This next entry is probably the most frequently-adapted Christmas story of all time. In the tradition of ghost stories told this time of year since the days before a Christmas holiday became a thing, this tale has been told on screen since 1901. From live-action to animation and muppets, this story will endure forever.
2. A Christmas Carol – 1951
Charles Dickens’s timeless ghost story of penance and redemption is the only Dickens work I like. I have always found his stuff verbose and heavy-handed. But, A Christmas Carol is simple, straightforward, and heartwarming.
Reginald Owen set the standard in 1938 and Alistair Sim perfected it in 1951. George C. Scott was well, George C. Scott, in the 1984 version. Even Patrick Stewart has had a turn. There have been numerous adaptations and stage productions, animated versions, dramatic readings, radio presentations, and the Muppets. Recently, Jim Carrey and Guy Pearce have taken up the mantle in various forms.
We all know the story. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly, nasty, bitter businessman is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley on one cold, blustery, lonely Christmas Eve. Scrooge is warned that he needs to change his ways and learn to keep Christmas and that he will be visited by three spirits to teach him these lessons.
Overnight, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future drop in on Scrooge, who is reminded of and shown who and what he once was, why he is the way he is, and what he will become (spoiler alert: it’s not good).
The triumvirate of specters is successful and by the end of the story, Scrooge makes a sizable donation to charity, makes up with his estranged nephew, rehires and gives a raise to his assistant, and pledges to provide the funds for his assistant’s son’s medical treatment.
Again, we know the story as Tiny Tim delivers one of Charles Dickens’s most memorable and iconic lines.
My favorite is the 1951 version with Alistair Sim and it is a must-watch. To me the three versions I mention here are the essentials. I don’t care for the animated versions and I have never seen the Muppets version. I don’t like the musical version. I think Sim really captures who and what Scrooge is and he is very believable as he finally sees the light.
As a person who has been described as someone who went bitter at an early age, I can certainly identify with Scrooge. However, it can never be said that I don’t know how to keep Christmas and those close to me know that I can be charitable.
This next entry sure has touched a few nerves in recent memory. I read an article or a blog post, I can’t remember which, vilifying this film. I was stunned by the writer’s condemnation. Whoever said that Christmas stories were required to be tales of redemption (although many are) or teaching moments? Sometimes, these films are just slices of life, moments in time. And that’s what this one is.
3. A Christmas Story – 1983
Peter Billingsley stars as Ralphie, Darren McGavin of Kolchak – The Nightstalker fame – plays his father, and Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) plays his mom. You may not know that Zack Ward, who plays bully Scut Farkus, went on to play an Umbrella Corporation mercenary in one of the Resident Evil movies.
Jean Shepherd’s tale of childhood Christmas has become a cult classic thanks to TBS bringing it back as a Christmas day marathon several years ago. The story is set in Indiana in the late 1940s and was actually filmed in Cleveland. You can visit the actual house as it has been transformed into a museum in recent years.
This may be set 20-some-odd years before I was born but I swear it’s my childhood Christmas brought to life on screen. We’re not talking about parallels here, we’re talking about direct correlations.
Now, I could give you the synopsis for the film but I’d rather explain how this movie relates to me or how I relate to it.
First of all – the furnace. Darren McGavin spends a lot of time in the basement battling the wonky furnace while shrouded in a cloud of black smoke. Now, we didn’t have furnace issues but I lived in a duplex for much of my childhood, age 5-14 if I remember correctly, and we had oil heat. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we were poor for a good number of years – not too many but enough. We didn’t always have money for oil and I remember my dad borrowing some from the neighbor and transferring the noxious, black fluid via used plastic milk cartons.
I remember what seemed to be the slow build-up to Christmas while suffering through endless days in the classroom. Trips to see the department Santa Claus were a highlight of the season, not quite the nightmare Ralphie encountered. In my hometown of Rochester, N.Y., Midtown Plaza downtown was the place to go at Christmastime. It was always decked out for the season and the monorail was a must-ride attraction. It’s been dismantled and put away in storage. Sad.
