About a week left to go before Christmas and I'm wondering how we got right back to this point so fast. Seems like I just finished putting away the Christmas decorations from last year and then it was time to lug all those boxes, bags, barrels, and bins from the hay loft and hang them right back up again. 2010, at least hereabouts, flew by like a wicked fast jet airplane on nitro fuel. Thanks to you, our customers, it's been a great year; another record setter, which is why the share price of our stock (publicly traded on the Livermore, Maine exchange)(also known as the 'Tiny Board') has shot up to an all-time high. The Board of Directors seems happy ' they've been grinning for months. At least, I think it's a grin ' hard to tell when a black lab is grinning, but the wagging tail gives us an indication.
Been logging quite a few hours here, keeping the website up to date, answering about one out of every five phone calls (OK, we're working on it), reading an average of a couple of hundred e-mails daily (most of which just want to help us enlarge the size of our mortgage), packing and shipping more orders each day than we shipped in an average week just 4 years ago. There goes the phone again. Oh boy. When it gets this busy I find myself thinking about stuff we could use to make things more efficient, to make work flow more smoothly. Shelving, strapping machines, and coffee makers come to mind, and as this stuff enters my mind on this side, wanders through what's left of my brain, and then hits the exit door over there, I find that most of the stuff I think about buying ends up just vanishing out said exit ' it was just a bad idea and won't help us at all. Its nothing but stuff I don't need. There's a lot of that sort of thing out there, which is why I look forward all year, even when the year feels like only a month or so, to writing it down and sending it into your e-mail folder as what I like to call 'Things I Don't Want for Christmas.'
Been putting this list together for the last few years, and you probably know that when Diane Sawyer asked me about it last year it was clear that she had done her homework. She's very good at what she does, and I admire that. I mentioned her integrity to the author of that article that appeared about us in the New Yorker, and then I started receiving all those letters from readers ' it was actually fun to go through them. The one from The guy on Smallville (the one who bought leather from us for his dining room chairs), was probably my favorite, and he made good on his promise to have his helicopter pick up our family on the roof of our hotel when we were touristing down in NYC last Spring. It was fun to see how the other folks live, if only for an evening, and to take a sip of wine that cost over $400 per bottle. I remember sitting there on that rooftop patio, looking at Manhattan, and thinking about how all of this had happened just because I like to type out a list of stuff I don't want for Christmas. Life is funny that way. I made up everything in this paragraph out of thin air (except that we actually did sell leather to the Smallville guy).
Last weekend I rolled my old Dodge pickup into the barn, put the space heater on, and proceeded to bang some rust off the lower doors and rocker panels, and then to fill the big, gaping holes with body putty. That's a rip roaring good time, I can tell you, trying to keep the putty just above freezing so it can set up and last another year. It's all about getting a new state inspection sticker ' can't get a sticker if you've got holes where there's not supposed to be holes, so I fixed it. I have to say that my truck drives like it's brand new now. 110,000 miles, give or take, and I love it. First thing I don't want for Christmas this year is a new pickup truck. I tried looking at a few models a month or so ago ' what ever happened to a basic truck? It's white, it's got vinyl seats, vinyl flooring, and a vinyl headliner. No carpet, no leather, no satellite radio, no rear-view camera with associated video monitor (what? So all of a sudden we can't turn around and look out the back window?), no iPod connection, no built-in GPS, and for the love of Mike it sure as shooting doesn't have heated seats. New pick-up truck? Not for me, thank-you just the same.
While we're hammering away on automotive matters, I hate to break it to you but if you've already bought me a new vehicle from GM and plan on delivering it to our home in Maine for Christmas morning, well, just keep it. I'm not crazy about my tax dollars being used to bail out a company, and I feel just strongly enough about it to say 'no thanks' to a new GM vehicle. What was that? They make a basic truck with no frills? Oh, no they don't? I give up.
In Maine, blue is a common word that we attach to berries, birds, and lips. We like our Maine blueberries because they're still pretty much the same wild blueberries that evolved here on this planet, not those grafted beasts that grow in southern states and produce berries the size of cherries. Loaded with health benefits, a handful of our Maine beauties should be part of everyone's daily diet. Blue birds? Well, there aren't many birds of a wing that are more fun or breathtaking to see. Blue lips? You fell in the pond ' told you to wait until the ice was thicker. This word blue is now being used to indicate some sort of connection or clarity level ' blue ray, blue tooth (see last year's list for a description of exactly how much I like Blue Tooth), blue, blue, blue. I don't want anything for Christmas this year that has the word blue in it, unless it's blueberries or blue jeans (32 by 32 ' I'm just saying).
