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Holiday Guide Feature

On the List

A Little Shopping Help From Us Here at City Paper (As If We Know What We're Getting Everyone)

For Baby's First Christmas: Toys from Amuse
For New Homeowners: A red twig dogwood tree
For Former Baltimoreans: Homicide: Life on the Street DVDs
For Strident Anti-War Activists: George W. Bush mask
For Those Who Have Been Naughty: A dominance session with Vendala Zane
For Those Who Hate Their Jobs: Hostile undergarments from
For People Trying to Create a Club Room in Their Basement: A dart board from Champion Billiards
For Meat Lovers (or Atkins-Dieters): Andy Nelson's Southern Pit Barbecue Dixie Wings
For Someone Who's Homeless: Polar Pod sleeping bag
For Crazed Pet People: Goodies from Chow, Baby
For People Who Poo: Custom-painted toilet seats
For People Who Want to Keep the Christ in Christmas: A Gift from the Catholic Corne
For the Football Widow/Widower: Football for Dummies
For the Brand-Spanking-New Out and Prouder: Rainbow Stuff

Holiday Guide 2003

Merry Whatever City Paper's Annual Holiday Guide

Home for the Holidays Finding My Way to Kwanzaa | By Waris Banks

Instant Kwanzaa A Quickie Guide to Celebrating the Holiday | By Waris Banks

Thanksgiving Click for a larger, Adobe Acrobat version.... | By Smell of Steve, Inc

Fir Sale Bagworms and Buck Antlers--a Look at Life in the Local Christmas-Tree Trade | By Brennen Jensen

Happiest Happy Apoco-Holidays Click for a larger, Adobe Acrobat version.... | By Emily Flake

On the List A Little Shopping Help From Us Here at City Paper (As If We Know What We're Getting Everyone)

New Year's Eve Click for a larger, Adobe Acrobat version.... | By Tom Chalkley

Posted 11/19/2003

Holiday shopping is easy, right? Well, sure it's easy, at least for those easy-to-buy-for people--from those who inspire you to spend much brain power on the perfect gift to those who have told you in no uncertain terms exactly what they want. And then you're left with the rest of your list. You know it's the thought that counts, but you haven't any thoughts on how to express those thoughts, and that's how you wind up spending Christmas Eve scouring the picked-over aisles of a CVS.

As part of our annual holiday guide, we came up with some suggestions tailored to particular types that might show up on your list (as well as at least one gift idea for someone who wouldn't make it ordinarily). Hopefully, one or two of these will fit the particular bill. If not, maybe they will at least provide inspiration for that item which can. In any event, happy hunting.

For Patriarchs and Matriarchs Who Love to Talk About the "Good Ol' Days"
A Personal History

The holidays are often a time for old family stories. Why not capture some of those yarns on tape, CD, or video by interviewing your older folks and recording those dramatic stories? Archiving your family history is a rewarding and unexpected gift for both you and your older relatives, who are usually only too happy to revisit the past, what with the present being so unpleasant these days. With a little organization, a list of questions, and some reliable technology (don't forget to bring extra batteries!) you can draw out stories about your forebears that might raise the hairs on your neck. When you head to Grandma's house with a MiniDisc player or tape recorder in hand, tracing your own story through hers, you'll be giving the most meaningful gift--her own memories, recorded for all posterity--and it costs you nothing but a little time. The Smithsonian Web site has a great list of suggestions to get you started.

For Baby's First Christmas
Toys from AMuse
1623 Thames St., (410) 342-5000

Don't bother with that powder-blue onesie you saw at Target. Mom and Dad probably have more than enough practical clothes for baby. Go for something a little more . . . stimulating. AMuse in Fells Point is a cynic's alternative to the Toys "R" Us consumeropolis--you may be weary of the blustery crowds, but you need the variety, the choice, the overstimulation. With as much distraction per square inch as Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, it's easy to lose your head in here. Puzzles, games, wood blocks, tin toys, magnets, and whatzamabobs--cool stuff everywhere. And think of how baby will react, with plushies, teethers, rattles, squishies, and who knows what else coming out of his or her own wazoo. Work out how much you want to spend, and have the AMuse folks put together a gift basket. When it comes to the little ones, more is definitely more.

