Oil We Want for Christmas
City Paper’s Guide to Spending Money You Don’t Have
Tom of Finland Glasses
Lambda Rising, 241 W. Chase St., (410) 234-0069, website, $4.95 and $39.95
When you grow up you go to a party because you’re invited, not because you were hit up with an address in the parking lot after a show. And grownups serve drinks in actual glasses, making beverage accouterments hotter than rough sex. So get it together and gift your fave-rave gay guy with a fabulous foursome of Tom of Finland tumblers and, for bottoms, matching cocktail naps, because nobody likes water circles on their ’60s Modern. Toille-tastic rural scenes of men doing what they do to each other never looked this classy, so raise your glass.
A Sixer of Clipper City’s Winter Storm
Various locations, website, $7.99
Clipper City is one of the handful of Maryland breweries that actually sell their potent potables in fine liquor stores. And they brew right here in Baltimore, so when you give the gift of cheer this year, you can say it’s from the ’hood. CC’s Winter Storm brings the tidings and the yule-ings it takes to get through the chilly short days by using a technique called dry hopping to create the hoppy, malty, fragrant, and just a little bit spicy yum that comes with a pretty blue label October through February. Baltimore needs to make a resolution to up its number of sudsy offerings in the to-go form—one look at the local brew selection in any chilled glass case tells you we got nothing on the West Coast—but this holiday season give the drinker on your list the best local six out there. Just warn ’em about the 7.5 percent alcohol content, or when the Storm hits they’ll be praying for a snow day after all that dry hopping.
Bottle of Pikesville Supreme Straight Rye Whiskey
Various locations, $8-$15
Gifts of good bottles of hootch tend to be well received, since they’re usually given to people known to want and like them. The wallet, though, quickly thins when buying up a passel of single-barrel bourbons or 15-year-old single malts. Not so with Pikesville. This Maryland rye (distilled in Kentucky since the early 1980s) is a rock-bottom bargain, and packs a flavorful punch that bourbon and scotch drinkers respect with the first sip. Experience has taught us that the uninitiated don’t know what they’re missing, but once they get some they can’t get enough. To coin an adage: Give a lush a bottle of Pikesville and she’ll drink for a week—then pester her bartenders to keep it in stock.
An Action Figure From Palisades Toys
Various locations, website, $8 and up (way up)
While Baltimore may not be the manufacturing center it once was, that doesn’t mean there aren’t folks sitting at draft tables designing stuff to be made elsewhere (hello, China). Some of those nerds are at Ellicott City’s Palisades Toys right now turning the stars of movies, TV shows, and video games into action figures perfect for playing with but more likely to end up on a bookshelf or in a display case. Know someone who puts action figures on shelves or in cases? Then get thee to a shop or PalisadesDirectStore.com and get him or her (probably him) a toy from one of Palisades’ near-infinite line of products: (deep breath) Adult Swim, Alien and Predator, Army of Darkness, Buffy, Crittaz, Die Hard, Freakables, G.I. Joe, Invader Zim, Jeepers Creepers, Muppets, Pink Panther, Ren and Stimpy, Sesame Street, Terminator, Transformers, and (whew) X-Files. Master Shake, for one, looks kind of fun (hint-hint).
Baltimore Real Talk Mix-Tape DVD
Samos Clothing Store, 1222 W. North Ave. (410) 225-7074, email, $8.99-$10
Cheap DVD burners and editing software have changed the mix-tape game forever. If hip-hop was all about the local scene before, it’s positively parochial now. Baltimore Real Talk does feature plenty of local stars—Bossman, Skarr Akbar, Comp, and others—doing impromptu freestyles on corners and outside clubs. But it also features local clothing stores giving shout-outs, MCs driving through their neighborhoods, killing time on the block, shooting videos on the cheap in the Hustler Club, and generally living day to day. In 2015, this will be an invaluable time capsule of Baltimore ’hood life, in all its compressed video glory. Especially if any of those rumored major-label albums ever make it to stores.
INNOCENT BYSTANDER T-shirt
Harm City Gear, website, $9.99-$44.99
Nate Landerman, the creator of Harm City Gear, feels pretty much the same way about Baltimore that most of us do—he loves it and he hates it. For a taste of his ire, check out his web site’s FAQ page, which features such interchanges as:
“Q: I love Baltimore! Fell’s Point is awesome and Towson is SO cool! Why do you hate it so much?
“A: First off, I don’t hate it. I just call it for what it is. Second, Towson is not Baltimore. Towson is a cesspool of college kids, yuppies, and Starbucks and should be avoided at all costs. Third, go the fuck back to Jersey.”
