Look! You Never See That in the Neighborhood

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comOn our way home from the office one evening last December, a herd of deer — probably 10 or more — meandered across the road in front of the car right smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood.

It was a rare and unusual sight, but it didn’t hold a candle to what I saw on the way home yesterday.

I know you’re probably thinking I’m going to say Elvis or a UFO or the police SWAT team trying to talk someone off the roof.

This wasn’t anything like that. As I rounded a curve I saw a bunch of kids playing soccer in a vacant field.

There must have been 12 of them — maybe 15.

It didn’t hit me initially, then I started trying to remember the last time I saw kids outside playing a pick-up ballgame of any kind. I couldn’t. 

Our ever-growing reliance on technology has replaced the ball and bat, and I don’t understand how anyone could see that as a good thing.

When I was growing up, the kids in my neighborhood and I engaged in at least one pick-up game of football, basketball or baseball just about every day. We were born before the soccer generation.

We showed up, we chose up sides, and we played until our tongues hung out of our parched mouths.

We had access to organized youth sports, but I much preferred doing it this way. Our uniforms were shirts and skins. We didn’t have a schedule to stick on the refrigerator. Nobody’s dad was a volunteer coach, and nobody’s mom brought snacks. We didn’t have a team outing to the cheapest pizza buffet in town at the end of the season, because the season never ended.

Scraped knees and elbows were our participation ribbons.

The lessons we learned were invaluable.

We learned sportsmanship. In baseball, we shared our glove with someone on the other team if he didn’t have his own, or if his was being used as second base.

We had no officials, obviously. So we had to learn to compromise. This was usually punctuated by the team losing the argument saying, “Let the babies have it,” but it was compromise none the less.

We learned at least enough responsibility to know to go home when the streetlights came on.

We learned tolerance. If the most annoying kid in the neighborhood was the one who owned the football, then he was tolerated. And if he played his cards right, sometimes he even got to play quarterback.

We learned that wounds of all types eventually heal, and bruises fade from purple to green to yellow before disappearing completely and being quickly forgotten.

I don’t remember if we actually ever said, “rub some dirt on it,” but we had hundreds of opportunities.

We learned time management, which meant cutting the yard early in the morning before the game commenced.

I think the main thing we learned is sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes you just have to agree to disagree about who won and who lost.

There was always a tomorrow. There was always another game.

We were healthy, we were skinny, we were tanned, and we were happy.

Kids today are missing that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good video game. In fact, we had video games — and other indoor activities like board games and cards — back in those days, too.

That’s what we did when it rained or if it was so cold the basketball turned to stone.

Although I could, I am not going to go on some big, long rant about kids these days spending too much time locked in their bedrooms in the dark staring at a screen.

I just don’t understand why it is more fun to play a game on a computer than in real life.

I would give just about anything for one more day in that vacant lot. I miss it.

Those kids playing soccer yesterday will miss it one day, too. And they’ll be glad they had it.

A Burger and Shake is Easy Enough, Right?

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI rarely get a hamburger from a restaurant, but when I do, I like to have a milkshake with it.

To me, it is the ultimate pairing.

The burger and the shake — chocolate of course — create a kind of magical tasty synergy that few other food combinations can match in my book.

I don’t care if it’s 12 degrees below zero. If I’m standing in front of a counter with a big menu behind the employees’ heads, and if I’m ordering a hamburger, I’m getting a milkshake with it.

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions when I found myself at a little independent burger place I like.

While I was waiting for the people in front of me to finish ordering, I could see the styrofoam cups in three distinct sizes next to the milkshake machine.

I ordered my burger and a medium chocolate shake.

“We only have small and large.”

“But, you have three sizes of cups.”

“We put milkshakes in these,” she said, pointing to stacks of clear plastic cups.

I asked to see the sizes, and she held up two cups — one in each hand.

They looked identical.

“Aren’t they the same size?”

“No, they’re not.”

I sincerely thought maybe she had bet a co-worker that she could prove I was the most gullible person on the face of the earth.

“They look like they’re exactly the same size.”

“Well, they’re not.”

“Then I’ll take the large,” I said, pointing to the one in her right hand.

“That’s the small.”

This really happened.

For the record, I have no idea if I ended up with the small or the large.

