Category: Holiday

As 2015 winds down we find ourselves looking forward to 2016. So much has happened this past year but here at ATCMC there have been huge changes as well. First and foremost we relocated our offices back to our hometown. It was a much needed change and we also streamlined our staff to improve efficiency. Many creative changes were made and we no longer go through a 3rd party for approval of a post. Now we can just sit down and let it fly, so to speak.

So today, as I sat at my computer deciding on a post, I poured a glass of Boones Farm wine, and put Mot the Hoople on the 8-Track player. I figured that I could tackle so many subjects because it has been such an eventful year. I just decided to keep it simple. I wanted to end the year quietly and calmly. I saw no reason for a flourish. We here at ATCMC have been pretty preoccupied with court dates and other things that the creative juices have remained untapped.



Governor Tom Wolf

There is still no budget in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but never fear, our state lawmakers got their raises and welfare remains just as strong as ever. Those pesky things like Education, Social Security and other silly things will just have to wait for the petulance to end. I mean how important are those last 2 I mentioned? Geeze, if our State Lawmakers can’t get paid and get their cost of living raises, how could we ever expect them to function for those who elected them?



Condemned killer Gary Heidnik

There is still a moratorium on executions in the Commonwealth as well. I agree. It is better to spend the money to house them and maintain the special living conditions then to carry out the sentence. Now, before I go any further I will once again state my position on the Death Penalty. I believe that if you are going to carry it on the books then you should use it. However, the last execution in the Commonwealth was in 1999 when Gary Heidnik was execute by lethal injection.


My feeling is that it is ridiculous to ceremoniously sentence someone to death with no intention of carrying out the sentence. Not to mention, there is an increased cost in housing a death row inmate. Let’s just concede the fact that Pennsylvania will never perform another execution and just remove the law from the books, change the sentencing guidelines and save the taxpayers of Pennsylvania a little money. I know, it does sound crazy.


We could continue, but I figured I’d stay close to home. I mean, where would I start? Benghazi is still in the forefront, the federal government is trying to disarm it’s citizens while supplying weaponry to less-than-friendlies. We can’t take care of our own homeless, including our veterans, but we will open our borders to anyone and everyone. I mean, how does it make sense to fine your citizens for not having healthcare but the program itself has driven up costs to the point that companies have had to lay off to meet the requirements?


I pray each night before I lay my head down on my Star Wars sheets that 2016 will be better than 2015. I know for us here at ATCMC we are delving into new areas with Fatt Katt Video Production as well as continuing to write posts here. We made some really good changes this year with staffing so we are looking forward to some great things. As always we thank all of our readers and promise a little more production in 2016.


We also pray for our troops still fighting overseas and hope at some point we stop playing the world’s police and take care of our own backyard first. I know my opinions are unpopular with some but those of you who really know me know I am apolitical with no real views on much. I just like to speak, sometimes with no filter. If I have offended anyone I’m sorry. Sorry you don’t have thicker skin. Sorry, I have also vowed this year to be a little kinder.


No matter how things shake out for the rest of the year, it is almost over. 2016 is a chance for some of us to hit the reset button and get a fresh start. I look forward to the new friendships I have made over the past year, the old friends I have reconnected with and, if I can steal a line from a 90’s song, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…” From all of us here at ATCMC, have a great New Year, stay safe and let’s end the hate. Some people thrive on making others miserable. Geeze, and they call me crazy.


All of us have times when we need a little boost. Maybe it’s a bad day at work or a personal problem. Everyone has bad days, myself included. When I have a down day I am fortunate enough to have so many good memories to draw from that I can quickly replace my frown with a big smile. Great friends help as well. I am blessed that I have a large group of friends and a few special ones to help cheer me up when I need it. When I need a good memory I have one in particular that not only cheers me up but reminds me of the power of friendship.

When I was 5 years old my dad and I headed to the local fairgrounds on the 4th of July. Not for the carnival or the food but for the demolition derby. My dad loved them and soon I found myself rooting right along with him. It became our yearly ritual. I found myself getting to know who some of the drivers were and cheered for them as they took to the track. The man who was the M.C. for the derby’s was George Marshman. He was able to keep the crowd entertained between the heats and every year between the 3rd and 4th heats he would pull the same gag. While he was making announcements of upcoming events, someone would come up to him and bring him a plastic shopping bag. They would tell him it was found in the woman’s restroom under the grandstands. He would tell the crowd he was going to look through the bag for some sort of identification. He would pull out a dress and pair of shoes and then, as if right on que, he would pull out a 3-cupped bra. Even though he did it every year he still got a laugh from the crowd and me as well.

The drivers I knew at the derby, Lefty, Mark, Bill, Dennis, Tom, Moe and Barry, dominated their heats and all would usually make the feature race making it very exciting. One year, a kid in a big black car pulled onto the track. During his heat, he seemed to destroy every car he hit. He won his heat and in the feature, he had the same result. Every year, this same driver dominated the competition. I finally found out that his name was Alan and he quickly became one of my favorites. A couple of years later I discovered he lived right around the corner from me. I would ride my bike down and watch him and his buddies work on the derby cars. Shortly after my 12th birthday I started to hang out. The guys would let me help strip out a car or hand them tools.

Alan next to one of his Monacos numbered and ready to go. Around 1985

Alan next to one of his Monacos numbered and ready to go. Around 1985

My mom found out and quickly put the kibosh to me going to the garage. After a few days of hurt feelings and not speaking, my dad secretly went down and checked it out. After talking with Alan and the other guys, he was able to assure my mom that there were no drugs, alcohol or other shenanigans going on. Reluctantly she allowed me to start going back down with the stipulation that my chores and other responsibilities were completed before I did anything else. At first I got in the way more than I helped but by the end of that first summer, I had learned how to strip out a car’s guts and even how to use an acetylene torch. I still wasn’t allowed to travel to the derbies with the guys, but dad and I would go no matter where they went. As the years moved along and I got a little older, I was allowed to go to the derbies with Alan. His nephew Robert was a friend of mine from high school and we became part of the “pit crew.” When I turned 16, I took some money I had, $35 dollars to be exact, and bought my first derby car. It was a 1973 Plymouth Fury. Robert got a car from Alan and we got ready to start construction of our own cars.

