Archive for December, 2009

The Dick Summer 2010 Magic Connection

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Big Louie, his own bad self, the Chief Mustard Cutter of the Louie-Louie Generation learned a long time ago…Magic Lives. It’s honest and it’s real. We had a magic Christmas.  I hope you did too.  The house was so stuffed with people who cared enough to visit, that sleeping arrangements even involved some floor space.  There was turkey and gravy, and mashed potatoes, and two different kinds of cranberry sauce, and music, and memories, a little Santa, lots of laughs, and a couple of tears…and the forty year old tinfoil star at the top of a perfect tree.  It was a gentle end for a very rough year.  It was magic. 

 One of the things that made this Christmas so special for me were the Christmas memories that you sent.  They were magic. They were honest and they were real.  That’s why they had such a mixture of both laughs and tears.  I try to keep this weekly blog and the podcast that goes with it every week as honest and real as I can…just like the notes you sent about Christmas. Because I believe in magic, and real magic is always honest. 

 “Once upon a time” has a magic power.  Stories grab your attention…even when you should be very busy doing other “more important” things. 

 I think everybody has a few real life stories to tell.  They’re usually about the big things that happen in your life.  Like your first real kiss, for example…not some big sloppy slurp from your maiden aunt…I mean the first real smacker-oo right on the lips from somebody who turns you on.  I got mine from Jeannie Campbell.  (Thanks, Jeannie, in case you’re reading this.)  Your first paycheck is always a big event.  Mine was for $8.  The first time you got a job… and the first time you lost one…that’s always the subject of some of the stories you tell. So is your first car  and your first fist fight.  The word “first” comes up a lot when you tell the “Once upon a time” stories of your life.

 But I think this is the 212th blog and podcast, so I don’t have many big firsts left to tell you about my life anymore.  And that means I have to look around to find lots of very small firsts… which is really good.  Because it makes me look more carefully at what’s going on around me.  That’s how you get to really appreciate the first scent of fresh coffee beans when you open the jar…the first time the Christmas tree smells like you remember it from when you were five, the way your woman looks, sleeping… in the first light of dawn.

Pretty often, you have to face the first time there’s a last time in your life…like the day you suddenly really know it’s time to retire from a career you’ve loved, or when it’s time to tell an old friend that his political or religious views have become so extreme that you just can’t talk with him anymore.  I had to face an awful first time for a last time in 2009. It was when I realized I probably won’t ever get to talk to a daughter again.  And those of us who are members of the Louie-Louie Generation have all been around long enough to know what it’s like to experience the first time you know it’s the last time you’ll see your mother or father, your husband or wife.     

That’s why “Happy Holidays” just doesn’t cover the realities of Christmas and New Year’s.  “Happy Holidays” is phony.  It’s like “Have a nice day.”  The magic in Christmas is about Santa Claus, music, presents, good food, close company, and love. Those are all honest and real. But it’s also about giving birth to a baby in a stable.  A stable.  As in a place full of straw that animals have soiled, very strong smells that don’t need description here, and the desperation and pain that a young woman feels giving birth to her first child…a child who has in His future nails, and thorns, and a broken heart. 

And “Happy Holidays” certainly doesn’t let you touch the power of the hope that we still always manage to feel for the New Year that’s about to start.  That hope is genuine magic.  It’s honest and real, even though there’s no logical reason for it.  Especially at the end of a year in which a brilliant and energetic, but inexperienced, black man became our president, and millions of us lost our homes, and big shot executives were reduced to playing miniature golf, while excellent American blood was still turning foreign sand bright red.  And worst of all, of course, for most of us, personally… is that we’ll never again hear at least one  familiar voice that sang Auld Lang Syne with us…once upon a time.

The very fact that you’re reading this is amazing to me.  It’s kind of a magic in itself.  There’s no logic to it.  You’re probably not going to learn anything.  Certainly not anything you can’t figure out for yourself.  But you wouldn’t be reading this or listening to the podcast if you didn’t get something from it.  Maybe you believe in magic too, and you like hanging out with somebody else who understands that magic feels so good.

