31 December 2009

Goodbye and Hello

Time to say goodbye to 2009, and to the decade as well. The passage of time definitely seems to accelerate as you age. Ten years ago I'd been married just over a year, and had spent the previous year working for an e-commerce company, where the notion of getting paid for my attention to detail and the opportunity to learn a bunch of new skills seemed like it was about to change my life.

That job lasted into early 2001, and a year after that the company had folded, but my life did change. Because I started with the company when it was so small, I was in close proximity to its founder, and consequently I learned a trememdous amount about almost every aspect of running a business. That job, and the one I'd had previously, led peripherally into my eventual next full-time job, which ultimately led to the job I have now. And working at that e-commerce company a decade ago is how I met A Proper Bostonian, a friendship I feel very fortunate to have (even if she is a crazy cat lady).

Life does change, usually while you are not noticing it. But the important things tend to stay the same. Last year we were supposed to spend New Year's Eve at the home of my college roommate and his wife, but it snowed that day and the Mrs. did not feel comfortable driving to their house and back (they live pretty far out in suburbia) so we ended up staying home and watching 80's movies on TV. But our friends invited us again this year, and the little dusting of snow we got today isn't enough to keep us home this time.

Happy new year to all of you out there. May 2010 be full of good things for all of us.

29 December 2009

At the Door

Funny little story that means nothing: usually my family goes out for dinner on Christmas Eve, but the family has been shrinking a bit over the years. My sister now spends the evening with her boyfriend's family, and this year my brother had to work. (He's a restaurant manager.)

My mother made a lot of phone calls to find a place that was open and serving dinner past 6 PM, but had no luck. We had suggested going to where my brother works, but it's a 40 minute drive from her house, and she was worried about what the weather might be doing, so she found a place whose kitchen was staying open long enough for us to get takeout. Everything was very good.

We had settled down to eat when there was a very faint tapping at the front door. Now, I should explain: a few years ago my mother installed those wireless doorbells, but they would ring almost every time the wind blew, so she removed the batteries and put up little signs that say "please knock." So it seemed likely that someone was indeed at the front door, though no one was expected. Her dog, who barks at everyone and everything, never noticed or moved from his perch just outside the kitchen. I guess he was too focused on our food.

I got up to have a look, and my mother called after me, "Use the peephole." I looked through the glass and saw the top of a very short person's head, which wasn't too helpful, so I opened the door. There was a small woman standing there with a bright red food container in her hand. I said, "Can I help you?" She kind of squinted up at me and eventually said, "I don't know you." I offered, "I don't know you either." She thought about that for a moment and countered with, "Is Val here?" So she was known to the household after all, just not to me.

Turns out she lives next door, and was bringing over banana bread and fudge. That house is an unusual two-family rental in a neighborhood of single-family owner-occupied homes, so it's been decades since I had any idea who was living next door. Also, according to my mother, the elfin woman kind of likes to drink, and clearly she was already well into her personal Christmas Eve celebrating, which would explain the slow reaction time and the general sense of puzzlement. But for a moment it seemed like something out of bizarro Dickens: The Ghost of Christmas Drunk.

27 December 2009

This Week in Awesome (12/27/09)

Hi everybody. Hope you've enjoyed this holiday week, and that you've been fortunate enough to spend some time with loved ones and good friends. I come bearing gifts, of a few bits of amusement...

David Letterman showed a clip from a slightly tweaked version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. (CBS via TV Squad)

This picture of Larry King and his... family (?) defies explanation. (Put This On)

Finally, it's... um... something, and it goes on your head, I guess. You've been warned. (Racked)

24 December 2009

Watch Wednesday Thursday (12/24/09)

I should really be finishing up my packing and the last few things that have to be wrapped, but last night, just as I was settling down in bed, I remembered that it was time for a watch post. This will be the last one of 2009, but the feature will continue in the new year, on the same biweekly schedule. [Side note: don't you hate when people say "biannual" when they really mean "semi-annual"? No? Just me? Okay, whatever...]

