There is but one piece of advice you need heed to make it through the upcoming holiday season with your cheer intact: quit trying so hard. There is a sort of velocity imparted to this time of year by various retail entities that have waited till the last quarter to make the profits that will break them at least even, and it is easy to become infected by their desperation.
This year, we were breathlessly informed that the 2013 Christmas shopping season would be one of the shortest on record because of a calendar quirk that placed Thanksgiving at the shank end of November. This is a problem why? When you quit trying so hard, arbitrary compulsions of space and time vanish like so many Ted Cruz filibusters.
However, I understand that it is hard to unlearn the habits of a lifetime. Hearing Magic 96 switch to its all-Christmas playlist right after Labor Day or remarking the re-appearance of Claxton fruit cakes at Piggly Wiggly just before the Fourth of July naturally triggers the impetus to shop hard for the holidays, and this special issue of Weld is here to help you, the hardcore acquirer, settle on a plan of action.
In this column, you will find a few suggestions from the outer reaches of the mercantile universe that may have escaped your notice as you seek that perfect present and the shower of gratitude that, as Scottish poet Robert Burns put it, “the gifties gi’e us.”
(Some English teachers may want to protest that this is not at all what Burns was trying to express. Humbug, I say.)
Your secret shopping weapon: mail order catalogs. Even if you haven’t purchased anything by mail since the Harding Administration, the purveyors of mail-order goods never take you off their lists, which is good news for one wishing not to try so hard. The ideas flow into your mailbox on a daily basis, and the wonders they reveal are found in fine publications such as Creative Irish Gifts, which invites you to observe the birth of the Prince of Peace with a traditional Blackthorn Irish shillelagh, reminding us in the spirit of the season that “Sticks have been used as weapons since fighting began.”
As long as we’re in the UK, let’s see what the Acorn catalog offers besides box sets of every Brit-com and detective show filmed since the reign of Henry VIII. Eh, wot? Here’s a Duct Tape Mug and Tie. The tie, described as “hilarious,” and let’s take their word for it, is handmade from real duct tape, but the mug only looks like duct tape. Appearing on a page labeled “Gifts under $20,” the tie will actually set you back $24.95, so British austerity policy may be in effect here.
Perhaps you prefer to buy warehouse-direct and save with The Budk Catalog, the cover of which proudly proclaims, “You’ve Never Seen Anything Like This!” Outside of a swap meet in rural Idaho, that is. The survivalist on your Christmas list might be delighted to get some of Budk’s throwing hatchets, pistol-grip crossbows or a million-volt combination flashlight and stun gun, but the whole family will doubtless warm to the Bear Standing Toilet Paper Holder, made of hand-painted poly resin. This fine art comes with “life-like details,” but the paper is apparently sold separately.
The Army-Navy Surplus Store was a fun place to shop back before sequestration made everything essential, but Deutsche Optik fills the bill these days with other nations’ military castoffs. Someone you know might say he wants a French Army foxhole periscope, a Swedish Army field operating table or an Italian Air Force soup tureen, but you know he really pines for a genuine Royal Navy Submarine Binnacle. This one lacks azimuth rings, so the price has taken a deep dive. The submarine is apparently sold separately.
Nothing says Yuletide quite like a zombie, am I right? Thank goodness, then for What on Earth, a company famous previously for goofy T-shirts and now for all things brain-eating. Here is where you’ll find Zombie Family Car Stickers, the Dress-Up Zombie Magnet Set and, of course, Zombie-opoly, “a game where the fun never dies.” Kill me now.
When it’s time to survey the realm of profoundly eccentric Christmas gifts, however, it should be in the pages of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Of course it’s a mainstream retailer; the kind of site for knee pain-relieving walking shoes, a tabletop aquarium or a really good cordless hand-held vacuum cleaner. Upstairs, though, quirky individuals subversively tweak the inventory. How else to explain the availability of the Hands-Free Hair Rejuvenator, which employs low-level lasers to massage your scalp while you listen to your iPod, a bargain at $699.95? Who had the inspiration to offer a leather easy chair in the shape of a giant baseball glove, manufactured of genuine glove leather by Rawlings, the company famous for making regular-size baseball gloves? A genius, I’ll warrant. Order yours before December 15 if you want it delivered by Christmas, and that’ll be $6,200, please.
The company offers fascinating tech gadgets, such as the Desktop 3D Printer (I’m sure they get you on the price of replacement cartridges) or their Call Me Gloves (they use your Bluetooth to allow you to make a cell phone call when you put your thumb in your ear and your pinky finger in front of your mouth). However, I suggest you empty the 401(k) and invest in old-school technology: The Authentic 1966 Batmobile.
No, they’re not kidding. Built to Bruce Wayne’s exacting specs on a vintage Lincoln with 430 horsepower, it’s got the afterburner, a Batbeam ray and something Alfred forgot the first time around: rear-view mirrors. The Batmobile’s yours for a trifling $200,000 and, yes, Boy Wonders are sold separately.