The scene where Ralphie’s father plugs in the Christmas tree lights or the leg lamp or whatever it was into the multiple plug adapter cracks me up every time. I remember such adapters as a kid. We also had those 4,000-candlepower Christmas tree lights too. It’s a wonder we didn’t burn the damn house down. My father hated all things electric. He wouldn’t touch the house wiring, ever. After my electronics training in the Navy, he’d wait until I came home for a visit and ask me to install a light fixture or a ceiling fan. The house he bought when I was 14 still had the original 1920s wiring, complete with a fuse box. I’ll never forget visiting my parents one time when dad had the microwave plugged into the wall with a three-prong to a two-prong adapter. He had the coffee maker, toaster, and miniature nuclear reactor all going at the same time. He smoke-checked that adapter and I had to pull two feet of burnt wire out of the wall so I could install the three-prong outlets he left sitting in the drawer for six months.
Dad never won a major award in the form of a leg lamp but I do remember the weatherproofing we had to do every winter with plastic covering the windows and foam in the air gaps under the doors.
We didn’t have the neighbor’s dogs barge into our house and steal our turkey, but I did get not one, but two BB/pellet guns for Christmas. We won’t discuss what I did with the second one when I was a freshman in high school. I didn’t shoot my eye out but let’s just say the cops were involved.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the movie for me is the rush of opening presents on Christmas day. The thrill of coming down the stairs, or entering the living room (I did live in a duplex on one floor) and seeing that Santa had in fact been there was the stuff dreams were made of. As an only child, I always made out like a bandit, money or no money.
When it comes to A Christmas Story, the late 1940s weren’t much different than the 1970s when it came to the Yuletide season. Technology and expensive gadgets hadn’t taken over just yet. Jean Shepherd’s childhood Christmases and mine weren’t all that dissimilar and every time I watch it, I feel like I am home for Christmas.
This is a must-see but I’ll only watch it on Christmas day, and I’ll watch it all the way through uninterrupted at least once. And I won’t watch the new sequel until I watch this one again first.
When I was growing up we had specific things we did as a family. We went to my Aunt Carole’s for Thanksgiving. We did our own Christmas Eve and Christmas morning (and usually dinner) and eventually found my way to my aunt’s house for evening festivities. I recall a few New Year’s Eves at my Aunt Bertha and Uncle Bob’s as I suffered Guy Lombardo. And we’d invite a cadre of relatives to our house for Easter. We had a lot of summer birthdays in the family so we’d do a big family picnic to celebrate.
Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the two major holidays when it is fashionable to get large groups of family members together. Folks travel from near and far to get “home for the holidays.” And now, in this post-COVID world we find ourselves in, family gatherings are poised to make a comeback.
4. Christmas Vacation – 1989
I am not a big fan of most of the National Lampoon movies, especially the “vacation” flicks. I liked the original, but European Vacation did nothing for me, and the rest, well, seem to be cheap attempts at recapturing the magic of Animal House and the first Vacation.
My favorite doesn’t involve a vacation at all – Christmas Vacation is more of a staycation. The cast is second-to-none in the series. Most people don’t make the connection that Rusty is played by Johnny Galecki of Roseanne and The Big Bang Theory fame. Juliette Lewis is great as Audrey, E.G. Marshall, Beverly D’Angelo, Doris Roberts, Randy Quaid (even though he’s around the bend and not allowed back in the United States these days), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus round out the ensemble. The actress who played Aunt Bethany, Mae Questel, was the original Betty Boop. Christmas Vacation was her last screen appearance.
Chevy Chase has been hosting Q&As and viewings this holiday season some 33 years after its release.
“You set standards that no family event can ever live up to,” Ellen Griswold. I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Nope. I don’t know anyone who would possibly do that. Ahem. There are so many quotable lines in this movie. I could practically live blog or Tweet this movie.
