Tag Archives: Christmas

Potato barrel tree marks holiday in The County | Bangor Daily News

Potato Barrel Tree Marks Holiday in County | Bangor Daily News



[We used to drive through Wallagrass and Soldier Pond on our way to Fort Kent, Daigle and other St. John Valley communities to visit family. — KM]

Loring Job Corps Center students pen over 160 Christmas cards to servicemen overseas | Caribou Aroostook Republican and News via Bangor Daily News

Loring Job Corps Center students pen over 160 Christmas cards to servicemen overseas | Bangor Daily News.

Santa, all I want for Christmas is a bit of economic bliss: P.S. And don’t even think about re-gifting 2010 or 2009

Dear Santa:

How are ya, ya ol’ stout coot? I truly hope things are wonderful up at the North Pole and that you’ve been catching a bit of rest before your Christmas Eve jaunt. I know there’s lots of work involved – or so your flack factory spins us to believe – and the schedule must be pretty hectic.

I know it’s been awhile since I last wrote. After all, I haven’t worn footy-pajamas in years. Really. Please don’t take the lapse in correspondence as an indication of some Santa slight. I’ve been busy. Sort of, anyway.

But what you really want to know – and I know you’ll be checking twice – is whether I’ve been naughty or nice. Nice. Very, very nice. I put the “nice” in, well, “nice.’ I’m the nicest guy I know. Really I am. Come to think of it, I put the “nice” in “nicest,” too.

So, let’s get underway on this year’s Christmas list.

First, peace on Earth. Let’s start with peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan and a bit more peace still in Iraq. And good will toward men – servicemen, to be specific, and servicewomen. It still isn’t “Mission Accomplished,” but American servicemen and women have given their all – sadly for some, their very all – and it is time to get them back home. They deserve it. Their families deserve it. This nation deserves it. Sure, it may take a bit longer still, but surely there is something you can do to hurry things along, Saint Nick. Give it the ol’ college try, won’t you.

My family and friends each should have something nice this year. Everyone I know and love deserves good health, much happiness, and abundant prosperity. Everyone I know and love deserves these things because health, happiness and prosperity have been lacking a bit this past year. I hope you can amp up things a bit in the coming year.

Speaking of that, Jolly One, do you take returns? Because someone really botched 2010. Well, and 2009. Come to think of it, Kriss Kringle, someone royally screwed up quite a few years lately when it comes to the economy. Oh, sure, there were massive gifts to the auto industry and to Wall Street bankers and someone seems to have gifted the federal government with a passel of people who can’t seem to keep track of millions and millions of federal money, but what about we common folk? Sure, the federal tax break extension also includes an extension of unemployment insurance. But can’t we see a little more holiday spirit when it comes to the economy? And don’t be re-gifting the past year, either. That just wouldn’t be acceptable.

OK, I’m being a little selfish here. After all, I was laid off in March 2009 and am still looking for a job. But it is time that we get the 15 million or so unemployed Americans in this country back to work. That would be a lovely Christmas present. I could really use a job, Santa. Really.

And one more thing – and this is sort of a request for a long-term gift. The environment has taken some major, major hits since we humans started standing upright. From the North Pole you probably have the best view of the devastation we humans have wrought. So, please bring us cleaner air and water, fewer chemicals in the things we eat, drink, wear and otherwise use every day, and true sustainability in everyday life. Essentially, Santa, I’m looking for you to give us a better future on this marble we call Earth.

Well, Santa, the list is pretty short, but it covers the big stuff – better economy, no re-gifting of 2010, 2009, etc., health, happiness and prosperity for family and friends, a job, and a greener, sustainable future. I suppose if you must whittle down the list, why don’t you keep everything else and give us peace and tickets home for the servicemen and women who have given so much of themselves for the past decade or so.

That’s it, Santa. Say hi to Mrs. Claus and all the elves and scratch the reindeer under their chins. And have a safe journey on Christmas Eve.



