Greater Love Hath No Man

Let's fall in love.

Let’s fall in love.

 

People can be endlessly fascinating.  They can also be endlessly irritating.   The secret to getting along with others, no matter where they fall on the fascinating/irritating spectrum at any given point in time, is to know when to speak up and when to shut up.

Greater love hath no man than to…

  • speak up when she has spinach between her teeth
  • shut up when she asks if her butt looks too big
  • speak up when he leaves his turn signal on
  • shut up when he is driving so slowly bicycles are passing him
  • speak up when his breath is bad enough to stop a charging rhino
  • shut up when he farts
  • speak up when she can’t remember her best friend’s name
  • shut up when she repeats the story you’ve heard so many times you could recite it in your sleep
  • speak up when he helps put away the groceries without being asked
  • shut up when he puts the canned peas on the wrong shelf
  • shut up when he gets the letters wrong in the ABC song
  • speak up when he shares his toys with his little sister
  • shut up when she asks what you REALLY think of her man
  • speak up when you think he would hurt her
  • shut up when you can’t stand the politician she thinks walks on water
  • speak up when she spews hate about people just because they’re different

Each of us has distinct characteristics and quirks.  Some we can change, and some we can’t; some we can help one another improve, and some it’s nobody else’s business to even try.  Whether at work, a family gathering, on the internet or within a marriage, before giving advice we should probably ask ourselves:

Will this be truly helpful?

Am I trying to make the other person feel better?  Be better?

Am I really just criticizing?

Greater love hath no man than to accept his fellows as they are.

And, damn, that ain’t easy.

 

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The Walmart Christmas Extravaganza

Christmas time is here again.  Tis the season for celebrating cherished traditions.  Around this joint, that means dusting off blog posts of Christmases past; posts that are staler than re-gifted fruitcake.  Enjoy. 

I wrote the following post soon after I started this blog, and it is still one of my favorites.  I can’t believe it has never been Freshly Pressed, Discovered, or made into a Broadway hit.   If any WordPress Story Wranglers or rich and famous Broadway producers are reading, feel free to reach out.

Thanks to People of Wal-Mart for the raw footage.

Thanks to People of Wal-Mart for the raw footage.

 

Walmart: The Christmas Musical

The entire play takes place in a Super Walmart on a Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.  Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Our heroine is a young ingenue who looks almost exactly like me.    She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy-dust and sent on a quest in the Land of Walmart.  She must find another strand of the same brand of lights she bought last year, to finish the string dangling 1 foot short of the bottom of her half-finished Christmas tree.  Then she must get through the checkout and back to her car before the fairy dust wears off and she turns into a mean, bitchy old crone.

The show opened with Ariana Grande’s spiritual performance of “I’d Rather Be Naughty, So $&%# You, Santa!”  She and her backup dancers wore only sprigs of mistletoe, strategically placed.  As for their dance routine, let’s just say I will never look at a humble candy-cane the same way again.

Next up, a mother softly crooned a simple ballad to the 5 ragged children gathered around her cart.  She was imaginatively costumed in skin-tight black stretch pants and a leopard-print shirt cut low enough to reveal a pair of angels tattooed on the upper slopes of her absolutely ginormous, er, charms.  The song was ” I TOLD You 20 Times!”  and the chorus went like this:

“I TOLD you 20 times you gotta be at least 8 years old before Santa will bring you “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.”  I’m going to have your daddy (Rodney, that guy who’s staying with us) WHUP YOUR A** if you ask me again!”

I wasn’t the only one who left the show humming this moving tune.

The children’s choir almost stole the show with their rousing hit, “I Want THAT!”   The lyric was not complicated – only “I Want THAT”, over and over – but the performance elevated the words to art.  The volume of their childish cries built to a mighty crescendo.  The number ended with the whole choir falling to the floor in the middle of the aisles, kicking its collective heels.  Unforgettable.

The Greeters Gospel Choir’s  a-Capella rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain (The Holidays Are Here)” had everyone clapping along.   The reworked lyrics explained in an uplifting, catchy way how if the store employees said “Merry Christmas,” it would be the same as forcing shoppers to turn Christian and submit to full-immersion baptism.  Entertaining and really thought provoking.

