Since the holidays are basically over, I can continue writing this blog… and it is only proper, I suppose, to write about the cause of the moratorium — the presents I got for everyone.
Besides the aforementioned Catalonian “shitting Obama” figurine and “crap log,” since she collects miniatures, I got my mom a fully-functional miniature sewing machine from a German Christmas market. She was tickled to death by it. I also got her a bunch of PMC clay, which she uses to make these beautiful silver necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry items that she sells online.
(bonus fact: that website I just linked to? My mom, despite living in a family where she is constantly surrounded with tech-savvy guys, with no less than 3 making their living in a tech field, 1 of whom is a professional web designer, CODED THAT DAMN WEBPAGE FROM SCRATCH, BY HERSELF, WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE OR ASKING FOR HELP. Yeah, that’s right. My mom knows CSS. My mom is hardcore.)
HENRY (my stepdad)
The main present that I got for Henry was chipping in on an Amazon Kindle, along with the rest of my family. Now let me tell you, I have seen a lot of techy devices in my time, and sat in front of a lot of screens. I have never seen anything like the Kindle. It doesn’t feel like a computer screen. It’s really a unique, cute little device. Only gripes are that the UI and design are a little clunky, especially for older folk, and the only wireless connection it can use, oddly enough, is from cell phone towers, which doesn’t work amazingly well out here in the sticks.
Since he’d asked specifically for something that was made “for Scottish people, by Scottish people,” and merely bringing him a newspaper or some money was kind of lame, I also got Henry a bagpipe trainer from a store in Edinburgh. I don’t know what it is about the shape of the bagpipes, but that stupid thing managed to get my bags frisked at every single airport I went to. By the time I was leaving France, the screener was pulling out shitting Obamas, racist books, strangely-named candy bars, and bagpipes, and just laughing.
JEREMY (my brother)
Jeremy, as some of you know, is quite into racist paraphernalia. His whole thing is to try and collect historical evidence linking Jim Crow laws and anti-interracial marriage laws to modern-day anti-gay marriage laws. A noble pursuit, and one which leads him to find many horrible historical low points, such as the article describing being black as a form of leprosy. See his rather extensive blog here!
For Jeremy, I knew, no normal present would be suitable. So I scoured the old bookstores of the UK, walking into each one and asking for the most awful, racist books they had.
I got a lot of strange looks.
One bookseller, however, cheerfully directed my attention to an entire wall full of old travelogues from when Europeans were first going to Africa. So I got him one that described the different types of Africans, as classified by the slope of their brow and their fidgety natures. The other was titled “Where Black Rules White: Haiti.” It is, as you can imagine, a less-than-glowing review of Haiti as a vacation destination.
As bonus freebies, I found a racist Spanish right-wing political party poster in Madrid that I plan on re-printing (wasn’t able to take it down) as soon as I’m able. It has several caricatures of an African, an Arab, a Romanian, and an old downtrodden Spanish guy in a line at some welfare institution (with the Spanish guy last). It says, in Spanish, “With us, you’re never last in line!”
I also got him a stick of Swedish gum called “Black Frisk.” It was an impulse buy based on name alone, and, as my brother Benji describes it, one of the foulest substances ever created for purposes of human consumption.
BENJI (my brother)
Benji is the brother for whom I had a very interesting conversation in an Edinburgh new age shoppe, when I inadvertently asked to buy poison on his behalf. The conversation, which I regaled him with on Christmas morning, went something like:
- Me: “I’d like to buy Belladonna for my brother.”
- Her: “Your ‘brother.’ Right.”
- Me: “Eh?”
- Her: “You know that Belladonna is a class 3 poison?”
- Me: “Um, no. That’s bad?”
- Her: “Cyanide is a class 3 poison.”
- Me: “That’s bad.”
- Her: “We’re actually supposed to report anyone who’s trying to buy it.”
- Me: “Eep.”
- Her: “But you are clearly a well-meaning, if stupid tourist and we will not do that.”
- Me: “Yay!”
- Her: “A word of advice, though. Don’t eat anything your brother ever makes for you.”
I bought him a number of hard-to-find-in-America herbs and spices for his various experiments. They even had some leads on places that he could possibly purchase Belladonna (well, actually, since Belladonna can only be legally given as a gift, as opposed to sold, he’d instead be buying a very expensive paper bag with some free Belladonna thrown in as a gift).
In addition, Benji had requested a number of smallish presents, such as Real English Tea (tm!) and the UK-only Yorkie Candy Bars (tagline: “Not For Girls!”; he gave them to his girlfriend). Tragically, because these were purchased at the beginning of my trip, the process of travel ground them into a fine mist by the end.
I also got him a Classic Controller for his brand-new Wii (which was purchased by the rest of the family).
JOSH (yet another brother)
Josh is a man of simple pleasures. He works as an EMT and his ringtone is “Rehab,” by Amy Winehouse. I am unsure as to whether the irony of this has escaped him. He is the sort of guy who ends all his sentences in “lol.” He watched all of One Tree Hill without a thought as to its quality.
For Josh, I got an authentic hollowed-out drinking horn from a German Christmas market. The market was medieval-themed and claimed it had been going for a very long time, and that the sellers had been doing their various arts and crafts in their families for generations.
He was pleased. Benji was jealous.
ZOE (my friend)
Zoe’s birthday is on the 26th, and I only get to see her about once a year, so I try to get her something small when I do see her. This year, it was a Swedish card game called Supermarket Psycho, which is about going insane from the raw existential horror of the shopping experience. She seemed to enjoy it.
And what, you may ask, did I get for the holidays? Well, my family went all out, and spent entirely too much money on me, but I’m not complaining.
I got an Xbox 360.
And the Orange Box.
And Rock Band.
I was flabbergasted too.
Happy, holidays, you all.