A Novel Idea

One of my favorite places to hang out is the library.  Last week, my oldest son asked if we could go there so he could look up some things for a homework project.  While he was working on that, I naturally started browsing.  I always start in the New Fiction/New Non-Fiction section.  By doing this, I have stumbled onto some books that I may never have read (I love to do this at the book store, too!).

While looking at the new titles on the book spines, one jumped out at me – “Marley”.  Two things come to mind when I hear “Marley”: (1) Marley and Me (the movie about a dog) and (2) Jacob Marley from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (which I just read for the holiday).  I picked up the book and saw that surrounding the title were links of chains.  Marley’s Ghost in Dickens’ story appears weighed down by chains.

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As you can see by the cover, the book is indeed about Jacob Marley.  I read that this author, Jon Clinch, also wrote a “back story” to Huckleberry Finn, which focused on Huck’s father.  This backstory, gives new light to the story we all know so well.  That is what this book does, as well.  In Dickens’ tale, we don’t know much about Jacob Marley.

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We know that he was Scrooge’s business partner and that he is forced to walk the earth bearing the chains he forged in life.  But what led him to this fate?  Why is Ebenezer Scrooge the way he is?  This book tells us.  I am only a few chapters in, but am enjoying it so far.

It’s been done before – many times

This is not a new concept.  There have been many books, movies, and TV shows that explored how well known characters became the way they are.  Fans of the TV show Taxi may remember a flashback scene where Reverend Jim was drug free!  Jack Benny did many shows telling the story of how he met members of his cast.  The TV show How I Met Your Mother used this entire premise for the entire series.

It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  I loved the book, and loved the movie trilogy.  The novel was published in 1969, and the film was released in 1972.

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Marlon Brando played Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone Crime family.

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Two years later, in 1974, The Godfather Part II was released in theaters.  It consisted of flashbacks of how Vito became the Don.  The role was played by Robert DeNiro.

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But what about other characters?  Ed Falco’s 2012 novel “The Family Corleone” tells us.

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The book is based on an unproduced screenplay that Mario Puzo had written.  It gives us a look at some of the minor characters, like Luca Brasi, and how they come to know the Don and how they join the family. A couple books that “fill in the gaps” between the Godfather movie trilogy came out in 2004 (The Godfather Returns) and 2006 (The Godfather’s Revenge) written by Mark Winegardener.

Good characters – Good Stories

When we come to love good characters, we tend to want to know more about them.  We want to see them or read about them in another story or adventure.  Perhaps that why there are so many books that feature a star character (like Alex Cross, or Cotton Malone) or movie sequels (like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Toy Story).  In the 60’s and 70’s, many TV shows had novels or short stories based on characters (like Get Smart, Kojak, Columbo, and countless Star Trek books).

I LOVE the concept of exploring a well known character and shedding light on their back story. I am hoping this book on Jacob Marley does not disappoint.

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Back in Time?

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All writers get writer’s block.  I am hardly a “writer”, but sometimes stare at the blank page and wonder what to write about.  Since I began blogging, I have stumbled on blogs written by others who share some of the same interests as me.  I have followed blogs that feature movies, TV, music, nostalgia, positive thoughts & quotes, and more.  There have been many instances where I read another blog and an idea will pop into my head.  My friend Max and I tend to “borrow” ideas from each other often.

Many ideas I adapt from those blogs.  For this blog I am literally stealing the idea, and giving credit, and creating some rules for it.  The Anxious Teacher wrote a blog after watching Back to the Future III.  You can read it here:

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What a great idea for a blog!  If you had a time machine – where would you travel?  As I thought about this, I wanted to limit myself to a few things.  First of all, because I have watched the Back to the Future movies, I know that if you go back and change something in the past – it will affect the future.  So Limit #1:  If I go back, I am simply there to observe.  Many of the things I thought I would like to go back and witness happened over a period of time, so Limit #2 – no real time limit.  Limit #3 – wherever I go, I will be dressed appropriately as to not raise suspicion.  I know, it’s silly, but it’s my blog and my rules.

I actually thought about adding what I would call the “Ebenezer Scrooge” element to this.  What is that?  Well, remember when Scrooge was transported into the past, present & future?  He could witness everything, but he could not interact with anyone.  Those events happened and the people were not aware he was even there.  Perhaps that would be the best thing, right?  That way, if I went back in time, I would not be tempted to change things.

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General times and places

As my blogger friend said, I think it would be very cool to visit the old west.  I have watched many westerns on TV and in the movies.  I have read many books set in the old west.  I think it would be pretty cool to walk through one of those western towns.  How cool would it be to visit the saloons, or the general store?  I think it would be cool to don a cool cowboy hat, boots & spurs and ride a horse to get from place to place.

I also think it would be cool to visit the ancient times and watch the building of the pyramids, or buildings like the coliseum.  Those historic buildings are still standing.  How awesome would it be to see just how they put them together?

As someone who has been a huge fan of the 1950’s, I would love to live a year or two in this decade.  It’s fun to see how the ’50s are portrayed in movies like Back to the Future, and I would love to see it in person.  I would love to hear the old radio stations playing those early rock and roll songs.  I would love to see those classic films in a theater.  I would love to have a meal at a real 50’s diner or drive a classic car!

