Rock on, and pass the Tylenol

Now that two of my daughters are away at college and the one still at home basically views me as an ATM in an unfashionable neighborhood, I’ve tried to find myself a hobby. Since I’m not interested in activities that involve getting out of bed before noon on a Saturday, that pretty much rules out most manly-type-outdoorsy stuff that would require me to sweat profusely in a tent, clean an animal carcass or have one of my friends pluck a tick from a region of my anatomy that I can’t reach.

Instead, with the money we have left after paying for college tuition, semi-grown-daughter car insurance and an occasional can of bean dip, my wife and I have been attending concerts. Something about the exciting atmosphere of several thousand fans enjoying music together and anticipating their next restroom break makes me feel alive. It also allows me to temporarily forget about the pain in my lower back from sneezing too hard the day before.

Below are a few brief reviews of concerts we’ve attended over the last few months:

First, we’ve seen alternative singer-songwriter Ben Rector in concert twice recently – once in Austin, Texas, where we waded through throngs of hormonal college students on notorious Sixth Street to visit the famous Amy’s Ice Creams after the show. Ben Rector is currently my favorite artist – by a mile. He seems like a genuinely good guy, and his songs include themes like lost youth, how quickly time passes, how hard adulting can be, and how lucky guys like us are to have our wives. Watching him also makes me wish I hadn’t quit piano lessons. Yes, Mom, you were right about that – and pretty much everything else.

Next, we traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana, to see what could be called “The Remnants Tour” with surviving members of southern rock bands ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Even though both bands have been around for years, they can still tear it up on stage. It’s also refreshing to see musicians who are older than me and still manage to stand upright–though they made me feel a little self-conscious about my lack of facial hair.

Speaking of musicians who make me feel young, sort of, in early Spring, we traveled to Houston, Texas, to see legendary rockers The Eagles with my big brother and his wife. After listening to my brother speak in elaborate tongues as he navigated the Houston traffic, we saw the band perform all of their greatest hits, and Joe Walsh killed it on several guitar solos, making the same faces of pleasure and pain I make when I’ve had too much Taco Bell.

Most recently, we attended the iHeartCountry Festival in Austin. Granted, I’m about as country as one of the Three Amigos, but I do enjoy some rock’n country music. (I even wore boots.) One of my favorite performers at the festival was Jelly Roll, who–along with belting out some great hard-luck ballads – seemed thrilled and thankful to be there. The other was Keith Urban, who sang his upbeat hits, shredded on the guitar, and owned the crowd. Unfairly, Urban is roughly my age, but he looks like a twenty-something heartthrob, and I look like Dorothy from “The Golden Girls.”

Attending concerts has been great fun for my wife and me in our “almost empty nest and bank account” years, and we don’t plan to slow down. Upcoming concerts include Def Leppard with Journey and Steve Miller, Niall Horan and Kacey Musgraves. They all should be a blast–as long as I remember the Tylenol and sit close to the restroom.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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Requiem for Red Lobster

First, it was Toys “R” Us. Then, Bed Bath & Beyond. Now, perhaps the most personally painful demise of a legendary franchise that helped to shape my psyche (and my penchant for complimentary appetizers), our local Red Lobster, along with over 90 other locations nationwide, recently bit the dust, or the biscuit – as it were.

I guess we all saw it coming in the carnage of crippled restaurant chains that COVID-19 left in its wake. Red Lobster was never quite the same haven of succulent, mass-produced seafood after the pandemic. In particular, they inexplicably excised their scrumptious seafood gumbo from the menu – one of the main reasons I loved the place, and the only reason my eldest and most expensive daughter ever wanted to go.

Granted, the carpet was dingy, the nautical decor was corny, and the lobster tanks invoked a sort of morbid fascination that made us all wish they’d take those rubber bands off the lobsters’ claws and let them have a battle royale to entertain us while we waited seemingly forever for our table.