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Coffeehouse observation No. 235

They just lighted the propane heater on the coffeehouse patio. That wouldn’t be much of a problem, except the guy who torched it is wearing a Seussian Christmas hat. Something HAS to go wrong.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 228

Just heard a Christmas commercial. The music was just too freakin’ perky.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 225

They put up Christmas decorations in the coffeehouse several days ago. I think it far too early. … And before anyone gets their Christmas stocking in a bind, I am not a Grinch for thinking that Thanksgiving should be the debarkation point for all things Christmas.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 11 — wild blueberries, moose and lobster

These dish towels, about 16 inches by 24 ½ inches, are decorated with the image of one of Maine’s most iconic images, wild blueberries. I received these as a gift from my family years ago. Photo by Keith Michaud

These dish towels, about 16 inches by 24 ½ inches, are decorated with the image of one of Maine’s most iconic images, wild blueberries. I received these as a gift from my family years ago. Photo by Keith Michaud

I have not added an installment of this feature for quite some time. That does not mean that I have run out of Maine stuff in my California apartment; it just means I have been distracted by other things.

But I wanted to add this entry before we moved too far beyond the blueberry season, which probably ended about a month or so ago.

Beginning years ago and over the course of several Christmas seasons, my family sent along to me several aprons, oven mitts, and dish towels printed with reminders of Maine. Several, of course, were printed with the famed Maine wild blueberry.

Blueberries are as much a symbol of Maine as are lobster, moose, L.L. Bean, and Patrick Dempsey. (Yes, Dr. McDreamy grew up in Maine and regularly returns to help raise funds for a cancer center in Central Maine.)

It may still be the case – I’m not sure – but once Maine wild blueberries accounted for very nearly all wild blueberries. And by “all,” I mean the entire world’s annual harvest.

So blueberries are something we Mainers, whether living in our homeland or “from away,” discuss with a certain amount of pride.

Here is a closer look at the image on the dish towels. They look nearly good enough to eat. Photo by Keith Michaud

Here is a closer look at the image on the dish towels. They look nearly good enough to eat. Photo by Keith Michaud

This is one of two oven mitts decorated with wild blueberries that I received from family over the years. There’s a matching mitt … somewhere in my apartment. I’m not exactly sure where it is. Photo by Keith Michaud

This is one of two oven mitts decorated with wild blueberries that I received from family over the years. There’s a matching mitt … somewhere in my apartment. I’m not exactly sure where it is. Photo by Keith Michaud

An apron decorated with wild blueberries also was among the gifts over the years. Photo by Keith Michaud

An apron decorated with wild blueberries also was among the gifts over the years. Photo by Keith Michaud

Today’s photos include the apron, dish towels and an oven mitt on which Maine blueberries are printed. For full disclosure, the dish towels never have been used as dish towels, simply as ornamental accents in my apartment’s kitchen. And the lone – and rather well used – mitt has a mate, but I cannot seem to find it. I know it is here somewhere, but I’m just not sure where.

By the way, I do have two other aprons on which Maine symbols – on one, lobster, and on the other, moose – are printed.

Wild blueberries are not the only iconic Maine images. Moose are big in Maine, not just in size but in state image value. Here’s an apron decorated with the tall antlered creature. Photo by Keith Michaud

Wild blueberries are not the only iconic Maine images. Moose are big in Maine, not just in size but in state image value. Here’s an apron decorated with the tall antlered creature. Photo by Keith Michaud

Here’s a closer look at the images on the moose apron. Photo by Keith Michaud

Here’s a closer look at the images on the moose apron. Photo by Keith Michaud

Among the most familiar icons of Maine, of course, is the lobster. And what kind of family would I have if they had not mailed to me an apron decorated with lobster. Photo by Keith Michaud

Among the most familiar icons of Maine, of course, is the lobster. And what kind of family would I have if they had not mailed to me an apron decorated with lobster. Photo by Keith Michaud

Here’s a closer look at the images on the lobster apron. Photo by Keith Michaud

Here’s a closer look at the images on the lobster apron. Photo by Keith Michaud

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. All photos in this series are shot by and are the property of Keith Michaud.

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If you aren’t a Cool Moose, you’re just not trying

Here is the Cool Moose logo on a hat given to me by my sister for my birthday.

This is the back side of the hat. Bridgton is east of where my sister and her family live in Western Maine.