This is the first Timex I've featured, which is funny, because even though I have a particular affinity for the Accutron/Bulova/Caravelle offerings, there wouldn't be a Caravelle if it wasn't for Timex (Bulova felt they needed a lower-priced line to compete effectively with Timex), and it was a Timex that first put me on the path to collecting. One day in the early '90s, I happened to go to a flea market that used to be held in the parking lot of the Building 19 in Lynn. Amongst all the junk, I found an old Timex (not this one) that I bought for something like 75 cents, or maybe a dollar at most.

If you are interested in collecting vintage watches, Timex is a great place to start. There is a great variety of styles, they were made in huge numbers so it's not that difficult to find one in good mechanical and cosmetic condition, and they were not expensive watches when new, so they don't cost much now. If you are very interested, there are a couple of sellers on eBay that specialize in them that I could recommend.

I don't exactly remember how I came to acquire this watch, but I think I may have purchased a lot of watches from someone and this was part of it. I approximae its age to the late 1960s, due to the styling and the automatic movement. When I look at this watch, I can't help thinking that Timex was trying to copy the look of more expensive watches of the period, which makes sense. The rolled edge of the dial gives it a raised appearance, the chunky applied hour markers scream Omega, and the cross hairs, which we've already seen on my Accutron Deep Sea and Omega Seamaster, again give a little flair to a rather sedate dial.

This watch is not in the best cosmetic condition; you can't tell from this crappy photo, but there are marks on the dial from the hands, from lack of movement. This is fairly common with older watches; I have no idea what that luminous material is composed of, but I suspect it's pretty toxic.

The strap is a Speidel that I added myself; I can't remember if this watch came with no strap at all, or had one of those stretchy metal Speidel bands that were popular when it was new. The color is just a bit darker than it appears here (natural light, no flash) and works well in summer with similarly colored shoes and belts. I don't usually go for brown straps, but this one spoke to me. Plus, my maternal grandfather spent a good part of his adult life working in the Speidel factory in Providence, so I've always felt an affinity for the brand, even though I don't care for metal bracelets.

And as always, I want to say thanks for stopping by, and wish all my readers joyful holidays.

23 December 2009


I'm back. The streets in Manhattan are slushy and a bit tricky to navigate, but otherwise it's business as usual. The toughest part for me was dealing with the constant struggle between cold and heat: outside you have to be bundled up, but that means as soon as you step inside, you get overheated. Multiply that by 40 or 50 over the course of an average day.

Gifts for my family were all taken care of before I left, so I didn't have the opportunity to shop for them there. (Truth is, I spend a lot more time shopping for myself this time of year, regardless of whether I'm in New York or at the Burlington Mall.) Over the years, it's gotten to the point where we pretty much tell each other what we want, or my mother supplies the info about what to get my siblings. This eliminates a lot of fretting and guesswork, and avoids disappointment.

Since no one in my family reads this, I thought I'd run things down quickly, in case you happen to be stuck for an idea. My brother wants to get an Xbox, so I was told to get him a Best Buy gift card. That hardly even needs to be wrapped. My sister always wants gift certificates to her favorite salon/spa. That required just a phone call, because they don't sell them through their web site (yet, but I keep hoping).

My mother never used to give us any clues or ideas, but she started making a list a few years ago, and my siblings and I divide it up. A while back my sister got my mother one of these charm bracelets called Pandora: all the charms are threaded, so when you screw them all together they make a sort of bead bracelet. So a charm is always on the list for Christmas, her birthday, and Mother's Day. We have a few other things to give her, including a couple of books, ornaments, and two pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (this started as sort of a joke because the Mrs. couldn't stand the Walmart store-brand coffee my mother is in the habit of buying, and now my mother kind of expects it every year).

