Easy to love, hard to buy for

We all have them, dear readers: loved ones and barely knowed ones for whom we must ante up some sort of trifle at Kwanzmasakkah time. Time was, you could save up a month’s worth of TCBY wages, buy a heap of cassingles, wrap ’em up in the San Antonio Light’s Sunday funnies, and just dole ’em out as you saw fit (Le Tigre for your locker partner!) 

But if you’re old enough to even know what the hell I’m talking about in that last paragraph, chances are that more is expected of you now. You’ve got a “real” job, or at least a credit card. You accept dinner invitations and maybe even have a Significant Other with whom you’ve gone farther than third base. Your siblings are no longer amenable to watercolor portraits of their pets. You get the picture. 

So what on Earth will you buy these folks?

Here’s a quick rundown of some people in your neighborhood, along with a few suggestions you may find helpful. However, if I happen to be on your list, gentle reader, I’m totally cool with a mix CD.

Type 1: Your Parents, who “don’t want anything.”

Bullshit! They want something … just not the terrifying immersion blender you gave them last year. Or a kimono.

Here’s an idea: Buy Mom one of those slideshow picture frames, actually open up the thing, and load some photos on it of you, your children, your sibs, their children, etc. Bonus points for Halloween costumes of yore, the family’s ’70s hairdos, babies past and present, and flattering yesteryear portraits of dead people. One of you, smiling and hugging her, or as a naked toddler, wouldn’t hurt, either. What are you, made of stone? 

WARNING: Do not give her an empty slideshow picture frame. She will never, ever figure out how to get images in there. 

For Dad, get him something silly — I’m thinking something in the snacky area, like pistachios or one of those tripartite metal barrels of flavored popcorn — AND a redeemable coupon for three whole hours of computer or tech help. Has your Dad recently converted from Windows to Mac? Does he not understand the DVR? Has he, Lord help us, acquired a copy of Photoshop? I promise, he needs your help. Plus, you’ll be giving him what he really wants: your time, and a reason to harass you. Aww.

7” Sony digital picture frame, $140
Wolf Camera
Various locations, including Quarry Market
(210) 930-1601

2-gallon, 3-flavor tin of Papa Dean’s Popcorn about $25 (depending on flavors)
6484 N. New Braunfels
(877) 855-PAPA

Type 2: Semi-Square Suburban Couple.

C’mon, you know you’ve got one. They’re either neighbors, or friends from some past job/school/life, or … honey, if you can’t identify them, chances are, they’re you. But let’s assume, for the moment, that they’re someone else. People with whom you visit on a relatively regular basis, but have genuine trouble coming up with enough conversational fodder to fill up a good half-hour. They watch Two and a Half Men, for God’s sake. They’ve seen all of Kate Hudson’s films. And drive a Tahoe. They may even — ulp! — vote Republican.

Here’s an idea: A decorative fruit tree, like a kumquat, or small mock-orange: pretty, festive, original, vaguely home-improvement-y, but not too far-out. Plus, when you next run into them at some unspeakable wedding reception, ask them if they’ve killed it yet, and watch them squirm!

WARNING: Don’t give them alcohol. Just don’t. You don’t know what their problems are. 

Monrovia quince tree $26, 2 gallon dwarf mock orange tree $16.99
Rainbow Gardens Nursery
2585 Thousand Oaks @ Henderson Pass
(210) 494-6131

Type 3: Precocious Child.

This one’s tricky, because it may just so happen that their parents are the couple mentioned above, and therefore may look ill on your gifting their bebe with, say, a Ramones T-shirt, My First Bong, or a pop-up copy of Naked Lunch. Hmmmm … how’sabout something with … magnets? A turtle? No, I tell you what. Hie yourself over to Toy Zone. It’s a locally-owned business specializing in unique and awesome things, rather than the crappy, Bratz-y, made in China meshugas pimped out by the big-box chain stores. Describe said child to the highly informed peeps working there. They will sort you out, pronto.

Toy Zone
1931 NW Military
(210) 366-1300

Type 4: Wearable-Art Lady.

She might be your mom. She’s assuredly of a certain age. She may teach art at your kid’s elementary school, head the academic department for which you work or the city arts agency you do freelance grantwriting for. She could even be your shrink. She probably enjoys white wine, New Mexico, and semi-dirty jokes. She has big hair and owns at least three things emblazoned with Kokopelli. C’mon. You know you love her.

Here’s an idea: Get your ass over to Artisan’s Alley! Tons of small, locally owned, cutie-pie shops crammed to the gills with handmade knitwear, beaded jewelry, wreaths adorned with high-end artificial fruit, and porcelain mugs reading “Things are bad. Send chocolate!” If she doesn’t like what you got her, it’ll give her an excuse to exchange it and pick out, say, a pair of ornately bedazzled leather clogs. Get on it.

WARNING: Don’t get her porn. It may seem tempting to do so if only to note her reaction, but these ladies have very definite parameters vis-à-vis erotica. Let her pick that out herself. 

The Shops at Artisan’s Alley
555 W. Bitters
(210) 494-3226

Type 5: Type-A LGBT Friend.

Let’s start with the warning: Under no circumstances should you buy this person any item of clothing or home décor. Do you understand me? What you like, they secretly laugh at, and what they like, you cannot afford. Or even if you can … no. Far too many variables. Dearest, even if you are, yourself, a highly discriminating person of the exalted LGBT persuasion, don’t do it. I know a charming lesbian who was summarily cut out of her gay BFF’s social circle for presuming to purchase him a rainbow-flag windsock. Just don’t.

Here’s an idea: How about some exotic kitchen spices? I don’t mean nutmeg, people — a beautiful canister of Ras-el-hanout, Za’atar, Herbes de Provence, or a discreet little soupçon of saffron threads speaks volumes. If you buy an assemblage, pick it out yourself. Maybe an artisanal flavored oil.  Even if he or she doesn’t cook with it, it asserts a quiet authority in the pantry: elegant, Proustian, poetic. Oh, and maybe a
really dirty homemade card!

Central Market should have you covered here.
4821 Broadway
(210) 368-8600

Or Whole Foods
Quarry Market
(210) 826-4676

Type 6: Artsy Friends From Out of Town.

This upcoming suggestion is especially good if the friend(s) in question have spent a leetle bit of time in el Estado de Lone Star, but find themselves in, say, Chicago, Boston, or Detroit nowadays. Now, they’ve got to be pretty cool, or this will freak them out. Get you to Fiesta on Main, el Mercado, or a Westside botanica. I’ve also heard good things about the Southside Super H-E-B. For a relative pittance, you can buy Muertitos, tin ornaments, spirit candles, world-class vanilla extract, Lotería cards, shopping bags featuring una sirena or la Frida, or puebla pottery mugs (make sure they’re lead-free and dishwasher safe). Wrap them nicely and mail them. I did this recently for some New York friends, and they were beside themselves. I think. 

Mesh shopping bags $3.95, small pack of Lotería cards $2.95, small Vainilla Pura $4.95
Fiesta on Main (also known as Alamo Fiesta)
2025 N. Main
(210) 738-1188