Thursday, November 27, 2008

Family feud (unedited)

It's like a bad soap opera.

My maternal grandparents were married in the 1940s. They were 18/19 years old and my mother was born soon after they were married. According to my mother she was born less than nine months after they were married.

My Catholic grandparents proceeded to have 10 children, seven boys and three girls.

My grandfather proceeded to build a successful business in the flooring industry. Of his 10 children, eight have worked for the family business. My mom and one of her sisters are the only two who haven't, to the best of my knowledge. Today there are five of the 10 siblings working at the store, as well as one of my cousins who, despite going to college for something other than retail sales, seems to be on the road to a career in the flooring industry. Not a bad gig, I suspect, my relatives live a more lavish lifestyle than I do, although that's not saying much.

In October 2002 my grandmother died. My grandparents had been married for 57 years. Grandpa had been married his entire adult life, and suddenly, without warning, he was a widow. Sure, grandma had her share of health issues over the years, but nobody saw it coming that Friday morning.

It has now been six years since grandma died, and it's about to get ugly.

Grandpa has since remarried. He couldn't stand the idea of being alone, evidently. He married Huggy Bear 16 months after grandma died. Mom was not happy.

He met Huggy Bear six months after grandma died. Things progressed quickly. Huggy Bear is a widow. She has children. She has some sort of lake cabin up north. She didn't seem to be destitute. She's a nice person, albeit a bit odd. She means well.

Mom didn't try to stop grandpa's wedding to Huggy Bear, but she clearly wasn't happy about it. The wedding was a minor debacle, and mom took it as a personal slight. I didn't get it, but whatever.

Grandpa divided his business into 10 shares and gave one to each of his children. He wasn't working any more and planned to live off the rental income from the property on which the store sits. The kids own the business, grandpa owns the building and the property it sits on. Sounds like a good plan, eh?

Grandpa may have been a successful businessman for decades, but he seems to have made a mistake or two along the way. After grandma died grandpa bought land for a new store, a store that didn't happen. I don't know the details, but from what I've heard, it hasn't done grandpa any financial favors.

Huggy Bear must get some form of retirement income. She worked, so perhaps she has a pension. Her husband likely had life insurance. She can't be without income. But grandpa writes her a check every month, a check for $4,000. Grandpa gets a rent check from the store each month for something like $11,000. He left his checkbook at the store one day, that's how the aunts and uncles found out.

Since each sibling owns a share of the store, it has value and they're taxed on it. Although they've received dividends of some sort in the past, they're not seeing anything nowadays, and they still have tax liability for their share each year.

At Thanksgiving dinner my brother invited two uncles to join dinner. Mom and her brothers discussed the situation. It appears they think they need an attorney to represent their interests. Mom doesn't want to give back the shares of the store to grandpa, mainly because she doesn't want it to go to Huggy Bear if grandpa dies. They have a pre-nuptial agreement, but if the store winds up back in grandpa's hands, it would go to Huggy Bear, evidently. Mom is adamant that it won't become hers. Yikes!

At one point it was suggested grandpa is going senile and doesn't realize what is going on. The economy is in the toilet, sales are down and the store is barely breaking even. Grandpa is most concerned with getting his rent check, evidently, and oblivious to the fact that if the store goes in the toilet, he owns an empty building he'll have a really hard time renting. There's also some distrust of grandpa's legal/financial advice, I learned.

It has been six years since grandma died. We miss her more than ever.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm a rube

I went to a premiere screening of "Four Christmases" tonight. Not bad. It's not groundbreaking comedy, but it's entertaining from start to finish. Pretty good cast, too.

I've gone to enough of these to know that if you want to see the movie, show up early, otherwise you may get shut out. It has happened to me once or twice.

Passes for premiere screenings are usually in excess of capacity, probably far in excess, as it's expected that for most flicks, other than heavily-hyped blockbusters, there will be a high degree of no shows. But if enough people are dying to see the adorable Reese Witherspoon, then yeah, your free ticket may be worth less than the paper it's printed on if you roll into the theater five minutes before showtime.

It wasn't that I needed to see the latest Vince Vaughn movie, but it was an excuse to go to a movie, something I don't do that often, and it was a chance to get together with a buddy I hadn't talked to for a while. He's a movie geek, goes to way too many movies at the theaters, so a movie premiere is not a tough sell with him.

Jason and I met for dinner prior to the movie, and made sure to get there early, just to be safe, because rubes gotta get in to see the movie for free. We ended up at the theater about 50 minutes before the start of the movie, and there had to be 75 people lined up already.

If it's a chance to buy concert tickets for a Beatles reunion featuring a reincarnted Lennon and Harrison, yeah, I get the urgency, but it's a just a movie, and not exactly "Star Wars Episode IX: Luke's Coming Out Party."

I don't get why people show up 90 minutes early to be the first in line for a free movie, I really don't.

But for a chance to catch up with Jason and see a flick he hasn't seen, it was worth being a rube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Batman smells

October is a busy month for me, and although I never got around to blogging here, I did plenty of writing, including for another blog I maintain during the Halloween season, a blog related to my annual gig screaming at teenage girls in the halls of a local haunted house, but that's another story for another blog.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when we're innundated with Christmas music, whether we like it or not. I don't.

You grow up singing the songs and hearing them every year. Some of them aren't bad, but when I listened to "Living After Midnight" by The Donnas for the millionth time the other day, it was because I wanted to. I can listen to those chicks rock out on that Judas Priest song every day and I'd never get tired of it.

But when I have to hear "Silent Night" while walking through a store, any store, on any day of the year, I'm not happy. And 30 days of that isn't enough any more.

The worst part is that there are enough Christmas rubes out there that most radio markets across the country have at least one station that changes its program from "good times, great oldies," variety hits of the 80s, 90s and today or even Hicksville country music to all Christmas music.

Here in the Twin Cities, we are lucky enough to have two FM stations who find it financially viable to do so. And for some reason there's some sort of clout with being the first station to do so, I'm sure of it. Each year the date of the first "flip" in the metro is earlier than the previous year. See for yourself: Flippin' out!

Last Saturday night as I was driving home from a card game at 3 a.m. I scanned the FM dial for something tolerable. As I hit one of the Christmas stations I couldn't help but wonder who the hell is listening to Christmas music in the wee hours of Nov. 16? You can't convince me there's one person who thinks that's a good idea.

You want to make my blood boil? Start playing that awful Paul McCartney song within earshot of me. You know the one:

"Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime

The moon is right
The spirits pour
We're here tonight
I want to score

Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime
Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime

The party's on
The feelin's here
That only comes
From a case of beer

Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime
Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime"

If I ever run into Paul McCartney during the holidays I'm going to grab his scarf and choke him with it until fruitcakes come out of his ass.

If there's one consolation I can take from all of this, it's that in sexy Stinktown they had two stations that flipped on Halloween night! You can try all you want to paint Stinktown white, it's still not sexy.