I'm all about Christmas. I like the lights, the phony Santas, tinsel, giving and receiving gifts, midnight mass – OK, stop. Not midnight mass. My problem with going to church at midnight is that it's too damn late. I've always felt midnight mass should begin around 4 PM so it doesn't interfere with happy hour.
I like Christmas music. The best Christmas album is A Christmas Gift For You, the Phil Spector masterpiece, even if his "gift" may be a bullet to the face. I also like The Beach Boys' Christmas Album. I like to picture Brian Wilson in the studio, stoned out of his gourd on assorted psychedelic drugs, channeling his inner baby Jesus, although by then he looked more like a big old donkey.
Most people don't know Wilson actually wrote half the songs on the album – people have heard them so often its assumed they are old classics (the most famous of the bunch is "Little Saint Nick"). When it comes to music though, nothing says Christmas like Rust In Peace by Megadeth.
I take a great deal of pride in choosing the gifts I give. I don't repackage – ok, that's a lie. I'm only admitting it because I got caught last year. I gave my sister-in-law several books for Christmas. The truth is they were sent to The Independent for review. I didn't realize that inside there was a disclaimer: "Press Copy: Not For Sale." She pretended not to notice but my wife was pissed I cheaped out on a Christmas present to her sister.
"Why are you mad?"
"Because she can't return it," Karen said.
"But who would want to return The History Of Stirrups?
Last year I thoughtfully gave my niece a Turkish hookah for Christmas, but my sister got all bent out of shape.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"I don't want my daughter smoking opium!" she declared forcefully.
Jeez, she's such a square. Everyone knows you smoke hashish in water pipes nowadays – anyhow, the kid is only nine, too young for opium.
The worst gift I have ever gotten bar none was a selection of the "finest" chutney from some artsy-fartsy store. Let's get one thing straight: chutney is retarded jelly. What happens is all the major companies that make jellies and preserves descend on all the fruit growers and buy up all the raspberries, strawberries, oranges, and grapes.
That leaves all the weirdo crap for the chutney makers, so you get flavors like Neera's Pineapple Chutney with green ginger, fennel, jalapenos, and cashews. Honest to god. Then there is Wild Thymes Plum Currant Ginger Chutney.
Now I ask you – what kid says "Mommy, Mommy, can I have a peanut butter and Tamarind Green Chili Chutney, on 12-grain bread?"
No kid, at least no American kid. Maybe in India they want chutney. In this country we give them peanut butter, Welch's grape jelly, and Wonder Bread – that's America.
I like to shop on Christmas Eve – that's traditional. Some people complain you get ripped off, because merchants raise the prices because they know the shoppers are desperate. The way I look at it, the price doesn't matter because I'm going to pick out something no one likes and they are going to return it the day after Christmas anyway. Sometimes, though, I nail it, like the time I gave my Uncle Tom, who suffered from erectile dysfunction, an Erector Set. He was really excited -- he even stashed it under his bed. Eventually, though, it was returned. I could never figure out why.
I gave my cousin Bobby a used saxophone I had found at a yard sale. He was always musically inclined and I figured he'd get a kick out of playing it. He did, at first — he tried for months, but finally gave it up. He told me it was out of tune but I eventually figured out his hair lip was raising every note a half-octave – the poor guy.
I used to relish Christmas morning. As a child I would dutifully write to Santa and ask for things like a horse, a blow-up doll, a batting cage, or some other useful gift. After a couple years of getting pajamas with the built in slipper socks I realized that old red-nosed fool didn't give a crap about me – he was in it for the cookies, milk, and merry widows.
It was then I realized the true spirit of Christmas – it wasn't about the gift, or the wrapping paper, or even the thought behind the gift. None of those things are important. There really is only one gift to give Christmas morning, and it is the gift you should keep giving and giving every day.
That "gift" ladies and gentlemen, is money, and you should keep giving it -- to me -- until you have none left, and I have it all (I will then get you a big jar of chutney).