Goodbye For The Summer

It is hard for a New Englander to look into the Summer whilst perched on the very end of the Spring and not see literally anything but a mountain of promise. So much hope. Plans to be made and goals to tackle. Vacations and days at the beach. Cold beer and hot dogs. Ice cream. Not worrying about sweating because every time you mention the heat someone reminds you of what awaits a mere few months down the line. The smell of spent black powder in the air after fireworks displays. It’s all good stuff. However, all that good stuff requires money. Maybe not so much the goals. I mean, that is unless your goal is to make more money so you can spend more money. This year, I am facing another two weeks of school on top of the regular year as I am teaching Summer school. Meaning; I have a bit more time to think about what I want to do and a bit less time to accomplish all of it. Therefore; I am going to compile a short list of the so-called, must do’s to refer back to frequently over the next couple of months. I will give you a few choice samples now and then as I have done for the past three years of this blog’s existence, I will shut it down until the school year begins anew in September. Here we go.

  1. Celebrate the 4th of July – seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. As a proud American I have been celebrating this holiday my entire life. I was born in July. As my mother tell’s the story; I was born in the afternoon a couple of weeks past the 4th. When the nurses had cleaned the goo off of me, they wrapped me in an American flag and laid me in my mother’s arms. As mother and baby shared a moment, I gently asked her, “pray tell, mother… am I too late for the 4th of July celebrations”? I then slowly pulled a small already lit sparkler out and began to gently hum “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. “Yes, I am afraid you are”, she replied. At this point, I apparently became inconsolable and when the nurse called for the doctor to come in to see the abnormally large and ugly baby that could somehow not only speak, but speak in such a perfect, Richard Burtonesque way, I lashed out. I accused the doctor and nurses of witchcraft, knocked over the IV and sprinted towards the door only to come into contact with the business end of the good doctor’s riding crop, which he always carried. I woke up ten years later in a home for wayward patriots. But I got out! So as you can see, I like the holiday. This year I want to have a big cookout. But I want to cook something essentially American. I was thinking an eagle but I am pretty sure that is a felony. The next best thing? The animal that is most commonly associated with the United States, the majestic and delicious coyote. It shouldn’t be hard as the place where we live now is ripe with them. The only issue is that I am having a hell of a hard time finding really good quality ‘yote meat. And I am not much of a hunter. This is a problem. I figure if I can’t get any we can always just do burgers. I also want to light off some fireworks. Which are illegal in this state. But what kind of American would I be if I didn’t routinely break the laws that I thought were dumb. Bring on the 4th.
  2. Write The Great American Novel – I have a few Ideas. Admittedly, none are all that good. But considering what passes for movies, television and pop music these days I’ve realized that they don’t need to be. People like inspirational, feel-good, against the odds sorta bullshit these days. I figure if I write a book about some lousy kid who comes from a home where the parents are constantly fighting and the siblings are in a romantic relationship with each other and the dog is always trying to commit suicide and some bum keeps giving him really pithy advice which ends up shaping his life some asshole will read it. I’ll have a lot of veiled political references in it. I will decry the evils of whatever it is we are supposed to be pissed off at on the day I happen to write whatever chapter I am on at the time. The protagonist will overcome all hardships and I will make sure that the villain is really, really evil. Someone that the entire culture can all viscerally loathe equally. Someone like; the guy who killed John Wick’s dog. Or if I can’t come up with someone that awful on my own I will just attribute all the evil stuff in the book to a successful company that gives its employees time off for religious holidays. Ya know, real Nazi types. It will be one hell of a book and by the end of it you will have learned nothing but will have had all preexisting notions confirmed. Spoiler alert: if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything!
  3. Piracy – this one may take a little more effort than I am anticipating but as my friend’s uncle used to say; if it’s difficult or even impossible but you think it’s worth doing, don’t plan or prepare, just go for it! He died very young. Anyway, I can see you rolling your eyes wondering to yourselves why someone would want to get involved in that whole piracy malarkey. I have no answer for you other than chicks dig pirates. I have a wife but I want her to dig me more. And if she digs me more than she already does or says that she does and then decides to make me all sorts of cool desserts to keep me home and off the rolling main, then I am all for it. Also, I need to make some extra cash and let’s face it, no one out there on Long Island Sound is even remotely prepared for being attacked by a pirate. I wouldn’t even need a cannon or gun or cutlass or anything like that. All I would need is a broken beer bottle and maybe a small, pointy stick. The swells out there on the swells would give up the booty tout suite the minute they saw anything even remotely threatening. How do I know this? I met plenty of boat-people growing up where I did. Trust me when I say that aside from actual working fishermen, there’s really no one out there to worry about. The only problem is… and I will say, it is a sail flattening reality: I don’t have a boat. So I will have to leave this one on the back burner until I can get my hands on something down the line. But this one is not coming off the list because a man can dream.
  4. Make My Own Fireworks – when I was a lad, my father let me purchase a Hawken rifle. Along with the gun, I also purchased caps, powder, patches and shot. I think I fired it once. Anywho, with all of that black powder hanging about I thought it wise to be careful with it. So I did what any careful boy would do. I filled the wings of my model airplanes with it, took them down to the beach and my friend and I shot roman candles at them until they went kaboomies. It was great fun. Incredibly dangerous and stupid but great fun. Later, we graduated to taping firecrackers together and twisting their fuses. So as you can see, I am pretty much an expert on fireworks. I want to make some. I don’t know how. But I want to make some. I’ll probably just end up buying them and then feel guilty when I fire them off. “You could have at least tried to make your own” will be rattling around my head while the rest of the family oohs and ahs at the multicolored explosions going off dangerously close to the neighbor’s roof and trees. Not today, brain. You won’t be pissing on my parade today, brain. I hate you, brain. Shutup, brain. Sorry, brain. Friends again, brain? No? Well fuck you too, brain. Anyway, that’s how I see that plan playing out.
  5. Fly A Kite – I’m running out of things.

Ok, that’s it. Have a nice Summer.

J.M.

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Goodbye For The Summer

P.S. Ukraine Could Use Some Attention Right Now

It has largely been forgotten by the majority of Americans that there is an ongoing conflict in Crimea. Why this is so can lead to speculation ranging from US-Russian political toadyism to just a general laissez-faire attitude towards the smaller and less worrisome countries of Eastern Europe. This, in my estimation, is probably the most realistic reason for the seemingly non-existent coverage of the largest land conflict in Europe since World War II. It just doesn’t seem like a good enough reason. So why doesn’t anyone on this side of the pond care? There has to be more to it.