My first derby as a driver

My first derby as a driver

My first car ever ran. 1973 Plymouth Fury III

My first car ever ran. 1973 Plymouth Fury III

When July 4th rolled around, I was no longer a spectator, I was part of the show. Mom and dad went to the derby as well. I was in the 1st heat. As we waited for the start time I couldn’t sit still. Finally it was time and we pulled the cars onto the track. They gave us the command to fire the engines and I think my heart was beating faster in my chest than the car was. When they dropped the green flag my foot went to the floor and I hammered across the track, destroying the first car I hit. I also damaged my car pretty significantly, too. By the end of the heat my car had sustained far too much damage to continue, but by virtue of that first devastating hit, I was awarded Crowds Choice and $25.00. I had been bitten by the derby bug and couldn’t wait to run my next one. I eventually found out that the big black car Alan ran all those years ago was a 1964 Chrysler Imperial. It was considered the Holy Grail of derby cars at that time. Alan has had a few since then, too. When I turned 18 I was lucky enough to acquire an Imperial as well. I took it to New Alexandria and was ready to do battle. I got stuck in the first heat and was counted out. In the second heat, the car got gremlins and shut off. I took it back to the pits and we got it running just in time for the 4th heat. As I pulled out onto the track the last thing Alan said to me was “Keep the car running…” I heeded his sage advice and did

My first New Alexandria Win

My first New Alexandria Win

everything in my power not to let the car shut off. I was hitting anything and everything and finally, I had made it down to the final two. My car was trying to stall with every hit I made but I would drop the transmission (you aren’t allowed to say tranny anymore) into neutral and clear the carburetor out. Finally I had done it; I won my first heat at New Alexandria. I was ecstatic. I got the car off the track and pulled into my pit stall and shut it off. I ran to collect my money and trophy. I ran back to the pits to get ready for the feature but the car wouldn’t start. I really didn’t care. I had winner’s money in my pocket and even though it was only $100 dollars, it felt like a million. Alan congratulated me and said I did good job keeping the car running. It was good to get a compliment from my mentor not to mention that I was a success at something I loved.

The heat win also qualified me for the Season Championship in August. That, however, was going to be missed by me as I was in Army Basic Training by then. On Championship night when they announced the drivers who were already qualified, my friend Dennis ran to the announcer’s stand and told them I wouldn’t be there because I had joined the Army. He said that when the announcer told everyone in attendance that, it was met with a standing ovation.

Now fast forward 29 years from that July evening. I hadn’t seen Alan or his wife and family for nearly 15 years but when I walked into his shop after moving back to Indiana, it was like I never left. Our friendship was obviously strong enough to survive time and distance away. Alan told me that his son, my name sake, Bob, was running derbies and doing quite well. It didn’t surprise me. Alan always did great at the derbies so Bob must have gotten that gene as well. Bob asked me if I wanted to help him and his friend Frank and his dad work on the cars. Bob said they needed another Old Guy’s experience. Of course I said yes. It was nice to get back to my roots and see I still had the skills Alan taught me that first summer 35 years ago. Plus it was nice to know my knowledge and experience meant a little more now.

It was also great to see a 35 year friendship still strong. It makes me thankful to know that Alan thinks of me that way too. So thanks, Alan, for 35 years of a great friendship and here’s to 35 more. Jeeze some people don’t take care of what really matters then they wonder why they don’t have such long time friends … And they call ME crazy.

Well, here it is; my favorite blog of the year. I truly love to drive around and look at Christmas lights. I also love to point out how way out of control some people get when decorating. Suffice it to say, some of you are still not paying attention. It’s not that I think the fewer decorations you put out the better, but for those of you who have read this blog the last few years you know that there are a few rules for tasteful decoration.

"Houston, we have a problem..."

“Houston, we have a problem…”

#1 rule: Don’t use every decoration you have. I mean really, if planes are diverting from their flight paths because they think your yard is the runway, you have too many lights out. If your electric meter is spinning so fast you can barely see it, too many. If you get accolades from the International Space Station, too many.

100_0389Here is a local example from near where I live. It is neatly done and the lights are straight but good Lord! This falls under the; “You don’t need to put out every decoration you own,” category.  Yes Virginia, it is a blinding mess. It is not the worst one I have ever seen but for all intents and purposes, it’s very loud and almost painful. I also hate the lighted shapes. They are really ugly and you can get away with one or two tastefully selected ones but some people go way, way out of control.

Really? Are you serious?

Really? Are you serious?

Lighted shapes are ugly and if you live in a housing plan with a covenant, this could get you tossed from there. Of course, if you live in a nice neighborhood this could get your house egged or vandalized in some other way. Decorating your house like this can make property values in your entire neighborhood drop. Thankfully there are no houses decorated like this near me, this year, but there are those who have no idea that they are committing first degree eye-slaughter for doing this. Now hopefully I’m not giving you the idea that I abhor certain kinds of decorations and will hammer anyone who uses them. Not true. I like all kinds of decorations but if you misuse them, I will let you know about it. I guess it’s just like anything; moderation is the key. If you go overboard with anything it is not good. Christmas decorations are the same way. I feel that decorations are meant to heighten the holiday experience, not horrify and frighten those exposed to them. I know some of  think I’m out of my skull but nonetheless, I enjoy doing this and I will probably continue.

Someone give me my Red Ryder BB Gun...

Someone give me my Red Ryder BB Gun…

Inflatable decorations can be attractive and a nice way to decorate if you are short on time or room. But I digress, This example of what not to do with inflatables is one I could consider an extreme case. However it is not the most extreme. I guess my next pet peeve with these kinds of decorations is that you should make sure they are working properly. Lights burnt out, not inflated or laying over in your yard make your display look like something out of “Hllbilly Digest”.

"Man down! Man Down!"

“Man down! Man Down!”

Like I was saying. Make sure your your inflatables  are properly working and secured in your yard. This little scenario could be very traumatic to some poor little tot who would happen to see Santa laying in your yard. Now our weather has been a little funky the last couple of  weeks, but I know even I will periodically check my decorations mainly to be sure they haven’t blown away but also to be sure they are still where I put them to start. The last thing I want is to find my reindeer across the street in my neighbors yard. Now this year I saw a new inflatable decoration that I think I like as much as Santa in the trailer; Santa in an outhouse. I thought it was really funny and will probably seek one out. I still threaten my neighbor that I’m going to get a Santa on a Harley inflatable.

100_0379I guess the next peeve I have is lights. People, lets make sure they are working. some people have their decorations out from Thanksgiving or earlier but if you are going to do that you will more than likely have to perform some maintenence on them. I know myself I have a couple of bulbs out that need replaced but it is not really noticeable. This example to the left is really obvious. Another one I’m not sure I took a picture of was the mixing of lights. LED is the new craze and that is fine. I don’t like the mix of LED and incandescent. The light from the LED is harsher I think and doesn’t go well with the Incandescent. However, the blue LED icicle lights seem to go with the white incandescent lights the best. My wife likes to decorate for the season, not just necessarily the holiday and we use blue for winter so the blue LED icicles would be a nice addition to our winter themed house while the snow flies.

