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Arriving in mid-December was hardly guaranteed, though, I’m mostly pleased to be here — or anywhere, as a tired joke would have it. Come to think of it, an uncomfortable number of my life’s aspects could be described and followed by that phrase: “as a tired joke would have it.” Approaching Christmas this year has been a bleak eye-opener. I began to sense a darkness when, some weeks ago, local news footage of hostile hordes of Christmas shoppers, seemingly bent on trampling each other, elbowed and shoved each other aside going through a turnstile at some superstore in competition for three-dollar toasters and such.

Yes, I feel something of a depress-o-gram coming on, so if things are going well for you and you are overflowing with yuletide bliss, you may want to turn the page.

I keep hearing the word “recession” (mostly, I admit, on television) being used as if it were something over and done with, and, yet, all around me I see nothing but the signs of a Dickensian Christmas poverty without any of the charm or the promise of a nearby hearth. Bob Cratchet, Tiny Tim, and family seem pretty much out of luck. I have heard only one pundit use the word “depression” to describe the economic climate (can’t remember who it was), but I was disturbed at how aptly the shoe fit.

While there is no way to be sure, I suspect that the hostility involved in competitive shopping for toasters (a lot of other, mostly electronic items were mentioned, iThis and iThat, for example) had little to do with gift lists. On the one hand, turning into a mob for toasters is a short distance from turning into a mob for bread, how many iBerries or whatever are necessary to complete your seasonal glow.

The darkness I sensed and seemed confirmed on television this past Black Friday and then in subsequent weeks and times without number in the behavior of local, psycho-socially challenged bus commuters, seemed echoed by a literal attempt to banish shadows when I typed ChristmasSanDiego into my search window and clicked.

Just after, “See Santa by the Sea: At Seaport Village, Santa arrives via pirate ship and swaps his velvet and fur for board shorts,” as representative of San Diego wit and good humor as one could hope for, we have…

“Holiday of Lights: They claim it’s the largest animated, drive-through light show on the West Coast. It’s held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds north of La Jolla and runs nightly from Thanksgiving through early January. On Fridays, they offer a special hayride tour through the lights.

“San Diego Botanic Garden: Their holiday display boasts more than 100,000 sparkling LED lights, providing a backdrop for activities that include horse-drawn-wagon rides, marshmallow roasting and visits with Santa.

“Lighted Neighborhoods: Get it straight from San Diego residents: these are sure bets to get you to say: ‘Ooohhh...Aaaaah.’

“San Diego Bay Parade of Lights: The city of San Diego’s only Christmas parade happens on the water, and it’s so popular they do it twice, on two weekends. The route runs along a long stretch of waterfront and you’ll find plenty of places to watch it from. Over on Mission Bay, you can view the Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade.”

Clicking on Christmas Things to do in San Diego there is, at the top of the list, SeaWorld, Legoland, the zoo, and a surprising number of local breweries. What, if anything, this says about our burg is not immediately clear, and it may be a mistake to look too closely for nothing. Still, it does underscore for me that my kid is grown and probably those of a very large number of my neighbors here as well. Following this thought comes one like: Christmas ain’t what it used to be and probably won’t be again. It is, as I’ve heard more than once but resisted, only for children. I am likely still resisting this.

I think I may have avoided the depress-o-gram factor here, just skirted it, but on the other hand, for missing the point, there’s nothing like my own evaluation of something I’ve written. Just in case, and just in case the holiday really is for kids, I’ll share with you a few results of clicking on Christmas Jokes.

“What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas?”

“Thanks, I’ll never part with it!”

“What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree?”

“A pineapple!”

“What do you give a train driver for Christmas?”

“Platform shoes!”

Finally, and hardly out of the question:

“What happens to you at Christmas?”

“Yule be happy!”

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Christopher Platt Dec. 21, 2010 @ 2:23 p.m.

This is typically miserable of you, Mr. Brizzolara, but I heartily concur. Christmastime, for me, is something to be endured. It is this horrible capitalist machine that the American Christmas has become that hurts me so terribly. I suspect that Jesus Christ views it with great disdain, too. I have been following T.G.I.F. for a long, long time...John Brizzolara writes from the same place of gallows humor to which I often resort to get through life. I, too, am a member of a secret club designed to help drunks and dope fiends. I feel a kindredness to Mr. Brizzolara on many levels. Years ago, I read a book of essays by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors. In one of his essays, he talks about a very strange correspondence he received from an entire sixth grade class. Apparently a very progressive schoolteacher had made the class read one of Mr. Vonnegut's novels. The letter from the class was short and to the point: "Dear Mr. Vonnegut, we love you. Please don't commit suicide." My dear Mr. Brizzolara, I echo to you the sentiment of this class of sixth grade innocents. Try not to commit suicide, and I'll try not to, either. Merry Christmas, you magnificent cynic.


Juliet Dec. 22, 2010 @ 9:16 a.m.

I enjoyed your column, John, as well as the comment from christianbrokenman. I, too, lament the excessive materialism in our society, especially this time of year.

There are actually more of us out there than you realize. But if we stick together we can get through the month! I avoid shopping malls in general, but during November and December it's imperative. I don't look at ads, catalogs, and other mailers. I also decide how I want to celebrate the season: meditation/ prayer, cards to loved ones, tasteful decorations, etc. I refuse to let others, especially the marketing types, dictate how I spend my time and money.

I can't dictate to others (nor do I want to) how to spend the holidays, but I can certainly be an example of peace, love and beauty. May our light shine in the darkness.


MsGrant Dec. 22, 2010 @ 10:34 a.m.

I am one as well. I find the holiday season something to be endured.


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