James Kirchick has a piece over at National Review which discusses the history of Russian aggression during the cold war period to this point. It is a little long considering that the backbone of Russian aggression can be explained rather simply; Russian aggression is a product of a social philosophy which relies heavily on the appeal of heroic and nearly divine Slavic archetypes as a model for its political ends. When you believe yourself to be superior to all other people on your continent it becomes easy to do things such as annexing Crimea and sending armored columns into it to show the world that you mean business. Again, it is troubling that this action hasn’t garnered much interest in the United States considering the reasoning behind the action is almost a verbatim copy of the German justification of the annexing of the Sudetenland. Whenever someone argues that we have advanced to a point technologically where the overt crimes of the past can never be repeated to the same degree, I will forever refer to the Donbass and you should as well. The same air of heroic folklore hangs over the Russian psyche and compels it into different directions nearly all leading toward the same end: power. It is not nor should it be too foreign for us as Americans. We have our heroes as well and we are often apt to deify the past as a model for the present.

 

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet – William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

 

Faulkner describes the ability of the young man from the south to reach back into a past played out well before he was even a glint in his grandfather’s eye and hang onto a moment where greatness could be achieved. If you were to change the name Pickett to Nevsky and the date of July 1863 to April 1242, the sentiment of the passage would remain the same for the Russian reader. However, what would be different would be the explanation of the two people whimsically placing themselves in an ersatz heroic past as to why they were daydreaming about those particular moments. The American boy would tell you that his harkening was based on a love of home, the idea of protecting what one believes to be right and the gallantry of facing withering enemy fire and not flinching as a protest to perceived government aggression. The Russian’s explanation of their flight of whimsy would be mush easier to understand and succinct: slaughtering as many German bastards as I can with my bare hands. The Russian mindset does not feel the need to sugarcoat nor does it apologize for its rampant aggression. In fact, it prides itself on it. How would I know? My name ends in “ov”, I grew up around Russians.

This being understood, it then becomes easy to understand why Russia invaded the Donbass in flagrant defiance of their signing the Budapest Memorandum and with no fear whatsoever of NATO or the UN. First of all; why should they? England and the United States also agreed and signed the memorandum which essentially stated that after Ukraine Kazakhstan and Belarus gave up their nuclear arms these three heavy hitters would in effect protect the dignity of their borders and their sovereignty. Russia clearly had no intention of ever honoring this agreement but here is the kicker: neither did Britain nor did the US. The aim was to further establish stability in a region which was still reeling from the breakup of the Soviet Union by removing a large amount of nuclear ordinance. None of these countries ever pledged military support to Ukraine in the event of an invasion or threat to its borders because none of them were going to be too bothered if someone decided to start thumping artillery into Crimea. The Ukrainian people have only to look at the response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 from both the United States and Great Britain. Let me save you the Google search: tough talk from Bush and Miliband and a few sanctions. While the conflict only lasted a little under a week it set a dangerous precedent of a lack of gravitas in western political reactions to Russian military aggression. Russia ended up with a blueprint for what it would begin six years later in Crimea: an escalation of a local conflict under the pretense of attempting to protect ethnic Russians and pro-Russian separatists in order to control a strategically and economically important area of another country. Imagine instead of physically taking money from your neighbor you force them at gunpoint to sign over their bank accounts to you while you explain that you are merely trying to protect them from their landlord. It’s sort of like that. Pretty lousy.

The fact that no one in the United States is reporting on this regularly is mind-boggling. You could make the argument that it is because of the much vaunted conspiracy theory of US-Russia collusion on an Illuminati-type scale that is forcing the American journalistic community to stay mum but you would be wrong considering the sanctions set against Russia for the 2008 Georgian conflict were removed by Obama about an hour after he took office. You could look to the fact that Americans have plenty to worry about here at home and therefore have no interest in what happens in other countries but, call me crazy, I think that is selling the American public short. Personally, I believe the ad hoc media blackout concerning the Ukrainian situation is due to the fact that once you scratch the surface of this thing, you really start to get a whiff of something rotten. This situation proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the following:

  1. The uselessness of the UN
  2. The neutered existence of NATO
  3. The failure of the United States to honor its pledge to an ally by a Democratic Administration
  4. The indifference of a president who is accused of being a Russian puppet
  5. Fear of Putin? (I’ll throw this last one in, because … why not?)

It is a shame that in America if you want to read about what is going on in a conflict that has claimed the lives of nearly three thousand civilians and wounded another nine thousand you have to search another country’s media outlets. But it is not surprising and none of this is all that complicated. Unfortunately for the people in Donbass, the reality isn’t so easily swept under the rug. Their reality is brutal, terrifying and incredibly politically relevant right now but we will hear less and less about it which will allow the casualties to mount. Our thirst for stories about porn stars and presidents leads to a collective complacency which can inadvertently extend conflicts. And that might be one of the biggest tragedies of this entire bloody mess.

J.M.

P.S. Ukraine Could Use Some Attention Right Now

Snapchat Pulpit

It’s easy to decry the mind-numbing and temperament changing cons of social media as the downfall of modern discourse. I laid out my indictment here. However, there is another by-product of our desire for instant gratification in the ersatz worlds we construct online. Namely; the decline in numbers of people who identify as church-goers / religious.

Think about it. The life of a faithful person is filled with, or should be filled with; introspection, quiet moments, moments where they embrace suffering as a means to foster a deeper relationship with God, moments of pure charity and moments of either sorrowful or joyful prayer. All of these moments, while fundamentally similar in their goals theologically, are vastly different practically. The singular truth in commonality which binds them is time. These things take time. And let’s be honest, the payoff for these actions and moments while sometimes incredibly fulfilling and transcendent can often times leave much to be desired. That is when faith is supposed to take over to remind the believer that it is not the rewards they receive in this life which are to be coveted and sanctified in their own minds. Rather, it is what awaits us in Heaven which is to be sought after and fought for. This may seem easy enough to understand but it is a different story altogether when put into practice by a generation of people who are used to instant gratification.

The internet is not evil. It is not a tool of the devil. On the contrary, the internet, and its readily available resources are a gift for modern people wishing to learn, connect and discover a myriad of things they would not have had access to 25 years ago is truly fantastic. But like any other society-changing bombshell inventions, there are unwanted and unforeseen societal changes which accompany them. In this case, it is the complete loss of anything even resembling patience. When we condition our brains to getting used to having instant answers, affirmation and entertainment anything else which we have to wait a lifetime for becomes a goal to worry about only when we have reached an age where the technology has passed us by. We will worry about Heaven when we don’t know how to use our devices anymore. When our grandkids have to show us how to use the Christmas presents they purchase us as a photo-op novelty. “Check out grandpa and his new Ipad25! He’s so cute and so stupid<3”. 