But the showstopper was the big production number finale.

I took a couple of dance classes as a kid, so I’m familiar with steps like the flap-ball-change.  But I’ve never seen the moves the Walmart Shoppers Dance Troupe perfected for this extravaganza, a routine they call the Oblivious Shuffle.

Each shopper/dancer leaned on his or her cart and pushed it slowly, oh so slowly, back and forth across the stage.  Their shuffling steps kept one shoe (or house slipper, as the case may be) on the floor at all times.  The shuffling feet made a “shush, shush” sound that underscored the “squeak, squeak” of their unoiled cart wheels.  The occasional crash of colliding carts played like cymbals in the composition.

About half of the dancers had cell phones pressed to their ears.  One at a time, each burst loudly into song with lyrics like “…so that witch my baby-daddy is with now said they couldn’t take the kids Christmas Eve because they had to pick up her kids from her ex-baby-daddy’s, but we gotta go to my new baby-daddy’s grandma’s, so I told her if you think I’m going to take them on HIS day, you can just tell that &%$#…” Their solos were incomprehensible, one-sided conversations when taken by themselves.  Together, they wove a timeless Christmas story.

The dancers went through their movements with vacant, glassy stares that gave the illusion that they were totally unaware of everyone else around them.

Think of Night of the Living Dead as a ballet.

Meanwhile, the young ingenue wove her cart skillfully in and out of the shuffling throng, trying to get to the checkout.   Every checker shut down just as she got to their register, crying “price check on 10″ and “manager override on 5” in a surprisingly harmonious medley.  The audience held their breath when a determined shopper with 2 carts piled high cut in front of our heroine in the “15 items or less” lane, but there was no crash – it was all part of the show.

I don’t want to give away the ending in case you decide to see the show.  Suffice it to say that when our ingenue finally left the store and trudged through the slushy parking lot trying to find her car, she looked a lot like the apple-wielding hag in Snow White.

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Need a Ride? Better Goober

Floyd the barber is just one of Goober's fast, friendly and reliable drivers.

Floyd the Barber is just one of Goober’s fast, friendly and reliable drivers.

I’ve been traveling a lot in the last few months, going to big cities like Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.  One major difference between big city and small town life is how we get around.  Here, we use our feet and our cars.  In big cities, they Uber.

In the unlikely event some of you are even less hip than I am, let me explain that Uber is a kind of taxi service that is all the rage now in most cities.  Unlike conventional licensed, yellow taxis, Uber taxis are ordinary Joes driving their own cars.

Anybody can hire themselves out.  They sign up online with Uber, prove they aren’t ax murderers (I assume) and Uber adds their name to the list of approved drivers.  A rider downloads the Uber app on their smart phone, gives their credit card info, and hails a cab electronically.  Uber handles the transaction for a fee and nobody carries cash.

My mom strictly impressed upon me that you never take rides from strangers.  This was even worse than taking candy from them.  Yet this is something my 20-somethng daughters do routinely.  I’m not too thrilled by the idea, frankly, but it’s now part of everyday life.

This is so common it has become a verb.  You don’t “call an Uber” like you’d call a taxi.  You don’t “catch the Uber” like you’d catch the bus.  You just “Uber.”

When I was visiting relatives in Seattle, my younger and much more cosmopolitan cousin must have mentioned Ubering as a transportation option at least half a dozen times.   I finally replied that I wasn’t familiar with it because we didn’t have it at home.

She looked at me blankly.

“Uber.” I clarified.  “I don’t think we have that.  Don’t need it, really. My office is in town, so I can walk to the bank, the post office, the doctor’s office – even city hall is just a block away.  For everything else, most folks just hop in their cars.”

She was too polite to call me a clueless, country bumpkin, but the look on her face said it all. I realized I had just described life in Mayberry.

“Round ‘bout where we-all live,” I explained further, “we don’t Uber: we Goober.”

“Whenever we need a ride, we ring up Sarah on the telephone party line and she calls Goober down at Wally’s Garage & Gas Station.” I said.

“You need a ride? Go-o-olly!” says Goober.  “Sure thing!  I just gotta finish changin’ a tire on this ‘56 Dodge pickup, then I’ll be down to getcha in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  Shazam!”

