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My friend Diesel needs help with white elephant gifts

It’s a huge weekend out there for Christmas parties, and Diesel’s soccer friends are getting together Saturday for their annual bash that includes a theme — this year it’s Hawaiian — and a white elephant gift portion where things tend to get wild. I’ve been to two of these events, and in 2019, my Bang Bus swag bag — hats, half-shirts, full shirts & stickers — was a huge hit and was traded a few times before landing in the hands of a restaurant owner.

I received all that swag after a dumb tweet that caught the eye of the Bus marketing team who sent me a giant box of gear. I knew just what to do with it — white elephant party! And it worked. It was the perfect mix of dumb and kitsch.

Now Diesel is looking for ideas to create his own splash this year. He wants to hear from those of you who’ve had white elephant gift success in the PG, PG-13 or R categories. I won’t publish your R-suggestions, but I will forward them to Diesel.

So it’s time once again for Screencaps readers to do their thing. Help those who need your last-minute advice.

Email: joekinsey@gmail.com

• Moving along, speaking of emotions, Christmas inflatables caused some emailers to fire back at those of us who are in the anti-inflatable camp.

First up is Guy G. in Buffalo:

Wife and I always laughed at people with inflatables in their yards. “how dumb!! They just look cheap!”

Then, one day, after perhaps one too many drinks at our local watering hole, we walked into Lowe’s. That is where we found our first inflatable. A Snoopy on his doghouse, with a little Woodstock accent. Being the day after Christmas, it was marked down 75%. I got told at the counter, that if I bought 2 inflatables, we would get 90% off both! And if I took a display, we’d get an additional 10%.

We bought Snoopy for us, a Santa in a truck for my parents, and my 2yo daughter loves both. It is how we became an inflatable family. (Thankfully, we live way off the road, and only get harassed by family members, not the whole neighborhood)

*Guy adds that he has tried to get his wife to read Screencaps in the past, but she would never take his advice. That all changed with Tuesday’s edition and the western trip advice. He says she was writing down all sorts of notes. Welcome aboard, Mrs. G.

• Dan McM. in Indiana writes:

I understand the inflatable hesitancy but….I used to do the whole Christmas light show decorating bit.  Trees, house, windows, etc.  I spent hours putting them up and hours taking them down.  The kids loved it so it was all worth it.  I came across this 20 foot inflatable Santa a few years ago.  I put this thing out in the front yard.  Easy up, easy down, very little time, and it’s still a big hit!  If you’re going to go inflatable, go big.  

• Douglas J. on inflatables & summer vacations:

16 years ago when we were living in Dayton, OH, my wife gave me these Christmas runway lights.  They have always been a hit and the kids always thought Santa wouldn’t be able to land on our roof without them.  I have never really been a fan of inflatables, and then about 5 years ago we saw this Snoopy flying an airplane inflatable. 

I thought that would fit perfectly with our runway lights.  So we got it and I built a stand that would hold the inflatable and sit on our roof in the middle of the runway.  This is the only inflatable we have and it adds to the display and theme of the runway.  99% of inflatables seem to be yard filler/clutter and I don’t care for them.  But every once in a while you see an inflatable used creatively with the display and then it works.

Also for Adam’s trip to SD, do not miss the Notch Trail in the Badlands.  1.5 miles, it has a sweet ladder in the hill you get to climb and some amazing views.   If you can find the Hippie Hole your kids will love the quick hike and jumping off the rocks by the waterfall.  If you guys like trains at all, the 1880 train from Hill City or Keystone then back is beautiful.  They also have a fairly new Alpine Coaster at Rush Mountain  Adventure Park that my kids loved.  The best hike there is to do is the highest point in SD, Black Elk Peak. 

It starts at beautiful Sylvan Lake and is around 3.5 miles one way.  Take water, but it isn’t hard and the lookout tower is amazing.  If that is too far then just hike the perimeter of Sylvan Lake.  Have fun, we love the Black Hills!   

Merry Christmas Screencap readers!

• Raleigh J. writes:

Hey Joe, Long time no talk. It’s unbelievable how much Screencaps has grown. It’s also unbelievable how far and disconnected Alaska is from the lower 48 yet how many things we all have in common. My wife and I drove from Seattle to Minnesota last July/August last year in the midst of all the covid fear for a friend’s wedding. We called it our #GOvid trip. We stopped in Coeur d’Alene, Yellowstone, Cody, Wy,  Buffalo, Wy, then a long push to get to Minneapolis. 

One of the best trips we’ve ever taken. Mt. Rushmore is breathtaking. It looks cool in pictures but seeing it with your own eyes; it brings you to tears. It’s American exceptionalism at its finest. After the wedding, we had a few days to kill. We looked at where we could be free and that was definitely not Minnesota. So, we drove back down to Sioux Falls, SD. We fell in love. Small town feel and so much to do. A great downtown area, casinos, attended a Big & Rich concert at their fair. Even made the local news somehow!  My wife even went on her first water slide while we were there.

When you grow up in Fairbanks, Alaska you don’t usually go on vacation in the summer where you have 24-hour sunlight. The trip was a blast. My wife and I always tell people “always say yes to an opportunity”. We had an opportunity to see a part of America we had never seen and stop at so many of the roadside mom and pop places that were struggling at that time. It was amazing to connect or maybe reconnect with so many Americans. Just like Screencaps does. 