A generation of people are growing up never having to wait for anything, really. And when they are forced to be patient, they reach for their devices like a frustrated Poe reaching for laudanum. It is no great shock that people are unwilling to sit in a church for an hour let alone wait a lifetime to receive an award. For this reason, not only does the global Christian community suffer, but the world as a whole also suffers. The world needs Christians. The major problem now; is that Christians seem to need the world more than they need their Lord.

J. M.

Snapchat Pulpit

No More Lawyers. Please.

It is no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of our legislators in the past have been lawyers. This trend is down according to the ABA Journal. However, you’d never be able to tell if you, like myself and many others, turn to the internet for the majority of our political info. It would seem that the career perfectly suits the elected official as their primary reason for existence is to deal with the creation of new laws and the maintenance of preexisting laws. But that doesn’t change the fact that much like any other career-path which requires a good amount of expensive schooling and subsequent apprenticeship, a pseudo-confraternity forms organically from its membership. There is no clubhouse or secret handshake but if you read enough political punditry you will see just how thick the walls of their ethereal compound is. A compound that exists to keep plebs like you and myself gratefully groveling for the legal table scraps thrown to us at the base of the walls from their ersatz ramparts. Like legislators, a great number of pundits are also lawyers. Firstly, I would like to point out that I am glad, somewhat, that they are. If a journalist (cough, cough) is going to critique and analyze our lawmakers and the laws they create and argue then I would prefer that they at least have an idea of what is or isn’t legal. Honestly, having an understanding of the law is a prerequisite to be taken even remotely politically seriously even in passing among friends. I don’t pretend to be a lawyer or know even half or a quarter as much as a lawyer knows about the intricacies of law. I don’t have to be to have legitimate opinions and questions of my elected officials and their policies and here is the kicker; neither do you or anyone else.

If you spend any time on Twitter and are even the least bit political, I am sure you have seen posts from some bloggers/pundits (again, a lot of whom are lawyers by trade) which were incredibly condescending. The lawyer-clique online is as every bit as ruthless, judgmental and obnoxious as [insert memory of group of unbearable assholes from high school] that you can bring to mind. Here is how the process works:

  1. Blogger-lawyer Tweets
  2. Followers retweet, favorite and sometimes reply
  3. Blogger-lawyer has decision to make: choose the most unhinged and questionable reply to original tweet and completely dismantle the person via quoted tweet and snarky retort OR find intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable reply and reply reasonably. (either choice leads to final product)
  4. IF the blogger lawyer has chosen the first option: other lawyers smell blood in the water and then post to pile onto the rube who is currently receiving a legal beat down, eventually original blogger lawyer and blogger lawyers who have joined the ratpack begin to discuss original tweet and ignore all other incoming tweets. IF the blogger lawyer has chosen the second option: other lawyers post to answer the question of the initial reply, even if it has already been answered because let’s face it, if a lawyer can’t spend their time telling people that they are lawyers then what is the point of becoming one? See; veganism. Eventually, blogger lawyer and other blogger lawyers and plain lawyers who have joined the fray begin discussing the question and ignore all other incoming tweets.
  5. Repeat process ad nauseam.

Seriously; the politisphere of Twitter is one enormous, juridical circle-jerk. Am I bitter? Do I sound bitter? Are you thinking; ‘this dude must have been burned by some hot-shot lawyer on twitter’? Well I am sorry to un-butter your biscuit but I haven’t. However, we have all been burned by legislators and that is enough for me and you to have important opinions on the law. I don’t care if a bunch of lawyers want to get together and talk shop on the internet. What I do care about; is the intricacies of law and its power over ALL of us should dictate that the experts in the law not be massive tools when questioned about it. Imagine if a doctor said something like this to a patient, “ummm yeah… no that’s not how your chemo is going to work, chief… but nice try. *eyeroll emoji*”. Yet when it comes to questions of the law we are spoken down to regularly by legislators and pundits. Why do we allow it? Randoms on twitter aren’t the clients of blogger-lawyers nor do the lawyers have the responsibility to answer anyone civilly or even answer anyone at all. But what a pundit-lawyer has over a doctor is the ability to be an opinion maker or changer if they have a large internet following. And that is dangerous. They need to take that shit seriously. However, most of them have at one time or another made the famous cop-out statement: I don’t ask anyone to read my stuff, I just write and people read it. What a cowardly way to shirk responsibility for any by-products or fallout of their musings. All done with an air of snark that would make Regina George cringe.

I think it would be super-swell if we as a society decided that we were tired of allowing lawyers to think and operate as if their political poopers didn’t stink. The first and most important step is to let them know that we will not allow them to walk on proverbial water around us anymore by not electing them anymore. Let’s run and elect people who actually have an idea of how the world works. An electrician, plumber, teacher etc. may not know too much about the intricacies of law but I bet they know how much a gallon of heating oil or gallon of milk costs and what it’s like to worry about bills. And maybe those are the kind of people we need making our policies these days. Far more than we need lawyers pontificating about them.

No More Lawyers. Please.

Mortgage Advice For People Looking To Purchase a Home – From a Purchaser

Good Morrow, dear reader. I have been absent from this blog for quite a while now and I know that the depression and debilitating sadness which my absence brought upon my readership was probably more than anyone should be made to go through. For that, I apologize to all three of you. The fact of the matter is I simply didn’t have the time or energy to blather on endlessly about topics of which I am no expert. You see, last November my wife and I got the idea in our heads to purchase a house. We are looking to grow our family, we would like to build up some equity, if we are going to have a mortgage we would like to start on it now so that we will be finished paying it off before we are 90 and lastly; we wanted a home of our own. Something that we picked out together. A place where we can see ourselves welcoming our children home for the holiday’s with their children. We bought a house.

Perhaps you, dear reader, are looking to do the same. Or perhaps you have already gone through the process and are looking for a few laughs as you read and reminisce over your own time in the financial trenches of the process toward home ownership. But, this article is for the newbie. I am hoping that what you read here scares the living shit out of you to the point of grand-mal seizures in order that you truly understand what you will go through if you decide to take the plunge and attempt to buy a house. If, after what you have read here, you still desire to purchase your own home, then God be with you. Because no one else will.

What I am going to do in the next couple thousand words is layout to the prospective buyer what exactly they are going to need in order to facilitate a smooth mortgage process. I will do this with the experience fresh on my mind as we only closed on our home a month ago. The first list will be what you need before anything else in order to walk into the mortgage lender’s office and not be told that unfortunately at this time there is nothing they can do for you.

BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE

  1. You and your partner or you yourself will need pretty decent credit. The average credit score that most conventional mortgage lenders are looking for is at least 640. That is on the low-end. 680 is where you’d ideally like to be but that may be nearly unattainable for some people. Have no fear: FHA is here! A FHA loan is a home loan that is guaranteed by the US government. It is also the most popular option for first time home buyers. Therefore, they are a little more forgiving when it comes to the credit score required in order to qualify for a loan. In fact, technically the lowest score that would qualify for an FHA loan is 500. Think you’re in the clear now??? Guess again, flapjack! Good luck finding a mortgage company that handles FHA that will even talk to you without a score of at least 580. I can hear you saying, ‘but you just said that the minimum score required is 500!’ Yes, I did. However, that is the minimum score laid out by the dept. of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. That does not mean that a private company must be beholden to that particular number. Mortgage companies use what are called overlays. Let’s talk about those.
  2. Overlays are essentially stipulations put forward by individual mortgage lenders in order to protect their money. Let me break it down for you. If you have a credit score of 580, you basically qualify for an FHA loan. Which requires that you put down 3.5% of the sale price of the house after your offer has been accepted by the seller. So why are we worried about that 580 number when the minimum credit score to qualify for an FHA is 500? Because, quite frankly, if your credit is under 580, you basically have shit credit. Meaning, you are a huge risk. Therefore, most lenders will try to cover their asses and thus is born the overlay. The overlay is them saying; “yes, we know that you technically qualify… but we are scared to death of doing business with you so we are requiring 580 rather than the 500 the US Govt. sees as acceptable.” It is a fail-safe for institutions with more money than God. Now, with some conventional loans, the strength of your credit score will be enough to waive the need to put any money down as your score will give the lender the peace of mind needed in order to give you a loan in good faith. That is because overlays mightn’t always be based on credit.  Sometimes, if you have good credit but are attempting to purchase a rather pricey house you will need to have a serious amount of salary. Or equity.  So, if you have less than a 580 credit score, you are required to put down 10% after the initial contract agreement. But again, you have a snowball’s chance in hell finding a lender who will work with folks with credit scores in the low 500’s. Remember, while overlays seem to be pretty uniform across the board, the individual lender is a private entity operating independently from the government even though they are issuing government-guaranteed loans. Meaning, they can do whatever they’d like with their overlays.
  3. Clean Financial History. If you have defaulted on any government loans, such as student loans, you can pretty much forget your chances of getting an FHA loan unless the default was long enough ago that it fell off your credit score or if it was adjudicated. Defaulting on any loan will hurt you, but if you are a first time home buyer, you are more than likely going to be gunning for an FHA loan which means that you will need a very clean credit history with the government. My best advice; unless it is an absolute necessity, do not finance any large purchases for at least six months to a year prior to purchasing a home. Trust me on this one. Once the underwriting phase of your mortgage application begins, you will know exactly what I am talking about. Remember, the lender is looking at you as a risk. Do they want to take a big risk or a small risk? Make sure you are a small risk.
  4. Up To Date Payments. Seriously, I cannot stress this one enough. Missing a credit card payment, car payment, medical bill, student loan, cell phone, hell anything really…  even a small payment because you simply forgot or because you had something going on that kept your attention away from your finances can really do damage to your credit. Pay attention to absolutely everything you owe money on and beg, scrape and work your ass off to make sure everything is paid on time. You are going to be scrutinized to the point of misery once the mortgage ball gets really rolling and you are going to want to be ready for any question your lender has for you. Make your life easier by limiting the number of those questions by making payments on time.
  5. DO NOT PAY OFF COLLECTIONS – unless the collections agency agrees to immediately remove the derogatory mark on your credit report. For some reason, paying off bills in collections is basically a nothingburger. Unless the agency agrees to remove the mark you are basically throwing your money away. If they do agree to remove the mark, get the person’s name that you spoke to, a confirmation number of the transaction and the home address of the person you spoke to so you can send them an endless stream of pictures of you and your family crying via mail. (No, don’t do that.) If they do not agree to remove the mark, hang up the phone. No, I mean it. Just hang up.
  6. Have Some Money to Put Down. This should seem like a no-brainer but having a nice pile of cash to sweeten the potential pot is going to help motivate your lender, who by the way could not care less about you, your family, your need for a home, your future or even your existence no matter how much they smile at you and tell you that they do.
  7. Be Employed. This ain’t 2006, bucko. You’ll need a job and proof that you can actually make your monthly mortgage payments.
  8. DO NOT HAVE ANY LARGE DEPOSITS IN YOUR ACCOUNTS – that cannot be accounted for easily. The mortgage company will analyze you as a risk and any potential extra debt will be held against you. Maybe your parents gave you a couple grand as a gift or maybe you won some money playing blackjack… great but you’d better be able to provide documentation of the deposits, where the funds came from and if you have to pay the deposits back. If not, you’ve just added about another 5-6 hours of headache across the entire process.
  9. DO NOT make the mistake of believing the scores you see on Credit Karma or any other free credit site. They are usually way, way off. The truth is, the three major credit agencies; Experian, Equifx and Transunion are updating your score regularly depending on how frequently your outstanding account originators are reporting. But a credit report costs money.  Therefore, the best you are going to get on any free credit site is a good guess as to the movement of your credit. If you see your scores going up, then you at least have an idea of whether or not what you are doing is making a difference in your credit. If you see them going down, same story. Use these sites as a gauge for credit movement, nothing else.

What to take away from this: if you have lousy credit, put your aspirations of home ownership on the back-burner for a while and work on your credit. Use your desire for a house as fuel to get your financial house in order. It might be disheartening to read that, but in the end it’d be much more painful to get all excited and set your heart(s) on a house only to be told repeatedly that there is no way you can purchase said house. If you have money saved up for a house and need to dip into it to take care of some credit issues, go ahead and do it. The score is key to you even getting your foot in the mortgage door. In the end, if your credit is good enough but you’ve spent some of your savings to get it to that point, you can always offer less on a down payment for the home which will mean a higher monthly mortgage payment. That is when you have to ask the difficult question; are we / am I financially ready for this? It ain’t worth having your dream house if you have to sleep on a blanket on the floor of it and eat Alpo for dinner at your non-existent dining room table.

You’ve worked on your credit, you have a job, you have some money ready to put down. You found the house that you want to buy. You have been pre-approved for the mortgage and your offer has been accepted! Congratulations! Welcome to the worst few weeks /  months of your life. Now, some people will tell you that pre-approval means that you are basically going to get your mortgage. In theory, they are correct but that doesn’t mean that something won’t crop up in the time between the application is filed and the closing date nor does it mean that the underwriter won’t churn something up which could be a deal breaker for you. So gird your loins and prepare for the exhausting and at times potentially humiliating battle ahead. Keep whiskey on hand. Now let’s take a look at the mortgage process and what you can expect.

