Looking to fill your sleigh without slaying your bank account? Check out these goodies.
By Steven Foster
With Their Skin All Aglow
The last thing River Oaks needs is another pricey spa. Thankfully, FaceLogic offers all the spa luxury with budget-soothing, unintimidating menu pricing. With an introductory facial for under $60, you can buy one for yourself and give one away. Or splurge on a monthly membership that comes with one facial a month, discounts on upgrades like microderm abrasion, and oodles of other skin-centric services. In Shepherd Square, or call 713-523-7546.
Ornaments for Your Branches
Okay, the man-jewelry craze is getting a little bit out of control. Most guys can’t pull off the giant leather cuff watches and bracelets without looking like a bad drag Wonder Woman. But tasteful baubles for boys can be found at Cruz Azur. From subtle crosses in tasteful emerald glass to, yes, the cuff watches, their hand-crafted jewelry not only looks cool, but portions of the profits go to such worthy charities as The Trevor Project (helping to prevent gay suicide), and Gilda’s Club (the late comedienne’s support network that helps families deal with cancer). This year, their seasonal offerings include “Holiday Horns,” inspired by old-fashioned Christmas tree lights, and “The Holy Peace,” celebrating 50 years of the iconic peace sign. (Just stay away from “The Joy of Music” DJ Headset pendant.)www.cruzazur.com
Individual as a Snowflake
Instead of buying the standard off-the-counter stuff, why not have something custom created for the same price? At the highly addictive Bath Junkie, you can have bath salts, scrubs, and the like mixed to your specification—at no extra charge. Just select your product (detox bath crystals, for instance), choose from their 200 fragrances (how about cedarwood with a little rain?), decide on a tint (willow will do nicely), and then marvel at how the Bath Junkies mix your unique, individualized concoction in a shining silver bowl, scoop it into your container, and send you on your way. Various locations.
The Christmas Spirit(s)
Speaking of custom gifts, you can never go wrong with booze. But the last time we checked, the only thing individual about Maker’s Mark was their infamous red wax-dipped tip. Why not take advantage of Salud! Winery’s personalized wine bottles? Or, for that matter, use their expertise to create your very own vintage. It worked for Francis Ford Coppola. 3939 Montrose.
Sure, you could go to a Homo Depot or other megachain to find gifts for the garden. But where’s the fun in that? Go local and check out Buchanan’s Garden & Nursery. The Houston mainstay has gardens of pristine paperwhites just perfect for holiday giving, and winter-friendly flowers such as cyclamen and primroses. And if you’re looking for a tree, why spend a hundred-plus bucks on something that’s gonna be mulch by New Year’s? Get a giant Mexican White Oak instead. Buchanan’s will even plant it for you. 611 East 11th Street.
The New Tie
Years ago, the necktie was the defacto default gift. Now it’s DVDs. While movie sales are going flat, TV on DVD numbers just keep on climbing and it’s not hard to see why. They provide hours of entertainment bang for the buck. So give the gift that keeps on giving. Our picks: Candy-colored gay fave Ugly Betty: The Complete Second Season, with a great turn by Rebecca Romijn as the sexiest transsexual since…well, ever. Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete First Season, which broke big TV ground featuring transgendered actress Candis Cayne as, yes, a transgender—in love with a Baldwin! Brothers & Sisters: The Complete Second Season. Sally Field. Rachel Griffiths. Calista Flockhart as a rabid Republican. If that’s not enough for you, check it out to see one of the best scripted family dramas on television, and one of the most complex characterizations of a gay son to ever hit the airwaves. This show has deserved all the accolades heaped upon it. Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season, which is like Sex & The City, but instead of killer fashion you get actual killers. Wicked fun. And skip season 8 of Will & Grace and go for Will & Grace: Complete Series Collection, where you can see all the buzz- and ratings-generating guest stars the show was famous for, plus the bonus feature: the shock-thrill of witnessing Karen before Megan Mullally literally found the character’s voice.
’Twas the Night Before…
…gay people were out, and the most sought-after image maker was illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. Leyendecker created the first male sex symbol and advertising star in the Arrow Collar Man (the model, of which, was actually his long-term lover, Charles Beach) and drew more than 320 covers for the oh-so-conservative Saturday Evening Post, in addition to hundreds of other iconic images. A new enormous, exhaustive, beautiful retrospective on the artist by Laurence and Judy Cutler (Abrams; November 2008; 256 pages; 600 color and 20 b&w illustrations) is a coffee table steal for fifty bucks.
