Wrapper's Delight

As your personal shopper, we've got you covered

We feel for you. This is the year you were hoping to stay away from generic gift-giving and make each item as unique as that crazy bunch of characters you call family and friends. No need to worry. With the help of some of our favorite personalities about town, we scavenged around and found just the right things for all your loved ones. All you have to do is wrap them up—the presents, that is.


FOR YOUR NEWLY GAY LITTLE BROTHER

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of plush: Shopping at the Jewish Museum
photo: Shiho Fukada
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of plush: Shopping at the Jewish Museum

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SHOP TALK

Augusten Burroughs, author of Magical Thinking, Running With Scissors, Dry, and Sellevision

"I'd like to get Haven Kimmel—she's the author of A Girl Named Zippy (St. Mark's Bookshop, 31 Third Avenue, 212-260-7853), it's a really funny book—one of those three-inch-high monkeys. I think you can order them from pets4you.com, they ship exotic pets. It could sit on her computer and she could train it to punch in extensions on her phone, or when she drops her fork when she's eating her little tuna salad, it could pick it up for her. I should get Dennis, my partner, 22 cases of Blenheim Hot Ginger Ale (Kitchen/Market, 218 Eighth Avenue, 212-243-4433, or bevnet.com), and I could drink it all myself. And Dan Peres (editor in chief of Details magazine)—what would a little 20-year-old metrosexual guy want? Maybe one of those mid-thigh-length, animal-pelt, caveman-like muumuus (26th Street Flea Market, at Sixth Avenue)? I think he would get into that, because it would be rugged but stylish, and you could get into any club in town wearing that." INTERVIEWED BY KEN SWITZER


SHOP TALK

Robert Thurman, head of Tibet House

Robert Thurman, arguably the city's most prominent Buddhist, has a secular and common approach to the holidays. "We celebrate Christmas because of the children, and now the grandchildren," says Thurman chuckling. "We even have a Christmas tree, though we also like the solstice day a great deal," he notes: two pagan traditions at once. Buddhists need not feel left out. "Some Zen traditions observe the Buddha's enlightenment day in early December," Thurman points out.

Thurman the granddad isn't opposed to the annual celebrations of materialism. "Giving presents is a nice tradition," he says. "But so many toys are made in China, and it's difficult to find toys that weren't made under terrible slave-labor conditions, and we try and avoid that."

He might appreciate the selection at Dinosaur Hill (306 East 9th Street, 212-473-5850), a shop that specializes in toys and crafts from the world over, most produced under fair-trade and humane labor conditions. The store favorite for this season is a board game called Cogno ($30); a combination of outer-space fantasy and real science facts, it's for ages seven and up but was a hit with all the adults who run the shop. INTERVIEWED BY RUMAAN ALAM


SHOP TALK

Gawker Stalker: Literally

In this edition: Jessica Coen, editor, gawker.com

She's smaller than I'd expected. But aren't they all? I was picking up my weekly fill of ADD(PD) meds (Adderall, Demerol, Doughnut Plant Doughnuts) on Grand Street (Rite Aid, 408 Grand Street, 212-529-7115; Doughnut Plant, 379 Grand Street, 212-505-3700) and who should I see? Jessica Coen. Wow! Thinking I'd give her a taste of her own medicine (hey, I'm not sharing mine!), I followed at a close clip. She lingered by the Drakkar Noir, sniffing, sighing. She settled on the 3.4 oz. ($44.99). Wow. I heard she was single. Is she shopping for a fella?! Is he 13 years old? She grabbed a pack of Maxell CD-Rs ($9.99), then, I swear, she skipped down the aisle to the endcap pyramid of Whitman's Samplers ($8.49). She studied the ingredients before texting a friend, "Do u think Pau Fro + CW r allergic to nuts? Not sure I want him to share n.e.way." (Yes, I was close enough to read it. And, she has a fancy-schmancy cell with a huge screen. Gizmodo swag, I'd bet.) So she paid for the goods. I think. Then she exited, grinning. Gosh, the girl likes to skip. My "snack" starting to settle, I felt compelled to follow. She ran to what I can assume is her (first-floor) hovel. Girlfriend has gauzy girly window coverings. (The better to stalk you with, my dear.) She plopped down on her bed, and I swear, she cackled with glee. She clutched something to her chest, tightly, and when she put it down I noticed it was a lovely little collage. I squinted to see the clippings, and it appears that she has a big fat crush on Richard Johnson. (This must be his Christmas gift.) Hundreds of cutouts of his fetchingly-feathered comb-over overlapping hearts and lips and sixes, oh my! She folded it carefully and slipped it into one of the CD cases. She loaded the disk, fired up iTunes, opened a playlist that I could swear said "Gossip Girl Hearts Gossip Guy: The Mix." At the end of Missy Elliott's "Gossip Folks" she carefully placed the collaged collection into a box with her other shopping spoils. She tied a big red bow and swooned, and sighed. INTERVIEWED BY JENNIFER SNOW