For some reason that still escapes me, I wore a hate yesterday that my sister got me for my birthday.
Or it might have been Christmas.
I joked on Facebook yesterday: “Keith Michaud is wearing a cap that has a moose on the front. The antlers spell out “Cool Moose.” And Keith is not at all embarrassed. … Well, perhaps a little.”
A former coworker – who happened to have the intelligence and presence of mind to marry a Maine girl – shot back: “rock that with pride!” So here is a photo of the front “Cool Moose” logo – sorry about the sharpness; still learning the new camera. And a photo of the back. Bridgton is a town to the east of where my sister and family live in Western Maine.
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Visiting L.L. Bean a Maine Christmas Day tradition

Here’s a link to a Portland Press Herald story about a tradition many Mainers have of going to L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine, on Christmas Day.

I’ve been there a few times and love the place. It is especially great for anyone who enjoys the outdoors, whether it for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, bird watching, whatever.

I was a recreation assistant to a pair of dorms at the residential campus of the University of Southern Maine and I organized a midnight run to L.L. Bean. Except for being pulled over for speeding, fun was had by all.

The main store – and I believe this is still the case – is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. If I recall correctly, L.L. Bean has closed twice in its history, including once to take in the residents of an apartment building that had burned.

Anyone visiting Maine should add L.L. Bean as a destination. Also, factory outlets and other shops have sprung up all around L.L. Bean.

My family is trying to make me fat this Christmas

The Mom and The Sis have joined in a conspiracy, I fear, to make me fat.

Or, at least, pleasantly plump.

Two men dressed in UPS brown – two co-conspirators, although I believe unwitting co-conspirators – arrived at my doorstep early Tuesday evening with a package that The Sis had told me to expect. The storms back East had convinced me that the package would arrive later rather than sooner, but Big Brown came through during the holiday rush.

I signed on the glowing line – everything is electronic now, you know – and received the holiday package.

And, of course, I placed it under the hugely beautiful ornamented Christmas tree in the corner of my apartment living room, where it will wait until Christmas morning to be opened. …

OK, so I didn’t bother to unpack my Christmas ornaments or get a Christmas tree this year. I have a camera tripod in the corner of my living room. I suppose I could string some Christmas lights on it and hook a few ornaments on the knobs and paste a star or angel on the mounting bolt. Then I’d be good to go for Christmas. Or not. It just seemed like a lot of work for one person.

And if I fibbed about having a “hugely beautiful ornamented Christmas tree in the corner of my apartment living room,” you can guess that I also fibbed about placing the package anywhere … except on my dining room table so I could open it.

Now, Christmas purists will say “Christmas morning is when you open Christmas presents, not on Christmas Eve and certainly – CERTAINLY – not on Christmas Eve Eve Eve.” (Enough eves? One, two, three, yep.)

But technically – and I think this would stand up in a Christmas tribunal should one be called – I was simply opening the outer package. It is not my fault that Zeb’s General Store in North Conway, N.H., where The Sis and The Mom very likely purchased the wonderful treats within, did not take yards and yards of decorated parchment to carefully wrap each individual item and tie each with ribbon with surgical care. (Frankly, Zeb’s is a really, really cool place and I very much want to visit it again the next time I vacation in Maine. It’s a very New England town and a very New England general store … that caters to tourists, but it is still very, very cool.)

So, I immediately opened the outer box, dug my way through the form peanuts – the guy who invented those things should be hung by his toes in the public square before being made to go from home to home to home on Christmas afternoon to clean up those dastardly things – and found the treasures inside.

What follows is a partial list of the wonderful tastes of Maine and New England that The Mom and The Sis bestowed upon me this holiday season. (Note: I had planned to include photos of some of the treats, but ran to a couple of technical difficulties. I hope to update with photos within a couple of days.)

And here is the evidence I have for believing in the conspiracy to make me fat. Everything in the package – except the stoneware mugs in the shape of moose head – were jammed with sugar and other things that are likely to make my waist bigger.

But this is the holiday season and it is perfectly – PERFECTLY – OK to indulge, and I can do things the rest of the year to counterbalance the evil that is blueberry syrup.

Beautiful blueberry breakfast

OK, blueberry syrup is not in any way evil. It is quite the opposite and nothing short of wonderful.

This time around, it was a bottle of Pemberton’s Gourmet Food Mountain Mornings Breakfast Syrup made of Maine wild blueberries. Yeah, that’s right, syrup made of wild blueberries. And it is all mine, mine, mine!