For New Homeowners
A red twig dogwood tree
Valley View Farms, 11035 York Road, Cockeysville, (410) 527-0700, $25-$35

Yes, we've noticed it, too. Everything looks fine; all your friends are the same as they ever were. And then you notice things changing, ever so slightly at first, slowly building, until you feel like you're choking back the nausea. At the bar, over dinner, at parties, wherever, all everybody talks about are down payments, interest rates, FHA vs. conventional loans, real-estate agent woes, and mortgages. Your best girlfriend no longer calls Sunday morning with who went home with whom gossip, and you're getting midday e-mails at work inquiring if you know a good, reliable plumber with reasonable rates.

Don't panic: You haven't awakened in The Stepford Friends. Your pals have merely started taking advantage of Baltimore's roller-coaster market to become homeowners. And though having to wake up and smell the reluctant slouch toward adulthood is a bitter tonic, it doesn't mean you have to start getting them tacky tchotchkes or Home Depot gift card when they say all they want is "stuff" for the house.

Our suggestion? Nothing says stoic ambivalence quite like a tree--a red twig dogwood, to be precise. With a fibrous root system that makes transplanting a breeze, this fetching deciduous broadleaf is an ideal tree for the city yard. Reaching a height of approximately seven to eight feet, with about a 10-foot spread that pruning can control, the hearty red twig dogwood tolerates a wide range of soils and cold temperatures, sports dark green foliage that fades slowly to autumnal hues, and gets its name for the striking stem of its new twigs: a purplish crimson like grape pickers' fingers. It won't quell your friend's onslaught of house talk, but at least you'll have something pretty to look at when you visit.

For Former Baltimoreans
Homicide: Life on the Street--The Complete Seasons 1 and 2
Stores and Web sites everywhere, $69.95

It's been said that no one ever really leaves Baltimore. Even if they try, us folks back home send them Baltimore stuff--you know, O's and Ravens gear, Berger Cookies--every chance we get. Keep your own Mobtown expatriate a little closer to home by sending him something a little more permanent this year, something that won't get thrown into the back of the closet, or get eaten at the first onset of the munchies. The first two seasons of Homicide were finally released on DVD earlier this year (the third season's out now, too), and we can't think of a better gift for those who've moved out of town. Not only will it remind them of home, but Homicide was a damn good TV show--artful, dramatic, funny, and, in its prime, actually deserving of the accolade "edgy." Was it "the greatest TV show ever made," as some of its more fervent admirers claim? Who cares, what with a cast including Ned Beatty, Andre Braugher, and Yaphet Kotto, and great early episodes like "Son of a Gun" and "A Dog and Pony Show." This four-DVD set put out by A&E Home Video isn't packed with extras (there's commentary on the first episode, but not much else), but we guarantee it will give your out-of-towner homesickness.

For Strident Anti-War Activists
George W. Bush mask
Artistic Costumes, 1304 Goucher Blvd., Towson, (410) 321-1121, $29.95

If you've heard any of the rhetoric at the Washington anti-war rallies, you know the movement is as much about despising George W. Bush as it is about getting the troops out of harm's way. So what better accessory for the peaceniks on your gift list than a rubber George W. Bush mask? It's perfect for them to wear at anti-war marches, Howard Dean rallies, anywhere they can find the high exposure they need to notify the world that they hate Bush goddamnit! And on the gift card, you can even give them this tip: Try wearing the mask around the Inner Harbor, capering around all the tourists and weekend shoppers until the security guards swoop in. It'll be an ideal opportunity to get all indignant!