As I get ready to end this I guess it’s not fair that I’ve only shown you the bad and the ugly. It would only be fair to show you the good as well.

While we usually do red and green, this is a nice example of blue and green

While we usually do red and green, this is a nice example of blue and green

Some people still like the retro look of the big C-9 bulbs. I do too.

Some people still like the retro look of the big C-9 bulbs. I do too.

No matter where I see it, you have to love the leg lamp... It is a major award.

No matter where I see it, you have to love the leg lamp… It is a major award.

How to string lights in a tree. Use icicle lights... Nice job!

How to string lights in a tree. Use icicle lights… Nice job!

Another nice use of white lights.

Another nice use of white lights.

I make a point to go see this display every year. What a nice job.

I make a point to go see this display every year. What a nice job.

As I leave you for yet another year I plead with all of you to safely decorate this year. Remember, you are not the only one who will see your display. Let’s stop those needless decoration injuries from those exposed to the most hideous. I hope you all have a nice Christmas and New Years and with all the chiding I did here today, lets keep the true meaning of Christmas in the season and keep Christ in Christmas. Peace to all from all of us here at ATCMC.

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things…”

We are moving full speed ahead into into the holiday season. I would be remiss if I didn’t throw my barbs in as well. Every year it seems that the decorations hit the stores earlier each year. I’m sure they will start showing up right after the 4th of July next year. It’s this time of year I think back to traditions that our family observed every year. Most families do the same things each holiday season and my family was no different. Usually 2 or 3 days before Christmas eve, my dad and either myself or one of my brothers would go out and select our family’s Christmas tree. If it was on a week day we didn’t have school on the night before Christmas so the day was spent decorating. The tree would go up right after lunch and the ornaments would go on. We all had our own so it was a time that we all spent together. My parents had a string of aluminum foil balls that they had on their first Christmas tree when they were married. That and a 20 year old popcorn string went on as well. After the tree was decorated we would take a trip to a place in Indiana called Lumley’s.  It was a place that sold ornaments and each year we would all go and buy a new one.

After the tree was up and decorated we then would have dinner. My mom being Italian would once in a while make fish in homage of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I didn’t like fish so I would eat something else. The actual Feast is Sicilian and was comprised of; Baccala, Calamari, Shrimp, Clams, Crab, some type of Whitefish and Clams/Muscles. Nowadays with money being tight for everyone the Feast of the Seven Fishes might consist of; Starkist, Mrs. Pauls, Gortons, Sea Pack, Chicken of the sea, Sea Queen and if you can afford it, Long John Silvers. After dinner we each got to open 1 present and it was then that my brothers and I would exchange our gifts. Midnight mass was on the horizon. I still laugh at the old joke; “What time does midnight mass start?” and every year my mom, dad, myself and 3 brothers would travel to church for the hour and a half to almost 2 hour service.  Then we would go home and climb into bed to wait for “Santa” to arrive and deliver our presents. There would be the occasional thump and “shit” would be heard from the living room.

Christmas morning would be spent tearing into our gifts and thanking “Santa” for our booty. Relatives would stop and visit and deliver their gifts and thankfully none of them were as hideous as a pink bunny costume from Aunt Clara. If we actually slept in past the crack of dawn my parents were grateful. Usually though we were up, gifts were torn open and we were ready to go back to sleep before the rooster would have cock-a-doodle-dooed… It is this time that I realize that so many of us have lost sight of what this time is truly about. For businesses they think it’s  about returning to the black (Hence the name Black Friday), for kids they decide it’s time to be good so Santa will leave them something besides coal or Reindeer poop, for parents they stress over trying to find the money to give their kids everything they want for Christmas and because the stress level is so damn high, everyone is in jagoff mode while they shop for their gifts and holiday fare. It’s a shame too. It just goes to show that no one truly understands what this time of year means. It’s a shame because somehow the Christmas season has become about spending obscene amounts of money… And for what? To please your child who within 2 weeks will see “The next big thing” on TV and the gift you stood in line for over 30 hours will be forgotten…

shitters full

You also have to consider the guests that will be visiting your house.  While most of them are loved family members there are those who wear out their welcome 20 minutes after they arrive. With everyone stressing about it being the holidays, unwanted guests will heighten your stress level even higher. Always remember though that as host you have the right to invite and ask to leave anyone you want. If you are having an open house you might want to keep the food and drink to a minimum. You don’t need to break the bank for some finger food and beverages. Normally this is where I would start going off about hideous decorations but as we have become accustomed to, I will be doing my annual “Exterior Illumination” blog in a week or two. Much to my shock, I haven’t seen many outside light displays so far this year.

I will take this opportunity to end now and begin the arduous preparation for my lighting blog sure to make everyone smile this year. It’s a time consuming blog to write but I do look forward to it each and every year. Until then… Peace

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and our house is bustling with activity. Today my wife and I were discussing how we wanted to decorate this year. I went down to the basement and pulled out one of our Tupperware bins that held some of our outside decorations. The past 2 years we had red and green icicle lights on our front awning. As is typical half of them didn’t work. I spent the next hour and a half jiggling bulbs and replacing fuses. I finally decided that enough was enough. My wife Michelle asked if we still had the old C-7 bulbs we used on our porch roof 3 years ago. I went to the closet I had stored them in. Surprisingly, they still worked. A couple of bulbs were out but they were still in good shape. With a pack of 5 replacement bulbs on costing $.98 cents we had the burnt out ones replaced in no time. In the next couple of days I’ll pull the lighted wreaths out to put on our windows. I think the most frustrating part is that the entire strand of mini-lights doesn’t burn out, only half the effing strand goes out so it makes you figure that it is a minor problem. As cheap as they are, I just curse the damn lights, rip them off the wreaths and put a new damn strand on.

Once the lighting is done then comes the cooking. (It also means that it’s coming up on time I write my yearly piece on exterior illumination.) I have decided that I’d do more to help my wife with some of baking chores and have started impressing everyone, (including my wife) with some of my creations. I have made cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, chocolate peanut butter chip cookies and chocolate cake. I know, there’s a theme here. I have spent the last year creating a recipe book that has appetizers, main courses, desserts and drinks. For Thanksgiving I decided that for dessert I would make Boston Cream Pie and Bread Pudding. The Boston Cream Pie is actually really simple but the Bread Pudding may prove to be a little more challenging. Nonetheless I am ready to dive head-first into it. Baking has become really fun and even my mom laughed. Of course she said once I perfect my baking, I should practice cooking HEALTHY main courses.