My father is much more difficult to buy for. He's kind of grumpy all the time, and just isn't interested in things the way most people are. A while back we all kind of gave up and started getting him gift cards for either Home Depot of Walmart. He uses them, but it's not very interesting, and I don't want to give any of my money to Walmart anyway. For the past couple of years the Mrs. and I got him gift cards to Shaw's, but this year I thought I could do better.

I remembered that nine or ten years ago, I'd gotten him an Omaha Steaks gift assortment for a birthday present, and he really enjoyed it. One day last week there was an Omaha Steaks ad in the paper. One nice thing about OS is that they have a lot of variety, and I was able to get him an assortment with sirloin steaks, pork chops, chicken breasts, stuffed sole, burger patties, hot dogs, and even baked potatoes. My dad lives alone and doesn't do much cooking, so now his freezer is stocked and he has the basis for a couple of months' worth of meals. I paid a little extra for gift wrap, for that holiday touch.

Having a small family helps, obviously. If you're not sure what someone on your list wants, ask around among some other family members or friends.

20 December 2009

Out of Town

No, I'm not going back in time to write about the season premiere of Mad Men. I'll be away until Tuesday evening. It's a long and somewhat silly story, but the short version is that I'm zipping down to New York on a hastily-arranged visit to see a friend who now isn't going to be there, thanks to the storm. But there doesn't seem to be a point to wasting a bus ticket and a hotel room, and I'm sure I can find plenty to amuse myself.

19 December 2009

This Week in Awesome (12/19/09)

Happy holidays, everyone. I can't guarantee there will be a TWiA next week. Certainly not for lack of ambition, but it's more a matter of not being sure I'll have the time, not being sure I'll have enough material, and some appalling computer problems at my mother's house that make getting on the internet far more of an ordeal than it should be. But who knows? Stay tuned.

Having said that, let's dig into this week's offerings. Things are unintentionally a bit weighted toward broadcast television this week, starting with Craig Ferguson, host of CBS's Late Late Show, telling a funny story about a not-so-funny airline experience. (CBS via Consumerist)

Here's the poster for The Simpsons 20th anniversary episode. Prepare to squint. (Hollywood Reporter via TV Squad)

I don't watch Letterman much anymore, mostly because I don't stay up that late, but on Thursday's show he was doing a gift segment, and took a $25,000 cupcake car (I think it's something you can buy from the Neiman Marcus catalog) for a spin around the stage, with predictable results. (CBS via TV Squad)

18 December 2009

Dock of the 'Bay

I know I haven't posted much this week. That's because as we head into the holidays, my office will be closed for winter break, and I'll be using vacation time to bump it up to a full two weeks off, so I need to get my monthly deadline stuff squared away before heading out the office door this evening.

I've also been making a little extra scratch for holiday gifts by selling some stuff on eBay (including stuff that I bought on eBay that didn't quite work out for one reason or another), which takes up a fair bit of time. First you have to take pictures of whatever it is you want to sell (in my case, it's mainly clothing, shoes, and a couple of watches that have fallen out of the rotation). It amazes me that 15 years into the existence of eBay, there are still people who think it's possible to sell something without providing a picture of it. Or, you get one blurry shot from too far away, with a description that reads like this: "Coat, black. Worn only a few times."

Thanks so much, that was really helpful. That leads to step two: a detailed, informative description. I like to put a bit of my personality into this part, including information about where I got the item, how long I've owned/used it, its original retail value. What I NEVER do is say how much I paid for something, because that's irrelevant. What matters is how much you can get someone to pay for it now. Knowing what the item was once worth is a good way to frame your opening bid as a bargain while making sure the auction is worth your time (assuming the item sells).

A couple of months ago, I had an urge for some now boots (I believe I mentioned this in my post about boots from a few weeks ago). During that time I bid on some US-made Red Wing boots that were not really what I was looking for, but were nice-looking and in good condition. I have a tendency to place bids on items that I'm only semi-interested in, figuring that fate will decide whether or not I'm supposed to own them. In this case I won the auction, but the boots just didn't quite fit me right (which is why I didn't include them in the boot post).