SHOP TALK

Eugene Hutz, Gogol Bordello frontman

Fuck diamonds. Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz has always preferred handmade gifts to store-bought ones. "When I was 14 I brought a gigantic truck tire covered in flowers to the house of a girl at midnight. Her mother opened [the door] and I just wheeled it in. When I finally got it to the living room, all her family woke up. Some were really upset, some thought it was phenomenal; nobody knew what to do. She ran in shame." The band's "Gypsy-Jew culture" celebrates "nearly anything musical and creative on a daily basis. We do it by using a method of party that combines music, alcohol, and sex." For gift emergencies, Hutz relies on La Sirena (27 East 3rd Street, 212-780-9113) for "unique, psychedelic-looking" Mexican wood carvings ($10 to $150). Alebrijes—small fantastical animals with detachable tails, antlers, or legs—are popular. A fish-like green cat with red ears and a removable raccoon tail was handmade in Oaxaca and is better than a truck tire any day. INTERVIEWED BY NINA LALLI


SHOP TALK

Paul Scheer, comedian, performs regularly at the UCB Theatre. He can be seen weekly on VH1's Best Week Ever.

"My ex-roommate Gavin is a nerd (a term he wears with pride). Since I've moved out, though, he's become more and more like a skinny Jabba the Hutt, perched on his Cheetos-stained futon, listening to the newly remastered Star Wars score on CD while simultaneously playing his friends (Canadian middle-school students) in Star Wars Battlefront on Xbox Live. As you can imagine, his apartment lacks a certain element of style (unless you count the old Chinese-food containers as art, which most people don't). So this Christmas I'm going to help transform his place with a life-size Han Solo in Carbonite Wall Piece ($2,999, brianstoys.com). He might still be a nerd, but at least now his studio will look slightly more like Jabba's palace. And remember, Jabba had dancing girls. Maybe he can swing that eventually. I can only take the first step." INTERVIEWED BY JENNIFER SNOW

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Ever since he came out, little brother has been a smug little queen, up to speed on the hottest restaurants, bars, clubs, and fashions. You can still impress him, though: Sure, the junior hipster knows all about APC (he's probably fingering the racks and checking out the sales boys every weekend), but if you're feeling generous he'll swoon over the denim tote bag ($139) and start planning Fire Island weekends immediately. If you're on a budget, APC carries a handful of cooler-than-thou CDs ($15 to $25) by DJs and artists even he's not cool enough to have heard of. ALAM

APC, 131 Mercer Street, 212.966.9685

FOR YOUR LONE JEWISH FRIENDS ON CHRISTMAS

The most affordable Hanukkah-specific presents at the Cooper Shopat the Jewish Museum are for kids, or for Jewish pals with a sense of humor, who might appreciate the "Create Your Own Menorah" Judaica craft kit ($7.50), the Design a Dreidel kit ($3.95), or the Rugrats' Book of Chanukah ($5.99). Countless varieties of dreidels and menorahs promise to satisfy either your great-aunt's fondness for Americana or your sister's cat obsession. More generic Jewish gifts range from low-end (an Aleph Bet Ball, $6.50) to high-end-but-reasonable (Sterling Half-Shekel Earrings, $40). If you don't fancy any of these gifts you can always visit the museum in hopes of drumming up some company to escape Christmas mania with. COLE

Cooper Shop, Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, 212.423.3333, thejewishmuseum.org

FOR YOUR ENDEARINGLY CREEPY HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER

The adult equivalent of that beloved childhood drawer of "treasures" (i.e., rocks, seashells, trash), Maxilla & Mandible is a closet-sized gallery of useless objects like skulls, sand dollars, and fossilized penises. Lugging an 80,000-year-old cave bear skull ($3,500) to a Christmas party is probably not worth dreaming about, but goodies like snake vertebrae ($1), aborigine "mystical stones" ($10), and framed dried butterflies ($34 to $160) are not only packageable, but cheap. Doesn't $5 for a "dinosaur fragment" sort of sound like an amazing deal? AVIV

