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.
Large Vine-Ripe Tomato . . . 99 cents (with Ralphs Club card)
5-pound bag of Red Delicious Apples . . . 99 cents (with Lucky Reward card)
Large Bosc Pears . . . 99 cents per pound (with a lift to the Bristol Farms in Newport Beach)
Rich: BONDAGE-AND-DISCIPLINE OUTFIT
After he's put in a full day of torturing and humiliating employees, show your special CEO that you still like the way he kicks ass by violating his. In a leather corset and thigh-high, stiletto-heeled patent-leather boots, you're the unforgiving human-resources director with no time for his pleas for an extra day off to sit with a sick child. Slap, beat, pinch, yell at and degrade him. Make him feel vulnerable and powerless. If the mood is right, sneak up behind him, a strap-on penis dangling between your legs, and tell him the employee health plan has just gone HMO.
Leather corset . . . $225.50
Thigh-high, stiletto-heeled patent-leather boots . . . $149.50
Leather Cat-'O-Nine-Tails . . . $140
Stormy Leather strap-on . . . $43.50
Metal handcuffs . . . $8.50
Year's subscription to Skin Two magazine (the B&D bible) . . . $110
Marilyn Manson EP . . . $10.49
Ipso Facto, 517 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 525-7865.
Climber: FANTASY RESTRAINT KIT
The only thing leather here is the blindfold; the rest of this seven-piece set-four wrist and ankle cuffs, two tethers-is made of nylon and Velcro. Even in torture, not quite good enough. Before giving this to your special climber, make sure his boss will allow him to have his penis for the evening.
Seven-piece Fantasy Restraint Kit . . . $85
The Pleasure Company, 17955-A Sky Park Circle, Irvine, (949) 261-0560.
Poseur: IEG'S PAM AND TOMMY LEE, HARDCORE AND UNCENSORED
Is your special someone too cool to care? Show him how ugly love can be-even when attractive people do it. A great excuse to avoid intimacy.
IEG's Pam and Tommy Lee, Hardcore and Uncensored . . . $59.95
Nighty's and Naughty's, 16112 Harbor Blvd., Fountain Valley, (714) 775-8356.
Romance is nice for those who can afford it, but for those who are forced to view sex as a naked version of Russian roulette, the best way to improve the action in the bedroom is to offer a safety net. Make that a wall. And what better way to halt Santa's little helpers than with a variety of discounted rubbers from Condom Revolution? Select six hats from more than 30 brands and styles-ranging from microthin to ribbed to studded; from mint, banana and cola flavored-and you'll get another six free. That's a dozen nights of peace of mind, unless you're thinking about how you're going to get medical attention for the children you do have without any insurance.
A dozen condoms (six free) . . . $5.99
Condom Revolution, 17855 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 843-6911; 1799 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 646-1967; and soon to open at 2060 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa, (949) 574-5944.
Medical insurance (family of four) . . . please.
Rich: GEMSTONE GLOBE
What better way to show that the world is your oyster than by displaying it on your desk or shelf? This stunning globe is made entirely of precious gemstones, dominated by a deep blue lapis to represent the oceans of the world. Each country, from Russia to Mauritania, is represented by a precious material that comes from that country: New Zealand is done in abalone, Japan in pearl, etc. Everything about the globe is not only stunning, but also accurate, right down to the 24-carat gold wires that mark latitude and longitude.
9-inch Gemstone Globe . . . $1,990
13-inch Gemstone Globe . . . $2,990
25.5-inch Gemstone Globe . . . $3,990
Traditional Jewelers, Fashion Island, Newport Beach, (949) 721-9010.
Climber: PRIORITIES CLOCK
Imagine this: a simple wooden clock, its face bearing the picture of a lone child. Underneath is this inscription: "A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child." Simple and heartfelt, it's sure to warm the hearts and impress the opinions of those who come to visit you in your study-a spare bedroom with a bookcase-except, of course, your kids, who are not welcome in your study because they always make a big mess and never clean it up and then start whining that they never see Daddy because he's always working in his office, and okay, you tell me where the goddamn Nintendo games are going to come from if Daddy doesn't break his ass. Huh, buddy boy? The goddamn Nintendo fairy? You think I like this? You think this is what I want?
Priorities Clock . . . $49.95
Successories, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, (714) 434-2782.
Poseur: FOUND-ART CLOCKS
You don't have a study; you have that converted bedroom you refer to as your "library" but is actually a home office. Displayed on a desk or shelf, one of these whimsical clocks tells you and others that you mock the whole idea of punching the clock. It's sure to give you hours of smug pleasure as you put in hours trying to catch up on the work you've brought home from your salaried job at the expense of seeing your family.
Found-Art Clock . . . $120
Fandangle Gift Gallery, 229 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 516-1291.
Poor: LIGHT BULBS
You don't have a study. You have a kitchen table, where everything from the family bills to the kids' homework gets done. It's a good table. An honest, just table. You'll love watching your kids read and learn at the table by the light of this bulb, their small minds growing as they read, slowly grasping that they have to study at a kitchen table while others have such luxuries as desks and pencil sharpeners and doors.
General Electric 100-watt soft bulbs (four-pack) . . . $1.44
Target, 1881 W. Lincoln, Anaheim, (714) 999-0606.