So last week I finally got around to taking some pictures and posting the auction in an attempt to turn them around and find them a good home. Within a few hours I'd received a message from a guy in the United Kingdom who was interested in the boots, asking if I would consider opening the auction to bidders from outside the US. Generally speaking, I try to avoid this, because it makes things more complicated, and because the likelihood of being a victim of fraud is much higher with international bidders. That's not intended to be derogatory or prejudiced; it's simply an unfortunate fact of trying to do business on eBay.

In this case, the guy's feedback profile had almost 2300 entries, with a score of a perfect 100%, so I figured I was safe letting him bid. Apparently Red Wings are a big deal in the UK, and are hard to get there. As soon as I'd adjusted the auction, I was contacted by someone in Japan with the same request. This person also had 100% feedback, but only 10 feedbacks. This can be a red flag for trouble, or it could just be someone new to eBay. I stalled by answering that I would take 24 hours to consider the request and research shipping costs. The next day I received another request from Japan, this time from another seasoned bidder like the one from the UK. I decided to go ahead and open the bidding to Japan, figuring that with so much interest, the boots were bound to sell.

The auction closed last night, and the winning bidder turned out to be from Virginia, making my life a little easier. The boots sold for $76 plus shipping, which is 50% more than what I paid for them (though I don't always get so lucky). The other cool thing is eBay's arrangement with the US Postal Service regarding shipping. Typically I get the item packaged up the night the auction closes, then the next day, after receiving payment, I print a shipping label and stop at the post office on my way home from work and use the automated postage machine.

Now I don't even have to do that: from the eBay site you can buy postage using PayPal (essentially withdrawing against what you've just been paid by the buyer) and print the label. At that point the package is ready to go, and you can drop it off at a post office or, if you are using USPS-supplied boxes, which are free, even call for a pickup.

The biggest problem for me is refraining from using the ensuing PayPal balance to buy more stuff on eBay.

16 December 2009

What Army?

So ABBA gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but KISS doesn't? That's just not right. I don't care what kind of music you liked in the '70s (if you're old enough to have lived through it), KISS is just way more rock & roll than ABBA could ever hope to be.

14 December 2009

Thrifting and Sleuthing

I haven't really been big into thrift-store shopping for a number of reasons, but mostly because I tend not to find anything that I like. This has to do with fit, quality, style, taste, and the fact that I'm a very fussy human being regarding my clothes.

But since I came across the blog An Affordable Wardrobe a while back and saw that its creator lives and thrifts in the Boston area, and has similar taste, I have been thinking that this is something I should be more open to exploring. I'm also seriously jealous of some of the deals Giuseppe at AAW has scored, like a pair of Bill's Khakis, new with tags, that retail for $98, for $1. Yeah, a dollar. Are you kidding me?

So on Saturday we went over to Davis Square for some sustenance in the form of burritos from Anna's. Next door, where there used to be a video store, there's now a place called Buffalo Exchange that opened a couple of months ago. This is a national chain of stores that buy and sell gently used clothing. I'd never heard of it before it landed in Davis, but it certainly seems like a logical location for it.

We weren't in any hurry, so we went in to have a look. At first I wasn't even sure they had any men's clothing, but a quick walk down to the back revealed the men's racks. I saw some fairly high-end stuff I wasn't expecting; I recognized one Italian brand that I think is sold at Louis, or at least used to be, and one fashion-forward and pricey UK brand with a store in New York that I've never bothered to visit.

I was almost finished going through a rack of shirts when I found a traditional button-down (the collar, not the front) in narrow red and white stripes. The cloth was finer and nicer than oxford cloth, and the tailoring was a notch above the usual (you don't see a two-piece back yoke on a typical department store shirt). It was even my size, but there was no brand tag. None of the other shirts had missing tags, so it wasn't like a Building 19 situation where they are not allowed to reveal the brand in order to protect its prestige.

