Christmas – coming to a mall near you!

The moisture in the sky makes for pretty mornings.

The moisture in the sky makes for pretty mornings.

My digi-cam does not pick up the entire array of colors that stretches across my yard in the morning, but I still get a pretty picture.

If you really enlarge this next shot, you will see Venus, hot-footing it along just ahead of the sun.

I can see Venus without enlarging but I know where to look.

I can see Venus without enlarging but I know where to look.

Today it was warmer than usual, me and the dogs ambled around enjoying the colorful tree line around our neighborhood.

It's nice to live in a city of trees.

It’s nice to live in a city of trees.

My husband and I went out yesterday on our bicycle to enjoy some sun, decided to stop at Safeway for some odds and ends. The shopping fever has already started – I guess that’s why they call it “Turkey Day.”   I really feel for my friends who work at the grocery stores. Be gentle out there People, it’s a tough time of year.

When I was young I worked retail, and ironically, many people seemed to lose their sense of humanity at the holidays. 

And now we have instituted the practice of “Black Friday.” We have come to accept the fact that about 50 percent of our businesses couldn’t survive without the Christmas glut. “Black Friday,” once a feeding frenzy, has begun to burn out. Retailers were so worried last year they opened the doors on Thanksgiving Day. The year before that, they opened the doors at midnight on Thanksgiving.  

There have been complaints from employees – in fact, a man at Sears complained to my husband and I that he had to work the holiday. We didn’t ask him what would be the consequence of not wanting to work the holiday – the way they treat retail employees now, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

 So now we have a new institution forming on the horizon – “Black November.” Tonight Chico jumps in with the long-standing “Christmas Preview.” At about dinnertime, Downtown Chico will turn into a giant conga line, people shuffling like potted zombies from one business to the next, free treats and hot drinks offered here and there. I wouldn’t know about the deals – I can’t afford to shop Downtown, and this event ruins Downtown dining. If you were planning to shop Downtown today get your car out by 4:00, or you will take your chances being caught in the human flood.

Years ago I met a man named Bill Talen. He is an “actor/activist” living in New York City. He had taken up various causes,  one of them being, the consumer glut that is ruining our economy and our planet. A few years ago, with a producer named Morgan Spurlock (who produced the documentary “SuperSize Me”), Talen made a movie about America’s insatiable buying impulse – “What Would Jesus Buy?”

This is a very funny but also very sad look at American consumerism – all real. A retail worker describes the rage exhibited by a grandmother who can’t get the toy she wants. A little girl shows off the pile of useless and unwanted toys under her bed. We see an “exorcism” – people come forward at a “Church of Stop Shopping” gathering to have The Reverend officially cut up their overburdened credit cards.  This movie is timeless, a good reminder at this time of Holy Madness, that we need to get a hold of ourselves as a nation. 

Hey, I’m not saying I don’t buy things, I like consumer goods. My family just committed the blasphemy of buying new cell phones – the ones we had simply did not work. There’s nothing like paying $100+ a month for cell phone service and constantly have to be climbing a tree or standing out on a curb to make a call. We have to stay in touch with the outside world, so we own both cell phones and computers – both of these things require precious metals that are being mined out of what were some of the most pristine rivers in Africa at one time, now reduced to mud holes.

I don’t know how to stop being a consumer. It really takes stepping away from society. The rest of the world always ostracizes the free-thinker. Having kids creates a lot of pressure to “be normal.” I know, my kids had friends over here who asked me pointy questions about stuff like my compost bucket, or why we hang our underwear in the yard. Some would enter my kids’ rooms and point-blank ask them where all their stuff was. It wasn’t like they didn’t have toys and gadgets, they just didn’t have the trendy expensive stuff that seemed requisite in many families.  It bothered my kids sometimes, being different in ways that had always been presented to them as “normal” and “correct.”  But now I’m glad when I see them questioning the things their friends do, I see they’ve learned to think for themselves instead of being pressured into going with the herd all the time.

 We’ve cut our gift list mercilessly the last few years. We realized, it was one of those things – our friends thought we wanted to exchange gifts, we thought they wanted to exchange gifts – as soon as we stopped buying stuff our friends stopped buying stuff too, no feelings hurt. I see these stupid articles on MSN and tv – pressure to buy gifts for every person you encounter over the year – the gal that gives you that $20 hair cut? the janitor who empties the trash can in your office? Those people can’t afford to reciprocate, so just leave it at “Merry Christmas.” Look them directly in the eye and mean it. 

That said, I hope you will have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have some things that you can truly be thankful for. 


















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