Birthday Gifts: This Time, It’s Personal

What do David Bowie, Tinkerbell, and The Smothers Brothers have in common? Today, I received a most awesome and eclectic assortment of birthday presents, items that scream “Family Joke”, time spent in favorite places, throwbacks to the olden days. No ordinary melange of gifts, these…

– a lithograph of La Rambla in Barcelona, mi ciudad favorita del mundo. Made all the sweeter because my daughter picked it out for me and toted it home.

– a pair of gifts for office use that poke fun at “Successories”. You know the smarmy sort of drivel I’m talking about: a eagle in flight at dawn, a lonely long-distance runner, ponies splashing through surf. A headline inspires viewers toward “Achievement”, “Discipline”, “Vision”, proper hygiene, high credit scores, pressed trousers, etc. My wife and I hoot with derision at this foppish faux-art, so were thrilled to hear about www.despair.com, offering a line of “Despair” gift items. My take today? A mug with a helpful “it’s half empty” message. And a lithograph (“like a poster, only swankier”) of a crew rowing into the fog that admonishes its viewer to “GET TO WORK: You’re not paid to believe in the power of your dreams”. Now THAT’S motivation!

– the best damn set of Disney schwag ever. What might you expect in the way of gifts from a 17-year-old who’s shopped while on a school trip to Disneyland? His buddy suggested batteries, but my boy came through: a Tinkerbell backscratcher (ever notice how Joy on “My Name Is Earl” resembles her?) and a hypnotizing, palm-sized Mickey laser orb with keychain. That there is going on my belt loop, for use on unruly customers during meetings.

– a 2-album set of David Bowie live, recorded in Sydney in 1978 (post-Ziggy, neon-and-40s-shoulder-pads, pre-Biafran wife era). A hint of bootleg makes these record albums sound tougher — new opening riff on “Rebel Rebel” — and sweeter, because it reminds me of when my buddies and I saw Bowie in concert back in ’74. My daughter found it in a shop on Brick Lane in London. The shop clerk said, “you’re a good daughter”. I agree.

– a DVD set of “Smothers Brothers”. I remember watching Tommy and Dick with my family and the best part was that we would all laugh at the same things. Plus, great example of “when worlds collide”: guest appearances by The Doors, Glen Campbell, and Ike and Tina Turner. The bro’s are wearing matching nehrus in their cover shot.

My point in all this — and I do have one — is that there’s a world of retail options that let creative shoppers hone in on any aspect of someone’s life, present or past, and find that once-in-a-lifetime gift. You may find they know you better than you think!

Now… anyone know how I can get those Bowie tracks from turntable to iPod??

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