One more thing, Daniel G. from Fairbanks, stop by my wife’s bar, The Boatel, and let’s have a cocktail. (just more connecting)

####

Well, it looks like we’re creating a small Screencaps community in Fairbanks. I’ll forward Raleigh’s email to Daniel G. and those guys can go ahead and form a ‘Caps club at the Boatel this winter.

• Bill L. writes:

Love the content that you put out. We took the family trip to Black Hills a couple of years ago and all the suggestions I’ve read are great. I did want to add one aspect that our family really enjoyed. We stayed 3 nights in a cabin inside Custer State Park. It was a great experience. We had our own fire pit and sitting outside you didn’t have to look hard as the sun was setting to see deer and other wildlife walking nearby.

It had the comforts of home like cable and a kitchenette as well. Also, for entrance into Badlands National Park they charge by the carload. Our daughter had just completed 4th grade and at that time, all 4th graders got into National Parks for free, so we got in free as well. If you visit Bear Country USA go in the morning when the animals are more active. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

• Andrew McL. wants to know if it’s OK for him to share his sports trip experiences. OF COURSE! There’s no character limit here. Fire away.

He writes:

Since I read the emails about sports trips, I’ve been meaning to add a couple of my sports trips.  I’ve been knocking some college football stadiums off my list and, if possible, I add a mlb stadium. 

This year, on September 11, a cousin and I hit East Lansing for Youngstown St @ Michigan St at noon. After that game was in hand, we jumped in the car and headed to Ann Arbor for the Washington – Michigan game at 8p. The next day we tacked on a Tigers game.  

In 2019, I was at the Syracuse @ NC State game on a Thursday night, slept an hour, and headed to Eugene for the Colorado – Oregon game on Friday. 

Then, on Saturday, headed to Corvallis for Utah @ Oregon State. This would have been a fantastic weekend on its own, but from there I drove down through some beautiful redwood forests to the Bay Area. The next Thursday, took in UCLA @ Stanford and the next Saturday, the Oregon State (yep, the Beavers again!) @ Cal game. 

In 2012, I met up with family in Cincinnati for the Reds home finale on a Wednesday &  the NC Sfate @ Bearcats’ game in Nippert on Thursday.  On Friday I sampled some bourbon in Lexington. Saturday was the Florida @ Kentucky game and on Sunday I was back in Cincy for the Bengals game vs the 49ers. 

Those are my big ones.  Always look forward to the CFB schedules coming out each winter! 

Thanks for taking the time to read this short novel and for what you do.

• Dave L. in Michigan writes:

First time emailing, loyal TNML member but no social media etc. Love screen caps and the general vibe of all of your work.  I’m a USNA 2010 grad and can back up your thoughts that the triple option works best for the height/weight/talent discrepancy the service academies face.

Paul Johnson really turned USNA football around in the early 2000s, leading to an unprecedented 14 game winning streak over the Whoops from West Point, along with a few victories over the golden domers and various other fairly successful regular colleges. I loved watching the option attack in person over my four years as you can see teams get visibly frustrated and worn down over four quarters.

Anyway, thanks for being a sane person on the internet, and Go Navy, Beat Army! 

• Finally today, I wanted to end with Jim C.’s message on the Kentucky tornado destruction. Jim is known as the emailer who pretty much kicked me in the butt this year to ramp up the Screencaps experience. Jim is the one who formally invited me to visit Carmel, Indiana to have a beer and talk Screencaps. I still owe Jim and all the loyal Indianapolis readers a visit and it will happen soon.

It’s been a huge year, thanks to the likes of Jim, who is a retired Army infantry colonel. I wouldn’t know Jim if he walked into my house, but after three emails from him, I can tell it’s going to be nice to have a couple of beers with him. I haven’t forgotten, Jim.

Jim writes about his hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky:

I live in central Indiana now but I grew up in Mayfield, Kentucky which was devastated by the tornado event this past weekend. I thought you might be interested to know that Mayfield HIgh School is the fourth all time winningest football program in the country with 919 wins at a 77% winning clip over the years and 12 state titles. That is just one win behind a team I am sure you are familiar with, the Massilon, Ohio Tigers.

I mostly got knocked around in practice while on the football team in the ’80s but I learned how to play with pain, survive a loss every now and then, win with class, and never give up. These lessons helped me through a career in the US Army and are part of me today. While I can hardly believe the destruction that I am seeing on video of my hometown, I am certain that the confidence those boys play with every Friday night in the fall will translate to a full recovery from this disaster. 

####

Let’s go out there and have a tremendous Wednesday. Let’s get that Christmas shopping done and get stocked up on the booze you’re going to need to get you through two weeks of college football bowls (they start Friday with my Toledo Rockets in the Bahamas Bowl).

Email: joekinsey@gmail.com

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Written by Joe Kinsey

I'm an Ohio guy, born in Dayton, who roots for Ohio State and can handle you guys destroying the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer and everything associated with Columbus.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Re: Yard Inflatables … In our neighborhood (Raleigh NC) we have a year-round Inflatable family. They have 6-8 inflatables for pretty much EVERY holiday. Halloween and Christmas the 6-8 balloons (pun intended) to 15-20. FWIW … we are NOT an HOA-governed neighborhood. DUH!

    Not my style but I assume the kids in the neighborhood love it. I’m sure there are a few “Scrooges” that hate it. Screw the “Scrooges”.
    .

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