Balls! Gift Giving Guide 

Seeing double


You walk into the store thinking, "Wow, this is a great place! Look at all this cool stuff! I love it!," and then you get that funny feeling that even though it's only a few months old, you've been to this place before. It's déjá vu, and it's going to happen to you all over again if you shop at ArtEffects.

Well, it will if you were a fan of The Nicholson House, the wonderful art, accessory and furniture store formerly in Pointe Orlando. ArtEffects (934 N. Mills Ave., 407-228-2820) is its new incarnation, and they have all the same beautiful, fun stuff, only in a smaller place, and you don't have to hang with the International Drive tourists (and their traffic) to get to it. ArtEffects is full of whimsical gifts that will surprise even the most jaded recipient, like sushi-shaped candles ($4.99), a paper lamp in the shape of a monkey (also called a "lighted sculpture," $149.99), lady-shaped vases ($55), and books like "Kid Stuff: Great Toys From Our Childhood" that feature chapters on Colorforms, Slinkies and the Easy-Bake Oven ($15.95). There's a lot of beautiful and useful art here, things people will truly appreciate ... and might even deserve.


Living in the past


Whether it's those drama-club types who still call you "M'lady" a solid month after the Renaissance Fair ends, that 65-year-old greaser who hasn't changed his Elvis 'do since the King was on Ed Sullivan or, my personal favorite, the sprightly older woman with the Annie Lennox hair, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt and geometric leggings who never stopped dressing "Flashdance," you know someone who lives in the past. And why shouldn't they? The past is so much better than the present. It's over, for one thing. Plus, the past can be creatively edited to splice out the crappy parts, while the present offers relentless reminders of how very much it sucks and, indeed, is sucking right now.

For those who are smart enough to want nothing to do with current times, there's Orlando Vintage Clothing Co. and Rental Boutique (2117 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-7225). Whatever decade your friends are stuck in, they'll be grateful that you went back in time to find them something from it, like a perfect '50s beaded sweater ($40) or a '70s men's long-sleeved shirt decorated with Mount Fuji that is exactly what Marky Mark meant in "Boogie Nights" when he talked about "imported Italian nylon" ($42). Orlando Vintage is one of a number of vintage, antique and collectible stores in this neighborhood, so keep looking around if you know someone who has flat-out refused to join us in the 21st century. If you yourself have made that leap, check them out at


The day room


Basket weaving and finger painting are the types of harmless crafts done in therapy to pass the time; it keeps the asylum inmates busy and their minds off the idea of stabbing Nurse Ratchett in the neck with a pen. They also involve nothing electric, sharp or poisonous (depending on the paint), and allow visiting family members to see that Uncle Albert is on his way back to Earth, and even get a momento of his progress, which they drop in the trash the minute they get home.

If you know anyone who would benefit from a little day-room atmosphere but is too proud to check into Peaceful Acres, go to Michael's Arts and Crafts (4308 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-9771). They have enough kits in there to keep all of Belleview out of trouble for a year and a half. My favorite is "Pipe Cleaners Gone Crazy: A Complete Guide to Bending Fuzzy Sticks," which comes with 75 "grade A" pipe cleaners, not the cheap kind you usually get, and an assurance that it is "100 percent Klutz certified." (Klutz is the manufacturer's name.)

If pipe cleaners seem a little dangerous, maybe the Loaf Soap Kit would be better for them. With this you can make a gigantic bar of soap, with a decorative flower embedded in it, which you can cut up into 18 normal-sized bars. Some of you are thinking, "Why don't I just buy the kit for $19.95 and make everyone soap for the holidays?" Because that is an appallingly cheap thought, and you don't want people calling you tight behind your back, do you? Michael's also has regular, nontherapeutic gifts, like Sea Monkeys ($6.99), which is good, because while we might not like it, we have to recognize that not everybody should be in a Home for the holidays.


Smooth operator


Surely you've seen a friend at the pool with a back that looks like it's covered in coconut husks, or a young lady with a mustache so pronounced that if she wore chaps, she'd look like a Village Person. These people are candidates for lycanthropy -- the condition of suffering under the delusion that you are a werewolf.

