Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's Death Week!

Has anybody here seen my old friend Saddam?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
I thought I saw him
Up over the hill,
With Jerry Ford and James Brown.

The Iraqi and U.S. governments stretched a point when Saddam Hussein stretched a rope. James Brown did the Funky Chicken for St Peter, while Jerry Ford tripped past him and through the Pearly Gates. It's Death Week!


So Gerald Ford has died! I admit to having a bias against ol' Jerry for the past few decades. I didn't really have anything against him as President, because he inherited so many problems from his two predecessors. Like the whole Vietnam mess and the usual shenanigans in Congress.

I didn't have a specific problem with him and the Nixon pardon, because that just seemed like business as usual at the top. The good ol' boys taking care of each other. The problems I had with Ford were the Dynamic Duo* of Cheney and Rumsfeld, who both worked for him.
I'm also mad at him for not getting himself elected President. Yeah, that sounds odd since I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Gerald Ford was never elected to anything but Congress, and yet by a couple of strokes of cosmic fate got into the White House. He retired after 2 ½ years with a full Presidential pension, full Secret Service protection, and for nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. He was able to do this by not making waves, by being a good Republican flack and go-to guy his entire political career. He polished the right apples along the way.

Don't feel bad this guy died, folks. He led a charmed life while he was alive. For many years I referred to him as America's highest paid Welfare recipient. I wish I could do something for a couple of years and retire to East Street the rest of my natural life.


He died a bearded reprobate...
...but he was such a nice-looking young man!

Saddam Hussein was one of those guys you like to read about, but would never want to meet. I read enough about his torture chambers, his climb to power over the dead bodies of his enemies, and his further peccadilloes to know I didn't care much for him.

My favorite gruesome stuff was about his sons, though. In any other country they'd be considered sociopaths and locked away for good. These were a couple of ruthless criminals who literally got away with murder. But, while their dad met the hangman, they met their ends fighting to the death with U.S. forces. Their dad hid in a hole, then when discovered came out declaring he was president of Iraq and wanted to negotiate with George Bush. That alone got him the Chutzpah Award.


The first time I saw I saw James Brown was on the old Lloyd Thaxton TV show, circa 1965 or '66, doing "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." I wasn't hip to the slang. I wondered what a "brand new bag" was. Maybe a new girlfriend?

Does anybody else remember Lloyd Thaxton, the poor man's Dick Clark? Brown had the most ridiculous bangs I've ever seen. Thaxton asked him about his hairdo and J.B. said, "Got to keep up with the thang, man."

I'm not real big on funk, but I've got to admit, J.B. kept up with the thang.

Ciao for now, El Postino

*Here's the
real Dynamic Duo.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas At War


I found this picture on a soldier's blog. Sorry for appropriating it, guys, but I want to use you to make a point that with all of the news from and about Iraq, it's easy to forget you are there in Afghanistan, also fighting.

I hope that everyone will be thinking about the tough job our men and women in the armed forces are doing while we open presents, visit with friends and relatives, and eat dinner.

Hey, guys…love your hats, but ditch the cigs. You're in a business that's risky enough.

And lest you have forgotten (like that could happen), here are some folks to remind you of what's hom


In a prior blog I talked about getting a Superman suit for Christmas. My buddy Dave was reminded that he wanted a cowboy outfit with a black hat. He just had to have that black hat. This isn't a picture of Dave, but this boy also got a black hat.

That's one of the things I've noticed…sometimes the really good guys wear black hats, and sometimes the sneaky, crooked bastards will wear white hats to fool you.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Flying Saucer Boy

Comcast Cable's On Demand is showing the 1956 science fiction movie Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers on its Free Movies section. I'd seen it about five years ago but today I took another look.

I like the naïve earnestness of Hugh Marlowe as the leading man, Dr. Marvin. Everyone trusts the military to do the right thing, and they look to Dr. Marvin for guidance, and for their weapons development. That's why they call it science fiction, obviously. The special effects by Ray Harryhausen, even in our era of CGI, are still entertaining. The reviewer for commended the sound effects, but they were actually annoying.

This is a very paranoid film done in a paranoid era. That's part of its appeal to me. America was facing down the Soviet Union in a tense standoff, arms proliferation, nuclear bombs, and all of that sort of worrisome stuff. So a threat from outer space had a lot to do with how we were feeling at the time. The flying saucer men were stand-ins for our real external enemies.

