Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Monday, in an effort to buy at least a few modest gifts, I went uptown to the Jacques Torres chocolate store. I thought his chocolate would make a nice New York-y gift for my relatives, something they couldn’t get at home. So I bought several mixed boxes and a few odds and ends, and walked out with $87 worth of chocolate in a chic clear bag.

We can debate the morality of paying $87 for chocolate -- I’m not so sure about it myself. But I rationalized it by saying it’s pretty much the centerpiece of my holiday gift-giving this year.

I hauled it back to my office, and then later that evening, I grabbed it and raced off to a meeting of the board of directors for my building. I popped into Starbucks to get some sustenance before the meeting, then went to the office of one of the board members. We met for a couple of hours and then I went home, and realized: I no longer had my bag of chocolate.

Oh, great.

Did I leave it at the board member’s office? Or, God forbid, at Starbucks?

As I lay in bed thinking about this, I had my first holiday meltdown. “I hate Christmas!” I muttered. Here I was, compelled by our cultural insanity to go buy junk that no one needs, and then so caught up in the rat race that I lost what I purchased!

I began making vows not just to keep gift-buying simple, but to opt out of it altogether. What would happen if I asked people next year, a few months before the holidays, to skip the gifts entirely?

It’s an interesting idea, I have to admit. But the problem is, gift-giving CAN be fun and fulfilling. The cultural imperative is what’s odious -- the feeling that you HAVE to give a gift, or risk disappointing someone or being branded a cheap selfish bastard.

Fortunately, the next morning, I learned from the other board member that my chocolates were safely in his office, and I picked them up yesterday afternoon. So at least that minor Christmas crisis was averted.

(Photo: Side of a panel truck, East Village, Dec. 2007)


Anonymous said...

OK. This is a perfect post, for so many reasons.

First, the pic - the maniacal chocolate expression is unmistakeable. Then the dreamlike sequence of spending $87 on chocolate, then thinking you'd left it in Starbucks, then the meltdown, then the denoument where you get your chocolate back.

Perfection. I salute you!! B R A VO !!!

Anonymous said...

I might have flown to NY and actually gone into SB just to get those Chocolates 4 U.

They're good all year 'round, of course and 4 no actual reason.

Otherwise, it probably was the Best item in SB (no offense!) Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Being non-religious, I still find great beauty in the Christmas season. It really is a special time for our family to get together. I'm really fortunate in that respect.

The whole Christmas gift-giving idea is so ingrained in us that it is a difficult thing to buck. I did get the lovely Mrs. Sneed to agree that she and I do not exchange gifts. Beyond that, it seems a lost cause.

I'm glad you found the candy.

Anonymous said...

this was a perfect post.

I once bought expensive chocolates (in a fancy tin) at the last minute and shipped them fed ex at great expense--the next year one of the recipients sent me a hershey bar with a terse note for Xmas.

--Scratched his name off my Christmas list forever.

Anonymous said...

$87 worth of chocolate, hmmmmmmm.

some of my family want to abandon gifts - simplify, give to charity instead... some resist, enjoying the giving - the debate recurs every few years. The gifts i'm often happiest to give are things i've made, or found in charity shops. You're absolutely right, its the cultural imperative which is the odious thing. that, and the commercial pressure.

theres some bar or club or somewhere over here serving £35,000 cocktails over Christmas. That DOES make me want to give up the festive season altogether.

Anonymous said...

This sort of thing happens to us all at this time of year. When we give the gift, see the face, spend time with loved ones, its worth it. Check the choccies haven't been nibbled!

Anonymous said...

i love chocolate, and have eaten way to much today, mainly gifts from patients. consequently i feel rather wired, and fancy going rock climbing. i laughed at you in this story, you funny thing!