But still we went, if for no other reason than those indescribably delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuits, the presentation of which by our server invoked a kind of joy comparable only to the delivery of one’s firstborn child. Well, maybe not that much joy . . . but almost.

Speaking of joy, in the late summer after my senior year of high school, when I had finally learned to apply the perfect combination of Right Guard deodorant and Calvin Klein Obsession for Men cologne, I took my future wife to Red Lobster one Sunday after church for our first real date. For an eighteen-year-old aspiring stud-muffin on a city-pool-lifeguard salary, Red Lobster was a big deal, and I thought she’d be especially impressed by the big brass lobster claw door handles. I know I was. It was there, gazing at each other across elegant entrees of fries and popcorn shrimp, that we found true love among the crustaceans.

After we had children, we began a tradition of visiting Red Lobster after the evening Christmas Eve service at church since it was usually one of the very few restaurants open and we weren’t in the mood for pancakes – even international ones. I always requested kid’s menus for our daughters – even when they were teenagers – so that we could guess at the silly trivia games, play tic-tac-toe, and take turns embarrassing my wife by inserting crayons in various facial orifices – usually right when the server showed up.

Besides, the food at Red Lobster just tasted good. I know there are seafood snobs out there who scoffed at what were undoubtedly pre-cooked, frozen menu items that required little more than a boiling bag, a deep fryer or an industrial microwave, but in East Texas, it was the next best thing to a mess of fried crappie if you asked me, and I’ll miss it.

So, thanks for the memories, the Key lime pie with raspberry drizzle and those unlimited biscuits of gold, Red Lobster. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart – and my digestive system.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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Outpatient decluttering

Because I’m a professional practitioner of the pedagogical arts (known in some parts as fancy book learnin’), I’m privileged to enjoy a Spring Break holiday that usually falls during the same week my semi-grown daughters are also out of school.

Back in the good old days when the girls still spoke to me with actual words, we would spend our Spring Breaks together­­ – playing at the park, riding bikes, or sharing the trauma of a Disney character’s parental death scene.

This year, instead of bonding with me and giggling about my excessive ear hair, all three daughters struck out on their own to sigh dramatically and roll their eyes elsewhere.

My eldest and most expensive daughter took a trip with a friend and several of my credit cards to enjoy the urban vibrancy of Las Vegas. My middle daughter and her sorority sisters soaked up the sun and repelled the advances of countless pec-flexing goobers on the sugar-white sands of Orange Beach, Alabama. My youngest and quietest daughter communed with nature, her best friend, and a jumbo bag of snack cheese on an all-day picnic. I took the family doglets out to potty several times.

Amid these canine assaults on my lawn, I took the opportunity of a daughterless house to do some decluttering. Yes, we are those people who keep things that we might (but probably won’t) need some time in the next fifty years – because who knows when that free miniature tube of toothpaste I got from the dentist in 1997 might come in handy (along with the other 34 tubes in the same drawer).

I’m sad to say that after an entire week of decluttering, I only made it through our laundry room. The following is a catalog of the clutter I decluttered in there.

First, I got rid of two large Rubbermaid tubs full of cables, wires, cords, adapters, and about a hundred other electronic/computery-type thingies I couldn’t identify. I did feel a slight twinge of fear that this stuff might be important, but since I hadn’t opened the tubs since it was still cool to wear a pager, I decided it was safe to let them go.

Next, I reduced the lifespan of my lumbar spine by lifting down a cardboard box with long-forgotten contents to discover about 60 pounds worth of seashells inside. Yes, seashells. After taking our girls on numerous trips to the beach over the years and allowing them to bring home every fragment, shard or sliver of what might once have been a seashell, I’m sure we thought we would get crafty someday and open a seashell décor emporium. Instead, I now have to perform the geezer shuffle when I walk.