Mom took my buddies and me to the movie on my birthday in 1956. She dropped us off and let us sit through 2 ½ showings before coming to pick us up. I think it was because Allen's mom called and asked where the hell he was, and wasn't that damn birthday party over yet? Mom was probably preoccupied, as she often was, by whatever it was the preoccupied her. I never knew.

The subject of flying saucers came up the next day when Allen and I were kicking a ball around in my back yard. We talked about the movie and I said, "Do you think flying saucers are real?" We'd heard a lot about flying saucers--my dad was interested in the subject--but Mom said that people were "seeing things," or "just nuts" when they said they'd seen them. Allen said, "Sure they're real. They fly over us a lot. Like that one, right there."

I looked east into the afternoon sky and saw a large object, which for the life of me, looked like my mom's steam iron flying overhead. I watched it for a short while and it vanished. For a few years I told the story of how I'd seen a UFO and when I said that people would perk up, but groan or laugh when I said it looked like a big steam iron. So I didn't tell the story after a while, and I really only thought of it on occasion. Like when I read in Fortean Times years ago that one of the shapes of UFOs reported by people is, you guessed it, a steam iron.

As an adult I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I thought as a child, hoping to discover why I think the way I do as an adult. I had a really active imagination, fueled by TV science fiction shows and Flash Gordonserials. I read science fiction comic books, and juvenile science fiction novels. As my third grade teacher, Mrs. B., told me the year after I'd moved on from her class, "I thought you'd be on Mars by now." So my mind was bent toward that type of sighting.

Allen, my childhood buddy, was also a trickster. He liked to do things to fool me. Perhaps when Allen pointed to the sky I was primed to see a UFO and wasn't disappointed.

The problem is I had a nine-year-old's mind, and I'm trying to figure it out with my now-adult mind, putting myself in my back yard over 50 years ago, looking up in the sky. I don't recall any sound coming from the object. I realized years later that it could not have been a commercial airliner because that wasn't then, nor is it now, the flight path to our airport. It's too near the mountains. If it had been a helicopter or private plane I think I would have heard something. Was it a hot air balloon? Not very common in those days. Not even these days.

I also know nowadays that the power of suggestion is just that, power. It's easy to make someone believe something when they want to believe it. And memory, as we all know, is the trickiest thing of all and most easily fooled.

As an adult I don't believe in flying saucers. They've been reported now for almost 60 years, and even when people try to sell me on the idea I don't have much patience. No one has come up with any real physical evidence. If you see lights in the sky and instantly translate that into visitors from outer space then you out-imagine me. If, in what's left of my lifetime, a flying saucer lands on the White House lawn and little gray guys step out waving, then maybe I'll believe there are such things.

And as for the little gray guys, don't even get me started on what I think of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens and given anal probes or transmitters implanted in their nostrils. Put down your DVD sets of The X-Files and come back to earth, folks.

For all of that, childish imagination, the power of suggestion, the flying saucer movie I'd seen the day before, my dad's belief in flying saucers, newspaper stories, Allen's statement, "They fly over us a lot," I keep wondering: I did see something. So what did I see in the sky over the east bench of Salt Lake City fifty years ago?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Super Suit

Mom asked me, "So what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?"

My answer was immediate. "I want a Superman suit!"

It was 1953 and I was in the first grade. Superman was a favorite show of mine. I watched it every week with my parents on our 19" 1950 RCA console television. I don't remember what else I asked for that year, but I got my Superman suit.

There weren't any Superman costumes available--or if there were my mom didn't know about them or couldn't afford one--so she made it. When I saw it on Christmas morning it was--hot dang!--a genuine Superman suit all right, with one important difference. Mom had never seen the color Superman comic books. All she'd ever seen was the television character, so she sewed the costume in shades of gray and black.

It's been a lot of years and memory of the actual costume is dim. There aren't any old photos, but I remember the top was a sweatshirt onto which she had sewn an "S" logo in a shield. It seems that I didn't think it looked that much like the one I'd seen on TV, but it was OK. It was my Superman suit, cape and all!
When we went back to school the day after New Year's Day, 1954, the teacher said, "You can bring a favorite Christmas toy to school tomorrow and show the other boys and girls." I knew exactly what I wanted to show them.

We got up individually for show and tell. I don't remember much about the other kids and their toys except that classmate Chris's dad owned a wholesale toy distribution business. So Chris had every damn popular toy made.* Grrr. I hated him.