Affable Clark Griswold (Chase) tries to have the ultimate family Christmas complete with parents, in-laws, and the giant Christmas tree the Griswold’s practically froze to death to cut down after a road rage incident with a pair of pick-up truck driving rednecks.
One disaster leads to another as Clark tries to create the ultimate exterior Christmas light display on his house, not just the roof, but his entire house. The bickering parents show up and Clark climbs the ladder to start stapling strands of lights to the shingles.
From the grandfathers asleep in the easy chairs in the living room (very much a reminder of my Uncle Freddy), Ellen and her daughter Audrey arguing about the sleeping arrangements to Clark’s incessant stapling of lights to the house all leads up to the real slapstick and witty repartee to come. Never mind that Clark falls off the roof twice.
The mayhem projected onto the non-Christmas celebrating next-door-neighbors is comedic gold. Todd and Margo (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) are tormented by the Griswold clan and end up fodder for numerous physical comedic tragedies.
Of course, the lights don’t work on the first try and Clark is left astonished and embarrassed. The lights eventually work by accident thanks to Ellen’s mom but more on that in a minute. Clark ends up trapped in the attic and finds a box of home movies and we see where he gets the idea for having the old-fashioned family Christmas.
The lights eventually come on as we watch the electric meter spins out of control. The lights are impressive if you find the sun impressive. But Clark’s dream of an awesome exterior lights display is finally realized much to the chagrin of the local nuclear power plant.
Ellen’s cousin Eddie, his wife, and two of their kids, show up unannounced, Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis finally arrive and hilarity ensues. A cat and a Rottweiler wreak havoc throughout the house, a squirrel is discovered in the Christmas tree, and Eddie is…well…Eddie. The “shitter was full” scene where he empties his RV’s chemical toilet into a storm drain while dressed in not much more than a tattered bathrobe cracks me up every time. Eddie’s wife Catherine’s Christmas turkey is bone dry and eats more like bad jerky.
The whole thing ends with a kidnapping as Clark’s boss decides to drop the annual Christmas bonus that Clark was counting on for realizing his dream of installing a swimming pool.
Prior to the committing of a felony, Clark utters my favorite line from any Christmas movie or special. As Clark’s dreams of a swimming pool swirl down the drain and family bickering turns into a knockdown drag-out, Clark proclaims, “We’re going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye!”
This movie speaks to me on so many levels; the sledding scene – I spent many a winter’s day sledding back home in New York; the turkey dinner scene – I have unfortunately experienced a Thanksgiving turkey almost that bad once but I won’t speak ill of the dead. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, we had a house with a swimming pool and 21-foot vaulted ceilings that could accommodate a Griswold tree.
Chevy Chase is at his best, I believe, in this movie and it resonates with me because of so many of the, albeit disjointed, parallels with my own life. There was that one year my wife electrocuted my cat with the Christmas lights, but he survived, unlike Aunt Bethany’s poor cat.
Mom died in 2006, and Dad passed in 2007, so it’s a decade and a half of Christmases without them in my life. I fondly remember all the ones I did have with them and my Aunt and Uncle and my first cousins. My aunt sold Avon so guess what I got – cologne in decorative decanters. But, she passed away in 2009, and you know what? I’d take some Stetson in a Duesenberg decanter in a second.
I would give anything to have another family Christmas with my folks, aunts and uncles, and cousins. This movie reminds me of those days although mine were much more sedate. The funny thing is, I have become Clark Griswold.
Back to 2D animation, folks. After two-straight live-action entries, we go back to what most people would call a “cartoon.” For some reason, in recent years folks have decided that it would be a good idea to reimagine this classic. I have no idea why. This stands up after all these years and the story is simple. You don’t have to expand the narrative or give the main character a backstory.
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – 1966
Chuck Jones of Warner Bros. and Bugs Bunny fame animated this fantastic tale of Christmas redemption. Thurl Ravenscroft, the original voice of Tony the Tiger (and totally uncredited for years), performed the theme song, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, and one of my favorite actors of all time, horror master Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), narrated Dr. Seuss’ loose version of A Christmas Carol.
