Four days before Thanksgiving it hit me. The traffic was heavier and the drivers more frantic. The left-turn signal to the Safeway had a long line of idling cars, exhaust evaporating into the chilled autumn air. The holidays are here. I don't know anyone who looks forward to that first realization. What should be the loveliest, most peaceful and introspective of seasons has become a frantic dash to the finish line.
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Outside looking in. Fourth Street is dead on the Monday of a three-day weekend. There is a sterile scent of nothingness in the air. I escaped from the studio to see the world and the world stayed home. I'm just slightly out-of-sync on the tail end of a twilight-zone holiday.
The neighbor across the street has a plastic Santa with a light bulb inside it. I always know the holidays are here when it suddenly appears by her garage. I've never actually seen her put it out—I've come to believe that the incandescent Santa arrives on its own. It's a fickle Santa. One year it decided not to show up at all and the neighborhood was much the poorer for it. So far, this year, I am still waiting. As I write this I look out the window and into the hazy day. The neighbor's garage is sans Santa.
One hears it everywhere—the oddly ominous declaration that the holidays are upon us. So much rides on the opening of the season. It is important business for us to be cheerful and generous. It seems that the entire world puts its faith in Americans feeling good about the holidays. The American consumer has replaced Baby Jesus as the icon of Christmas. Like a global manger scene, the media and economists watch over consumer sentiment (spending) as if it were a precious child.