Even though this time of year is about family and togetherness, I feel almost over loaded with the holidays already. Christmas decorations were polluting the local stores and it wasn’t even Halloween yet. I mean, really? I have seen more black Friday advertisements in the last month than Deals on my fixings for my Thanksgiving dinner. It seems that the only rush this year is to be first to open the doors to take in your money. To me thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for what you have, not what great deal you can get. Everything has become about money and I’m really not feeling it. I’d rather spend this holiday with my family then standing in line for hours upon hours for an item that they either sold out of in the first 5 minutes or never had it to begin with. It’s a season of bait and switch and how to be cock bag to your neighbor. My wife and I were at the local Wal-Mart this afternoon (I know, at the Wally World…Again) and the rudeness was abundant. Some lady almost ran me over with her buggy and I was like; “I’m sorry I was getting something off of a shelf when you wanted to bulldozer through…” And the people on the scooters. You know those things that people ride around Wal-Mart in that are too fat or lazy to walk. Sorry, that was insensitive, I meant to say, the assistive devices that the handicapped or infirmed use to navigate and complete their shopping. It was like Pit Road at Daytona. You were practically diving for your life as they went scootering by. We were glad to finish in record time.

When we got home we began preparing for the big dinner tomorrow. As we were cooking and baking and prepping everything we needed to make out Thanksgiving spread a great one, my wife and I both realized that even though we were almost manic trying to get everything done we needed to, we were missing out on the most important thing of all. In running around today to finish all of our errands, we spent some really great quality time together. It was something we didn’t realize at the time but as I sit down to write this I realize that WE had a great day and will have a great Thanksgiving. We laughed at all of the insanity we saw today in everyone’s rush to get the last-minute items and I doubt now if anyone had as much fun as my wife and did.

As we get ready to carve the bird this year, I also want to think of some of the things I’m thankful for. First of my beautiful,loving and enduring wife Michelle. It’s been a tough year but she still shows me every day that she loves me and I love her to the end of time. Second is my family and friends. I have been blessed with a great family and some of the greatest friends anyone could ask for. and count myself lucky every day. I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the guys at the fire department. Since joining you guys I have never seen a tighter group of people. You truly give the term; “Braithre Thar Gach Ni” a new meaning. Lastly, to all of my readers out there. As we move in to our third year we thank each and every one of you for reading along and laughing out loud like I do when I write sometimes. However you celebrate, please do it safely and think of others.

As I leave you, here is a Thanksgiving episode of my favorite Pixberger, Pittsburgh Dad.  Peace to all

Pittsburgh Dad; Thanksgiving

As Memorial Day arrives, it’s this time of year when we remember all of those we lost defending the Freedoms we hold close to us. Not since WWII or Korea has the United States been involved in a Military operation of this scale. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. I remember watching the first shells hit in the beginning stages of the conflict. Many people felt that we were only there because President G. Bush Sr couldn’t get the job done in Desert Storm so Jr. went in to finish the job. Personally, two of my brothers were deployed in Desert Storm and my brother Tom was deployed in Iraqi Freedom 4 or 5 times so I am glad to see Obama succeeded in bringing the troops home.

Some people look at the cost of war in dollars and cents. I think it’s important to remember the human toll. The approximate loss for Iraqi Freedom since the beginning in March of 2003 is 3532 US Servicemen and women. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is around 1967. Some whine about the money spent, I think the loss of human life is atrocious. As we celebrate this special day please keep in mind all those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom and thank a serviceman or woman if you see one. It is because of them that you have the freedoms that you do.

Here are two of my most favorite military songs. The first is Mansions of the Lord sung by the West Point Military Academy Glee Club and the second song is Sgt Mackenzie it is a Scottish Military Funeral Song.

Mansions of the Lord

Sgt. Mackenzie

Also, Memorial Day marks the opening of many amusement parks and local swimming and recreation areas. It also begs another question; what swimwear is age appropriate? I find myself seeing 60 somethings wearing banana hammocks and I must say; eeeewwwww!!! I mean c’mon, I wear trunks and I’m only in my 40’s. My wife thought that because their nuggets hang so low, the nanner sling keeps everything together. I also saw a lot of women who were more interested in showing off a new tattoo than covering a gunt. I saw kids running in fear today from the attack of the banana hammocks and fupas. Please, let’s keep the visit to the local park G rated.

As I close this, here are some interesting facts regarding Military Funerals and protocols. Please enjoy.

Do you know that at military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?

Have you ever noticed the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!

The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.

The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.

The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance ..

The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The 6th fold is for where people’s hearts lie. It is with their heart that They pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America , and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.

The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.

The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.

The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and HolySpirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are ! uppermost reminding them of their nations motto, ‘In God We Trust.’

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.

There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning. In the future, you’ll see flags folded and now you will know why.

Share this with the children you love and all others who love what is referred to, the symbol of ‘ Liberty and Freedom.’















Also, this is how the song “Taps” came to be played a Military Funerals. The story goes that there was a night battle between Union and Confederate forces. Now mind you, I have no idea if they even fought battles at night.  As the battle quieted down a Captain from the Union side could hear a soldier moaning in the darkness. Unknown what side the soldier was from, the Union Captain sent two men to retrieve the soldier. Once the soldier was brought back behind the Union lines it was discovered that it was a Confederate Soldier. The Captain was called and he stopped in his tracks. The mortally wounded soldier was his son.

Before the War began, the Captain sent his son to join the Confederate Army so no matter what side won, his family would have a family member on the winning side. Now, the Captain’s son was a musician and played the bugle. For his dying request, the Confederate soldier asked his father if he could play a song he wrote that was in his pocket for his funeral. The Captain agreed and watched his son die. Now because the soldier wasn’t a Union soldier, the Captain’s commanders’ granted the request but would only give him a bugler. The song that was played? It is now known as Taps.

Happy Memorial Day!! Please honor those that have served.

Okay, now that I have your attention… There is no joke I just thought I’d recap some of the news from the last couple months.

