Over the years, I’ve learned the unexpected joy in getting a truly weird gift. It’s similar to the joy I get from watching some really bad movies, but there are times when you get something so wrong the only thing to do is revel in its inappropriateness.
My parents and I were visiting my aunt and her husband, John, in Nashville last year when John came home with a gift one of his patients had made for him. It was a pair of slippers made out of Kotex pads. One sanitary napkin was laid out flat and another was wrapped around the end. There were Christmas tree stickers on the heel of each slipper and red bows stuck on the top of the loop you slide your foot into. My favorite part was the fine craftsmanship that went into it since the two pads were stapled (!!!) together. He made them as part of a sideline business, and I guess if you have to get something for the person who has everything (and who you maybe don’t like very much), he might be just the guy to see. Were the slippers appalling? Yes, but we got such a good laugh out of them, that they were worth infinitely more than the $0.27 they cost to make.
My friend Christi was in for a few days this week. We didn’t have much time to spend together, and since Friday was a nice day, we decided to get out and run a few errands. I dropped off a secret Santa gift; we checked out a book sale and had some lunch. We were driving back toward my place, when I remembered a store I’d been meaning to check out. I tried to describe the place to Christi.
“Basically, someone told me that it’s a store where if an 18-wheeler has an accident or something and the stuff on it can’t be sold–it’s not really damaged or anything, I don’t think. They just can’t sell it for some reason, so they send it to this place, where apparently…they…can?” I wasn’t entirely sure, and I didn’t know exactly what they sold, but I knew it was a weird mix of things, which intrigued me.
I’m still not clear on the origins of their stuff, but it was a delightful hodgepodge. The juxtaposition of batteries, car parts, hair products, bottled waters with an interior design company’s logo, humidifiers, coffee mugs that said “Korean War Vet,” giant remote controls, and industrial-sized bags of white frosting was funny enough to make it worth the trip. But if you dug around a bit, there were some real gems. I got books by Steve Almond and Dan Savage, a CD, and some Scotch tape.
Christi found a Choose Your Own Adventure novel about an infectious disease epidemic in the Amazon. Since she studied infectious diseases (she has a degree in public health and has worked with the CDC) and we both loved those books as kids, I bought it and gave it to her for Christmas. But that paled in comparison to what we found next. I picked up a book called The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts by a guy named Allan Wolf. Just flipping through, we found poems called “Your Navel is No Mystery,” “One Tooth, Two Tooth, White Tooth, Looth Tooth,” “Your Stomach, the Belly-brewing Wonder,” “You Cannot Rankle the Sturdy Ankle,” “Consider the Anus” and “Spit.” There were also some more risqué verses, such as “Your Hormones are Exciting,” “Boy Parts,” and “Girl Parts.”
A review from Booklist describes the poems as “uneven,” which is true, but I think even they would admit that’s hardly the point. If I was an elementary school kid, and I read a poem that made me giggle and taught me how long my intestines were or what my spleen does, I’d think that was pretty amazing. Frankly, I’m 30 years old, and I think it’s awesome. Then again, in addition to bad gifts and bad movies, I have also been known to enjoy really bad poetry. (I do also like things that are good, but we’ll talk about those some other time). When I was in grad school, if I had a bad day, my friend Ginger would do melodramatic readings of the works of Leonard Nimoy until she had cheered me up. The poems of Suzanne Somers have also been known to do the trick. Anyway, Christi left with The Blood Thirsty Spleen, and I suggested she paste it into the back of her Gray’s Anatomy like a sort of supplement to the medical text.
We rounded out our shopping spree later that night at the Cox Creative Center. It was our last stop on the 2nd Friday Art Night gallery tour, and we were perusing the bookstore downstairs. Please note that if you are Christi’s Mom, you should stop reading this paragraph RIGHT NOW. Consider that your spoiler alert as I now tell everyone else that Christi got her mother a coffee mug with Henry the VIII and his disappearing wives. As you add coffee, they disappear leaving a brief note about how Henry broke it off with them. (I remember the order is: Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, but couldn’t name more than one of the ladies involved. I guess I need to get Showtime and brush up on my Tudor history.) If British history is not your thing, perhaps you might know someone who would be interested in a mug featuring famous mustaches because that is also at the Cox Center, and it is rad. All I’m saying is, there are a few shopping days left before Christmas…