Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Law & Order: Kristkindlmarkt Chicago

"Whoa! Whoa! WHOA!" I heard that and when I turned around, caught a glimpse of a Chicago cop running by. I'm pretty sure he had said it. A moment before that I'd entered the German Christmas ornament shop at Kristkindlmarkt Chicago in Daley Plaza to take a look at the large selection of pretty, and pretty expensive, ornaments. Someone else in the shop said something about chasing a shoplifter, so I left the shop to do a little rubbernecking. Cops chasing a guy beats piles of German Christmas ornaments any day.

Somehow or other I usually find myself at Kristkindlmarkt Chicago each December. It isn't a cherished personal tradition or anything, and the last thing I bought there might have been in 2001 or '02 or so, when I split a potato pancake with a co-worker. But if I'm around and have the time, I'll stroll past the numerous booths and eye the ornaments and handcrafted whatnots for sale, and take a whiff of the German food. That's what I did today. A lot of people were out in the early afternoon temps of around 50° F. doing the same.

Most of the vendors are from Germany, but such places as Peru, Ecuador, Russia and Evanston, Illinois, are also represented. Prices are high, but so is the quality. If I thought there was no risk of breaking a $5 or $10 Christmas-tree bauble, I might buy a few.

A vendor from St. Petersburg, Russia, offered my favorite oddity this year: Windup dolls that actually aren't windup, and have no batteries. Somehow they move around because of the tension between the two parts of the doll. A sign assured buyers, NO BATTERIES NECESSARY. Some of the dolls looked like Santa Claus, or maybe Father Frost. Perhaps this particular doll was invented during the Soviet era, when batteries weren't predictably available.

The German Christmas ornament shop is more than a booth, it's an enclosed temporary shop larger than any of the booths. By the time I'd emerged from that shop and walked a few steps in the direction of the police action, about four cops had a guy surrounded. By the time I could see what was going on, they'd already put handcuffs on him. He was a nondescript fellow in his 20s and said nothing as one of the cops frisked him with remarkable thoroughness. Maybe the suspect had been through this before and knew that nothing was the best thing to say under the circumstances. I didn't stick around to see them take him away.

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