I went Christmas shopping over the week end. Not among the mall crowds that are more bruising this year than ever by so many people texting while oblivious to my shoulders and limbs as they drift past me. Nope. I chose the rarified ads in the New York Times that swept into a higher universe while I was seated safely at home.

Right off, I will say that escapism is too slight a word to describe what I found in the Season for Giving, particularly for recipients who not only have everything but always pretend to be duly shocked upon opening the box.

There was the usual assortment of sports memorabilia ranging from a Mickey Mantle signed baseball ($1,075) to a game sock (gamey?) worn by Derek Jeter($409). But the notice warned that you had better hurry because the sock would never appear in the bargain bin.(Investment hint: Worn athletic socks are cool ideas this season. I don’t even want to think about where they will reach next for an athlete’s more discreet game togs!)

For the truly desperate, The Times offered a “unique” gift of novelty gas pumps “perfect for the home” ($290 each). I must tell you that I spent a little more time perusing a collector’s box of infield dirt from 30 ball parks for $259.

A wooden model ship of the U.S.S. Constitution, fully built,( $975). How do they dare pack those delicate items? When I worked nights at a Columbus morning newspaper, I used to build those ships from kits after midnight to settle my nerves. But I eventually lost interest. They take hours to dust.

In the workaday world for us commoners, nothing seems cheap anymore. Just glance at these Times’ headlines on the business page:

  • “British Hedge Fund Titan Ordered to Pay Ex-Wife $531 million.”
  • “British Property Developer Files $3.5 billion Claim over Iceland Bank Inquiry’.
  • (Article) ” Google potentially faces a fine of $6 billion…”
  • “Big Law Firms bringing back hefty Bonuses for Associates…Average top payout $40,000 higher than last year”, some reaching seasonal tidings of $150,000.

Finally, if you like big numbers, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s chief financial officer, happily reported that his staff had discovered hundreds of millions of Euros “tucked away” in church accounts that it didn’t know it had.

“It is important to point out”, the cardinal reassuringly wrote in the institutional Catholic Herald magazine, “that the Vatican is not broke.”

Even the Vatican will tell you that at this time of the year, the more there is in the vault, the merrier.

But first, I must renew my $25 Panera’s gift card..