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A Lump Of Coal For Ye
by Jay Ashkinos

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Bad gift? Are you crazy? Just sit on it for a million years and...diamonds!

Bad gift? Are you crazy? Just sit on it for a million years and...diamonds!
Hey! Do you celebrate Christmas? Awesome! Did you open presents? Splendid! Did you get that knick- knack-paperweight-clock radio-juicer- electronic organizer-"Scrubs" calendar- tube sock-gift card-IOU-smack upside the head-gremlin-portable toilet-"I'm With Stupid" T-shirt that you were hoping for? Great Scott hallelujah! Have you already decided on which sucker acquaintance you will stealthily re-gift it to for their birthday/ retirement/graduation/wedding/ divorce/puberty/high score on "Super Mario Bros." celebration? Awww yeah, playa!

Oh, and thanks to those of you who passed me on the street and told me to have a "Merry Christmas" with that pearly-white glow of a yuletide smile of yours as you headed to the post office for a billion more stamps so you could send out pictures of you with your family dog to everyone who you ever met in your whole charmed life! Really! I mean it! Goody goody good for you.

Now you better hurry and get started on that gingerbread house. Make sure to put plenty of tasty green and red gumdrops on it. And old raisins! Don't forget to glue everything together with that plastery icing you love to use. Oh! And please make sure to give me one of those tree ornaments you make every year with a picture of your self-proclaimed adorable children inside of it! Everyone wants to decorate their tree with glamour shots of your perfect toe-headed offspring.

Well, at least everyone who puts up a tree.

I mean, not everyone puts up a tree, you know. Did you know that? Did you know that some people don't celebrate Christmas? I know, I know. What a shame. What a crime against American Humanity. Christmas is for everyone, right?

It's not?

Who said that?

Oh, wait. I did.

Why would I say such a thing? Am I anti-Christmas? No. Of course not. But I am Jewish. Call me crazy, but celebrating Christmas doesn't fall under my yearly to-do list. I don't mean to be a hater or anything, but most Jews don't do the Christmas thing. We don't put up a tree. We don't sing carols. We don't write letters to Santa. We don't watch that "Charlie Brown" special, either. But even though I do none of these things, it never fails that I run in with at least a dozen schmodunks who crawl up in my face and lob a halitosis-wrapped "Merry Christmas" at me as if it was a given that I decked the halls with boughs of holly. Well, I don't, and I must say that the fact that you shove it all down my throat...well...it pisses me off! Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-latke.

Don't worry, I'm not going to put on the yearly tirade that I throw at work to explain why I don't want to attend the office Christmas party (Would it kill you to call it a "Holiday" party?). This isn't about issuing a rebuttle to the "War On Christmas" assertions of that blowhole O'Reilly and his camp of bum-bugged hypocrites. I would never stand behind a group wants to hold down a person or group's traditions. Hey, I can tolerate holiday cheer. That's cool. And if you invited me to your home I wouldn't be offended by your Christmas decorations in any way. I'm only insulted when you come into my home with your reindeer and manger business, or invade my personal space with your personal beliefs. But no, we're not going there. Instead I will explain to you what many Jews do on this, your Christmas Day.

See, a great thing about Christmas from the non-Christmas celebrator's standpoint is that the streets tend to be empty. It's like a nuclear war had just occurred, or a full-scale alien abduction had taken place, or there was a sale at the Christian Supply store. Those who don't do the 25th in green and red have full run of the town, and it's quite a sight to see empty streets on a Tuesday. Sure, most businesses are closed on this day, but there are a few places that remain open to proudly serve us alleged heathens who don't leave milk and cookies out for Santa.

Here are my two favorite:

1. Chinese restaurants
2. Movie theaters

Chinese food? Yep. Did you know that many Chinese food restaurants are open on Christmas? I know, I know. You're about to say, "How could the owners be so cruel to force employees to work on the most holy of days?" Once again, you're tossing us into
Possibly the greatest sign in the land...and I'll be there on Dec. 25th.