I got up in front of the class and took off my shirt. Underneath it I had on my Superman shirt and I was really proud! I stuck my scrawny little chest out a half inch. At recess one of the cute girls in the class came up to me while I was still wearing the costume and invited me to sit on the windowsill. She plopped herself onto my lap. Of all my childhood memories that one really sticks out. Talk about feeling really super.

I guess some of the other boys were jealous. They came over and one of them gave me a shove. "Think you're super, huh?" one of them said. Then they all ganged up and pummeled me until the teacher broke it up.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons that day in the first grade. If you look cool girls may like you. If you look cool to girls then other boys will hate you. If you want to look like Superman you'd better be prepared to act like Superman, and not get the crap kicked out of you by the guys.

Despite that I had a lot of fun in that Superman suit, even jumping off the roof of the garage to see if I could fly. I wonder how many kids did that? Must've been a lot, because there was a 16mm short film shown to us in school called Only Superman Can Fly, which featured Superman actor George Reeves explaining why we couldn't jump off roofs or tall buildings and such. Well, duh. I already knew that from my sore ankles and the ass-blistering I got from Mom.

This Christmas Sally is giving me a DVD set of the first season of the Superman TV show. It has been many years since I've seen these old black and white episodes, and I'll be telling you at some point what I think of them.

*Another of my classmates was the grandson of a candy maker. The family owned a local candy factory. Talk about rubbing shoulders with the elite of childhood fantasies…all of the toys you'd want and all of the candy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Brian Williams, of NBC Nightly News, ran a report tonight on Baby Boomers and their love of the music of their youth. Well, naturally. Everyone loves the music they grew up with. The music that was the background for their first date, first prom, first kiss, first…well, you get the idea.

If I compiled a list of my favorite songs from the 1960s, when I became a teenager and went through so many important--and terrible--events in my life, I'd have to pick the groups that influenced me and everyone else, and top of that list would have to be the Beatles.

What seems incredible now is that the Beatles' most creative period took place over a period of a short five or six years…about 1963 to 1969. That's when the group members themselves were still youngsters in their twenties! Think about what you were doing in your twenties.

I thought of Beatles songs that to me were the best, most representative of what I loved about the group. I picked three…there are lots and lots more, so I had to boil them down to a manageable amount. You can pick your own, but this is my blog and I get to pick mine first.

The first would have to be "She Loves You," which I think is one of the great pop/rock songs of all time. It starts out with Ringo's drums, goes right into the powerful three-part harmony of John, Paul and George, and in a couple of minutes tells a story. When our parents, and those who didn't listen, heard this song what they heard was "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and the Little Richard-like "Oooooo," which got the girlies screaming as the lads shook their mop tops. That was all theater, though. The song is about a guy who is very noble. He has been told by a girl to tell her former boyfriend she still loves him. The guy imparting the information doesn't take advantage, doesn't tell her, "Yeah, well…he doesn't love you, but I do," which would be a ratty thing to do. No, he goes to his buddy and tells him, "You think you've lost her, but you haven't, because she still loves you. Go on, forget your pride and apologize to her. She loves you, and you know you should be glad." Not only is it a great and memorable melody, but the vocals are excellent. John, Paul and George never got their full due when it came to their three-part harmony, but even the Beach Boys would have to admit those guys had some great vocal moves, each voice perfectly complementing the other.

I believe the song owes a lot to George Martin, the producer, and maybe George Martin is the true genius behind the genius of the Beatles. At least I think he is. The way the song ends, not fading out, but with the echo-chambered "Yeah, yeah, yeah…" harmony ending on a slightly discordant note is pure brilliance and is a perfect ending to what I think is a perfect song.

My next favorites would be the tandem of "Strawberry Fields," and "Penny Lane." I heard these songs the day they were debuted on American radio in 1967, while sitting in a basic training barracks, listening to a radio we weren't supposed to have. After nearly 40 years I still remember the power of those two songs, for two different reasons. John's song evoked the mystical, whereas Paul's song evoked nostalgia. George Martin called that record the beginnings of Sgt. Pepper, and I never could figure out why they weren't included on that album. The songs showed the individual directions the artists were taking; that even though the compositions were signed Lennon/McCartney, it was obvious that each song was thought up by a mind going in a different direction from the other. What is amazing to me is that they made those songs work so well, even though you'd probably admit that the other guy's song probably wasn't this guy's cuppa tea. Paul and John worked just as diligently making each other's music sound great as they did on their own. And they had George Martin working on them, polishing away rough edges, making sounds that no one had made before, sharing a vision.

