Yuletides, Egg Nog, and Holly: Not So Christmas Traditions with Lems Shoes

Posted by Brad Maniscalco on 12/20/2013
Yuletides, Egg Nog, and Holly: Not So Christmas Traditions with Lems Shoes:
Part 2 of 3

I have always envisioned a traditional Christmas.  I’m talking a dining room table that takes up the entire room with a food spread that would rival “Who-Ville”.  I'm talking a stocking-laced fireplace burning incandescently while little ten-year-old Becky plays Christmas songs on the grand piano.   I’m talking Grandpa reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” while we all gather around the sofa sipping Eggnog.  I’m talking… you get the idea. 

I have always loved Christmas.  I can remember being a young child waking my parents up at the crack of dawn to open presents; only to be rejected and forced to stare at the clock (literally would stare at the clock for hours) until the long awaited hour they would awake.   As I got older, the anticipation to open presents diminished, but my love for Christmas did not.  Instead my anticipation transferred from presents to parties and from Santa Claus to holiday traditions.  But as I quickly learned, traditions are not always “traditions”

Generally, we all gather at my grandparent’s house to eat Christmas dinner.  We fill our plates and stuff our mouths, but this is pretty much where the tradition ends.  No fireplace, no Christmas stories, just food and sleep.  Since I have entered adult hood, I have tried numerous times to implement a new tradition into the Canon, i.e. card games after dinner, Christmas movie marathons, and even family cookie baking.  Unfortunately, due to hectic schedules around the holidays and an undedicated front, none of my ideas stood the test of time and I have been left with a Christmas that I still look forward to every year, but is lacking significantly in tradition and lure. 

As I have said, while I have made every effort to begin new traditions with my immediate and extended family alike, none have really taken off.  None, except the ONE thing that happens every year that makes me cringe. The one little thing that my immediate family insists on doing every single year like clockwork.  If the presents were all stolen, the food was spoiled, or if people simply began to celebrate Christmas via Skype, this little “tradition” the Maniscalco’s partake in every year would not miss a beat.  

After the presents and awkward smiles of receiving unwanted gifts have been exchanged, my mother gets this big goofy grin on her face and slowly tip-toes to the kitchen while my sisters begin to clap incessantly for what appears to be their favorite part of the holidays.  A knot in my stomach begins to form realizing the second hand embarrassment I am about to experience would rival that of "poking" a girl on Facebook.

At this point, my father hits the lights and from the kitchen I can hear my mother’s voice begin to rise in song... “Happy Birthday…”  The rest of my family slowly but excitedly begins to sing along while I sit there stone-faced wondering how this came to be "tradition".  Eventually my mother makes her way into the family room with a grocery store birthday cake gleaming with a dozen candles or so and printed very neatly in Bright Red icing are the words “Happy Birthday Jesus”. 

Yes, that is correct, my family sings Happy Birthday to Our Savior every Christmas morning.  It is bizarre, it is weird, and don't even get me started on how 12 candles underscores the 2,000 or so that would truly signify the man's age.  I mean if somethings worth doin' it's worth doin' right.


Now I admit that my participation in the church has waned off in the past several years yet this “tradition” that occurs at my house every December 25th continues to bewilder me.   Yes, I understand that the “reason for the season” is to celebrate Christ’s birth however the amount of sacrilege that comes with a birthday cake and party hats cannot bode well with the church.     I'm waiting for the year we send out invitations to the 12 Disciples, but anyway, I digress.  

Finally, after a persistent urge to participate, I usually begin to mutter a few "to you"'s and "birthday"'s here and there to simply draw attention away from the fact that I find this "tradition" both peculiar and outlandish.  Finally, when the song ends, my sisters, both of whom are now in their 20s argue over who gets to blow out the candles.  Eventually one finally succumbs and with that the victor blows out them out.  The rest of my family cheers exuberantly and I am left rolling my eyes praying to the birthday boy himself for this spectacle to end and for someone to put on Bing Crosby and bring Christmas back to its roots.

No matter how weird or "un"traditional your holidays are, Lems Shoes wishes that they are happy and merry!

Yuletides, Egg Nog, and Holly: Not So Christmas Traditions with Lems Shoes: Part 1 of 3

Posted by Brad Maniscalco on 12/16/2013 to Lems Staff
Yuletides, Egg Nog, and Holly: Not So Christmas Traditions with Lems Shoes:
Part 1 of 3

Christmas is obviously a time when jolliness and good spirits ring true in the demeanor of friends, family, and all of the obsessed mall dwellers; not just in the people, but also in the decor of the season do we find such cheer. My family was never keen on over aggrandizing the idea of Christmas by lighting up our household facade like the Las Vegas strip, or planting 10 foot blow-up snow globes at the end of the front yard. We were rather reserved and conservative when it came to our decor. A wreath here; a snowman ornament there; and yeah, you get the picture. Though we were not the Griswalds when it came to our own home, for some odd reason my parents always found amusement in witnessing others create such excessive displays of luminosity. Which is why, every Christmas season, my family would take a trip to the local lawn and garden center to experience the wonders of "Santa's Christmasland". 

