Screw it. Buy the fez.
Ah, the joys of holiday shopping. Nothing like making up a list, looking down the list, and realizing you have no idea what to get any one of these people. I always have particular trouble with my dad. I'm not quite sure what it is about him that makes him difficult to buy gifts for, but every year, I rack my brains trying to figure out what to get him that he'll actually like, and that he'll enjoy beyond the moment he unwraps it at Christmas.
Knowing this, The One And Only recently sent me an e-mail. The e-mail contained a link, and the words "Don't you think this would be perfect for your dad?"
Intrigued, of course, I followed the link....which took me to the Masonic Buyers Guide, and more specifically the fez section of this store. There were some beauties - I particularly like "the exalted shrine fez" - and what's more, I could actually see my dad wearing one. Not to work - at least not regularly - but I suspect that there are a few boring dinner parties he'd quite enjoy livening up with a well-applied Masonic fez. Unfortunately, at $118, it's a bit too expensive - but I was tempted, and that alone should give you an idea of why my dad is hard to shop for.
The cats, of course, are much easier. All it takes to make Zora happy is a roll of paper towels. They are her favorite thing, maybe even more so than the scratching post - which, come to think of it, was my dad's present to the cats last year. (He gives great presents, my dad, including homemade ones, which makes coming up with a gift for him even harder.)
Ah yes, her paper towels. How exactly does Zora love her paper towels? Well, sometimes she'll wrap herself around the roll and just start tearing it apart. Other times she'll creep up on it and, when it's not looking, pounce and start tearing away at it with her little teeth. Occasionally she'll bat it around a little before ripping into it. But it's the tearing apart that really makes her day. The One And Only used to complain about all the shreds of toilet paper that tend to be strewn on our living room floor. That was before he actually saw Zora in the act of tearing. When he did, he turned to mush, just like I do.
The One And Only: "Oh my god. That is so cute."
Me: "Yep. She loves her towels."
TOAO: "Oh my god! No, she's really cute!"
Me: "See? This is why I never stop her."
TOAO: "Wow. She's just thrilled."
Me: "Doesn't she just look so incredibly happy?"
TOAO: "Wow. No wonder you couldn't tell her to stop. She's so cute! And so happy!!"
If only everyone on my list were that easy. All I'd have to do is go buy a huge package of paper towels, gift-wrap them, and be done with it. Unfortunately, I doubt most people would be quite as pleased with this simple pleasure as Zora, so instead, I have to keep looking.
Another shopping problem is that I send presents to friends in Germany. This usually happens at random times that have nothing to do with holidays; a while back, I sent my friend Anja a package with a variety of presents, each neatly labeled: "Birthday 2000." "Christmas 2000." "Birthday 2001." "Christmas 2001." Obviously, the timing isn't important - it'll get there when it gets there, and we all know that. But the transatlantic shipping does provide some challenges, because not only do I have to find things they'll like, but these things also need to be portable, lightweight, and not breakable. Since there are only so many bookmarks you can reasonably give a person, this means creative thinking. TOAO sent me another link, and this one's very tempting: patches from the Salem police department, with a little witch on them. Funky, portable, lightweight, and definitely not breakable. And also definitely not something they can find in Germany. Of course, they all know each other and I can't give them all the same thing... but it's a start!
My mother, thankfully, is fairly easy to shop for. She reads a lot (including this website - hallo!), and I've gotten to know her taste in books pretty well, in part because we share some reading interests. I'm also fairly confident I know the sorts of music she likes, too. By contrast, my dad's taste in music is very eclectic, and I'm never wholly sure if he's actually going to like the particular CD I've picked out. Sure, I mean, he'll like it because I thought it was good and he always wants to broaden his musical awareness - but the question is if he'll actually like it in more than an intellectual-appreciation kind of way, and I'm never sure what the answer to that question is.
Mostly, I rely on local art markets for gift shopping. Thankfully, Austin offers plenty of those around the holiday seaon - a couple weeks ago there was one in a local grocery store parking lot, last weekend there was an art fair downtown, though it was better last year. There are a few more coming up, including the nicely named Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I like the fact that they're local, and - Austin being "The Live Music Capital of the World" - tend to involve some good local music as well.
And at these fairs, the folks doing the selling are either the artisans themselves, or their significant others who are filling in while the artisan goes and gets coffee. There's no giant Wal-Mart acting as our middleman, we're paying the people who are doing the work, and they've put a piece of themselves into the work. It's as close to unalienated labor as we're likely to get, my inner Marxist insists. And since these days, my inner Marxist tends to lose out to my consumerism - which really just wants to go shopping - I need to let her get a word in from time to time.
Meanwhile, until the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar opens, I'll keep pondering gift-giving alternatives to paper towel rolls and $118 fezzes.
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