Nothing seems to be free during the holidays. Your money appears to be made of a special paper that dissolves upon contact with air. Now you see it sitting crisply in your wallet, now you own a plastic Santa that sings a Rastafarian remake of “Jingle Bells.” Really? And, let’s be honest, everyone wants so much from you. Your list of gifts only gets longer as December picks up speed. Shoes, shirts, toys, games, smart phones, and fruitcakes. My oh my. Sure, we all want Tiny Tim to get what he wants, but who will pay off the Ghost of Christmas Past come January?
And what about you? Heaven forbid. A mocha and a donut costs nearly an hour of labor under Iowa’s sad minimum wage. A movie with your sweetie consumes the weekly food budget in one fell swoop — and forget that bucket of popcorn. A cup of good cheer at the local tap? That’s a slippery slope that usually doesn’t bring glad tidings the next morning.
Nope, nothing seems to be free this time of year.
Well, I have a surprise for you. Today only. Free gifts for the entire family. Yahoo!
Let’s start with a gift for that problem aunt. We have to go to Lisbon, Portugal. It’s laundry day. Yup, just like us, they have washing machines. But, unlike us, they hang their clothes out to dry. Fresh air. On the clothes line. Old school.
Surprisingly, with drones and high-tech cameras around every corner, no garment is too sacred to keep from hanging over the street. Boxers and panties, bras with padding peaking through the wiring, too-worn pajamas, socks that must have seen less airy times, and everything and anything else. A person’s life displayed on three thin wires.
All for the passersby’s viewing. Free of charge. The perfect gift for that snoopy aunt in the family. She’ll love you for this. She can stare at A stranger’s laundry and make disparaging comments to her heart’s desire. Perhaps it will even discourage her from remarking on your weight. It’s worth a shot.
And what about your brother who is always looking for love in all the wrong places?
Check out Sevilla, Spain, where every bench is occupied by lovers. Embracing, kissing, entwined and entwining. The soft-lit small streets of the old Jewish quarter seduces you towards real romance. Heck, why shouldn’t you kiss the person next to you, throw aside your job at Principal, and devote yourself to love? It’s a no-brainer.
This is the perfect club venue for your brother. Slow down the throbbing beat and heat up the glow. And, yes, the best part, the romance is all free of charge. The ideal gift.
Ah, what about your hard-to-satisfy parents? Well, in Grenada, Spain, lies the Alhambra. It is a group of palaces and fortresses built on a mountain top. The first palace was built in 889 by a Moorish emir. Many emirs followed over the centuries building their own palaces an extending the fortress. The Alhambra even includes a palace built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1527. And a gigantic garden that will knock your bell-chiming socks off.
But check out this pool deep inside one of the palaces.
The reflection? Your parents will love it. It will remind them of beauty and grace and divert attention while they are paying your college loans. All this for free. See, gifts for everyone.
Finally, I have one more gift — just for you. A cup of Iowa nice.
The other day in Des Moines, Iowa, it was a holiday disaster. I was broken down at a Casey’s on Douglas Avenue. It was evening and the holiday lights began to glow on the light posts around me. But my car wasn’t feeling in a festive mood. Dead as Jacob Marley’s ghost. Even the hopeful grinding noise of the ignition had long faded away. I was stuck.
I popped the hood, called my wife, and pulled out the jumper cables to wait. Coming east on Douglas was a large tow truck from Perry’s Service & Towing. I gave it only a passing glance. I was resigned and stoic as I waited next to the car. I did have a small concern that my wife had taken this opportunity to find a better marriage partner. But otherwise I was just fine. Well, I was feeling a smidgeon sick. Perhaps the beginnings of tuberculosis? And my coat was too thin for the cold. And one leg felt it might be going a little numb.
“You need a Good Samaritan,” said Greg Bunce.
Bunce hopped out of the Perry tow truck.
“Put away those cables,” he directed.
And he hooked up his own cables. Started my car. Wished me “Merry Christmas.” Jumped back in his truck without collecting a nickel. And was gone with a nod.
Did I hear a “Ho Ho Ho”?
So, what did I tell you . . . one cup of Iowa nice and gifts for the entire family. Free today.