There is only one answer: Nads. It sells for $29.95 at Walgreens (multiple locations) and is a hair-removal system that, according to the box, melts with your own body heat, washes away with water and comes with kiwi-chamomile soap and lotion plus a "spatula" (a piece of plastic) among other props that presumably will have you as bald as a lizard in no time flat. Whether it works or not, I don't know; to me, the great thing is that something called "Aussie Nads No" heat-hair removal kit was marketed in America, and among all the hundreds of people it must have taken to get this thing on the shelves, no one thought to say, "Does anyone know what Nads means?"


Something wick this way comes


The word "aromatherapy" chirped into the retail lexicon a few years ago, and it's an interesting concept that makes life cheaper. Why spend thousands of dollars to whine to some educated professional when you could just buy a scented candle? Of course things that smell good make you feel nicer. When they became "therapeutic" is more uncertain. Probably around the same time that pretty rocks ("crystals" ) were being sold as healing devices.

Then again, maybe aromas are therapeutic, because we had a wonderful time around the Primal Elements candles sold at White's of Celebration (715 Bloom St., Celebration, 407-566-1007). The smell of these things is really outstandingly strong, plus they're dotted with jellylike bits, which is presumably where those rich aromas are coming from.

One of the candles is called Cupcake, but the label makes it look like it says "Primal Cupcake," which sounds like one of those creepy sex names that couples who role play would give one another. The candle called Beach Glass conjured images of blood, screams and a ruined afternoon, but it smelled like Coppertone and therefore was lovely. No scented candle should have "fish" in the name, but Ginger Fish smelled nice and spicy, and if you want to get some dieting person to ruin all their hard work and run drooling to the bakery, give them a whiff of the Ginger Bear candle, which smells more like gingerbread than gingerbread does. With glass holders, the candles are $17, and I know that my partner in this endeavor and I were both much more mentally healthy for the experience.


Ring of fire

OK, we all know that cell phones give you brain tumors. You can tell by the way people who talk and drive simultaneously do the latter -- there's something the size of a grapefruit inside their head and it isn't helping them to think.

Still, while your gray matter is rotting away, you might as well look really cool, and the best way to help anyone do that is to get them a cool cell-phone cover. At Wet Seal in Orlando Fashion Square Mall (407-896-0220), they have zebra covers and ones with flames on them like a hot rod for $16, and some that say "Foxy" or "Hottie" for $16.50. To match this Clueless cachet, right across the hallway at Charlotte Russe (407-228-2060), you can get more auto accessories, like steering-wheel covers that say "Princess" ($12-$18) or leopard-print floor mats ($22 each). Being able to buy car baubles and earrings in the same place is sweet.

For those who think mall stores should not be included in a local gift guide, too bad. Malls are the best invention since TV. Almost nothing bad ever happens in the mall. It's climate-controlled, smells good, has a wide variety of foods and is full of things waiting to be owned by me. You can shop at some Third World outdoor marketplace with the flies and the stray goats if you want to, but know this: Anyone who sneers at malls is a Commie. Don't let them in your car.


Audience participation


When "The Exorcist" was rereleased, friends and I went to see it at a late show. During a particularly tense and quiet scene some bastard way up in the back balcony let out a belch that lasted about 30 seconds, was as loud as an air horn and had a scary, growling quality that made every person in the theater jump out of their chair. It was kind of surprising that no one punched his face in, but his pivotal comic timing made the show much more memorable than it would have been. Which is saying something.

There is a way to give this same memory to others. During the holidays, when just about everyone is experiencing some kind of rage -- whether road, family or financial -- it's easy to develop a vicarious case of Tourette's Syndrome, that disorder in which the sufferer has vocal tics that can cause them to make strange sounds, scream or curse. If you know someone who doesn't have this disorder but does a good job faking it, why not buy them tickets to a show?

Movie passes never go unappreciated. But for your expressive friends to show their complete range of talents, we were thinking more along the lines of a live venue.