  1. You have your pre-approval or pre-approval letter (qualifying letter) and you have applied for the mortgage. Now comes the fun part; underwriting. Assuming that you have signed the initial contract with the seller and have put down either your 1%, 3.5%, 10% or 20% you are going to enter the hellish nightmare that is underwriting. The underwriter will scrutinize your financial history and current financial situation with laser-like focus. They will want documentation of EVERYTHING. What do I mean by everything? Literally everything. Did you get a bonus at work? Excellent! They will need documentation of the bonus and an explanation of whether or not the bonus was a one time deal or a recurring bonus sent from and signed by your boss or financial officer. Did you miss a car payment three years ago when you fell out of a tree whilst trying to retrieve a frisbee and ended up breaking your grandpepep’s neck with the fall thus putting you into a spiral of booze and depression for a few months which facilitated you forgetting to make one payment on a loan that you hadn’t until that point and never since that one incident been late on? Sucks, man… but they will need a letter of explanation for that. Did you ever pee in the shower? They won’t need to know that but by the end of the process it wouldn’t surprise you if they asked that question and then for a detailed report from a licensed plumber explaining after extensive testing if there are any trace amounts of piss in your shower pipes. Yeah, it gets that bad.
  2. You have been approved… with conditions! Phew! You have made it! You are approved… wait what? What conditions? Huh? Ok, here is the best analogy I can come up with. Let me set the scene; doctor’s office, rectal exam, doctor has stubby sausage fingers, cold lube. “Well, Mr.(s) so-and-so, looks pretty good to me from what I can see! We are almost done. I am going to pull my finger out now, take a deep breath in and exhale when I tell you to… ok now. Much better, right? Excellent. Almost done, things are looking good. Just oneeeee little condition left” Well, that’s a relief! That wasn’t so bad. I mean, it wasn’t great but not as bad as I thought it would… hey, wait. Um… what condition? Why do you have a street cone covered in superglue and broken glass? “Oh, no worries. This is the condition I was mentioning a second ago, now shut up because we are going mucho-deepo on this one, pally. Scream if you want to, you are here because you asked for it!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” *Ram*. That, dear reader, is being conditionally approved. The nightmare of underwriting on steroids. Your lender, whom you initially liked, began to sort of distrust and now semi-loathe has basically become your own personal financial Charles Manson.
  3. You will need; at least three months of pay stubs, two most recent years of W-2’s, proof of current employment, bank statements for at least three months, letters of explanation, gift letters (if necessary), pint of blood, the patience of a saint. The process become almost interminable at this point. You will routinely ask yourself if iit is all worth it. You may even want to throw in the towel from time to time. remember; you have come this far. Just see it out. I reached out to my realtor during this phase to vent about how I was essentially losing my mind and his response which I am parroting to you here: “please just give them whatever they ask for, it will be over soon.” He was right. Bite your tongue, scream into a pillow, punch a stuffed animal and move forward in the process. Don’t let the process beat you. Also, get ready for an emotional rollercoaster. Some days will be smooth and you’ll think you are on your way. Some days you will wonder if the sale will even go through. You will reach out to your lender almost daily because there will most assuredly be fresh hell on a daily basis. You will get cryptic responses if any at all. Basically, the worst of it is upon you; the waiting. A lot of the process is doing what you are told and handing over what you are told to hand over and then simply sitting there on your hands while to wait for the next shoe to drop. The waiting is without a doubt, the worst part of the entire process. Keep more whisky on hand.
  4. Pray to whatever higher power you believe in that the appraisal goes well. If the appraisal comes in too low, you are screwed. If the appraisal comes in too high you are screwed. If the home was built before 1975, and you are trying to get an FHA loan, and there is any sort of chipped paint on the exterior of the house or the interior of the house, you are screwed. I had to paint the outside trim of my windows on a blustery Winter day with the help of my realtor in order to have the appraiser come BACK to the house to see that we had fixed some chipped paint issues. Which of course, cost me another appraisal fee. I remember thinking to myself; “I am painting a house that I don’t even own. I am working on a house that I might not even get considering the endless pitfalls and booby-traps of the underwriting process. I am either crazy or I might be the dumbest motherfucker in the world.” And while that last part might be true, it doesn’t change the fact that the work needed to be done because before 1975 apparently everyone used lead paint. Meaning, that while your lead-painted house might impervious to the effects of kryptonite, it is still considered to be a potential health hazard. Even if the chipped paint isn’t lead-based… you are still going to have to fix the issue before the appraiser signs off on the property and assesses the value. So that’s fun.
  5. Once all of that crap is behind you, you are cleared to close. Which means that you can kiss every dime in your bank account goodbye. There will be disclosures that make you want to weep. There will be closing costs that make you want to puke. There will be inspections you have to pay for. There will be title insurance you have to pay for. There will be the fee your lawyer charges you which must be paid. There will be loan origination fees, a full year’s home insurance premium which must be purchased by the time of closing, there will be pro-rated taxes to pay, there will be much more heartache before the day comes when you sit there with your lawyer and sign forty-five minutes to an hour’s worth of paperwork.

But once it is done and you have a minute to take a breath, you will realize it was all worth it. This is just a brief glimpse into the wacky world of mortgages and indeed my story could fill out an entire book. Also, my story is unique in some respects and incredibly common in others. It is difficult to put into words what my family and I went through during this process. There were a lot of factors in play that made our hunt for the perfect home a bit more pressing and much more daunting than the average house hunter’s journey. Maybe I will write a book on it one day when I am not so traumatized. This long winded blog post is written to be a warning of what is to come for the first time home buyer. I can say, that our realtor was excellent in many respects but at the time I felt that he hadn’t adequately prepared us for the process. It is only now that I realize that no one can really adequately prepare you for the process. It is something that you can read about but until you are in the trenches yourself you will never really know how excruciating it can be. In conclusion, I wrote this because during the mortgage process I turned to the internet almost daily for advice and to read other people’s stories. Unfortunately, the majority of information on the process comes from mortgage lenders themselves or companies that deal with facilitating the mortgage process. You can’t get a truly straight answer from someone trying to sell you something so I thought I would explain what it was like and what to look out for from a purchaser’s point of view. I hope that it helps anyone out there looking to purchase a house.

We went through it and survived. So can you.