Some magic you have to see to believe.  Some magic works the other way around…you have to believe it to see it.  That’s not logical.  But neither is real magic.  

So I hope you’ll drop in on this blog and podcast through this new year, just like you did through the one that’s passed.  Because I like the company of folks who understand that magic hides in little beginnings, like opening a fresh jar of coffee…people who love laughs, but aren’t afraid of tears…folks who don’t mind taking a long trip that ends in sleeping on the floor…just because they care.

Obviously, we can’t know the stories this new year will bring.  But I believe that as long as we’re honest and real in telling them, we’ll keep finding the new little first times in our lives that will make our magic strong…until it’s time to sing our next Auld Lang Syne…together.

 So…go ahead…bring on whatever you’ve got 2010. We can deal with whatever you throw at us. We’re magic.


Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Three more examples of  what you remember best about Christmas:

From Proud Podcast Participant Don:

 Here we are with another Christmas coming fast.  But have we taken a moment to stop and think what this holiday really means? I know I haven’t.  It’s that time of year where we can all stop and smile at stranger and they don’t wonder if you’re about to mug them.

I think we all need to take a step back from all the hype and the ads that say buy this or that. I’ve found myself wondering what Virginia would say if she were alive today? I’ve read the letter she wrote to the newspaper. Would she write it again?

All I know is that Christmas means reaching out to someone who needs the help or might be hunger for a hug or a kind word. Have we become so jaded over time that all we can believe in is ourselves?

Josh Groban did a song for the movie Polar Express, all it said was you need to believe in the magic of the holiday. The tree in you living room with all the decorations collect over the years. Some because they have a special meaning or some because they are pretty. The yule log burning in the fireplace.

I remember how my hard it was for me to sleep on the eve of Christmas, or how I thought I heard sleigh bell softly ringing in the night. Opening the little gifts in the stocking.

We need to believe in something bigger than the commercial side of the holiday and hope for snow on Christmas Eve.  As a member of the Louie Louie Generation I will always believe in the softer and gentler things of Christmas. I hope the sleigh bell never stops ringing.

For those who have loved ones in harms way overseas, my hope for them is to come home to you soon. I say that as one who served. May we all get those gifts that we truly want.

 From Proud Podcast Participant Ty:

Christmas Cookie Rules…

 1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

 2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

 3. If a friend comes over while you’re making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend’s first cookie is calories free, (rule #1) yours is also.  It would be rude to let your friend sample alone; and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

 4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move.  This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

 5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

 6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five – one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

 7. Cookies eaten while watching “Miracle on 34th Street” have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one’s personal fuel.

 8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

 9. Any cookies consumed from someone else’s plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

 10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories.

It’s a rule! So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies – we only get them this time of year!

 And from Proud Podcast Participant Carolyn:


Hey There,

                Another memoy that I have is when my family first moved to PA. My dad accepted a job running a nursing home/retirement center for an organization that he my mom and I belonged to. I was 16 at the time and nervous about going to a new school.We moved into a house tmporarily while one was being bult fo us on the property of the facility (bcauese he was the administrator he had to be on the premises 24hrs a day.We would drive by the house and watch as it sprung up very quickly.

                                                                                             We were moved in by June or July of 1974.I was in love with my room.It was big with my very own first walk in closet.I had a four poster bed and furniture that my uncle gave me.My mom loved to sew and she made me a swiss dot (yellow) bedspread and curtains.My room was painted exactly like my aunts bedroom(light yellow walls and darker yellow trim)

                                                                                                         Anyway the Christmas seasonrolled around and for the first time we had two X-mas trees.One in the livingroom and one in the den.It was really cool having to decorate two trees.We also had a fireplace in the den and livingroom.My dad supervised the decorating of each tree with a critical eye.When we were done the trees were really beautiful.My dad decided one night to light a fier in the den fireplace.It turned into a disaster that we laughed about for years.He bought one of thos starter logs that smelled absolutely horrible.But the worst thing was he forgot to open the damper to let the smokego up the chimmeny.We had a house full of smoke.We opened all the windows and as many of the doors that we could.We had a cat that we had to watch that she did not get out.She was in my mom and dads room sowe were ale to shut the door with the windows open.Anyway it took hours for the thick smoke to clear but even when it did we could still smell the smoke in the curtains and the carpet.We rented a shampooer and took all he curtains down and washed them.I remember tellinng dad that someone had to christen the house and for once it was not me.

