Yes, it’s the middle of December again: that time when we sit down and ruminate on the state of relationships with our loved ones; the season when we take pause and reflect on the kindness and considerations of our cohorts and employees during the past 12 months; that moment in the calendar when we contemplate the pluses and minuses, the joys and the sorrows, the good times, the bad, the frustrations, surprises and disappointments from the past 52 weeks.
And then, basking in the warm glow of holiday spirit, humbled by the fragility of the human condition, we proceed to calculate-to the exact penny-precisely how much we’re spending on Christmas gifts.
There is, after all, no Santa Claus.
But there are important questions: Does little Sally deserve a performance bonus based on those grades at Brearley? Did young Tom somehow “add value” to the family unit? Has the spouse demonstrated improved management skills, made better use of precious resources and generated a sufficient return on investment? Or, put another way: Are we talking here about Glass-Ceilinged Barbie-and Outplacement Ken-or is it hookers and Cohibas for the whole family at Le Cirque 2000 on the night before Christmas?
Questions, questions. And these hardly address the larger, multicultural issues you face during this year-end review: What about Mario, the super? Is it better to turn the cheek to the slings and insults of last summer? (When you realized the phrase “That’s an awful lot of Sheetrock you’re putting in the elevator,” is translatable in any language to “That’ll be $200, cash, please, or I call the city building inspector.”) Or do you seek revenge in the form of a reduced tip and run the risk of having all your mail suddenly rerouted to the Republic of Togo?
Ordinarily, I deal with these issues like most diehard New Yorkers: I confront them head-on. I’m tough. I’m cold. I’m calculating. And then, like most tough, cold, diehard New Yorkers, I cave in. The housekeeper who hasn’t noticed that the dust on my desk now resembles the inside of a New York City public school furnace? Two weeks in Lisbon. The newspaper deliveryman I’ve never met? A Mercedes-Benz. The super who’s probably wanted in 12 states for extortion? Please sir, can I buy you a house in Puerto Vallarta?
Yes, it’s sad, but we all do it. For it’s a little-known fact that although most New Yorkers will rise to a challenge-retaliating with anything that’s handy, from run-of-the-mill rumormongering to global thermonuclear warfare-most of us try to avoid these situations in the first place. Especially when (a) a small cash grant will suffice, and (b) the injured parties may not only find a way to send your mail to the Republic of Togo, but the whole damn apartment.
In an extremely roundabout way, this brings us to our main topic this week, which is the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue.
Usually, I try to send all my gifts from this catalogue: the full-length ermine cape, the his ‘n’ hers shotguns (particularly appropriate for the superintendent), diamonds by the yard, the $50,000 trip to the Dominican Republic (which includes a cigar named in your honor) and the now famous Manolo Blahnik “Shoe of the Month Club” (which I am now informed is completely sold out, as 2,500 major Democratic Party contributors took out subscriptions for Dick Morris).
In any case, the problem this year is that the Neiman Marcus catalogue just won’t do anymore. Especially if, say, Michael Eisner happens to be on your gift list. So I’ve decided to come up with my own gift catalogue, more in keeping with the megabuck times we live in: 1997, also known as 1986, the sequel.
A fawning interview with Larry King : Everyone wants an hour of criticism-free TV time-but how do you give it to a loved one? This year, the answer is simple: Have them kill someone. Or commit rape, war crimes, adultery, or any virtually indictable offense, then go on Larry King Live to deny it. They’ll be guaranteed at least one full hour of sympathetic slobbery-and join the cavalcade of such notable superdefendants as O.J. Simpson, Manuel Noriega, Timothy McVeigh, Louise Woodward, Michael Jackson and the still as yet unindicted Ramsey family. Best of all, the cost to you is absolutely nothing. And your friend may even get off scot-free-unless they insist on hiring Barry (“I Believe My Own Myth”) Scheck as your defense attorney, in which case they may end up spending the rest of their life behind bars.
Love bites : Remember Candy Kisses? This year, we’ve gone one better: For only $25,000, you have the choice of having either Mike Tyson or Marv Albert show up at someone’s house and perform their own unique orificial services. Let them warm up on that three-year-old Christmas fruitcake and then move onto the main course. Make your checks payable to “Don King Associates.” (Note: Cable broadcast rights and Mr. Albert’s wardrobe are not included in this offer.)
Be Alan Greenspan for a day : Just the thing for that 23-year-old in your life who longs to wear $800 suits. Sneeze and watch markets tumble; cough-and smile-as economies tremble across the globe. Guaranteed to make anyone feel irrationally exuberant. Supply is limited; the price will be determined by prevailing market forces in effect at the time of your order.
A front-page article in the New York Times Sunday business section : Now that The Times has decided to go the “borrowed-interest celebrity route” (where no subject has any interest value unless a celebrity is tangentially attached), you, too, can be the subject of a Times profile. What’s the cost? According to Mick Fleetwood, $8 million paid to your local coke dealer.
Anthrax: No, it’s not the latest fragrance from Calvin Klein. But it is No. 1 on the international wish list-the item everyone is hunting for. Luckily, we’ve managed to put away a special cache, guaranteed to make you the envy of third world dictators and terrorists everywhere. Available in handy one-ounce purse-size spray bottles, Anthrax is guaranteed to “knock ’em dead” this Christmas. Order early and receive a special bonus gift: one ounce of Typhoid. Wire your funds, today, by noon, to S. Hussein Industries, c/o the Bank of Lucerne, Switzerland. Or suffer the consequences.
Rationalization of the Month Club : For the trendy hypocrite in your life. Once a month, we’ll e-mail today’s most topical excuses from “I bought the house in the Hamptons for the beach” to “Sure, I know the Ford Explorer is bad for the environment. But it makes me feel safer. I can look down on regular cars and crush them.” Cost? An easily justifiable $25,000 a month.
The United States Government : Following up on the success of our January White House sale (where you could buy time in the Oval Office, starting at $300,000 for a 15-minute coffee up to $200 million for a four-year residency), we’ve decided to put the entire Government up for sale. Put the name of your choice-loved one or business associate-on wars, hurricanes, Federal office buildings, national parks and weapons systems. It’s all for sale-and best of all, Bill Clinton and Al Gore are standing by the phones, now, waiting to take your orders. (Note: Void where prohibited. This offer is open to residents of Korea and China. The F.B.I. is not participating in this sale. And although we’ll make every effort to accommodate your requests, we’re sorry to inform you that, at press time, Janet Reno’s Justice Department is officially sold out.)