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Chanuklaus Is Dead
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November 21 • 2013
ome memories are hazy now,
but I do remember taking a
grown-up stab at having fun
during the Chanukah season when I
lived in the Wrigleyville neighborhood
It was some mid-1990s year, and
I worked at a trading desk near the
pork-belly pit at the Chicago Mercantile
Having grown up in the not-so-
Jewish city of Flint, I was comfortable
around non-Jews and their pork prod-
As a kid, I was a bit jealous of the
toys my neighbors raked in during the
holidays. All I ever got for my eight
days was a toy gun and seven pairs of
Now I was living with a roommate
who was on his second fiancee. They
spent their evenings decorating the
Christmas tree, playing Wyndham Hill
Christmas music and drinking.
And me: I didn't have a dreidel. I
didn't have clay.
I needed to get back to my roots.
It was through a friend of a friend's
cousin that I was invited to a quasi-
Chanukah potluck party among not-
so-young-anymore single Jews at a
Lakeshore Drive high-rise hosted by
a newlywed couple who had met at a
Trivial Pursuit party in Evanston a year
I was told to bring dessert — a culi-
nary stretch. Those who know me know
better than to ask me for anything other
than chips and salsa.
During a grocery run a week before
the party, I stopped by the dessert coun-
ter at Jewel, the neighborhood grocery
chain, and sifted through the cake
I spotted the Santa Claus "Happy
Holidays" cake #SC-14, showing an
ebullient Saint Nick holding a bag of
goodies by a Christmas tree, and the
idea fell into my head immediately.
"I want this one," I told the order
taker, "but I need you to change a few
The order taker gave me a look and
mumbled under his breath, "But you
want some changes:'
"Yes, I want you to change Santa
Claus' suit color to blue and white:'
"Blue and white," he said, writing it
down under special instructions.
"Yes, and I want you to replace the
Christmas tree with an Israeli flag:'
"An Israeli flag?" he asked, a small
group of his fellow workers were over-
hearing and started to approach.
"Yes, and I'll drop off a picture of one
tomorrow:' I said. "And I'll need you to
replace the bag of presents with Israel
"Israel bonds?" he mumbled some
"Yes," I said. "And I want you to
change the slogan from "'Merry
Christmas from Santa: to 'Season's
Greetings from Chanuldaus.:"
"This'll cost extra:' he said.
"Name the price I said, slipping him
a $20 with no one else looking. Jacksons
will get things done in the big city.
A week later, I stopped by the store
to pick up Chanuklaus, and was met
by some of the store's employees who
wanted a look at the man who changed
Santa into a fundraiser.
The looks varied from amusement
to disgust, but I couldn't care less. I was
taking control of my holiday.
The cake drew only the briefest of
comments from the host and host-
ess, and it probably would have been
a hit at the party. But the party had
been canceled two days before due to a
Chicago Bulls losing streak brought on
by Michael Jordan's first retirement. We
Chicago Jews loved our hoops.
Since I was only a friend of a friend's
cousin, I didn't get the phone call.
I offered my condolences and hope
for a winning streak, but stuck around
long enough to have some cake. At
$35, I wasn't about to just give it to
them without a sample, and bringing it
home might have caused an argument.
Besides, chocolate cake with blue icing
doesn't go well with hard cider drinks
and Wyndham Hill CDs.
I walked the 2 miles home, and I
stopped at a sporting goods store on
I bought socks.