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Mike Tasos: Gifts of Christmas past on my mind this week
Mike Tasos

Smack dab in the heart of “the most wonderful time of the year,” it is amazing at the number of people who clam up, refusing to say “Merry Christmas.”

We’ve become a little weird about this.

Think about store clerks wishing you a “Happy Halloween” as you buy a bushel of mini-Snickers in October.  Yet all you can mostly get these days is a “Happy Holidays.” It’s as if we are ashamed to say “Merry Christmas.” 

Not me. Any clerk I run across is getting a “Merry Christmas.” 

I’ve lost touch with what is now the hottest toy on the market. But I can share a wonderful concept, located at The Collection: Phenix Salon Suites, which could be a barbershop’s worst nightmare.

My childhood barber, Freddie, ran a side business. No one told me, I had always been more focused on the blue shark on the wall. Freddie’s phone rang constantly and there was no call waiting back then. He was so popular, he took notes. And the three-chair shop had a huge hall in the back.

In a show of 7-year-old precociousness, I figured out Freddie was a bookie. 

It’s a given that Freddie’s shtick wouldn’t fly at Phenix. The owners, Tricia and Chris Bitterman have been members of the community for 13 years with kids in high school and college. In this season of giving, the Bitterman’s are enabling stylists, aestheticians and massage therapists.

Shake the connotation that “enabling” is a bad thing. There are 29 individual suites. The stylists rent them, attain profitability, privacy and pride ownership. All are individually decorated. They lease the space and have their own business without the stress of a sizeable initial cash outlay.

What a Christmas gift! 

This is the second location for Chris and Tricia. I’m betting this one works out well. It still had customers at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

I’ve shared my aversion to malls. All those crabby shoppers using middle fingers to say anything but their team is No. 1. The toymakers do their part to whip the youngsters into a frenzy. 

I still shiver at the memory of years ago, standing in line at 4 a.m. on a December Sunday morning to Santa Claus a PlayStation (or was it am Xbox?). Huge demand. Few products on the shelf. Forget Bass Pro Shop, these toy mavens know how to set the hook.

I was bleary-eyed while the boys were snuggled in their beds with a Call of Duty marathon dancing in their little heads. Sleet added to the magic of the shopping experience.

How long was the post-Christmas shelf life of Tickle Me Elmo, which greedy brokers scalped at a huge premium? Elmo lasted maybe six months until being unceremoniously awarded curbside status, getting a pauper’s funeral in the form of a last ride to the dump. 

“Wait until next year,” a common phrase used by sports fans, most likely is the war cry in toy makers’ boardrooms in April, as plans for revenue maker are finalized.

No worries about a Christmas present for this columnist. Our nearly 25-year neighbor, Cherry Smith, recently surprised the toffee out of me. 

Cherry took two “White Christmas” tickets off my hands. Admittedly, Irving Berlin is a mile down my list of personal favorites and the season tickets are in the second row. She had recently sent some wildlife pictures and I inquired about the camera that had snapped them.

A digital, infrared camera soon appeared at our fence. I have had a blast looking at the magnificent six-pointer that dines at Chez Tasos while we sleep. There are also does, raccoons and an occasional possum that visit.

Like the late great AJC columnist, Lewis Grizzard, I am not a fan of hunting, so the location of my four-legged guests will remain a deeply hidden secret. Grizzard wanted hunters to wield rifles while “nekkid,” since the animals weren’t clothed.

It was his way to level the playing field. 

You don’t hear much about Lewis, whose heart finally quit him in March of 1994. Hope those of you who never got to read him will check out the 20 books he wrote. In this happy time of year, his writing will keep you smiling and make a great Christmas present.

You can thank me later.

A passionate University of Georgia fan, it would be a gift to read one of Lewis’ rants about the uselessness of a fake punt.

Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. The word “Christmas” was used eight times and no sensible readers were harmed after reading it. Comments can be sent to