<NOTE: It would have made sense to post this days ago when it was written and Christmas was not already upon us but I got busy. I think the story still works if you just pretend it is the Wednesday before Christmas. Thanks!>

I would start by complaining that I do not have enough money to do all the holiday shopping I would like to accomplish this year but, in general, complaining is pointless. It does not pay well, nobody wants to hear it and ultimately, there is no such thing as “enough” when it comes giving to my family. I could have unlimited resources at my disposal but I will always punish myself for the one or two things that I just had to get Ivan or Chris but I was unable to find or afford.
With that in mind, allow me to focus on just a few of the items we purchased and discoveries we made in the week preceding Christmas. Last Friday Chris and I kicked off a four day weekend with goals of fun, adventure, and spending our limited Christmas budget and time at businesses that we felt really deserved it. Not everything we did, bought, or explored was specifically intended for under-the-tree festivities but it all felt Christmas-y nonetheless…

The Coolest Toy Store on the Planet
Friday morning started off with a Christmas breakfast in Ivan’s classroom and afterwards we ventured directly out onto the streets of Downtown Greenville. O.P. Taylors was our first stop and we found their Lego section to be unbeatable. At six-years-old, Ivan has become fascinated (or potentially obsessed) with Legos, so any purchase here would be a good one. My only disappointment was when the super-helpful clerk referred to her Lego database and informed me that the Lego RV I keep seeing in their new commercials is not a production item. Ivan is as fascinated with RV’s as he is with Legos and I had my heart set on this gift I only discovered through false advertising. Anyway, thanks to O.P. Taylors for taking the time to research this before I tore apart every Wal-Mart and Target within a 100 mile radius looking for something that does not exist.

On we went down Main Street in and out of stores until we stumbled upon a new shop in front of The Poinsett Hotel. CityStory is a new book that takes a look at modern Greenville in the most unique way and the store features not just the published hardcopy but the works of the artists associated with it. I have never seen a book look like such a piece of art and combine the printed word, photography, art and technology in such a creative way. It is a fascinating project and something that I am sure any happy-to-be-here resident of The Upstate will appreciate.

In talking to Bruce, one of the co-founders of the CityStory project, we learned about a store on Stone Avenue called We Took To The Woods. This is a seasonal store that opened after Thanksgiving and will close after Christmas. Outside they sell greenery for the last-minute decorator and inside they sell antiques and art that I will likely never be able to afford. The store has a great vibe and some regional flavors and here I discovered one the greatest creations in the world and one of my new favorite things… 100% real maple syrup that was aged in old whiskey barrels. I love maple syrup and the real stuff always makes Aunt Jemima look like a Waffle House outcast. Add to that a hint of Kentucky whiskey and this stuff is liquid gold not to be used on your kid’s Eggos.

No Friday in Greenville would be complete without food and a cold beverage so we lunched with an old friend at Rainer’s and picked up a growler of Stone Brewing Company’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale from The Community Tap. Lunch was great as always but the beer might have been sent here from God Himself. I asked for “hoppy” and the owner’s recommendation delivered in spades. I have never experienced a black IPA before but it was phenomenal.

Saturday I nailed down a big part of Ivan’s literary needs for Christmas. My favorite little neighborhood bookstore, McDowell’s Emporium, hooked me up with the new Shel Silverstein book as well as some joke books that should improve Ivan’s growing comedy routine. His current act is based on the same four jokes I hear every day and then dissolves into nonsensical ramblings and fart noises. Actually, it is not far removed from what I have seen a few real comics do onstage but hopefully having some real jokes as a reference will help him polish things up a bit.

Sunday we attended Summa Joe’s Christmas party. Most of the evening’s festivities are beyond what I consider appropriate for this site so I will just provide an overview of things… First, I cannot think of a better group of people to spend a Sunday Christmas celebration with. The owners, staff and most loyal patrons of Summa Joe’s are more like a family than just a group of people that own, operate and support a local business. This shows in the quality of food and service they produce and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it all as a friend, customer, and once-a-week pizza guy. If you have not been to Summa Joe’s you are missing out on a truly special dining experience.

Monday we were moving a little, um, slowly in the morning but we made it out into the world despite our fogginess. We stopped at Anderson’s biggest local music store, Draisen Edwards, and picked up a small djembe for the little man that has been begging for a drum set. We figured that starting with one drum was a safer play and he can always move on to a more complete set when he shows a stable interest and I invest in better earplugs.

From there we headed to Greenville to pick up Ivan and stopped in at Horizon Records. We snagged a couple of CD’s to wrap and give to ourselves for Christmas but of course we were listening to one of them as soon as we got in the car. The new Scott H. Biram album is patiently waiting for his turn in the CD player but Aaron Berg & The Heavy Love’s Exile In Paradise has been in constant rotation since it hit our stereo. Aaron Berg is a local artist and this is an amazing CD; buy it or check him out live and if you are anything less than blown away, I will personally reimburse you for the efforts.*

The big highlight of Monday was that Chris and I looked at a house in Greenville that we hope to move into when our homes are off the market. There are a lot of people and places we love in Anderson but downtown Greenville is our ultimate destination. The house is downtown, walking distance from Ivan’s school, affordable and has our name written all over it. Hopefully the Gods of Real Estate will smile upon us and the timing of our home’s sales and the new joint’s availability will coincide enough for us to make the move.

So, there is our highlight reel of our long Friday-Monday weekend. There were a lot more places we visited, money we spent and people we met but I will not overwhelm you with all the details. The real point is that we had a great time getting in the spirit of the season and never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart, Target, or any area mall. We supported The Upstate as much as we could reasonably afford and enjoyed every minute of it.

* I do not really have any money, so I will not actually reimburse you. The guarantee for enjoyment still stands, though.