Divination and the Art of Fencing

November 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

The so-called ‘season’ of holiday shopping has arrived once again, or perhaps rather we have arrived at it again. Either way, the onslaught of seizure-inducing messages from desperate corporations begging us to buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have has begun. Absorbing all of this dissonant and irrational information causes a fuzzy mold to sprout around our reason and around our wit until that space behind our eye balls starts to ache and the layers of neurons devoted to nothing but processing thousands of billboards and television commercials and print ads are so thick as to make it hard for more important thoughts and memories and even logical functions to surface. Many times I have had the actual visceral sensation, in such times, of my face being fuzzy, as if even the photons and electrons transporting all of this information between me and the screen or the sign or the page have become exhausted and have collapsed in droves upon my face, leaving a subatomic battlefield that makes my nose and my eyelids itchy.

I’ve never been a gift giver, really. My excuse is that I have this philosophy that says that I don’t want to be forced to go out and try and find something that someone will like just because there’s a deadline; rather, I believe that the right gift will find me when the universe so aligns, and when it does I will purchase it and gift it to whomever. And while this is, in theory, a fairly sound philosophy, it loses much of its virtue when you learn that the perfect gift never actually finds me, and that in reality I just never buy gifts for anyone. In fact, the real reason I’m not a gift buyer is in fact simply that I’m poor.

Last year, however, when, upon arriving home on the eve of Christmas, I discovered that everyone had gotten me a gift, and though I knew that they were not much better off financially than I, I was stricken with guilt and I was moved to the point that I decided gift giving, this year, was in order.

For all intents and purposes, there is really only one store in Clinton, and it is of course Walmart. For a time even there was a large billboard greeting outsiders as they came into town from the west on I-80 that read Walmart: Clinton’s Biggest Attraction, a clever little double entendre which is mostly funny because its true.

I agonized up and down every aisle in the store looking for the perfect gift. I had decided that to make the whole ordeal less anxiety inducing I would get everyone the same thing. And while this strategy minimized the amount of personal considerations I had to make, it did mean trying to find something that met both the criteria that no one had it and all would cherish it.

And then, as if by divine divination, I received the perfect gift idea: the banana tree. No, not an actual tree that grows bananas, but one of those wooden question-marked shaped kitchen accessories engineered to hang your bananas in such a fashion as to prevent their becoming bruised. It is absolutely themostperfect gift of all time because it is inexpensive (I paid $2.99 for each), it is elegant and simple in design perfect in function. It has the quality of a simple yet profound axiom of mathematics. Furthermore, while most everyone eats bananas, no one buys a banana tree for themselves. For all of these reasons it is the perfect gift. You can’t not appreciate the gift because of how incredibly practical it is and yet you would never have thought to include it in say your wedding gift registry or on your Christmas wish list. It is the universal, timeless, transcendent gift. It is the defining thing that separates us from the lower primates, who pick their bananas off of trees – but man, man in his infinite genius, ingenuity and technical skill developed a different sort of tree, only a fraction of the original size, on which to hang his bananas, a tree that can be set upon a counter top and needs no climbing to retrieve its delicious fruits. The banana tree makes manifest the creator in us all; indeed it is hard to not be overwhelmed by the sublimity of such a simple and yet profound invention.

So elated was I at my great gift epiphany that I was inspired to get everyone a second gift. So last year, in addition to banana trees, my family received incredible medieval-inspired foam swords with which to battle one another.

To be honest, I doubt I will purchase gifts this year. I’m broke, so there’s that, but even if I weren’t, how does one top a gift like a banana tree and a foam sword? Truthfully, it simply isn’t possible. Anything I could give to my family this year would fail miserably in comparison to the über-gift they received last year. I’ve created a legacy of gift perfection that I have no intentions of spoiling. So, family, forgive me, but you got your banana tree. What more can I give? Unless, of course, you need a second banana tree – and who could blame you if you do?

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