Maybe the young woman working the counter was just confused, and I can see how she would be. Back before she was born, it was easy to order a drink from a burger place, because there was only one size. And, under the golden arches for instance, it was 7 ounces.

Now each place has a half dozen different sizes, and even the smallest is too much. The biggest of the big ones are downright colossal.

It’s impossible to remember from place to place how big each size is.

At fast food joint A, a medium may be 22 ounces.

At fast food joint B, if you order a medium, it gets delivered to you by an employee wearing one of those back-support belts furniture movers wear to lift a hutch.

And, most places don’t even have a size they call small anymore. I guess that’s because we’re in America and implying that you can’t swig down a drink big enough to have high tide twice a day would be seen as a sign of weakness, I don’t know.

I cannot even imagine ordering a large drink these days. I guess it comes on a forklift going beep-beep-beep as it rumbles into the lobby.

Huge drinks have been around awhile, though. I didn’t realize it, but 7-Eleven actually introduced its famous Big Gulp way back in 1976. Nowadays, the Big Gulp is the smallest of all the Gulps.

Just in case you don’t frequent 7-Eleven, they have five Gulp sizes.

The biggest is the Team Gulp which gushes to the tune of a whopping 128 ounces. That’s a gallon, ladies and gentlemen. 

The Team Gulp comes in a container with a handle and a screw-on lid. Maybe you’re supposed to share it with, oh, 10 or so people.

I realize that what started out as me making fun of a place not having a big enough difference between their two sizes of cups suddenly turned into me complaining about drinks being too big.

I just wanted to tell the milkshake story. The rest was just bonus drivel.

No need to thank me. The next time you see me, you can just buy me a milkshake.

You pick the size.

Thanks to Atlanta, I Had to go to England for Good News

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThis is one of those good news, bad news days.

The bad news is, my idea for this week’s column started fizzling around 9:30 last night when Atlanta began the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the Super Bowl — thereby dashing the hopes of long-suffering Falcons fans and millions of other people everywhere who don’t like the Patriots very much.

For the record, count me in the latter group. I’ve never been a Falcons fan, but I rode the bandwagon for 4 hours last night.

But that’s the bad news.

The good news is that Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 65 years on the throne this week.

Yes, I had to reach across the big pond for the good news, but I found some, and I think it is worthy of mentioning.

The queen is the only British monarch ever to serve for this many years. When she was crowned, some guy named Winston Churchill was Britain’s prime minister.

I didn’t know it, but Elizabeth was never supposed to be queen in the first place. My knowledge of British royalty is about as extensive as the average American commoner, I suppose.

Here’s how it happened.

Elizabeth’s uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, who was from the United States and had already been divorced twice.

Elizabeth’s father then became king. His name was Albert, but when he started feeling the whole Buckingham Palace crown-and-throne thing, he adopted the name George VI.

He died in 1952, and suddenly, at 25 years old Elizabeth was crowned queen.

To put some perspective on this, in 1952 the US was fighting the Korean War and 50,000 people died from polio. Harry Truman was president.

“Singing in the Rain” was released.

An article about Elizabeth from NBCNews.com summed up her longevity by saying, “Decades of duty have defined the queen. She has traveled more than a million miles, visited about 120 countries and met with 12 U.S. presidents.”

One of the reasons I find this whole story so intriguing is because of the way the queen has always presented herself. She is the personification of grace and decorum in a world lacking grace and decorum.

She has ruled, as the NBC piece put it, “65 years without publicly saying anything inappropriate.”

I hope she never gets a Twitter account.

I feel kind of sorry for Prince Charles, though, who has been heir apparent to the throne since 1952 (you know, Korea, polio, Truman, blah, blah, blah).

I’m sure he loves his mum to the ends of the earth, but you surely know he is ready for the big promotion. No 68-year-old man wants to be called prince anymore.

I feel your pain, Charles. In a past life, I had the same job title for several years, and it gets a little stale after a while.

He probably calls the queen every morning. “Hello, mum, how are you feeling today? Oh, drat. I mean, that’s wonderful. Have you smoked those cigars I gave you yet? No, I don’t want to play tennis with you again today. Let’s go get cheeseburgers instead.”

Of course, in today’s world, not even 65 years of dignified service earns you respect from everyone. One British political faction wants Elizabeth to abdicate the throne on her Sapphire Jubilee.