Maxilla & Mandible, 451 Columbus Avenue, 212.724.6173

FOR YOUR BOBO COLLEGE BUDDY

How do we budget-minded folks stuff stockings for our bourgeois bohemian friends—especially as their stockings are likely woven from the beards of endangered sherpas and thus unstuffable anyway? We go to Brooklyn's Cog & Pearl, which specializes in the stitched, the knit, and the hand-soldered. Nifty works from local artists include colorful cotton and felt brooches ($14 to $22), pinhole photography kits ($45), and chic handbags crafted from vintage automobile fabrics ($80 to $120). There's also a countertop complement of swell gift cards ($3 to $6), DIY embroidery sets in Country Cool or Gothic Garden patterns ($3), and vaguely naughty Edward Muybridge flip books ($4). SOLOSKI

Cog & Pearl, 190 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.623.8200

FOR YOUR CHRISTIAN-ROCKER ROOMMATE

For the earnest Christian-rock accessorizer or for the teenybopper bad girl inside, Claire's Accessoriesoffers a smorgasbord of dangly pink-and-black cross earrings ($5.50), devil-adorned wristbands ($5.50), "angel"-embossed sparkly hat-and-glove sets ($16), and other guilty-pleasure gifts. Although seasonal Christmas junk is sure to abound (perhaps some reindeer thigh-highs, snowflake bracelets, or "I heart Jesus" totes), there are always ironic reliables in stock: JC wristbands (to wear to that Demon Hunter show) or pink fuzzy diaries in which to confess your sins. COLE

Claire's, 755 Broadway, 212.353.3980, claires.com

FOR YOUR PAINT-TOSSING, POULTRY-RESCUING PAL

Stumped? Before settling on the default aromatic candle, check out Moo Shoes. It's a vegan animal activist's dream, housing fashion-conscious vegetarian shoes (Mary Jane flats, stilettos, sneakers, and more, $39.99 to $125.99) for men and women. If you're not into getting footwear, M.S. also has T-shirts ($15 to $25), tank tops ($20), and underwear ($7.99) with emblazoned words like "Wear your own damn skin." There's also a slew of chic messenger and clutch bags, purses, and totes ($39.99 to $85), as well as wristbands ($15), videotapes (foie gras, anyone?), stickers, and buttons. Your friend will applaud your thoughtfulness and DoDo the cow will thank you. FRANKLIN

Moo Shoes, 152 Allen Street, 212.254.6512

FOR YOUR INSENSITIVE BROTHER-IN-LAW

He's still celebrating November's Bush coup and thinks a woman's place is in the home, but he's family, sort of, so you have to deal with him, don't you? Try re-educating the poor fellow. Tell him to put down William F. Buckley's latest claptrap and head to Bluestockings, the little bookshop that could. They've got scores of titles (e.g. America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart, $24.95; Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker's Rights at Wal-Mart by Liza Featherstone, $25) that should change his way of thinking. Give him a gift certificate, and let the shop's more than capable staff steer him in the right (or left) direction. ALAM

Bluestockings, 172 Allen Street, 212.777.6028

FOR YOUR SCIENCE NERD NEPHEW

The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., offering eager comic-book readers night-vision goggles ($20) and invisible-beam sensors ($11.10), is a local McSweeney's affiliate, raising money through donations and sales of sci-fi costumery for tutoring programs. Kids can examine the store's villain-containment unit, pose in a billowing cape, scour the secret-identity kits, and gawk at the ornately worded lab equipment. Here the smug posturing of McSweeney's gives way to childish glee, so suspend disbelief and enjoy the goodies: some antimatter ($7) for the kids and a copy of David Byrne's The New Sins ($15) for yourself. And don't forget the vow of heroism that must be recited with every purchase. COLE

372 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.499.9884, superherosupplies.com

 

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Jingle bling: Brooching the subject at Catbird
photo: Staci Schwartz
FOR THE GIRLFRIEND YOU'RE TRYING TO IMPRESS

If you're one of those lucky New York boys who's hooked up with some sexy rocker chick with big, dangly earrings and a swivel in her hips, show her you really care (and yes, gentlemen: Episcopalian or Zoroastrian, she's expecting to clean up) by shopping at Williamsburg's Catbird. It's almost impossible to go wrong here: There's a selection of tote bags ($20 to $50) for her knitting and tattered copy of The Female Eunuch. Even hardass chicks dig jewelry, and you can score points by pretending the faux-vintage brooches ($9 to $39) were some flea market find. Sure, it's the thought that counts, but if you put some real thought into it, you won't find yourself having to trot out that old saw in your defense. ALAM

