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“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
― George Carlin

Hanukkah joke: A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk, “May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?” The clerk says, “What denomination?” The woman says, “Oh my God. Has it come to this? Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform.”

“But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad.”
― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness 

NYC, NEW YORK. December 14, 2k15— The calendar reads December and my brain wants to believe that it is, but my body would like to disagree…. And so would the weatherman. Being that it is actually December, I threw on my coat and wool hat as I headed out to do some Christmas shopping at the Union Square Christmas Market. My fiancée and I used to go every year to pick out neat little trinkets and gifts from unique artisans from every corner of the City. Before I even got to the station, I broke a sweat and knew I was in real trouble when I saw a man wearing a cut-off shirt. Later on the train I saw an old man, appearing to be not a day under 90, turn to his wife and ask, “Is this the Global Warming?”

“What?!”

“IS THIS THE GLOBAL WARMING?!”

“Oh, what do I know?”

It was 66° F and sunny and not at all looking like Christmas. From the looks of things, quite a few other people had made the same mistake I did and were now lugging their heavy coats around in their already Christmas gift-laden arms.

This wasn’t good. No good at all. Being in crowded public places already makes me sweat like an East German in his 5th hour of Stasi interrogation and just as antsy. On top of that I started worrying what the vendors at the market would think…

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“Tell us where you were on the evening of September 28th, Herr Doonesbury.”

VENDOR #1: Excuse me, officer, sorry to bother you… but, I just saw this guy at our booth. I think me might be up to something. Shoplifting maybe…

POLICE OFFICER: Oh, yeah? What did he look like?

VENDOR #2: He was a bearded fellow…

VENDOR #1: … a sweaty and clearly agitated man trying to look calm…

VENDOR #2: Yeah, that’s right! He kept wiping his hands on his coat before touching things.

VENDOR #1: Hey, that’s him! Stop that man!

OFFICER: Hey, you! STOP! I want to ask you some questions… Have you been stealing, son? What’s in the bag?

ME: What? Shoplifting?… No, not in years… yuck, yuck… I mean, no. Just browsing, officer.

That’s just Paranoia, I told myself. There were at least 300 people there… no one was going to recognize me…

I started looking around and quickly noticed that the shops weren’t the same shops as the ones from the previous years. Instead of the plethora shops hocking cool and unique items, I found that the majority of shops were now selling items that you could buy at any museum gift shop or kiosk at LGA.

One of the first booths I came to, a vendor was trying to sell a man with a deadpan Midwestern accent a tacky t-shirt with Japanese characters on it.

“What does it say,” the man said.

“Well, it says strength…”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, but you know… not just any kind of strength,” she replied. “You know, strength that a warrior has. That kind of strength.”

“Oh, so what does the guitar and red crown mean?”

“I think the artist just thought it looked cool.” She paused a moment and then followed that with: “But, I think it looks gaudy…”

The man said he might come back. But, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put much money on it… that and the fact that this girl probably wasn’t aiming to be Employee of the Month. She didn’t seem too concerned about it and went back to texting. That’s pretty routine here, though. Customer Service doesn’t seem to have been in the curriculum during orientation at most businesses… but, maybe that’s everywhere nowadays. Who knows. On a side note: Whenever I’m out somewhere and an employee is being even somewhat friendly, I start getting suspicious of their behavior. I noticed this on a recent trip to Portland where everyone wanted to stop and chat for a minute every time they come over. Here, you’re lucky to get a refill or even your check in a timely manner, let alone a nice little chit-chat.

Maybe I’m going to the wrong places…

Ye gods, another one of those tangents…. How about we go back to the story? Anyway: I went back to each of the booths anyway maybe 3 times. Once other people showed up and started looking around at the merchandise, I’d step away going to the next and eventually make my way back to see if there was in fact anything I’d like to purchase. Usually no, but you never know.

I got a few things and made my way to the train to go home. After Lexington Av/59th St the train was pretty empty and it was peaceful. When I got off the train I started to reminiscence about previous Christmastimes:

  • The time my aunt got drunk and made rude comments about my mom’s Georgia O’Keeffe prints that her other sister gave her that year while videotaping the whole thing.
  • The time I got drunk and made rude comments… about everything… while videotaping the whole thing.
  • The time I went to a Catholic Mass with a friend’s family because I was stuck in Ohio due to work.
  • The friend telling me that I should basically just sit there since I wasn’t Catholic. We got Chinese afterwards and I spent the night at her dad’s house. It was nice, because it was the first time in months that I slept in a bed and had real blankets. One of my gifts that year was a red and black flannel blanket. I think I almost cried.
  • The time I went to Greece because I couldn’t afford to go home from Austria and a ticket to Greece was only 50€. Two days later I was mugged in a stairwell.

My brain got stuck in this rut, some grey area between Nostalgia and Repression. I thought about going out for a beer. Then as if contact on the needle started to skip in the same place that is the record of my brain: “Why don’t you drink that much anymore? You used to get drinks at least once a week. Why don’t you drink that much anymore? You used to get drinks at least once a week. It was fun, remember?”

Hey, yeah! I did use to go out a bit. And it was fun. Why did I stop? Oh, yeah… Halloween 2011… Good god. As Mr. Kurtz said,  “The horror! The horror!”

Enough of that.

Happy Holidays, one and all!

K.