One British newspaper, wrote, “… having celebrated her 90th birthday last year and suffering a heavy cold over Christmas that caused her to miss church, questions are being raised as to how long she can continue in her role as head of state.”

Seriously? The old gal phones it in one Sunday in 65 years, and people want her to quit?

Hang in there until you’re 100, queen.

If things go the way they look like they’re going, you might see a Lombardi trophy or two in Atlanta.

Still Waiting on Snow After All These Years

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI grew up just inside Tennessee on the Alabama border.

It never snowed much down there. And when it did, we rarely ever got out of school because of it.

I mean rarely to the nth degree.

I cannot express to you how much I wanted a snow day every now and then. I worked hard. I deserved one. Plus, every other school system around got them.

Therefore, every time the weatherman said the S word, I would be called to duty.

First, I would get my hopes up. That was the easy part. It happened almost instantaneously until I was about a junior or senior in high school. By then, I was cynical; but in the elementary school years, I was a bouncing bundle of enthusiasm.

Second, I would send up a little prayer. I didn’t ask for much. Is asking for enough snow to cause school to be called off such a tall order? I wasn’t picky. I would’ve taken ice, sleet or even freezing rain. We didn’t have black ice in those days. And for the record, I still don’t know what that means.

Third, I would ready my battle station, which meant putting a stool in the utility room so I could sit while I looked out the door for that first flake to waft into the beam of the back porch light.

When snow was in the forecast — during every commercial break all evening long — I would run to the utility room, flip on the porch light and fully expect to see hundreds of huge, wet, fat snowflakes falling to the frozen ground and piling on top of each other like a big thick blanket.

Pfft.

No precipitation was bad enough. Rain was even worse, because it was just a tease — especially since our outdoor thermometer was stuck on 33 every school night from November to March.

The weatherman would always backpedal. Here’s how the progression would go: early on, he would say “snow”, then he would say “rain possibly changing to snow,” then he would say the dreaded “little or no accumulation,” followed by — you guessed it, the snow-day death knell, “higher elevations.” 

Oh, Lord, to live in those mystical “higher elevations,” or Narnia if you’re CS Lewis.

I was desperate. 

I even toyed around with the idea that if Mother Nature wasn’t going to cooperate, I could step in.

I’m not sure if it was accurate or not, but our school principal was widely rumored to have the power to call off school on those rare occasions when it did snow.

I recall thinking how some of us could go to his house under the cover of darkness, take his hosepipe and squirt water on the ground and bushes around his back porch to make him think it had iced over when he looked out his back door.

For the record, I still think it would’ve worked.

Now, I live about 150 miles east and just about 10 miles farther north from where I grew up.

The other night, the meteorologist — with his millions of dollars of equipment, advanced degrees and experience — called for the possibility of snow.

Actually, he started mentioning it 2 weeks before when a little bitty fickle storm system started forming somewhere in the Midwest.

Right on cue, though, at dark that night I went to the back door and flipped on the light — the same way I have for more than four decades.

I went back three or four more times.

Pfft. 

By 9 p.m., I could see the moon. On twitter, I learned that the higher elevations had received some accumulation.

Naturally.

Of course, school had already been called off, simply because the meteorologist said the S word.

Or, maybe a group of young patriots went to the principal’s house, turned on the hosepipe and took matters into their own hands.

Early Spring Cleaning of the Idea File

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comPeople ask me all the time how I come up with such great ideas for this column week after week.

Okay, nobody ever asks me that. I just wanted type it and see how it looked.

The other night, however, someone did tell me they liked my column, “Diary of a Madman.”

I told them “Diary of a Madman” was an Ozzy Osbourne record, but I appreciated the compliment nonetheless.

I keep a running list of column ideas using the Notes app on my phone. Regardless of what I’m doing, when I get an idea, I will whip out my phone and type it in.

It took me a couple of years, but I finally came to realize that the old, “Oh, I’ll never forget that idea” approach never works. I always forget it, regardless of how impactful it was at the time.

Sometimes, however, I look back at these notes and wonder what I meant by what I hurriedly typed. Other times, I know what I meant, but there isn’t enough substance there to justify 700 words.

