Around The Rim Country

Holiday shopping for real people

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One of the sure signs that the holiday season is upon us is the annual release of the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog for those who have too much money for their own good.

In keeping with its philosophy of "more is more," you can always count on the exclusive Dallas department store that issues it to include outrageously expensive gifts that only the very well-heeled can possibly afford. Past items have included a real Noah's Ark, complete with chef, masseur and valet ($588,247), and the original manuscript of "The Night Before Christmas" ($795,000).

In keeping with tradition, this year's Neiman Marcus catalog features an art deco ice sculpture party house ($225,000 plus transportation), a personal submarine ($20 million), and a mix and match robot family (up to $14,000 per member).

You and I, of course, are destined never to experience the joys of such wondrous gifts as Barko, the robot dog, who can be trained to snap at intruders. So while the filthy rich wallow in excess, please welcome back for its second consecutive year, the grand holiday shopping tradition known as "Holiday Catalog Shopping for Real People."

Here, fellow Real People, are the items I have selected for your holiday gift-giving pleasure:

There are a lot of old people in the Rim country and surely one or more of them is on your gift list. From the healthcare products catalog known as Dr. Leonard's comes the perfect item to make old people feel, well, really old. it's the Automatic Lifter Seat ($129.99) that "helps you rise easily from any chair." Complete with hydraulic lift assist arms, this portable seat can be placed anywhere your old friend might need a boost when rising or assistance in sitting gently without falling. (To order: 1-800-785-0880).

Everybody knows somebody who likes to hear himself or herself talk. Maybe it's your teacher. Possibly your father. Perchance even your spouse. Whomever, the Standard Talking Parrot ($7.99) is the perfect gift for that pompous person. That's because it has a concealed recording device that repeats everything he or she says and in his or her own voice giving the recipient a dose of his or her own medicine. The standard version sits on a stationary perch, or opt for the Deluxe Talking Parrot ($8.99), which sits on a swinging perch. Also from Dr. Leonard's. (To order: 1-800-785-0880).

For that bean bag doll collector on your gift list, What on Earth catalog offers a trio of originals. They're called Cultured Bean Bag Dolls, and they include Albert Einstein, Will Shakespeare, and Vincent Van Gogh ($17.95 each). What's really neat, the copy says, is that Vincent is "anatomically correct" he has a removable and re-attachable ear. (To order: 1-800-945-2552).

Ever since we whipped the Russkies, there's been a whole lot of military surplus type stuff from the Soviet bloc countries on the market. There's even a catalog called Sovietski Collection, from whence comes a gift idea for that loved one who needs to be forcibly restrained on occasion. These East German Stasi "come-alongs" ($15) are right out of the era when the Ministry for State Security ruled with an iron hand. "With a quick flick of the wrist and a sharp twist," the copy says, "even the most obstreperous hooligan comes along quietly." (To order: 1-800-442-0002).

Don't be glum because you can't afford the $20 million dollar personal submarine from Neiman Marcus, because we have the next best thing. Also perfect for diehard Beatles fans, it's the official limited edition Yellow Submarine Cookie Jar ($99.95) from Old Glory Distributing Co. This ceramic beauty is 12 inches long and comes complete with a hand-numbered certificate of authenticity. (Warning: we do not recommend buying submarines, yellow or otherwise, from the Sovietski Collection catalog above.) (To order: 1-800-892-3323).

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a special gift idea from Cheaper Than Dirt! For the thug on your gift list it's a special book that is sure to be a bedside favorite. "Boobytraps" ($6.97) is the authentic 1965 Vietnam manual that every boob is sure to covet. Includes "hundreds of sketches for setting and covering various traps and their use." Of course, this item is "intended for historical reference only." Now if only your favorite thug can read. (To order: 1-800-421-8047).

This is cowboy country, and nobody says cowboy like John Wayne. For that manure-booter on your list, Cook Brothers offers your choice of two John Wayne combo wall clock/plaques ($19.95 each). Each of these high-gloss 8" X 10" wall hangings features a John Wayne classic movie. Choose from "Hondo" or "King of the Pecos." (To order: 1-800-621-4245).

When a catalog called Gadget Universe arrived in the mail, we knew there had to be something inside that would make our shopping list. We weren't disappointed. For just about anybody on your list it's the Mosquito Watch ($24.95), a fine timepiece that is also an "incredible electronic repeller." Because sprays and lotions never seem to work, this little marvel "emits a sound that replicates the beating wings of either the male mosquito which deters the biting female or the dragonfly, the mosquito's natural enemy." Any mosquito that makes the mistake of flying up to check the time will be one sorry bug. (To order: 1-800-478-4703).

And finally, for the person on your list who has everything, we recommend the Great Highland Bagpipe ($349) from The Pyramid Collection. That's right, folks, it's everybody's most hated musical instrument, a device so onerous it was "once outlawed as a weapon of war." This hand-crafted rosewood instrument comes complete with extra hemp socket winding and an 8-ounce bottle of superseal airbag seasoning. (To order: 1-800-333-4220).

Which brings us full circle, because if there is one thing the rich and the rest of us have in common, it is a loathing of bagpipe music.

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