Nicole Von Enck and Brett Young star in Texas Ballet Theater’s production of The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall thru Christmas Eve (Sat, Dec 24). Photo courtesy of Steven Visneau

Christmas is gonna be a little lowkey around Chez Mariani this year, not because we’re more broke than usual — like you, we’re not investment bankers, so we need to watch our spending — but because some, uh, home-improvement opportunities! have popped up. Our foundation is cracking, our backyard fence is crumbling, and my 2008 chariot’s brake hydraulic$ have gone out almost completely — stopping these days is a Fred Flintstone, soles-on-the-road kind of affair. With all apologies to Joe Biden, the wife and I can’t rationalize going even deeper into debt making him look good. OK, just a little. Grandpa Joe’s worth it.

You say I’m absurd. I say I’m just full of the Christmas spirit, Jack. (I’m definitely full of something.)

High-income spenders have indicated that they’re going to give the gifts that matter most: themselves. Instead of toys, clothes, and gift cards to Cheba Hut (hint, hint), rich people plan to funnel their assuredly hard-earned cash toward travel this season. For us worker bees, we intend to buy an average of nine gifts this year compared to last year’s 16, and it’s mostly because our dollars don’t stretch as far as they once did. To the global supply chain issues and global inflation, I’d like to add my own gremlin: fatigue.

M&O Station 300x250

Think of all we’ve lived through over the past few years. It started with a bigoted conman winning the presidential election in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by 3 million, and it carried on through the pandemic, which crushed us emotionally if we were lucky enough not to have died a horrible, painful death. Even after we voted out the scumbag, he still haunts our national psyche like a COVID variant. We’re done. Finito. Our country is divided, and no amount of Target gift cards and trips home will make it better. I’d even say that traveling back to the ancestral manse to deal with your brainwashed family is worse for your health and overall well-being than pulling up at the end of the bar and watching Elf on repeat.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. What’s the alternative? Sitting at home stewing and then, finally, leaving a nasty comment on your older brother’s fourth pro-fascism Fakebook post this week? Editing this issue, one thing that really stood out to me was the sheer number of fun stuff there is to do in this town this season. I’ve bookmarked several theater excursions, a few art exhibits, and about a dozen gift ideas. As the father of a Black 11-year-old, I think that Soul Train show at Jubilee sounds fun, and edutaining, and as the husband of a woman who would love nothing more than to get out of the house once this season to do something as an adult and not just a mom, I’m eyeing up that Ann Marion exhibit at the Modern. Though my wife hates (most) abstract and conceptual art and I love it, we always have good talks about it before, during, and afterward for a very, very long time. *puts in mouthpiece*

Were money no issue, I would have easily bookmarked more than 50 different things in this handsome edition. Alas, the Marianimobile isn’t going to stop itself. — Anthony Mariani