The Whos of Whoville love Christmas and the Grinch, a vile, furry green creature whose heart was two sizes too small, hated it. He hated everything to do with it. One year, he gets the awful idea to try to keep Christmas from coming. How does he attempt to do this? By stealing it of course. And he steals everything, I mean everything, even the last can of Who Hash. He even convinces Cindy Lou Who (our dog is named Misty Lou in honor of Cindy Lou Who) that he is Santa Claus and that he has to take her Christmas tree to the North Pole for repairs.
Come morning the Whos don’t need trees, decorations or presents, Christmas comes anyway, the Whos start singing, and the Grinch realizes the true meaning of Christmas. He decides to return everything, and I mean everything. And the Whos even let the Grinch carve the roast beast at the annual feast.
I don’t have any real personal attachment to this other than the fact that I just love all things Dr. Seuss, I love books and I love stories. I just like this. The music is fun, Karloff is great as the narrator, and Ravenscroft’s rendition of the theme has become synonymous with the Grinch character. For the record, I can’t stand the Jim Carrey live-action film. Carrey is more Jim Carrey than he is the Grinch and a 30-minute cartoon was unnecessarily stretched out to a two-hour feature. A new animated program with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch was released not that long ago and I have yet to make it through.
Wood figures of the Grinch and his dog Max have become a usual part of our annual outdoor Christmas display in front of the house. Maybe I do have a personal attachment to the Grinch. This year, it was the first Christmas special I watched.
As I have mentioned ad nauseum, I get nostalgic this time of year. Perhaps no other entry in this countdown evokes more feelings of nostalgia than this one. In recent years, during my career with the Oakland Raiders football team, I found professional reasons to develop a deeper affinity for the entertainer I’m going to introduce here.
I know they predate my birth in 1969, but during the 1970s, variety shows were all the rage on television. From Sonny and Cher to Donny and Marie – singing, dancing, comedy sketches, and more – the stars of the day could be found on weekly variety shows and specials. I grew up on Laugh-In reruns and the subject of this blog entry – the Bob Hope Christmas special. Many other entertainers had their Christmas specials – Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, The Carpenters, Perry Como, et al, but Hope’s was the gold standard.
Crosby and Hope were longtime pals, especially after starring together in numerous “road” pictures. Crosby, who became the voice of the Yuletide with Christmas Sing with Bing on the radio, White Christmas, and several TV specials, including an unexpected treat with David Bowie, couldn’t hold a candle to Hope’s TV specials if you ask me.
6. Bob Hope Christmas Specials – 1968-1993
Hope spent many a Christmas entertaining the troops overseas and became a national treasure for doing so. His USO shows were the stuff of legend and featured talents like Ursula Andress and Ann-Margret. I learned in my professional capacity that the very first Raiderette, Diane Shelton, toured with Bob Hope for one of his USO show tours to visit the troops.
I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the Playboy All-American, later AP All-American, college football team. Each player was introduced and Hope would deliver a zinger with each intro.
Just as the annual Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airing heralded the start of the Christmas season, Bob Hope’s special ushered it in with a one-liner or a patented, “This is Bob [insert sponsor here] Hope … ”
The show was formulaic and you put it on every year like a comfy sweater or pair of slippers. It started with a monologue of patented Hope jokes and would always feature a Silver Bells duet with Hope and the starlet du jour.
Eventually, Hope grew old and frail and they started rolling him out on a hand truck and propping him up in the corner as his wife, Delores, took over hosting duties. I blame Hope for discovering Joey Lawrence. I wish he left him where he found him.
Several people have tried to emulate Bob Hope and recreate the magic of his Christmas specials. The one I had high hopes for was Michael Bublé but he managed to hose it up. Larry the Cable Guy and Stephen Colbert have attempted such Christmas variety specials and have come off as caricatures of the genre. I’ve never liked the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree show or any of the other programs of that ilk.