Close your eyes and imagine a poorly ventilated, tightly compacted hallway in a haunted house. Now substitute the ghouls and goblins with a multitude of decorated, artificial Christmas trees and various animated characters that look as though they are in dire need of an exorcism and you have yourself "Christmasland". If the life-size, plastic penguins, robotic reindeer, and Bavarian, bicycling bears in German garb (what that has to do with Christmas is beyond me), didn't frighten you to tears, then add the sweet scents of ginger-berry and cinnamon that filled the musty air and you my friend have a recipe for disaster. This short 300 ft lane of commercialized characters and hodgepodge holiday vignettes was capped of with a religious manger scene; most likely in an attempt to keep the stores name from being smeared across Bill O' Reily's "Pinheads or Patriots" segment for not expressing the true "reason for the season". As a child I felt as if I were sauntering through the land of misfit toys, while simultaneously trying to force merriment in front of my parents. But looking back on this experience it has actually brought me much joy and the occasional chuckle. 

Oh "Christmasland", how you 'sleigh' me. 

                                        -Steve "The Man of Many Hats" Perna

Mobsters, Moonshine, and Molls: The 20's Still Roaring

Posted by Brad Maniscalco on 12/3/2013 to Cool Stuff

The 7th Annual Repeal Day Celebration

Ahhh, the roaring 20’s: A time of flapper girls, ragtime music, fedoras, and cocktails that tasted like rubbing alcohol.  An era of three piece suits, prizefighters, and did I mention cocktails that tasted like rubbing alcohol?

The 20’s were an interesting time to be living in America and an even more interesting time to enjoy the occasional “sauce”.  Prohibition was in full swing, making the consumption of alcohol illegal, and I would assume life much more depressing.  When I think about Prohibition, and what it set out to do, I cannot help but laugh.  Alcohol goes hand in hand with socializing and by making alcohol illegal, you are pretty much asking people to eliminate the other.  Hypothetically if alcohol again became illegal, I have no doubt that many people would become significantly less interesting and social events would be limited to church visits and farmer’s markets. 

Famed author and even more famed alcoholic Charles Bukowski said it best, “If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

We are surrounded by alcohol.  No matter how small a town is, (ahem Farrell, PA.) there is always at least that one bar called Harry’s or Lucky’s or Johnny’s where smoking is for some reason still allowed; and while the cost of the drinks is less than a gallon of gasoline, the taste is quite similar.  “Harry’s” often looks like a dungeon, smells like a dungeon, and each of it's surfaces is covered in cheap booze, cigarette butts, or passed out locals.   Meanwhile, the thought of a #2 in that one-stall bathroom causes more anxiety than a mime in speech class.  Yet, we still suck it up and venture into “Harry’s” on Saturday nights to unwind and potentially see a friendly face or two, no matter how much of an ash tray we smell when that 2 am Taco Bell dinner alarm starts ringing. 

Although the 20’s had its difficulties: polio, full-bodied underwear, and soberness, it was also a time of elegance, jazz, and some extremely stylish clothing. Women wore their Sunday’s best all days of the week, while men never left the house without a suit, tie, and fedora.  Unfortunately, sometime in the past several decades, Americans forgot how to dress.  We substituted overcoats and fedoras for Jeff Gordon t-shirts and jean shorts (if you call them jorts, then you undoubtedly have a pair somewhere in your home).  

Nowadays, if one were to venture into a sports bar wearing a suit and a cap and are under the age of 65, they would be leaving wearing a suit, and a cap, and a black eye.      

It is no surprise that Prohibition was scoffed at by the majority of people during the 20’s.  People were going to continue to drink, no matter what the law stated, the only difference was their means of getting it (Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Mr. Capone).  Now you can call me ignorant, (remember, I quoted a famed author at the beginning of this post, so careful) but I previously was unaware that Prohibition lasted thirteen years.  Thirteen years!! In other words, if Prohibition occurred today, the last time we would have legally been able to throw one back, we were drunkenly singing the smash hit, “Smooth”, by Santana before risking a DUI on our brand new Razor Scooters. 

The Jazz Age was one of the most glorified times in America’s history.  While we have all wondered what the hell the Charleston really is and how bad bathtub gin really tastes, unfortunately Marty McFly has never been around to allow us to experience it firsthand.  

Fear not my friends!! Although we do not have access to a flying Delorean, we do have access to a place called the Corinthian located in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  Additionally, the Brotherhood of Appreciating Repeal Day is doing the best they can, without access to a Flex Compasitor, to allow us to gun it to 88mph.

Every December 5th, the BOARD holds their annual Repeal Day Celebration at the Corinthian, not only to celebrate the anniversary of the end of Prohibition, but to also give people the experience of dressing, dancing, and drinking like they stepped into the hottest underground speakeasy.  With dozens of beers on tap, and newsies and flappers dancing to the hits, the Repeal Day Celebration in Sharon is probably as close to walking in Jimmy Darmody’s shoes as you’re gonna get. 

Although we have been in attendance in past years, this year Lems Shoes is lucky enough to sponsor the event.   Each glass passed out to sample the different bathtub concoctions will feature a unique logo that was designed specifically for the celebration.  So even if our Charleston steps don’t make us look good, we are hoping our Nine2Fives do.  Tickets are limited, but if you happen to be in the area, let us know and we’ll see if there are any hoodlums around we can grease.  The event donates its proceeds to the Shenango Valley River Watchers, a local group that protects local tributaries from pollution or discovers the occasional late mobster who sleeps with the fishes.      

Happy Repeal Day everyone!  Let's party like its 1933!

            Good looking group of newsies and flappers at the 2012 Repeal Day Celebration!