There was a tag that said "all imported cotton" inside the collar, a laundry tag on the end of the hem, and a small size tag at the neck that also said "made in USA." Well, how about that? The shirt, like all the other long-sleeve shirts I'd looked at, was priced at $17. Not exactly what Giuseppe (or anyone) would consider a thrifting bargain, but Buffalo isn't really a thrift store in the traditional sense. Regardless, it was a decent price for an American-made shirt, and I still got the feeling that I should go ahead and buy it.

When I got home I took a closer look at the shirt. Sometimes there are markings on the buttons, sometimes there is a secondary laundry tag on one of the inner side hems, sometimes there is a season tag telling you when a garment was produced and sold. The shirt had none of those. But all the tags were green, which was ringing some sort of bell in my head, and the style of lettering on the "cotton" one looked familiar. Older J. Crew clothes had green tags, but this seemed too nice for J. Crew, and I didn't think they had manufactured in the US in a really long time, if ever.

There was one other clue: the laundry tag had an RN number. Maybe you've never noticed this, but all clothes have it. It's a way to identify the manufacturer. I remembered seeing a reference a while back on a blog to a Federal Trade Commission database where you could look up these numbers. I just couldn't remember on which blog I'd seen it. I knew it wasn't AAW, so I spent a little while going back through some of the other style blogs I frequent, and eventually I found the link, on The Trad.

The database revealed that the shirt was made by Gitman Bros. of Pennsylvania. They've been around for over 60 years, and still make all their shirts in the US. I used to see their shirts at Syms when they had a store downtown; if you look at the lower right corner of their home page at that link, you can see their logo on a green background, which is what their labels look like and why this shirt was seeming familiar to me. I could still see the thread holes in the shirt from where the label had been removed. Maybe it was irritating to its former owner's neck?

Domestic manufacturing is of course now more costly than having your products made overseas, so Gitman's shirts sell for north of $100 each. So I guess I ended up getting a pretty good deal after all.

(If you're interested in doing some sleuthing of your own, the database can be found here. Of course, your mileage may vary.)

12 December 2009

This Week in Awesome (12/12/09)

I had intended to post yesterday, but apparently my brain didn't have anything useful to contribute. No matter, as today I have what may be the biggest TWiAs ever. Back the truck up...

A Toyota dealer in Silicon Valley somehow got Steve Wozniak to participate in one of its commercials. The result is unquestionably one of the strangest things I've ever seen. (Fake Steve Jobs)

Toshiba attached a bunch of helium balloons to a chair and released it up into the sky (to show off its video camera technology, I think). (YouTube via Very Short List)

More cool camera stuff, this time a clip with some nice time-lapse footage of New York. (Digital Urban via New York Times City Room blog)

Now we move on to revisit the part of the segment that's more awful than awesome. But I do this as a public service, if only so you'll be informed, and know how to protect yourselves. I'm sure by now you've heard about MTV's new show Jersey Shore, which is just like all their other "reality" shows except for the setting (which you can guess from the title) and the fact that all the participants are Italian-Americans.

If somehow you've managed to remain unaware of this cultural watershed, I've thoughtfully prepared a little primer for you. You'll want to watch this clip first, then this one, this one, and finally this one. (Soup blog; note that a short ad plays before each clip)

Next, you're ready to check out a Jersey Shore nickname generator (Rum & Monkey via The Frisky). Not enough for you? Here's another one. (Unlikely Words)

Now, as a sort of mental palate cleanser, you should go watch these funny commercials from Scarlett Johansson's appearances on Saturday Night Live. (Hulu)

Finally, for some context, a column from Thursday's New York Times on the show.

