Shopping for Armageddon

Humbuggery at the mall

Photo by Leslie SmithAt this time of year, you can practically hear the whine of human anxiety rise a pitch as each of the scant few days remaining before Christmas ticks off, and more voices join the chorus of those asking, "Whatever shall I get for Jim?"

I am hard to shop for, I'll admit. People buy me Fender Telecasters, and I'm disappointed with the shade of patina on the vintage finish. They buy me deluxe box sets of marvelous bands, like I DON'T ALREADY OWN THEM, YOU DOPES! They bring me myrrh and frankincense when I'm hanging out in my swaddling clothes, and I say, "Put it with the rest of the shit, would you?" I am beyond desire, though. Excuse me. . . . There, in these past few seconds, I bought another fuzz-tone on eBay. It's just one more damn thing to file between the frankincense and the fylots. It's all just stuff, and I've about had my fill of it.

I grew up poor, you see. How poor? So poor that we had to fight the gophers for the weeds in our yard. So poor that when the Beatles came along, and everyone was getting guitars, I had to make my own guitar out of cardboard and string. Oh, how I cried when they repossessed the string! I swore that day, turnip in hand, that someday I would own several of everything, even underpants.

So I scraped and saved and stabbed and scrambled to reach my current status, and I stopped at every garage sale and swap meet along the way. Buying stuff became a way of life. Consider: when I went to Rome, I only went to one Vatican, but I went to two swap meets. When I'd travel to other historic cities with girlfriends, all they'd see were pawnshops and used-record stores.

When Christmas rolled around each year, there wasn't much left that anyone could buy for me. And now, I've owned nearly everything I've wanted. Maybe half of it was bent or broken, but it took up as much space as the prime stuff. I'm stuffed—and none the happier for it. To me, a shopping mall is nothing but disappointment with a roof on it.

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There's tons of holiday shopping advice I could give you. For example, the Long Beach Veterans Stadium Antique and Collectible Market this Sunday is loaded with acres of gift ideas to let your friends know how unique you think they are: "Hey, a lifesize poster-board standup of Lou Rawls in a leisure suit holding a 16-ounce malt liquor. Thanks! You've sure filled a void in my life!" Or buy your loved ones a Jorg Dubin painting at Laguna's Peter Blake Gallery: "Dad, this painting scares us!"

I ducked into South Coast Plaza to see what normal humans are buying this season. The usual sex and glamour, from the looks of it. Nearly every ad and window display was showing a lot of stylish leg. Selling a watch? Have some leg. Buying coffee? Here, Santa, have some leg nog. Everywhere you look, it's naked people with some clothes on, using sex to sell you a $400 pair of designer jeans. Forget the jeans, kids: for $400, you can peel the jeans directly off your choice of sexy, glamorous call girls or guys—and get what's inside, too.

Even Santa's lap has become a profit center. Want a photo of your kid with Santa? Be prepared to pony up $5 (using your camera) to $48 (their camera, 14 smallish photos).

For a store where half the things vibrate, it's surprising the Sharper Image is the exception when it comes to sexed-up adverts. They're busy bringing you the Jetsons' lifestyle. There, you can be in your own personal future, lounging to the soothing nature sounds of the $50 Tranquil Moments machine (I'm waiting for a model with a "Chinese sweatshop" setting), as your $50 electric wine opener does everything but drink the stuff for you, as you listen for the receiver of your $75 broadcasting meat thermometer (sort of a baby intercom for barbecues) for when your steak is done, while the $200 robotic vacuum cleans up after your robot dog.

I'm of an age where I could benefit from a nose-hair trimmer, but for $35, I'd expect it to have other uses, like cutting radishes and other garnishes into flower shapes or something.

Of course, you have to wait only a few years, and global warming will probably singe your nose hairs off. If I may play Ghost of Christmas Future here, Jesus, build a bomb shelter! Buy durable goods and iodine pills for potable water! And more iodine pills for the radiation! And some smallpox vaccine is a good stocking stuffer.

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I wish to point out to my Republican readers that I made it 812 words this week before mentioning George W. Bush. Even in this holiday season, scarcely a day goes by that his administration doesn't further imperil our future: making government less accountable to the public, eroding civil liberties and not only ignoring the need for action on climate change but clear-cutting the environmental safeguards we already have as well. At the rate he's going, even all the aluminum trees will be dead soon, as he and the world's other zealots amble into Armageddon.

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