  • Took your best girl for a bite at the Bluebird Diner, and it’s pouring down rain when it’s time to go home?  Better Goober.
  • Need to get over to Mount Pilot?  Better Goober.
  • Put the “Gone fishing” sign on the door for an afternoon at Myers Lake and now your car won’t start?  Better Goober.

I was wrong about one thing, though.  I checked online when I got home from Seattle, and it turns out we DO have Uber around here.  That’s who Goober uses after he’s had too many glasses of Aunt Bee’s elderberry wine.

 

 

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Why Trump? To The Intelligentsia From The Flyover Zone

trump

Why Trump?  This question seems to be a source of genuine bafflement for the ruling classes on both sides of the aisle, but especially for liberals.  Let me see if I can explain.

I fell victim to one of those nasty, late fall colds and went home sick at lunch on Wednesday.  While ladling chicken noodle soup down my aching throat, I turned on the TV and wound up watching the America’s News HQ midday program on Fox.  The newscaster was interviewing Democratic Representative Tim Ryan from Ohio, and they were discussing why House Democrats are delaying a vote on the minority leader.  The talk is that Ryan may be tagged to replace Nancy Pelosi.

They cut away in the middle of their live interview to a clip of Ryan talking to reporters in the hallway at an earlier time.  Ryan said Democrats needed to reconnect with voters in the “flyover zone.”

The “flyover zone.”

The newscaster repeated the term, looking slightly puzzled by Congressman Ryan’s casual use of it, but she didn’t belabor the point.  They moved on to their main topic.

The thing is that the term “flyover zone” IS the point…of the entire election.

I’m sure Ryan didn’t mean to be insulting.   His was benevolent condescension.  He was just saying what the intelligentsia in both parties thinks of those of us in Middle America; you’re smarter than we are, you’re more sophisticated, you’re better qualified in every way to run this country and if you occasionally have to take a few shortcuts in the Democratic process or the Constitution to achieve your goals, well, the ends justify the means.

We know that’s what you think of us.  You make it abundantly clear.  We get it from the top down – even the President of the United States made it clear when he sneered about us rubes “clinging to our guns and religion.”

When I say Middle America I’m not just talking about the states located geographically in the middle of the country, although the election map certainly lit up that way.  We’re in every state of the union and we encompass all races, backgrounds and religions.  Middle America is made up of everyday people who quietly go about the business of living life.  Some went to college, some didn’t, but most of us work hard to earn our keep and take care of our families.  On our days off we kick back or kick up our heels a little.  We’re no saints, but we try to do the right thing.  We probably go to church.

We love our country and we worry about our families and the future.

You won’t find us out on the streets vandalizing property when things don’t go our way, because:

  1. it wouldn’t be nice
  2. many of us own small businesses and we know how we’d feel if someone did that to us
  3. it’s hard to stay up all night smashing car windows when you have to get up early the next morning to go to work

Middle America is tired of being lied to, either outright or by the ever-present “spin.”  We’re tired of being sneered at; we’re tired of being condescended to; and we’re tired of having the things that matter most to us mocked or brushed aside like so many pesky gnats; unimportant in the Grand Scheme of Things.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, mainly since the election.  Most said they were afraid to voice an opinion contrary to the established narrative beforehand. They knew that the same crowd screaming for inclusion and diversity would exclude them in a New York minute for espousing diverse ideas on topics that had been declared closed for debate.  If you suggested that Trump had anything at all of value to offer to our country, then that thought would put you squarely in the basket with the other “deplorables.”

It seems to me the main appeal of Donald Trump to Middle America, and the thing that first caught people’s attention, is one of the very characteristics that the intelligentsia ridicules the most: he says what he thinks.

You have no idea how refreshing that is.

He hasn’t had every syllable vetted by a carefully orchestrated focus group.  He’s relatively rough, unpolished and direct and, consequently, he often sticks his foot in his mouth.  Average people react to that because they do that, too.

I think that many Americans feel that Trump is an average Joe.  He’s one of them…except really, really rich.