I guess the biggest thing is the gas prices. Since Obama took office a mere 40 months ago gas prices have climbed $2.20. That’s right kids, gas was a paltry $1.79 when we inaugurated our current president. Of course he is not to blame. He says it’s because of the speculators on Wall Street causing the prices to skyrocket. Pull my left leg, it plays Jingle Bells. Obama is also a hypocrite. In a time when he tells the American people to tighten their belts to save and they might not be able to travel like they wanted to, he has taken more vacations than any other president in history.  I will give Obama credit though. He was able to do something in less than 100 days that GW Bush couldn’t do in 8 years. What is that you ask? Triple the deficit… Some call November time for a change, I call it, “The end of an error…”

Ben Roethlisberger is in the news in the NFL off-season and for once it’s not for crashing his motor cycle or being accused of improper contact with a female while drunk. He is embarking on a trip in June he says will hopefully hone his senses for the upcoming season; he’s going to Scotland and Ireland to golf.  “It’s going to be pretty hardcore,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ll be playing something like 12 courses in 10 days and they are some of the best courses you can find. I’m going to K Club, St. Andrews and a bunch of others.” Of the 12 courses, several have hosted either the British Open or European Tour events. “Golf is such a mental challenge, and as frustrating as it can be sometimes, it can definitely make you stronger,” said Roethlisberger, who passed for 4,077 yards last season. “Playing some great courses in a setting like Ireland and Scotland will be pretty awesome, but it is also a great way to keep your mind sharp.” Well, we’ll see how this summer abroad either helps or hurts the Pittsburgh signal caller. Maybe he should take James Harrison with him when he wants to play through.

Today is an unusual one in the “Burgh. Both the Penguins and the Pirates are playing Philadelphia today. The Bucco’s dropped the home opener to the Philly’s the other day 1-0, while the Penguins beat the Flyers 5-2. Today marks the end of the Penguins regular season and the Pirates will play game 2 of the 2012 season. The Pens are the 4th seed in the playoffs so they are there. The Pirates are trying to end a 19 season slide of being the worst team in Baseball. Hopefully skipper Clint Hurdle can right the sinking ship and help the Pirates raise the Jolly Roger while Dan Balsyma can help the Pens Snob their way to yet another Stanley Cup. Seeing as how they are the most conceded team in the NHL according to Rangers coach John Tortorella, who incidentally was fined $20,000 for running his mouth. He has a lot of room to talk. Hell the Rangers are the most over rated, under talented team. I mean even Winnipeg has more talent then the Rangers.  Let’s go guys. Hopefully we can remind Philadelphia why they hate coming here by handing them a loss in 2 sports today.

Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hopping down the Bunny… BUSTER!! No!”

Well, tomorrow is Easter. We will make it here at our house with an Easter Egg hunt with Molly in the morning then Church. Then we will gorge ourselves on Ham and all the trimmings followed by a nice huge belch. While Easter is a time most of us look forward to getting together with family and friends to eat and drink and talk and catch up, we should truly remember what it is really all about. Now keep in mind that I am no religious zealot but I do believe we should keep the true meaning of the day in our hearts as well. Easter is the day we remember and celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. It is more than a day of eating candy and ham. However you celebrate the day, please remember what tomorrow is truly about. Every year for Easter when I was growing up, my mom would make us new outfits right down to bow ties. We would don our new duds, pile into the family car for the sojourn to church and smile as everyone told us how nice we all looked. I searched high and low and couldn’t find a picture of my brothers and I dressed in our Easter best. It was a memory I will always have and cherish. I wish all of you a great Easter and please, do me one favor… Keep your dog inside until the Easter Bunny leaves.

Happy Easter Everyone from ATCMC!!

2012 is just about here. As 2011 fades into the sunset we remember some of the more memorable events of the past year. Some were shocking, some were discouraging and some I just have no words for at all. Be that as it may, this is my rundown of some of the more memorable events of the past year.

Penn State and Jerry Sandusky

Jerry Sandusky

Joe Paterno

This was a story involving the sexual abuse of about 8 kids that not only involved Sandusky but ended up costing several key figures at Penn State their jobs. One of the most prominent was head football coach Joe Paterno. Many felt that Paterno didn’t do enough once he was made aware of the alleged sexual abuse involving Sandusky. After the scandal broke more and more young adults came forward claiming to have been sexually abused by Sandusky. Since the beginning of this entire debacle many students have been transferring from Penn State to complete their degree elsewhere because they no longer want to have any ties to PSU.

Gary Shultz

Mike McQueary

Also shit-canned and now facing charges along with Sandusky are Gary Shultz and then coaching assistant Mike McQueary. McQueary, as you may recall, allegedly saw Sandusky assaulting a juvenile in the shower and according to him said that he made sure the event was ended before leaving. Yeah right. Did you remove that child from the situation? No. You left him there and didn’t really do much to report it. You saw that child and the fear in his eyes and you chose to protect your job. Just as Joe Paterno chose to protect the football program, your actions harmed more children. You deserve to rot in hell like every other goddamn child molester. I hope it’s hot enough for you there.

South Fulton Tennessee Pay for Spray

Gene Cranick

Vicky Bell

After as much media attention as the South Fulton Tennessee fire department received last year after letting Gene Cranick’s house burn to the ground when he forgot to pay a $75 fire protection fee, they went ahead and did it again this year. The difference this time was the fact that Vicky Bell refused to pay it, she didn’t forget. The Mayor, David Crocker defends the 20-year-old policy by stating that if they allowed people to pay after the fact, there would be no incentive to pay the fee at all. Okay, I understand your thinking, but this isn’t garbage service we are talking about here, this is public safety. I fail to see how charging residents who live outside of South Fulton makes you right. The Mayor said that it is hard to answer all the calls and maintain the upkeep on equipment and staffing without the fee. Really? There are departments that have been doing it for years and years. Most feel it is like being extorted by your fire department. My suggestion is simple. If it is so hard to respond to those pesky calls for help, give up the area and let another department handle the area, one that isn’t hung up on money, one that is hung up on saving lives and property.

"The Don" David Crocker

The International Association of Fire Fighters thinks that the practice is reckless. They feel that a fire fighter shouldn’t have to check a list before they respond to a call to see if the home owner has paid the fee or not. It just astounds me that no one has stepped in and made South Fulton change their policy. It further astounds me that there have been no law suits. When Vicky Bell’s home burnt to the ground, the fire department stood idly by and watched as she and her boyfriend kept going back in to salvage as much as they could. Mayor Dave Crocker said that even in an instance where the home owner hasn’t paid the fee, they will do what they need to do to protect or save a life. Sounds like it. Why don’t you and the rest of your gun-toting, red neck fire fighters, (and I use that term fire fighters loosely), stick to rolling tourists or beating up old ladies for their pension checks. Leave the fire fighting to those who actually care about fighting fires.

Kate Gosselin

Kate "The Coopin Blogger" Gosselin

I had done a pretty good job staying away from this poor excuse for a human being this year but I have to admit, when her show got cancelled I actually smiled a little. We watched her abuse her eight kid gravy train for years so she could get her personal enhancement surgeries. Even though she swore she was still doing the show to make money to care for her kids. Right and chickens have pyorrhea. We all know that she loved the fame and attention but as the show drew to a close those around her the most, including assistants and those who actually took care of her kids, were getting sick of her. She abused everyone around her. It was an inevitable conclusion to the woman who made Marge Schott look like Julie Andrews.