For Architecture Snobs
Fifty Houses: Images From the American Road by Sandy Sorlien
Bookstores and Web sites everywhere, $34.95

Do you have friends who make Sunday drives nearly excruciating because every time you pass a McMansion they let out a squeal of disgust? Or who roll the names of newly sprouted subdivisions around their tongues as if they were spoonfuls of cod-liver oil? Do they turn every conversation into a diatribe about the loss of America's architectural heritage, ranting, in numbing detail, about the cheapness and banality of tract housing, strip malls, and big-box stores? Enough already, right? Photographer Sandy Sorlien's Fifty Houses--a collection of 50 black-and-white "house portraits," one from each state, published last year by the Johns Hopkins University Press--will only further fuel the fury of your architecture snob, uh, aesthete friends. But, they will love this book, as it is filled with beautiful photos of and elegantly written essays about each home. And, best of all, Fifty Houses will at least keep them quiet for the time it takes to read it.

For Stiff Workers
A massage
Baltimore School of Massage, 6401 Dogwood Road, Woodlawn, (410) 944-8855, $30 per hour

It has come to our attention that whoever the person, be he or she an elements-enduring loader of freight or a cubicle-chained pusher of paper, the body every so often requires the sort of hands-on attention only a qualified professional can provide. Nothing quite relieves the pent-up tensions of this modern mortal coil like firm fingers on flesh. Yet if the thought of procuring a professional palpation for a friend gives you the financial fantods, fret not. Every good master starts somewhere, and students of the sophisticated arts of the caress attend the Baltimore School of Massage. Via its student clinic, the 22-year-old program offers a setting where its students share their skills with the public at more affordable rates. And since the BSM provides in-depth studies in Swedish, deep tissue, and myofascial massage techniques, as well as shiatsu and Asian bodywork, even the apprentices will be able to soothe whatever kinds of kinesiological knots are knitted into your sternocleidomastoid.

For Those Who Have Been Naughty
A dominance session with Vendela Zane, $200 for 1.5 hours

Christmas shopping can feel like a sadomasochistic experience--you abandon all your wants and desires for the pleasure of others. If there's someone on your list who'd like to get a bit more literal with their holiday submission, get them a gift certificate to local dominatrix Vendela Zane. Zane has been a professional dominatrix for a decade, was Miss Baltimore Eagle in 2000, and has been featured in American Dommes magazine and on HBO's Real Sex series. Her specialties include flogging, spanking, humiliation, slave training, human pony and puppy training, and adult-baby diaper punishment scenarios, but she offers a wide variety of other services. And for that person on your list who wants to feel the pain without getting down on all fours, Zane markets her own hot sauce: WhipGirl's Bottom Burnin' Hot Sauce ($15), which promises to make you taste buds beg for mercy.

For People Who Hate Their Jobs
Hostile Undergarments, $16-$18

You think you have it tough during the holiday season, slogging through the malls with arms full of packages for people you don't really like anyway. Well, imagine how the people who work in the mall feel. You only have to spend a few hours listening to piped-in Christmas carols and fighting the consumerist hordes, but they have to do it eight hours a day or more with a smile plastered on their beleaguered faces. If there's disgruntled workers on your gift list this year, and we know there are, give them an opportunity to express their hatred for the general public while still seeming like cheerful little holiday slaves. Evil2theCore, a local company owned by two such disgruntled professionals, makes "evil tank-bras," "cruel-tees," and "hostile pan-tease" that allow service professionals to wear their anger under their clothes. Retail girls will find it easier to get through the season with hello, hideous pig or you can't afford it simmering under their shirts. The company also offers job-appropriate venom for beauticians, bartenders, waitresses, nurses, and office workers. And anyone who's had to grin and bear too much mandatory holiday cheer will love the feigning enthusiasm tank-bra. God, aren't we all.

For Young Readers (or Readers to Be)
Chita's Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Bookstores and Web sites everywhere, $6.99

When you're 10 years old, you think getting books as gifts really sucks. Why would you go out and pay for books when you can get them from the library for free? Of course, there are those eggheads who do enjoy reading over video games. Whatever the case, it's always a good idea to give children books. Besides encouraging them to read, they can have them as keepsakes for when they get older. We recommend Chita's Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, a Baltimore-raised African-American who has written nearly a dozen children's books on her family's history and other fun tales of black life. In this book, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Chita discovers the true spirit of Christmas when she gets her very own tree to decorate. With kids, Christmas is usually about "gimme, gimme." But hopefully that important message about the holidays will stick.

