It's funny how certain things have become holiday traditions. Yesterday I was at the archetype of New Jersey malls, Paramus Park, blowing my flex account money on three new pairs of glasses. My prescription has changed since 2007, which was the last time I had a new prescription, and I've been having some trouble with night driving, so I decided it was time to spring for new glasses.
When I was in North Carolina last month, I somehow managed to lose what I called my Nerdy McNerdlingtons, which were these wonderful thick-black-rimmed sunglasses. So I went to Lenscrafters hoping to not just replace them, but to replace my twisty-kid-frame computer glasses with something nerdy as well.
I was greeted at the door by the store's "frame stylist" (yes, there really is such a position at Lenscrafters), who sported a tag with the inevitable name "Giancarlo". Giancarlo was maybe twenty-five at the most, and I assured him that I was about to become his worst nightmare customer of the day, because I was looking for nerd glasses, and they had to be the RIGHT nerd glasses. Well, Giancarlo looked at me and saw just a fat, middle-aged lady, and proceeded to show me frames more suitable to Jewish Grandmother In Boca circa 1972, so I sent Giancarlo on his way and went in search of Just The Right Frames That Would Not Cost Me An Arm And A Leg.
I've never understood the appeal of designer labels. I've never understood why anyone would want a Louis Vuitton handbag, which to me is just an ugly plastic thing. To me, the $79.95 eyeglass frame looks no different from the $249.95 frame with the peel-off sticker that says "Ralph Lauren Polo" and the little gold polo player on the side of the frames. Ralph Lauren is very adept at creating a kind of faux-nostalgic American classic look, but when he looks in the mirror, what looks back at him is still Ralph Lifshitz from the Bronx whose parents came from Pinsk. And he has about as much to do with those eyeglass frames as does Hesh Liebowitz the Optician from Grand Street.
Anyway, after a half-hour of trying to explain to Giancarlo who Nate Silver and Rachel Maddow were as avatars of the kind of Cool Nerd look I was after (he had never heard of either of them, which made me weep for our nation's future), I finally sselected two nerdy frames for my prescription sunglasses and computer glasses, and some functional black-wire-rims for my night driving glasses. Then I was passed along to Patrick the Sales Writer, who regaled me about his experience last year with an electric turkey fryer, and Anthony the Optician, who shared the story of how annoyed he gets as group texts (heh), which is sort of like having all your Facebook friends and all THEIR Facebook friends and then all of THEIR Facebook friends text-reply to you all at once.
So by the time I left to kill an hour and a half in Paramus Park Mall, a smallish mall by contemporary standards, but like most malls filled with stores where there is absolutely nothing a sane person would want to buy, Patrick and Anthony were like my new BFFs and the $700 that I'd spent on three pair of glasses had absolutely nothing to do with it, I'm sure. An hour and a half later, after looking at some hideous clothes at Chico's (what has happened to them, anyway), saying a prayer of thanks to the Goddess that I do not have a young female child who wanted clothing from a store called "Juicy", which looks like an emporium for underaged street hookers, and browsing the rather lame bookstore, I went back for another half hour of stimulating conversation about coffee and text messages with my new BFFs Patrick and Anthony, before I was finally released to go home around 6:30 PM, went home, watched TV, went to sleep and didn't get up until this morning, after Maggie (who is back to her old bad self) had howled at me for two straight hours.
But anyway, holiday traditions... Remember holiday traditions? This is a post about holiday traditions.
Today is Thanksgiving -- the carbo-loading that takes place before the shopping marathon to come. For all that there are far too many retailers so hungry to squeeze every last dollar out of the public that they're depriving their employees of one of the only two actual holidays on the retail calendar and opening today, it's a quiet respite between the workday and the torture to come. It's a torture that consists not just of shopping for tchotchkes for people who don't need more tchotchkes, but also of a relentless barrage of Christmas music and TV specials, each more nauseating than the one before. There's plenty of time for that tomorrow. But today, we're celebrating the most important of all the holiday traditions -- more important than the turkey, the football, the pumpkin pie.
Yes, friends, it's time for the annual playing of "Alice's Restaurant." I kind of like this version from the 1990s:
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