We put up the tree this weekend. It’s fake. I have no problem with a fake tree. I do have a problem buying a real tree for $65, having it die on the way home, never drink the water we give it, drop a hundred needles every time you brush up against it, then dragging its corpse to the boulevard with a billion tiny needles left behind. Two months ago I took my Macbook Air into the shop because the fan was clicking; it was, believe it or not, a pine needle that had gotten inside the machine. I’ve no idea how, but it was possibly a needle from 2007 that’s been lurking in the house. No more! The android tree is stored in the garage in a burial shroud, severed into three parts, and it is pre-lit. Every year the same concern: if this thing doesn’t light, it’s going to be a long, long night. Assembled it . . . hooked it up . . . and it glowed. Huzzah!

Except for the top! Sigh. Stood on a chair and replaced bulbs one by one until I found the offender. The phrase “One burns out, the others stay lit” applies only to college dorm-room bong sessions. Otherwise a total lie. Sunday I had to put up more lights around the wreath that goes on the front porch, and I used an old string. It worked. Draped it and wound it around the porch and the wreath. Plugged it in. One half of the lights were off. I shook it and shook it, which works sometimes - this is why I am not a NASA quality control engineer - but it didn’t. So I took it inside, sat down with a good bulb, and replaced them one by one.

A 100-bulb string.

The offender was the fourth bulb from the end.

Or, if I’d started the other way, the fourth bulb from the start. But you never know.

Anyway: we put on the satellite channel for Christmas music, which gives you old chestnuts about roasting chestnuts and new versions by modern artists who go through the motions with the usual sobs and glissandos and overacting. You wonder if they know what they’re singing about, or just mouthing the phonemes we speak at this time of the year. What’s this line mean? What’s a “courier anives?” Did some ornament triage: the Barbie ornaments from the annual marketing push - Princess & the Pauper, Magic of Pegasus, One Night in Vegas, and so on - are out, but My Little Pony has seen a resurgence in the house, thanks to its new version.

Which reminds me: after the tree was up Natalie asked if I still wanted to watch Shaun the Sheep. Well yes. Of course. I’d suggested it, because I found it on Netflix and found it charming - no dialogue, Aardmore stop-motion, a quick treat.

“It’s on Nick Junior,” she’d said. Witheringly.

I think she watched it for my sake. But parents get into these strange modes at Christmas, especially when you pull out the ornaments that say “Baby’s First Christmas” or speak to long-gone concerns, like Winnie the Pooh. You see the plate on which you heaped the cookies for Santa - not coming out this year, either.

Ah. Ah, well. What else in the bins? O ho, the ENORMOUS STARBUCKS COFFEE MUGS sent annual by our investment counselor. I drink a lot of coffee, but these are portions I cannot imagine anyone using, because it would be cold as the backside of Neptune before you were an inch down. I took out two, put them in the cupboard; in a month I will take them down and put them away. Put up the animatronic Homer Simpson, a gift many years ago; he always sits in the niche downstairs by the garage door, so the sensor is triggered when you walk inside the house. Sometimes it’s triggered by dust motes or changes in the atmospheric density when the furnace kicks on, and then you hear Homer singing from downstairs in the middle of the night.

Of course, someone else put his Homer Santa on YouTube:

Good luck with that Christmas stuff!

We had some nog and some Grown-Up Nog with Old-Tyme Confounding Ingrediments in it, and some gingerbread cookies I got at Trader Joe’s earlier that day. When I went into the store a few flakes were falling - thick soft flakes making their way to the ground without any particular haste, melting the moment they touched the ground. By the time I got out the snow was falling at the steady pace that guarantees accumulation, and sure enough: the world was Enchristmasfied by sundown. Perfect. It’s begun!

Sunday I went to Southdale, the mall I frequent despite the presence of the Leviathan Mall to the east, the mall I came to as a little kid from North Dakota. I’ve stuck with it through thick and thin, and lately it’s been quite thin - but on Sunday there were about 35% more stores than there’d been last month, and a new department store opened, filling up the space left by Mervyn’s. (Which had been Carson Pirie Scott. Which had been Donaldson’s, a venerable local name lost in the merger wars.) Herberger’s is a local chain, and it brings life and brightness back to that end, especially since it’s next to the big black sullen GO AWAY shutters of Abercrombie & Fitch, a store whose facades give off the vibe of a teenager’s closed bedroom door.

Visited the Apple Store to look at an iMac. Had an enjoyable conversation with the sales guy until I realized I was really, really close to being That Guy Who Just Likes To Talk About Computers, at which point I backed off. Sorry, dude!

Then the elves came out.

You know, that holiday tradition: elves who tap-dance to Brian Setzer’s version of “In the Mood.” It’s a Christmas tradition.

God bless America.




Oh: at the end of Tree Night Natalie came into my room, and noticed I’d put the Rolie Polie Olie snowdome on one of my shelves. My wife had put it back in the bin, thinking she wouldn’t want it in her room. Rightly so. I guess. Nothing would be more annoying to a child than a parent constantly trying to turn back the stiff cold hands of time - you loved this once! It meant something! Be that child again! - but I like it, and it has happy memories, so I put it on my shelf.


This got us talking about things, and I remembered there was a Christmas book I’d bought years ago, thinking some day we would read it together and have a Magical Moment. I read it to her years ago, and it didn’t work; she didn’t get - and I don’t think many little kids in the Santa demographic will get - the callbacks to early 20th century children’s adventures. The pictures, of course, are marvelous - and the designs anticipate Rolie Polie Olie and the rest of his Moderne designs. I found the book on a shelf in another room, and she said something I hadn’t heard in years.

“Read it to me.”

And so I did.

Best tree-going-up-night ever.

TODAY: In addition to Joe, just ten matchbooks in the Hotel section. (See that menu on the right up there? I labor long and hard on the rollovers! Hit it!) The big Christmas thing to which I alluded will have to wait until tomorrow, because I spent the weekend webwork rebuilding this page from scratch, and cooking up a large amount of content updates. TOMORROW: the Store, the Kitsch, and more. See you then.


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