For People Trying to Create a Club Room in the Basement
A bristle dartboard and a set of steel-tipped darts
Champion Billiards, 1963 E. Joppa Road, Parkville, (410) 665-0300, $39.95 and up

So he (or she) has got the pool table, the bar setup, and the television. There's a constant rotation of beer-guzzling wannabe pool-hustler friends coming to your house every weekend, blasting the stereo and hollering at the football game. What's missing from this picture? Why a bunch of sharp, pointy objects flying through the air, of course. No club room is complete without a decent bristle dartboard and some sturdy steel-tipped darts, and Champion Billiards in Parkville has a wide selection of Shot King boards that range in price from the el-cheapo to the ridiculously expensive. Pick up a couple of packs of darts that appeal to you (we like the ones with the little skulls on the wings), and tell your loved one in no uncertain terms that you support his (or her) hobbies. As long as they stay in the basement.

For Meat Lovers (or Atkins Dieters)
Andy Nelson's Southern Pit Barbecue Dixie Wings
Andy Nelson's Southern Pit Barbecue, 11007 York Road, Cockeysville, (410) 527-1226, $6.75 for 10, $9.95 for 20, $21.95 for 50

Create a new holiday tradition: Share the gift of meat with your carnivorous loved ones and carb-avoiding friends. And don't give just any old meat--give them a tray of Andy Nelson's Dixie Wings. We can't stop singing the praises of these little smoky treats. First of all, they're barbecued instead of fried, which means they're not dripping with grease. Second, there's real meat on these wings unlike the ones served up in most places. Last but not least, they're cooked to perfection, plump and juicy and never dried out. Our Atkins friends love them because they're not doused with sugar- and/or carb-loaded sauces; we love them because they're so damn good. Andy Nelson's will pack you up a nice serving tray of wings--order them in quantities of 10, 20, 50, or more--that you can bring to friends and family. If you're lucky, they'll pop them in the oven while you're visiting and share some of that smoky, meaty goodness.

For Someone Who's Homeless
Polar Pod sleeping bag
REI, 63 W. Aylesbury Road, Timonium, (410) 252-5920, $69-$89

Concerned about the fast-widening gap between the rich and poor this holiday season? Class-conscious guilt got you off your cheer--all the worse 'cause there ain't much you can do about it? Well, then, go ahead and assuage that guilt by giving a really nice gift to someone less fortunate, like one of the thousands of homeless people who amble about Baltimore. Precious few of them are equipped for their inadvertent urban-camping lifestyle. So make their winter (and spring, summer, and fall) a little more forgiving with a large, cushy sleeping bag. The REI Polar Pod is rugged and reasonably priced. (If you want to make the bag vastly more useful, a large REI Seattle Sports Expedition Compression Dry Bag [$36] will do the trick nicely.) It's a bit of a layout, but you'll know there's one at least person out there in the cold sleeping better.

For Crazed Pet People
A basket of goodies from Chow, Baby
Chow, Baby, 3531 Chestnut Ave., (410) 235-2469

Everyone's got a pet lover on their list for Christmas, and some of us have pet freaks on our lists. You know the ones--if you're buying a gift for them, you're remiss if you don't get a gift for Mr. Stubbles as well. Fortunately, a new store has opened in Hampden where you can find gifts to pamper both your friends and their pets in one convenient stop. For your friend, you can choose from a selection of tasteful (we promise) kitty- and doggie-themed wall hangings ($22.50 and up for prints), T-shirts ($13-$21), or baseball caps ($15.50-$17.50). For their pet, toss in a selection of gourmet, all-natural dog treats from the Baltimore Dog Bakery ($4.75 for a pound), a box of rawhide Munchy Truffles ($2.50-$9), and maybe some fancy pet shampoo ($5.99). Wrap it all up in a basket or a box (you'll have to provide these yourself), and you've got a nice little gift package that'll tickle your pet-loving friend and their animal companions alike.

