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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9

Listen Local

The Elephant Returns

by Cathryn BeeksDecember 2023

The White Elephant Gift Exchange is my favorite part of the holidays. I played for the first time in the 80’s during a holiday luncheon when I was working in Escrow. Those women can get real mean when necessary and sometimes, I learned, it’s necessary. You can’t weaken when your number is called. Dozens of wrapped gifts await but who knows what lies within? Some of your friends are super cheap and barely made the $10 minimum during a quick trip to the 99 Only store on the way to the party. On the other hand, some of your friends are ridiculously generous and there could be actual treasure under that tree. You scan the room, eyeing the gifts that have already been chosen. Those with crappy gifts eagerly try and sell you on stealing theirs, others try and hide the candle that came with the scarf that you’re now feeling the texture of.

Then, across the room something catches your eye. You must have been in the restroom when this beauty was opened. You were just talking about wanting a blown glass clown sculpture the other day and BOOM! There it is. Unfortunately, you also missed when the woman who originally selected it squealed with delight upon opening it, exclaiming with excitement to all that her blown glass clown collection is FINALLY complete. She gets tears in her eyes as you walk towards her, your greedy hand stretched out. The crowd collectively moans “NOooooo!!!” as you reach toward her prized possession, her hands gripping bozo tightly as she begs you not to take it….

But you do take it because, well, you’re a jerk. So now clown lady gets to pick again, but the rules say she can’t take back something immediately that was stolen from her, so she scans the room. She sees the couple holding the back scratcher they opened, the same back scratcher she heard the tall guy to her left mumble about “I wish I’d picked that”. Clown lady is clever. Instead of selecting a new gift she steals the sushi plate set from the tall guy to her left which frees him up to steal the back scratcher from the couple who whisper argue for a minute before deciding to take her sushi plates. JUST as clown lady had hoped. And now? It’s her turn to select again. She turns to you, redemption shining bright in her wide eyes as she shrieks “give me my clown!!”. The crowd roars with laughter and joy and it’s all good because you get to select again and there’s a suspiciously tall and slender gift bag tucked back behind the tree. Definitely a bottle of booze. And that’s definitely getting stolen 3 times.

THIS is “the Ely” as I call it. This is entertainment. Some of the fun gifts I’ve seen throughout the years have been a squatty potty, a blown glass clown (it still gives Kristen Cusato nightmares), weird combo gifts like a Playboy and a box of smokes or the ingredients to make salsa. Other fun perishable gifts I’ve seen: a subway sandwich, a porter house steak direct from the butcher and (actual) goldfish. Some folks re gift things they’ve gotten (lots of hot chocolate gift sets) or straight up wrap something from their home that they’re tired of using or looking at. Others go to great lengths to give clever gifts or hilarious gifts or even naughty gifts since it’s adults only and the giver is supposed to remain anonymous even after the exchange. There are still mysteries that remain unsolved from exchanges in the past like “who gave the jean shorts?”. 

After a few years of hiatus, the Listen Local White Elephant Gift Exchange is back. I’ll be hosting two very fun and festive events this season. The first one will take place at Satellite, the studio in Kearny Mesa where Jeff Berkley makes his magic. This exchange will be on Sunday, December 17th from 2pm to 5pm. RSVP to by December 16th! Get there before 3pm to get in on the exchange. BYO beverages, I’ll have a chilicuterie board so come hungry, donations appreciated! Bring a wrapped gift with no label of approx. $10 value and stash it under the tree when you arrive. At 3pm sharp (sorry, no gifts accepted after 2:55pm) we’ll draw numbers. 

Oh! Did I tell you about the numbers? You do NOT want to be number 1. Or 2 or anything under 10 but you also don’t want to be last b/c by then all the good stuff may have already been stolen 3 times after it’s original pick so it’s off limits. 15 is a sweet spot in a group of 25 or 30 folks. Anything larger than that, group wise, and you better take a potty break b/c the Ely can go on and on and on and on….. I’m also hosting a “Ramona Edition” exchange at Ramona Ranch Winery on December 23rd at high noon. There is a beautiful patio or gorgeous tasting room so no matter the weather, we’ll be covered, and the view is otherworldly. We’ll start this exchange promptly at 12:15 so don’t be late! Medium High will be performing from 2pm to 5pm directly after the exchange. Any questions? Give me a shout!


This month’s podcast features music by those performing in the San Diego area in December plus songs and messages from makers all over the globe. Please send me your original song and intro message so I can play you next year, get all the details at Thanks for listening and thank you to our subscribers for making the show possible. 

Join me in December!

Oh! And don’t miss this incredible journey that will take you to wineries where Ashley E. Norton and I will be providing entertainment. Click to read all about it!

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