The pulsating, throbbing guitar wave that seems to go on forever—and still you want it to keep going. Then, a sonic slide that sends you down into a terrifying, thrilling freefall of audio ecstasy. After that, the moaning, pained lyrics that spoke to legions of the disenfranchised: “I am the son/And the heir/Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar…I am human and I need to be loved/Just like everybody else does.” With that breakout hit “How Soon Is Now,” The Smiths became something of music legend, tapping into fierce musicality and brutally tragic penmanship. Famous for drug-fueled (guitarist Johnny Marr) and near-suicidal writing and whining (Morrissey), the English group influenced practically every guitar band alive today. Rhino is now releasing the first comprehensive catalog of this seminal group’s homoerotic histrionics, featuring a mind-blasting 45 tracks. You are human. And you need to give this CD to your ’80s pals. The Sound of The Smiths, available at various locations.
Naughty and Nice
Winter’s coming and, for a couple of days, we’ll actually be able to bundle up. But when you get inside your cozy abode, and shed those layers of clothing, you should reveal that your package is wrapped in something suitably sexy to justify that mistletoe makeout session. Male Uwear has the best selection of briefs, boxers, and other undergarments to warm up any cold winter night. 415 Westheimer.
That (Independent) Christmas Spirit
Before Newsday hailed her as “the lesbian Spike Lee” and indy film fests began bowing at her feet for The Watermelon Woman, Cheryl Dunye was creating witty, edgy, and intelligent shorts that served both the gay and the African-American communities. Check out Dunye’s early works in The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye, an intriguing retrospective from this skilled artist and storyteller. If you’re not into Christmas or Hanukkah, it makes a perfect Kwanzaa gift. Various outlets, available December 9.
Sit on Santa’s Laptop
Granted, everyone loves Apple (if only for introducing us to both Feist and Justin Long in the same marketing cycle). But the big Mac doesn’t come cheap. So if you’re on a budget, you might wanna check out the new ACRE laptop. They’re small, serviceable, and the wireless component is contained inside the computer—no more breakable 21st-century rabbit ears sticking up from your laptop’s lid. Very popular with the college crowd because, priced as low as $299, they’re almost disposable. Available at Best Buy and Walmart, various locations.
Christmas Lights (All Year long)
If you’ve never strolled along 19th Street in the Heights on a blustery winter day, then you’ve missed one of our city’s most precious shopping districts. (Our suggestion? Go on December 5 from 6–10 p.m. when the entire street offers for free music and food). Bliss on 19th features Woodwick candles which, like the name suggests, has an actual slender wood strip for the wick, instead of the usual string-type, so the flame crackles softly while it dances. But it’s the fragrances and the affordability that make Woodwick such a great gift. Each lustrous (but not overpowering) scent can be had for $20, and they match the glamour and grace of the more pricey Baies.
A Rockin’ Holiday
Gay marriage is still being debated, but you can’t deny we’re having kids with unregulated ease. Well the best gift for your (or someone else’s little one) is the Rock-A-Buddy rocking chair. Tiny, handcrafted marvels, these sturdy, wooden little seats are stunningly, charmingly themed. The artist rocker features a paintbrush-shaped ladderback with spinning color wheel in the headboard, a desktop in the exact curve of a painters palate (complete with finger hold), and hidden compartments for supplies. A train model has a little track on the rocking legs with rolling engine and actual train sounds. The hero of the group is the time-out chair, with an actual working clock. A little pricey, but these are toys that become heirlooms, so they’re worth every penny. Also available at Bliss.
And if you have no ideas, here are some quick suggestions for each of the senses you can pick up for a few cents.
SIGHT. Tickets to the Alley or Stages. Both local theater companies are stellar and, for what you get, this gift is amazingly affordable. And we really like how Stages is edgily ending their season with the 9/11 drama Taking Flight, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, and the regional premiere of the Tony-winning musical Grey Gardens.
SOUND. Hands-down, one of best albums of the year is by the little-known cult heroine Sam Phillips. Moody, evocative, with lyrics that would make Leonard Cohen jealous, Phillips’ Don’t Do Anything is an aural feast that reveals itself in sonic layers that illuminate, inform, intrigue, and, ultimately break your heart.
TASTE. On the subject of feasts, how about stopping by Central Market and picking up one of their fresh, daily-made Dinners For Two? Just slap a bow on the brown paper bag and swing by like a foodie Santa, giving a couple of your stressed-out shopper friends a delicious, thoughtful break. The meals vary every day and come with main course, two tasty sides, and bread. And at $13.99, they’re a steal.
SMELL. Anything from Mrs. Meyers. All natural, potently fragranced, and hard-working, these products will actually make you enjoy cleaning house or doing laundry. Our favorite scent is the new Rhubarb.
TOUCH. Most every masseur and masseuse in these pages (and around town) offer gift certificates. And a rubdown is one of those treats that most people talk about but never take the time to actually treat themselves to. If you’re really struggling for cash, how about writing your own gift certificate and giving it to someone? That 10-minute hand massage you give to a stressed-out friend could be the most memorable gift you give all year, and it won’t cost you anything.
Steven Foster interviewed Jason & deMarco for the August 2008 issue of OutSmart.