And they’re off 

It’s time for the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping steeplechase.

TREE TIME: At Open House.
  • TREE TIME: At Open House.

Three hundred and sixty four days out of the year, I hate crowds. I don’t go near Riverfest or the Fourth of July fireworks on the river. I need my elbow room.

But set me loose on the day after Thanksgiving and I’m swimming upstream like a salmon on crack. I’m hardly ever interested in the early-bird specials on DVD players or cell phones, and I know all that stuff will still be there the following Monday after work, but there’s just something about the cut-throat competition for a parking spot eight miles from the door and saying “excuse me” every three seconds and NOT being home with nothing on TV but football that I really, really like. Reason for the season, and all.

This year the big-box stores will no doubt kick off the festivities at the crack of ain’t-no-way-I’m-getting-up-that-early, and good luck with that. But if it’s a slightly more civilized experience you’re after, Central Arkansas’s malls will at least be waiting to open until after the all-night bars close down.

Park Plaza opens at 7 a.m. Friday, and will have extended hours through Christmas. They get more extended the closer Christmas gets, so check www.parkplaza.com for details.

McCain Mall will open its doors at 5 a.m., with all stores open by 6 a.m. The mall will also be giving away $500 Visa giftcards every hour throughout the day.

Midtowne’s shopkeepers are sleeping in — or maybe they’re all just planning to run out to Toys ’R’ Us in the middle of the night and rumble for a TMX Tickle Me Elmo. At any rate, they’re planning to open at 8 a.m.

Parisian’s folks will be ready for their lunch breaks by then. The store opens at 5 a.m. Friday.

And yeah, the gift-giving part of Christmas is all warm and fuzzy and everything, but I get just as much of a kick out of the decorations. All those bright, shiny things, all that silver and red. My personal tastes tend toward Neo-Seussic Revival, and so far this year I’ve come across a couple of things I really like:

Open House (8212 Cantrell Road) has a line of fused-glass mobile ornaments/window hangings ($14-$20) in the form of snowmen and Christmas trees — they catch the light beautifully, but they’re not the least bit formal or stodgy. I also like all the extra-large pink and turquoise ornaments and the stockings with huge curlicue toes. Forget Santa, I’ll take the elves.

Lakewood Gardens (3101 North Hills Blvd.) has several completely decorated trees in different styles, and one of them is chock full of the wacky and the whimsical. I especially like the bright-colored lopsided Christmas tree ornaments ($10).

Ten Thousand Villages (305 President Clinton Ave.) is again the place to go if you’re looking for a nativity scene. I couldn’t begin to describe them all — they range from a tiny teepee-shaped hand-painted paper crèche ornament ($4) to a crocheted, finger-puppet-like set from Vietnam ($38) to intricately carved, gorgeously detailed sets made from West Bank olive wood ($135 and up). They’re definitely worth checking out.

• One last thing, in case you haven’t heard: Park Plaza’s major new tenant will be Forever XXI, a trendy/contemporary clothing store that carries men’s, women’s and children’s. It’ll take up the large space on the lower level that’s currently the Finish Line. There’s no opening date yet, but it’ll be sometime next fall.

I would like mine in a box.





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