Mortgage Advice For People Looking To Purchase a Home – From a Purchaser

Midnight In Paris Syndrome

MIPS, or Midnight In Paris Syndrome (a syndrome I just made up) is a hell of a thing. Named after the movie, Midnight In Paris, it is a syndrome that affects all of us at one time or another in our lives. If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you give it a watch. In my opinion, it is one of Woody Allen’s best films and I say that as a fan of Allen’s work. Not the work he did with his step-daughter, that’s just nauseating. But the man can make a movie. In a very brief nutshell; the film is about a man named Gil, (Owen Wilson) who travels to Paris with his fiancée (Rachel MdAdams) and her stuffy, wealthy, boorish-American family. While there, Gil is magically transported to the Jazz Age each night at 12, where he meets and mingles with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali and many more. Gil is enamored with this time period and when he eventually falls in love with a girl from the seemingly time-stuck parallel universe, he decides he would rather live that life in that universe rather than the life that he had in daylight reality. One of the most interesting conversations in the entire movie comes near the end. He and the girl he has fallen for are magically transported to late 19th century Paris or a time referred to as, La Belle Époque. This happens to be his new love’s favorite time period from the past. She makes it clear to Gil that she would rather spend the rest of her life there, rather than the 1920’s or the Jazz Age, which was Gil’s favorite time from the past. It is at this moment when the truth dawns on Gil and he realizes that people will always be nostalgic for the past, regardless of what generation they belong to. Again, excellent movie.

This idea became very apparent to me a couple months back while having a conversation with one of my students. For some reason, this particular student is interested in the music of my generation. Namely; grunge and alternative from the early to mid-nineties. It is fun to talk music with him and dig up names, songs and ghosts from the past that I haven’t thought of in years or spoken of in ages. It is almost flattering to hear him speak in such glowing terms about the bands that became part of my everyday existence when I was his age. Flattering insofar as it is nice to know that someone appreciates the generation for what I love it for; the music of the time. For the entire lives of Gen Xers and millennials, we have had to endure endless hours of circle jerking and tearful remembrances of the 1960’s from our parents. Let me be clear; I enjoy the music of the 1960’s. I am not saying that the decade was not an incredibly important time in American history. As for the pop-music, I absolutely love a lot of the songs, bands, groups etc. that came about in that almost insanely talented and musically innovative decade. However, I couldn’t give a rat’s about the ‘movement’ that went along with it. Honestly, it just seems like everyone decided to become a whiny little wimp for a while until the harsh realities of looming adulthood eventually forced them to grow a few more layers of skin. For some, it was unfortunately too late and that is why we still have to endure people like Jerry Brown. So, it is nice to receive some credit for my generation’s contribution to pop-music for once. Even if it is from a kid who isn’t legally old enough to vote.

As life seems to have a twisted sense of irony, it was ’90’s weekend’ on a popular radio station out of Hartford a couple days ago. The wife and I had a few errands to run which gave me about an hour in total to annoy her with my off-key singing to such gems as ‘Big Empty’, ‘Plowed’, ‘Sex and Candy’, ‘Backwater’, ‘The Distance’, ‘Peaches’, ‘About A Girl’ etc. I should mention; she is 4 years my junior and so while she remembers the majority of the songs that I caterwalled to, she was a little too young to really embrace the spirit of the music at the time. Most 7-year-old girls aren’t interested in being sullen and telling their mothers and fathers that they don’t “understand the pain of this generation.” At least I hope they don’t. Strolling down memory lane was fun as it usually is but as it always seems to do it led to the dull ache of nostalgia. Which led me to think about the conversations about the 90’s and pop-music that I’d had with my student. It was sort of eye-opening in a bizarre and relatively harsh way. I realized that once I removed the sentimental hooey from my analytics of the time period and thought about some of the passing comments I had made to my student, it became clear; my generation was dangerous.

When I first started talking to my student about the 90’s and grunge, it was because I had made a passing reference in class to a Nirvana song which only this one particular student recognized. At first, I found myself being the preening generation groupie that I used to loathe. I gloated about how great the music was, how it was a time of rebellion and breaking cultural expectations and how for the first time kids got the idea that they were more than robots operating solely out of hormones and stupidity across to their parents. Yeah, pretty much a bunch of bullshit. The kid was eating it up. MIPS in full effect, he said something along the lines of, “I wish it was still like that.” I swelled with pride. The 90’s meant something to me. They were the decade in which I found music and more importantly, my own music. For the first time, driving around in the backseat of my parent’s car didn’t mean that I had to endure hours of their music whether I liked it or not. Now, when flipping around the dial, every once in a while I would yell, “LEAVE IT!” from the back of my dad’s Oldsmobile. I was officially plugged into the scene and I was hooked. I would watch hours and hours of MTV by myself or with friends because I was in the transitional time of life between watching cartoons and discovering sketch comedy like MTV’s The State. I knew more about pop music at 12 years old than Duke Ellington knew about Jazz at 30 years old simply because I was inundated with it. It was the only form of entertainment we had. Or at least that is what I thought. Clearly, I was aware of the existence of TV and movies and comic books and video games and blah blah blah, but none of them seemed as important to me. To illustrate this point, years ago, I was talking to a friend about shows that we used to watch when we were kids. He was absolutely astonished when he heard me utter the words, “I’ve never even heard of Thundercats.” I had no idea what the hell a Thundercat was nor could I tell you literally anything about WWF but I could tell you what the cover art for STP’s Core was and the songs that I liked and the songs that I disliked from Siamese Dream. I thought he was going to have a stroke when I told him that I had never seen The Goonies. Whoops.

I have friends my age who absolutely know what a Thundercat is and could tell you how much oil was used to make those WWF wrestlers as shiny as they were and they know a hell of a lot about music also. I pointed to the fact that I was borderline obsessed with the music of my generation and how oblivious I was to everything else to illustrate how proud I was when discussing those days with my student… at first. I say at first because after a few more chats I found myself saying things like; “yeah man, it’s good stuff but I mean… don’t listen to too much of it” or, “I don’t know dude but if you start to get depressed, put Incesticide down for a while and play some Blind Melon or something.” All I could think of was this poor kid going home and staring at his wall until his eyes started to bleed while listening to ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum. And that is what I ultimately mean when I say that the generation and its pop music were and could still possibly be dangerous. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason we only have Eddie Vedder and Billy Corgan left of the ‘big’ frontmen is because when you peddle bleakness, hopelessness and depression for the better part of 25 years and throw in a healthy heaping of drugs there is a good chance it’ll all come back to string you up one day. Literally.

This is partly the reason, I think anyway, why my generation sort of skipped over the 90’s nostalgia and for some reason decided the 80’s were the end-all be-all of ironically cool fashion, music, movies etc. When I was in college (early 2000’s) there were a plethora of 80’s themed parties. It was almost like you couldn’t escape it. It grated on me. I was not the biggest fan of the decade for a number of reasons.

  1. I didn’t give a shit about being in the first grade nor do I look back on it and say, “those were the days.”
  2. The music overall was crap. However, my favorite band is still Tears For Fears and I have a robust library of 80’s songs and groups that I think are fantastic.
  3. I don’t really remember them other than … nah I don’t really remember them.