As of the time I write this, I have not yet heard the CD, The Beatles Love, which is done by Martin, deconstructing and then rearranging some of the Beatles songs. I will hear it at Christmas when I give a copy to my wife. Remember, don't tell her I'm giving it to her. I want it to be a surprise. It'll be a surprise to me, too, but I expect to like it, because as much as I love the originals, I don't think a little tinkering will hurt them. This album will be on the shelf with the originals, but will never take the place of the originals.

The Beatles to me don't just represent an era in my personal life. When I think of the Beatles and their great songs I think of the influence they had on all aspects of our culture. Imagine (hey! what a great title for a song!) what music would be like today if it hadn't been for the Beatles.

My musical tastes don't start and end with the Beatles, but they are very large in my life. I see a songwriter like George Gershwin representing his era brilliantly, and I see the Beatles doing the same with their era. Gershwin's songs are still played, still recorded endlessly. But Gershwin didn't sing his songs. The Beatles' songs will live as long or longer than Gershwin's music, but their voices will also be there to remind everyone listening how vital they sounded in their day, and how vital they will always be.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Friday, December 15, 2006


A year ago today I was driving home from work, slammed into the car ahead of me, totaled my pickup truck, then laid on my couch for six weeks nursing a fractured sternum.

Isn't this the worst feeling in the world? You're driving along, maybe distracted as we all tend to be, your eyes wander away from the road. When you look up you see the vehicle ahead of you isn't moving. You make a panic stop, just like they taught you in Driver Ed! Foot against the brake as hard and fast as you can, only to realize in that split second you aren't going to stop, you're heading for full-on impact.

I remember the crunching sound of metal against metal when my Nissan hit the Chevy Suburban ahead of me. The very next thing I knew my airbag was deflating. The smell was pungent. I reached for my glasses, groping around until I found them. They had flipped over and were upside down on the back of my head.

I stepped out of my vehicle to see the front end in total ruin. I figured even then it was a total loss. I didn't think anyone could put those pieces back together, and I was right.

The lady I hit, Betty, told me that the traffic light ahead of us was green, but for some unknown reason the car ahead of her came to a complete stop, forcing her to panic stop, which caused me to pile right into her rear end.

The cop investigating the accident believed her, and told me he didn't think it was all my fault, but let's face it, in a rear-end crash the car doing the rear-ending gets the ticket. So I got my first moving violation in over 20 years.

I also noticed at the time I was having a stabbing pain in the center of my chest. I called my wife on my cell phone (the only time I've ever been glad to own a cell phone), told her where I was, come get me.

Betty's Chevy Suburban was hardly damaged. As the guy in the body shop where my car was taken later told me, my pickup truck hit her trailer hitch at exactly the right angle to destroy my vehicle, but barely scratch the chrome on hers. It made me think about what I've heard for years: you're better off in a bigger vehicle than a small one.

Sally drove me to the emergency room against my protestations. I thought I was just sore from the airbag hitting me. As it turned out from an MRI I had a fracture to my sternum. I think when my seatbelt cinched up, as it was supposed to do on impact, my body was thrown sufficiently far forward to cause the fracture to my breastbone.

The ER nurse was a doll; she was very solicitous of me during my time there, and even gave me a big hug when I left. She told me, "You're my best patient. You've never complained." I thought, well, gee, lady, I didn't know I was supposed to! But I took the hug, even though the squeeze put more hurt on my chest.

This is a long story to tell you this: Every time you get in your car and go out onto the road you are at risk of an accident. I got lucky that time, but I think back on how quick I could have been killed. That kind of death you don't get a chance to say goodbye to anybody, just hello to St. Peter. You might be driving along, looking back to yell at your kid in the back seat, finding a CD in your glove box, reaching for a cigarette or answering your cell phone, and the next thing you know you're standing in front of the Pearly Gates saying, "Wha---?!! I can't be here. This is my bowling night!"

It also costs in other ways that are more of this earth. I paid a traffic fine of about $122 for following too close. I took a guilty plea in abeyance and six months later without further mishap my record was cleared. I had to find another car, but I let my wife do all of the communicating with the insurance company. This was all during the Christmas break. We found another car on January 2. Yes, I got a bigger vehicle this time.

I drive for a living. I've been in the driver's seat almost 44 years. I thought I knew all of the tricks, had all of the close calls without damage or injury, but this time the law of averages caught up to me. It can happen to you.

