Gifts with gumption 

Christmas is one big pain in the ass. If you don’t know why, then you probably haven’t left the house since Thanksgiving. If you do like this time of year, move to Frankenmuth or at least go read some other holiday gift guide.

This week I will try to help those who can’t tolerate tedious holiday traditions, especially gift giving. Nothing is more dismal than wandering around a mall in pursuit of a gift for someone who doesn’t need anything, or worse yet, doesn’t do much or have any interests. So round up some gumption and do the best you can to inject some much-needed creativity, originality and humor into the holidays.

Most Americans will encounter at least a few of the following elements of the holidays: Ham, spirits, toys, holiday-themed entertainment and underpants. Mix and match at your discretion.

HAMMING IT UP

Aside from all the lights and decorations, you know it’s almost Xmas when the parking lot of the local HoneyBaked Ham outlet is so full that the cars of old ladies dangerously clog up busy roads as they idle, waiting for their chance to enter hog heaven. While I have no legitimate evidence, I swear there is something addictive in the dark, crispy sugarlike coating of these hams. And since it is on the pricey side ($64.95 for a 7-pound half-ham, including shipping!), this holiday crack is usually reserved for people with mucho dinero. If you are lucky, you have a relative you can hit up for this pork fix; if not, don’t even think about getting one of those gross canned hams as a substitute. Instead visit www.honeybaked.com and fantasize, or just go into debt and place an order.

GET INTO THE SPIRITS

There’s nothing like a bit of holiday spirits to enhance family gatherings. Therefore, be sure to visit a liquor store and purchase large quantities of spirits of the drinkable kind. For $7.99, pick up a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale with its festive labels. Even better is the Budweiser holiday box ($49.99) featuring some fancy drinking glasses and, get this, a champagne bottle full of Budweiser! Make the lowlifes in your life feel like royalty with this classy vessel filled with the King of Beers.

If you need the hard stuff, it seems every brand of alcohol is promoting a “holiday gift pack,” which is essentially the same bottle on the shelf behind the counter but packaged with two goofy-shaped drinking glasses. For nondrinkers, take out the booze, keep it for yourself, then put a bottle of Gatorade in the box.

In addition to the convenient hours and locations of most party stores, you can also find great last-minute stocking stuffers at them: Cigarettes, instant lottery tickets, pornography and meat sticks.

TOYS & THEIR JOYS

Typically, every December, a hot toy suddenly takes the country by storm, because marketers and lame morning news shows tell us this is the case. Then, a few months into the new year, these toys are long forgotten or, at best, the butt of bad jokes (remember Tickle Me Elmo? Hee-hee).

In all seriousness, if you’re the type of holiday hero who, for some neurotic reason, insists on giving the year’s hottest toy, you’d best put some muscle on Santa’s elves and get your hands on the elusive and desirable PlayStation 2. But there’s one difference between this and the quickly forgotten toys of the past. In this case, the PlayStation 2 is worth the hype, hassle and cost ($299).

If you can’t find the video game Holy Grail, I would suggest Bob and Doug McKenzie (of the cult classic Strange Brew) action figures ($14.99 each). Each brother comes with several empty cases of beer, donuts and a talking stage from their TV show, the “SCTV” classic sketch, “The Great White North.” As a bonus, the McKenzies will make les Canadiens in your circle real happy or real mad, eh?

THE SKINNY ON SKIVVIES

The gift wrap is no decoy. There is just something unmistakable about the feel of a three-pack of white briefs for men as it rests in your hands on Xmas morning. Take a minute and ponder the twisted role unmentionables play in the holiday season. Women, mostly mothers and aunts, give male family members underpants as gifts and no one considers the practice in the least bit erotic. But millions of men across the country give women lingerie, a fancy term for gussied-up underpants, and fully expect a piece of ass for their “romantic” gestures. Underpants obviously have different meanings for different people. So try something different this year; give a package of men’s briefs (under $10!) to that annoying female teenager in the family and just watch the confused look on her face — and relish the absurdity. Better yet, go to www.panties.com and order a subscription to the panty-of-the-month club ($159 for six months) and give it to that macho uncle or co-worker. Just be sure to send them to his work address, so that every month the tough guy will be forced to scurry into his office and hide these drawers in his desk.

TUNE IN THE FUN

If the gleeful talk of remodeled kitchens, delinquent relatives and hairstyles becomes too much, just saunter over to the stereo system and take charge. Start off with Lynyrd Skynryd’s new Christmas Time Again ($12.99 at amazon.com), featuring Southern-fried rock versions of the usual tunes. If that doesn’t help, bring out the big weapon: The new nine-CD Rhino box set of Richard Pryor’s albums, And It’s Deep, Too! ($55.98) which should make for improved conversation. Or gather the kiddies around for story time with WWF wrestler Mick Foley’s attempt at holiday literature, Mick Foley’s Christmas Chaos ($19.95).

(Relatively) Happy Holidays!

Tom A’Hearn pays attention here every other week. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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