In another interview on CNN, Congressman Ryan candidly said that his party needed to reevaluate how they talk to voters.  He said that they need to go into the red states and connect with working class voters, people he says he knows well. “They want to – they want you to talk to them about how they can run machinery, or run a back hoe or sling concrete block.  That’s what they want to do.  So we need an agenda for Democrats that speaks to those workers.”

He’s figured out what went wrong.  This is good.  The ideas aren’t the problem; it’s just that they didn’t explain their fabulous vision in a way that Joe Doakes in the flyover zone could understand.    They need to write a new script.

If they could just explain in simpler terms, Joe Doakes would understand that fossil fuels are BAD.  We don’t need that nasty smelly stuff, or those nasty, smelly jobs.  Joe can still run machinery.  He can run machinery to repair windmills and solar panels.  He’ll make a lot more money, too, because the taxpayer subsidizes those industries a ton.

If they could just explain it right, he’d understand that when he loses his job running a backhoe to an illegal immigrant who will work for $4 per hour less, he should blame his greedy, fat cat employer.  What possible justification could that employer have for trying to hold costs down in a global economy?  Blame him, not the government who refuses to deport illegals, not even those who are criminals.

If they could just make him understand, Joe Doakes would know that he’s much better off now under Obamacare.  When he’s slinging that concrete block around and he drops it on his foot, he now has unlimited access to the emergency room.  Of course, he has a $6,500 deductible, but he can sign up for free lactation counseling on his way out of the hospital.  That benefit alone makes it perfectly acceptable that his insurance premium doubled this year.

Every possible negative label was thrown at Trump.  They were piled on his back like heavy rocks, purposely designed to weigh him down and count him out.  The right hurled labels at Clinton as well, but the aim of those hefting the labels wasn’t nearly as good.

I’m no cheerleader for Donald Trump. I’m not going to defend or explain things he has said or done.  I probably can’t and I sure as hell don’t want to.   Lord knows the man is far from perfect, but neither is he the anti-Christ he has been painted.

I think people saw both campaigns as the hatchet jobs they were, and they chose to look beyond the labels.  When presented with two, deeply flawed candidates, voters tried to look past the man or woman and determine from their words and actions what each believed.  More importantly, what they intended to DO.

I’d like to think that everyone would give the President-elect a chance.  Maybe a new way of doing things WOULD be good for our country.  I feel that way after every election, no matter which way it falls.  I say I’d like to think that will happen, but I gave up on impossible dreams when I learned the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.  After a one-day pause to cry and lick their wounds, the attack dogs went right back to the task of tearing down everything Donald Trump does, says or is with renewed vigor.

There is one change I think we can count on as a result of this election.  Now that the intelligentsia has figured out they need the votes from the flyover zone, we’ll be seeing a lot more hard hats and Caterpillar tractor t-shirts on Capitol Hill in the next 4 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank You, Sweet Baby Jesus, For Making It Stop

Let the verbal fertilization of America cease.

Let the verbal fertilization of America cease.

It’s all over.

Maybe you’re wailing and gnashing your teeth.
Maybe you’re skipping and dancing in the streets.
Maybe you’re making plans to move to Fiji.
Maybe you’re shrugging your shoulders and saying “meh” because, at the end of the day, this doesn’t change a thing about our daily lives.  You still have to go to work, your kid is still flunking 4th grade gym class, and you can’t figure out how to get rid of ugly ring-around-the-collar.

Regardless of how you feel about the outcome of this election, there is one fact that unites all Americans in an orgy of pure, unadulterated joy:  no more political ads.

Thank you, thank you, sweet little baby Jesus.

Those ads have been a relentless torrent of vile crap, especially in the last week.  Both parties laid down a carpet-bombing of pure buzzkill for both Indians and Cubs fans trying to watch the World Series in peace.  And local candidates did a blitzkrieg this last week because their meager advertising budgets could only support a couple of days.  They ratcheted the ads up to DEFCON 1 on radio, in the mail, on TV and in signs that covered up the beautiful, fall leaves on lawns across the land.

I turned on a favorite oldies station on my way to work the day before the election and was bombarded with election ads.  I held on through 10 minutes of them, only to find the station had just switched over to Christmas music.  Talk about adding insult to injury!