There is an entire generation of people growing up not knowing who Bob Hope was or how he contributed to entertainment as we know it and that is a crying shame. Some time ago, Time Life released a new DVD collection of ALL of Bob Hope’s televised specials, including Christmas and the USO shows entertaining the troops deployed to combat zones.
Thanks for the memories, Bob. If you don’t know who Bob Hope was, ask an adult.
All but one of the first five entries in the countdown of my favorite Christmas shows/movies/specials has been animated in some way – from traditional 2D animation to Supermarionation. Today’s entry is the first full-length live-action feature on the list and it won’t be the last. I was born in 1969, raised in the 1970s and came of age in the 1980s. So, I consider myself an 80s kid. By the time this film was released I had graduated high school and left home for the U.S. Navy. Actually I had been enlisted for a full year. There are a handful of films that encapsulate the excesses of the 1980s and this is one of them.
7. Scrooged – 1988
Today’s Bill Murray can pretty much do what he wants thanks in part to the work he did in the 1980s with Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and well, Scrooged (among other things), even though he’s been dragged through the mud as of late thanks to some questionable behavior. This film features an all-star cast and serves as a passable treatment of Charles Dickens’s classic tale of Christmas redemption.
Instead of Ebenezer Scrooge, Murray plays bitter, mean, abrasive TV executive Frank Cross. His former boss, played with aplomb by John Forsythe (Charlie’s Angels), takes the place of Jacob Marley and foretells the visitation by the three spirits. Ha, spirits. I’ve never seen Tab (for those of you who remember Tab cola) used as a mixer except by Frank Cross with his vodka.
It’s groovy watching Cross transform from one of the meanest Scrooge-like characters into the generous reformed. While at his nasty best he actually suggests a stagehand should staple prosthetic antlers on a mouse’s head when all other methods fail. As he tries to reconcile with an old flame, played by Karen Allen of Indiana Jones fame, Cross is mortified at her dedication to her charity work.
Through the Ghost of Christmas Past, a cigar-chomping cab driver played by New York Dolls founder David Johansen (a.k.a Buster Poindexter), we see Cross as a young, aspiring, idealistic fast-climbing TV station employee. And we see how Frank chooses his career and upward mobility at the expense of his burgeoning relationship with Claire (Karen Allen). There is a big hint that Frank and his brother were abused, or neglected at best, as children and learn that Christmas wasn’t a happy time for the Cross boys.
Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present and is she just chews the scenery. She has no tolerance for Frank’s reluctance to tag along and at one point, whips Frank’s ass with a toaster. I lose it every time I watch this scene – it is absolutely freaking hilarious. Kane’s bouncy, Tinkerbellesque whimsy mixed with good old-fashioned Sadism is reason enough to watch this film.
From Olympic champion gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s cameo as Tiny Tim to Murray’s hot, steamy kiss with one of the Solid Gold Dancers, Scrooged is a must-watch any time, not just at Christmas.
As always, the “Scrooge” character learns to keep Christmas and become a generous soul. Frank reunites with his long-lost love and his assistant’s son has a breakthrough and delivers Tiny Tim’s iconic line.
I was 19 when Scrooged came out and I remember being a bit skeptical. I rediscovered it a few years ago when AMC did a three-night marathon airing of the movie and I was hooked for good.
If you haven’t seen it, give it a shot. If you have but it’s been a while, watch it again. Carol Kane kicking Bill Murray’s ass is worth it. Yes, I know I am advocating gratuitous violence, but watching the 5’2” Kane take the 6’2” Murray apart is off the hook.
Frank Cross’ revelation and redemption take place on television as part of a live production of A Christmas Carol – Cross’ opus. It makes for an interesting twist.
These specials are a great escape and a way to feel somewhat normal during yet another tumultuous holiday season. I’m not going to go into all of the post-COVID and global economic malaise we seem to find ourselves in. Turn this on and forget about all that stuff for even just a little while.
