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8:16 p.m. - December 17, 2006
What's left?
Standing in line at the madhouse that is Toys R Us and looking around at overloaded carts full of plastic imagination-sucking crap toys that'll be discarded by December 26th, I had a minor revelation of sorts, of the unflattering variety. Each year as my income has increased I've picked up more and more wishes from the Angel Tree and I feel good about being able to do so, whether it's wishes for notebook paper and pens or the latest toy. This year I've been the busiest ever hunting down the last remaining items in person, like an old fashioned map of the United States made from wood, or today's quarry, a toy toolbox. Do you know how hard it is to find a toolbox designed for children nowadays? Everything is plastic, obnoxious, or unavailable until after Christmas, so I thought Toys R Us might have what I'm looking for (nope), but I improvised and put together my own toolbox, and that's what I was holding in my hands while standing in line and had that aha! moment. The revelation: I don't do the Angel Tree because I'm a nice person or because I feel it's a civic duty, or whatever - no, I do this because it's the only reason I have to participate in Christmas. Deliberate shopping is a conscious attempt to get my mind off the holiday because I despise it.

You know what's funny? I have a hard time giving gifts to people I know - I worry that it's inappropriate, or maybe I've misinterpreted things and the person thinks, Why the hell is he giving me this?, or maybe it's just dumb. So I give books to a small number of people and put a lot of thought into the selection and hope for the best. That is my Christmas season and an unfulfilling one, so I trot off to the Angel Tree and select wishes to buy for people I don't know. Busywork. It makes me feel important almost, or purposed, makes me feel good to think I have so many people to get things for, things they want and that will be welcomed, becoming my own foster family in a way. And it gets me through Christmas.

Sometimes I say to myself, You may be ugly on the outside, but it's the inside that counts and I feel buoyed, pat myself on the back for the money I give to charities, the scholarships I've set up, or the children I'm sending to school in Cambodia and South Africa. I'm a good person. I'd like to think that I'd still support these programs even if it didn't lessen my tax obligations, but like the Angel Tree at Christmastime, the motivating factor is purely selfish and therefore bad. Ugly. Great. So now I'm ugly on the outside and inside after all! Consistency is a motherfucker.


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