Everyone has a person like this on his or her list, someone who complains about Baltimore constantly but would never dream of living anywhere else (even though Landerman, um, moved to New Jersey). This year, hook that person up with a Harm City shirt. Every design comes in a variety of styles, from hoodies and ringers to baby onesies. We’re partial to the innocent bystander and unarmed citizen tees, as they are both fashionable and informative when the cops come.
Baltimore Gamers Alliance Mouse Pad
Café Press, website, $11
We love all of the Baltimore Gamers Alliance merchandise we found on Café Press—from the got frag? T-shirts to the insert coin boxer shorts. But the item from the local computer-game club that really stole our hearts was the mouse pad, with its picture of a bunch of guys playing computer games in what looks like a rumpus room and the are you game? logo. What is the guy in the Mario Brothers T-shirt holding up like fresh kill? We don’t have a clue. But we know that a tedious day of office drudgery goes faster when your mouse is zooming along this beautifully baffling picture.
Lafayette Gilchrist’s Towards the Shining Path
Various locations, website, $11.98
Local flamboyant piano personality Lafayette Gilchrist takes giant steps forward with his new Towards the Shining Path. Where once Gilchrist’s funk-based ideas and rhythmic short-attention spans commanded attention through sheer acrobatic and unpredictable brio alone, here he and his fiery, lithe band wrap their combustible energy in buttery, sophisticated arrangements that combine explosive flashes with confident elegance. Witness “Elephant Dance,” one of Gilchrist’s typically ass-shaking dances between bass and piano panache wedded to a heaven-sent horn section that gilds this funky lily with brassy ecstasy. Elsewhere, saxophone colossus John Dierker spins his spine-tingling vamp magic through the heavy-lidded stride of “Unbreakable.” And if “No Locomotion Blues” doesn’t make you wanna stand up and pimp strut, please, check yourself for a pulse. In the near future you’ll claim you saw this outfit back in the proverbial day—with this CD in the collection, it won’t sound like such a boast.
DJ Pope’s The Deeper Side of Midnight
Poji Records, website, (443) 694-9556, $12
When Baltimore house legend DJ Pope laid down this year’s The Deeper Side of Midnight, the stars must have aligned. Beginning at a simmer, Pope lulls listeners into his bumping world with summery love songs like Sheila Ford’s “Fly Away,” before ratcheting up the intensity with banging deep house tracks like Dawn Tallman’s “You Are Why.” Why should you buy this CD for everyone on your Christmas list (and maybe yourself)? Well, the weather outside may be frightful this time of year, but like all good dance music, The Deeper Side of Midnight will make you want to samba your ass all over Baltimore—or maybe just your living room.
SPX 2005 Anthology
Various locations, website, $12.95
Despite the thousands of comics moldering in Mom’s attic, it shames us that we haven’t bought them regularly since college. (Especially since City Paper takes the funnies more seriously than poetry and classical music put together.) Thankfully, here’s a refresher course for the lapsed comics reader, chockablock with people you’ve probably never heard of. Edited by Baltimore’s own Brian Ralph, a cartoonist and occasional CP contributor, this year’s anthology stretches from the inscrutable scratchings of Brian Chippendale to the creepy cute of Greg Cook. And all proceeds go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to make sure that perverts can keep drawing cartoons with boobies and cuss words.
Native Son and The Dri Fish’s The Water Margin
Various locations, (443) 858-4951, website, $15
Spoken-word poets Femi “The Dri Fish” Lawal and David “Native Son” Ross vent their frustrations in this CD, which shares its name with a Chinese tale about Robin Hood-esque outlaw heroes. Merging hip-hop with poetry, they address such topics as what it takes to go through the grind of being an artist searching for a higher level and local ills like Baltimore’s money-strapped school system. They have a knack for spitting the kind of passion that most hip-hop artists can’t touch with rhymes that could put drug dealers out of business, and wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present.
Tickets to the National Aquarium’s Australia Exhibit
National Aquarium in Baltimore, 501 E. Pratt St., (410) 576-3800, website, $19.50, kids $13.50 , free for children 3 and under
It’s over budget and behind schedule, but the new Australia exhibit at the National Aquarium is finally scheduled to open Dec. 16. Designers, animal caretakers, and curators have worked on this exhibit since its groundbreaking in 2002, and we hear it’s gonna be pretty damn cool—rocky cliffs, gorges, and a 35-foot waterfall have been constructed inside the aquarium, and hundreds of plants and trees indigenous to Australia have been shipped in to re-create the topography of the continent. Get your friends or loved ones tickets to the aquarium and they can be the first on their blocks to check out the free-roaming lizards and birds, the flying foxes, fruit bats, kookaburras, lungfish, and death adder snakes that’ll be populating Australia on the Inner Harbor.