Next to the seashell hoard was a second mystery box that revealed a complete set of what appeared to be old martini glasses. Neither my wife nor I have any idea where these came from or why they had been marinating in dust on a shelf above our dryer for the past twenty-odd years. We’ve never made a martini or even drunk a martini. And, as far as we know, neither have our parents­­­­–though mine probably should have done so regularly during my teen years.

This summer, I plan to have one of my famous garage sales and transfer ownership of these delightful objects to other folks who can find them boxed up in their laundry rooms years from now and wonder where in the heck they came from. So if you’re in the market for some old electronic waste or some seashell parts, come on by. Maybe I’ll even make you a martini, but probably not.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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I got COVID when COVID wasn’t cool

Well, it finally happened. No, I didn’t go bald, get divorced or accidentally go to work without pants. I got COVID!

Recently, I had been badly congested for a couple of days, but I chalked it up to our yearly East Texas orgy of yellow pollen that mistakes my sinus cavities for some kind of pine tree Playboy mansion.

Then the headaches started, like my frontal lobe was hosting a rave party for Diet Coke and Mentos. I don’t typically have headaches (other than my three semi-grown daughters), so I knew something was wrong. I was also more tired than usual, which is saying something since my adult life has mostly involved checking the time to see how long it will be before I can go back to bed.

After I went to the clinic to have my brain probed with the giant nasal-violating Q-tip, I was flabbergastified with the results. I mean, I wasn’t even sure COVID was really a thing anymore.

Of course, the one year I forgo the COVID vaccine, disaster strikes. I’ve had so many COVID vaccines in past years that when I cut my finger the other night while I was foraging in the pantry, I could have sworn my blood glowed in the dark – so I figured I was good.

What was I to do now? Excavate some crusty old face masks from the lower bowels of our junk drawer? Put myself in lockdown for a calendar year with nothing but Netflix, Little Debbie treats and my Snuggie blanket to keep me company?

Ironically, minutes after I was diagnosed, the CDC released its new guidelines that basically say COVID-19 is no longer fashionable, and if you get it, you should just shut up about it because nobody cares, anymore. (Ok, that’s not exactly what they said, but still . . . .)

Yes, gone are the days of pandemic-panic/supply-chain crisis, when I would trek through what seemed like a post-apocalyptic retail wasteland on an endless search for toilet paper. And when I found a package, it was like striking gold – or a free pair of Taylor Swift concert tickets!

Speaking of Taylor Swift, my daughters were thoroughly unimpressed by my diagnosis. I broke the news to my youngest and quietest daughter while we were eating dinner. She just said, “Oh,” and asked me to pass the pasta.

When I called to tell my middle daughter I had COVID, she just laughed and said, “Dad, COVID is sooo 2020!”

Based on the reaction of her sisters, I didn’t even bother calling to tell my eldest and most expensive daughter because I was afraid she might just ask for money.

The only sympathy I got was from my wife, my mother and our pets. My wife and mother both encouraged me to go to bed and get plenty of rest. What wonderful women! Our pets seemed pleased that I was sitting still for a change so they could thoroughly contaminate me with their dander and saliva.

I’m happy to say that I had relatively mild symptoms, and I’m now fully recovered-except for the pet dander. I was only able to milk it for about three days of sleeping in and several sleeves of Girl Scout cookies to settle my tummy.

Let’s just hope that, eventually, COVID will go the way of other bygone maladies like Smallpox, SARS, and parachute pants. Until then, I’ll keep my pillow fluffed and my stockpile of toilet paper on standby.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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Becoming a Swiftie Dad, and other skills I’ve learned

Having raised three daughters, I’ve gained, in the words of Liam Neeson, “a very particular set of skills.” Unfortunately, none of these skills would be useful in the event of an international kidnapping.

Because two of our daughters (and some of our credit cards) are now in college and one is deep in the bowels of high school, I feel like an abandoned appliance that seemed pretty nifty at first, but the novelty quickly wore off. (Think – the Baby Yoda waffle iron.)