8. The Year Without a Santa Claus – 1974
Mickey Rooney reprises his role as Santa after his turn in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and Shirley Booth jumps in as Mrs. Claus and our narrator. Santa wakes up and isn’t quite feeling right. Mrs. Claus summons a curmudgeon of a doctor who convinces St. Nick that no one cares, nobody believes in Santa, and that Christmas doesn’t matter anymore. Santa’s knee-jerk reaction is to cancel Christmas.
Santa goes back to bed and Mrs. Claus cooks up a scheme to send two hapless elves down the populace to find some Christmas belief and spirit. Jingle and Jangle fly down with Vixen and get themselves in a spot of trouble. Vixen ends up in the dog pound and Santa zips down to find out what’s going on. He meets a little boy who no longer believes in Christmas. He realizes that his new friend is indeed Santa Claus.
Eventually, the mayor of Southtown, USA, strikes a deal – make it snow in Southtown and he’ll declare a holiday for Santa Claus.
We meet and are entertained by Snow Miser and Heat Miser, as Mrs. Claus has to negotiate a little snow in Southtown. Eventually, Mrs. Claus has to get the Miser brother’s mother, Mother Nature, involved. And as well know, you don’t mess with Mother Nature.
I enjoy this one for its innocence and message of the Christmas spirit. I won’t get into my religious beliefs or lack thereof, but I do believe in Santa Claus. These Rankin and Bass Supermarionation specials conveyed the message of keeping Christmas and learning how to feel the spirit. I may have mentioned it before, but there is a sweetness to these Rankin and Bass specials.
Mickey Rooney is phenomenal as Santa Claus. And Snow and Heat Miser are highly entertaining.
Jack Frost is okay, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year is crap, and Frosty the Snowman is the first Rankin and Bass special done in traditional 2D animation. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus are the only three that matter, and as I am fond of saying, they are “filmed in Supermarionation.”
So far my favorites have been “animated” in one form or another. I have one or two more of those on the list; you’ll just have to log on to find out which ones.
I hope you are enjoying the countdown so far. It is a bit of a reboot, but for those of you who are new here, welcome.
I remember when I was a kid in the days before VCRs and DVDs and the like, we lived by the TV schedule. If you missed the airing of one of these Christmas specials, you were out of luck. In today’s day and age, you get multiple airings and recording is as easy as the touch of a button. If you screw that up, you can always hop over to YouTube or log on to your favorite streaming service. And of course, I hosed up recording this one this year. I have one last shot on December 20, wish me luck.
9. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – 1970
Fred Astaire plays your friendly neighborhood mail carrier and he narrates the story of Santa Claus’ origins. Mickey Rooney begins his run as Kris Kringle/St. Nicholas/Santa Claus.
This special gives us Burgermeister Meisterburger, a despotic ruler who hates toys and fun in general. A clan of toy makers raises Kris Kringle, an orphan left on their doorstep in a basket as a baby. Eventually, Kris decides to become the deliverer of toys to the children of Somber Town, which is ruled by Burgermeister.
Kris is branded as an outlaw even as he falls in love with the local schoolmistress. The story also explains how it came to be that reindeer can fly as the Winter Warlock provides the magic feed corn for this central element of the legend.
When he was dropped off with the Kringles, Kris wore a name tag that said “Claus.” It was a short walk to Santa Claus from there.
I enjoy this one for numerous reasons. I look at it as the origin story of Santa Claus (as plausible as anything else), but it also tells the tale of how Jessica, Somber Town’s schoolmarm, became Mrs. Claus. Kris’ outlaw status drives our merry band of toy-distributing fugitives all the way to the North Pole. I believe you need to be something of a rebel to change the world.
I don’t recall noticing any odd overtones or subtext with this other than maybe a shot at Eastern Bloc and Iron Curtain-type governments. Of course, the classic Christmas song Santa Claus is Coming to Town is included, a great tune that has been covered and recorded more times than I can count. The song dates back to 1934, and even Bruce Springsteen has covered it.