OK, sorry, got a little carried away. Pemberton’s is located in Gray, Maine, according to the label, and the syrup contains Maine wild blueberries, sugar, honey, lemon juice, spices and pectinase. I haven’t opened or tasted it, but I’m pretty sure I will enjoy it and mourn once the bottle is empty. Here is Pemberton’s website: www.pembertonsgourmet.com .

While we’re on syrup, they threw in a bottle of Brown Family Farm Pure England Maple Syrup. The business is based in Battlebore, VT. Vermont is not Maine, but it’ll do.

The bottle came with a card listing Top 10 Maple Tips:

  • Add a light flavor to apple pie. (Hmm, that has to be good!)
  • Drizzle on a turkey wrap. (Gotta try this.)
  • Mix with salad dressing. (I’ll try anything at least once.)
  • Add to yogurt or vanilla ice cream. (Done this and it is very good.)
  • Add splash while cooking to sausage or bacon. (Nothin’ lovin’ quite like maple bacon or sausage.)
  • Baked beans are always better with a bit of maple syrup. (Yes, it is.)
  • It works with sweet potatoes and carrots, too. (I’ve done sweet potatoes and carrots with brown sugar, but I bet maple sugar would be good, too.)
  • Blend with Dijon mustard to marinate salmon. (Oh, yeah!)
  • Mix with butter and glaze baked squash. (Hmm!)
  • Add to fresh berries and cream. (I’ve done this, too, and it is great.)

Brown Family Farm has more tips; go to http://www.brownfamilyfarmmaple.com/ for more info.

If you’ve got all that syrup, you’re gonna need something on which to pour it – beside the things listed above. Why not go with The New England Cupboard Blueberry Pancake Mix, made with Maine wild blueberries. It claims to provide “old-fashion flavor with modern convenience.”

The label on the package – mix ingredients include unbleached wheat flour, blueberries canned in water, sugar, nonaluminum baking powder, salt and cinnamon – promises 16 to 18 4-inch pancakes. This very likely is Christmas breakfast, but not 16 to 18 pancakes.

The New England Cupboard website is http://www.newenglandcupboard.com/ .

Heating up lunch or dinner

I like sweet, but I love hot and spicy. My family knows this.

So, it is not unusual for me to receive something from Captain Mowatt’s line of very fine hot sauces. How could you not like products from a company that puts on its bottles: “Burning the planet one tongue at a time.”

I am most partial to Captain Mowatt’s Canceaux Sauce, but I also love Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame. As the label says: “Blue Flame is the ultimate, salacious rendezvous. Wild native Maine blueberries coupled with fiery nubile red chilies. It’s passionate … it’s hot … it’s sweet … it’s blissful.”

W.O. Hesperus Co. makes the stuff in Portland, Maine, and go to http://www.wohesperus.com/ for more info.

The second sauce I’m holding as evidence that my family is not just trying to make me fat, but also may be trying to kill me … from the inside out. Anything called mad Dog 357 Pure Ghost Sauce should be handled with asbestos gloves and in full firefighting turnout gear!

Frankly, the distributer – Ashley Food Co. of Sudbury, MA, at http://www.ashleyfood.com/ – seems a tiny bit delinquent in its labeling. The only warning on the label reads: “This sauce is very hot. Use it at your own risk.”

And while that seems mild, what makes an experienced hot sauce enthusiast take pause are two – not one, but two – warnings “World’s hottest peppers.”

OK, there is one other subtle warning: “Carefully crafted with the world’s hottest pepper, the Ghost Pepper, aka Bhut Jolokia, this sauce delivers hauntingly pure heat with a killer sting only a ghost can deliver.” I know this is gonna hurt!

Something else very, very sweet

I’m not the kind of guy to say that if something is good, make it great by pouring chocolate all over it. Chocolate is great by itself, especially with a nice glass of red wine.

There are some things, however, that do take on a different complexity when milk chocolate is poured over ’em.

Wild blueberries are perfect – yes, perfect – directly from the bush. Or with some cream. Or in muffins. Or pancakes. Or … Well, you get the point.

But chocolate covered blueberries are a different level of perfect. In the package was a packet of Bangor Blues Milk Chocolate Covered Blueberries. I won’t get into the nutritional facts from the label, because it isn’t about nutrition when you’re eating this – it’s about savoring a bit of heaven … with the Aurora Borealis thrown in for color.

You should be able to get more information about Bangor Blues at http://www.bangorblues.com/ .