Below are a few girl-dad skills I no longer use much, but I think they deserve some recognition, maybe in my obituary.

1. I can style girl hair in various complex arrangements – especially the gymnastics-class high ponytail and the ballet-class bun.

2. I can efficiently wash and fold sports bras and women’s/girls’ underwear. (I still have trouble re-inserting the bra pad thingies.)

3. Speaking of underwear, I know that Victoria’s Secret/PINK stores have additional inventory in the “secret drawers” (see what I did there?) under the display tables.

4. I can navigate the feminine product aisle at Target with confidence and expertise.

5. I no longer have to ask for directions in Ulta.

6. I’m aware that “simpin” is bad and “rizz” is good – I think.

7. I can spot a fake Stanley cup a mile away.

8. I know the locations and prices of most reputable nail salons in the area.

9. I know how to make a teenage boy nervous just by looking him in the eye, shaking his hand and smiling.

10. I know how much a Squishmallow or reversible plushie (usually gifted by a simpin teenage boy) will bring at a garage sale.

11. I know the difference between ombre, highlights and balayage – and that all of them will put me in debt.

12. I can order an iced caramel macchiato, a vanilla chai latte and a double shot espresso with steamed oat milk without having any idea what they are, exactly.

13. I can discreetly use a toilet plunger during a multi-girl sleepover without anyone identifying the guilty party.

14. I can invoke a teenage eye roll faster than you can say, “Hi, Hungry! I’m Dad!”

15. I can name most of Taylor Swift’s albums – probably in order. Yes, I’m a shameless Swiftie Dad. My favorite songs are “Style (Taylor’s Version),” “All Too Well (10-minute Taylor’s Version)” and “Delicate” (still waiting for Taylor’s Version) – even though I don’t understand most of the lyrics.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t look to Taylor Swift for my politics, my worldview or my NFL preferences. I just think her songs are catchy, and listening to them makes me feel a little less like I’m ready to pick out my embalming fluid.

Although I, sadly, no longer use most of these skills, I’m going to try to stay sharp because I may have granddaughters someday (hopefully far, far in the future).

Until then, I’ll be keeping it rizzy! (I’m not sure that’s a word.)

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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The world’s greatest inventions

A couple of days ago, I retrieved one (of about a hundred) of our family doglets’ chew bones from the seemingly unreachable chasm under my youngest and quietest daughter’s bed using an ingenious invention of my own making – namely a straightened-out wire clothes hanger.

This same apparatus also comes in handy for retrieving various undergarments (along with a metric ton of lint) that somehow fall behind – and then underneath – our washer and dryer.

The clothes hanger/wonder hook prompted me to consider some other indispensable inventions that often make me question how I ever survived without them.

First, I must pay homage to the marvels of the Squatty Potty toilet stool. The Squatty Potty has absolutely revolutionized my semi-private bathroom/cell-phone zombification/harassment by pets time. Without going into details, let’s just say that the Squatty Potty “optimizes the workflow” when I’m taking care of business. In fact, I’d take the Squatty Potty with me to my workplace if I could do it without risking public humiliation.

Next, I need to say a few words about the Life360 app. For those of us who have made the mistake of purchasing our children a cell phone, the Life360 app eases the pain and guilt by allowing us to stalk them virtually as they go about their day. We can even monitor their speed if we’ve also made the grave error of purchasing them a vehicle.

Gone are the days when parents could be blissfully ignorant about what their college-age children might be up to in the middle of the night. With Life360, we can wake up paranoid in the wee hours of the morning and be comforted to see that they have arrived safely at destinations like The Tipsy Turtle or The Dixie Chicken – undoubtedly participating in an all-night prayer meeting.

Speaking of cell phone apps, my wife and I have also come to rely on the Google Maps app almost any time we leave our home. Neither of us inherited the sense-of-direction gene, so before Google Maps came along, we often found ourselves wrestling with a giant paper map of our own hometown if we had to find our way anywhere other than church, Walmart, the mall or any Mexican food restaurant in the city.

