It's that time of year again, when my mailbox gets jammed with glossy catalogs filled with stuff that I not only never knew existed, but which I'm supposed to believe would make Excellent Christmas Gifts For Everyone On My Giving List.
Okay, let's get one thing straight; I'm not rich. I'm not even wealthy. In fact, I don't feel I'm scratching the bottom tier of Comfortably Well-Off. Christmas, with its orgy of gift-giving, usually gets me very irritable, not because I resent buying presents, but because just about everyone I know can affiord to get whatever they want, whenever they want it, so picking out "that perfect gift" is an excercise in expensive futility.
Gone are the days when you could make someone happy with a $10 gift certificate to their favorite store; long, long gone are the days when a thoughtful, hand-crafted item would be treasured forever. The only thing people want from my hands, are signatures on checks. And there needs to be at least two zeroes following a prime number. If you consider the fact that I have a large extended family, Christmas, for me, becomes an exceedingly expensive prospect--even if I do stick to $10 gift certificates.
So receiving the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog of "gift" items for the insanely wealthy is a foray into a parallel universe where personal submarines shaped like killer whales and retail for only $90,000 USD (not including shipping and handling) are offered with perfectly straight faces.
An orca-sub too plebian for you? How about an authentic, hand-made replica of the 1960's Batmobile? Each one takes a year to create and can be yours for the paltry sum of $200,000. For that much money, Julie Newmar had better come in the back seat.
Now, the Hammacher catalog does in fact offer a few truly useful items, provided you're a frequent flier and can really use the capacious travel bags or the lightweight carry-ons. Or if you've got a shitload of old photos you wish to digitize, then the slides-to-digital converter is a great item to have, as is the LP-to-MP3 converter. Us old farts need to get with the times...but by the time I'd get all my antiquated crap changed over to digital format, I'm sure there will be a new format taking over.
So among the solar generators (run your fridge for two days on the power of the sun, only $2,000) and the cashmere sweaters ($499.95), the remote-controlled R2D2 at $199.95 seems like a bargain. You can buy a garden telescope for $76,000, or temperature-regulating shets for $250.00.
But if you want to know the one item that really floored me, it was the Key Lime pie--made with all-natural ingredients-- for $59.95, plus $24.95 express shipping.
Sixty bucks. For a ten-inch pie. For that kind of price, one of the ingredients had better be crack.