Gurney's Inn
December 26, 2007


The Gift of Giving

I don't much care for Christmas, because it is a lose/lose situation for me. I lose because I have to spend money on gifts for other people, and I lose because no one ever gives me a gift that I like, mainly because I've already bought myself everything I want.

I'm selfish. I remember when I was about to buy my first new car and my then wife came home with some bad news: our 13-year-old son needed braces. Worse, the braces would cost about $9000, the same amount as the beloved Jeep I had always pined for.

The decision was simple, at least for me: I got the Jeep.

"You don't mind that your son will be ugly for the rest of his life?" My then-wife asked.

"No," I said. "He looks like you."

That marriage, oddly enough, ended in divorce.

By the way, in case you are wondering my son Junior is all grown up and fine. (Yes, he has buck teeth, but I always tell him to look on the bright side Ė he's the only person I know who opens a bottle of beer without a can opener.) We call him Bucky now.

Anyhow, the reason I am so selfish is because for years I would spend good money giving out thoughtful gifts only to get junk in return. Never is this practice more prevalent then here at The Independent, where staffers have taken re-gifting and made an art out of it.

My first year I thoughtfully purchased and wrapped unique presents I thought each of my fellow co-workers would cherish. I got nothing but junk back.

Someone gave me a selection of chutney. I don't know about you guys, but I've never been able to figure out exactly what chutney is. I think it's kind of like jam or jelly, but jam and jelly got to pick all the good fruits, like blueberry, strawberries and grapes. Chutney is like defective jelly, made with prunes and dates and green tomatoes and crap like that. I mean, let's get real here: giving someone prune chutney for Christmas is like giving the gift of diarrhea. Thanks but no thanks.

In the five years I have been here I've only given one good gift in the Secret Santa grab bag. That was in 2004, when I came home from work with the 40th anniversary Hess toy truck with a built in motorcycle, working lights and horns, the whole bit. I bought it for myself, of course, until Karen pointed out a grown man shouldn't be buying toy trucks, especially when he has a pile of unpaid bills, mostly due to his unfortunate fascination with alcoholic beverages and mind-altering drugs.

I sadly wrapped it up and gave it to our president, Jim Mackin, who has three daughters and no sons. I figured he'd hate it, I'd drop a bunch of hints around the office about how cool it was, and he would then re-gift it to me the following Christmas. I'm still waiting, which means Jim probably sits at home and toots the horn and puts the headlights on and makes "vroom vroom" sounds with his lips closed and rolls the thing around his living room floor.

That lucky stiff.

All of us have seen those holiday cakes with nuts and raisins and dates and dried fruits called "Christmas loaves." Somehow, some devious soul somewhere in the Middle Ages came up with the idea that these things made good Christmas presents. Here is a truism: not only have none of us ever eaten a single piece, but none of us know anyone who has actually eaten a slice. My theory is there are probably five loaves on earth, and they get passed around year to year from one person to another. It's been this way for 500 years, and eventually every living creature on earth will get one of the loaves for Christmas.

They are like the ring in Lord of the Rings: someday someone is going to throw a loaf into the heart of an erupting volcano and the Living Dead will rise up and kick the shit out of us. The only way to kill one of these savages will be to smack him in his slobbering face with, you guessed it, a Christmas loaf until he is beaten senseless, and then make him eat a piece. The clouds will clear, the sun will come up, and a new dawn will harken the beginning of a new era of hope for mankind, where men and women alike will eat cranberries, dried fruit and prune chutney and then spend 23 out of every 24 hours bowel cleansing.

When we were kids we got what we wanted for Christmas, but in retrospect, we aimed low. I wanted stuff like toy soldiers, or a hula hoop, or a Barbie . . . umm, I mean, a baseball mitt. These things were doable for our parents. In return we would get Dad a handkerchief and Mom some perfume. But our kids came into the world hopelessly spoiled. They want things like BMWs and PlayStations and iPhones and straight teeth.

Just once, I'd like to get what I really want (hint hint): a camel I can sit on and eat my chutney and dates. If a camel cannot be acquired in time, I'll take a llama. I'm not sure what a llama is, but I'm pretty sure a llama is to a camel what chutney is to jelly.

I will keep it in the barn with the manger and the baby Jesus.

That little brat better not need braces.

Enough frivolity for one year. Next week we present "The Worst of Low Tidings Volume IV." January will begin the Low Tidings 20th anniversary year, which will feature prizes for readers (real prizes) and a contest to pick the best column ever. I know, I know, you can't wait.

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