DownEast Coffee Munch, at least in its name, has everything I need. It has reference to Mother Maine, it has coffee and it has munch. DownEast Coffee Munch is a brand of chocolate covered Maine roasted espresso beans, and mighty tasty, I might add.

The tasty, caffeine-laced snack is made by Gladstone’s Under the Sun based in Bar Harbor, Maine, not far from Acadia National Park. Let’s see – Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park and DownEast Coffee Munch. That would be three very good reasons for anyone to hit the midcoast region.

Check out Gladstone’s website at http://www.mainemunchies.com/ .

Nothing says New England quite like Maine Saltwater Taffy. The Mom and The Sis included a larger-than-necessary box of Maine Saltwater Taffy. I’m sucking on some just now. Hmm, a mellow, sticky sweetness. Suck on it, don’t chew or you’re libel to pull out a filling or two … or even a tooth. It’s sticky.

Again, let’s not talk ingredients, shall we. Just know that it is worth it from time to time to partake of Maine’s Saltwater Taffy.

The brand The Mom and The Sis picked up was manufactured by Cabot’s Candy of Cape Cod out of Provincetown, MA, and you can get more info at http://www.cabotscandy.com/ .

Spice of life

Two things: I love sea salt; and I love that some seasoning jars now come with their own grinders. (Disclaimer: I immediately see a recycling problem because of the extra material used to create the grinder part of the jars, but jars seem to be reusable – and should be reused whenever possible – so it is just a matter of adding sea salt, pepper corns or whatever.)

In the package was Maine Sea Salt from the Maine Sea Salt Co. out of Marshfield, Maine. More info can be found at http://www.maineseasalt.com/ .

The Mom and The Sis a year or so ago sent me a jar of sea salt. Let’s just say, great stuff, that sea salt.

For my hot beverages

The Sis likes to send me stoneware. Over the years she has sent me some lovely bowls, pots and cups.

There has been a theme the past couple of years, however, that includes big floppy ears, a hug snout and an expansive aerial. One year it was a chili bowl – with a moose on the side – and another year it was a syrup pitcher – again, with a moose on the side.

This year, two mugs with a slightly goofy-looking moose on each. They are great!

They were designed by Richard Adam Dabrowski of Kennebunkport, Maine (Yep, summer home of the Bush family), and they come from Birchstone Studio in Fryeburg, Maine. Its website is listed as http://www.birchstonestudios.com/ .

Each of the mugs came with a note, including: “The mug of the moose mug you hold is loved by his mother were the truth to be told.”

It also includes “a word about the moose”:

  • The name moose comes from the Algonquin Indian language.
  • Moose stand about 7 feet tall as the shoulders, measure 10 feet from the nose to tail, weigh 1,500 pounds with 75-pound antlers, which are at times 5 feet wide.
  • Moose can run at about 35 mph.
  • Moose eat twigs, leaves, ferns, pond weeds and other vegetation.
  • Bull moose grows a new set of antlers each year.
  • Males frequently battle other males for females.
  • Males are in rut from September to mid-December and will stop eating while searching for a mate.

The information does not indicate – and it probably should – that moose can do great damage to vehicles when struck. Oh, and to the occupants of the vehicles, too.

Fun and games

I nearly forgot!

Also included in the package were three ol’ style games. Two of them were travel size dice games, one called Parlor Football Game and the other was called Game of Golf, both from a manufacture called Channel Craft. You can find out more at http://www.channelcraft.com/ . I have been playing golf for the past 40 years and I do enjoy a good football game, so I should have fun playing the games.

Also included was a deck of playing cards and a cribbage board. I haven’t played cribbage in the past 20 years or longer. I’ll have to go online to refresh my memory about the rules, but it’ll be worth it. It will be great to relearn the game.

I also like the board; it has a moose etched at one end.

I’m going to enjoy all the treasures delivered by the men in brown. But I still think my family is trying to make me fat!

Or, at least pleasantly, pleasantly plump.

Christmas Past Part 4: ‘Santa, I have a short list’

Here it is! This is the fourth and final in a series of holiday columns I wrote some years ago when I was the opinion page editor of The Reporter, the daily newspaper in Vacaville, Calif.  I have links at the bottom of this column to the other three if you missed them and want to take a look.