Stay tuned kiddies, more Supermarionation is on the way.
Six months ago I wrote a blog about rebooting my fitness journey. That reboot lasted three weeks. Roughly six months before that I banged out a blog that proclaimed something similar (I think I wrote one a year before that). Well, I can tell you this, I have been unsuccessful in these efforts. I have flipped the reasons over in my head numerous times and I have come to a few conclusions. I also stepped on the scale eight days ago and realized that I have officially undone just about everything I accomplished in eight and a half years. It only took a year and a half.
On January 2, 2013, I weighed 236.6 pounds. By Christmas 2014, I was down to 180. It took a year to lose 46 pounds, and another year to lose the last 10, as 180 was my goal weight. I used a combination of things to achieve this goal – walking, running, strength training with resistance bands, free weights, nautilus machines, and iPhone apps – along with better nutrition. I suffered a catastrophic back injury that required surgery, a calf injury that required medical attention and rehab, and numerous other minor injuries and ailments. But through it all, I stayed on track with exercise, but proper nutrition became inconsistent. By the Summer of 2017, I was back up to 200 pounds.
Thanks to a fantastic program my then-trainer designed for me, I dropped back down to 177 in a few short months. But, we changed the meal plan and I started to gain again. Exercise was never the problem (I learned to adore it), it was all about what I put in my face.
I have this tendency to run right up to things and then back away for whatever reason. I have done that several times with my fitness goals, and for some reason, I fell out of love with exercise. First, it was running. I accomplished a pretty ambitious (by my standards) running goal and basically quit that form of exercise. That also seems to be when I stopped tracking things. I never did quite get to where I wanted with my physique and came to the conclusion that I never would. So, as much as I liked to and continued to exercise, I went back to eating and drinking whatever I wanted.
It may seem weird to you, but one of my biggest motivators was this huge bathroom mirror I used to have to walk past to get to the master closet in my old house. Catching my reflection in this mirror 10 years ago is one of the things that led to the commencement of this journey in the first place. Now, I don’t have to dress for work anymore, I don’t travel for work anymore, and things here in the Pacific Northwest are a bit more, shall we say, casual. I live in comfy clothes. But recently, I have been taking longer looks at myself in the mirror and I really don’t like what I see.
I got on the scale in early July of 2021 after moving to the PNW and it read 205 pounds. Before long I was up to 225. I have tried to reboot my efforts in earnest twice since the Summer of 2021. I had it on the brain and was considering giving it another go a few months ago. That is until I took a tumble down some stairs and severely sprained my left ankle.
One of my excuses has revolved around the lack of equipment. So much of my home gym wouldn’t fit in the moving truck so I had to give up quite a bit. I have enough here to get in a decent workout but for some reason, I haven’t been able to stick with it. If you buy a house in certain parts of the city in which I live, you are required to join the Community Club. The annual family membership is reasonable, yet it took a year and a half for us to finally join. My son and I have been playing basketball in recent weeks as I force my body to move. My ankle is still a bit sore and I get winded easily. After shooting some hoops last night, we took a gander at the fitness center and I was pleasantly surprised at the equipment on hand.
I have thought long and hard about this, and some may wonder why I don’t just jump in now, but I have chosen Monday, January 2, 2023, as the start date of the official reboot. I need time to prepare properly and grocery shop, plus I know I can’t trust myself through the rest of the holidays. January 2 also marks the 10-year anniversary of the day when I started this journey in the first place. When I tried to restart the past couple of times I didn’t have the self-discipline I once had, I didn’t track or measure my progress. I managed to count calories for a few days at a time, but that was about it. I used to have a rock-solid routine and schedule. All that changed after relocating.
Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.