I suppose I should be offended by the perpetuation of these stereotypes, but I can't muster enough energy to be bothered by them. I am sad for our society in general, though. And I have to say, the guidettes frighten me far more than the guidos.

10 December 2009

Watch Wednesday Thursday (12/10/09)

This time I didn't forget, I was just otherwise too busy. Last night I was doing laundry, loading and running the dishwasher, and taking photos and preparing some eBay listings (trying to get rid of some stuff and capture some holiday sales). I managed to shoot this picture, but it was closing in on midnight and I didn't have it in me to do the post.

This is a relatively recent addition to my collection (from eBay, of course). There are three or four companies that sell what they claim are "Swiss Army" watches. I have no idea if any one is more official than any other one, or even if such a thing as "official Swiss Army watch" exists.

I was drawn to this watch because of the simplicity of its design: the big round case, the big white numerals set against the black face, the way the bottom parts of the hands are painted black so they seem to float on the dial. I do, however, think there ought to be something printed below the center of the dial to better balance the overall appearance of the face.

Suggested retail on this watch is around $200 ($225 on a metal bracelet), but you can find them for much less. Last time I was in Kohl's, they were selling a watch like this for $90; I spent a few days looking on eBay and got this one for $45. It had been used in a store display window, but had not been worn, and came with its accompanying boxes, manual, and usual assorted paperwork.

I'm not a huge fan of the brown strap, but it will do, and it's a weird size (21 millimeters wide--watch straps are more typically an even width like 18, 20, or 22 mm) so the effort I'd have to expend to find a replacement is probably not worth my time.

Update: I went on eBay to look for a strap, just out of curiosity. Apparently one of the high-end Swiss brands makes watches that take 21 mm straps, and I found a really sharp-looking black one with red stitching.

08 December 2009

Cheese to Go

I took care of a couple of errands on the way home from work tonight, so I was a little later than usual. At North Station I switched from Green to Orange, and as I was walking across the upper level of the station, there was a table right in the middle. I thought it was one of the people who sells Celtics or Bruins stuff before games, so I breezed on by without really paying any attention. Just after I'd passed I heard the guy behind the table say, "Free cheese!"

Wait, what? There was no train coming, so I turned and circled back around to the front of the table. Free cheese is almost as good as free beer. Turned out he was handing out samples of Cabot cheese, little flat slabs in cute packages.

The one he handed me was mild cheddar, so I traded it for the "seriously sharp" variant. Having had it before, I knew I preferred it. When I got home, I ate it with some roasted-garlic flavored Triscuits. Mmmm.

07 December 2009


Still catching my breath from the weekend. New York in December may not have been the best idea. There were teeming hordes everywhere. I don't teem; it's bad for my skin. Plus it rained all day Saturday.

It was still fun, but I have to temper my enthusiasm. We viewed the Rockefeller Center tree from across Fifth Avenue in front of Saks; we couldn't get any closer because the sidewalk on the other side of the street was completely filled with people. The city had put up those metal things they use to hold people back during parades and such, and it's a good thing, because otherwise people surely would have been falling into the street.

By comparison, parts of the city that are normally kind of crazy, like Soho on a Saturday afternoon, didn't seem as bad. And we spent a very pleasant hour at the Strand Bookstore later that night, where the store was certainly busy but was still rather hushed and civilized. So it's a mater of perspective.

05 December 2009

This Week in Awesome (12/5/09)

While I'm away, I've left you some goodies to enjoy over the weekend...

For those of you who just don't know what to do with your piles of money, a compendium of outrageously expensive high-fashion holiday gifts. Don't forget who tipped you off to this valuable resource... (Refinery29 via Racked)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, and in the tradition of Look at This Fucking Hipster, we have Hipster Is the New Homeless.