If we went out of town, we risked impaling our eyeballs with the corners of a massive Rand McNally Road Atlas we kept crammed in the storage pocket behind the driver’s seat of the car. In emergency cases, we would stop at a gas station to ask for directions and hope we weren’t speaking to a serial killer or someone selling Amway products.

Nowadays, precise directions to the nearest Taco Bell are only a few taps away, and we can even choose to have our trip narrated by a woman with an Irish accent so we feel like we’re in Europe!

It’s amazing to consider that I lived a great deal of my life without a cell phone, personal computer or even an assistive toilet stool. Sometimes, I think that life might not be so bad without all of the distractions some new inventions provide – except when nature calls and I reach for my iPhone and the amazing Squatty Potty.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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When memory flails

Now that my age has surpassed the mid-century mark and I’m more ancient than virtually all professional athletes, everyone in my department at work, and even my pastor at church, I’ve noticed that the old memory is not what it used to . . . . Wait. What was I writing about again?

My cognitive decline became all too obvious the other day when I was at the Verizon store upgrading to one of those newfangled iPhone jumbo-large-print editions with a camera powerful enough to take photos of the porta potty on the International Space Station. (I mostly wind up just taking close-ups of my nose hairs–sometimes by accident.)

As I proudly strode to my car after my purchase, trying to ignore the fact that I’ll be making payments on the phone until approximately ten years past my life expectancy, I noticed that the “unlock” button on my key fob wasn’t working. Therefore, I took the most logical next step. I began frantically and fruitlessly yanking on the door handle, calling down elaborate curses on the car itself and whoever holds the patent on the locking mechanism.

The situation worsened when I noticed two large dings (complete with chipped paint) in the driver’s side door of this relatively new car that my wife and I had recently purchased for our youngest and quietest daughter so that she could traumatize curbs throughout the city with confidence and style.

As I began to turn back toward the store in defeat so I could phone my wife for help (as usual), I caught a glimpse of the car’s interior out of the corner of my eye. I noticed a can of Mr. Pibb in the cup holder and what appeared to be one of those vaping pen/pipe/bong/e-cig/poisonous cloud spewer-type thingies lying on the console.

It then struck me that this was not my vehicle! I mean, I’m not the healthiest dude on the planet, but I would never resort to drinking Mr. Pibb!

As I backed away, praying for forgiveness about the cursing, hoping that nobody was watching this pathetic spectacle, and concerned that I was about to be assaulted by the vehicle’s owner (who clearly has horrible taste in soft drinks), I then noticed that not only was this not my vehicle, but it wasn’t even the same make – and only vaguely resembled the color.

“What is happening to me?” I still wonder. “What’s next? Mistaking Preparation H for my toothpaste?”

This wasn’t even the first time I’ve tried to unintentionally invade the sanctity of someone else’s luxury upholstery. The first time it happened, I didn’t look up from my Walmart buggy in time to notice that there was a lady in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that was almost identical to mine – minus the grandmotherly driver who was probably considering vehicular homicide as I tugged on her door handle. Luckily for me, she just laughed hysterically instead of running me over or filling my face with buckshot.

My sweet wife assures me that I just have too much on my mind, but I’m pretty sure she’s thinking about having me microchipped at this point.

I guess this is all just part of getting older, and I might as well laugh and enjoy the ride (as long as I’m doing it in my own car).

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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How I became a cat person

Disclaimer: No pets die in this column (but they sometimes smell like they did).

As I write, I’m trying to relax in my recliner on a cold winter’s day next to a roaring fire, yet my feet are freezing because a large, semi-elderly cat named “Missy” – AKA “The Loaf” – is lounging on the fireplace hearth directly in front of the firebox and hogging all of the heat. “How did I reach this state?” you might wonder. So do I.

When my middle daughter was six years old, she looked up at me with her big, manipulative green eyes and said, “All I ever wanted was a baby Siamese.”

