Blog : Christmas

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

While watching a movie, I think it’s common to live vicariously through the lead character.  This probably isn’t true for some movies, as there’s no dedicated star to wish to be.  When I watch the Bourne movies I feel as though I should take some fighting classes. Not self defense classes, just fighting classes. I’m jealous of all the fighting skill. When I watch Top Gun I wish to be at those controls, in that cockpit, shooting down the enemy.  But when I watch Ace Ventura I don’t wish to be Ace.  I don’t want to have all of those animals in my room. I don’t want that hair. I can’t relate.  I watched It’s A Wonderful Life again last weekend.

Imagining being George Bailey isn’t really very difficult for me. George never left his home town, and neither did I.  George went to work at a family business, and in a looser way, so did I.  I feel, in the way that any small town kid might, that George Bailey is me and I am he.  I have an old man Potter in my life.  I feel his pain when he wonders what might have been. Had he been able to go off to see the world. Had he invested in the plastics business. Had he been a bit more shrewd in the lending business.  The only difference between the two of us is that I never lost the hearing in my left ear, because neither of my brothers were dumb enough to slide on a shovel into open water.

Besides these obvious similarities, the stronger connection in this movie is not between small town boys. It’s not the connection between angels and their wings. It’s the connection between business and stress. That’s really what this movie is about, after all. It’s about anxiety.   George is faced with a problem. His sloppy uncle inadvertently sticks $8000 into Potter’s newspaper, and on the same day that the bank examiner happens to be in town for a visit. George panics. He begs Potter to bail him out. Potter only turns up the heat. Law enforcement is coming. George is going to jail. Except, is he?  He doesn’t think he is, because he tells his Uncle that one of the two of them are going to jail and it isn’t going to be him. No, George isn’t going to jail. But he screams at his wife and kids and overturns the Golden Gate Bridge and slips out for a night of drunken despair.

In the end, George’s wife goes out and begs the town for some help, and help they do. No man who has friends is poor. Or something like that. That’s the moral in the cinema. But the real takeaway is back to the anxiety. The stress. The feeling as though it is all on your singular shoulders.  George should have sat down with the bank examiner and explained what happened. If the bank examiner didn’t buy the story, George should have gone out and called everyone he knew. He called Sam Wainwright, but Sam was busy or something. Later, when the townspeople are giving George their last $5, Wainwright sends a telegram. He’s directing his bank to wire $25,000 to George Bailey immediate.  George was only upside down $8k. Why did he need $25k from Hee Haw? If he got the $25k that easily, and quickly, why did the maid have to give George the money she had earmarked to pay for her future divorce? Once the $25k wire was announced, I would have quietly pulled my ten dollar bill out of the pile.  The whole story is a sham.

Because the crisis in this movie isn’t ever really a crisis. In the way that a deal going south on a Thursday isn’t really a crisis. In business, and in real estate, we tend to forget what actually matters. Deals do not matter.  If I live another 20 years and die, will the Johnson deal on First Street ever matter to me? Or will the way I treated my son when he left his light on this morning for the millionth time be the thing I regret? These deals consume me, and they make me into a person that I don’t particularly like.  They needn’t do that. This year has been a stressful year for me. Successful, sure, but at a cost. When surrounded by customers who routinely fail to keep perspective it’s easy to fall prey to anxiety.  After all, that’s all that really happened to George. He wasn’t going to jail. His crisis lasted all of a few hours. He woke up that day feeling fine and he went to bed that night feeling fine. It was the in between overreaction that nearly killed him.

I’m going to take a few days off to celebrate Christmas. My wife is home with the flu, so I’ll mostly be tiptoeing around my house trying not to touch any doorknobs or faucet handles.  But whether you’re on the heels of a Hanukkah celebrations or just about to begin your Christmas joy, I wish you a most peaceful Holiday season.




A man in a sweater.  He’s sitting on the couch. The sweater isn’t very nice, implying it’s not his dinner-sweater. It’s his Christmas morning sweater. He fumbles with batteries. The plastic container is too difficult to open with bare hands, too inconvenient to open after walking to the kitchen for a knife. Or a scissors. A child plays in the background. The room is bright. It’s Christmas morning. In Arizona, maybe. It can’t be here, because there’s a child in the room and there’s no way he’d have waited for the light to grow to brighten the room before opening his presents. Kids open presents in the dim dark of dawn. But here we are, in the light, in this room, with the batteries and the sweater and a kid in the distance. The Christmas tree is there, too. There is no wife. Not yet, anyway.

But wait, here she comes. Rushing into the scene, full of joy and beauty and optimism. She jumps on her husband, pushing him down on the couch in one excited tackle. She’s beaming.  She says nothing, but everything, her eyes dancing.  The husband, his batteries cast aside, says, “so you like it“. It’s not a question, he knows the answer. She looks at him longingly and says yes. But we, like our sweatered battery-fumbling friend, already know she likes it. She jumped on him to say it. What is this gift? What made this wife so filled with wonder and amazement at the finely honed gift giving skills of her otherwise normal husband? Why, it’s an intertwined necklace made of the fine diamond shavings that are swept up after the real diamond jewelry is made. This one is in the shape of a swan, with a duck in the middle, a swan and a duck. Both with bills, caressing each other, necking with their necks ablaze in tiny shards of diamond dust. The message is simple. Ducks and geese can be friends, and if them, why not us? Ducks and Geese, forever at last. Be the duck, be the goose, Forever, the commercial says. The woman ponders her husband’s face with suggestive intent, wondering how he could be so perfect. He, yes he, that man, thought enough of this woman to buy that $169 collection of diamond dust,  and she has never, ever been happier.