                            Christmas Day came and after breakfast we decided to open  gifts.The one thing that  really wanted to have was a poloroid camera.They had just come out a short time earlier.Sure enough I got one from mom and dad.I spent the whole day taking pictures of all kinds of things from the cat to my school towel .I loved the fact that I could see the picture develope.To this day I still have the camera(I’m not even sure that you can get the film for it).I still have the pictures that I took,in a photo album that has other memories in it.It is really amazing how a gift like a camera can open up a whole world.I have now graduated to a digital and a 35mm camera and I still take photos.

 If you get a chance, go to for my own best Christmas memories. And…MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I’m going to keep the Christmas stories you’ve been sending in a very safe place…right next to the box  in which I keep the home made star that has been looking down from the top of our Christmas trees since 1972. To find out what this is all about, please go to  .

Here’s another very special note from Betsy:

I’ve enjoyed all the Christmas stories, some real gems in there.       

I wanted to tell you what’s going on 2 doors down  — a  nice young family lives there with 5 kids.  The father grew up in Africa with monkies for friends and very outdoorsy.   He and his kids have built a huge double sledding hill in their yard.  We haven’t had all that much snow so they’ve been gathering it from other people’s yards.  Last night they had a bunch of people over and along with the kids sledding they were giving hayrides.    He has Christmas lights projecting up into the air from the flatbed the truck was pulling and it was full of happy people singing carols as they rode down the street.  Music was being piped from the house and it was so neat to hear and see all this activity.  What Christmas memories those kids are going to have!  
Please jump in here. It’s not too late to send your Christmas story. Because Christmas is never late. My Email is

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Every day  my email  ( )  has been  full  of your Christmas stories. I can’t thank you enough. If you’ve just joined us, to understand what’s going on here, please go to .

Here’s a note from Proud Podcast Participant Betsy:

Although I have no specific memories that stand out,  I did want to say that my next door neighbors when I was growing up spent every Christmas with us. They had no children and were like  grandparents to me.   My Christmas mornings, as well as my life, were much enhanced by their presence and their love.  I don’t think I expressed this to them near enough while they were alive, heck I probably didn’t even realize it myself.   I think a lot of times it’s when we’re older looking back, and after the people are gone, that we truly begin to realize what they brought to our lives.  So, Nina and Bunk, wherever you are, if you read Dick’s blog,  Merry  Christmas, I miss you……… and thanks.

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Here’s another Christmas Keeper. This is from “Dave.”

Early in the relationship, back when we were both freshman college students, back in New Jersey, my First Love’s parents decided, for various reasons, to hate me. Virulently.

I was a resident but she lived at home. So, for nearly two years, we saw each other behind their backs. Stole minutes and kisses when we could. Walked the campus between classes, telling each other that it would be different soon, someday. In retrospect it was not the best way we could have handled it, but for whatever reasons, it was what we did.

Finally in the fall of 1976, we decided that we could not stand to spend another Holidays apart, so we confronted her parents. Came out of our personal closet. It was angry and difficult and frightening. There was shouting and tears, but that isn’t the Christmas story. We spent that Thanksgiving with my family, but that isn’t the Christmas story either, nor is the fact that before Spring arrived we were done forever.

On Christmas Eve in 1976, I drove to her home in Bergen County. The atmosphere in the house was tense and unfriendly, so eventually we went for a long walk. It was cold. It wasn’t snowing but there was a bit of snow on the sidewalks and front yards, clinging to the bare trees. We walked the empty suburban streets of her neighborhood, holding hands, stopping to kiss, delighting in the sensation of merely being together, of feeling free and in love. I remember little else of that long ago night except for the way that the dim, widely-spaced streetlights cast our long shadows on ahead of us, elongated and distorted against the whiteness of the snow. I remember that the headlamps of passing cars made diamonds glint from the piles of plowed snow.

