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The Crap Tree UPDATED November 30, 2009

Posted by daveintexas in Family, Personal Experiences.
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[Note by Michael:  It has become a tradition at Innocent Bystanders to annually republish the first-ever blog post by Dave in Texas during the Christmas season.  It has become a classic.  This is the original version, which actually predates the founding of Innocent Bystanders.  Except I have greatly improved it by centering the pictures.]

Several years ago my wife conceived a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She’s been very patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plan this year. This fight isn’t over, not by a long shot. But I’ve lost a lot of ground.

I am what you would call a ‘Christmas kind of guy’. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the pretty packages, the wreaths, the greenery hanging everywhere. I like Christmas plates and coffee cups. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas towels in the bathrooms, Christmas napkins, Christmas movies and books, if they had Christmas toilet paper I would buy two cases (does anybody know if they make that?). I think Christmas lights on pickup trucks look terrific.


I really dig Christmas.

As soon as the clutter is cleaned away from the Thanksgiving feast, I’m up in the attic getting boxes down. I know where every one of them is, and I pretty much know what’s inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January (that always makes me sad). I suppose it’s just that we tend to use the same boxes for things. You could sum up my taste in Christmas decorations in one phrase. Colored lights. Yes, like the late Michael Kelly wrote on the topic of Christmas lights, there are white light people, and colored light people. I’m in the second group. Years ago I conceded the inevitability of teeny lights taking over. I gave up trying to find strings of lights with those big painted bulbs that burned your fingers. I miss them, but I understand. Technology changes things. But even if they’re teeny, I have to have colored lights. This theme extends to other decorations.


I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. A dancing Santa Claus with an electric guitar and sunglasses? Oh yes. Strings of lights that look like jalapenos? Lovely. Elves laid out in a winter North Pole Office Party display, holding little cans of Bud Light while singing drunken Christmas tunes? I am so there. And you have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal. I don’t blame her, taste is subjective, right? Eye of the beholder and all that. We can coexist. We can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. We’ll find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Detente baby.


limited edition strat and twin reverb amp ornament

Well, I was wrong so I didn’t see it coming. It started with a new Christmas tree. She brought it home a few years ago. It’s bigger than our old tree. 10 feet. It’s frickin ginormous! Me, I’m all excited. What could be better than one Christmas tree? Two trees! Oh yeah, two sets of lights and ornaments and glitter, extra room for more presents. This will be so cool! I set the new tree up first. In the formal dining room, right there in the front window where everyone can see it. We decided the older tree would be just fine in the family room, we moved some things around and set it up there. Looked just fine. I didn’t even notice when my wife pulled the strings of white lights out that something was amiss. ‘Sure’, I thought, ‘woo… fan-cee’. What the heck. White lights on the new tree.

Then I noticed we had packages (really nice packages, you know, the kind of shopping bags you keep cause they’re so pretty?) with more ornaments in them. Impressive looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we’ll need more stuff to put on it. It was when I reached into a box to pull out my favorite lights, the string of little Fender Telecasters, and headed for the new tree, that the plan in its entirety was revealed to me. She said ‘STOP right there!’ evenly spacing her words using a tone of voice that said I should seriously consider stopping right there. ‘There will be none of that on this tree’, she said. Same tone. I said what most husbands say when they are confronted with possible wrongdoing. ‘Wh-a-a-at?’ Real slowly, dumb-like. ‘No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos’ she said.


And she was deadly serious.  She looked right at me and announced ‘this is the ‘nice tree’’.

The Nice Tree™. In the front room, prominently displayed in the big window. I looked around. The other decorations in the room began to make sense to me. The special Christmas china was set on the formal table. The expensive candle holders on the table by the entry, with long tapered white candles in them, you know, the kind you can’t get at Wal-Mart (10 for .55 cents). And then I understood. This room, was going to be ‘pretty’. Like a Christmas display at some expensive store on 5th Avenue, the ones whose names I can’t pronounce correctly. I looked at what was now my tree. Guitar lights. Ornaments from Fender. The decorations my kids made in Sunday school with funny shaped noodles and gold spray paint. Popsicle sticks and yarn and pictures. Hidden in the family room where no eye shall be offended. No one can see it.

I began calling my tree the “Crap Tree”.

The Nice Tree has gold swirly things on it, and a special tree skirt thingy made of silk and shiny stuff. It’s really pretty. It looks like something you would find in one of those stores in Salado. The Crap Tree has an old skirt made of something that looks like shag carpet. It has a pattern that sort of resembles a Christmas tree, at least, the way a Christmas tree looks to a myopic drunk. In a moment of weakness my brother in law crocheted it for us. It’s been more than 15 years and I still kick his ass about that.


easy to spot boxes

I am not allowed to put my special guitar ornaments on the Nice Tree. Who am I kidding? I’m not allowed to put anything on the Nice Tree. Every now and then, I sneak one on it when no one is looking. It doesn’t matter. My oldest daughter finds it and moves it back. At lease I’m not completely alone in my fight, my youngest daughter will take one of my ornaments and sneak it back on the nice tree. Occasionally sibling rivalry will overcome their natural tendency to gang up on you because of gender affiliation.  Which is nice.