Catbird, 390 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.388.7688

FOR YOUR FOODIE SISTER-IN-LAW

If your sister-in-law constantly drops passé culinary references—mâche, sea urchin, molten-chocolate cake—validate her (you're related now) and one-up her (but not by blood) with a really, well, foodie gift. A Cook's Companion carries useful, unboring kitchen items, and the selection is not too huge to contemplate. Great gifts range in price and heft from the crowd-pleasing Le Creuset grill pan ($39.95) and serious baker's silicone rolling pin ($39.95) to stocking stuffers like a micro-plane for superior zesting ($12.95). Perhaps the most original is the Salt Pig ($15.95), a snout-shaped ceramic vessel just the right size for grabbing a handful of sea salt to sprinkle over her goat cheese-artichoke terrine. LALLI

A Cook's Companion, 197 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718.852.6901

FOR YOUR FRIENDS ON THE BRINK OF DIVORCE

Half of all marriages end in divorce, so there's a good chance that your present is going to end up hurled across the room in a moment of passion. For your volatile married friends, stop by Cobble Hill's Motif 56, which boasts a selection of beautiful, inexpensive glassware. There's a graceful arc vase that teeters on a tabletop ($39) like the macaroni for which it's named, and a hollow cube with a test-tube-like insert, perfect for showstopping bloom ($14). There is also a large vase ($65) and a candelabra ($39), both wrought of glass that's thin and tinkles whenever it's touched. It probably sounds great when it's smashed against the wall in a fit of rage. ALAM

Motif 56, 262 Court Street, Brooklyn,718.797.5083

FOR THE UNLOVED RELATIVE WHO SHOWS UP UNANNOUNCED

It never fails: Your Trekkie cousin shows up for dinner unannounced, or you draw the name of the most boring outcast in the office pool. At Bodum the specialty is coffee, but they do tea too, and can you imagine a more inoffensive present? Their signature Bistro Nouveau teapot ($20) has a central, perforated well, so you can spoon in some loose tea. If you're feeling generous, the cups ($18 for 6) complement the teapot nicely, and the whole package says,"I care," even if, well, you don't. ALAM

Bodum, 413-415 West 14th Street, 212.367.9125

FOR YOUR COUSIN WHO PROUDLY CALLS HERSELF AN 'EGG'

Modeled after Japan's 100-yen shops, Samuraistocks useful cool sundries—most cost between 99 cents and $1.99. (The priciest, a zaisu, is a backed cushion ideal for video-gaming and enjoying anime, $16.99.) Plaid totes ($1.49) make good gift bags. Lacquered chopsticks come decorated with flowers, gingham, and other cuteness ($1.29 each, get ones with grooved bamboo tips). Sake (sah-keh, not sah-kee) cups, chopstick rests, and teacups are similarly inexpensive. You can also give toiletries and a short plastic stool (the Japanese shower sitting down). Worth perusal, this modern five-and-dime's inventory includes plastic dumbbells to be filled with water, Maneki Neko figurines (the lucky "beckoning cat," which can also be found adorning bamboo ear picks), Pokemon magnets, the requisite Hello Kitty and Miffy items, and obviously, much more. KIM

Samurai, 31-08 Steinway Street, Astoria, Queens, 718.278.1433; 107-50 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, Queens, 718.261.1515; 136 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, Queens, 718.321.1283

FOR YOUR EX-BANDMATE WHO JUST MOVED TO PARK SLOPE

Closer than Bed Bath & Beyond and more convenient than Ikea, Targetdazzles newly transplanted Brooklynites with its glorious hodgepodge of accent pillows, bulk food, and sturdy cotton baby tees, among other suburban amenities. Don't let the two-floor mall complex overwhelm you: Housewarming presents abound. Target has the Slope's demographics satisfied: Its surplus of new moms will be relieved to find an affordable Spider-Man cornice ($12.99), the mere dog owners will scramble for the Dog Bowl Dinnerware Set ($19.99), and hipsters can save for fashionable iPod Minis ($249.99) and eye Nativity Glitterdomes ($34.99), among other ironic religious kitsch. COLE

Target, 139 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, 718.290.1109, target.com

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