Eating Christmas

Tania Katan's Christmas Miracle

Ah, the holidays. Christmas is all about love, sharing, sweetness and light -- and keeping the antacids handy. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Chow Bella presents "Eating Christmas," in which some of our favorite writers nosh on the real lessons we learn this time of year. Today, Tania Katan's Christmas miracle.

Please join us Wednesday, December 12 at 7 p.m. at Crescent Ballroom, as we present Chow Bella's first-ever public reading, featuring several entries from the "Eating Christmas" series, read by the authors.

See also: - A Saturday Night with Tania Katan - Eating Christmas: Valley Writers Nosh on the Holidays

Being Chosen to be in covenant with God is not as glamorous as it sounds. Look, it wasn't my choice to be chosen, it was God's! And let me tell you a little something about being one of God's favorites; it sucks. It's like being your Boss's favorite or your Teacher's favorite; everyone hates you and you get more work/assignments/pogroms thrown at you because your Boss/Teacher/God doesn't want co-workers/fellow students/Christians to think that you're getting any special treatment.

So, it's Christmas day, for some a celebration, for others, a day when finding a decent cup of coffee and a sweet treat is nearly impossible. A Chosen friend of mine, with an equally compelling coffee habit told me about a place in Scottsdale that might be open. "Gelato Spot. And it has great espresso too. Shalom!"

The sign said,"G Spot OPEN!" Espresso, gelato and arousal all at the same time? This is my idea of a Christmas miracle. The man behind the counter looked like a young Ronald Reagan. Stiff hair; blue coruscate eyes and a simple smile. "Welcome to the Gelato Spot. What can I get for you?" he asked and meant it.

"I'll have a cappuccino and a small gingerbread gelato. Do you have a restroom? I'm going to stay for a bit and write."

"Yes, the restrooms are right over there."

As if little chunks of gingerbread scattered throughout creamy vanilla gelato weren't enough, my cappuccino tasted like it was shipped in from Italy! But there is nothing more arousing than a super clean café bathroom! Except for what I found in that bathroom. Amidst the lotions and pomegranate pump-soaps I found an envelope. A sandy, 5x7 envelope. Totally unremarkable. I opened it. There was a 20-dollar bill, and another 20, and another, and another. A hundred dollars in wrinkly 20-dollar bills, smoothed out and carefully grouped together!

So, I did what anyone who has been Chosen by God to receive this cash would have done: I thought about all the things I could buy with it then I turned it in to Mr. Gelato Reagan. He thanked me and I left the G Spot feeling morally stimulated.

This wasn't the first time God challenged me on my path to righteousness. When I was 9 years old my twin brother and I were riding bikes through El Dorado Park, which would have been totally unremarkable except for the fact that on that day instead of looking up, I looked down. That's when I saw a one-dollar bill on the ground. Then another, and another, and another, and after six, one-dollar bills in a row, the money trail went cold. I grabbed the cash and told my brother to follow me to the Rec center. When I emerged from the Rec center with no money in my hands, he asked, "What happened?" "I turned it in. It belongs to someone else," I said.

"Are you stupid," my brother asked. "No one can prove it's their money? The Rec center people are just gonna keep it, Tania."

His logic made sense, plus the Rec center people were mean to kids and seemed undeserving of all that cash. I came up with a plan. "Ok," I said, "I'll give you two bucks if you go in and claim the money." He got the cash.

As a struggling writer I was compelled by both the story and the money that sprung from the G Spot (pun intended). I called, almost daily, to inquire about it. Did someone claim it? What did they look like? Why did they leave it behind? Each time Mr. Gelato Reagan told me that no one had claimed it. After months my inquiries being dismissed by the manager who had no idea what I was talking about, and Mr. Reagan getting more and more irritated by my calls, I stopped. The money seemed to have disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands, to do the righteous thing. I called my mother. "Mom, you have to call Gelato Spot and tell them that you left a 100 dollars, in an unmarked envelope, in their bathroom. I'll give you 50 bucks if you do it!"

My mother and I conducted rehearsals by phone.

"Ok, Tania, how's this: Hello Gelato Spot, I am Joelle Katan. I think I left 100 dollars, that's five 20's, in your bathroom, at the Gelato Spot."

"It sounds stiff mom, like you're reading a script. What's your motivation?"

"My daughter asked me to do something and I love my daughter."

"That's not motivation! I'll give you motivation. You've got babies, a lot of them, 15, and you can't afford diapers, and you all live in a 1978 Toyota Corona station wagon. And there's a cop knocking on your door, I mean, hatchback! Now pick up that phone and CALL Gelato Spot!"

I'm certain that my mother gave a compelling performance--albeit a little stiff--but the manager told her that there was no money turned in. So, almost a year after I turned in the money, I decided to go into the G Spot and find out what happened to it.

Mr. Gelato Reagan was at the register. "Single, wet, cappuccino, right?" he said. "Yes, good memory," I said. "What ever happened to that 100 dollars I turned in about a year ago?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." he said.

"The 100 bucks? From the bathroom? Remember?"

"No. Sorry."

Any smug barista who remembers your coffee drink has to remember a Jewish writer, on Christmas day, finding $100 in the bathroom, and turning it in!

"You really don't remember?"

"Well..." he started, "About a month after you turned it in, no one claimed it, so...I just spend it."

I was stunned. I told Mr. Gelato Reagan that I would not be paying for my cappuccino today! "Since you're a hundredaire, you can buy it for me!" He smiled nervously and said, "Yeah, sure. So...we're ok, right? You and me," he asked.

"Sure," I said. "We're fine."

"Because, you know, I thought that you were a psychologist conducting some sort of social experiment."

"And stealing the money was the right choice to make on this hidden camera show in your mind?"

"I guess."

"What are your professional aspirations?" I asked him.

"I'm a business major," he said, with no irony.

Here's the deal with choices: When you're lucky enough to make the right one, you often don't realize it until later, sometimes years later. And when you make the wrong one, you feel it instantly and try to save face by making odd excuses. So, the next time God chooses to throw someone else's money my way, I hope that I choose to turn it in. Or get my mom some acting classes. Not sure which one yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tania Katan