Cut to scene. A bow. Huge, red. Draped over the car. It’s in the garage. No, it’s outside. The snow has fallen. Fresh snow, but the car is perfect. Shiny and bright like a showroom model. It’s outside their house. They live in the mountains. The house is made of stone and hewn lumber. Spruce trees dappled with snow, everywhere.  The man, inside, near the fireplace, shaking his present. With one pull of the bouncing red ribbon the box is opened. It’s a key.  He knows that that means. He opens the door, his children near him, his wife excited. There it is. That car. It’s white, like the snow, and the bow is red, like the ribbon. The husband is so happy. I’ve never seen him happier.  Never mind that he would have never bought himself a white car on purpose, he’s still thrilled. The wife knows he’s thrilled. He deserves this car. He’s suffered for too long in that mountain house of hand cut granite and scraped cedar. He’s lived, cooped up in that low-key existence for too long. This is his chance. At age 42, it’s the first good thing that has ever happened to him. No-one deserves this car, and the eight-hundred and thirty-seven dollar monthly payment more.

This week, I have presents to buy. Thankfully, television has taught me everything I need to know in order to be a most effective, loved, admired, wanted gift-giver. I’ve erred in my gift giving previously, but no longer. I want in on the starstruck wife on Christmas morning thing.   If you happen to see my wife this week, don’t mention any of this to her. I’m off to Kay Jewelers, or Zales, or whichever one is in the closest mall,  and I cannot wait to see the look on her face when she sees that I not only opted for the Duck/Goose/Intertwined Neck/Heart Pendant, but I added the gift wrapping AND the 12 month warranty.  This is going to be the best Christmas ever.

Wreath Sale

Wreath Sale

I should have started a cooking blog.  My first post would have been about chocolate chip cookies. That’s SEO gold. I’d sprinkle in mentions of famous chefs’ names, and then, by now, after so many years I’d have a tremendous following. I would write a cook book. People would buy it. I’d be a guest on some cooking shows. Probably Ellen would also have me on.  Things would be better then. I’d have a publicist and an agent. Then I’d have my television show. My blog would be somewhat dormant by that time, but then every once in a while I’d write something. DAVE’S BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. The likes and shares would be uncountable.

But instead I write about real estate, and no one really cares. Some people care, but they cared more when they felt the market needed a steadier hand. Now it’s just a frenzy, and careful contemplation is out of style. That’s why I’m going to write about wreaths today. My wife has been bugging me to write about these wreaths for a month. I told her I would. I wasn’t sure if I actually would.  It didn’t feel appropriate to write about wintery things in the heart of fall. It would be like writing about fall in July. No one wants to hear that nonsense.  This morning it’s cold, it’s dark, and anyone who isn’t aware of the pressing nature of the winter season simply hasn’t been paying any sort of attention. Today, wreaths.

My kids are selling the wreaths. They aren’t selling them because they particularly want to sell them. They’re selling these wreaths because they go to a small private school, and as is the nature with small private schools in rural areas, there’s nothing easy about making payroll. There’s nothing easy about keeping the lights on. There’s nothing easy about any of it, and so fundraisers are not so much a means to buy neato wiz bang technologies for the school, they’re a way to keep the doors open.  I don’t often appeal to this group for fundraising efforts, but since it’s a Monday and my wife is mad at me, here’s the information. Besides, I don’t even have a terrific chocolate chip cookie recipe.

If you’d like a wreath, or a bunch of wreaths, or some garland or maybe some other bits of greenery, here are your options. You could just shoot me an email and tell me what you’d like and I’ll put in the order. I believe the wreaths arrive something around Thanksgiving, so I’ll be heading out at that time with my kids and we’ll deliver your order.  Maybe my wife is right. Maybe you’re going to buy some wreaths anyway so you might as well buy them from someone who will bring them right to your doorstep?


Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

In the 1980s, Christmas trees were not especially easy to find. They had trees at the wood boat shop on Highway 50, and then some more trees a ways down that same road, near the cemetery. But we couldn’t go there because those trees were too expensive. The trees were from the north, maybe Canada, and they were pricey. Thirty-five dollars or more.  When my friends would put their Christmas trees up just after Thanksgiving we were not always so fortunate.  The trees were too expensive then, my dad knew that. Why buy a tree when they’re in demand when the real deal only comes to those who wait out mostly all of the season?

And so often we’d wait, wait for the prices to fall. Wait until November 1st to carve a pumpkin, wait till Thanksgiving morning to buy that turkey, and wait until Christmas was nearly here to buy that tree. The tree sellers would know, after the fifteenth of December, that the regular folks who valued trees and tradition would have already chopped, hauled, and decorated their trees. After the fifteenth, the trees must be discounted, because when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, those thirty-five dollar trees are nothing but firewood. But worse, they’re the sort of firewood that you have to haul away before burning.

Some years, we’d get that tree early. Twenty dollars for the six footer from the Boy Scouts, but rarely from them because that was retail and retail wasn’t our thing. Mostly we’d wait, and we’d wait, and when it was nearly Christmas we’d go get that tree. A thirty-five dollar tree for fifteen, now that’s the way to make a Christmas cheery and bright. Some years, a twenty-fiver for free. My mother would decorate the tree and my father would put his expensive German train around the base of his nearly free tree,  and my brothers and I would feel the relief of a Christmas saved.

This year, I bought my tree where I have for the past three. The tree farm down the road from my North Walworth house. This year, I drove my Gator into the field, surveyed the live inventory,  selected the finest Frasier Fir I could find, and unceremoniously sawed it down. My son and I loaded the tree into the undersized Gator bed, and drove it down the road, the top of the tree brushing against the pavement, the base of the tree narrowly missing the streetside mailboxes. $105.50 for that fine specimen, and just a week after Thanksgiving.