Backyard purgatory 

In the next month or so, the price we pay for nice weather will become quite clear — outdoor social gatherings. Weddings, graduations, family reunions, work parties and barbecues are beginning to multiply on the pages of your calendar. Sure, getting together with the people you like or love can be a blast, but most get-togethers involve way too much milling around with “acquaintances” whose conversations make you long for the isolation of winter. The pleasures of wearing shorts and just being outside must go toe-to-toe with two seemingly unavoidable party activities: small talk and showing off stuff.

The “more” door

If you’re (un)lucky, they might hit you with both as you walk through the front door: “Hey, nice weather we’re havin’. Oh, yeah, turn around and check out my new front door complete with Stanley Welcome Watch. For only $349 (at, I got this nifty remote control that opens my front door and turns on the porch light! It’s just like my new SUV — click, click and voilà the door’s open and the lights are on!”

Squirt utility vehicle

Warning: If someone wants to take you out to the garage to see the new SUV and its assortment of cup holders, you may be in for a surprise. What could only be deemed a miracle in transportation technology, the Jeep Cherokee stroller, has arrived. At, for $99.98, this hot little baby mover with four-wheel independent suspension, cup holders for Mom and junior and a removable snack tray can be all yours!

Hold that pose

Hopefully, there’ll be some cranks or black sheep of the family who’ll liven up the party with a scathing condemnation of the evils of sport utility vehicles. If agitation is your game, sojourn over to for ammunition, including the Top 10 Reasons SUVs are rude to other drivers. Or, if you own a big monster Ford Expedition, like Tony Soprano, and want some backing, go to and join the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners Association of America for $50 and receive (rather appropriately) a SUVOA golf shirt. Wear the shirt with pride as the rest of us laugh at you while you pump gas.

Agricultural intelligence

At, I found this amazing device called the Scarecrow ($89). Its purpose is to keep unwanted animals away from backyard gardens — by spraying them with water. This scarecrow is just a sprinkler with a cartoon bird face that sprays water when its motion detector is activated. Now, I’m sure the scarecrow does its job and keeps them damned critters away from Ma’s tomatoes, but what if we could expand its capabilities? Just think how wonderful life would be if we could adjust this scarecrow to sense annoying, petty, heavily perfumed or malicious partygoers and douse them with water. Let the big hair fall where it may.

Peace pieces

Living around other people is often unpleasant. There are the barking dogs, early-morning lawn mowers and pounding of wood — and that’s just the house to the left. Yet people often try to create a sense of serenity with backyard trinkets. At, purchase the 9-inch, officially licensed Tasmanian Devil wind chime for $8. What could be more relaxing than a fierce mammal resting atop a cheap set of jangling sticks of metal? A gazing globe, of course. Visit for the Parrot Gazing Globe ($199.95). Maybe a drunken uncle will stare into this shiny ball and predict that he might just go get another margarita. As soon as he leaves, your aunt will approach and direct you toward the Southern Plantation Birdfeeder ($29.99 at, only to lament how she wishes she could live in a house as glorious — if only your uncle wasn’t a lousy drunk who pissed away all their money.

Outta here

Maybe you’ve been depressed by all these thoughts of communal merrymaking. Well, hold your horses — social gaiety can indeed be found if you leave the state and hang out in clusters of people you don’t know.

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