[dropcap]I [/dropcap]hate the internet. Namely, what it’s done to Christmas shopping. Which is now a high-tech, gift-giving experience that requires about as much earnest as scratching one’s own ass.

No. Where I’m from, you rode into town. At the corner of Mass Street and Ninth, was Weaver’s. A big, semi-windowless department store. They carried everything from leather shoes, to women’s lingerie – or so I’ve heard.

And Santa. God, they had Santa. He was big, with a real beard – so help me. He sat on a plywood throne. The first thing I did was wait in line to sit on his torn meniscus. He smelled like onions, and his slow accent sounded regional.

“Santa?” I asked. “Are you from the North Pole?”

“Why of course.” He did the laugh.

“Really? You don’t talk like a Northerner.”

“Hell, I didn’t say I was a Yankee, son.”

Later, I’d select gifts for family and friends. A tedious decision-making process. And if you stood in the same aisle long enough, you heard an entire Nat King Cole album, start to finish.

They had a gift wrapping counter, too. The gal with the beehive hairdo would spin flamboyant ribbons, making your package look like something fit for an Emily Post lesson.

One year, I gave Mother a Hawaiian shirt. Yellow, with flamingos. It took me an hour to pick it out. I don’t know what I was thinking, I’ve never seen anything so hideous. The price: thirty-two dollars. I worked five weeks to pay it off. When she opened it, she cried.

If I close my eyes now, I can still see that look on her face. And I feel exactly what I felt then. Happiness.


Try buying that on the internet.