It's less than a week now before the biggest gift-giving occasion of the year -- as well as a deeply significant religious event for many of us. So TAS readers, like me, may have concluded it's about time to decide what to get for the people on our lists.
As has been reported in this space, there's a great selection of new books available this season (tease to "Books for Christmas" and the Buy the Book feature). But even TAS readers do not live by the lamp alone.
So how about a local neighborhood stimulus program that doesn't include the cloying clutches of the nanny state, financed by money we don't have but that our children and grandchildren will have to come up with?
What we don't have to do this year is resort to purchasing new techie gadgets -- pads and pods, mostly made in Asia, that perform various functions we've managed to do very nicely without since the Earth cooled. They'll mostly wind up unused on the coffee table or in a desk drawer anyway. Or, in the case of those thingies people hold in their palms and stare at and poke for hours instead of interacting with other people, they'll take over too much of our lives. (I'm hardly a Luddite, but I don't keep up with the latest electronic whizzbangs. I only recently learned that an iPad is not a feminine hygiene product.)
Nor do we have to buy those easy wrap gift packages of little containers of cheese and various cured meats that there is no record of anyone ever eating and that stay in the back of the fridge until they grow hair. If we wish to keep our friends we certainly don't want to buy them a fruit cake. (Perhaps I should say the fruit cake. Writer Calvin Trillin's theory, which makes too much sense to dismiss out of hand, is that there is really only one fruit cake in America. But people who receive this one fruit cake as a gift give it away to someone else so quickly that the rapid movement creates the impression that there are many fruit cakes out there. I know I've received the cake a few times myself, but have never let the sun set on it.) Bake it and take it items are way more welcome than temporary possession of the national fruit cake.
There are plenty of family-run businesses in the neighborhood of everyone reading this column. Why not help put an end to these folks' recession rather than sending more American money on a not-so-slow boat to China? These local entrepreneurs will be more than happy to provide gift certificates for your friends and family for such items as hair cuts, auto detailing or oil changes, lawn care, carpet cleaning, meals in local restaurants. (If any of my friends see this, my wife and I like Thai.) Heck, even the local baby sitter would probably play along. So would the spa around the corner or the local wine shop. Most computers could use a tune-up, and there's probably a nearby geek who could use the work. And there's the local florist.
You get the idea. And surely this list could be lengthened with a little thought. Media coverage of the Christmas shopping season is almost as stylized at that of hurricane coverage. ("This is Nigel Klieglight IV, strapped to a utility pole here in Possum Butt, North Carolina, where as you can see the wind has really picked up, which accounts for why my toupee and my makeup have blown away.") But most of the Christmas retail coverage has to do with traffic in department stores, which I hope prosper this year. If it just has to be a flat screen TV, then it will have to be a flat screen TV.
But there are plenty of other gift opportunities between home and the department store. This is not the kind of stimulus program Barack O'Barnum and his evil sprites are flogging. But it's one that would benefit the country in general and our neighbors in particular a sight more.
So enjoy those Christmas carols, including my favorite, the one that begins, "Liberals roasting on an open fire." And have a blessed, and local, Christmas.