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Holiday Adventures 

A journey back to medieval times

Last Saturday morning, I got stuck for 20 minutes on a very slow moving street that the rest of the year serves as an interstate highway called I-40. Two lanes were blocked because of people trying to exit the freeway and go into Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem.

Of course, I was going there, too (don't even ask why, that's a very long story), and after the 20-minute line, it was fairly easy to break through the two circles of jammed lanes that were made by people trying to escape from the mall into secure and less-clogged streets. These people gently let you pass with a strange smile that resembled that of the cancerberus (aka Cerberus) one encounters entering the gates of hell. That in turn led me to a mindset that stopped my stress, lowered my blood pressure and helped me forget about how dreadful this might be. I just went medieval -- in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

Anyway, the trip was just the beginning, because I found a parking spot in a faraway land that I'll name the Kingdom of Belk's. It was literally miles (well, about one mile, actually) away from the place I was headed: a mystical place where every single tool in the world can be found, called Sears Castle.

In my journey through the deep, dark mall, as I avoided stepping on the many screaming little dwarfs always guarded by fat, redneck cyclopes, I met some very interesting characters. There were the hooded, capped, young ones who just hung loose, didn't carry any types of bags, wore baggy clothes and talked loud. Those seemed to be the more noble ones. There were also the Latino families, who don't see anything because they're busy hunting for something in their size on the bargain racks.

As I journeyed onward, I had a chance encounter with the many mermaids who wore skimpy but warm clothing (such as wool miniskirts) and carried small Victoria's Secret and Gap Body bags. They were a distraction that almost made me fall into one of those traps in the middle of the path. It's here in the center that buffoons sold everything from candles to scarves to strange, decorative metal objects that one can hang from the door -- "to keep out the evil spirits," the merchants claimed. Had I fallen into that particular trap, I would have ended up with a strange communication device that would allow people to reach me faster in order to take a few golden coins away from me.

Then an ogre hit me with her handful of big plastic bags and brought me back to reality. "What's all that stuff the fat hag is carrying?" I asked myself. Everybody seemed to be holding at least two big bags full of boxes.

A recent study states that the average per capita spending on gifts for the holiday season in the United States is around $700. Makes a lot of sense if you assume that the easiest way to show affection to your loved ones you only see during this "quality time" period called the holidays is to give them a little bottle of fine French perfume or a big bottle of Scotch whiskey.

So I finally made it to Sears, found what I was looking for (a Craftsman plumbing vise grip) and had to wait in line for 15 minutes because there were three ladies in front of me asking the cashier to explain the differences between various power tools they had picked out for their husbands.

And then I remembered that my car was parked at the other end of the mall -- but I had forgotten which row I was parked in. Might as well go back to medieval brain mode now that I'm carrying a weapon.

Hernan Mena, a native of Mexico, is associate editor of the regional Hispanic weekly newspaper, Que Pasa.

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