This time of year still feels a little strange here in L.A. Palm trees and mistletoe don't really go together. In fact a lot of the holiday traditions seem particularly out of place in the context of bright, sunny, 70 degree weather and Spanish mission architecture. Maybe that's because most of those traditions have come to us from Victorian England rather than from, say, first century Judea. Actually, Christmas decor in the spirit of the original Christmas (i.e., sand, palm fronds, camels...) would be quite appropriate for southern California. But Christmastime is not about being appropriate. It's about presents.
This year, since I won't be going "home for the holidays" I'm doing all of my shopping on-line. It's great, you just click on the item you want, add a few bucks for shipping, a few more bucks if you want to get it there on time, a few more bucks if you want it gift wrapped, and off it goes. Check off another name on your shopping list and within 24 hours you receive a confirmation e-mail, informing you that the item you requested is no longer in stock but is being backordered and should arrive sometime around Ground Hog Day. But it's still worth it for the convenience -- you can shop for items from virtually every store in the world and find something special for everyone on your list without ever having to leave the privacy and comfort of your office at work. You can even do it from your home!
I'm planning to catch up on some movies on my days off from work this year. The one I've been waiting for is Lord of the Rings. It's kind of a Christmas movie if you think about it: there's the magic old man with the long white beard, there's elves, there's nine demonic Ringwraiths on horseback and an army of bloodthirsty goblins. Maybe it's not that Christmassy after all.
There really haven't been too many good Christmas movies lately. I rented a couple from last year and was pretty disappointed. The Grinch was mostly pretty dumb until the last half hour when they basically just remade the original cartoon. In order to make it longer they stuck on this ridiculous backstory about the Grinch getting laughed at because he cut himself shaving, so he runs away and goes to live on top of a mountain. Say, do you think that's what happened to the Unabomber?
The other disappointment was The Family Man with Nick Cage about a guy who starts out as a rich asshole who drives a Ferrari and then wakes up as a tire salesman in New Jersey with a cute wife and cute kids and Jeremy Piven as a next door neighbor. Just when you think that he's realized that being a tire salesman is really better than being a rich asshole, he wakes up as the rich asshole again. He goes of after his long lost love and discovers... She's a rich asshole too! At the end we're left to assume that the two rich assholes live happily ever after. But what about the cute kids? And what about Jeremy Piven? Are they dead? Are they lost in a time warp somewhere in New Jersey? Only in Hollywood can they make a movie where they make you believe that being a tire salesman in Jersey is better than being rich and then turn around and tell you that being rich is O.K. too, as long as you follow your heart. Of course you have to get rich first, because everyone knows that following your heart don't pay squat.
There's really only one great Christmas movie -- the one that gets it all right and always brings a tear to the eye. The movie that has become a tradition for so many households, who gather round the TV set with a bowl of popcorn, reciting their favorite lines and sharing their favorite scenes. It's the one movie that really conveys the true spirit of Christmas without being overly sentimental or preachy. Of course you all know the one I'm talking about: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I'm getting all choked up just thinking about it. I think I'll go rent a copy and pop up some popcorn. I love the scene where they electrocute the cat.
Here's hoping everyone's Holidays are happy and fun. And for those of you expecting presents from me, don't worry -- they'll get there eventually.