People, be careful. Because I lived I got to see my granddaughter's first birthday, and will see her second if everything goes as planned. Frankly, I'd like to be around to see her graduate with honors from Harvard, but I'm not going to plan that far ahead. I still have a lot of driving to do before I hang up the car keys. There are a lot of other cars on the road, and a lot of distracted drivers, just like I was that day. Wise up. Hands on the steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00, eyes on the road ahead. Do all of the things they taught you in Driver Ed, and turn off the damn cell phone.


Here are some folks who know the sickening and helpless feeling that something is happening too fast for them to do anything.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Breath Of Death

Sally and I were talking about some people we worked with in the 1970s. Laura Jo worked with Sally. She was a woman in her early twenties, already morbidly obese. Some of the guys who worked around the place called her "Large O."

Laura Jo married Bruce, a skinny guy who was just back from Vietnam. They had corresponded when he was in the Army. I can't imagine his letters could have made much sense, since he couldn't read or write beyond a second grade level. Besides writing, both he and Laura Jo had trouble with fundamentals like brushing their teeth. She always had some problems with that. Bruce's breath was like poison gas because he smoked, and because he ate onions at every meal. He also had sort of a tint to his rotting teeth, hence the name I pinned on him, "Green Teeth"

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In 1974 Sally drove one of Detroit's finest cars ever, a 1971 Chevy Vega (hey, you! I can hear you laughing all the way through the monitor!) Laura Jo gave Bruce a timing light for his birthday, and when Sally's car needed a tune-up he offered to do it. Sally thought, gee, what a nice guy.

When Laura Jo called her and said Bruce had finished with the car Sally got in it to find a note from Bruce. It said:


…and that's exactly how it was spelled, "to funk you."

Sally was pretty upset, but didn't say anything to me for a couple of days. Finally she came to me and handed me the note. I went to the phone and my conversation went like this:

LAURA JO: Hello?

ME: Hi. Is Bruce there?

LAURA JO: Sure. Just a minute.

BRUCE: Hello?


I slammed down the phone.

The next day at work Laura Jo told Sally, "Gee, that was so nice of your husband to call Bruce and tell him thanks for timing your car."

Hey, if life hands you lemons, make lemonade! I had to admit, Bruce was quick on his feet.

When I told my buddy about the incident he said, "It sounds like you came off like a charging rhino." Bruce and I didn't work together at the time, but eventually both of us got jobs at the school district. He didn't last. His personal hygiene was so bad that schools he visited would call his boss and say, "Please don't send that guy to our school anymore." Eventually, for that for other reasons, he was sacked.

At one time his boss told me, "Don't ever hit Bruce in the mouth. You'll get lockjaw from his teeth." His boss pronounced the word as lockjar, which was almost as funny as Bruce's "to funk you" note.

Laura Jo was one of the very earliest patients to have a stomach stapling operation. She lost all of her fat, but her heart gave out when she had to go in for follow-up surgery. Bruce moved back to his hometown in Southern Utah, and I never heard any more about him.

Maybe the Army could find a way to use his Breath Of Death as a secret weapon.


On a more positive note, last night we had some snow, and this morning the pollution sitting over us for days is finally gone. I love the crisp, cold air after a storm. I love to look at the mountains which surround us with their fresh coat of white snow. Lots of people hate snow, and it can be a hassle to drive in. I've done my share of cursing it, but on a day like today, where the sky is bright blue and everything around me is fresh and white, snow is not a hassle but a beautiful thing.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Perversion Is Better Than Inversion

For the past five days Salt Lake City has been helpless in the throes of one of our winter inversions. A high pressure systems sits over us, trapping cold air and pollutants in our bowl-shaped valley. If you're smart you stay inside until the inversion is over; if you have to work in it like me you come away from a day's labor with a splitting headache and a fuzzed-over tongue.

This morning when I left my house it was 17º, and within moments of being out in chilly, polluted air it felt like Brillo pads had been hammered into my sinuses with dirty icicles. It was hard to breathe and when I did the rotten taste of the inversion was in my mouth. I feel our inversion is probably something like the killer fogs that used to settle over London in years past. People with respiratory problems are warned to stay indoors, but c'mon…some of us have to earn a living and we have to be out in that stuff.