I remember how the Christmas lights blinked on porches as we passed, and I remember that, for just a while, we were so very happy.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, Dick!

Dave V.


Sunday, December 20th, 2009

I love Christmas stories. Please send yours to To find out what this is all about, go to

My buddy Al wrote a Christmas story to remember last week in his blog at He gave me permission to put it here this week. Enjoy

I awoke to find myself in the less-than-bustling metropolis of Comstock, Michigan.  No, I hadn’t been on an all night bender — it only felt that way. I had been on a fifteen hour drive with Vigi to visit her family for Thanksgiving and I did all of the ‘aiming’ for the final seven hours.  It was our last chance to make the trip before winter closed in and I looked forward to spending a holiday with a house full of people once again.

Since the kids moved out and scattered around the country raising their own families, the peace and quiet I longed for while they were growing up had become deafening, especially around the holidays.  Besides, things were getting kind of crazy at the radio station and we were sloshing our way through the middle of a financial rough patch at home;  not the greatest timing with Christmas just around the corner.

After the obligatory slide show and catching up on several years of National Geographic, I was more than ready to prowl two of my favorite haunts in town — the only two haunts in town.  It felt good not to be sticking to a schedule for a change and, in my absence, Veege could visit with her folks without being concerned about keeping me constantly entertained.  After meandering through the aisles of the local Meijer’s ‘everything store’ I headed over to the one place that was an absolute, positive, don’t miss any time we made the trip: The Kalamazoo Air Zoo.

They had vintage aircraft from World War II and Korea through present day classics hangared there and many were still operational.  On the right day, you could even catch a glimpse of a local pilot putting one of those two-thousand horsepower beauties through her paces!  They had everything from flight simulators and a pink [believe it or not] P-40 flown by a very talented pilotress, to a mighty gull-winged Corsair — the plane that makes my heart go thump and has held the kid in me hostage ever since I first saw the movie  Flat Top.  You could actually walk up close enough to get a whiff of grease and oil mixed with just a hint of musty leather.

No tour of The Air Zoo was complete without a trip to the gift shop.  I entered expecting to see the usual models, banners, books and displays — but what to my wandering eyes should appear but a shiny Corsair, perfect scale to the gear!  She was carved from mahogany and painted in such painstaking detail that you could almost hear the roar of her engine.  She was gorgeous!  She was, also, $139 and I couldn’t afford to spend the price of a post card at that point.

I was unusually quiet for the last two days of our visit and most of the ride home.  I am never quiet.  Never.  ”All right, what’s wrong?” Vigi finally ventured.  ”Shows, huh?”  ”Not if you’re a mime,” she answered.  I told her all about the Corsair and explained that it wasn’t so much that I wanted it but that I couldn’t get it.  We both had good jobs and worked hard.  We weren’t extravagant.  It’s not like it was a car or a boat or something — just a stupid airplane model that shouldn’t even require decision making.  She reminded me that the financial rough patch was only temporary, and I stopped my whining.  In my generation guys were supposed to do better than that for their families; the little airplane became a symbol that continued eating at me — and she knew it.

The remaining few weeks until Christmas sped by.  Our ‘rough patch’ was beginning to smooth out and I had, at last, put the whole episode with the Corsair behind me — mostly.  Christmas morning, the two of us did our usual Santa thing but when the ripping and tearing of brightly colored paper had ended, there was still one more present under the tree.  She smiled and handed it to me.  Unlike the others, I opened this one carefully unveiling a plain brown box.  I was puzzled.  Slowly I opened the flaps marked “This Side Up” — and what to my wondering eyes should appear but THE shiny Corsair!  The one from The Air Zoo!

That incredible lady actually pirated all of the money from her change jar, where she had been dumping stray nickels, dimes and quarters for years, contacted the curator of The Zoo and ordered one very important Corsair for one grumpy old man.  So many times through the years Vigi has lighted a torch when she found me in a dark place — and that Christmas, she did it again!

