"Rudolph, warp factor 2!"

Before I went to the concert on December 6th I had some time to kill. So
I walked around a bit downtown. I hit an Apple store and checked out the
iPad, which truly proved what an archaic piece of hardware it is by not
having even one native USB port. Lots of splash and pinache there at the
Apple store — but no real substance as far as I was concerned. Moving
on into River Park Square I went into Nordstrom's and hit the men's cologne
counter. I'm afraid I overdid it a bit with the Cartier — I still smelled like
"Pasha" even two days later. But it's my favorite cologne, so what the hell.

They put a huge Christmas tree inside River Park every holiday. Unfortun-
ately the old days of the natural pine from Washington State is gone —
they now use a gigantic 50 foot artificial tree. I stopped by and said hello
to "Santa" — a.k.a. Jim — who used to be an upstairs neighbor of mine and
who since his retirement has become a sort of professional Santa. He gave
me a candy cane.

Following a quick bourbon at the Rock City Grill, I hit the Pottery Barn.
I usually go in there at Christmas as they are one of the more nicely
decorated stores. As an impulse buy I picked up this little penguin tree
ornament for my mom. And then I discovered to my great frustration how
long it can take for only 3 customers to go through 2 cashiers and get
their items paid for. I don't know what their problem was, but it took
me 20 minutes to pay for the little penguin.

But, no matter. You know Christmas does truly bring out the child in me,
which let's just say is not too deeply buried at any time of year. We had
some snow on the ground. And of course it was cold, the cold that brings
that pleasant tingle to your cheeks when you walk into a warm building.
There was Christmas music playing everywhere and lights were strung
everywhere. And I thought to myself that at Christmas, if one is lucky,
all the problems of the world seem to disappear.

It is an illusion, of course. What can we say about Santa Claus, tiny reindeer
and a sleigh, the whole idea of landing on a roof and going down a chimney?
With gifts for all good boys and girls? Let alone a perfect world. Utterly
ridiculous. But it really is nice to have the illusion for a brief while.

In about a week my perfect world, my land of illusion, will cease to exist.

At least until next Easter, when the Easter Bunny comes.

Merry Christmas to All.[/SIZE][/COLOR][/ALIGN]