Possibly the greatest sign in the land...and I'll be there on Dec. 25th.
your box. See, a great deal of Chinese people hold yet another belief system. Weird, huh? Weird how different cultures have different traditions. So Christmas is out for them as well. Honestly, do you dress up as a dragon on Chinese New Year? So they are open on Christmas. They're open for people like me. We need to eat, and, well, my people tend to shy away from the Xmas ham.

Movie theater? Of course! You're all gift-giving and song-singing and crowding airports and making fudge. You don't have time for the movie show. So many of us Jews take it upon ourselves to do our part in keeping the Hollywood Machine churning by moviegoing en masse. The theaters aren't crowded, the matinee price is fair, the people who work there are usually too pissed off (I'm with you brothers) to notice that we've smuggled in cartons of Kung Pao Everything, and have been there watching movies for nine hours on one ticket. It's a real treat.

So that's what I have going on December 25th. All I have to do now is decide on a film. To me, this is the difficult part, because I literally know jack about what to see these days. The most recent movie I've seen is 300, and that was only because I was at the plasma center waiting to be drained of my blood for sixty bucks. That, however, is a story for some other time.

On the occasion that I need to know about something that's going on in American Culture, I usually outsource. Normally I would call my older brother, but he's spending the week in France on a "Drink Like Andre the Giant" reality tour. Lucky.

I have two other brothers, but they won't be of much help unless I need to know about sleeping until five p.m., vomiting in rental cars, video games, sports gambling, drug induced conspiracy theories, fast food or gas pains. And my sister, as far as I know she only watches Disney movies or any of the cinematic masterpieces from the BRING IT ON saga.

I'm kind of dodging my close friends at present because what they considered a loan was misconstrued by me as a gift. Actually, I could use the same excuse to explain why I avoid my parents in this case, but I think it would be more humorous to note that my mother considered ELF too violent and THE LION KING too sexually perverse; as for my dad...well I'm sick of the whole, "For what reason would you pay for a movie when television is free?" speech.

I even tried to chat up a guy who made a random business call to my cell, but all he suggested I see was something called PAY YOUR AMERICAN EXPRESS BILL TO AVOID LITIGIOUS ACTION. I looked it up, but it hasn't come to a theater near me yet. Who directed it, anyway?

I'm not getting any help here. I suppose I'm on my own. Sure, I could read movie reviews. Heck, there's a trillion of them on this site! But see, I suffer from an acute case of chronic laziness, so I need an easy out. Because I don't know any better, I guess I'm going to base my choice on the movie titles alone.

So here goes:

INTO THE WILD

No thank you. I've seen the guy on that Discovery Channel program. I'm not eating bugs or testicles or sleeping in a camel carcass for warmth or squeezing water out of elephant dung. If I want gross I'll watch fellow commuters pick their noses in traffic.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Well there should be. Give old men their own country so they can all complain together like a crabby friggin' symphony. They have given me nothing but trouble. As a child I lived down the street from this retired couple. The old rake used to sit on his porch all day and yell at me whenever I walked by. "Get a haircut! Put the paper on the porch! Why don't you young people know anything?" Of course, exiling old men to their own country will only bite me in the end, since I will probably become the crabbiest old man of all time.

I'M NOT THERE

Well then where the hell are you? I mean, I've been trying to find you all day and you don't answer. You're not there. You're not there? Well, dammit, you had better get your ass there pretty quickly before I go bloody mad and start killing squirrels again.

THE KITE RUNNER

What? For two hours we are watching some brat with a kite? I can go to the park and do that. What's more, I can throw rocks
What <i>really</i> became of Alvin. Just another victim of crack addiction.

What really became of Alvin. Just another victim of crack addiction.
at that kid.

ATONEMENT

Even though I'm Jewish, I don't need to see a movie about Rosh Hashanah.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD

Tell me about it. I've got a lot of "making amends" to do before the old pitchforker gets wind of me. First thing I've got to do is apologize to my brother for throwing him under the bus with my last story.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

Please. I don't know the difference between a chipmunk and a squirrel. They're all rats to me. I hated that show when I was a kid. I think I'd have to beat my son if he wanted to see it. Who's that at the door? Child Protective Services? Wait...I'm only kidding. I wouldn't hurt my kids. I only want to hurt the rodents. Who's that on the phone? PETA? No thanks, I'm not hungry.