And here's another video mashup for those of us of a certain age who fondly remember a cheesy 1970s sci-fi show (starring Martin Landau, no less) called Space: 1999. (TV Squad via James Lileks)

03 December 2009

Overheard: Glazed Cruller Edition

As the Orange Line train was pulling in this evening at the Massachusetts Avenue station, two guys came down the stairs and passed behind me, engrossed in a conversation. Just before I boarded, I heard one say to the other, "Remember that girl you were supposed to sleep with at the Dunkin' Donuts?"

I almost didn't get on the train so I could hear what came next, but the desire to get home won (barely). Is that some sort of secret menu item you hve to know how to ask for? Was he supposed to have sex with the girl at Dunkin' Donuts? Did she work there? Would doughnuts be involved somehow? The mind reels...

Charlie's Trip

Most people in the Boston area have at least passsing familiarity with the old folk song "Charile on the M.T.A.," but did you ever wonder how the song came to be?

On Monday the New York Times published the obituary of Bess Lomax Hawes, of the eminent Lomax family of folk-music scholars, who passed away last week. In the 1940s she performed in a folk group with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and later co-wrote the song (its official title is "M.T.A.") that became a hit for The Kingston Trio in 1959. But the song's origins are somewhat surprising, and if you hit that link above you can find out more.

(Related trivia: the head of our department took banjo lessons from Ms. Hawes as a boy in Los Angeles in the 1950s.)

01 December 2009

Season's Greetings

On Sunday I accompanied friends on a visit to the Enchanted Village, newly installed at Jordan's Furniture in Avon. This was largely for the benefit of a six-year-old boy whose mother is trying to instill and foster a sense of wonder and joy regarding the holiday season that is centered on more than just toys and goodies.

The Village is a throwback, a reminder of a simpler time in many ways. It was commissioned by the late Boston department store Jordan Marsh (no connection, and the source of many radio-ad jokes over the years) and was first displayed in 1958 (the link above has a somewhat more detailed history). For a lot of people of a certain age who grew up in this area (including the boy's mother), a visit to the Village was an annual tradition. I am of the right age, and I grew up in Rhode Island, which is not that far away, but I come from a family (and a state with a cultural quirk) that did not like to go far out of its way if it could be avoided, so I never experienced it.

After Macy's bought Jordan Marsh in the late 1990s, the city of Boston bought the Village, but after a few years they could no longer afford to display and operate it. Jordan's bought it at auction and restored it, and is displaying it in an effort to revive a local holiday tradition, so parents can share their memories with their own children.

So what was I doing there? I'm not a parent, and I don't even like kids all that much. Why would I stand in line for 90 minutes (!) to look at a bunch of mechanically "animated" figures in scenes that look like Norman Rockwell paintings and would have been considered quaint when first shown over 50 years ago? Curiosity, mostly. Obviously, people have fond memories of the Enchanted Village and feel a strong connection to it, and even if I missed out on the experience when I was young, I can still appreciate its spirit. I don't think I need to go back and see it again, but now I can say I've seen it.

Of course, the Village was also a marketing tool for Jordan Marsh, just as it is for Jordan's Furniture today. Even so, people who experienced the Village as children identify with it on that level, just as we all identify with other seasonal traditions that have nothing to do with gifts. I enjoy giving and receiving gifts as much as anyone, but it's important to remember that this time of year is about much more than that.

In my own family, decorating the house inside and out was a ritual nearly on the level of going to church. It's what people mean when they refer to the "spirit of the season." It's that feeling I get when, heading home from work in the dark of December, I get off the bus and I can see decorated houses lit up all the way down my street. We want to share that warmth with others.

[So, since it's December first, is it okay for me to plug in the holiday lights I have strung on my cubicle?]

This weekend, we're going to New York (yes, again) with the same friends. We're going to take the boy to see the tree at Rockefeller Center (something I've never done, so I'm looking forward to it), and we're going to walk along Fifth Avenue and look at the holiday displays in the store windows, and all the lights and decorations, and we're going to love it. Except maybe the Mrs.--she's kind of a Scrooge where the holidays are concerned. But we're working on her.