As families across the country sat down for Christmas dinner, millions of conversations were focused on our troubled economy.
At my parents house a healthy portions of uncertainty and second-guessing were served alongside a splendid ham, green beans, and butternut squash risotto. Should we have bailed out Detroit? Is Obama’s stimulus package going to work? And, how did you season the almonds in this salad?
Several bottles of wine later, it became apparent why the American economy will forever thrive – the people.
We cannot count on the government to save the United States of America. We have to rely on our most valuable commodity, our people and their ideas.
Here is one such idea:
Today, thousands of Katrina trailers sit in expensive storage facilities in Louisiana. As each day passes they are costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. The maintenance alone has made the prospect of keeping them until they’re needed again unreasonable.
Rumor has it that these trailers will soon be for sale at rock bottom prices. After buying a couple dozen trailers, we will purchase an equal amount of Suburbans, Hummers, and Escalades. Although gas prices have subsided, the value of these vehicles has been drastically reduced … except in Alaska.
Follow me here. Once we have the SUV’s and the trailers, we create a caravan en route to Alaska. The last frontier requires 4wd, which sell for twice as much as they do in the lower 48, and trailers are hot commodities needed for prospecting land. As we make the week long journey through the Great North, my uncle, who lives in Alaska, will be lining up the sales.
With cash in hand, we charter a Halibut fishing boat and go out for an overnight trip. We each catch our 200lb limit and fly home the next day. We then sell these fish to a high-end seafood restaurant, and do it all over again. It's like printing money.
The first caravan leaves Tuesday, let me know if you’re in.
And oh yeah, if you think you’re just going to steal this plan, maybe I just wrote this to send you in the wrong direction. Maybe we’re headed to Nicaragua and plan on bringing back Marlin.
I've helped bake approximately ten dozen cookies today.
My most important task today has been chopping walnuts. It took a great deal of concentration. If you chop them too small, you can't tell you're there. Too big, and you're mouth will dry and overwhelmed by walnut flavor.
Second in importance to my walnut preparation, is my job as internet recipe reader. I've become affectionately known as "Houston." On occasion I get teaspoon and tablespoon mixed up, queuing my mom to tell me that, "baking is a science." All said, I'm basically the brains behind the operation.
The fact that we're all together is just about the only thing that makes today feel like Christmas, though. It's over 50 degrees outside, and the overall buildup has been minimal. Is this getting old?
Smiling when you’re alone is always a little strange, but it feels really good – it’s sincere.
And on most Fridays just before four, when I have absolutely nothing planned, I get into my car, turn the key, and smile.
It’s a different kind of smile than stumbling on a funny YouTube clip or joking around with your friends. It’s being happy because you don’t have a reason not to. Sure, I won’t be going to work for the 64.5 hours, and I will probably overindulge myself with alcohol, food and sports, but smiling for the hell of it once a week isn’t enough.
Oftentimes, I think we hold ourselves back from being happy. For example, if I’m planning to meet up with some friends for dinner and a drink, I concern myself with being late or whether the scene will be satisfactory. When I could be smiling about the fact that there is an appetizer named The Tominator and beer is only $2.
I don’t have anything to be unhappy about. And if I find myself unhappy, and rationally write down what is wrong and compare it to the good things that are going on all around me, it always sounds ridiculous. I’m not saying everyone should be pleased with all life all of the time, just a lot more often.
Thursday will be my 25th Christmas. I’ve spent each of them with the same four people.
Sometimes relatives come over. On occasion a current girlfriend shows up, but every year, without fail, my two brothers, my mom, and my dad gather for Christmas.
I’m guessing this is fairly rare.
Although the company has remained the same, there are a few things that have changed. My first memories of Christmas morning involve me waking up, taking a second to realize it’s Christmas, throwing on my red robe (which I only wore once a year), and sprinting down the stairs before the sun was up. A new bike, Lego’s or a remote control car would be waiting in the living room fully assembled. Eventually my parents would hear that we were awake and stumble down to see what Santa had brought us.
At 24, I’m the youngest in the family. Still, Santa has never failed me or my 29 and 31-year-old brothers.
The difference is that now, if you wake up before 10 a.m., the gifts might not have come yet.
We give out our family presents on Christmas Eve. And although my adolescent anticipation has drastically dissipated, it is still one of my favorite nights of the year.
Before getting to the gifts, we eat clam chowder and go to the candle light service at church. I have distinct memories of this being the slowest three hours of my life – the anticipation to open gifts almost unbearable.
We usually got home around 9 and gathered in the living room. After turning 21 I made the discovery that egg nog is quite possibly the best mixer known to man. It tastes the same with a 1:1 egg nog to rum ratio as a 1:5.
With drinks in hand and cookies overflowing our plates, everyone tries to stall opening their presents so they won’t be left with none at the end. My mom still gets genuinely excited about a new pair of Thorlo socks, and my dad gets distracted and we have to go find him upstairs or in the kitchen so we can continue.
Things are slowly changing, though. For example, oysters have been introduced as a Christmas tradition simply because they are one of dad's favorite foods.
And maybe one day a woman will force us into marriage and ruin the fun for everybody.
Until then I’ll just keep counting on Santa on Christmas morning.
I didn’t leave the country for long enough to miss anything. And truthfully, I didn’t want to come home.
There is, however, one thing that is nice about being home – English.
I spoke approximately 500 words in Spanish during my trip (1,000 attempts at words ended up not being words)
- 50% were “si” - 30% were “bueno” - 5% were items on a menu that I was simultaneously pointing at - The remaining 15% were improperly conjugated verbs
A couple weeks before my trip I submitted a list to my brother, who lives there and speaks fluent Spanish, of things that I wanted to do while I was visiting. Most of the list was composed of things like surfing, drinking rum, or laying on the beach. Most of these were easily accomplished. Without much thought I included that I wanted to “have a 20 second conversation with a Panamanian in Spanish.”
My brother, always wanting me to have a cultural experience in addition to a good time, constantly reminded me of my goal. On the second day I realized how long 20 seconds actually was.
We were fishing in the Pacific Ocean, and I had just caught my first fish. I felt good, the sun was shining and the wind was in my hair. I was sitting a few feet away from our captain, and I turned to him and said in Spanish, “The fishing here is very good.” He nodded, and I’m not sure if he understood me. I didn’t time it, but I’m guessing this non-conversation lasted about four seconds. No matter how special you feel when you’re talking to someone in another language, it’s just not very special to the person that hears it.
Here are a couple other attempts at conversation, most failed to elicit a response, none lasted more than 10 seconds.
“This isn’t my house … I don’t know.” “I like the Atlanta Braves.” “What type of tree is that?” “Is the airport more big than here?”
It’s a frustrating and helpless feeling when you can’t fully engage in what is happening around you. It’s worse when you have to completely rely on your older brother, and just behind his face, he’s rolling his eyes at you.
It makes you feel like you’re an inferior being. And for nearly two weeks I felt less intelligent than everyone around.
By the end, I’d added an item to another list.
My life goals:
1. Raise a child. 2. Love a woman. 3. Have a career I'm proud of. 4. Learn a foreign language.