I don’t know if Christmas shopping is really any measure of economic recovery, but for what it’s worth the stores seemed slammed this year, much more than last.  Unfortunately there was an item I could only get from Target some days ago, and I had to park right next to Fourth Street.  I’ve actually never seen the parking lot there so full, though I really don’t visit the store much.  But everywhere I went was packed.  Venlo’s.  Blue Moon’s.  Abraxas.

My question is, where are they getting the money?  Credit cards aren’t any more plentiful than they were last year, and consumer credit remains down.  The illicit economy is in worst shape than last year.  Are there phantom jobs not making it into the studies?

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Fiesta Cafe at Bayside is not my favorite Mexican restaurant (La Costa has that honor, though I keep hearing raves about a restaurant in Orrick which might change my mind), but they do make my favorite chicken mole – the only savory version I’ve found in the county.  Traditionally they have offered a meatball soup with their dinners, but now they offer several soups including the best menudo I’ve had in years.

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My son’s skepticism has emerged.  He has believed in Santa Clause because he wants to believe, but I think this year’s the last.  I won’t go into all the questions he’s asked, but I think I was busted at last night’s dinner.  I was explaining to a guest that a couple of my favorite Christmas seasons took place when my parents didn’t have the money for a lot of presents, and my son who had been eating quietly up to that moment said, “then your Mom was obviously Santa!”

I tried to wiggle out of it, but I think the jig’s up.

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Are there no poor houses?  Are there no prisons?

On a bizarre note, Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has made national headlines for his extreme approaches to immigration law enforcement, offered some Christmas spirit by having his pre-trial inmates sing Christmas carols to him. The 50 or so contestants are being “held on charges ranging from burglary and DUI to murder.”

The winner of the competition received real turkey for Christmas instead of whatever the prison was serving to those less musically inclined.  The winner?   Jodi Arias who is accused of having brutally killed her boyfriend in a cold jealous rage, who was featured on 48 hours, and has reportedly received numerous marriage offers despite her potential residence on death row.  Too kinky for me!

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TPM chronicles the biggest “War on Christmas” battles this year.  And in case you have a conservative loved one looking for a late holiday gift, you can buy him/her a copy of America’s War on Christianity.  See, it’s a rough place to be a Christian.  Among the villains are Jon Stewart, a “socialist” who makes fun of those who think there’s a war on Christians; the Da Vinci Code, and those who want to protect homosexuals from discrimination and violence.

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Needs are up, but donations are down.  Normally the practical Christianity expression of Glide Memorial Church gives out 6000 free bags of groceries in SF’s Tenderloin.  This year they could only afford to distribute 5000.  They will be serving 3000 prime rib meals today.

I don’t know where we’ll be next Christmas, but as my son is old enough to forgo Santa Clause, he’s old enough to learn first hand the real point of Christmas and charity.  We’ll be looking for an outlet locally if we aren’t visiting family in the Bay Area, in which I’ll look to Glide or St. Anthony’s for an outlet.  I’m looking for ideas.

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My parents took my kids to A.C.T.’s A Christmas Carol this year.  My son has now watched about 4 or 5 versions of the story and is becoming something of a connoisseur.  His favorite film version has George C. Scott in the lead role.

My least favorite is an abomination I saw as a child in the early 70s, which not only attempted to convert the story to a musical (I really don’t think Dickens’ work is appropriate for a musical, and sorry, but that includes Oliver Twist).  It was on television yesterday and brought back the bad memory of a 70s film which tried to be scary, but just fell flat lame (the Ghost of Christmas Future with a skull face – ooooo, scary!).  It didn’t include the day after Christmas scene with Bob Cratchett, and it incorporated scenes in Hell, and lots of blabbering about matters extraneous to the original story.  On top of it, the acting and singing are horrible.

My favorite version was actually the 1930s version I haven’t seen since I was a kid.  Sometimes less is more.

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Merry Christmas!

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