For People Who Poo
Custom-painted toilet seats
Initially available Dec. 6-7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., part of the "Sale of Small Works and One-Off Oddities and Oddments" at School 33, 1427 Light St., (410) 396-4641, After that, available at Zoe's Garden, 1918 Fleet St., (410) 675-8973, $70

Ho, ho, flush! Everybody likes a pretty can, and judging by the kooky SpongeBob SquarePants number we spotted at Target, the toilet seat has now been embraced by the public at large as an acceptable decorating opportunity for the discerning porcelain-convenience owner. And look, even Santa needs to sit down and take a load off on a regular basis, so it's pretty hard to go wrong with this one-size-fits-all gift idea, a vibrant, trippy hand-painted toilet seat from the hand and mind of local artist Paige Shuttleworth (a very occasional City Paper contributor). Subject matter is pretty much everything in Paige's cosmic mental wheelhouse: icons, Tibetan gods and demons, Indian gods such as Ganesh (pictured), movie monsters (the Creature from the Black Lagoon, for example), the ever popular tiki motif, and the artist's personal fave, a powerful, potent cobra. Ms. Shuttleworth also entertains direct commissions (job-turnaround time one week), so if you think you have a winning idea for an eye-catching pot top and are ready to pay a little extra, she's ready to believe you. Each fully functional crapper cover comes complete with mounting hardware (for the seat, not the user) and is personally tested and prewarmed by the artist herself. OK, kidding about the last part; they're all untouched by human hiney and ready for christening. Plus, this gift will ensure compliance with the eternal seat-down struggle, since that's the best way to admire the art.

For the Guy Who Needs a Queer Eye
Shaving stuff from Aveda
The Gallery, 200 E. Pratt St., (410) 837-9727; Towson Town Center, 825 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson (410) 847-9340

Seems like never a holiday season went by during our childhood when some male relative or other didn't receive a bottle of English Leather cologne, a soap on a rope, or perhaps the ultimate late-20th-century masculine-grooming-related Christmas gift, the hot shaving cream dispenser. But these are different times, the ostensible Age of the Metrosexual, when even straight men are supposed to be unabashed about caring how they come off, more in touch with their vanity, willing to submit to manicures and facials in the pursuit of Looking Good and Feeling Good. Don't know how much we buy that, but a little elevation above the kind of grooming regimen you can cobble together at the Rite Aid is nice every now and then. So if there's someone on your list you think is ready (or needing) to take a little more care with their toilet, step over to one of the local branches of Aveda and assemble a schmancy shaving kit for him. We can't get enough of the Rosemary and Mint Shaving Gel ($12); a little dab'll do ya, and our face feels great, even when the chilly winter winds start whipping up. Plus, the herbs impart a hint of tingle and smell good in a fresh and, ahem, manly way. If that big, tough chin doesn't take to shaving that well, toss in a spot of After Shave Balm ($13) to keep things soothed and supple. Who knows? Maybe soon you'll be fighting over the mirror.

For People Who Want to Keep the Christ in Christmas
Gifts from the Catholic Corner
4 Allegheny Ave., Towson, (410) 828-7550

Yeah, this is an obvious one, but you know, some people really do wanna keep the Christ in Xmas, so go ahead and humor them with a thoughtful religious-oriented present or even a gift certificate from the Corner. No, not that Corner, we're talkin' 'bout the Catholic Corner. They are able to satisfy the perhaps not-so-catholic tastes of your favorite Catholic with a serving of books, art, Bibles, rosaries, cool religious medals of different saints, nifty figurines such as the Virgin Mary (pictured), along with crucifixes, audio tapes, videos, night-lights, and even some plush-toy "Holy Bears" replete with scripture quotations. No belief in virgin birth, Jesus the Christ aka Son of God, or resurrection of the dead is required on your part to celebrate and reaffirm that special holiday someone's faith by keepin' it Catholic. You could even tell them it's from St. Nicholas.

