'Tis the season -- to enjoy family, friends and poverty


If you close your eyes and listen very carefully, it is possible to hear nearly-inaudible cries all around you.

Coastal Point •  Submitted

No, those aren’t seagulls mating over a restaurant’s parking lot. And, no, it is not your favorite bald editor weeping as he realizes he has scraped the last remnants of Goober out of the jar. Although, to be fair, it really is obnoxious when you have three crackers in your hand and you can’t muster enough Goober to cover them ...

But I digress.

No, that sound you hear is your friends, neighbors and loved ones as they take a look at their checking account balance during the Christmas shopping season. We know it’s coming every year. We stash away money, or budget out set amounts for people on our lists or storm shopping malls at 3 a.m. with a stomach filled with turkey and antacid just to make that money stretch as far as possible.

And still, many of us are back on Goober and crackers for the two months following Christmas because we ended up overshopping — or, we stuck to our budgets for gifts, but still went in the hole because of all the holiday events and parties we go to, which all require money for auction items, food, new outfits or bail.

Sorry. I was thinking about Jane Johnson’s typical night out on the town there at the end.

But this is the season when we put our all into getting a smile out of someone else. We feel good when a small child opens a gift that makes him or her squeal in delight, or when a spouse or loved one seems blown away by their present or when we can simply make a small donation to a good local cause that you just know is going to have a definitive impact on someone’s life, if even for a short time.

I like to believe that carolers bundle up and share songs with others to brighten their moods, and not just because they like to interrupt me when I’m trying to watch reruns of “Scooby Doo” Christmas specials, and I know that I personally find a smile every time a stranger walks past me with a smile and offers a “Merry Christmas” wish.

For the record, I do celebrate Christmas, so that’s a totally acceptable thing to say to me if you see me at the store or some other place around town. I wish “Happy Hanukkah” to my Jewish friends because that is what they celebrate this time of year. If anybody else has any requests for their holiday greetings, send them along to me. I’ll respect your wishes as long as you respect mine.

Of course, the greetings we offer people during the holiday season are free. Most of the other stuff we encounter in December is simply not, and if you have a long list of people to buy for, and a lot of grocery shopping to pay for in order to play the proper host, then you know where you’re heading:

Broketown, USA. Population: About 300 million.

Since I’ve never started my Christmas shopping before, say, Dec. 22, I decided to get an early start this year with the express idea of finding less-expensive presents for those I care about without sacrificing quality. With an artistic skill set that ranks somewhere between a baboon with ADD and a lemon peel, and handyman skills that fall far below that lofty standard, I knew I would not be making gifts for people this, or any other, year.

Now, the past few years I have adopted the “shop local” mentality with my Christmas shopping for the most part, and the gifts have gone over very well (at least to my face). I will most certainly keep that in play this year, as it’s convenient for me, keeps some money pumping in the local economy and gives the receivers of my gifts a unique little slice of our community.

One place I won’t be doing Christmas shopping at this year is the Ginza Tanaka store in downtown Tokyo, Japan. For starters, I’m probably not making it to Japan in the next few weeks. The second reason is that, unless I hit that Powerball Wednesday, I wouldn’t be able to buy the product they have that stands out the most to me — and 8-foot tall “tree” made up entirely of gold, featuring Disney characters, and coming with a price tag of $4.2 million. To be fair, they are also offering a miniature version 10-inch version for the cheap price of $243,000, according to msn.com.

But, really, wouldn’t you rather have the 8-foot-tall one?

So, the search continues for reasonably-priced Christmas gifts that will both satisfy the receiver and not wipe me out. Somehow, I think I’ll come up with the right presents, but end up scraping the bottom of a jar of Goober or two for the next four months.