The Crap Tree has lights on it from The Hard Rock Café. I think those are my favorite, although the lights that look like jalapenos are a close second. Ever since my wife debuted the Nice Tree, Christmas in our house has been looking a little different. The living room is starting to spread out. Our old Frosty the Snowman and Christmas tree hand towels we used to put in the guest bathroom have been replaced with much prettier hand towels. None of us is allowed to touch them. You wash your hands in this bathroom, you better wipe them off on your blue jeans. My ‘singing Santa’ with the electric guitar and the sunglasses is now back in my bedroom on the dresser. The battery has been removed.

This year I couldn’t find the Drunken Office Party Elves. My wife says she has no idea what happened to them. She says it in a way that makes me think she knows exactly what happened to them, and I will never see them again.


Olive, the other reindeer

So I know what I’m up against. Soon, next year, or maybe the one after that, I will find myself engaged in a desperate battle, a last stand in front of my dearest Christmas decoration, the Crap Tree.

She may relent. The Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Decorations we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Things our friends gave to us. Decorations that her students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of the girls when they were little in red and white Christmas dresses, hugging Santa and telling him how good they had been this year. So long ago, before cars and boys and college. Every now and then I find a little bit of attic insulation in one of the branches, from a Christmas years ago when I slipped in the overhead and put my foot through the ceiling, right over the tree. The youngest looked up and said ‘Mommy, it’s Santa’! I think she was 4.

I love the Crap Tree. It is an old friend. It’s the decoration in our house that says “Christmas” to me, and I hope it always will.


NEW PICS BELOW (not centered)


Noodlin’ November 29, 2009

Posted by Michael in Sports, Stupid shit.
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While some fools debate about global warming, others are engaged in simpler and more productive pursuits.

Like fishing the hard way.

It’s called noodlin’.  You find a catfish in a hole, punch it in the mouth, and get your hand through the gills and drag it up before you get drowned.

Yes, some people have actually been killed doing this.

Sunday Morning musical interlude November 29, 2009

Posted by wintersetruss in News.
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  No explanation necessary.


Done November 29, 2009

Posted by Sobek in Art.
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This took much less time than I expected.


Nifty Old Dude -lauraw November 29, 2009

Posted by anycomments in News.
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Pinetop Perkins.

Perkins is believed to be the oldest of the old-time Delta blues musicians still performing. In an 80-year career, he’s traveled through juke joints, nightclubs and festival stages shared with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters.

In a telephone interview after a gig a week before Thanksgiving at a jazz club in Oakland, Calif., the old bluesman summed up his performance simply: “Looks like the folks loved what I was doing last night.”

And he’s not done yet.

The two-time Grammy winner is at work on another album, due out in 2010.

“I thank the Lord for me being here all the time. I play any piano with a good tune,” Perkins said.

He moves pretty good for a 95-year old!

Thanks to Scott.

Girly Post November 28, 2009

Posted by kevlarchick in Women Ranting.
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Just spent the last 24 hours at an incredible bed and breakfast/spa with my sisters, mom, and venerable 80 year old aunt.  Exquisite 100 year old mansion near Batesville, Indiana (home of the world famous Batesville Casket Company). 

We arrived to happy hour and a darling boy playing jazz piano in the parlor.  I decended to the spa for a massage after some hors d’hoeuvres and a few glasses of wine.   We got all doodied up and walked thru the cold starry night to a lovely dinner.  We laughed, told stories, and drank lots of wine in front of a glowing Christmas tree and roaring fire.

This morning after a lovely breakfast of berries, egg strata, and biscuits, I was treated to a heavenly manicure. 

Then we had to come home.  My nails look good! 

Best early Christmas present ever from my sister!   No crowds, no shopping, no internet, no TV, no kids, and no mens.

Climategate: Who’s Who and What They’ve Been Up To November 28, 2009

Posted by Michael in Politics, Science.
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A fascinating look at the powerful and insular clique of AGW zealots.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Thanks to Watts Up With That?

HAHA!! EPIC PWNAGE! November 28, 2009

Posted by Edward von Bear in Entertainment, Family, Food, Humor, Law, Literature.
Tags: ,
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Thursday Night Lights November 27, 2009

Posted by daveintexas in Entertainment, Literature, Movies, Personal Experiences.
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Bout 10:30 last night, after the Texas – Texas A&M game.

Protect Your Bacon From Robbers November 27, 2009

Posted by Michael in Crime.
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Black Friday Specials: 2009 November 27, 2009

Posted by geoff in News.
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You can purchase the UroClub for only $24.95 for a limited time only:

Any other deals we should know about?

Happy Thanksgiving! November 26, 2009

Posted by Michael in Art.
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Read this and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!