BY SANTA CLAUS
Christmas is that most American of holidays because Christmas is about money, and Americans have most of it. We like to tell ourselves that Christmas is about fellowship and family, the kind of things we see in It's a Wonderful Life. Those things are present sometimes, allegedly, but Christmas is about shopping and parents fighting over this season's Tickle Me Elmo du jour and buying the new digitally re-mastered It's a Wonderful Life laser disc on a soon-to-be maxed-out credit card. You know this, even if you won't admit it. This is America, my friend: first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. Money-and what we buy with our money-defines us.
And at no time are we buying as we are during the holidays. Because of this, at no time is America's nonexistent class system ever more apparent. This is not good or bad; it just is. The only real tragedy is that hackneyed holiday gift guides, which just about every newspaper and magazine indulges in, take none of this into account. Gifts are offered as available to everyone, which of course they're not. The rich buy what they buy, the poor make do, and the middle classes struggle to make their statement.
Whichever class you belong to will determine what you will buy and what you will receive, since the only consistent class mixing that goes on in this country occurs in the drive-through, curbside drug boutiques of the inner city.
Recognizing this, our gift suggestions-for every facet of your home life-come with proper class designation so that you may go directly to those gifts that speak to you and your strata. You may notice that we said middle classes, since we have identified two: climbers, who aspire to be rich, to act rich, to possess those things and attitudes that either evoke wealth or signal their imminent ascent, and poseurs, who fancy themselves outside the mainstream, although they live comfortably-simultaneously wanting all the badges of success and rejecting them, as long as they can keep the badges.
These are your friends and neighbors, America. The same friends and neighbors of George Bailey (a poseur if there ever was one) who, one star-crossed night, saw their friend George in trouble, offered up prayers on his behalf, and then came together to offer support the way Americans do best: they gave him money.
God bless us every one.
Just not all together.
Rich: ITALIAN WOOD-BURNING OVENS
So it's not actually in the kitchen: as Wolfgang Puck has shown, you can cook anything in these beautiful ovens. And by "you," of course, we mean Carmen can cook anything in them-from fish to chicken to pizza to roasts to vegetables to those native dishes with crazy names she's always making up. Those people live to serve! And that's why Carmen will love cooking on this oven, knowing that the smoke from her handiwork is giving you pleasure as it wafts over the tennis court.
Italian Wood-Burning Oven, Piccolo (37-inch cooking surface) . . . $2,750
Italian Wood-Burning Oven, Medio (49-inch cooking surface . . . $3,150
Magnaini Imports, 417 Begonia Ave., Corona del Mar, (800) 967-7724.
Carmen . . . $400 per week (minus $10 weekly garnishment for smoke damage to tennis courts)
Carmen's benefits (health, SSI) . . . $0
Cabinet post lost when Senate confirmation panel finds out about Carmen . . . $127,000
Climber: THREE-PART PASTA COOKER
Now you can show people that you know your rotelle from your gnocchi by cooking each simultaneously in this large 12-quart pot with portioned strainers. The pot's large size allows for non-sticky pasta as well as gives you license to wax on about the differences between penne and rigatoni ("You see, one is a grooved noodle with a little hole in the middle; the other is a grooved noodle with a slightly larger hole in the middle. It's really quite easy when you know the language"). The pot's spun-aluminum design makes for easy washing for the woman who cleans your house once a week, but whose name you can never seem to remember.
Three-part cooker . . . $248
Two-part cooker . . . $148
The J. Peterman Company, Fashion Island, Newport Beach, (949) 719-9884.
What's-her-name . . . $60 per week
What's-her-name's benefits . . . All-you-can-eat leftover-pasta lunch
Poseur: HAITIAN VODOU FLAGS
Make a bold statement in a room in which art usually only goes as far as those spotted cow mitts you used to have when cows were ironic instead of tragic figures. These stunning cloth pieces are intricately embroidered with beads to represent several deities of the Vodou religion, a religion that has been disparagingly called-and spelled-voodoo in this country. Imagine the pleasure of pointing out the flags to your friends and using them as an excuse to criticize (a) U.S.-Haitian policy and (b) your friends' mispronunciation of Vodou. Imagine what a comfort a flag of the deity Ezili Danto (a goddess favored by abused and overworked women) will be to Consuelo ("Cone-Thway-Lo," you correct your friends), the woman who cleans your house once a week!
Haitian Vodou Flags . . . $84-$110
Outsider Folk Art, 3716 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 438-2270.
Consuelo . . . $70 per week (includes $10 self-imposed guilt tax)
Consuelo's benefits . . . That you understand
While the people who employ you to clean their house are always generous with food "that would just go to waste," and while the manager at your fast-food job allows you to take food home (in lieu of being paid for working overtime), nothing completes a kitchen like lots of fruits and vegetables. They are "in"-whether cooked, canned or eaten raw. Yes, they can be pricy, but they're healthy, they're tasty, and they make a bold statement against rickets.