'"'Tis the Season" includes elements of French new wave cinema (La Nouvelle Vague), including a noir theme, local color, jazz soundtrack, long tracking shots, jump cuts, existential view.  It contains allusions to several classic new wave films: Elevator to the Gallows (Malle), Breathless (Godard), Shoot the Piano Player (Truffaut), and to Polanski's new Hollywood crime flic, Chinatown.' JW
[Slow panoramic shot of a midtown street scene, New York City]

Christina Ricci stands on the sidewalk outside Saks, laughing.  Jeans, fitted leather jacket, Converse sneaks, oversized sunglasses.  Her fat-assed friend is wearing brown suede Puma's with a light blue strip.

"Have you heard from your agent recently?" the friend asks.

Christina laughs harder; then flips her friend the bird, spins around and strides up the street.

"Hi, Christina," I say as she passes me.

But she looks right through me, as though I'm some kind of existential nobody.  That's what pisses me off about Hollywood types, their total self-absorption, as if the sun orbits around them just to keep them warm.  I want to take out a gun, jam the barrel up her nose like an enema and say something smartass like: "How does that feel, bitch?" 

Instead I turn and watch her walk, then slip and slide up the sidewalk, bobbing and weaving in and out of the afternoon Christmas shoppers crowding Fifth Avenue.

Across the street they're filming an episode of Law & Order.  The boom camera mounted on the back of a truck turns and follows Christina.  It tracks her up and up and up the avenue, her jet-black hair swaying in the gasoline-fume-reeking air until at last she disappears, a grain of sand lost on the beach, never to be seen in this story again.

A beautiful young woman with perfect hips bumps into me.

"New York Daily News," she calls out.  She turns her head and smiles at me. "Do you want to buy a copy?" she asks holding one out.  I've seen her before hawking the notorious tabloid.

"Sure.  Why not."  Though what I really want to do is run my fingers through her ultra-short, blond hair.  I could easily fall in love with this newsvendor.

I hand her a dollar and receive a paper in return.

"Keep the change," I say.

"Don't be a wiseass," she says.

"See you around," I say.

Pushing through the heavy bronze doors into the vaulted interior of Saks' flagship store, I'm thrown immediately into the mad crush of last minute holiday shopping.  Beautiful women, some in furs, wander blithely up and down the aisles, fondling silk scarves, sniffing at eau de cologne testers, pondering expensive naughty lingerie, the most popular color of which is burgundy.  Though pinot noir is a close second.

I stop at the Lancome make-up counter where Grace works.  She's shelving new boxes of product.  Her cotton candy complexion carries me back to my youth when I showed heifers at the Texas State Fair.  That was before I did two tours in Iraq with Military Intel.  Later on I went to college on the G.I. Bill, moved to New York City and became a department store dick.  I had ambitions to be a writer of crime novels but Pinkerton's wouldn't hire me. 

Grace naked is to die for.  But at the moment she casts upon me a bored and hungry look. 

"Take me to Paris, Jack."

"How about I buy you a copy of the International Herald Tribune and we catch a drink at the KGB Bar down on East 14th Street."

"Maybe we should hold up a 7 ELEVEN."

She runs a freshly manicured clear-coated mid-length all natural fingernail along the curve of my jaw.

"Then go to Paris."

My hand grabs and squeezes hers just for a moment before she jerks it away.

"My boss will whip my ass with a bamboo rod if he catches me flirting."

"Sounds like it could be fun," I say.

Without waiting for her retort, I lean over the countertop and bury my nose in Grace's spectacular cleavage.  She's wearing this black, 1930s thing with a deep V in front.  I feel faint in the headiness of the moment.

With a giggle she backs out of range.


I blow out a puff of air.

"It's all such a fucking waste of time," I say. 

"Are you talking about your job or me?"

"Is there a difference?"

"God, how I hate your theatrical despair first thing in the morning.  Especially on the day before Christmas.  On second thought I'll find someone else to take me to Paris."

"Let's have lunch."

"I'll think about it."

Her lips assume the requisite pout.  As I walk away I blow her a kiss but she's already distracted by a woman outfitted in a see-through snow-white wool knit dress, Santa red brassiere and undies and white beret.   For a moment the customer looks like Marilyn Monroe.  Then I realize she's not anywhere near that spectacular.

As I take the escalator to the Mezzanine, Miles Davis undresses the morning over the loudspeakers in my head.

When I get to my office, a note taped to the door says: Mr. Mulwray wants to see you right away.   The childish scrawl belongs to the departmental secretary Karen.  Hollis Mulwray is my boss.

I see Mulwray at bonus time and on those occasions when the shit hits the fan over some security matter.  The rich uncle of a spoiled punk shoplifter we're prosecuting turns out to be one of the mayor's golfing buddies.  Someone is sexually assaulted in the pissoir down the hall from Customer Service.  Stuff like that. 

Today isn't bonus day.  And Mulwray never stands up for his employees, so whatever the problem is, I'll be hung out to dry.

Contemplating my fate I ride the elevator to the gallows.

When I step off on the executive floor Karen perches behind the reception desk licking stamps and slamming them on envelopes.  She nods for me to go right in.

Mulwray rises from behind his kidney-shaped teak desk like a menacing storm.  A half empty bottle of Cutty and a half full rocks glass reside on the desktop.  Mid-morning drinking is not a good sign.