Friday, April 29, 2005

Yesterday was Dad's birthday, and this was the first time since I was born that I not only remembered his birthday but also remembered that it's traditional to get the birthday boy a card and a gift for his special day. The card was easy: I went to the Hallmark store, they had exactly six Shoebox cards that were for a dad's birthday, I chose the one that was most relevant to him. I remember it exactly. It went like this:

Some dads enjoy going fishing.
Other dads enjoy going hunting.

I'm glad you're the type of dad who understands that they have food in the store.
Ha ha ha! But it was still the best card I could find, considering that Dad doesn't hog the remote control, doesn't tell me to "go ask your mother," and doesn't fit in with any other paternal cliches that have been inspiring Hallmark card writers for generations. And Dad does understand that they have food in the store.

I used to always get Dad a card with Snoopy or Woodstock or some other Charles Schultz character saying something saccharine, but I think he's outgrowing those. He's a big boy now; he deserves a big boy card with a joke about golf or something on it.

The gift was a bit harder to come across, partly because no matter what the gift is, Dad will put it in a drawer somewhere apparently hoping that if he never takes it out of its original packaging, it might become a collectors' item. So Dad has, for example, an electric car ice scraper, never removed from its box; a Casio pocket organizer with a whole 64 kilobytes of memory, never opened; a mini-vacuum cleaner for getting rid of the detritus that accumulates inside your computer keyboard — both the keyboard and the mini-vac are collecting dust. There's a page-a-day calendar that he's never opened — I guess he's saving it in case the year 2003 ever comes around again. Even if you buy Dad a gift certificate or hand him a check, your gift stays in a dresser drawer, never to see the light of day.

Fortunately, I was going into lower Manhattan yesterday, so I thought I'd look in the store where you go when you're looking for bootleg prices and you don't give a crap if you're buying bootleg quality: Century 21. Now, Century 21 might just look like a ghetto version of Macy's (or an upscale version of Target) on their website, but in person it's Marrakesh by way of Calcutta. It's tourist-crowded, it's warm as fuck, it's full of brands that sound sort of familiar — instead of Hugo Boss's "Hugo" cologne, they've got effeminate dudes handing me samples of "Leading Man" cologne from some company called American Impressions. The employees all wear these lavendar aprons that make them look like third-world nurses, and I have never seen more half-open boxes of underwear in one place in my life.

I'm walking around the store, looking for something that doesn't have "Salvation Army" written all over it, and I was thinking of getting Dad a Rocawear baseball cap, but I don't see him getting the irony. Eventually, I found a rack of hands-free cell phone conversion kits, basically just an earpiece, microphone, and wire, listing for $12.99 but retailing for $9.99... and marked down to $6.99. Then, below them, more earpieces for $5.99 and below them, $4.99. Finally, on the other side of the rack, they had cell phone accessories, including wireless kits for $3.49. My train tickets cost more.

But I didn't buy one. I went for the $4.99 model. Because I'm not a cheapass.