthy squirrel and be as content as a monk on vacation.

I'm going to use MyPhone for good not evil. I will do my best to stay motivated and creative. I may look like a slug sitting here with my little-big phone rooting for America's Team to lose against Da Bears but I am really toning my Steinbeck and texting skills all at the same time.

So there it is, my first piece written on a phone while eating a slice of pie and watching Thursday Night Football.

Isn't it great?

And I haven't even tried the camera yet!

Look out world...     

Sent from my iPhone

December 01, 2014


By John R. Greenwood

Out of the blue a boy takes a stand. His fingers shake with independence ready to take on the world. His shadow over taken by the stature of his will and sixteen months of letting others call the shots. He has decided to shift from baby to boy without asking permission. Would it have helped to say no?