As a footnote to all of this, it was reported a few months ago that she had a new job; as a coupon blogger. I have no idea what the eff that is but it sounds like it was the laziest job she could get. Why didn’t she return to being a nurse, you know a job that actually meant something. Oh, that’s right she would have to go through life anonymous if she did that. Is it really that hard to take care of your kids? I don’t know what a coupon blogger is and frankly don’t want to. I mean who would actually take her advice, if that is what she does. In my opinion she got too greedy and ended up where she deserved. Hopefully her ex-hubby is around to take care of the kids and give them what they need while she is coupon blogging.

Suspensions, Fines and All-Around Poor Sports

Ndumkong Suh

This year in sports has seen some of the worst sportsmanship ever from those so-called professionals. First and foremost on the list is Ndumkong Suh of the Detroit Lions. He was the first recipient of the ATCMC Sports Disgrace of the Year award given for the first time this year. He was tossed from the Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers and was subsequently suspended for 2 games and fined following that for stomping an offensive lineman from the Packers. [See Video] He tried to give some unbelievable half-assed story for what he did but it still doesn’t wash. [See Video] After being in the league for a mere 18 months he has racked up 9 personal fouls. Detroit better get him under control soon before he really hurts someone with his poor attitude.

Kyle Busch

Kurt and Kyle Busch from NASCAR are the next two on my list of sports miscreants. Both have received big sanctions from the NASCAR governing body for their on and off track behavior. Kyle Busch was suspended during the fall race in Texas for an on-track dust-up with Ron Hornady. Both drivers were racing in the truck event Friday night when they touched and both drivers went in to the retaining wall sustaining what looked like minor damage. Kyle Busch though was apparently angered by Hornaday’s decision to move up the track to pass a slower truck causing Honaday and Busch to touch. Busch’s reaction was to slam Hornaday’s truck causing both drivers to slam the wall totaling both trucks and taking them out for the rest of the race. [See Video] Busch was registered for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races there the following two days but was suspended for his actions. He was also fined and docked championship points. His primary sponsor M&M/Mars also pulled out for the remaining two races of the 2011 season.

Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch was fired from Penske Racing following an expletive laced interview with ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch after the elder Busch Brother sustained transmission problems in the season finale at Miami/Homestead. [See Video] He even went as far as to call Dr. Punch a mother blankedy blanker. His crew chief Steve Addington jumped ship the following Monday and Busch was fired later in the week. Busch claims that the split was unanimous and that he was not fired. He said he felt it was time they parted ways. Well yeah, he’s done all the more damage he can there. Anyone with half a brain knows he was shit-canned and rightfully so. I wonder if he kisses his mother with that potty mouth of his. It is a shame that these idols that kids look up to and admire don’t meet the minimum standards of good sportsmanship and fair play.

The Castle Doctrine and The Death Penalty

Governor Tom Corbet

New Governor Tom Corbet re-worked the Castle Doctrine this past year and it has already affected two pending cases since that time. For those of you who don’t know what this doctrine is about, I’ll give you the very abridged version. Basically what it means is if someone is trying to break in and threaten your home, you have the right to use lethal force. It was changed to include living space as an attached deck or porch. A man in Somerset County was in jail awaiting trial for shooting his wife’s lover when the man came to his house threatening him. He was carrying a weapon and the husband shot him with a bow and arrow killing him. The husband said it was in self-defense and under the Castle Doctrine he did nothing wrong so no charges were filed by the DA. Another case comes from New Castle in Lawrence County where a would-be burglar was shot and killed on Thanksgiving Day by the owner of a home he was attempting to unlawfully enter. No charges were filed in that case either. The Castle Doctrine is a step in the right direction to allowing us to protect our homes and family.

There is also a bipartisan task force being formed by the State Senate to look over the Death Penalty. In 2007 a panel from the American Bar Association said that Pennsylvania’s death penalty is flawed with insufficient safeguards to protect the innocent and avoid racial or economic bias. The last person executed in Pennsylvania was in 1998. That was the infamous mass murderer Gary Heidnik from Philadelphia. In fact in the last 50 years there have only been 3 people put to death. Governor Corbet has signed upwards of 9 ceremonial death warrants since taking office in January. I am not opposed to the death penalty but I also believe if we are not going to use it then we need to get rid of it. What purpose is served by spending the extra money for a death penalty trial as opposed to a 1st degree murder trial then not execute someone. It is nothing more that a waste of money. Can the death penalty if you are not going to use it. It harms the families of the victims as well. They are forced to live with the notion that the life of the killer was more valuable and meaningful than the life of the victim.

Craig Morgan, Jeff Gordon and Bret Kiesel

Craig and Karen Morgan

Kiesel before and after

I did a small entry earlier in the year on how some celebrities do small things to help a larger group and I found that to them, all they had to do was something so simple that many didn’t notice it at all. Craig Morgan and his wife started Billy’s Place. It is a home for kids displaced from their homes in Dickson County Tennessee to go to when they need shelter. When he worked as a deputy sheriff he saw many kids having to sleep on cots or couches at children’s services until a foster home could be found. He decided if he was ever in the position to do something for them he would. Now that he is a successful country music singer he and his wife Karen have given back. He also holds charity rides every year to continue raising money for the project.

Jeff Gordon teamed with AARP for the 2011 racing season to raise money for a program to assist older Americans. It was called the Drive to End Hunger. Gordon said that he was shocked when he learned that there are a lot of elder people in our country that, through no fault of their own, just don’t have enough to eat. By driving his car every week he helped raise thousands of dollars for this program.

Bret “The Diesel” Kiesel was able to raise over $30,000 this past year by shaving off his famous beard. Kiesel is involved in many charitable organizations and is never afraid to help out in some way. The fundraiser was attended by hundreds including some of his past and present team mates.

Strikes and Ballroom Dancing

The past year has seen a lot from the Pittsburgh Steelers. After suffering a loss in Super Bowl 42 to the Green Bay Packers, the Black and Gold along with every other team in the NFL had a shortened pre-season due to the players strike. Once everything was all worked out the training camps were cut short but the only game that was lost was the Hall of Fame Game in Canton Ohio. Now the Steelers are waiting for the end of week 17 and the outcome of several games to find out whom and when they will play. If they beat Cleveland on New Years day and the Ravens lose to Cincinnati then the Steelers have a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bengals also need to win on Sunday to be in the playoffs at all. If the Steelers and Ravens both win, the Ravens will win the AFC North with home field advantage. In that case the Steelers would either play the Broncos or the Raiders the following Sunday. Either way the Black and Gold are in the playoffs and hopefully the road to win their 7th Super Bowl.