MY GRASS IS BLUE T-shirt
ChristmasBluegrass.com, website, $20-$35
Given Baltimore’s status as the northernmost Southern city and its longtime role as urban flypaper for expat West Virginians, there very well may be someone on your gift list for whom Bill and Del are one-name musical celebrities on a par with Madonna and Kanye. No matter whether or not you know your Monroes from your McCourys—if you plunk down some cash on the barrelhead for one of these T-shirts from the Tennessee-based Yee Haw Industries, you can cross him or her off and let out a “yee-haw!” of your own. Available in a variety of appealing men’s and women’s styles, these tees all proudly boast the legend my grass is blue rendered in the vintage letterpress style that is Yee Haw’s specialty. And if you’re looking for something citybilly-chic but a little less militantly twangy, the Yee Haw site (www.yeehawindustries.com) offers a number of neo-retro alternatives, including a similarly stylin’ cupcakes make people happy tee, which is great ’cause, um, they do.
Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker
Various locations, website, $25
What can you get for the feminist that already has subscriptions to Bitch and Bust magazines and all the Le Tigre albums? How about a book on the suffrage movement that digs deeper than the drudgery of spending a century trying to convince male politicians to make with enfranchisement already? Local author and Goucher College professor Jean Baker’s book goes beyond the petitions, speeches, and referendums to look at the women who worked tirelessly for women’s right to vote. Getting into juicy details—such as Susan B. Anthony’s heavy-petting sessions with other suffragettes—Baker turns these women from bland historical saints into real flesh and blood people and makes Sisters a great gift for feminists and those who just need a little push in the right direction.
African Walking Stick
Umri Siki Gallery, 1100 Hollins St., (410) 837-7777, $25-$40
Handmade items that are both useful and beautiful are often a bit dear. But Robert Williams, owner of the Umri Siki Gallery (the name is Swahili for “new day”), manages to keep his African walking sticks affordable. Carved out of a variety of woods, and sometimes painted, many have symbolic animal figures on their crowns. Others are carved in the likeness of long, slender humans, and are very lightweight. They can be used to get around the city or just hung on walls as decorations. And if you talk to Williams, he’ll help you pick out the perfect symbols to fit the personality of the person you’re giving the walking stick to—and then, when the gift is opened, relish the praise you get for choosing such a perfect gift.
The Suffering: Ties That Bind
Various locations, website, $29.88-$49.99
Why destroy San Andreas when you can seriously fuck up your own hometown? The horror-action The Suffering: Ties That Bind is perhaps the first video game to be set right here in our fair city. And virtual Baltimore makes actual Baltimore look pretty darn good. After escaping from a jail in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, you head to Mobtown to figure out who killed you wife and kids, only to find out that the city has been overrun by demonic physical manifestations of urban ills, such as drug abuse and gun violence. Then you run around a not entirely faithful depiction of the city ripping said beasts to pieces in a variety of gruesome ways. It’s sure to win you the undying love of the video-game addict on your list, who will be able to whup some serious ass while complaining about the inaccuracies.
Born Into Brothels DVD
Various locations, website, $29.99
It’s something of a stretch to shoehorn the Born Into Brothels DVD into a list of Baltimore-themed gifts—co-director Zana Briski photographed for The Sun for a few years in the mid-’90s—but who cares when her documentary is so full of heart? Mixing equal parts sentimentality (the good kind) and heartbreak, Born Into Brothels takes us someplace we haven’t been before, Calcutta’s red-light district, and introduces us to Briski and the group of kids to whom she has been teaching photography. The children’s personalities shine through instantaneously, Calcutta’s brilliant colors and dank streets imprint on your brain. By the end of this beautifully shot film, you know some of these kids aren’t going to make it, but a sense of hope hovers nonetheless. Perfect for your hippie aunt who dabbles in Putamayo’s offerings and her Sublime Frequencies-listening hipster son.
The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch by Jules Witcover
Various locations, website, $30
The Sun powers that be made it harder to get a hit of Jules Witcover when they didn’t renew the longtime political reporter’s column contract this past August. But that doesn’t mean you have to start picking up another paper for a syndicated fix. Instead, give a fellow joneser something with a bit more kick. JHU Press recently issued The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch, Witcover’s memoir about falling into political reporting as a second career choice after missing the sports desk boat, a serendipitous choice that birthed a 52-year-long career as a reporter’s reporter covering the moves and shakes of Washington insiders. You’re goddamned right, Gramps—they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.