Unfortunately, I’ve never been a “cat person.” Most cats shed like middle-aged hippies, so if you spend any amount of time with them, you wind up looking like a body double for Chewbacca. Then there’s that special feline/surly teenager personality. If only they could roll their eyes and call you “bruh!”

Due to my lack of a backbone, however, I found myself on a quest to locate a Siamese kitten. Luckily, the search didn’t take long, and I didn’t have to go to Siam. I found Missy through a local rescue operation that was undoubtedly laughing at me as I drove away.

Life with Missy is all about HER. Unlike many cats, Missy actually enjoys a limited amount of petting. I think she considers it a type of massage therapy. When I pet Missy, I feel like I’m performing a service and should be tipped afterward.

During daytime hours, her signal that she wishes to make an appointment to be petted is that she flops onto her side, just out of reach. She demands that I come to her, and it’s often at the most inconvenient time imaginable – like when I’m sitting on the toilet. If I refuse her reluctant advances, she saunters away (giving me the high-tailed, one-eyed salute) and looks for the perfect rug to barf on.

A few days ago, I actually found myself leaning over her to operate my laptop to avoid disturbing her while she napped in my computer chair. Something is clearly amiss. I didn’t want a cat in the first place, and now I can’t go to the bathroom or buy underwear on eBay without feline interference!

But the true test of my pet tolerance came one evening when we were startled by the sound of glass shattering in the master bathroom, followed by the entrance into the living room of a bleeding (on the carpet, of course) and limping Missy. Scooping her up, I saw that she had a serious laceration on her forearm.

About an hour after I had rushed her to the local emergency vet clinic/cash vaporizer, Missy came out of surgery with assurances from the vet that she would be fine – and a recommendation that I carefully store all breakable items in my home (or sell them to help pay for the vet bill).

Missy is now 13 years old, which, in human years, is approximately 4,745 litter-box scoops. Since acquiring “Missy,” we’ve also adopted two small doglets that Missy mainly ignores like tacky pieces of home decor.

The consolation to life with Missy is that my three daughters love her dearly and she makes them happy. And I kind of like her, too. I guess I see her as a challenge, and after all these years, I’m still determined to make her understand who’s in charge.

Now excuse me while I lean over Missy to search eBay for a second computer chair.

Copyright 2024 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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My New Year’s anti-resolutions

A few days ago, during one of those rare occasions when our whole family was together and my three semi-grown daughters weren’t nursing an iPhone while wearing universe-canceling headphones, my wife posed probably the most oft-asked question this time of year: “Does anyone have any New Year’s resolutions?”

Although that conversation quickly took an off-ramp into a discussion of something earth-shattering like Taylor Swift’s armpits, it got me thinking about my own potential resolutions, or, in my case, “anti-resolutions.”

First, I am not resolving to worry about my weight or the general decomposition of my anatomy this year. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will continue to participate in some daily geriatric exercise-ish activities, and I will still attempt to avoid most foods that will kill me if ingested in satisfying quantities, but I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I adore chips and salsa far too much to go on anything resembling a diet. Life is just too short to do without Tex-Mex.

Next, I am not resolving to be a “better person” in the new year. Again, this doesn’t mean I plan to be a bad person – or even a worse person than I have been. I mean, I will continue to do my best (with the good Lord’s help) to follow the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, state and federal law, my employee handbook, the Cub Scout Oath and most local ordinances.

But, at my age, I wonder if I haven’t reached my better-person “use by“ date. My pets seem to like me (especially at feeding time), my semi-grown daughters mostly tolerate my presence (also especially at feeding time), I have a couple of friends who will share a basket (or two, or three) of tortilla chips with me (and let me eat most of them) and my wife hasn’t left me (if she does, I’m going with her). If I can keep all of that going, I’m good – unless my wife tells me differently.