Not content with yard signs and radio spots, one local candidate painted the side of a van with a laundry list of his opponent’s mistakes and sins.  He parked it near the mall where everyone could see it.  On the truck, he accused his opponent of everything short of sacrificing goats to drink their blood while dancing around in the moonlight with the devil.  Probably would have added that part if the vehicle had been a semi instead of a smaller panel van.

I can’t wait for some peace and quiet.  I hope I never again have to listen to…

Ominous music:  Instead of telling us what THEY were going to do for us, most of the ads showed unflattering pictures of their opponent while a worried/horrified-sounding voice-over explained why said opponent didn’t deserve to live, let alone get elected.  All of this was underscored by ominous, sharks-in-the water music.  Let’s leave that kind of music where it belongs, OK?  In ads from plaintiffs’ attorneys trying to get rich off of class action lawsuits against big companies.

“I support working Americans”:  So what? Most people work; from the 17-year-old at McDonald’s to the millionaire president of a multi-national company.  Do you support ALL of them?  The only people who don’t work are those who inherited wealth, are retired, or are living off the taxpayer.  As the last two groups are set to take over as the majority in our country, you might as well ditch the “working Americans” rhetoric and go straight for the elderly and unemployed vote.

“I promise…”  You won’t do it.  Whatever it is, you either lied about it because you thought that’s what we wanted to hear, or you really meant to do it, but won’t get it off the ground because of the Washington “machine.”

“I’ll stand up…” Pu-leeze.  Just sit down.

“I’ll take on…”  Yeah, you’re really tough.  I want a lover, not a fighter.  Except when we need a fighter.

“Special interest groups”: What’s wrong with having a special interest?  Everybody has one.  Breast cancer research, gay rights, owning a business, school funding, stopping the Alaskan pipeline, keeping guns legal, etc, etc.  If it’s something that concerns you, you contact your elected reps and try to get them to DO something about your special interest.  If enough of us are interested, we hire lobbyists. Why is this a bad thing?

I’d love to think I’ll never hear any of those things again, but I know the mid-terms are 2 years away.  After that, it will only be about 3-1/2 years until the next presidential election really gets going and we’re all forced to ride The Super-Big Kahuna Crap Train of Political Advertising once more.

When that day comes, I promise you this: I will take on the special interest groups of career politicians and news pundits.  I will stand up for all working Americans and support your choice to move to Fiji.  You have my word. (Cue sharks-in-the-water music.)

 

 

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Your Customer Advocate Will Provide You With a Blindfold and a Cigarette

They live to serve.

They live to serve.

 

Forget Clinton, forget Trump.  Who cares about our differences in race, creed or religion?  As ‘Muricans we are all united in a common cause at this crucial moment in history… our shared disgust with health insurance, the companies that provide it and the federal law that totally screwed it up, perhaps forever.

The annual enrollment period for Obamacare has rolled around again.  Time for a little pop quiz, kiddies.

If I am on the phone waiting to speak with a “customer advocate,” who am I trying to reach?

  1. Better Business Bureau
  2. Small Claims Court
  3. Health insurance company claims adjuster
  4. Carry out counter at the China Palace

First, let’s eliminate the obvious.   An “advocate” is one who represents and pleads the cause of another.  That’s probably not going on at #3 or 4, so we’ll cross them out.  The word “customer” indicates a business, so we’ll cross out #2.  That leaves #1, the Better Business Bureau, right?  Wrong.

I had a little accident in the kitchen the other day.  The cut was pretty deep and I thought I might need medical attention, so I called my health insurer’s claim department to find out what my plan would pay.

I’m not going to name the insurance company; suffice it to say they’re big.  Really big.  We’ll call them the Indigo Plus Sign Insurance Company of Illinois.  After navigating a phone tree so convoluted it reminded me of the old kids’ game, Chutes & Ladders, I finally reached the claim department.  Their on-hold message promised my call would soon be handled by the next available “customer advocate.”

I thought claims adjusters were employees.  I thought they were mere corporate tools, forced to toe whatever party line “the man” laid down.  I assumed their job description would be, “Avoid shelling out even one, thin dime to the poor, working slobs who pay our salaries.  Maximize profits so corporate big wigs can fly around in the company jet, eating caviar and drinking champagne from the shoes of high-priced floozies.”