This one is a letter to Santa. (Yeah, I know! Incredibly original.) It’s ironic that those things I asked Santa for four years ago are pretty much the same things I would ask for today. All I’d have to do is change the year.

Here is wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Santa, I have a short list

The author was the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this was first published Dec. 21, 2005.

By Keith Michaud

Dear Santa:

I certainly hope this note finds you healthy and well. And Mrs. Claus, too. She sure is a cutie, ya ol’ dog, you; you’re a pretty lucky ol’ fella for having her, especially considering the traveling you do every year.

Granted, all that traveling is done in a single evening, but it’s a lot of mileage to put on that sleigh of yours. You must pay a pretty penny at the end of your lease agreement.

I hope all those helpful elves and lively reindeer are healthy and well, too. I know you all work pretty hard all year to get gifts to children around the world. And if we don’t say it enough, thanks for helping to keep alive the holiday spirit of giving.

Well, despite what some will say, I’ve been more nice than naughty this year. Yeah, I know, it’s been a rather boring year since we last spoke, but I’m hoping to remedy that in 2006. Hopefully, I’ll be able to admit to being a tiny bit naughty next year.

Anyway, my list isn’t very long this year. You know me. I don’t need much.

Santa, if you can swing it, how about peace on earth and good will to all men, women, children and animals? There is far too much strife in the world – fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, suicide bombing in the Middle East, revolts on the African continent, rioting in Europe, and race riots in Australia, for heaven’s sake. A little peace would be good just about now, don’t you think, Jolly One?

Along with that, how about a bit more safety for our fighting men and women in those faraway lands? They are spread thin and it would be easy for them to think that we have let them slip from our minds, that we do not care. Santa, please let them know that servicemen and women remain in our hearts and minds this holiday season, whether we back armed conflict or not. Surely, Santa, we can separate the war from the warrior. After all, wars are started by fat men and women in houses of politics. And wars are fought by strong, young men and women with a sense of patriotism and honor, and a bit of adventure.

St. Nick, how about a bit of tolerance, too? There doesn’t seem to be enough of that around. I mean, we’re such a wonderfully diverse people in this world that it’s a shame we cannot all get along better, accepting and embracing each others’ differences, rather than picking chest-thumping fights over silliness.

Santa, I’ve got a niece and nephew, and I’d like to have children of my own someday. I’d like to think we could leave them a better world than the one we’ve got now. What do you say, Santa, can you build peace, hope, harmony and tolerance in your workshop?

Previously posted:

Christmas Past Part 1: ‘Holiday spirit takes off’

Christmas Past Part 2: ‘Calling too late for wishes’

Christmas past Part 3: ‘Hey, call me Mr. Christmas’

Christmas Past Part 3: ‘Hey, call me Mr. Christmas’

You’re back?! Wow, I thought I would have lost you long ago.

But since you’re here, take off your coat, loosen up the belt, sit down and relax, while you read the third in a series of four holiday columns I wrote years ago when I was an opinion page editor for a newspaper in Northern California.

In the first column I wrote about the holiday spirit – and adults wrestling for cheap toys – and about a Texas lawmaker who irked Texas Christmas tree growers by putting in the Texas House of Representatives a plastic tree made in China. And the second column poked fun at me for my tardiness in shopping for the holidays.

This, the third in the series, again pokes fun at me for not beginning my holiday shopping until Boxing Day. This time I explain TGS, or typical guy syndrome.

And, as you see from the note at the end of the column, it did irk a few people. You never know what is gonna rile people.

Hey, call me Mr. Christmas

Editor’s note: The author was the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this was first published on Dec. 22, 2004.

By Keith Michaud

’Tis that wacky season once again to be jolly and full of holiday cheer, to gather with family and friends to exchange gifts, good tidings and hopes for the coming year. It’s time to fa-la-la-la-la, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. Just call me Mr. Christmas or Hap Holiday. Either will do.

Longtime readers – and you both know who you are – will recall that I occasionally suffer from seasonal onset TGS, or typical guy syndrome. TGS is caused by something attached to the Y chromosome or beamed into our heads during televised Sunday football games. It causes traits in guys that we just cannot shake, even if we wanted to.