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Friday, December 18th, 2009

More WONDERFUL Christmas memories from Proud Podcast Participant CAROL. Please send yours to  To hear what this is all about go to

Here’s Carol’s story:

I think I was about 7or 8 years old.My family had deciede to start having Christmas at our house because when we ot tired we could just go to bed. Chiristmas Eve was a really big thing.All of our relatives would gather at our house to open gifts.My brother and I would scope out the best place to hide and open our gifts.We would both pick the same place,under the dinningroom table rhat my mom and dad pushed against the wall.We both took an end of the table and told each other not to cross the center of the table into the others territory.

                                                                                                          As relatives began to arrive my brother and I would beg our parents to open just one gift.The answer was always no “we have to wait for Aunt Madeline.She was aways the last one to arrive.It was sheer torture for an 8yr.old to wait for anything.However wait we did for what seemed like hours but was only about 30min.My brother and I appointed ourselves official door watchers.Not moving from the back door.Finally she would arrive and we would help her take the wrapped packages(looking for ours of course)and put them under the tree that was already overflowing with gifts When all the o’derves wer out and the drinks were in hand and the greetings and kisses were over we took our places under the table awaiting our first gifts to be handed under the table.Unfortunately before we could open one gift the head of an adult would peer under the tablecloth (that never hung low enough to completely hide us) and tell us that we had to open the gifts in the presents of our parents so that they could get the tags from each one so that we knew who gave us the gift.This made the the opening take forever and one or both of us would fall asleep before we finished.The unopened presents would be put under the tree for the next morning with the gifts from Santa.When all relatives had left and our parents were breathing a sigh of relief shortly lived.Now the work really started.Mom would fill  our stockings and dad would be downstairs putting together whatever needed to be assembled.This year it was homemade toyboxes for each of us that he spent weeks cutting out the pattern and then gluiing the pieces together(he had made us circus wagons mine was green and yellow with a tiger behind cage bars) it had wheels on it so it loked like a wagon) .I would be the first one to wake up(at 6am) and I would go down the stairs to my brothers room and try to wake him up to see what Santa had left.He would tell me that it was to early and no one  else was up and he told me to go back to bed.Sadly I would do as he asked but I would not go back to sleep.I would lay awake unil I heard someone get up and then I would make my way to see who was up.The door to the livingroom would be shut from the front hall s that we had to walk to the kitchen then through the dinningroom then into the livingroom where the tree was surrounded by all the gifts that we didn’t open and the ones from Santa.However my eyes focused on the toybox.I ran over to it and promptly climbed into it.Then I heard a voice say “that is not for you it is for all your toys” Then I climbed out and sat in front of it and opened the presents that surrounded me.My mom would tell me years later that my eyes were as big as saucers as I opened each present.However I could not take my eyes off my new toybox.I think I even remember my dad tear up whenever I looked at it or talked about it. That was I think my best Christmas ever.

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The Christmas memories just keep rolling in. Please send yours to  To find out what this is all about, go to

Here’s a note from Will Murphy, a long time friend and  proud podcast participant:


I think I heard your father’s organ influence in that selection you played by Dave.

 I was thinking I don’t have any Christmas memories, though I do have a Christmas BirthDate. Yep, smack on that important holyday. My mother spent 40 hours in “adoration” awaiting her first son, me. My parents must have had great hopes for me.

  What strikes me now is the way my father Dave seems to be admiring his progeny… so much. One month later he was shot to death in a burglary while closing his tavern. I was the News Director of a TV station 65 miles away in Lafayette, Indiana getting the call at 4am. Each day I told of death and damnation in the news. Now it was personal.

Christmas Dickie-Quickie

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Your Christmas letters are a real gift. Thank you. If you haven’t sent yours yet, please have the nearest reindeer bring them to  To find out what this is all about, please go to the current podcast.

Here’s a Christmas note from Audrey: 

Hi Dick,

                I couldn’t figure out just one special memory of Christmas but they all seem to revolve around music and sharing. You can pick and choose what you want to use, if any.