So there I was, in my early teens / late twenties surrounded by people pining for the days of Flock of Seagulls. I never understood, perhaps because I simply didn’t want to, the fascination with the 80’s and the nostalgic game of leapfrog my generation played which completely cropped out the 90’s. It is much clearer now. No one want’s to recreate being miserable whether it is genuine or ersatz misery. Case in point: arguably the worst episode of the Simpsons ever created was the flashback episode where Homer and Marge were supposed to have gotten together during the 90’s. The, ‘Sadgasm’ episode. *Shudder* Talking to my student for a few weeks about the 90’s put things in a much clearer perspective for me when it came to being honest about my generation and the music I loved. I find myself now thinking; I am glad that the 90’s are over and they need to stay over.

I am not going to attempt to lay out all the positives and the negatives from that decade or explain why I loved it as much as I did. That is not the point. The point I suppose I am trying to make is that MIPS is a real thing. Real enough to seduce a normal, modern teenager. Unfortunately a serious case of 90’s MIPS can produce more than just someone wearing outdated clothes and blasting music their parents like. It can produce a longing for a time when everyone was absolutely miserable for one reason or another. Even if you weren’t miserable, you had to pretend to be. Sullen was the name of the game and we who played it were fucking masters at it. A very real possible by-product of that mock misery is real misery. Make no mistake, the aftershocks of the 90’s can still be felt in our modern social justice warrior legions. We all need something to be miserable about or at least that is what the 90’s convinced us of and the parents of the college kids you sneer at for needing safe spaces are the people who grew up listening to the morbid shit we shoved in our ears constantly in those days. The only difference between the unchecked misery of the current generation is that they have to put some effort into finding music that fits their attitudes seeing as how pop music seems to have reverted to a modern version of Frankie Valli-esque, bubblegum crap. We were lucky. Our anger-fueling music was spoon-fed to us on a daily basis by major media confirming our right to be depressed and justifying our anger at a world that hadn’t done a fucking thing to harm us yet. What a time to be alive.

I found myself trying to sell the 90’s short in subsequent conversations with my student. Not because I dislike the music now and not because I have the power to dissuade him from heading down the 90’s rabbit-hole. I never once said to him, “well I was there, kid” in an attempt to sound like an expert or belittle his interest in the music. The fact of the matter is that I was there. They represent a special time in my life for a number of different reasons and that is why they will always be special to me. Remove those reasons and all I see is a bleak, pretentious, depressing, annoying, violent and kinda stupidly serious decade. My parent’s generation wanted to run away to San Francisco. Mine wanted to run away to Seattle. ‘Nuff said. I end up selling the generation and decade short now on purpose because of those awful aspects of it. There is no reason under the sun to fondly desire a time when if you didn’t tell people you hated your life, even if you didn’t, you would be ostracized for being, “lame.” Unfortunately, in true 90’s fashion, the more I shit on the decade the more my student seems to be interested in it. Eventually I am going to shake his hand at graduation and look him dead in the eyes and say; “it’s been awesome knowing you and talking to you about some of my favorite music. Now please go live your life and don’t kill yourself.”  If that isn’t a stinging indictment of my generation, one which I never thought I’d make, then I don’t know what is.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go watch Seinfeld and listen to Greta.

Midnight In Paris Syndrome

Let’s Talk Turkey

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I thought it would be prudent to teach you uncouth rubes the proper way to celebrate the holiday. Surely, there are many traditions associated with this wonderful day that we as Americans… and for some odd reason Canadians, although theirs falls on a different date I think, set aside to thank God for everything we have been given the previous year. Or, if you are some Godless, heathen POS, a day that is set aside for you to thank yourself for being you much like the other 364 days of the year in your calendar. Whomever you are thanking, it is a nice day. The traditions range from familial, to neighborhood, to municipal, to statewide, to regional and finally to national. That being said, some traditions are better than others. Namely; mine over yours. So I figured it would be a mitzvah if I were to educate you on how to truly squeeze all the drippings from Thanksgiving and make it a day worth looking forward to all year. Without further ado, let’s get started. To make it a bit more quaint… I will be using the traditional 17th century spellings of the foods and activities I will be listing for you.