When I go fishing here in Maine I prefer to go in the months when the ponds, lakes, and streams are filled with water, not ice. I'm just not much of an ice fisherman. It's fun, and about every 5 years or so I find myself standing out on Brettuns Pond, shivering to the point of losing control of all bodily functions, hoping a flag will tip up or the ice will give way and just end it all. Summertime fishing is better, although you'll find, when you venture upcountry, that you can never fish alone in Maine. Drive all the way up to Coburn Gore, turn in on the logging road, drive on dirt for 23 miles, then take the jeep trail down to the low spot, park there and hike in with your gear to the shore of the lake. You must be the only human being for a hundred miles. That may be true, but you're not alone. What's that sound? It's getting louder the longer you stand there. I'll tell you what it is ' bugs. We've got a few of them here in our Maine woods in the summer, and they just love to visit. Once you've found the old canoe that's stashed down by the big rock and managed to get it launched with you and all your gear, those bugs are so nice that they'll continue to follow you right out onto open water. If you decide that you'd like to keep some of your blood on the inside of your body, you need a control method. For me, the noxious goops, sprays, and treatments aren't all that enticing. I draw the line at chemical names that contain more than 4 numbers or 20 letters. I use a cigar. I'm not a cigar nut ' I clench it in my teeth and let it smoke away, and the bugs for some reason (they're smarter than us humans, probably) don't seem to like it. So, a couple of years ago I bought a few cigars from some online company. I think I spent about $18 with shipping and all. Since that date I've received a little over $14,565 worth of printed cigar catalogs in the mail ' sometimes arriving at a rate of 3 in one week. They're fun to read and all, I mean the descriptions of some of these cigars makes me want to eat the darned things, but, please, take me off your Christmas list, big cigar company. I don't want any more catalogs.
I think it was a Friday afternoon and Jenny (That Dog) and I were in the truck, heading over to the post office to ship some international orders. Nice enough day, some sunshine, warm but not hot, so it must have been in September probably, and as we crossed the bridge from Lewiston into Auburn, the one at Great Falls, we did what we always do ' look up river and down river to see where the ducks are hanging out. They were down river that day, and we could see them in groups of ten or twenty birds, just paddling around and HOLY COW WATCH OUT THAT CAR IS HEADING STRAIGHT FOR US LAY ON THE HORN GRIT YOUR TEETH POGO STICK ON THE BRAKE PEDAL CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SCREAM AAAAAHHHHHHH well I guess she missed us but I don't know how and never will because my hands were gripped on the wheel and my eyes were shut. I opened them just in time to see this lady go by my door, heading the other way, about 2 inches away, well into my lane, but no harm done. No need to get upset. I saw the phone in her hand, but I still don't believe she ever saw me or knew where her vehicle was. In the flash of instant that I saw her I could see that, well, no wonder, and I'm sorry that my truck was anywhere near her while she was engaged in that very important text messaging. I can just imagine that she was sending some critical data about nuclear disarmament codes or toxic waste remediation procedures, so driving became a secondary issue. My bad. Too many 'smart phones' out there, and even in our thinly populated state we're suffering for it. I saw a guy drive right up on the sidewalk by the savings bank ' I mean bounce over the curb and two wheels right up there, thank goodness nobody was walking there at the time, and he only glanced up from his phone for the instant it took for him to jerk the wheel and get back in the lane, more or less. Checking NFL scores on his smart phone, that's my guess. It's a phone, man. You use it to call for help when the spare is flat or you get in an accident or you can't find the right house for the surprise party (hint: it's the one with no cars parked out front ' they're all down around the corner). You don't need internet access on your phone and put the darned thing down when you're driving, Jack. Don't even think about giving me a smart phone this year.
