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BUZZ

"In 1971, I had a spiritual encounter with a maple tree in Cades Cove, Tenn. Over the years, she nurtured my soul. She died in 1994, and in her memory, I wish to collect your true spiritual encounter story with your tree for an anthology. Thanks. Warren D. Jacobs, 5275 Riverview Road N.W., Atlanta, GA 30327."

-- Classified ad in Poets & Writers magazine.
A creature was stirring

It was perfect peace ... well, almost. There we were last week, at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. Joseph's Cathedral. The crowd had fallen into a reverent hush, and a homily was being delivered in that quiet, hypnotic voice that can come only from the Rev. Henry Mansell, bishop of Buffalo. Buzz can't quote the bishop exactly, because whenever he opens his mouth, something in our brain gets disconnected, but he was saying something about how Christmas was a time for us to draw closer to the mysteries of the universe, and put aside those things that preoccupy us in our modern, everyday lives, and -- briiiing! As if on cue, a cell phone rang. Bethlehem calling!

Santa babe
Where the North Pole stops, the Twilight Zone begins. A dad found that out when he took his kids to Chestnut Ridge Park last week for a hayride to Santa's Workshop and an audience with the Man himself. Typical hectic holiday schedule -- they got there at 11:45 a.m., secured hayride tickets for 1:30 p.m., and after the trip approached the jolly old elf, who looked a little, well, funny. Then Santa talked and, as the dad put it, "it's pretty obvious Santa has either had a sex change operation or is a transvestite!" Five-year-olds can't be fooled. Our friend's daughter climbed off Santa's lap, returned to her father and said solemnly, "Dad, I think that was a woman." Her dad thought fast. "Well, maybe he needed a break, and Mrs. Santa filled in for him," he said. The girl frowned. "But why was she wearing a beard?" Ho, ho, ho!

Gone but not forgotten
There are now 0 shopping days till Christmas. And tomorrow, we'll be into the negative numbers. Your excuse for falling behind? There are no good stores left! Heck, if downtown was what it used to be, you'd have snagged that Sleep and Snore Ernie! Which brings us to the latest from Buffalo quiz master Bud Murray, who last week whipped a bar full of trivia nuts into a frenzy by asking us which 10 departed stores were most missed, according to a poll of 500 locals. (Answers below, under "The buzz.") Everyone got into the spirit, yelling out department stores, five-and-tens, supermarkets, everything. A sick economy can be fun! Afterward, someone shouted, "What about restaurants?" "Next time!" said Mr. Murray. "That's one of my favorite subjects, shut-down restaurants."
This just in ...
Kudos to Channel 2 News, for not letting a good story get in the way of shameless self-promotion. Not once, but five times during the 11 p.m. Thursday newscast, anchors Doug Bell and Carol Kaplan virtually lunged across the desk to scream into the camera that only Channel 2 had this lead story ... only Channel 2's cameras were there when cops showed up ... only Channel 2 ... well, you get the idea. Oh -- and what was the lead story? A mom who left her kids locked in a car so she could Christmas shop. Not nearly as important as Channel 2 News letting us know it has finally figured out how to use newsroom police scanners.

The buzz
And wait! There's more! Channel 2, reporting on comic Chris Farley's death, said local fans "couldn't believe it had happened." Hey, we thought all 350-pound coke-snorting, Jack-drinking, doughnut-cramming, fast-lane Hollywood types lived until at least 40. ... Bud Murray's 10 stores, from the most-missed on down: Sattler's, Loblaws, AM&A's, Twin Fair, Hens & Kelly, Hengerer's, Grant's, Neisners, Kobackers and L.L. Berger. ... The Thirds, gods among guitarists, reunite at Nietzsche's, Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

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