Next, I’m not resolving to spend time looking for things I lose this year. The older I get, the more I seem to lose stuff. In particular, I tend to lose one part/piece/component of something that comes in a pair. The other day, I lost one of my workout gloves. Since keeping my hands soft, smooth and supple is a priority, this really bothered me – until I realized that wearing just one workout glove sort of made me feel like the King of Pop at my local gym.

And speaking of the gym, I also like to wear a pair of knock-off AirPod earbuds while I’m pumping a very limited amount of iron. Of course, I recently lost one of my earbuds, and although I nearly resigned myself to putting up with the uninspiring pop drivel (other than Taylor Swift, of course) they play on the gym sound system, I soon found out that listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” in left-ear mono is a new and exciting experience.

So there you have it – my anti-resolutions for 2024: no dieting, no self-improvement and no worrying that I look like Michael Jackson with a hearing aid when I exercise.

Happy New Year, and let me know if you’d like to join me for some chips and salsa!

Copyright 2023 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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Haunted by the kids of Christmas past

Since two of my daughters are now in college and one is in high school, Christmas just “hits different”– as those crazy kids (and my not-so-secret, sort-of-but-not-really guilty pleasure, Taylor Swift) say these days.

When I was up in the attic just after Thanksgiving, foraging for decorations and wondering how the ceiling hadn’t caved in yet from all of the future garage sale inventory stored up there, I accidentally opened a Rubbermaid tub full of Christmas-themed “Little People” toys we bought for the girls (and me) when they were toddlers. At that moment, a tsunami of nostalgia swept over me, and I basically played out the scene from “Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold sits trapped in the attic and gets all weepy while watching some old home movies he finds. (If only I had a teal turban, a fur stole and some pink gloves.)

Mixed with that nostalgia was the bittersweet (but mostly bitter) realization that Christmas is never going to be like it was when the girls were little and I transformed into a more enthusiastic version of Buddy the Elf on about November 1 every year.

For example, we’ve been shocked at how few gifts the girls have asked for in the past couple of Christmases. I mean, I still have to resist sending my own parents my Christmas list in triplicate.

Last year, the girls asked for a trip to New York City–where we got stranded by the airlines during a Christmas polar blast and froze our big apples off. This year, instead of traditional gifts, the girls mainly have asked for money. It’s like they’ve all turned into Sally from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when she asks Santa for “tens and twenties.” I, on the other hand, am going to feel like Don Vito Corleone on Christmas morning, standing by the tree in my Christmas PJs handing over rolled-up wads of cash.

I even had to decorate the big Christmas tree in our front window by myself this year. Our older daughters were away at college, my youngest daughter was busily wasting valuable time with homework and studying, and my wife was frivolously doing laundry, paying bills, and keeping our whole household from collapsing. Since I was alone, I don’t think I even bothered putting on pants – until I was almost done and realized all the blinds were open. (My apologies to the neighbors.)

Speaking of our youngest daughter, she surprised us this year by asking when (not if) Alfie, our now elderly Elf on the Shelf, was going to come out. Now, I don’t think she still believes in the Christmas “magic” of Alfie. Instead, she is either just reveling in the childish merriment of the season, or enjoying our suffering as we feebly try to remember to help poor old lint-infested Alfie move every night. I think I’ll just tell her he’s having mobility issues in his old age.

Despite all of the changes, I’m still going to do my best to enjoy the Christmas holiday. Whether I’m forcing my daughters to ride in the car sighing and gawking at their phones while my wife and I look at Christmas lights, or I’m quoting funny movie lines from “Christmas Vacation” and “A Christmas Story” until my daughters’ eyes roll completely out of their skulls, I’m determined to have some fun.

And for their sake, I hope the ATM is open on Christmas Eve.

Copyright 2023 Jase Graves distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Graves is an award-winning humor columnist from East Texas. His columns have been featured in Texas Escapes magazine, The Shreveport Times, The Longview News Journal, and The Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at [email protected].

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