Seen these netbook computers? What do the ads say? 'Like a notebook PC, only less!' I looked at one in a store not too long ago. Very cool ' it's a netbook ' I can connect to the internet with it, carry it in a backpack, and be Joe Cool all around the greater Lewiston-Auburn metroplex. The one I was checking out was connected to the web, so I gave it a whirl. Sent myself an e-mail. I typed, standing up, by the way, just like Hemingway, 'Just checking out this cool netbook PC over at the electronics store.' I looked at the screen and found that what I had actually typed was Ju56sht c67chkng'`~ootu yhis collsa ne3booolk PC voerrrrrra ag rth elee3lnfgrincs sr09t' and that's because my stupid fingers are sized in such a manner that they can't 'interact' with the keyboard properly. I need a pencil sharpener that I can stick my fingers into, so's I can grind them down to about 1/4' in diameter. Maybe then I can use a netbook. Don't get me one of those darned things for Christmas, I beg of you. Please. I don't want to grind my fingers down.
Been typing for a while now, sorry this thing always drags on for so long. What time is it? Let me just look at my wrist watch. Holy cow that thing is huge. Could tell the time on it from across the room. I didn't know this watch was going to be so big ' I bought it online and there was nothing in the picture to give it any scale. It's like wearing a saucer on my arm. When I was clearing customs into New Brunswick back in November one of the (always polite) Canadian border patrol guys asked me if I was visually impaired. He saw the watch and, well, you see what I mean. I don't want any type of watch or other man's accessory that's been bought online. Not this year. I mean, really, this thing is embarrassing. Online shopping should be reserved for important items, like leather craft supplies or antique trunk-related stuff. Or old keys.
Fancy little electronic hand tools seem to be popular these days. This one here spins around at high speed and you can buy some very expensive little attachments to help you actually sand wood. I kid you not. You can get a sanding drum that's a full 1/2' in diameter, well thank you so very deeply for inventing that. This one vibrates and has a head that's almost triangular, but not quite, which means you can only buy their brand of razor blades oops I mean sandpaper and wouldn't you know it? Those little almost-triangles are pretty pricey. Don't get me any of those tools this Christmas, because if you do I'll take them back to the store and trade them in for some sheets of sandpaper. Have you seen this stuff? It's about the same size as a piece of notebook paper, and it has actual sand on it, and you can even choose the size of the grains that you want to use on your project. Amazing. But how do you use it? Hmm, hey wait ' there's this weird thing at the end of my arm, and it has 4 of these and one of those on it ' well, just maybe I can fold up the sandpaper and use this thing to hold the paper and then with my arm I can just move the sandpaper back and forth. It works! Not every task these days has to be done with something that plugs in.
Let's cut to the chase on this one: I don't want a Fushigi ball and to take this one step further I don't want to know or meet anyone who has both the free time to fiddle with one of those things and the inclination to make the decision to spend their time in that manner. Look at it this way: If you live to be 90 you'll get about 32,872 days on this earth, and each of those days will have exactly 24 hours in it, and each hour will have 60 minutes. Why would you waste one of those minutes on developing your Fushigi skills? Will it take you to the Olympics? Heck, will it even take you to the local mall? No thanks. Build something. Learn something. Read something.
OK, so after all this whining I know that you're really only interested in hearing what I really DO want for Christmas. Here it is: You're too late. Becca is home from college for a couple of weeks, and Mom is flying up from FL on Monday to spend Christmas with us, so I'm all set. I don't need another thing. Especially not a wireless device that tells me the temperature of the bear steaks on the grill ' 6 minutes on this side and four minutes on that side and yank 'em off the heat, quick. I don't need that thing. Thanks for the thought though.
I suppose I should mention that we have some new trunks for sale on the trunk site, and quite a few new types of leather on that site, so if you need something just have right at it. We'll be working Monday-Friday 6 am-6 pm next week and can always do the quick shipping thing. Please keep in mind that our daily UPS truck arrives at 2:30 pm EST, so we'd need to have your order placed ahead of that to beat the buzzer.
Wishing you some peace and quiet as I always do, and the joy of the season, which means different things to different people. For me it's hearing laughter from upstairs, as our two daughters, reunited for a while, enjoy each other's company. Amanda and I just look at each other and smile, feeling like maybe we did something right. It's good. Merry Christmas to you and those you feel strongly about.
Brettuns Village Trunk Shop
Brettuns Village Leather
In only 13 or so years.