I would love to visit the 1940’s, too!  The music of the great band leaders, the early music of Sinatra, and of course, those great old radio shows! Of course, World War II was going on, but it would be interesting to see how life in America was at that time.

Everyone wants to visit the future … that peaks my interest, but is it something I would do?  I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to come back to the present and use the information for personal gain, or to alter outcomes.   I’m not sure visiting the future would be something I’d want to do – unless I knew it was something specific I wouldn’t be able to see.

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General People of Interest

I would love to watch Beethoven or Bach (or any composer, really) writing and composing a piece of their music.

I would love to watch someone like Edgar Allen Poe or William Shakespeare writing a poem or story.

I would love to sit on a set and watch them shooting a Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy film.

I would love to be in the room where the First Continental Congress held meetings and watch men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others in action.

I would love to attend a taping of an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or a taping of the Dean Martin Show.

I would love to be in the audience at a Rat Pack show in Chicago or Las Vegas.  Come on!  Dean, Frank and Sammy!!

I would love to be an extra in one of my favorite movies.

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

I would love to watch Thomas Edison working on the phonograph or the electric light.

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Specific Events

I would love to watch the moon landing (on TV or from space).

I would love to watch the first flight with the Wright Brothers.

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I would love to witness the launch of Titanic on her maiden voyage.

I would love to be in the stands at Tiger Stadium at the final game of the 1984 World Series.

I would love to be in the crowd at 1985’s Live Aid concert.

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Personal Things

I know I put some limits on what can or cannot happen if I went back in time, but if there were no limits there are a few things I would like to do with that time machine.

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

I would love one more pinochle game with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more Christmas Eve with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

I would love to play my trumpet in one more high school band concert.

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Just One Day

For whatever reason, writing this blog made me think of the Nat King Cole song, “That Sunday, That Summer”.  The lyrics of the song say:

“If I had to chose just one day, to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.”

With a time machine, you could go back to one day.  You could pick the day.  You could relive whatever happened that day.  What day would that be?

I don’t know that I could pick just one.

What I do know is that there are plenty of days that I am looking forward to that haven’t happened yet – the birth of my daughter, the graduations of my sons, etc…. I am perfectly content moving forward and experiencing the days to come.

Here is sit, remembering the past – loving the present – and looking forward to the future.

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Keeping Christmas All The Year

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Well, the Christmas presents are now opened. The music books with Christmas Carols are now back up on the shelves and the Christmas music on the radio has abruptly ceased. It is painfully obvious that Christmas is over!  I have never understood how these radio stations that go “all Christmas music” LONG before Thanksgiving, can just stop it immediately at midnight on December 26th.  Ok, I get it, Christmas is over, but you could casually fade back into regular music.  I mean it is Wednesday and I know some people who aren’t even going to get together with their family until this weekend to celebrate the holiday. Besides, there are plenty of “winter” songs that could easily still play in rotation, much like those oldies stations sprinkle in “summer” themed songs during the summer. I am sorry – I digress.

The fact that Christmas is over, however, is important for me to make a point with this blog.  Much like it was important for readers to know that “Marley was dead” to completely grasp the story of a Christmas Carol by Dickens, we must understand that Christmas is over.  Speaking of Dickens, a quote from his holiday classic is the exact thing that has me writing this blog.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” – Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Keeping Christmas All Year

It is easier to be nicer to people in December.  We are naturally friendlier, we put a little more into each handshake, we smile a bit bigger, and we are more charitable.  Think of the things that you “over look”, “forgive” or choose not to say anything about because “it’s Christmas”.  Because of the season, it’s easier to do.  I heard someone call Christmas Spirit a “limited time offer” once.  That, in itself is humorous, but what if we didn’t put a limit on this?  What if we made a choice to be nicer to people, forgive more, and to spread Christmas Spirit throughout the other 11 months of the year?  Just HOW do we even go about doing that?

Imagine if we all made a conscious choice to live every day with the Christmas spirit?  Elvis Presley said in one of my favorite (and underplayed) Christmas songs: “Oh why can’t every day be Christmas?  Why can’t that feeling go on endlessly?  For if every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world it would be.”  Powerful lyrics!  So powerful, that I would like to present a challenge.

I wish I could say that I thought of this on my own, but I didn’t.  I am sure that there have been others who have posed this same challenge throughout the years.  However, perhaps if I keep presenting it, maybe, collectively, we CAN make a difference and keep the spirit of Christmas alive well into 2019 and beyond.

Realistically, I understand that it would be odd to be singing Christmas Carols at the swimming pool in July or dressing up as an elf with an ugly sweater for work.  So Just what are some ways we can “keep Christmas” in the months ahead?  Here are some ways:

Know What is Important and Make Time for That!

During the Christmas season, we make our families a priority.  We spend time making memories and celebrating with them.  After Christmas, the “world” takes over and tries to monopolize your time.  Your job, your bills, and other things can often interfere and beg for your attention.  Remember what is truly important to you.  Make family a priority.  When you are able to bring yourself back to what matters most, you can make the most of every day and every situation.