                The song “The Carol of the Bells” will always be the most important Christmas song to me. I remember my sister brought her 5 year old sister (me) with her to high school choir practice (Medford, MA High School) one evening in the mid 50’s. They were practicing that song. I sang alto with my sister. I felt very important. Some of the other members of the choir gave me some nice compliments and said they couldn’t believe someone as young as I could sing such a difficult piece. WOW! To this day, it’s not the Christmas season unless I hear “Carol of the Bells” at least once a day. My sister always brought me down to Boston to see all the lights, especially the ones on Boston Common. It was such a special time for me.

                The next one, we were still living in Medford, MA and I was about 6 years old. When I came downstairs in the morning, there beside the tree was a cream-colored electric keyboard that looked like a miniature organ with a big red bow on it. I learned many piano pieces on that keyboard and to this day, I still think about what the songs sounded like when I played them on that instrument.

                 I remember the year that “The Little Drummer Boy” came out. I brought the record in to school and the teacher played it. A few of my friends and I stood in front of our class during our little presentation and sang the song, at the teacher’s request. I felt so important!

                Many years later I ordered a set of record albums from Reader’s Digest….. Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Christmas concert albums. I had the first stereo record player I had bought. I put those albums on starting the day I received them, and played them every day throughout the entire month of December. I did that every year until about 12 years ago when circumstances prevented me from doing so.  Last year I pulled the albums out, only to find that my “trusty” turntable had quit working. I guess it’s going to be a while before I can hear them again —– not until I get a replacement turntable. I’m glad I have a good stack of CD’s and tapes, but nothing replaces that Boston Pops set.

                My daughter was born just before Christmas 1975. The hospital was all decorated, and one day a small group of nuns came through and sang carols. My daughter celebrated her first Christmas at the age of 6 days, so tiny and new. That was a feeling that only a new mother can describe. I think of holding that tiny, sweet baby every Christmas eve.

                 Several years ago, shortly after I moved to a new state, I met a woman named Midge. She was like another mother to me. She wanted me to learn a certain song because her son used to sing it for her. He had passed away but the song always brought good memories to her. She gave me a CD of the song so I could learn it. I got to sing it for her exactly twice before she suddenly passed away. A few years ago, the choir director of our local Choral Society asked me to sing a solo at the Christmas concert. (The concert theme was “A Mary Christmas”). There was no doubt in my mind what to sing.  I enlisted the aid of a friend to play the guitar and I sang “Mary, Did you Know?”  While I was singing, not another sound was heard in the church auditorium. It was such a moving experience, one I’ll never forget.

                Christmas has always been a special occasion to me. Besides the original meaning, it has given me the chance to buy or make gifts and cards for everyone who was special to me. As the years go by, that list has grown longer and longer. I tend to spread the gifts out during the year because birthdays are also very special to me. I now have 5 wonderful grandchildren and though they live almost 2,800 miles away, I make it a point to send them gifts – usually home-made or recycled —- at Christmas and their birthdays, and other special occasions. At this point in my life, I don’t want to receive any gifts. The things I want I can do without, and the things I need are too expensive for anyone I know to get. I share my singing with lots of different people for many diverse occasions. I always thank The Ultimate Gift-Giver for that talent that was bestowed upon me. I’m not so arrogant and self-centered any more so I can be more sincere and natural when I entertain. I enjoy other people singing and making music as well, but it’s still not Christmas unless I hear “Carol of the Bells” at least once a day.

                Thank you, Dick, for sharing my love of music, for its impact on our lives.

                Merry Christmas, Fröelich Weinachten, Göd Jul, Mele Kelikimaka, Kuri sumasu,
            Buona Natale, Joyeux Noël, Felíz Navidad

—  Many Waters —


Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Hark! The Computer Grinch struck when I posted Bob’s Christmas letter. The Nasty Guy sent a bunch of alerts to the subscribers. Sorry about that. It wasn’t on purpose. I wasn’t trying to steal your Who-Pudding. Dick