Robert’s Review: While filled with great suggestions for the adventurous shopper (I think the T-Rex would look great as yard art in our front yard), it also just reminds me that I need to start thinking about shopping for Christmas myself.
Around December 2 of just about every year, I think of buying holiday gifts. Before that, I’d been busy planning and executing a spectacular Thanksgiving dinner. Then I needed to rest. Then I would think of gift buying. In a moment of panic. Shopping seems to be a hobby for some people, who appear to spend joy-filled hours combing the malls or outlet centers. I would rather empty a waste disposal unit than shop. Afterwards, I could write something interesting about the effluviant experience of waste disposal transference. Shopping is dull by comparison. Shopping for gifts is full of angst. I often need to precede this chore with caffeine and Pepto Bismol. Now look, I’m writing about shopping!
It’s the end of August and I’m already thinking about my holiday shopping. You can find numerous blogs about shopping, best deals, where to go, how much to pay, how many colors it comes in and why you need that thing that everybody wants. I chose to ignore the smug, superior attitudes of professional spenders and have launched out in my own dog-paddling, floundering style through the deep waters of finding that perfect gift. Though I am allowing myself a lower standard this year, the somewhat-appropriate gift, so as to take off a bit of the pressure.
You can imagine, then, that this year’s holiday purchasing is already proverbially gnawing at my insides. Before I’ve even cooked the yearly magnificent feast. Something is different this year. I don’t want to go Christmas shopping even more than all the previous years. I cannot picture myself spending hours in stores with unknown individuals, vying for store clerk attention and rooting through previously rooted-through merchandise. Plan B, though not exactly making me merry, seemed the more desirable route.
Plan B: I may have to do most of my purchasing online. I usually hate shopping online as it takes up hours of my time with its unending number of products popping up at the typing of a word. There is such a thing as “too much to choose from.” But this year, I’m trying to work up some energy for looking for gifts over the internet. Amazon is out. I want this year’s surprises to be unique, as befits a unique year. I plan to spend every dime of gift giving on the quirkiest, wackiest and noncorporate-y products as possible. No last-minute thoughtfulness from me. I assure you, every gift I buy will be nothing you can find in a big box store or corporate website but chosen with much love and aforethought from unusual places. And each one will reach its recipient on time. If I start now, I may be able to raise the bar from somewhat appropriate to WTF is this?.
My first inclination is to shop local. I know what’s around here. Heck, I can call most shops and get recommendations, probably curbside pickup. Asheville may be the big city here in the mountains, but we retain our small-town, folksy charm. My hands-down favorite name for a local store is: Fleetwood’s Rock and Roll Chapel and Bar. Their motto is Shop, Drink, Get Married. I was lured into this tiny, dark and mysterious place one evening as my husband and I exited a restaurant across the street. They are open for business and sell some items online.
They had their epic sales event –The Junk-O-Rama Vintage Flea Market this past weekend. It is a fun and funky shopping experience (as befits a West Asheville event) which sprawls throughout their establishment, defined by resale showroom, bar and stage area (aka chapel) and spills out into their parking lot, where you can admire their vintage hearses. I have previously purchased from their quaint basket of old postcards and enjoyed trying on their unique collection of used clothing. Funky kitchen gadgets, clocks and doo dads are on display in the front cabinet.
A flea market is a hit or miss type of shopping situation. I marveled over one seller’s salt and pepper shaker collection, admired another vendor’s old lighting fixtures (I have enough of those already!) and queried one couple’s use of animal bones in their distinctive line of jewelry. Scanning my short list of holiday gift recipients, I struggled to conjure up a single person who might delight in receiving a token of a small departed mammal. At the back of the parking lot, I met my favorite vendor. She had a little bit of everything, an eclectic mix of clothing, gadgets and goo gaws. I found the prize. Two bear-shaped jars chock full of a variety of buttons! One for me and the other for? I’ll work that out later. Shopping online can’t compare to the thrill of discovery that is the good old-fashioned swap meet.
That’s not to say that the internet realm can’t deliver the goods. I’ve been shopping online from other funky mercantiles known or recommended to me by any number of my trustworthy friends. In Tiger, GA, there is a nifty little roadside attraction aptly named Goats on the Roof. They literally are. The business is available for in-person stops. You can visit the goats, feed them and order a take-out meal from their restaurant. Please don’t ask for cabrito (because, you know…). They are also maintaining an online shop which offers, among other fun merchandise, goatmilk lotions and hillbilly souvenirs (think belly button brush and lottery ticket scratcher). I’m finding awesome, goat-related gifts for the whole family.
Next, I went online to the Time Travel Mart, a one-of-a-kind enterprise which also supports the non-profit organization 826LA, the Los Angeles branch of 826 National, which promotes writing projects in underserved school districts. Purchases made here support that cause! Their motto is: Whenever you are, we’re already there. This online merchant (brick and mortar in LA) has so much fun stuff to browse and buy, I keep going back (in time) for more. Who wouldn’t want a Pastport from the Intertemporal Travel Commission or a Replacement Robot Arm? Supporting young writers and finding weird and decidedly different gifts for family and friends makes me feel good. Am I having fun…shopping?
I’ve felt delight, suffered disgust and been surprised during my online shopping for unique gifts. Bizarre Foods selection of edibles is utterly repulsive. I found chocolate-covered insects and silkworm pupae pasta, among other exotic treats. In this online adventure, I often wished for a friend or family member who might actually enjoy just such items so that I could legitimately buy them. Luckily, I have some self-control, drawn to this strange food, but still a hard-core vegetarian! Perhaps there’s a deserving uncle. Weird Shit You Can Buy website features a Life-size T-Rex Skeleton for $100,000. Who has a big enough house for this highly desired gift? Much of their merchandise can be called sophomoric or risqué, but they also had cool stuff like a dog umbrella and a selection of plague-appropriate face masks.
For more tasteful gifts, I shopped The Evolution Store, a great site for finding fossils, cool jewelry and a variety of artworks for the earthy-minded members of the family. I even browsed through some Etsy sites for artisan-crafted goods, though I found myself gravitating back to Asheville, where there are plenty of artists with online availability as well as open-air market sales. At this rate, I should be done with my holiday shopping by the first week-end in September!
Now the accountant in me is urging the creation of a spreadsheet which organizes my purchases into recipient, item and store purchased columns, along with adequate space for where everything is hiding and suggested/actual shipping dates. When I buy too early, I tend to lose track of inventory and who gets what. I don’t want to find the Trout Toilet Paper Holder in the back of the closet next Easter!
The dreaded holiday shopping is nearly done. I’m proud to have chosen items that don’t come in 12 different colors and 4 different sizes. The boxes will soon start arriving at the Hobbit House and this year, there’s no way to forget who will be getting the baby rat jawbone earrings. There’s 100 days until Hanukkah and 115 days until Christmas. I’ve actually had some fun shopping this year. What a gift.
Already merry and bright,
Guest Editor Robert is not getting a T-Rex skeleton for Christmas this year, so he should not go looking in the back of the closet for a box to shake.