Be Kind To Everyone.

I’ll admit, this isn’t always an easy thing to do.  At Christmas, everyone seems to be a bit nicer to each other, so let’s start here.  Treat everyone with a bit of kindness – especially those who aren’t necessarily nice to you.  This, in itself, is a great way to keep that Christmas Spirit alive.  Think about how you would treat that person if it were Christmas.

Be Thankful.  Focus On What You Have.

During the holidays, we often reflect on the things that we are thankful for – our family, our friends, and the things that make us happy.  When we bask in the appreciation of what we have, and reflect on those things with happiness – we continue that Christmas feeling well past Christmas Day!  The key to making this happen is to focus more on what you have instead of what you want.  Instead of saying, “I want …” and “I need….” think “I’m very grateful I have …”

Find the Good.  Surround Yourself With It.

At Christmas, we see many things that bring about a childlike wonder.  We take note of the things like Christmas lights, special ornaments, an ongoing tradition, and the curiosity of what’s in a beautifully wrapped present.  Look on life in wonder and amazement.  Find those things that bring about that wonder and embrace the good things you see in everyday life.  Marveling in those things is another way to keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Giving to Charity

During the holidays, we tend to give a bit more.  We drop extra change in the red buckets and exchange pleasantries with the bell ringers; we adopt families at church; we donate to organizations who provide Christmas presents for kids without families and are a bit more open to helping.  Doing something for a charity throughout the year is an amazing way to keep that spirit of Christmas alive AND you’ll feel good about doing it.  The need doesn’t go away after Christmas.  The shelters still have people in need.  There are always people who have been hit with tragedy that can use your help.  Even donating to a local food bank can be a huge help.  It is better to give than to receive, and should you ever need to be on the receiving end, you will be thankful for those who gave.

Get Active in Your Community

During the holidays, many will take part in the Christmas Tree lighting or Christmas Sing Alongs.  Throughout the year, the community is always looking for volunteers to help with various events.  Get involved with things that make a positive impact on your city.  Help with community clean up projects, support local businesses, or go to a city council meeting.  Be proud of the city you live in and be a good neighbor to others!

Listen to Some Tunes

Who says it has to be December to listen to Christmas songs?!  I have Christmas songs on my iPod and when I am listening at work, I very rarely skip them.  Those songs that make you happy during the holiday season can bring a smile to your face anytime of the year.  Winter Wonderland is a good song to cool you off in the summer!  For some, the religious Christmas songs serve as a reminder that we need God/Jesus in our lives every day.  There is no law as to when one can listen to Christmas songs…so crank them up!

Christmas Shop All Year

No need to wait for Black Friday deals.  Here’s a great idea that you may actually relieve some stress next Christmas – shop now!  Whenever you see a great deal on a toy or something that would be a great Christmas gift, buy it now and store it away until December.  How amazing would it be to have all that shopping done for Christmas BEFORE all the madness?!  It will also help you with your budget!  So many people go into debt at Christmas because they use the last few paychecks of the year to do all of their shopping.  Take that extra $20 each paycheck throughout the year and buy a gift, you’ll thank me in December when everyone but you is stressing at the store.

Send a Card – For No Reason!

One of the things I look forward to each Christmas is getting the mail.  I love to see who has sent us a Christmas Card.  I love the “Year In Review” notes that update me on the various news from friends and family.  In this day and age where we spend so much time on social media and texting – a handwritten note or card in the mail can spread so much joy! Grab some Forever Stamps and make it a point to write a note to someone.

Light a Christmas Candle

Who doesn’t love the smell of a Christmas tree?  Peppermint? Pumpkin Pie? Sugar Cookies?  You can find candles that smell like these things and more.  My wife loves the smell of cinnamon sticks, so we often light candles throughout the year.  This is an easy way to get into the spirit.  Maybe you can light a candle while you write out the card I just mentioned?

Grab a Beverage

My sons bought me my favorite coffee (mentioned in a previous blog) for Christmas.  I can brew a pot of Cinnamon Holiday Blend from Coffee Beanery any time of the year and it makes it feel like Christmas.  Why not have some hot chocolate during the summer?  Who says you can only drink egg nog during the Christmas season?  There are plenty of recipes on the internet – make your own!

Christmas Feast – In July

We have a turkey in our freezer right now.  When you are hearing about all the Christmas in July sales all over town, why not celebrate it with a Christmas Dinner?  I am all about a good meal.  This is another way to keep the spirit alive – why not invite the whole family over for a mid-summer feast?  Have Christmas cookies for dessert! What a great way to enjoy good food and good company!

I Triple Dog Dare You!

So there is a hefty challenge!  I challenge you (and myself) to go forward over the next 11 months and prolong the Christmas season!  Spread that cheer in the months to come!  Let’s be like Scrooge and keep Christmas the whole year! Let’s help make that Elvis lyric come true – “for if every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be!”

“So remember while December
Brings the only Christmas Day
In the year let there be Christmas
In the things we do and say
Wouldn’t life be worth the living
Wouldn’t dreams be coming true
If we kept the Christmas spirit
All the whole year through.”     ~Author unknown, c.1962