Since the weather is acting like spring, I decided to do some spring cleaning and declutter my idea list. Here are the entries I’m getting rid of:

  • “Kickoff to Summer. What changes?” I think I got this from a television commercial last spring. I have no idea where I thought I would go with this.
  • “Cub Scouts.” I have fond memories of being a Cub Scout. Each Tuesday after school during my second grade year, we would pile into the back of the den leader’s station wagon and go to her house for the meeting. We did crafts and took field trips. Sometimes we went out in the woods and learned about the outdoors.  Once in Cub Scouts we did a skit about famous explorers. I gave a stellar performance as everyone’s favorite Icelandic trailblazer, Leif Erikson. Broadway never called, but the crowd in my school cafeteria was abuzz, I am certain of it.
  • “I can’t wait until 2032. That’s when our peppermint candy will be gone.” We’d been to Sam’s. If you need a starlight mint — I mean if you ever need one — I’m your guy.”
  • “Listening to loud music. (I have three entries that say this).” I think I wanted to pontificate that at least when we listened to loud music back in my day, it was music worth listening to. I know that sounds curmudgeonly, but I just find the current releases pretty slim pickings these days.
  • “The Constitution isn’t a salad bar.” I believe I could do a whole book on this, but you probably came here to escape politics for a minute, and I’m not going to disappoint you. However, I do reserve the right to revisit this one at a later date.
  • “The world would be a better place if everyone had a cast iron skillet.” I truly believe this, but not enough to come up with 700 words to convince you of it.
  • “Cookie sheet will not fit in oven.” Yes, I bought a cookie sheet that was too long to fit in the oven. I don’t take all the blame for this. Who on earth makes a cookie sheet that doesn’t fit in a standard-size oven?
  • “Buying food out of the back of a truck.” This may have had something to do with the farmers market. I love supporting local farmers directly. Hopefully, the weather during the growing season of 2017 won’t resemble the weather in the Mojave desert as much as it did last year.

There  you have it — my complete list of ideas that either didn’t make the cut or were complete mysteries to me.

I guess you’ve figured out by now that I didn’t find anything in my so-called good ideas I wanted to write about this week.

It happens to me sometimes.

I’ll bet it even happens to Ozzy too from time to time.

Pinpointing the Cause of the Doldrums

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have been out of sorts for a few days.

By last count, I had been six of the seven dwarfs since the first of the year.

It’s not the time of year, really it’s not. I don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder. In fact, I wanted to get back into the swing of things more than anyone following the holidays. And, like I said a couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to bid farewell to the great train wreck that was 2016.

This crazy weather kerfuffle certainly hasn’t made things any better. The temperature went from feels-like-3 to 73 in the course of about four days. If it doesn’t straighten up soon, I will have to mow the yard before Valentine’s day.

I also hated to hear the news that the Greatest Show on Earth is shutting down. I have some good memories of us taking Grant to the Ringling Brothers Circus a couple of times when he was very young. I guess I thought we might go again someday.

This is a stressful time of year for us self-employed people. This is when we have the unpleasant task of getting the bookkeeping stuff in good enough shape to send to the accountant. 

This doesn’t come easy for me. I mean, how am I supposed to remember what this 89-cent dollar store receipt from March was for?

You would be appalled at some of the things I call office supplies.

I suppose all those things and a few more have been dragging me down, but my biggest issue, however, started back in the middle of December.

One of my crowns came loose.

This is a squeamish subject for me, so don’t worry, I’m not going to subject you to any details.

Since this has happened before, I knew the visit to get it reattached would be short and easy. Well, I was pretty sure it would be short and easy, but nothing in life is certain.

I remained in denial until it got close enough to Christmas that I had a decent reason to put it off until after Santa came.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is no time to go to the dentist either, so I continued to chew on my right side.

The next time you sit down to eat, make a conscious effort to chew on the opposite side from the one you normally use.

Bon appetit.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, I finally called to make an appointment.

I now should take this time to salute all the brave men and women who work at the dentist’s office, especially the ones who answer the phone and must ask questions such as, “Is it all the way off or just loose?”

In order to make sure they wouldn’t say “just come on in now,” I called at precisely 4:55 p.m. I knew I couldn’t go the next day because they were probably closed for National Spaghetti Day (look it up). Thursday wasn’t an option because there was snow in the forecast — for somewhere, I’m sure.

I really wanted to go on Friday, but (oh, no!) the dentist is closed on Fridays. Just my luck.