TGS sufferers, who can live long, productive lives in captivity, are typically known for leaving shoes strewn throughout the living room, leaving half-eaten sandwiches on bookshelves and nightstands, and for not remembering which pile of laundry on the floor is clean and which is dirty, causing TGS sufferers to face the added ridicule associated with wearing dirty clothing in public.

And as I have written before, TGS sufferers can turn a simple house chore into a task equivalent to figuring out quantum physics. Things left in our refrigerators take on the air of a scientific experiment. (Remember, mold can be your friend.)

Perhaps the most significant trait of seasonal TGS sufferers is to postpone until the very last possible moment the purchasing of Christmas gifts. Why battle for weeks with the crowds at the mall? Just wait until Christmas Eve before starting out. The battle with the crowds goes on for a few hours and not for weeks.

Admittedly, the holiday gift selection is a bit limited for TGS shoppers. That may be why their family members sometime receive, well, interesting gifts. Sure, Aunt Girdy might not appreciate the bag of corn nuts in her stocking nor Uncle Bob the convenience-store coffee mug, but these are gifts from the heart for a TGS sufferer.

Fortunately, I was able to break the ugly grip of TGS just long enough to ship two packages to family in the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine. The packages made it there in plenty of time after a schooner trip around Cape Horn and up to Boston, a train ride to Kennebunkport, a mule train to Bangor, and two dog sleds north. So what if the packages my family received last week were the ones I sent last February for the previous Christmas. It’s the thought that counts. Besides, it’s not as if the spirit of Christmas past really comes to visit. Right? No, that’s a real question. They don’t, do they?

Like I said, call me Mr. Christmas.

Believe it or not, this column actually stirred up a touch of holiday controversy in Vacaville. More than one reader took me to task in phone calls and letters to the editor for the use of the phrase “Hap Holiday.”

One letter writer wrote in part:

“Although I applaud Keith Michaud’s willingness to be called ‘Mr. Christmas’ amid an era of ever-increasing political correctness, I couldn’t help but notice he went on to say that we could also call him ‘Hap Holiday’ in his recent column.

“This perhaps unintentional willingness to eliminate the name Christmas from this holiday has me baffled, yet not surprised.”

I really wasn’t trying to eliminate “Christmas” from the holiday, but my experience at this sort of thing led me to believe then – as it does now – that whatever I had to say in my defense would not have been accepted on face value.

The letter writer ended his rather long letter:

“Yeah, I know, this would make believers extremists. How ironic. The few who oppose Christianity have managed to turn Christians into radicals. Thus, perhaps unknowingly, Mr. Michaud proliferates politically correct propaganda and tells readers that calling him ‘Hap Holiday’ is fine with him.

“Well, it’s not fine with me. So you can call me Mr. Christmas.”

Well, at least someone is Mr. Christmas.

Previously posted:

Christmas Past Part 1: ‘Holiday spirit takes off’

Christmas Past Part 2: ‘Calling too late for wishes’

Christmas Past Part 2: ‘Calling too late for wishes’

Here is the second in the series of four recycled holiday columns I wrote years ago. The first in the series was partly about the holiday spirit taking over and partly about a wire story on how a Texas lawmaker had raised the ire of Texas Christmas tree growers by putting up in the Texas House of Representatives a plastic Christmas tree made in China. Yeah, that did not go over well.

The one below pokes fun at me for waiting until the last moment to begin holiday shopping. I even come up with a name for the illness and write about it in another in this series of four recycled columns.

Enjoy! Or not.

Calling too late for wishes

Editor’s note: The author was the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this was first published on Dec. 24, 2003.

By Keith Michaud

“Thanks for calling the North Pole Operations Center Customer Service Division. Elf 1st Class Norman here. How can I help you?”

“Norman, is it? Yeah, I’m in a bit of a bind and I was hoping you and the Jolly One for whom you work could give me a hand.”

“We’ll see. What seems to be the problem?”

“You see, in typical fashion …”


“… I waited until the very last minute to begin my Christmas shopping.”

“I see.”

“And, well, I was hoping you fellas could, you know, get me out of a jam.”

“OK, well, Santa is kind of tied up right now …”

“Yeah, I figured he would be pretty busy what with it being Christmas Eve and all. I knew I was calling much too late …”

“It’s quite OK. We deal with these sorts of things every year. You’re not the first mentally challenged last-minute shopper to call the Santa’s North Pole Operations Center.”

