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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Consider Kwanzaa and Chanukkah mentioned. One of my favorite activities during the holiday season is going out among the common folk to see how much Fun they’re having. And golly, they’re having so much fun. I never saw so much fun. Probably termites don’t have this much fun. But hold on there, pardner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these ‘holiday malaise’ types you see around. I don’t get all despondent and start listening to The Smiths just because people have slapped a coat of glitter and some fairly lights over the smoking ruins of our nation, folks lurching around with manic grins smeared across their anxiety-ridden faces, trying this one last season to stave off the wolves of debt, homelessness, and shame. In fact I’m about as patriotic as they come, where Christmas is involved. Santa Claus, Baby Jesus, and Wal-Mart just about sums up the season for me, and not in any particular order. But there’s something a little jaundiced about the proceedings this year, it seems. It could be something as minor as the voices in my head that tell me what I have to do to make the pain go away, or it could be something bigger, like the moral revulsion some people experience when they see millions of mindless zombies shopping their way to penury while the very planet convulses under the strain of their obscene lifestyles. But whatever the source, I find myself feeling kind of down this year. As always.

Last year the problem was I didn’t get what I wanted, which was a full-sized Hummer to drive my remote-controlled third-scale Hummer around in. And a nonstick electric grass polisher, a stainless steel cordless barbecue telephone, an inflatable heated party deck with its own elevator, a banana hanger with massage feature and LED mood lights, a 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A (all numbers must match, Milodon oiling, bored .030 with TRW 12.5 to 1 Comp, solid lifter cam with .600 lift, 312 duration, B&M racing 727 Torqueflight, etc.), the commemorative retro-style collector’s tin of Gerund’s Hair Snuff, a set of wireless rims for my Blaupunkt six-hub reciprocating watch winder, the 4-disc DVD extra-packed classic Amos N’ Andy’s Coon Hunt 1970, starring Roddy McDowall and Rosie Greer in the title roles, and a couple packs of chewing gum. This year I got everything I asked for (a Polaris submarine and a pint carton of egg fried rice). So why am I still unhappy?

The absence of war might be a factor, or rather the war that Dare Not Speak Its Name During Holidays. Do we look like a nation at war? Where are the government bonds in the old patched stockings hung by the chimney with care, the scrap drives, the switching-over of production from luxuries to necessities? Even if it’s not particularly necessary, people get a nice warm glowy feeling knowing they are helping the war effort every time they don’t buy a Frig Me Elmo because the military needs the wire, or when they blow through a red light to conserve brake pads, which contain the same p-phenylene terephtalamides as Kevlar, the miracle ingredient in body armor and elephant prophylactics. Historians point out that the US didn’t particularly need to turn all its metal toys and kitchen gadgets into scrap metal for the war effort back in the 1940’s-but it was dynamite for morale. People at home were doing something. This year there was not the slightest whiff of a concerted home front effort. It’s bizarre to see a gruesome occupation like this turned into a handful of human interest stories (Iraqi Kid Gets New Ears For Kwanzaa). It might be weird (yes, it might, don’t object) to think the holidays would be merrier if we were taking a mule into town to conserve tire rubber on account of the war, but it could help stave off the worst of the psychic dissonance. Yet the military efforts are almost absent from the holiday, media-wise. Maybe this is because, from the standpoint of the People That Deliver The News, the real war is at home anyway, Costco’s Last Stand.

It is a schism that threatens to split my schadenfreude clean down the middle: on the one side, I was enjoying the mid-December spectacle of retailers crawling on hands and knees begging suddenly budget-conscious, credit-strapped consumers to buy the shit imported for just that purpose; on the other hand, it was Fun to watch the consumers eventually fall for it (I give out second-hand paperback copies of Dianetics and Gideon’s Bibles as gifts, so am not technically a part of the Christmas shopping frenzy unless I happen to run out of toothpaste or matches between October 1st and January 15th). Tragically both factions, consumers and retailers, were beaten to a standstill this year and I can’t tell who didn’t win. Everybody, I think. Same as when the Catholic Church split in 1054 with Pope Leo IX hardly cold in his coffin and Liverpool trounced Arsenal 2-0. Consumer-wise, is this the winter of our discontent? A quote from Richard the Third seems entirely appropriate:

Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

That’s what happens when the government hires a PR firm. Anyhoyhoy, I’m feeling kind of down again this holiday season, listening to The Smiths:

I wear Black on the outside
‘Cause Black is how I feel on the inside

Except of course I’m not wearing black on the outside, and I don’t feel black on the inside, I feel whiter than Bing Crosby, especially when I wear this wrinkled front with red plaid slacks. The dreary feeling of too much holiday will surely pass, however, and I shall be merry and gay again, or at least merry. After all, it’s an election year and there are three Tweedle Dees to choose from. An embarrassment of riches! Next Christmas will be awesome: our troops will be home, the Middle East will be at peace, a third party devoted to social justice, environmental issues, and topless Fridays will have swept the elections, and my zombie television pilot will have been picked up by Showtime. Speaking of the upcoming holidays, let’s get this out of the way: for Christmas next year I’d like a black turtleneck, a barbed steed, and one of those lascivious lutes. I hear they please the ladies.

BEN TRIPP, author of Square in the Nuts, is a hack in many mediums. He may be reached at



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