  1. Turky (Turkey) – The honored guest! Now, I know most of you reading this are probably saying; ‘ummm I know how to cook a turkey, J.M.’ and you probably think you do, which is swell. But you don’t. First of all, how many of you are buying organic, farm raised, truffle-fed turkeys for your feast? I would wager not many. You are content with the frozen ball of meat in the plastic body bag and yellow nylon stocking that you heft out of the cooler at your local market for the plebs. Pathetic. You need to up your game, literally. Your bird should be treated as royalty while alive on earth and then, if the farmer is even halfway conscientious about the bird’s feelings, put to death in a gentle manner. Preferably in its sleep or mid-orgasm so the poor thing has no idea what hit it. Speaking of hitting it, if you are a real man like me, you hunt your own turkey. Now I know some of you hippie types and beta-males are going to call me a monster for hunting such an impossibly stupid, slow and easy-to-kill semi-flightless bird. But you have no idea what it feels like to be one with nature. To respect the land, the vegetation and the prey itself. To know that the animal you are about to kill is going to be used to feed a family and that the bird is going to be killed quickly and humanely is truly wonderful. To hunt as our ancestors did. To hunt as the noble native people of this land once did. To understand the primacy of nature and man’s place in its plan. It is truly transcendent. So when I raise that small homemade flamethrower to my shoulder and slowly pull down the welder’s mask that I’ve painted to look like the face of the Cookie Monster and take careful aim at that bird, the feeling I get is more of reverence than excitement. Murdering your own turkey will make the day feel so much more wholesome and dare I say, holy. Prep is the next step. Some people choose to brine their birds for periods as long as five to six weeks before the big day. That seems excessive to me. In fact, the whole brining process seems a little odd. I have never sat down to dinner with anyone only to have them turn to me and say; “mmmmmmm have you ever had something so viscous and slimy? It’s like heaven slithered right onto my plate!” Nor do I put much stock into any method of food prep which exists to essentially destroy the natural flavor of whatever it is that is being prepared. So skip the brine. Unless you want to brine your bird. I mean, I don’t care because I don’t plan on eating whatever dreck you are cooking that day. Moving along, we need to discuss the most important thing; cooking the bird. Again, there are a lot of different opinions on the best way to cook a turkey, but they are all mostly wrong. So I will tell you how to do it. Get a roasting pan, coat the outside of the bird in Bell’s seasoning, bring 9 pounds of butter to a boil and slowly dip the turkey in the butter for no longer than 3 1/2 to 4 seconds at a time, pulling out rapidly to allow to cool and drip for about 10 seconds. You will repeat these steps at regular intervals for about an hour or two, depending on your desired level of frustration. After the arbitrary dipping of the bird which the original Puritan colonists referred to as; “the most egregious example of frustration and the wasting of tyme carried out by mankynd, that Heaven itself cries out for the blood of the entire werld“, you are to place your bird in the roasting pan and cook at 170 for four to five hours a pound. You may want to start cooking your bird a few days after Halloween just to be sure it will be ready for your guests! Trust me; murdering your own bird, boiling it in butter and then slow cooking it to a carbon cinder is the only way to go and if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself! And if you are still not convinced, fuck you!
  2. Pyes (Pies) – I have decided to forego instructing you on the proper methods to cook your sides. Mashed potatoes, creamed onions, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gravy etc. all of that stuff is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. However, if you do not know how to mash a potato or buy a packet of Knorr turkey gravy, you should probably check and see if either your local YMCA or homeless shelter is handing out food that day. I couldn’t, nay, I wouldn’t dare skip over the fan-favorite of this glorious day; the pies. Can you smell them now? Baking in the oven or cooling on a window sill? Which brings me to an observation I would  like to make. Who out there has ever cooled a pie on a window sill? By the way, why was this a thing? What genius thought that exposing freshly cooked pastry dough filled with macerated fruit to bugs was a good idea? You only ever see it done in cartoons. Old cartoons, at that. Were there no flies in the thirties and forties? From what I remember from high school, didn’t wild packs semi-ferrel hobos roam the streets looking for food because it was the Great Depression? Didn’t something like four out of every five kids either die or get polio by the time they were three? You’d think that people would have wised up and thought better than to expose their food to the elements in such an uneasy and truly dangerous time. But, I digress. Ok, back to pies for now. There are a few that are staples and by staples I mean we can’t seem to get away from them no matter how hard we try. The first is probably the crowned king of the Thanksgiving dessert table; the pumpkin pie. Which, like all things flavored with pumpkin, tastes nothing like pumpkin and is an affront to God. If you had no idea of what pumpkin pie was and I offered you a pastry shell filled with custard that had the color and texture of puppy shit which was supposed to taste like a gourd, would you eat it? Of course not. Let’s leave that one in the dust. The other two pies which make their appearances are the traditional apple and sometimes, if you are down south or are lucky, pecan. Apple pie is good because it’s dreadfully uninteresting. It is the vanilla ice cream of pies. Apples? Ok. Pastry crust? Ok. A sweet, cinnamony flavored binding sauce? Ok. Nothing wrong with apple pie. Good with ice cream and I am told that some people, probably communists, put a slice of cheddar cheese on it. Next is pecan. Pecan pie is good but after three bites your teeth start to hurt, your insulin levels do things that nature never intended and you start to feel the first pangs of diabetes. If you manage to finish the pie, which from what I can tell is plain gelatin, 9 sticks of butter, four sacks of sugar reduced and studded with pieces of pecan you can plan on losing a foot or hand to the gout within the next few days after the holiday. Pie is essential for the Thanksgiving table. It is easier than making a cake.
  3. Spirited Drink and Wyne (Alcohol) – Let’s face it; if you do Thanksgiving right, you probably shouldn’t remember it the following morning. However, the holiday is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that it would be in your best interest to start slowly and then work your way up to shots of whatever brown liquor you hide from your wife and keep in your car. Start with beer. Beer is delicious and most importantly, your stomach can hold a lot of it. It is a good sipping drink and if you buy only one kind of beer your guests will never be able to tell if you’ve had twenty or are still nursing the same one you were holding for dear life when you opened the door to grant them entry to your sublet. As for wine the question of what to drink with turkey is something that is thrown around a lot. Turkey is gamey and the foods that accompany it are so rich that you are probably safe with a bright, crisp Sancerre or white Bordeaux in order to cut through all the fat. That being said, if you have guts, instead of contrasting your meal, complement it with a heavier (Oregonian) pinot noir. Luckily for you, good wine is expensive and most people know that so cheaping out and just buying a box of something won’t garner too many sneers and derisive chuckles. Some folks like to have a signature drink in a punch bowl waiting for their guests to enjoy. This could include, spiked cider or… well… spiked cider. Not a bad way to go if you want to get your guests loaded relatively quickly and on the cheap. The punch bowl strategy works wonderfully because it allows you to buy bottom shelf everything. From “US GOVT. CIDER, RECIPE 3C”, orange juice you found at the bus stop and rum that “some guy that works with my cousin’s friend makes” you can pretty much hide the fact that you are a cheap bastard by blending a whole bunch of stuff together and diluting it with sugar and cinnamon. Don’t forget to hide the good stuff. Coming home after a long day of metal detecting on the beach or freelance crime-scene photography can only be made much worse by heading to your kitchen, grabbing your favorite wax, Daisy bathroom cup and reaching into your cupboard only to see that you only have a microscopic amount of Old Harper left. This would be positively life-shattering. If your family and friends are anything like mine, they will sniff out your liquor and demolish it within seconds of entering your lair. This fact has forced me to discover some ingenious methods of hiding liquor which I will disclose to you now. Old Faithful – Hide your liquor in the bowl of your toilet and tell your family that they have to use the bathroom at the 7/11 down the street because yours, “broke today and won’t flush and I only figured that out this morning AFTER I went.” Pennywise – tie a string to the neck of the bottle and lower it into a sewer grate. Tell your guests that your neighborhood has been recently terrorized by a gang of ornery teens in clown outfits and that you’ve been selected by your neighbors to periodically head outside to check and see if the coast is clear. Molon Labe – simply hold your liquor with you at all times and defiantly dare your loved ones to, “come and take it” whenever they start to salivate whilst spying the bottle in your pocket, hand, wherever.
  4. Gaiymes Uv Shportsh (football) – I don’t like football so I don’t have a rule or tip for this one. I will say that football is good for one thing on Thanksgiving; giving people excuses not to have to talk to each other. It’s impossible to watch a sweet pass or rush or wicked pick-6 or testicle tingling field goal or asshole puckering punt and talk to someone at the same time. Any red-blooded American male knows that or should know that and if they don’t then they should be politely, yet firmly be asked to leave and never return. Women who break this rule should be taken politely, yet firmly, into the kitchen and be made to apologize to the gravy for no longer and no shorter than 45 straight minutes, tears preferred.

Well, folks… That’s it. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with joy, thanks and most importantly, giving. Because without thanks we have nothing to give and without giving no one would be thankful. Without the thankfulness of those we give to, we would never even begin to be thankful or even endeavor to give thanks, to those who have given us so much to be thankful for.

Thanks!

J.M.

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