Monday? Yeah, right. I’m scheduling a dentist appointment for a Monday.

Tuesday was out, because Tuesday is just Monday with a day of experience.

In a conversation that resembled a hostage negotiation, we decided on the following Wednesday. So yes, when I finally decided to fix a problem I should’ve fixed a month ago, I made the appointment for 8 days in the future.

Naturally, he fixed it in about 30 seconds. It was glorious. The sky was bluer that day.

The next morning, it was loose again.

I wanted to see those blue skies again so badly, I only waited 4 days to call. When I did, I made the appointment for as soon as they could do it.

Hopefully, I won’t be that seventh dwarf anytime soon.

What Falls on the Child in the House Stays in the House

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comBy now, you’ve probably seen the video of the 2-year-old being rescued by his twin brother after a dresser fell on him.

In case you haven’t, let me recap it for you:

The video looks to be shot from some kind of a video camera or what people call a “nanny cam.” This is a device that lets parents watch little Johnny on a little screen instead of watching him in real life.

Anyway, the two kids were climbing in and out of the dresser’s drawers when it tipped over and trapped one of them underneath. In a few seconds, the other boy pushed the dresser off of his brother, and another internet phenomenon was born.

For the record, count me in the growing number of people who suspect the video may have been staged. I’m no Columbo, but the drawers were empty and the video camera was aimed at the dresser.

Of course, the parents did what everyone does these days. They posted the video on Facebook.

“We were hesitant to post this video initially,” Ricky Shoff, the father was quoted in a CNN story, “but a lot of parents have probably made the same mistake that we made: (They) don’t have their furniture secure or bolted to a wall.”

He went on to say, “Our house is very childproof. We are really cautious about all this stuff, so it never really crossed our minds that something like this could happen.”

I know exactly what’s crossing these parents’ minds.

Let’s see what we have here.

Two toddlers apparently narrowly escape serious injury.

The parents watch the video.

They post it on Facebook.

Then they hit the talk show circuit.

NBC said the video highlighted “furniture danger.”

I guess gravity could not be reached for comment.

Assuming these kids’ guardian angels don’t hit the road for an easier gig, they will grow up, watch the video and wonder why the parents ever made it public in the first place.

This has Menendez brothers written all over it.

Of course, accidents do happen — even to the best of us.

When Grant was 15 months or so, I had brought him home from daycare after work. Kim hadn’t gotten home yet.

I was in the kitchen when I heard a crash from the living room.

Under the felled Christmas tree, I could see a little hand and foot flailing about as a cascade of ornaments danced around on the floor.

It looked like the Hallmark store ate my child in the living room then threw up.

After setting the tree back up and getting most of the sap out of Grant’s hair, we began the process of trying to cover up the unfortunate incident before mom got home.

We had our story straight: I wasn’t talking, and he didn’t know how to.

Of course, it was a hatchet job. Kim didn’t have her shoes off before she noticed how the ornaments were crammed haphazardly on the tree. Or, maybe she noticed the sap in the hair first, I don’t remember.

The bottom line is, we kept it to ourselves.

What falls on the child in the house stays in the house.

Facebook didn’t exist, and even if it had, I wouldn’t have posted the video showing me as the bungling idiot who let a tree fall on my child.

George Stephanopoulos didn’t call. Katie Couric didn’t call. Anderson Cooper didn’t call.

I didn’t blame gravity. 

I didn’t blame the tree or the tree stand. I didn’t blame Kim for being at work. I didn’t blame the daycare for letting me bring him home in the first place. I didn’t blame the Germans for inventing the Christmas tree 500 years ago.

I took the blame, learned something in the process and kept my mouth shut about it.

Sometimes, gravity happens. And there’s no need to tell the world for 20 years or so.

I Must Confess, I Had a Glimmer of Hope

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.com(Wednesday 8 a.m.)

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how I expected to win the historic $300 million Powerball drawing.

I said that as soon as I finished writing the column I was going to go buy my winning ticket.

Of course, I didn’t buy one. I knew I wasn’t going to when I said I was. I take a little poetic license every now and then to make the story more interesting.

You wouldn’t read it if I didn’t.

Come on, if The Partridge Family had owned a Roto-Rooter franchise in Peoria would anyone have watched? Of course not.

But today is different. I really do have two Powerball tickets for tonight’s drawing. In a peculiarly uncharacteristic move, my mother-in-law gave them to me on Christmas.

