Any other year I might be astonished by how suddenly close to Christmas we are now, but 2015 has hurtled by quicker than Les Miles’s retirement party. I look at the calendar, note the dwindling number of days before I have to open the flue in the chimney, and feel only delight that the time has come to examine this year’s list of Daffy Goods.
Every year, starting on the north side of Labor Day, the U.S. Postal Service starts draining its Hernia Assistance Fund by delivering piles of catalogs to me. That I am on so many mailing lists is the result of one rash mail-order purchase from The Sharper Image in 1985, after which my name and address were apparently sold and resold to vendors across six continents for the next 30 years. I like to think of the result as analog spam.
Marketing by mail may once have been based upon carefully calculated demographic matrices, but it seems clear now that any firm so devoid of Internet skills that it must rely on postal solicitation to move the inventory will send its catalogs to just anyone. How else to explain the arrival of the Oriental Trading (“Celebrating 80 Years of Fun”) publication Your Guide to Winter Formal? I’m pretty sure I don’t need a Marble-Look Balustrade or a Balloon Arch Frame (balloons sold separately) for a holiday gala, but I could be persuaded to get a ten-foot-high 3D Eiffel Tower for $199.99. Because, you know, freedom. (www.orientaltrading.com)
(By the way, I see in the fine print on the cover page that Oriental Trading is a Berkshire Hathaway company. Is there a Chinese conspiracy involving Warren Buffett that the GOP presidential candidates haven’t warned us of yet?)
Johnson Smith’s Things You Never Knew Existed catalog fills a fairly obvious need. Of course, by offering thoughtful Christmas gifts such as the 100 percent polyester Pit Bull Throw (“makes an impressive wall hanging, too”), the Tactical Pen with DNA Collector (“can also be used as an escape tool or self-defense weapon”) or Doody Head (“It’s poo-flinging fun”), they help you realize that it’s less that you never knew than you never really cared to know. (www.thingsyouneverknew.com)
I always like Uncommon Goods (“We’re the next best thing to making it yourself”) for sophisticated gifts such as Beer Jelly and the Homemade Gin Kit, but this year they’re putting the ill in dilettante with the Flavors of America Salt Collection. Yes, it’s gourmet salt, harvested from the finest salt gardens in California, Maine, North Carolina and the home of the Great Salt Lake, Utah. At roughly $60 a pound, this’ll be ideal for bedeviling your foodie friends who probably believe they can taste the difference. And next year, don’t be surprised if the University of Alabama doesn’t come out with its own line of gourmet salts boiled down from the sweat of varsity football players. (www.uncommongoods.com)
Some people like specialty catalogs, but I like one that offers a little something for the whole family, like Creations and Collections Ltd., a company for people lost in the 1980s. For Mom, there’s…well…I guess the only thing she might want is to sue for separate maintenance. Plenty of stuff for Dad, though, like the Gold Bar Bank, a museum-quality replica of the Black Pearl (laser-cut the way all pirate ships used to be) or maybe a Muela knife to take along on your next Christmas safari in Africa; yours for a trifling $2,800. (www.CreationsAndCollectioms.com)
No, if you crave real family fun, we’ll have to refer you to the catalog from Chasing Fireflies, the only company daring enough to offer Sock Monkey Family Costumes, so everyone can, in the whimsical words of the copywriter, “Monkey See, Monkey Be.” To reiterate: it’s sock monkey outfits. For the whole family. I’m not even going to tell you how much they cost, because if the idea of dressing your family up as sock monkeys appeals to you, you’ll gladly pay any price. (www.chasing-fireflies.com)
Did the geniuses at Design Toscano come up with something utterly bizarre for your holiday décor again this year? They most assuredly did. Unless you already have tree ornaments in the guise of a T-rex, a Bigfoot and a Santa hat-wearing grimacing skull, in which case you are fashion-forward. It’s never the wrong time to order Zombie Claus or Santa Biker Holiday Statues, but why not go all out this year with the Super-Scaled Holiday Nutcracker Statue? At 12 feet tall and 283 pounds, it’s the only festive decoration we’ve seen that may require a variance from your local zoning board. At only $4,499, you better get crackin’. (www.DesignToscano.com)
But God bless Hammacher Schlemmer (“America’s Longest-Running Catalog”) for helping us remember the real meaning of Christmas this year, which is to go see the new Star Wars movie. HS brings The Force hard, with Star Wars Beer Steins, the R2-D2 Humidifier, the Wake You I Can Clock (guess who!), the Darth Vader Toaster and an inflatable version of the Sith Lord that will tower over your Super-Scaled Holiday Nutcracker Statue for a fraction of the price. Admit it, you know the neighbors might be buggin’ if you erect a giant nutcracker, but who’ll dare complain about a giant Darth Vader in the neighborhood? Besides, it’ll probably scare Santa into bringing you better presents. (www.hammacher.com)
We like to kid here about crass Christmas commercialism, but we are not above drawing your attention to more serious matters. Our neighbors in Fairfield face tough times as a result of U.S. Steel closing the blast furnace there. Friday evening at WorkPlay, from 6 till 9 P.M., the Central Alabama Labor Federation AFL-CIO is sponsoring a food drive to help steelworkers, miners and others affected by the massive layoffs. Suburban Love Junkies will be playing, so bring your jukebox money and donate it to load up the Fairfield Emergency Food Pantry.