This season, blow up the TV and read a newspaper


This is going to be a strange holiday season indeed. I knew it was off to a weird start when I stopped by the neighborhood liquor store the day before Thanksgiving to buy my annual bottle of Boggs Cranberry Liqueur.

I buy one bottle of the stuff every year, and I pour myself one shot over ice to sip while I carve the turkey. My wife mixes her shot with Fresca. Why it has to be Fresca and not Sprite, I don’t know, but she has her own traditions and keeps to them religiously.

After that, we ask ourselves why we bother buying the sweet liqueur, because we don’t like it all that much. Then we pour the rest of the bottle down the drain, because it tends to crystallize over time.

I don’t know for sure what nation the nice guys who run the neighborhood bottle shop hail from — I think it might be India — but English is clearly their second language. So it was surprising to see them wearing Santa hats and their place dolled up with a Christmas tree, blinking lights, and “Winter Wonderland” playing on the sound system, a song to which they were enthusiastically singing along. To butcher Cindy Adams, “Only in New Jersey, kiddo. Only in New Jersey.”

“I love the Perry Como version,” the guy behind the counter said. “We’ve also got Bing Crosby coming up.”

But while they had Bing and Perry, they had no Boggs Cranberry Liqueur, although they thought it sounded “awesome.” They also had no Fresca. So that began the great march through a half-dozen liquor stores to find a bottle of booze that was destined for the drain.

Nobody in New Jersey carries it, as it turns out, at least nobody I could find. And based on my own limited research, nobody carries Fresca either. So this year, I had to chew an actual cranberry while I carved the turkey, which leaves much to be desired.

The Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be delicious, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, once I got over the paranoia I’d been feeling on account of the evening news. Every day for the week leading up to Thanksgiving, every network and local affiliate had “experts” on the news telling us that the average American gains 6 to 8 pounds during the holiday season, and offering tips on how to maintain our svelte figures in the face of so much good food.

Some of them even had charts and graphs showing how much exercise you’d have to do to work off that much additional blubber. One “expert” noted that most of us will not have lost the weight by March or April, and some of us never will. It will just keep adding up, year after year until finally, they’ll have to roll us to our holiday table on a horse-drawn sledge.

I remember an old joke about a guy who goes to the doctor complaining that every time he hits himself in the head with a hammer, he gets a headache.

“Well,” the doctor says, “quit hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.”

So I’ve pretty much quit watching the news.

And you know what? I felt a lot better taking seconds, and an extra piece of pie. If those news people want to ruin the holidays for us by making us feel guilty for enjoying them, I say they can just keep their opinions to themselves, stay in their own dreary apartments and eat steamed broccoli.

I know I’m wandering into Andy Rooney territory here, and I promise not to turn into a blathering old geezer who gripes about everything and yells at the kids to stay off his lawn. But I’m pretty tired of the news people telling us that virtually everythingwe enjoy or benefit from is bad.

Back when gas was over four bucks a gallon, they had experts on every night telling us why that was bad. We all knew it was bad, because we were shelling out a hundred bucks to fill up our cars. But I’m having a tougher time these days, when those same “experts” come on to tell us in grave and foreboding tones why gas at a bucksixty a gallon is also bad. Apparently, it’s bad because if the oil companies aren’t making enough money, they won’t spend as much on exploration, so we might eventually run out of gas.

But come on! ExxonMobil has had so many record-breaking quarters, they had enough spare change lying around to bail out the entire economy. Didn’t they put any of it away for a rainy day? Do we really feel sorry for them? Sorry enough to hope that gas goes back up to three bucks a gallon?

Nope. At least I don’t. As far as I’m concerned, gas can go to a dollar a gallon, and I’ll say that’s just proof that the market economy works.

And speaking of the market economy, in between stories with “experts” telling us how to avoid blimping up on holiday food and telling us how bad cheap gas is, they’ve had other “experts” telling us how bad it is that all the stores have started offering deep discounts on merchandise this early in the season.

“Many of these stores make 30 to 40 percent of their entire annual revenue in the month before Christmas,” one news lady said somberly. “And if they’re discounting their profit margins away this early, it means many of them could go out of business next year.”

I realize that these places provide many badly needed jobs for my friends and neighbors, and I always hate to see a business fail.

But what are these news people really asking us to do? Are they asking us to pay extra when we buy our holiday gifts? Are they suggesting that if a sweater is marked down from $250 to $60, we ought to hand the cashier an additional 30 bucks and tell her to send it directly to corporate to fatten up the emergency fund?

Well, apparently they are, because that’s about the only way regular people can make an impact on things like this. We didn’t ruin the economy; George W. (Shrub) Bush did that with eight years of complete malfeasance. And the government has promised about a trillion dollars of our tax money to bail out as many companies that made bad decisions as we can afford to bail out. It’s likely our grandchildren will still be paying off that debt.

So about the only course of action left to us is to ignore the sale prices and pay double what’s on the tag.

Either that or, as I said, we can quit watching the evening news, and read a local newspaper instead. The one you’ve got in your hands is a good place to start.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at [email protected].