Lately Iíve been advised to "stop being a Grinch" which is when you really start feeling your age, because it used to be "stop being a Scrooge." This whole Grinch thing really didnít get a head of steam until the movie with Jim Carey, which is odd, because that movie really drooled. The cartoon was far, far, far better.

But itís really a sign of the times that "Scrooge" has become "Grinch" in many circles, and thatís because the message is different and reflects different cultural paradigms. While Ebeneezer Scrooge was the villain the common man could look up to in his overworked, underpaid misery yet replete with the true spirit of Christmas, the Grinch is pure despite of Christmas and all it stands for. Scrooge was just a tightwadÖthe Grinch was pure-dee hateful.

Whereas the Grinch was known by this catchy bit of prose:

Youíre a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

You really are a heel.

Youíre as cuddly as a cactus,

Youíre as charming as an eel.

Mr. Grinch.

Ebenezeer Scrooge is probably best remembered for this brilliance:

Thereís more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!

Now thereís a man with his priorities straight, that priority being lunch! Charles Dickens created a story that railed against the misers of the world, while showing that the poor with little to nothing in their pockets or under their tree would nonetheless be happy. Dr. Seuss, on the other hand, told a tale that ignores financial matters and paints a picture of a Darth Vader of the Season, a sort of Mr. Hyde of Noel. It only took a cute little Who girl to melt the Grinchís heartÖold Scrooge had to be threatened with death to turn his evil ways right.

In that vein, then, I consider myself a Scrooge, not a Grinch, so mark your notebooks accordingly when you insult me, okay?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Christmas comes at a bad time for me. There are so many things against me right now: Winter, with all its miserable bone-chilling, teeth-rattling cold; being unable to get outdoors like I want due to the winter and the fact that the fish ainít biting anyway, and I do not hunt, as well as the fact that the sun sets so dadgum early thanks to this whole time-change nonsense. What genius thought of this? Benjamin Franklin, thatís who. Among the reasons he espoused this insanity was economy, saying, "Every morning as soon as the sun shall rise, church bells and, if necessary, cannon shall inform the citizenry of the advent of light and awaken the sluggards effectually and make them open their eyes to see their true interests. All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity. Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening."

This was also the man who flew kites in electrical storms and wanted to make the turkey the national bird, so go figure.

So here it is, December. Wednesday, you know, was the first day of winter, but someone forgot to tell Nature that, because itís been cold as the Dickens since mid-November. I know this because I was trying to film a fly-fishing show in mid-November, and trust me, it was cold as the Dickens.

Therefore, I am quite firmly a Scrooge about Christmas as opposed to a Grinch, I am too dadgum cold to go outside where Iím happiest, and it gets dark so early I cuss Ben Franklin vigorously every night.

This should, of course, have nothing to do with Christmas, you say. I should, you urge, find Christmas to be a bright spot in all this darkness, a bit of warm eggnog in all the chill. Well, thatís fine and dandy. But then thereís the demands of the season, and Iím a person who does not cotton well to having demands put on him.

Someone told me that all this gift-buying stuff is an opportunity to show people you care about that you care. I think I could walk up to the people I care about, look them in the eye, and say, "I care," which ought to Ė ought to! Ė mean more to them than a brightly-wrapped, bow-adorned box of sweaters. Plus, it cost me not a red cent, thereís no shipping and handling involved, the shipper canít lose it in Des Moines, itís ecologically friendly because you donít have to put the packing in a landfill and in a pinch you can do it over the phone.

Grinch, my eye.

Itís all too commercialized, thatís the bottom line. Itís commercialized and politicized. Spend, spend, spend but donít mention Christ in the process, of course. Now, donít get me wrong, Iím not being a zealot here: Most parsons fret about the structural foundations of their churches if they suspect I might walk inside one day. I tend to be less of a church-goer these days and more of a proponent of privatization of my spirituality, inclined not to make it a public demonstration, but doggone it, by thunder and Jimminy Cricket, the word is Christmas, the phrase is Merry Christmas, the Nativity is not causing anyone any pain or suffering, get the hell over it and leave everybody else alone.

Itís too commercialized. You call people a Grinch, and it might generate some DVD sales. You call someone a Scrooge, and Charles Dickens doesnít get a penny. Commercialized and politicized. I wonderÖif your money is printed by and remains the property of the United States Government, and if you use said currency to buy a Nativity or a bible, have you then violated separation of church and state and will end up before the United States Supreme Court to be told that from now on you can only acquire Nativity scenes or bibles by the barter system?

Well, Merry Christmas to all of you, to be sure. Iím really not so much of a Scrooge as you may hear some claim. Vicious rumors, donít believe a word of it, hear?

Itís been my honor to know each of you, my endless satisfaction to have you all in my life, and my great pleasure not to have bought most of youíre a present! Hee-hee. Grinch, my eye.