Just minor blather and a short story. Getting into the lax, do-nothing, relaxing Holiday Mood. More the cop above than the harried last-minute shopper with the poor sense of task management.

Mentioned yesterday that I went to the Gallery, the hoity and/or toity shopping mall, and I said they have silver trees. I mispoke. Wouldn't call this a tree.


I would call it hideous. I've nothing against silver trees; done right, it gives you that ol'-time modern feeling, like it was 1964 and everything would soon be as shiny as an astronaut's spacesuit. This thing just look like an Evil Snow Queen's head exploded.

It’s possible this will be a new tradition: weeknight Galleria trip. Why, Christmas won’t seem like Christmas without it. I have yet to go to the Mall of America, which I’ll probably do Monday - not because I love the Mall of America, and not because I’m desperate for a great deal on a box of perfume that includes a powder puff and a small vial of Eau de Toilet and a purse-sized tube of moisturizer, $60, gift receipt in the bag? Thank you for shopping and now please step out of my life completely, never to be recalled, a middle-aged shade who fell across my glassed-in pen of aromatic decadence.

Why, thank you, clerk whose makeup makes a Kabuki actress look like a Walker Evans Dust-bowl surviver; happy merry.

No, I just like the mood of the last day before the real thing. The great peace you feel if you’re a man and don’t think of things like “no one has dusted under the candles on the mantle and there are people coming over.” The way you gather your previous experiences and sort them and even it all out and remember that the curve of your holiday recollections always rises as it takes on weight. Did you add a tradition to be continued? Check: wandering through the empty rooms of an upscale mall as the clerks quietly arrange for the evening’s closure. Did you modify a tradition? Check: Peppermint Bark, which was shifted to the silver bag of single-serve pieces a few years ago, was augmented by the purchase of Bark in slab form at a reduced cost, and bolstered by Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark Pretzel pieces, which will be a big hit. Did you uphold a tradition?

Check and check again; so many, including the ritual bestowment of reindeer horns on the dog. He used to shake them off: please. C’mon. Now he wears them without complaint, but you take them off, because it’s like hanging a kick-me sign on an old man.

Did you abandon a tradition? Indeed: Every year I’ve bought a bottle of creamed-up likker, some smooth egg-noggy stuff that has Real Cream but somehow hasn’t curdled in the bottle, and every year it gets glugged out down the drain some time in April.

Did I walk around the house once a day and blast a spray of PINE from a can, hoping the faint fragrance was still hanging in the air when Daughter came home from school? Check.

That’s what I like about the last day before. Just sitting in the Mall with some bags at my feet, watching people stream past in the last hours, thinking: check. Check. Check. Check.

All is well.

Anyway. There were few shoppers, because it was almost closing time. It's like being ridiculously rich and having the mall shut to commoners so you can shop undisturbed. Oh, for the good old days when Christmas was so much easier! You know, like 1939:

The reason is obvious: not enough iron. Or yeast. Or something: Carter's Little Liver Pills will help WAKE UP HER BILE - a term that nowadays sound as if you've really angered someone and provoked an outflow of hideous bitter anger. Babs does seem bothered by something. Not just shopping; she's well-dressed and her husband is doing okay, and everyone's in a good mood because it's 1939 and that means the Depression is almost over.

That’s how it seems in retrospect, no? You feel bad for the Thirties, what with the Depression lasting for ten unbroken years without variation, nothing but bread lines and Dust bowls and long lines of men shuffling for bread to the sound of “Brother Can You Spare A Dime, a song that was #1 for ten straight years and never off anyone’s lips. But they must have felt some relief in 1939, because it was almost done! Whew. Let’s have a World’s Fair!

Anyway. Listen to the old radio shows from the late 30s and 40s, and the madhouse department store is a constant in the comedies. The crowds; the officious clerks; the imperious Store Manager, a figure of strange authority and divided loyalties. It was a middle-sized town fixture for middle-aged people, and the store always had a name like Burton's or Tudwell's or something with two solid syllables that suggested a wealthy family, perhaps on its second generation, a fixture that would forever anchor the downtown of Midville.

Most are gone. If you check this list of defunct department stores you get a sense of the carnage. It's inevitable, but it's also foolish. When you're in a different town and you visit the local department store, you know you're someplace else. When you're in a mall on the other side of the country walking through Macy's, you're nowhere.


Here. This. It's not the same old version, friends: I rewrite it and added a new ending that spins the story around a little. Click HERE and off you go.

Also, tomorrow at the tumblr, I will have four of these . . .

. . . and an explanation. See you around. Now go get that story!









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