“Oh, I see …”

“Now, what can we do for you? Is there something in particular you’re looking for this year.”

“World peace would be nice. And it would be cool for our servicemen and women to have a safe holiday season and get back home before too long. This whole thing in Afghanistan and Iraq is costing us all too much money and too much in lives.”

“World peace? Well, we’ll give it a try, but you have to understand that’s a pretty tall order, even for Kris Kringle, and especially on such short notice.”

“Well, yeah, I didn’t really expect him to get it done overnight. But perhaps he could work on it after the new year?”

“I’ll take it up with him after The Run. Now, what else? Perhaps something a bit more doable?”

“How ’bout ending world hunger?”

“OK, anything that has to do with ‘world’ anything isn’t going to get done by Christmas morning. It’s just not gonna happen.”

“OK, OK. Mmm, what about fixing up things in Sacramento. Years and years of silly politics has pretty much tarnished the Golden State. Don’t get me wrong. Gov. Terminator has taken some action, but I’m not sure he’s an action hero when it comes to politics. Can Santa fix up the state government, and the economy while he’s at it …”

“Whoa, now. There are just some things even Santa Claus can’t do. You Californians will have to take care of things on your own with that one. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“I suppose not. Those were the big ones this year. Maybe next year?”

“Perhaps. But try calling before Christmas Eve next time. Santa can’t work miracles, ya know.”

“Yeah, OK.”

Previously posted:

Christmas Past Part 1: ‘Holiday spirit takes off’

Christmas Past Part 1: ‘Holiday spirit takes off’

Truly the most satisfying part of being a journalist is coming up with timely, meaningful topics about which to write passionately. Journalists take great pride in finding an issue – homelessness, hunger, corruption, for examples – and writing or producing a product that sheds light on that issue and positively affects the people in their audience.

This is not one of those instances.

Instead, this is a case of a journalist recycling a handful of holiday columns, because, well, he can. Over the next couple of days I will present those holiday columns I wrote years ago. These are not particularly poignant tales of redemption or reunion. For the most part, these were columns I wrote on deadline to fill a hole on a page. (There! I admitted it!)

But there may be nuggets of wit here and there, so I urge you to read on just for fun.

Holiday spirit takes off

Editor’s note: The author was the opinion page editor of The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this column was first published on Dec. 10, 2003.

By Keith Michaud

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas around Vacaville – the Christmas tree downtown and garland on the lampposts, holiday decorations at every turn, and the throng of holiday shoppers have arrived from parts far and wide.

Yep, there’s nothing quite like seeing grown folks wrestling in the aisles of local department stores pitted in battle over an $8.99 toy or a $2.99 Christmas ribbon.

Ah, even I’m beginning to feel that holiday spirit growin’ inside me. Or it could be heartburn from my breakfast burrito.

At any rate, I’m thinking about perhaps possibly beginning my holiday shopping list to be checked not once, but twice. And I might actually get to the actual shopping by, say, Christmas Eve. Boxing Day at the latest.

I’m not one to rush into such things. After all, I’ve had all year to plot my holiday shopping strategy. I don’t want to blow it now by rushing it at the end.

Of course, first on my holiday shopping list will be my Mom and sister and her family. Shipping packages back to the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine requires planning and timing. It also requires knowing plane, train and stagecoach schedules in order to get the packages there on time. But after living in California for the past 20 years, I think I may have mastered the technique. I think.

More on that later …

 * * *

California lawmakers should feel fortunate. They only have to deal with a state budget that looks much like Swiss cheese and a governor the size of a Swiss, er, Austrian mountain. They don’t have to deal with a Christmas tree scandal.

The speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Tom Craddick, put up a plastic, made-in-China Christmas tree in the House and now has the state’s Christmas tree farmers up in arms, according to a Reuters story.

“I think people can deduce for themselves about what it means to have a plastic Christmas tree from China in the Texas State House,” the story quoted Lanny Dreesen, a Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association spokesman.

Hm, Mr. Dreesen seems to have a Texas-size temper.

I’ve been in this business a while now and I deduced a couple of things – don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas Christmas tree farmers.

If I had my choices, I’d want to deal with budget woes over fending off an attack by Christmas tree growers. Imagine the political clout these growers have, especially at this time of the year. Imagine the lawsuits they could bring.

Yep, I’m getting that holiday spirit.