AMERICAN GANGSTER

Wait? Is this a new reality show? Will a terribly honest and bitter womanizing British jerk host? Every week can we vote off another gangster when he doesn't earn enough on his corner? Will there be competitions like "Smack the Tweeker" or "Tag the Bridge"? I see a ratings bonanza here...

THE MIST

Wait. I saw this one. Back when it was called THE FOG. They even remade it a couple of years ago. What's next, "The Cloud"?

AUGUST RUSH

What's the rush? Why in August? To celebrate Davy Crockett's birthday? To remember when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima? The only day in August I celebrate is the 19th, which, of course, is Potato Day.

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR

Was this before or after World War II? I taught history before. I never heard of it. Is it as popular as the war on drugs-illiteracy-plague-carpool lanes-freedom of speech? I want my own war! Daddy, buy me my own war!

P.S. I LOVE YOU

This is embarrassing. I mean, you love me? You really love me? Wow, it's so sudden, given that you're just a film title and I'm an angry thirtysomething man. No, I don't think it would work. We have to end this. My wife would never understand. Please, don't cry. It's over.

FRED CLAUS

If Fred became a Jew...now THAT would be a movie. Or what if he was just a guy who by some rotten luck had that famous last name. Every year around that time he got all of this errant mail from hopeful children. Finally one year he snaps and writes back nasty letters. He get arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison. His only hope is to write to the one man who can understand his predicament: Santa. But, since Santa doesn't exist, Fred goes mad as he rots in prison and eventually dies in a tragic "slip and fall" incident.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

So some rich kid got an expensive compass? Big whoop. The jerk bully who's parents just got divorced is going to steal it from him in the school yard after "show-and-tell" anyway. Always happens.

THE PERFECT HOLIDAY

Says who? Titles like this make me want to take a vacation from Hollywood altogether. This would only work if it was an ironic title. Example: Couple wins trip to New York City...for the week of September 11th.

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

I hope he didn't put this in his advertisements. He'd never make the rent. I mean would you let a guy who called himself a demon put a shaving blade to your neck?

HITMAN

How many eighth grade boys will deface marquees by sticking an 'S' in front of that title? Oh man I hope so.

I AM LEGEND

A bit pretentious, don't you think? It reminds me of people who have to remind us that they are smart or cool or good-looking...if you have to tell us, then you most certainly are NOT. Get over yourself.

Hmm.

Not sure if any of those titles are working for me. I need a self-explanatory title, like BAD LIEUTENANT or SNAKES ON A PLANE. I mean, those titles are perfect. It is what it says, and it isn't anything else. Simplicity. Genius. One of those two films sucked, though. You decide which is which.

Anyway, don't worry about me. I'll figure something out. You go on back to your hot cocoa-matching pajamas-pro basketball-electric train-SHREK Lego set-knitted scarf of a Day. Worst comes to worst, I'm sure there's some theater in town somewhere that is showing a Mel Gibson movie. No one will be in the theater, so I can graffiti up the backs of the seats!

Snap! I think I hear my bus! Later!

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Space for Rant
Every other Tuesday

I'm pissed off because you're NOT pissed off. That pisses me off. What else pisses me off? Piss off! Or read this...


Other Columns
Other columns by Jay Ashkinos:

The Greatest Article I Have Ever Written. Ever.

My Haiku to Jason

Hugs For Henchmen

Tell Me How To Get (Revenge) To Sesame Street


Jay Ashkinos
I am an undousable spark; I swear at people in Olde English; I am a phone number on the bathroom wall; I'm shorter than you, but I can kick your ass; I cry at beauty as fervently as I do with sorrow; I have a piece of paper that says I'm smart, yet I lock my keys in my car twice a year. Go figure.



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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jay Ashkinos by clicking here.


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