Amount of poor people required to screw in a light bulb . . . two: one to screw it in, and one to hold the candle.
Rich: BANG & OLUFSEN CD PLAYER
Music is the universal language, and there's the problem: anyone can listen to it. But how many people can listen to it on a CD player so unique and beautiful that it was displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art? Bang & Olufsen's BeoSound 9000 CD player holds up to six CDs. It also has a memory that allows you to repeat or edit tracks for up to 200 CDs so you can repeat "Kill the Poor" from the Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables while editing out "Let's Lynch the Landlord."
BeoSound 9000 . . . $4,000
BeoLab 8000 speakers . . . $3,000
Bang & Olufsen, South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-2300.
Climber: DELUXE EMIGLIO-PLUS ROBOT
You've always dreamed of having someone wait on you hand-and-foot. Now, through the miracle of technology, you have Emiglio, who may be only 24 inches tall and require a remote control but is everything you've dreamed a servant would be: attentive, obedient and Latino. Emiglio delivers drinks, cookies and newspapers, and you can speak through his speaker to direct other family members to do your bidding. Emiglio just keeps on giving, converting easily into a night light and never asking for a day off or Social Security. And Emiglio can't be called before a Senate committee.
Deluxe Emiglio Plus Robot . . . $99.95
Sharper Image, MainPlace Mall, 2800 Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-0377.
Poseur: VINTAGE RECORD PLAYER
Who wouldn't feel the need to get up and bop around one of these blasts from the past-actual record players, fully restored and operational. Imagine the hours of ironic fun you can have making fun of the bad music you used to listen to: Three Dog Night, Carole King, "The Night Chicago Died." Imagine the joy when your friends are all gone, of closing your door and actually cranking up "The Night Chicago Died" and getting a lump in your throat when the guy's dad makes it home alive from the big shootout. Crank it!
General Electric Deluxe Hi-Fi (detachable speakers) . . . $225
Westinghouse Teen Model (detachable speakers) . . . $145
Olympic Kids Model . . . $75
Out of Vogue, 109 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 879-6647.
Poor: ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY CARD
One of the best things about being poor-besides all the sympathy rained on you by the government-is that you are forced to make your own entertainment. You may not have the wherewithal to give Bang & Olufsen CD players, but you can give the gift of literature. An Orange County Public Library card is free, and it gives the holder access to each of the county's 25 branches. There, one can study Kevin Phillips' The Politics of Rich and Poor or The Communist Manifesto. If the mood gets too heavy, check out the laugh-out-loud madcap ravings of Norman Vincent Peale's side-splitting The Power of Positive Thinking (look for it in the Fantasy section).
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx . . . 335.422
The Politics of Rich and Poor by Kevin Phillips . . . 339.220973
Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver . . . 305.896073
You may ask, "Why not the Jaguar XK8 pictured on the cover?" Yes, the Jag is undoubtedly the most beautiful car in production, the apparent product of a carnal union between Tyra Banks and an F-16, but Christmas is not just a time of giving and getting but also a time of perspective. Let's keep the holidays in focus, people. The Mercedes is affordable, reliable transportation. It says your priorities are in order and you aren't one bit embarrassed to be seen in something that even middle managers can afford these days (the mutant C-class). Anyway, the Jag is much more of a Valentine's Day gift.
Mercedes-Benz . . . .if you have to ask . . .
Climber: EXOTIC CAR RENTAL
Okay, so your special someone can't afford the Mercedes or the Porsche or the BMW or the Ferrari or the Viper. He or she can look the part when you rent one for a day. All it takes is an insurance deposit 10 times the price of one day's rental-for the $275 Viper, that would be $2,750 on your credit card-and an insurance fee that's 10 percent of the rental price, and you or your special someone driving down to Palomar to pick up the car or paying a delivery fee to have it brought to you or to them, and paying 37 cents for every mile driven over 150. That's it! For one day, you can feel how the other half drives, as long as your special someone promises not to drink and drive and swears that he/she will be the only one who drives the car and provided that you call far enough in advance to reserve a car and provided they have the car there.
Acura NSX (convertible, black-on-black) . . . $250
Dodge Viper (convertible, red or gray) . . . $275
Ferrari 308 (targa top, red or tan) . . . $255
Mercedes 300 SL (hardtop or convertible, red or tan) . . . $175
Porsche 911 Carerra (convertible, red or black) . . . $155
Exotic Auto Rental, (888) 639-6842.
Poseur: POWER TOOL SHOVEL
Show someone you appreciate their connection to the earth, their willingness to get their hands dirty with a shovel. Simple shovel, noble shovel, pointy-headed violator of the soil. Of course, this isn't just any shovel. Not with its Perma Grip Steel Collar, supplanting traditional rivets, making for a stronger shovel-shaft connection. Not with its Power Cone solid-Fiberglas-rod insert, which makes for maximum digging strength. Not with its heat-treated blade made from high-tech carbon steel, and certainly not with the redoubtable and spongy Pro Grip Non-Slip Gripping System, which makes for more effective-and comfortable-tilling of the earth, whether tending your organic herb garden or pet Shih-tzu, Doozie.
Power Tool Shovel . . . $24.92
The Home Depot, various locations throughout Orange County.
Poor: POOR PEOPLE DON'T HAVE GARAGES