I’m not sure which is more unusual: the fact that she bought lottery tickets in the first place or the fact that she gave them to me on Christmas day, which was on a Sunday no less. It may be time to have her seen about, but I cannot worry myself with that today.

All I am concerned with today is passing the time until 10:59 p.m., because that’s when the good folks at Powerball draw the numbers. I fully expect to win.

There is only one problem.

The jackpot is only $60 million.

When I saw that number on a lottery billboard yesterday, I was genuinely a little disappointed.

Sixty million paltry dollars.

Before taxes!

I wanted to win $300 million, remember? That’s what the jackpot was a year ago.

This is a mere 20 percent of that.

I wonder if the big check they will present me at the press conference will be 80 percent smaller than the check they gave those nimrods last January who won $300 million?

Even if I do win it, there is no guarantee it will be all mine. I may have to share it with someone else whose mother-in-law also bought them tickets for Christmas.

I’m an only child to begin with, so sharing is not an activity I partake in with much gusto, but the thought of having to split a measly jackpot like $60 million two ways is unthinkable.

I’m not even sure third cousins would come out of the woodwork for a share of $30 million.

Plus, I believe I told my mother-in-law I would give her back her $2 if I won. I was joking, but if she holds my feet to the fire about it, there go two more bucks up in smoke.

I suppose I could survive on my take, but don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer the cushion — and the multiple Ferraris — that $300 million would provide.

(Wednesday, 10:59 p.m.)

Well, guess whose 2001 Dodge truck is still in the driveway where his Ferrari belongs?

When I said I fully expected to win, I guess I was exaggerating again. But, I must admit I did have some glimmer of hope that those bouncy-bouncy little ping pong balls would have my numbers on them.

The next time someone calls me a cynic, I am going to whip out this story.

To make myself feel better, I did some research and learned the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

The odds of someone being struck by lightning twice in their lifetime are 1 in 9 million, which is 32 times more likely than winning Powerball.

Nobody won the jackpot last night, by the way. I didn’t hear about anyone getting struck by lightning either, so I guess it’s a wash.

I’m usually pretty realistic when it comes to things like this. So don’t look for me in line to buy a lottery ticket. 

If someone gives me one, I will happily take it. 

But if I win, you’ll never see me out in the middle of a field dancing around on the hood of my Ferrari if a dark cloud is approaching.

Hey, 2016, Don’t Let The Door Hit You…

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAlmost a year ago, I watched the ball drop in Times Square signaling the hope and promise of 2016.

Just like every year, television cameras captured shivering revelers kissing each other, popping champagne and dancing in the streets of Manhattan.

I’ll bet it didn’t take them long to feel pretty dumb.

I’ve never been one to think that a new year would change much of anything. I’ve always considered it just another day — but one with lots of football.

But this New Year’s eve, ladies and gentlemen, don’t try to reach me, because I will be somewhere shouting the countdown and leading the conga line.

This 366-day train wreck we called 2016 is nearly over, and I for one cannot wait.

We cannot put this year in rice. It’s beyond repair.

You don’t believe me?

Consider this:

  • Let’s get the main one out of the way right off the bat. The election cycle which featured the two most unpopular candidates in American history brought out the worst in all of us, caused an increase in hate crimes against minorities and showed the world our bare backside in our worst moment. Plus, it was infinitely too long. Hopefully, Americans will not allow this travesty ever to happen again.
  • Zika. Apparently, we needed another reason to dislike mosquitoes.
  • Contaminated drinking water in several US cities including Flint, Mich., and Corpus Christi, Texas, looked more like scenes from an undeveloped country.
  • The mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando took 49 innocent lives. We cannot fix the gun problem in America until we agree on whether or not we have a gun problem in the first place. Between 2000 and 2014, there were 160 worldwide mass shootings. Of that number, 130 occurred in the US. Maybe someone will come up with a solution in 2017.
  • Prince dying was especially sad for me. He was always one of my favorite artists and he was definitely the most underrated guitarist in rock history. Twenty-sixteen was a terrible year for celebrity deaths. A few that were notable for me: Glen Frey, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, and most recently, George Michael.
  • the battle of Aleppo. We — as well as most of the world — have ignored the Syrian civil war for 5 years, but the pictures and reports of genocide in Aleppo this year are horrifying. Too bad Syria doesn’t produce enough crude oil to get us involved.  
  • Good old 2016 also gave us fake news websites — or at least brought them to the forefront of the national conversation. I am not going to publicize any by name, but the same one that was responsible for the story claiming the democratic party ran a child sex operation out of a pizza restaurant also claims the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax. I’m not sure what infuriates me more: people who write this garbage or the people who read, share and/or believe it. 
  • Of course, Tennessee had way more than its fair share of natural disasters. A year-long drought of seemingly Biblical proportion paved the way for the deadly wildfires, which finally were put out by the same storm system that brought tornadoes.
  • Lots of people got in a snit about the whole gender-neutral bathroom controversy. Twenty-sixteen truly was the year of the controversy. As long as so many people’s lives revolve around social media, that trend, sadly, isn’t going to change regardless of what the calendar says.

