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Memorable Christmas Presents…..Pt. 2

Dude, I’m tellin’ ya……….

As I recollected some of the amusing and cool gifts I have gotten thru the years for Christmas last week, I actually had to cut it short. The post was getting a little long and I still had some thoughtful and memorable gifts to remember. But that’s the nice thing about having one of these blog dealies or a regular column in the newspaper. You can always go back and finish what you started another day.

I didn’t really get to delve in to the gift exchanges by my brother and I. We have always tried to give each other a “cool gift” that was more in-line with our hobbies and personalities. You know how it is. Aunt Sally is going to give you the white tube socks or an ugly-ass striped shirt from JC Penny for you to wear to school. Old Uncle Charlie gives you the card with his name scrawled in it and a $5 bill. If you’re lucky.

My mom and my aunt each had three kids in a similar age range. So on the gift exchanges, the gift tag to my older sister would say the present was from my aunt’s oldest child. And my brother in the middle would get a gift from her middle child. Etc.

I’m sure lots of families do that stuff. Of course the aunt is the one who picks out and buys the gifts. But my gift always had the illusion of being from my youngest cousin. One year it was a Bee Gees Greatest Hits album. Another year it was another album; one of those collections of hits from Ronco. {Remember that cheap-ass company that made everything from record cleaners to smokeless ash trays} ? I think it had Leo Sayer and Earth, Wind, and Fire on it.

Thanks, cuz.

‘Preciate it

It was for that sort of shit that bro and I tried to get each other something useful. Something manly. A gift we wouldn’t be afraid to show our friends—-unlike the Bee Gees vinyl.

I did get him a 45 record once when we were just 9 or 10 and that was all I could afford. But it was for the Rush tune “New World Man “. Just a little bit higher on the “cool scale” than Leo Sayer, I think.

One year when I was 18 or 19, I had to work quite a bit at Mainstreet Liquors here in the neighborhood leading up to Christmas. I hadn’t thought of anything good yet for bro and was running out of time quickly. It got to be Christmas Eve and I was working at the store until we closed around 7 pm. I was going to go home to the big family gathering and I still didn’t have a gift. So as I was hiding from the boss and sneak-drinking bottles of Anchor Steam Christmas Ale in the backroom, I noticed a couple of neon signs laying on an upper storage shelf. They seemed to be in good shape; we just didn’t have them hanging up for whatever reason.

So I told the boss my dilemma and we negotiated a little bit. At 7 pm, I walked out of there with a sweet neon Augsberger beer sign. It has a sherbet green color to it and looks kinda cool. To this day, it hangs in my little entertainment room where I live. I did give it to bro and he had it hung up in his various apartments for years. We were briefly living together a few years ago and somehow it is now up on my wall. That’s the sort of thing that happens when people drink. I may have won it over a video game or something. Who knows? But that sign has to be 20+ years old now.

Also hanging on my wall is the deluxe, talking, multi-game dart board that he got for me almost ten years ago. Still works like a champ. It plays 301, 501, cricket, hi-score, and almost every other game in the world of darts. He and I just played on it a few weeks ago before we went to see the Dick Ourada band together.

Another year involved him getting us tickets to go see Buddy Guy at his downtown club, Legends. Always a great time, Buddy only plays dates at his own club in the month of January. So my brother scored tickets for the show and we went up there with a few of our friends. A terrific night out of blues and jambolaya courtesy of bro. Of course, I saw fit to steal a shot glass from the bar. It’s a nice glass…..thick and heavy. A double-shot glass. Bro palmed it from me when I wasn’t looking—or drunk— and took it to an engraver who inscribed the name of the bar and the date we went to the show. The glass is a staple of my personal shot glass collection.

For a stretch of about four years, we agreed to just burn (6) CDs for the other guy out of your own collection. We are both avid music fans with CD collections of 350-500 each. So we said to pick out six CDs that you think are really, really good. Some CDs that you know the other guy doesn’t have and they should be a part of his collection. Some music you really want to turn the other guy on to.

I know I burned for him Frank Zappa’s album Joe’s Garage. And I burned him a reggae CD that I love by Yellowman. He turned me on to the band Los Lobos who I hadn’t been enlightened to just yet. And he introduced me to a jammin’ guitar player named Tab Benoit who has played Legends many times. So over the four years, we exchanged about 25 CDs and helped to enhance the other guy’s overall collection.

Recently…..like in the last 10 years……I collected t-shirts from all the cool places and events I found myself at throughout the year and gave him about a dozen of them for Christmas. There was one from the local pizza joint we both love (Ledo’s in Countryside, IL). And there was another one from the best burrito joint in the area (El Faro’s in Summit, IL). There was one from Summerfest up in Milwaukee. And another from Legends when I saw Buddy play that year.

True to form though, my bro’s favorite one was the shirt I bought from a head shop I used to drop in to occasionally. You know….just to browse. Not to buy……just to browse. But they had a really tasteless shirt that looked like a concert tee for a band. The back had a bunch of dates and cities on it. But it was actually for all of the deadly school shootings that were happening back then like Columbine. So it was a “School Shootings ’98 Tour” shirt. He still has it and wears it to places like Jewel just to piss people off.

Oh that brotherof mine !

So those are some of the gifts we have given to each other. There’s also been a leather Bears jacket, expensive dart sets, a Hawks jersey, a Rod Woodson Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, and many more sports-oriented presents.

Rumor has it that bro is out-doing himself this year. I heard thru the grapevine he’s getting me a Lovie Smith weeble-wobble punching bag this year.  

I’m already doing pushups so I can beat the living shit out of it.

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