For That Woman (or Man) of a Certain Age
Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook
CD stores and Web sites everywhere, $18.99

We're not saying what age, mind you. But if you have an older female relative or show-tune lover on your list and are still completely without a clue on what to get her or him, give this a spin. Rosemary Clooney didn't write "Hey There," "Come On-a My House," or "Mambo Italiano," but she sang the hell out of 'em back in the day. Now, queer-tested, mother-approved Bette Midler returns to the racks with a CD of tunes Clooney made famous in the 1950s. Classic American pop songs, an iconic pop singer who can actually sing, plus Barry Manilow (who duets with Midler on "On a Slow Boat to China" and contributed arrangements). It's a trifecta.

For Your Girl
Designs from the Edge Skirts and Bags
Oh! Said Rose, 840 W. 36th St., (410) 235-5170

Just about every lady loves new clothes and accessories, but we just feel funny about buying that kind of stuff for ourselves this time of year--unless it be a celebratory bangle and camisole for dress-up partying. But a fresh new skirt or smart new bag just seems unnecessary or indulgent--that is unless we happen to unwrap one or the other, or a bonus disco combo of both, from someone who loves us very much.

See, guys, we don't expect you to pick out our clothes or figure out what cool accessory might brighten our winter wardrobe--but we expect you to pay attention when we tell you how to do it. And we are super digging the stuff coming from Designs from the Edge, found at that fount of girlie stuff, Oh! Said Rose. every Designs From the Edge garment is mom-created, locally, for fun and wearability, declare the tags on the A-line, wrap-around mini--but not too mini--skirts; these sewing moms nailed us. The skirts, priced $34.99-$36.99 depending on the rick-rack adornments, are made from a weighty vintage fabric that's gonna hold that sassy shape and come in a range of '50s and '60s patterns, like Atomic Age, Hawaiian palm fronds, bowling a go-go, and muted orange flowers. They sound like they'd be louder than Elvis' tummy after Sunday dinner, but your gal might pair it with black--as in black boots, tights, and sweater--in January and a tank and kicks in June, without ever overstepping the taste line. And the same lush fabrics go into the swingin' little--but not too little--handbags ($24.99-$29.99) that are seriously gonna win you points (their tags: your heart's desire in fabric). Girls like purses, and these original cuties will look tight with both jeans and trousers. So, back to that bonus--sure to get you thanked in the most gracious of ways--disco suggestion: Buy her one of each and wrap 'em all pretty in the same box. Seriously.

For Bad Muthas
Miles Davis, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions
Stores and Web sites everywhere, $59.99

Though edited down to two long tracks for 1971's A Tribute to Jack Johnson, the soundtrack album to William Clayton's little-seen documentary about the larger-than-life first black heavyweight boxing champion, jazz heads have revered the February-June 1970 studio-session shredding led by pugilistic jazzman Miles Davis and documented by producer Ted Macero as the key to unlocking Davis' contentious '70s oeuvre. On those countless feet of tape were rumored to lie the thread connecting the modal collages of In a Silent Way, the nascent funk of Bitches Brew, and the flat-out insanity of On the Corner and Get Up With It. Plus, it was all done in service to Johnson--a black man, like Davis, who liked the good life, flaunted it, and wasn't about to take lip about it from anybody, black, white, or freaking chartreuse.

The five-CD Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Columbia)--the eighth Davis box set yet released--surprisingly lives up to that expectation. With the now legendary cast--including Bennie Maupin, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, and garroting guitarists Sonny Sharrock and John McLaughlin--Davis and company crossbreed jazz with rock to create a screaming, lurching, wailing, hissing, distorted bastard critics soon dubbed fusion, which some jazz musicians seduced by rock's sales and freewheeling lifestyle (many of which appear here) turned into overplayed funk dressed in prog rock's ludicrous wardrobe. Many of Complete's unreleased tracks chug with boxers' shuffling, lean-muscled intensity, and the brawling tracks named after them--"Johnny Bratton," "Duran," "Archie Moore," "Sugar Ray," "Ali"--capture a snarling dazzle that sounds as uncompromising today as the man who created them.