I found these pictures on the Internet, taken from some kinky magazine of a bygone era. I could probably use one of these suits with gasmasks, but I'd forego the lacy garter belt, thank

Just for the hell of it, who could find these outfits sexy? I don't care how kinky you are, there ain't nobody who could find someone with a gasmask the least bit sexy.I'm familiar with gasmasks. Not these, but the more official military mask. When I was in the Army in the mid '60s I went through gas training five times. The first time was during Basic Training. We were taken into a small building wearing our regulation gasmasks. A form of gas called CS, more commonly known as tear gas, permeated the room. We were given a short lecture, then we had to take off our masks, walk around in single file in a circle and file out the door. If anyone bolted or panicked he was put back into line and we would march again. We hit the open air with tears streaming from our eyes. There was a godawful burning sensation, too. It took a while to clear our eyes, standing with our faces toward any breeze that might be coming by.

The last time I went through the gas chamber a couple of years later I thought I had it down. This time the drill was, according to the sergeant's instructions, take a deep breath, then remove the mask, say name, rank and service number, walk calmly to the door and out. Since I was such a know-it-all I didn't think I needed to listen, so I took off my mask, then took a deep breath. When I opened my mouth to speak all that came out was a squeak. Luckily the sergeant didn't chew my ass, just pushed me out the door. I'm sure I felt about as dumb as I looked.

While our inversion isn't anywhere near as unpleasant as the experiences I went through in the Army, it's bad enough.

Ciao for now, El Postino

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Curmudgeon

Only about three weeks until Christmas, so I guess it's time to break out the BAH, HUMBUG! badge I wear on my coat during the season.

As an American growing up during the baby boomer era I was just as sold on Christmas as everyone else. That's because when we were kids it was all about us. Santa came down the chimney to give toys to us, the kids. We didn't need to give our parents any presents. Santa didn't give them anything, anyway. I never even thought about it until I was a bit older and my mother said, "What would you like to get your father for Christmas?" I said, shocked, "Say what?" I didn't know I was supposed to get presents for anyone else. I thought they all just came to me.

Last year my son talked to his mother and me. He said he didn't believe in getting a whole bunch of junk for his kids for Christmas and he'd appreciate if we didn't either. He called it Excess-Mas, which is probably as good a handle as any to hang on a holiday that promotes greed and gimme-gimme as much as Christmas does. Oh yeah…you hear about all of the folks who want to help other people with meals, and gifts for their poor kids, but the rest of the public is less altruistic. "I bought my wife a diamond necklace, and she better goddam well get me that 52" plasma HDTV!"

We got into this mess because we believed that we were supposed to inundate our children with gifts, and buy expensive stuff for our spouses too. I'm sure if you go back a few decades you'll find the fine hands of retailers in all of this. To them the Christmas spirit is green, as in $$$.

For a few years our local daily newspaper used to run letters from a guy who wrote about Santa Claus. He hated the idea of Santa, hated us lying to our children about Santa. He called Santa Claus the "god of Christmas." At the time I thought the letter writer was another right-wing Christian fundamentalist crank, but now I think the guy hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head. We do tell our children that there is a man who has a reward for them if they're good. He lives in a place where we can't see him. He is omniscient: he can see what we are doing, misbehaving or behaving. He answers our letters (prayers) by bestowing blessings upon us. He travels by magic/supernatural means. Oh yeah…he has a long white beard, too. I am starting to see that far from being a crank, that letter writer was actually the most observant person among us.

There comes a day when kids find out the truth…there is no Santa Claus. Until that time it seems a harmless enough fiction to tell kids, but it's actually the first of what I call the Three Basic Lies We Tell Kids:

The first lie: there is a Santa Claus. He is a man who gives you something for nothing. You've just got to be good and your rewards will be given to you in the form of toys and candy.

The second and third lies aren't about Christmas, but they have the same sort of pie-in-the-sky quality: You can be anything you want to be when you grow up. Number three is the real kicker: If you work hard and are good, then good things will come to you.

And the other lies always start with the Santa Claus lie.

Christmas is a holiday with a split personality. It is religious. It's secular. It's two (click), two holidays in one! It isn't a bit odd for deeply religious, devout Christians observing Christmas as the anniversary of the birth of Christ, to also tell their kids lies about Santa Claus. The secular is blurred with the religious, and I notice no one, except maybe Larry the Cable Guy, seeing anything strange about lawns decorated with a Nativity scene standing next to a light-up Santa with reindeer.

Now, where's the BAH, HUMBUG! badge of mine?

Ciao for now, El Postino

Click on the pictures for full-size images, taken from Humbug Magazine, January 1958.