The Great Xmas Caper

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By Christmas morning, I survived the shopping season. Hallelujah! You can never go wrong with socks.

What if, through eventual tradition, we said, “Happy Sock Day!” from every town, far and wide? Speaking of giving, I’d gladly have all my bills paid by some benevolent benefactor that doesn’t involve anything “weird.” I could use a pool, a fence, a gas oven, and a… Why don’t I just write a list?

In the end, I’m just glad to be here and fortunate to be home with my Perry Como records. Mel Tormé, anyone?

The holidays provide the opportunity for some much needed reflection, like, “Where the hell did the year go?” or, “Do I really want to join the circus?” It’s never too late to put some things in perspective.

The soulless, rampant consumerism can a bit much. We become jaded and cynical, leaving the true meaning of Christmas behind. It can be a stressful and exhausting time, especially when traveling. Perhaps Bill Murray put it best in his Scrooged rant from 1988.

“It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be. It’s a… miracle.”

I try to live by that creed to some regard, even as I fall behind in my gift shopping.

Mall Madness

I ventured to the local mall on a bright, Sunday afternoon, one week before Christmas. It wasn’t as crowded or hectic as portrayed on the news or in movies like Chopping Mall. Perhaps this “online” shopping thing was finally catching on. Shoppers maintained their distances in a neat and orderly fashion (maybe too orderly). I got fewer dirty looks than usual, even as I snapped pictures like some awestruck tourist. Later in that afternoon, the place was a ghost town.

The Oviedo Mall isn’t too big or too small. It’s just about right, as Goldilocks would say. They have plenty of stores, a movie theater, and an arcade. That’s not bad for a single-story structure.

Toward the end of my frenzied shopping trip, I came upon a retro games store, Hudson’s Video Games. There was no resisting the allure of 16-bit cartridges on full display. Despite lugging around three bags of gifts, I ventured inside, feeling like a kid again.

“Your finest Sega Genesis title in stock, please, madam,” I said to the girl behind the counter. She pointed to some games below. One caught my eye, the sequel to the 1991 classic ToeJam & Earl. I left satisfied but ravaged with guilt for treating myself. Fortunately, that massage I splurged on later took my mind off things.

I carried a list of names while shopping, so I wouldn’t forget anyone. The names were each marked “naughty” or “nice.” The naughtiest got discount gruel. The nicest, a pack of number 2 pencils. You have to know how to stretch a dollar nowadays. Though I was entirely focused on a “grab and go” shopping experience, I made an earnest attempt to appreciate the holiday aesthetic throughout the mall.

Christmas trees aligned the walkway, from one end to the other. Holidays tunes hummed from speakers. Children lined up around Santa’s workshop to get a picture with the big man himself. It was a nice, almost enchanting environment, where I had expected a chaotic onslaught of hurried shoppers, like myself.

Vacant stores were noticeable in certain spots, with their windows covered and gates pulled down. The mall experience isn’t dead yet but it has undeniably changed. Walking past an array of department stores, clothing stores, and specialty stores alike makes one yearn for simpler times. I remember Suncoast Motion Picture Company back in the day and all of their overpriced movies and movie memorabilia. I could spend hours in there. That time now has passed…


Milk Mart

My shopping adventures continued at the Orlando Milk Mart. Numerous vendors set up shop along the East Robinson “Milk District” of Orlando. The name denotes from its proximity to a T.G. Lee processing plant, long history, and vibrant culture. I came across three vinyl record booths and nearly spent a week’s salary, before stopping myself yet again.

There was an abundance of arts, crafts, clothes, food, jewelry, and random street fare for anyone interested. It was like a Flea Market, without the tattoo booths and contaminated corndogs. In high school, I spent many Saturdays at the local Flea Market. With twenty dollars in my pocket, I was on the hunt for band T-shirts and used CDs and video games.

An added bonus to the Milk Mart experience was browsing the venue with a fresh beer in hand. That’s the only way to shop, as far as I’m concerned. Drinks were courtesy of The Nook on Robinson, one of Orlando’s finest establishments. I bought some handcrafted prints from an artist named Elyse Delisle.

Another artist, under the banner, Witch and Wildflower, had numerous small paintings and artificial animal skeletons on display. She even had a painted unicorn skull. Where else would you find such a thing? Certainly not at Kmart! Well, maybe you would.

Milk Mart Holiday Market offered a wide variety of items from local vendors or those traveling to sell their work. They offered a fun, laid-back environment, fitting for the holiday season. There’s also a real sense of community, which is what East Orlando is known for. And you can’t beat their masked mannequins on display.

Here and Gone

The holidays always end in a flash before the new year smacks us in the face. All the plotting, planning, and subsequent expectations soon vanish in a haze of honey-baked ham.

Life is all about moving forward. We keep going, from month to year. For me, it’s the simple things. I enjoy those holiday moments, where I can sit back and listen to music on a peaceful evening (with a nice beverage or two). It could be hot cocoa or Tennessee moonshine, either way, I’m in the zone. 

Once the holidays end, there’s no getting them back, just like the people closest to us. We’re left only with the memories, and how those memories turn out is entirely up to us. That’s why I try to make the most of the season while it lasts.

I’d also like to do a “Year in Review” blog next. We’ll see how that goes. Onward to 2022, I say! May you have a safe, happy, and fulfilling week as we traverse into the unknown.

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