For the Lactose Tolerant
A medley of cool cheeses from the Cross Street Wine and Cheese Co.
Cross Street Market, East Cross and South Charles streets, (410) 837-2110

Upward of 50 million Americans don't produce enough of the intestinal enzyme lactase to comfortably digest dairy products--they bloat and make wind. You know what this means: more cheese for the rest of us. Assembling a medley of unique and yummy gift-worthy assortment cheeses for those on your gift list who are good-to-go, lactasewise, is easy at Cross Street Wine and Cheese Co., tucked inside South Baltimore's venerable Cross Street Market. And what's a nosh without something to wash it down with? Go ahead; throw a bottle or two of wine into the mix as well.

For Ravens Widows/Widowers
Football for Dummies
bookstores and web sites Everywhere, $19.99

While baseball is byzantine at times, it moves at such a solemn pace that there's plenty of time to explain curiosities such as the ground-rule double and the infield fly to the uninitiated. Football, however, borne along by rapid-fire instant replay and jargon-spewing announcers, can leave neophytes, uh, out in left field. Gridiron confusion is what leaves many folks alone on the sidelines Sunday afternoons. Football for Dummies, penned by defensive end-cum-sports commentator Howie Long, can help the football fearful get into the game. True, the whole For Dummies thing has gotten out of hand (what's next, Writing Dummies Books for Dummies?), but Long painstakingly dissects the game and its lingo. From the West Coast offense to the Dallas 4-3 defense, FFD covers the field, knocking down the game's arcana as effectively as Ray Lewis knocks down running backs. (See, "Linebackers: The Leaders of the Defense," Page 158.)

For the Brand-Spanking-New Out and Prouder
Rainbow stuff
Lambda Rising, 241 W. Chase St., (410) 234-0069

Maybe you've been out and proud so long that rainbow stuff looks as dated as florescent hot pink and day-glo green from the 1980s. But just as there are kids born in the '80s that are digging on that crap for the first time, you may know a brand-new out-and-prouder who appreciates the significance and fun of rainbow ways to display you're gay. Mount Vernon's Lambda Rising isn't just a flipping great "bookstore that celebrates the gay and lesbian experience," it is also here to help your favorite freshly minted friend of Dorothy show they're queer. From $1.25 for a pocket pack of pastel tissues to $75.95 for the most hotel-worthy of fluffy bathrobes, Lambda's got your rainbow stuff covered, with a wide range of items with the whole fandango rainbow on 'em, or stuff in each color of the Gaybow: dog leashes and bowls, mittens and scarves, enough candles to keep Baltimore lit during the next blackout, cuff links, belts, watches, jewelry (from rings and necklaces to earrings and bracelets), suspenders, rugs, flags, stacking plastic boxes, light bulbs, frames, doormats, night-lights, magnets, tumblers, kites, umbrellas, holiday ornaments, gift bags, stickers, address books, mouse pads, bath salts, soaps, pajamas, stuffed animals, dream catchers, feather masks, mini mirrored journals with matching mini pens, ashtrays, lighters, license-plate holders, car air-fresheners, luggage tags, ribbon, Gayopoly, and boas. And crocheted yarmulkes. It all screams--"Yeah, that's right, I ain't no hippie."

For Kwanzaa Celebrants
Kwanzaa gifts

One of the guiding principles of the African-American holiday Kwanzaa is Ujamma, or cooperative economics. There's no better way to get into the spirit of this principle than by supporting the African-American-owned business Afro-Deco. There you can shop for Afrocentric apparel and décor to warm your home as you celebrate this uniquely black American holiday. For instance, you can buy a set of five Kwanzaa ornaments ($24.95). Or you can choose an African-inspired Kwanzaa table set of napkins, place mats, and runners ($50). The Web site lists gifts related to Christmas as well, including ornaments and cards.

Related stories

Holiday Guide Feature archives

More Stories

Stuffed (11/18/2009)
The 2009 City Paper Holiday Guide

The Gifts That Count (11/18/2009)
The presents that have stayed in our writers' thoughts

The Wish List (11/18/2009)
Gifts we wish we could afford

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