I was so wrong.

This company’s claims department is staffed with “advocates”.  They’re on my side.

As my on-hold wait extended into its 3rd hour, I thought about my “advocate” while I alternatively loosened and tightened my tourniquet.   I pictured her as an earnest young woman with long hair, glasses and Birkenstocks.  She’d thought about joining the Peace Corp when she graduated from college, but chose to give back to society by working for the Indigo Plus Sign Insurance Company of Illinois instead.

I would go into the claims review board feeling like I was facing a firing squad, but no worries – my advocate would be by my side.  She’d pound the table and shout, “Peg has been paying us $1317 per month for the last 18 years (going up at least 25% next year, of course.)  This is her first claim.  Now that she needs us, we can’t turn our backs on her.  She needs proper care, she deserves proper care, and I won’t rest until she gets it.  With God as my witness, we will approve full payment of one Band-Aid!!! (After her $30-per-residential-dressing copay, of course.)”

That’s when I knew; this time would be different.

Am I wrong to hope? Could this be the delusional fantasy of a starry-eyed idealist?  Maybe.  Or it could be the delusional fantasy of someone experiencing extreme blood loss.  We’ll find out as soon as it’s my turn to talk to my “advocate”.  I’m sure it will be any time now; I’ve been on hold for 4 days.

 

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It’s All Fun & Games Until the Check Arrives

My turn, I believe.

My turn, I believe.

I’ve often said that going out to eat is my favorite indoor, non-contact sport.  I might need to rephrase this.  Oftentimes a lovely meal with friends or family morphs into a no-holds-barred wrestling match as soon as the check arrives.  I’m considering wearing protective gear the next time I go out to eat.

Here are a few of the games people play when it’s time to pay:

Hockey:  Sometimes the waitress drops the check in the middle of the table when you have a big group.  It’s like the puck being dropped at a hockey game and the players all start jabbing and sticking to gain control.  Diners should wear big, padded gloves in case they take a fork-jab to the hand.

Hide and seek:  If the waitress brings the check early while people are still eating, often only one person will notice.  That diner hides the bill under his or her plate.  By the time everybody else starts looking around for the check, the sneaky benefactor announces with a smirk that it has already been taken care of.

This happened at a recent family event where someone else had called “dibs” on the check.  That meal ended with yours-truly sandwiched between the two brawlers like a ref at a WWF wrestling match, yelling “break it up!” and trying to get them to go to their own corners.  Both were slinging the generosity around so ferociously, it was a wonder I wasn’t knocked out cold!

Capture the flag: We went to dinner with 2 other couples and at the end of the meal, the three guys separately excused themselves to go to the men’s room. Perfectly understandable after a big meal.  This was merely a smokescreen, however, as my husband whispered to me when he came back.  Each had detoured to the waitress station in an attempt to capture the check.  He and Checkout Man #2 were neatly out maneuvered by Potty Planner #1.

Tug of War: When dinner is clearly over, and everyone is refreshed and ready for battle, they start in on the waitress when she’s still halfway across the room carrying that tell-tale, padded envelope.  The poor girl gets tugged, threatened and pleaded with from all sides to hand over the check.  No matter what she does, someone is going to be mad. She can’t win!

Hot Potato:   It’s annoying when someone insists on picking up the tab every time.  Even more annoying, however, is the person who never offers to pay.  We all know someone like this.  When the check arrives he or she beats a hasty retreat to the bathroom, or makes sure they’re deep in conversation.   If the bill somehow winds up in their hands, they drop it like a hot potato. It would sit there until the paper disintegrated if someone else didn’t pick it up.  You suspect that Freddy the Freeloader didn’t even bring enough money to cover his own tab, let alone treat anyone else.

The problem with any of these games is that they never end.  You need a score-card to keep track of whose turn it is to snag the check at any given meal.

We go out with the same group of friends every week, and I like the solution they developed early on:

Double Dutch: Nobody jumps up to pay the tab – we all pay our own and skip the fuss.  Without the threat of mortal combat at the end of the meal we can relax, enjoy each other’s company, and leave the football pads and helmets at home.

 

 

 

 

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