I wanted to be fair, so I researched to find some good things that happened this year. 

I learned that the wild tiger population went up. And, the giant Panda is no longer endangered. That’s good, I suppose, unless all those extra tigers decide Panda burgers sound yummy.

It was a good year for Cubs fans. 

Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl.

Then he retired. Thanks again, 2016.

I guess the best news is that you and I survived it. Let’s be thankful for that. 

But, let’s also hold open the door so 2016 can exit quickly, and we can start doing the conga.

Like Magic, Holiday Spirit Arrives Each Year

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI am going to attempt to take a few days off after Christmas.

My goal is to unplug as much as someone can in the 21st century. Since my self-awareness is better than my willpower, however, I know I’ll struggle to step away from my electronic devices.

But at the very least, I plan to absolve myself of as many of my normal responsibilities as possible for a couple of weeks.

To do that, I have to work ahead. Among other things, that means writing this column ahead of time.

I started writing this installment for Christmas during the first week of December.

That turned out to be a big mistake.

I usually write something sappy at Christmas, but I wasn’t in a sappy mood, so I decided I would take the humor route and write a satirical letter to Santa.

I had the formula all figured out.

I began by thanking that jolly old elf for how good he had been to me over the years. 

Then I chided him for the go-cart I still haven’t received. Although he has brought some pretty neat stuff down my chimney for as long as I can remember, he never won the big one, so to speak. 

Then I started making a list of famous people and the gifts I think they deserve. Naturally, I had Donald and Hillary in there. I also included Nick Saban, the New England Patriots and the Kardashians.

After I had suggested that Santa give lumps of coal eight or nine times in a row, I realized it wasn’t funny. I continued to struggle with it a couple more days, thinking I could somehow salvage it. Nothing is more deflating to me than to spend time working on something, then realize it cannot be saved.

The more I toyed with it, the more sarcastic and cynical it sounded.

It had a whole lot more Ebenezer Scrooge than it had Jimmy Stewart. It wasn’t very Christmasy.

I deleted it.

Of course, I know what my problem was. I never should’ve tried writing anything to do with Christmas before I was in the Christmas spirit.

I once toured RCA Studio B in Nashville, where Elvis recorded a Christmas album. Because he was recording in July, he had the people in charge turn down the air conditioning as low as it would go and put up Christmas decorations.

Maybe it worked for The King, but I have never been able to manufacture the Christmas spirit. But year after year, it always manages to happen.

This year, it hit me at church.

The brass and glass Christmas candlesticks at the ends of the pews were lit, and the sanctuary was decorated. We sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

It’s hard to sing, “glory to the new born king” four times in a row and not feel something.

It’s also hard to sing those hymns and not think about the past.

For how many children’s church Christmas programs did I dress up in a bathrobe with someone’s cane and join my fellow children in telling the Christmas story?

We always ended with “Joy to the World.” And everyone was transformed.

I have always thought it is miraculous how the spirit of the season magically overtakes nearly all of us this time of year. It truly is a special phenomenon that defies explanation.

It transcends religion. Nearly everyone catches the spirit in their own way.

It exudes hope, love and peace. It benefits us all.

It gives us a gentleness. Hopefully it gives us an opportunity to love one another.

I wish you all a joyous holiday season.

And Santa, if you’re reading this, you can officially forget the go-cart thing.

Instead, just bring us all the peace you can fit on your sleigh.

CraftBeerClub.com-The Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner