This is my favorite part of the year — the weather's cooler, the leaves have fallen, and I get to pull out my jazz Christmas CD mixes ("Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" by Dexter Gordon, here I come!). True, this isn't exactly the greatest holiday season ever. The economy is in the toilet and won't be climbing out anytime soon — just one of the new realities our friends in the financial industry have left under our collective national tree — and the holidays are pretty grim for lots of people this year. Still, there are things to celebrate, namely that harder times are making many of us realize that accumulating "stuff" isn't the be-all and end-all of life. Plus, local charity groups, although they still need more money, report a flood of new volunteers. And, of course, if you need something else to celebrate, remember that the Notorious Bush Gang will soon be in the dustbin of history, and before long we'll have a president who can string two consecutive sentences together into a coherent thought.
So, with a brighter future in mind, and with hopes for our country's eventual climb out of the ditch, here's the annual list of holiday gifts and wishes, for both the deserving and the blameworthy.
• For parents, spouses and friends of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, we wish a fast, safe return of their kids and loved ones.
• For everyone without health insurance, we wish a quickly kept promise from the new president and Congress.
• For the Women's Shelter, the Urban Ministry Center, Loaves & Fishes, A Child's Place, Crisis Assistance Ministry, and all the other groups of people working to help the city's poor, homeless, and/or hungry, we wish enough funds to get the job done.
• For County Commissioners Bill James, Dan Bishop, George Dunlap, and Vilma Leake, we wish strips of duct tape, to be placed over their mouths during meetings.
• For former Wachovia "leaders" who drove one of the city's leading corporations into dissolution and disgrace, and cost untold numbers of Charlotteans their jobs, we sincerely wish long jail sentences.
• To the board of directors of the United Way of Central Carolinas, and former CEO Gloria Pace King who, through a combination of greed, mismanagement, and general cluelessness, managed to give charitable giving a bad name, we give one big ol' dirty, humongous lump of coal.
• To the Belmont neighborhood, which has been jerked around by the city more times than we can count -- we're gonna revitalize it, no we're not, we're buying a store, no now we're not -- we give a giant Duncan Imperial yo-yo.
• To the owners of N.C. beachfront McMansions who expect the rest of us to pay for their short-sighted, environmentally destructive mistakes, we offer a "hostile takeover" by Somalian pirates.
• To defeated GOP candidates Pat McCrory, Liddy Dole and Robin Hayes, we give lovely sock puppets, each sporting the individual politician's favorite corporate logo.
• For former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, we wish new trousers with a welded zipper.
• For the clergy and members of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America -- including the Rev. Filmore Strunk and the All Saints Anglican Church in our area -- who have left the Episcopal Church because of its positions on gay rights, we wish time to reflect on Jesus' emphasis on love and mercy.
• For The Charlotte Observer, we wish more pages, more investigative reporting, and a better use of resources. (Hint: you don't need that many sports columnists!)
• For the Carolina Panthers, we wish a return trip to the Super Bowl. Christmas is the time to believe in miracles, right?
• For the woeful Charlotte Bobcats, we wish new owners who know how to produce a winning team, and more Charlotteans who care whether the team even exists.
• To the Lynx light rail line, we give many thanks for becoming an indispensable part of our lives -- and we wish quicker than expected sister lines in other parts of the city.
• To the nation's right-wing-nut radio talk-show jocks, we give two words: Fairness Doctrine.
• And finally, for our old friends President Dubya and Vice President Darth Cheney, who successfully ruined our country's international reputation, made torture an official American policy, and screwed things up in the United States beyond anyone's worst expectations, we wish, as we did last year, a close acquaintance with a war crimes tribunal.
And on that note, happy holidays to all of CL's readers!