Hines and Troy cuttin' a rug

Steelers Troy Polamalu, Bret Kiesel and Hines Ward took part in a Head and Shoulders commercial in the off-season. [See Video] Troy is already the well-known spokesman for the shampoo but during the shooting for the commercial Hines Ward took some time out to show both Troy and Bret some steps. The whole thing was caught on a flip cam blew up you tube. [See Video]. It was nice to see the lighter side of these guys and the fact that they have a sense of humor too. If you remember, in Troy’s first Head and Shoulders commercial he introduced us to Polamalacules, the things that make Head and Shoulders work so well.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Adieu

As 2011 closes hopefully we can look back and remember the good things from this year. Let’s go in to 2012 with a positive outlook for all things to improve. We all need to remember that the future is ours and we can make it anything we want. I almost forgot one of the Biggest stories of the year and that is combat operations are over in Iraq and almost all of the soldiers have returned home to their loved ones. The staff at ATCMC wishes all of you a safe, happy and prosperous 2011. God Bless.

It's on the way

The little lights aren’t twinkling Clark.”

I know Art and thank you for noticing…”– Clark Griswold to his father-in-law.

It’s that time of the year again. The time where I conclude my two-part series on what not to do with exterior Christmas decorations. I borrowed my sub-title from my colleagues over at One Man’s Tofu because it really is a crime to do bad things with your holiday exterior illumination. Like I have said in the past, the decorations are as much for your enjoyment as everyone else. I applaud anyone who takes the time to decorate their home and yard but it should be a matter of pride to you to do it well.

In preparation for part II, many miles were driven to ensure I was being fair. Last year I only took pictures around the town I live in, but this year I also drove to the two neighboring boroughs of Latrobe and Blairsville. While I was mainly looking for the worst of the worst, I did find those who take the utmost pride in planning and decorating. Some decorations were very lavish and many lights of different types were used, others were simple. All of them I took pictures of though were worth mentioning, either goodly or badly.

Planning & Maintaining

Light Clips are worth the money

Command tabs are a God send

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. You first have to make the decision to decorate, then decide the extent you wish go to. Whether you want a small, simple display or one that can be seen from space, neatness counts. The main thing I guess is don’t just throw your lights at your house or fence and hope they stick. I always use some type of media to get my lights straight. When I outline my roof, I always use clips. They come in a box of 100 and cost around $3. I can guarantee that you will be happy you made this cheap investment. I have a metal awning on the front of my house. I used the command hooks made for Christmas lights. There are around 20 in a pack. These are a tad more expensive but they work wonderfully and you can remove them when you take your lights down. Also make sure that when you use extension cords try to keep them hidden or a subtle color. Nothing will make your beautifully planned display look more like shit then having bright orange or yellow extension cords running through the middle of it.

As you can see, don't leave your lights burnt out.

You also need to make sure you have enough lights to do what you want to do. A display with a huge empty spot or a pile of lights on the end looks like doo-doo. All of the lights should be operational as well. I have lighted wreaths on my house and I use mini lights. When strands of mini lights go bad usually only half of them go out. Like in my case, I end up with only a half-lighted wreath. That, my friends, looks bad. It also looks like you don’t care. You have to fix or replace them. I agree it is a pain in the arse but a necessary evil of decorating. Now I don’t want you to think this is the only house I found like this. It wasn’t. However, I thought it was a good example. You must remember that Christmas lights are like a pet. You have to care for them the entire time you have them up. Half burnt-out displays look horrible and all you need to do is just keep up on them. That doesn’t mean have a constant watch on your lights to make sure you replace the burnt out bulbs the second they go out, but they should be replaced as soon a possible to avoid creating the neighborhood eyesore.

Oh my Lord” or What Not to Do

LED's & Incandescent, a bad combination

Take down your sports signs

I have always said don’t mix your light types. As you can see in the photo on the left, don’t mix LED lights with incandescent. I like LED’s but I don’t care much for the white ones. The lumens they give off are a little harsh for my taste and look almost industrial. Then you mix white LED with white incandescent and it looks like you didn’t have enough of either light and just threw them together and hoped no one would notice it. The picture on the right shows a neon Pittsburgh Penguins sign. It doesn’t go with the white incandescent lights weaved around the porch railing with pine. That looks very nice and elegant but then add in the sign and it looks like eff.

Another fad this year is syncing your lights to music. If it is done well it is an awesome addition to your display. Here are two examples, one of what not to do and then when it is done to the max. And the second one isn’t even the best I’ve seen. [What not to do] It’s actually not a bad start but here is what you would want it to look like. [What to do]. I think this is a really nice touch to a display but it requires a great deal of time to set up and synchronize.

Santa had a stroke.

A herd of lighted deer

Inflatables are nice, but c’mon folks, did no one read and heed my posts last year? Yes, the little light is on inside Santa, but he looks like he had a stroke and he is looking for his life alert because he fell and can’t get up. No matter how nice the rest of your display looks, this takes all that work you did and makes it look like doo-doo.  You should either fix Santa or get him out of the yard. The herd of lighted deer on the right is pretty bad, too. This is only one of 4 pictures I took in this yard. Like I always say, I’m sure you have nice decorations from many years but you don’t need to try and fit them all in your yard at the same time. The yard on the right is cluttered and looks terrible and is quite an eye sore.

Offenders Revisited

"Houston, we have a problem..."

"The Doctor will see you now..."

I still enjoy driving around and seeing those displays that go up year after year. The display on the left is about 2 blocks from my house and we can see it plain as day. I mean, everything is straight and placed well, there is just way too much going on here. There are too many different types of decorations to be a nice display. This is more of a display you put up to piss your neighbors off, if you have problems with them. The one on the right is still probably my all-time favorite. Last year I wasn’t sure if it was the portal to Hell or if the homeowner was a gynecologist. I saw the display in the daylight and it looked like a wreath. The problem is, in the night-time it looks like either an obscene effigy or a portal that just puked a sleigh out. At least he is consistent every year.

Nicely Done

These are two nice examples of nicely done. I like the white lights and simple wreaths. To me this is as elegant as simple decorations can get. Spot lights mixed with the soft white lights woven into pine boughs or wreaths looks very nice and is quite cost-effective as well. With the price of everything going through the roof, including Christmas lights, it’s nice to find a cheaper alternative to be able to nicely decorate your home for the holidays and do it without busting the bank either.

