Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I used to like Christmas

I used to like Christmas, before I saw the faces of madwomen pressed up against the glass doors of the merchants in strip centers and retail pads across New Jersey on Black Friday, slobbering and bucking like thoroughbreds, dying to reach the marked-down merchandise, whether they needed it or wanted it or even cared what it was.

I used to like Christmas, before the plastic garland, blinking lights, and holiday signage went up in stores in October and the goddamn secular, saccharine, piped-in jingles started playing. I saw mama kissing Wal-Mart's arse. Before the candy canes and fake trees and spinner racks of gift cards appeared in grocery stores, before Halloween jack o' lanterns started sporting Santa caps, and before composite yule logs glowed electrically in shop windows on Main Street when it was still seventy degrees out.

I used to like Christmas, before I understood the greater ramifications of consumer spending in the fourth quarter for the whole of the U. S. economic system and thought to myself, no mere mortals should have to bear that burden. Before I cut my credit cards in two and said no more double-digit interest payments to nasty institutions of high finance and low morals.

I used to like Christmas, before the Manger became Golgotha. Before Christ was recruited by finance capitalism, lowered from the cross, given a loan, and told to "shop till you drop."

I used to like Christmas, before getting stuck in traffic on Route 17 in Paramus, Route 46 in Wayne, Route 3 in Clifton, Route 22 in Springfield, Route 1 in Princeton, Northern Boulevard, the Miracle Mile, Sunrise Highway, the Turnpike, the Thruway, the Expressway, midtown, downtown, Canal Street, Fifth Avenue, wherever I turned, sucking fumes, developing agita, fending off a migraine. Burning gallons of gas at better than three bucks a pop.

I used to like Christmas, before going to obligatory parties having to buy obligatory gifts for business acquaintances who raised obligatory glasses to toast obligatory relationships under the guise of good will, winding up obligatorily drunk, mushy-faced and sentimental, reaching for the obligatory grope under the booze-stained table, before puking the obligatory puke and taking the obligatory remorseful taxi ride home.

I used to like Christmas, before getting all this fucking commercial spam in my inbox.

I used to like Christmas, before the Fed Ex, UPS, and USPS trucks pulled up bearing parcels of junk wrapped in layers of plastic and cardboard, sitting there idling at the curb, while their harried drivers tried to make deliveries to neighbors who weren't home but expected someone to bring their boxes upstairs.

I used to like Christmas, before tins of cookies showed up everywhere, along with bags of candied popcorn and peanut brittle, boxes of chocolates, baskets of jellies and jams, waxen fruit nestled in beds of straw, brandied plums, fruit cakes, exotic olive oils and balsamic vinegars, boozes of all nations, designer vodkas, single malt scotches, decades-old port, hams, salamis, cheeses, cutting boards, cutlery, crockpots, electric griddles, espresso makers, coffee beans, chocolate-covered coffee beans, vanilla-flavored coffee beans, mugs with darling little messages on them, potholders, serving platters, spice racks, little bottles of stale spices, hard candies, cupcakes, soda bread, babka, aprons with funny little sayings on them, oven mitts, grilling accessories, waffle irons, pasta-makers, and more. Before I had to go out and buy extra garbage bags and a trash compactor.

I used to like Christmas, before the crush of brainless, mirthless movies released about dysfunctional family get-togethers, starring a roster of big-name talent (they must need the money), purporting to be comedies, billed as 'family fun,' produced by cynical studios to make a quick buck, then meant to disappear.

I used to like Christmas, before brutish TSA agents, full body scans, per bag luggage charges, stuffed overhead bins, middle seats on full flights in dirty cabins with no food and stinky toilets, stuck on a tarmac, waiting on air traffic control, knowing that the whole routine would repeat itself on the return trip.

I used to like Christmas, before having to worry about whether or not there was gonna be a year-end bonus so I could afford to heat my house in January, February and March.

I used to like Christmas, before inflatable lawn crèches that blow away in a high wind.

I used to like Christmas, before Tylenol, Prilosec, Advil, diazepam, Librium, and Halcion.

I used to like Christmas, when it really was silent night, holy night. It was once, wasn't it?

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