LL Cool J
So, it’s back to the basics, and it’s back to accountability and obsession. It’s back to a set, regimented schedule. I had forgotten the effort and dedication I put into this from 2013-2018. The only way I can do this is to jump in with both feet, measure my food and my body, pose for comparison pictures (don’t worry, I’ll share them with you), and chronicle my experiences with this blog and my social media accounts. It’ll look like a New Year’s resolution, which I don’t make, because of the date I’ve chosen. And some of you will unfollow me because you’ll get sick of the workout updates and emotional roller coaster I’ll be on. I have a few indictments of the fitness industry I’ll share along the way as well. I put it all out there before, and I’ll do it again if only to keep myself on track.
So, after exercising 4-6 days per week for eight and a half years, from January 2013 – June 2021, I have learned exactly how long it takes to undo all of that hard work. A year and a half, a paltry 18 months. That’s it, folks, 18 months. Had I at least been consistent with nutrition over that time, maybe I wouldn’t weigh what I do right now. Maybe I wouldn’t be on the edge of having to buy bigger sizes, which I swore I’d never do.
As of December 5, 2022, I weigh 235 pounds (and not in a good way). Hopefully, I don’t creep up any. My BMI is 34.7, and my body fat is somewhere north of 36%. This technically makes me obese.
I’m right back where I started 10 years ago, more or less. The good news is that this time I am armed with 10 years of experience, knowledge, and hopefully, wisdom. I know that the calorie counts for food are inaccurate, and the calories burned meters on cardio exercise equipment are inaccurate, I know the importance of drinking water, I know that my body weight and body fat are directly proportional, and I know I lost my way somewhere between 2018-2022. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. It’s strange, I went through a three-year period of not keeping track of my weight in a meaningful way after doing so for five years straight. It’s as if I felt like I had arrived or thought I was done. I forgot so much of what I had learned, especially all of what it took to live a healthy lifestyle. It takes work and dedication and sticktoitiveness, especially since most of the chips are stacked against us in this regard as human beings in today’s world.
This time, I have a better plan. And this time, I plan to stick to it.
Unfortunately, the Charlie Brown specials have been acquired by Apple and now stream on the Apple+ service exclusively. Conversely, Apple has decided to at least allow folks to watch the Thanksgiving and Christmas specials for free for a limited time. We have Hulu+Live TV and sometimes the rights holders for certain shows or movies have only granted broadcast rights and don’t allow streaming. That was the case with A Charlie Brown Christmas last year and I was so incensed I bought a copy of the thing on DVD.
I have such fond memories of Christmas past. I spent a good part of my early childhood poor, although my parents did a wonderful job of hiding this from me. I always had good birthdays, plentiful Thanksgivings and Easters, and best of all, wonderful Christmases. Now that I am older and understand how little we could afford, I am ashamed of myself for being the selfish snot that I was as a little boy.
One of the things I do so enjoy about this time of year is the Christmas specials and movies. I’m really not a fan of newer Christmas movies and songs. Maybe I just don’t give them a chance.
I get very nostalgic this time of year and that fact will be reflected in this countdown.
11. A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965
This is usually the first Christmas special I watch each year, this year being an exception, and I plan to watch it multiple times from my DVD copy before December 25. I’m not one for the Halloween special and although I have developed a new appreciation for the Thanksgiving special, the Christmas special is my favorite. From the skating scene to Linus’ monologue and Charlie Brown’s tree purchase – there is so much to like.
I remember trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue as a kid, snowball fights, sliding around in the snow and on the ice, and playing football with my friends. So many of the activities Charlie Brown and his friends engage in remind me of my own childhood.
The one thing that stands out to me about this show is the music. Vince Guaraldi’s score has become iconic and the songs have become Christmas classics on the radio, SiriusXM, and online streaming services. Director Bill Melendez truly captures the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s iconic comic strip characters in this production. It has a sweetness, innocence, and charm that, for me, is the perfect way to kick off the season.
It’s not particularly well-animated and the editing is a bit choppy here and there. But it’s sweet, innocent, and not heavy-handed and I enjoy it.