I hope I didn’t give you the wrong idea about lighting your house and yard. I know I like white lights for simple elegance but these two pictures are examples of lighting your house and yard with colored. If it is done nicely, it makes all the difference. The house on the left takes a lot of time I’m sure. It is neatly done and looks nice as you drive past. I know both homes are a contradiction to what I normally say, you know, “You shouldn’t be able to see your house from the International Space Station…” but I think these two houses look especially nice and well done.

As I conclude this please always remember. You need to decorate with what you like, not what I or anyone else thinks. I know I bust a few balls on here but in the end, if you are happy with your decorations then that is all that matters. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a final picture just so we all remember what this season is really all about. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS – ATCMC Staff

What the season is all about

Even Santa Knows

We are within 2 weeks of Christmas, so we all are rushing to finish our shopping, hoping we find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We here at ATCMC were surprised to see our request for an interview with the big man, the one and only, was finally granted. Yes, we are talking about Santa himself. Our surprise was actually two-fold. First off, we figured he would be way to busy to have time for an interview this close to Christmas and second, but probably even bigger, we just plain forgot about it. We had submitted our interview request to the North Pole Media Office in February. Now, we had to meet one condition from St. Nick himself; we had to do the interview at his workshop at the North Pole. We blew the dust off of our passport and decided we would mark this historic occasion with something special.

We received a bottle of 15 year-old single malt scotch from the managing editor over at One Man’s Tofu (OMT) last Christmas and waited for just the right time to break it out. We also packed a holiday tin filled with Nutter-Butters. Dave at OMT told us they were his favorite for any big interview or meeting he had. When we arrived at the North Pole we were warmly greeted and ushered into Mr. Claus’ office. When he came in we were in awe. He truly was a jolly old elf and he eyed our gifts with a gleam in his eye. Below is the interview.

ATCMC – “Mr. Claus, thank you for granting us an interview at what has to be your busiest time of the year.”

SC- “You are more than welcome Bob. Um, are you pouring?”

ATCMC- “Sorry about that.” I nervously chuckled as I filled his glass with ice and poured the scotch. “How has it been going this year? Have there been any major issues?”

SC- “Well, we had a supply problem early in the year and we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to fix it in time to begin production.”

ATCMC- “I’m assuming it all worked out.”

SC- “The supply problem was easy and we have been at peak production for the last 6 months.”

ATCMC- “What seems to be the most sought after toy this year?”

SC- “For the boys, fire trucks are making a comeback.”

ATCMC- “Fire trucks?”

SC- “That’s right. I was as shocked as you are. I figured the X-Box, Play Station and Nintendo DS along with their games were going to be topping the list, but at least 75% of the letters I got from boys said they wanted fire trucks, oh, and Lincoln Logs.”

ATCMC- “Okay, now I’m really lost.”

SC- “Well it’s a new game everyone is playing. The way the kids explained it to me is, they build houses out of Lincoln Logs. Then they use a lighter and set the house on fire at which time they flip a coin. Heads, the $75 fire protection fee was paid and the fire trucks respond to put the fire out. Tails it wasn’t. If it wasn’t paid the fire trucks still go to the fire but they just stand around and watch it burn. They call it “South Fulton Tennessee Roulette”.”

ATCMC- “That sounds pretty sick to me.”

SC- “It’s a new fad. Just like platform shoes and bell bottoms.”

ATCMC- “Yeah, but those things didn’t seem to work out real well.” Santa smiled and took a bite of his Nutter-Butter. “What toys are filling the girls fancy?” I asked, trying to keep on point.

SC- “The Kim Kardashian doll.”

ATCMC- “What is so special about that?”

SC- “She gets paid a million dollars to marry Ken, then in 75 days she files for divorce and can do it all over again. It’s all part of our ‘Fake Boobs and Real Assholes’ collection. It also has dolls of Jerry Sandusky, Ndukmong Suh, John Harbaugh, Roger Goodell, Kate Gosselin, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Casey Anthony and Edward Cain.”

ATCMC- I smiled, seeing that ole Saint Nick still had his sense of humor even after everything going on in the world. We chatted for another half hour or so until Santa finished his 2nd scotch and about a half dozen Nutter-Butters. Then he asked me if I would like a tour of the compound. “I thought you’d never ask.” I blurted out.

SC- “The only thing I ask is that you take no pictures.”

ATCMC- We walked outside and he led me around many of the out buildings that make up his workshop. There was a bank, grocery store, infirmary, even a Wal-Mart. “What’s up with Wal-Mart?” I asked.

SC- “Sam Walton made me a hell of a deal to put one here. My only stipulation was that they had to start slowly putting out the Christmas stuff right after Labor Day.”

ATCMC- “If you have elves working in your workshop, who works at Wal-Mart?”

SC- “Everyone starts out there before they come to work in my workshop. By starting out there, they learn how to work within a team dynamic. They also learn how to work for no money or benefits and dreadfully long hours. That way when they come to work for me they receive a great wage, free medical and dental, two fifteen minute breaks and 45 minutes for lunch. They are happier and more productive. It’s a win-win situation for me.”

ATCMC- “How has it worked out for you?”

SC- “My production increases every year and my turnover is less than 2%, where their turnover is 60% or higher.”

ATCMC- “That is completely amazing.” We walked and chatted for a few more minutes when he took me to the one place I had been waiting to see since I got here; the workshop.

SC- “Keep in mind, you are the first non-elf to ever see inside.”

ATCMC- I was in awe. It was not high-tech and modernized as I had expected it to be. Instead, everything was hand made to insure attention to detail. Oh, there were some modern machines to assist in the production but for the most part it was still done the way it has been done there for ever. As he led me through the various areas I noticed that no one seemed disgruntled or miserable, instead they all had smiles on their faces and worked lovingly to produce the toys and gifts that would be enjoyed by children all over the world. As we walked near the break room and cafeteria I noticed something that seemed surprising to me. Santa’s explanation was even more astounding. There was a nativity scene. When I asked Santa about it he said this to me.

SC- “This is what this time of year is really about. It’s about remembering that Christmas isn’t about a tree or presents or parties or bonuses. It’s to celebrate, not only the birth of Christ but all of those who have made sacrifices to allow us to enjoy the things we have today.”

ATCMC- I wiped a tear from my eye as we walked out so I could catch my ride back to the airport for my ride home. I thanked him for the time he spared and he simply nodded his head.

SC- “Remember what Christmas is about and keep it in your life this time of year.”

I smiled on my way to the airport when something hit me. He kept my damn Nutter-Butters and bottle of scotch.

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