‘Tis the season to be merry, selfless, and thrifty—where possible. It’s also the time to rack it in. Once you’ve helped at your local soup kitchen and donated to the Neediest Cases Fund, it’s time to think about holiday commerce: the passing of delightful things from you to others, and hopefully, others to you.
The following list of things is compiled for the giver and getter alike; while there are only five nights left for Chanukah, Christmas is 23 days away. So, for those of you who have the father who has it all or a nephew who every year insists on receiving ‘world peace’ for the holidays—or even if you need ideas for stuff you might want—we present The Morning News Holiday Gift Guide.
Just because everyone else has said it, doesn’t mean we can’t: Apple’s popular portable MP3 player, the iPod, is the best means available to listen to music on the go. In particular, it’s perfect for New York City, and the number of young men and women in the subway with tiny snow-white ear-buds is still growing. And now that it works with Windows machines, the iPod is available to everyone, and not just your annoying cousin who thinks a person’s choice of operating system defines character.
And, if everyone you know already has an iPod, consider getting them iPod cases. There’s a Dior one, after all…
E-Series Headphones, Shure
And about those white headphones we just mentioned in connection with the iPod—they unfortunately suck the nougat from a chicken wing. They’re uncomfortable, conspicuous, and not the best sounding. Fortunately, there’s Shure. (This is starting to sound like a deodorant commercial.) Shure headphones are the choice of musicians for home and stage-listening, and they’re molded to your ears to boot. The popular E-series comes in a range of prices, and while you may not be able to afford the same pair as David Byrne, they’ll probably sound just as excellent.
Cufflinks, Seize Sur Vignt
The bane of any man’s holiday is the wrong pair of cufflinks from Aunt Julia who was able, with her purchase, to match a $10 donation to the Nature Conservancy, affording you the pleasure of dunking your cuff—now weighed down with a globe the size of a marble—in your soup. But good cufflinks…well, for the right man, they’re a small miracle. New York’s Seize Sur Vignt makes a perfect pair: mother-of-pearl, colored a light shiny gray, small and perfectly subtle, cheap ($15), and long-lasting, they’re ideal for a man who may wear French cuffs but still prefers his style to be judged by his shoes.
Deluxe Storage, Garde Robe
There is no apartment in New York City with enough storage space for its occupant. And if you’re like us, your closet’s bulging with hangers. For those who are well-endowed in fashion and financials, your solution is Garde Robe. Here’s what happens: you give them the clothes you don’t wear everyday, and they’ll clean them, store them, and, whenever you ask, deliver them from a loft on Duane Street. In addition you get an online portfolio of your wardrobe (including photos, organized by garment-type), a leather-bound reference book, 24-hour service, plus the consulting services of a seamstress, hairdresser, luggage-packer, and personal shopper. Sure, it’s not Manhattan Mini-Storage, but for the Blahnik-heeled, it almost sounds like a basic amenity.
Source Tags & Codes,…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Album of the Year, hands down. Trail of Dead have been burning down ratty punk-rock clubs for years, and with this, their first offering at the major-label altar, they’ve stunned everyone into gleeful submission: punk-rocker, music critic, and suburban teenager alike. Powerful, energetic, and inspiring, Source Tags & Codes is the best thing we’ve heard all year. So good that you’ll buy copies for friends who don’t even have stereos. So good that you may consider purchasing stereos for them.
Exotic Fruit Club Membership, Melissas.com
What’s good enough for Jeffrey Steingarten is good enough for you. As Vogue writer and food-nut Steingarten tells us, there’s a whole lot more to fruit than what’s available at your local grocery store, and Melissas.com has some of the strangest, and most delicious varieties. Perfect for that friend or family member who researches her knives before she buys them, the Exotic Fruit Club membership (in 3-, 6-, or 12-month lifetimes) will open new worlds, from Pluots to Asian Pears, to the tantalizing Exotic Banana Sampler.
The Following Books
We couldn’t pick just one book to recommend, so here’s a list of some of our favorites—ones we endorse as fantastic reads, ones you may not have heard of, and ones that everyone has probably (or should have, anyway) read.
- The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
- Empire Falls, Richard Russo
- An Accidental Man, Iris Murdoch
- Donkey Gospel, Tony Hoagland
- The Last Samurai, Helen DeWitt
- Tar, C.K. Williams
- The Cossacks, Leo Tolstoy
- Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
- Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
- In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art, Russell Ferguson
- Uncivil Seasons; Time’s Witness; First Lady, Michael Malone
- Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, Jane Kenyon
- The Counterlife, Philip Roth
- The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham
- Selected Stories, Andre Dubus
- The Very Persistent Gappers of Fripp, George Saunders
- The Burn Collector, Al Burian
Crème de la Mer
At $90 an ounce, Crème de la Mer has to be one of the most expensive cosmetic products in ounce-to-dollar ratio, yet also one of the most effective. The story of its development is still a minor mystery and merits its own TV mini-series (involving NASA, family secrets, kelp, lights, and its very own soundtrack), but its effects are well-known: it can fix almost any skin issue, and you need only use a drop (or half a drop). True, it doesn’t work for everyone, but for those it helps, it transforms.
Note: If you cannot afford your own jar (like most of us), head to Saks and steal samples.
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
Really, and no joke this time, this is the only reference book you need on your desk. It also makes for perfect bedtime reading since the material covers everything from how to write your will to summaries of the major philosophers, phone numbers for federal service centers, the history of the Super Bowl, the history of the world, how to set a table for 12, and germination tables.
Crombie coat, Crombie
You’ve heard of the Crombie coat. Well, guess where it came from! There is no question that London is still home to the world’s best tailoring, and Crombie, since 1805, continues to make some of the world’s best coats. The three-quarter length is perfect for casual winter events, while the double-breast will stop cabs at 60 yards. Another wardrobe essential, brought to you by the inventors of world domination and oppression.
Exploding Dog Books
Very good for children and adults alike, Sam Brown’s two books are simply moving, funny, and a unique joy to read, kind of like stumbling on Edward Gorey if he was still alive and only in his early 20s. As Jim Coudal told us, ‘As an object the book (Wish For Something Better) is flawless in its simplicity. Perhaps the toughest reviewer in the country, my three-year-old daughter Gracie wholeheartedly endorses the book, going so far as to sleep with it the last two nights.’
Woodstock Country Inn
You need a weekend out of the city. Work is boring and your friends are annoying, but luckily you have that new special someone dying to get away. However, you don’t have the money to charter a plane for Cancun, so you’re stuck. Answer: the Woodstock Country Inn, a remote and beautiful bed and breakfast two hours north of the city where you can do nothing in complete isolation, all day long. Good hiking nearby, fine dining (particular The Bear Café)—plus great views and The Morning News stamp of approval.
Hint: Request the white room, favored, like the Shure headphones, by David Byrne and certain TMN editors.
A Drink at Bemelmans, the Carlyle Hotel
The cheapest and probably the best present we can recommend. Choose a friend, lover, or preferred family member and hike up to the Carlyle after a walk through the park, then order drinks, imagine the Charlie Brown Christmas music in your head, and escape the mind- and soul-less chatter of the season, remembering why holidays are best spent with people, not things.