A Piece of Art Glass
Home Anthology, 91 Mellor Ave., Catonsville, (410) 744-0042, website, $35 and up
Forget that pretty vase you saw on sale at the local department store—it’s a mass-produced piece of junk. If you’re thinking of buying glass collectibles as gifts this holiday season, check out the ever-changing selection of art glass at Home Anthology in Catonsville. The store specializes in sleek home furnishings and décor from the ’50s through the ’70s, and it always has at least a half-dozen or so fetching—and reasonably priced—pieces of art glass that your modernist friends and family will drool over. Think Rosenthal Netter candlesticks, tall Japanese vases, and hard-to-find Blenko objects. Last time we were in, we were especially taken with some green elephant bookends by Blenko—a little whimsical, very modern, and a steal at just $75 for the pair.
Soapstone Family Statue
Wazobia, 2320 N. Charles St., Baltimore, (410) 889-4642, $45
We all know that the holiday season is a time for family. And you know a family, dysfunctional or not, that will be putting on their best clothes, displaying all of their best china and ornaments, and inviting you over for dinner. So why not buy that “perfect” family a Soapstone Family Statue this year to remind them of their one-ness? This statue of three abstract beings showcases a mommy, daddy, and baby in a ceramic silhouette and is constructed of the brown and green clays that make this statue crafted by the Zimbabwe Shaona tribe, and others like it, beautiful.
Bodine’s Chesapeake Bay Country
Various locations, website, $32.95
A. Aubrey Bodine’s deep, velvety black and white photographs of Baltimore and the Chesapeake region are absolutely gorgeous. Until his death in 1970, the prolific photographer captured an immense range of Maryland details: bay fishermen plying their nets in a shadowy sunset, snow-covered Mount Vernon grand architecture, a grizzled denizen of the Block getting god bless america tattooed on his upper arm. Bodine is a master of light and shadow, and his photographs are rightly compared to Ansel Adams and other midcentury realist masters who exploited the long-exposed, deeply detailed gaze. The former Sun photographer shot thousands like these, but many have been long-shuttered in boxes and the newspaper’s archives. Thanks to the work of his daughter Jennifer and her husband, Richard Orban, 286 of Bodine’s photographs have been digitally restored and lovingly bound in this new coffee-table book. It’s the perfect volume for a collector of Marylandia or someone who appreciates masterful photography.
New York Trapeze School of Baltimore Gift Certificates
P00 Key Highway, (410) 459-6839, website, $49 per class
Writers, in general, are not daredevils. We spend most of our time on our ever-widening asses, you know, writing. But even we occasionally crave a thrill, and that thrill is: trapeze. Long the secret vice of the professional writer, the Baltimore outpost of the New York Trapeze School now allows civilians the opportunity to leap from a platform 25 feet in the air and (hopefully) swing with the greatest of ease. There are dedicated instructors and up-to-date equipment and plenty of precautions to make sure you stay airborne. Fancy leotards optional. And hey, it’s still less scary than clown college.
Season Passes on the Water Taxi
Ed Kane’s Water Taxis, 1732 Thames St., (410) 563-3901, website, $50 for one, $45 a piece when buying two or more
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a series of frenzied car-bound outings to area malls. It’s fun to keep it local, and to keep the drive time to a minimum. So snatch up your bike-messenger bag and walk or take public transportation to as near to the harbor as you can get. Once you’ve ponied up $8 for a day pass on the water taxi, cruise the waterfront, taking stops to shop. Keep your selections compact, though, because you won’t have all that SUV storage capacity to stash the loot. And the slimmest, lightest, nicest gift of them all would be a yearlong pass on the water taxi. Whoever you give it to will toast you every time they go aboard.
DIY Security Camera
SpyMuseumStore.org, website, $65
Nothing says “Merry Christmas” to the twitchy and paranoid like the gift of security—say, in the form of the Washington-based International Spy Museum’s one-inch-square remote spy eye, which attaches almost anywhere (outside the front door, outside the bedroom door, outside the bedroom closet door, gulp) and feeds color images of potential home invaders, serial killers, terrorists, and/or marauding sasquatches to your TV, VCR, or PC. Everyone on your list already have their own personal surveillance systems? Well, they probably haven’t figured out how to mount itty-bitty cameras on the back of their heads yet, which is where the Spy Museum’s rearview sunglasses ($30) come in handy. That way, they don’t even have to trust you.
