Saturday, in the park. I think it.. is the 3rd of December?? Whoa. Wasn't it the 4th of July just yesterday? Man, time does fly when you're not waiting for anything particularly important to happen. Well, except for maybe... oh I don't know. Happiness? Or as my Italian side of the family calls it, "Ah-Penis!" (Yes, everything in Italy ends with an exclamation point. And with the word "Penis". Well, the actual word in Italian is "Cazzo". Which rhymes with "Fatso". As in, "Wait, where was I going with this? Cazzo!")
Chimney smoke and snowflakes are not the only things in the air this month, are they. Yes, it's most certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Or as department stores call it: Ka-ching!
I was having dinner last night with my daughter Tasha! (yes, she was born in Italy), and we got to talking about her job at the mall. Tasha's been juggling work AND studies towards a degree in Psychology, something that makes her papa and grandpapa very proud. She works at a well known retail store in one of Cincinnati's most prestigious shopping centers. OK, Cincinnati's only prestigious shopping center, who am I kidding. After all, this is a town that believes that the word "sports" placed in front of the word "bar" is what separates a dive from a classy joint.
So I took the opportunity to ask her, as she is the first Yanes to infiltrate the corporate mall during this most wonderful time of the year, if she had any early observations about Christmas shoppers and holiday cheer. After she rated my attempt to rhyme "year" with "cheer" lame, she told me something that surprised me: holiday shoppers are in fact some of the biggest f***ing idiots she's ever seen.
Her answer was surprising to me on many levels. I was surprised that she did not find my rhyming cool. But once I got past that, I became very curious about why Christmas shoppers would act even more lame than store employees' dads. Don't get me wrong, the fact that I was no longer the most lame person out there was cause enough for me to do a Joe Boxer dance in my head. As lame as that image may be.
But perhaps the most sobering thought that came to mind was this: could it be that I have been wrong about this whole Christmas thing all along? This may have been my Ebenezer Scrooge moment. That precise moment when one of Charles Dickens' most memorable characters comes to the climactic realization that "I don't know anything! I never did know anything! But now I know that I don't know... All on a Christmas morning!"
Indeed. All on a Christmas morning, or on any given Black Friday. You see, it's not that Scrooge was wrong merely about his ungiving ways: it turns out that the essence of what he was wrong about was his angry and selfish ungiving ways. As it turns out, it is actually possible to be angrily and selfishly giving, especially when one is armed with pepper spray and all.
And as it also turns out, the counterintuitive flip-side is just as elightning. It is quite possible to be ungiving for the right reasons: because what we are giving is not what really matters.
To quote an Italian general, the late Renzo Moauro, who also happened to be my Italian language teacher in Rome many years ago: "Why are most people slaving to be in pursuit of material stuff, when they should be freely in pursuit of ah penis!"
Ma che cazzo!