Handmade Quilts and Afghans
Woman’s Industrial Exchange, 333 N. Charles St., (410) 685-4388, $80 and up
The Department of Energy predicts home heating costs will rise 32 percent to 48 percent this winter, depending on whether you use oil or natural gas, respectively. That translates to about $350 per household. Ouch. For a fraction of that, you can equip your shivering aunt or chilly best buddy with a handmade quilt from the Woman’s Industrial Exchange. The 125-year-old Exchange, best known for its quaint soup and sandwich restaurant, sells all kinds of cold-weather gear of the homespun variety. More than 130 regional and national artists consign their goods here, and they’ve even started stocking stuff knit by overseas artisan groups. If a quilt’s beyond your budget, they have plenty of knit caps for adults and kids alike, and shawls, wraps, and scarves. Oh, and they’ve got sock monkeys. Lots of ’em. They may not keep you as warm as down-filled quilt, but they can help take your mind off that dropping thermostat.
PatioHeaterStore.com, website, $200-$1,000
Baltimore rowhouses tend to retain heat, on account of their being stuck together. They also tend to be cramped and dark on the inside, making their trademark porches and patios essential living (and dining) spaces. Your favorite backyard chef will be able to grill the burgers and serve them to you outside all winter long, if you just get him one of these freestanding, brushed-metal jobbies that look like streetlamps. You’ll want to buy one delivering at least 40,000 BTUs of radiant heat, which provides up to a 20-foot circle of warmth—and can raise the ambient temperature by as much as 25 degrees. Prices range from the low $200s to a cool grand. But the chef will be warm and you won’t be hungry.
Baltimore Blast Season Tickets
BaltimoreBlast.com, website, (410) 732-5278, $224-$256
Are you, like us, just plumb not in the right tax bracket to be able to afford Ravens tickets? Do your eyes glaze over at the mere thought of the 162-game baseball season? And yet, watching games on television really doesn’t compare to taking part in the tribal spectacle that is the live sporting event. Well, fellow kinda/sorta sports fan, do we have just the ticket for you. For $100 less than a season of upper-level corner seats at M&T Bank Stadium, you can get a great seat in 1st Mariner Arena to catch all 15 action-packed home games of the Baltimore Blast, Charm City’s very own indoor soccer team. And best of all, the back-to-back MISL champions of 2003 and 2004 actually win games and go to the playoffs.
Stieff Silver Buckle Purses
Bosom Buddy Bags, 6247 Falls Road, Suite P, (410) 823-3669, website, $220-$250.
The Kirk Stieff line of silverware is manufactured overseas now, and in its absence the old Stieff Silver plant in Hampden has been turned into an office complex housing architects, do-gooders, and Johns Hopkins engineers. But you can give your best girl the gift of Baltimore glitter with this line of three commemorative purses from Bosom Buddy Bags. The clutch ($220), doctor bag ($250), and day bag ($250) all feature a pure-silver replica of an early 1900s Stieff Silver rounded-square buckle with its sparkly repose rose pattern. The triple-B trio who own the custom handbag concern (mother-daughter team Andrea and Emily Stieff, and partner Karin Chriss) found the original buckle at an antique store and decided to include it in their fall line. It’s been selling well enough at trunk and home shows that they’ve decided to open their Mount Washington workshop to walk-in customers from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Our favorite is the “Doctor Dudley” bag. Not just because it comes in black-and-white bouclé and has a mouth wide enough to swallow up the entire Stieff-made Preakness trophy, but because of the ingenious story behind its name. “We have a friend who’s a doctor, and that’s his name,” Emily Stieff says.
Kit-ten-net-tik DIY Synthesizer
Ciat-Lonbarde.net, website, $250
Were you constantly put on dishwashing duty as a child for trying to dismantle the television set? Do you think just learning an instrument isn’t taking “making music” far enough? Do you own a soldering gun? Well, for just $250 American, Peter Blasser will send you a power adapter, wires, components, speaker, hardware, a circuit board, and an unfinished case, and you, my friend, can make your own damn synthesizer. (Don’t worry, you also get a manual and schematics.) Provided you have a modicum of electrical skill, you’ll be squeaking and squawking like a real, live avant-garde composer in no time. Parental supervision required, unless your kid knows more about electronics than you do, in which case vice versa.
Nike Air Jordan Retro 2 (Carmelo Anthony Edition)
VintageKicks.com, website, $250 and up
Now the standard Melo Air Jordan you can buy at Downtown Locker Room is nice and all, if you like the plastic moon-boot style of the modern basketball shoe. But we’re sneaker classicists; mention the words “Air Jordan” and our eyes mist over like we were talking about our first love. And what we really like is the hopelessly limited Melo edition of the Air Jordan Retro line, originally made in 1986, as worn (and re-popularized) by Melo in the 2004 playoffs. A little pricey and it will take a little work to hunt a pair down in your size. But they’re easily the best $250 (and up) you’ll spend on footwear this year.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201