For example, Orlando Opera Company will be doing Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" Feb. 16, 18 and 20, an event that will doubtless be beautiful and memorable and even more so if someone in the audience decides to join the cast in a little aggressive vocalization (tickets $20-$125; 407-426-1700). Southern Ballet Theatre is offering "Copelia: The Magic Doll" March 2-4 -- and heck, why shouldn't an art as sedate and beautiful as ballet have any less enthusiasm in its audience than a football game where people do a little hollering? The dancers are just as athletic; maybe they'd like a little impromptu encouragement (tickets $15-$48; 407-426-1739).

Finally, it's a free concert, so you can't buy anyone tickets, but if you have a friend who is given to yelling obscenities, take them to the Central Florida Police Pipe Band's Bach's Lunch Bagpipe concert, Feb. 1 at The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, at Magnolia Avenue and Jefferson Street downtown (407-849-0680). St. Luke's is a beautiful facility, bagpipes are so entertaining, and while we won't be within 10 miles of the melee, we'll look forward to watching CFN 13 to see what happens when your potty-mouth friend cuts loose. The gift will be the story people will get to tell for years to come.


Hoop schemes


Aggression is generally considered a male thing. Fueled by testosterone and oiled with musk, the hairier (in most countries) of the species ran roughshod over women, children, small animals and the 99-pound weaklings that littered the landscapes of our hero's walnut-sized brain.

These days, aggressive males have been tamed into mere shadows of themselves. Although your average man's man can still watch sports on TV 48 hours a day, this two-dimensional outlet for all that suppressed rage is not necessarily good. It's far better to expend all that fighting juice watching sports live, and for that we heartily endorse women's basketball.

The Orlando Miracle won't be up and running again until next spring, but you can call ahead and reserve season tickets (407-916-9622.) Prices range from about $150 to nearly $1,500, but no expense should be spared. The angst in the stands is just as provocative as the incessant dribbling on the court: lots of gal-pals chipped in for season tix, only to see their relationships shift and change like the Four Winds. Imagine sitting next to your ex while your current is five rows down, sitting with her ex? So that everyone's happy, single-game tickets also will be available for the spring 2001 season, priced $8-$34. Give them a call, join the crowd and do some real screaming. It'll feel just like an est session.


Earth toned


We remember someone asking a nun in grade school when the end of the world was coming; Sister answered that it could happen "in a million years" or "in a few minutes." Never say "in a few minutes" to a kid. To this day, whenever we ask for something (dry-cleaning, supper, a paycheck) and are told it will be ready "in a few minutes," we are seized by a feeling of impending doom.

If the world's gonna end, and maybe in a few minutes, we might as well make it palatable until the time comes when we consumers become the consumed. Practice for what Florence King calls the apocalypso dance by shopping responsibly at The EcoStore (2441 Edgewater Drive, 407-426-9949). Here you will find no-nonsense and practical things to help you feel like you made an effort to preserve the planet prior to witnessing its fiery demise.

Here are beautiful, all-cotton shirts by Jusnaturall ($38); dyed in natural tones, they actually shimmer. Wall hangings by Kandahar of India are recycled from actual festival garments ($40). Each is unique, with a myriad of glowing colors. Tulip candleholders, angels and bird feeders made from recycled buckets ($15-$25) are charming as well as functional. The shop is amply stocked with natural soaps, scents and oils, and lest all these smells play havoc with your lungs, it also stocks an environmentally sensitive Electrostatic Air Filter for your air conditioner ($54) that doesn't pollute the land with those fiberglass blue things. A back room fairly brims with the latest eco-responsible information, leading the visitor to realize how dedicated owner Beth Hollenbeck is to shop's mission. Stop in and rest assured that your purchase isn't going to make Earth any worse off than it already is.


Fork it over


One of the best T-shirts ever is the one that says, "I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive I am not obsessive ... "

Of course you're not. You just have to have every single scrap of material turned out by Madonna, including dance remixes, European singles and tossed-out Kleenexes, or your life won't be complete. You just know every single line of every original "Star Trek" episode ever made and would rather recite them than converse with another person who is real and in this decade. You are not obsessive.

Some people are, though, and interestingly enough at a little downtown store called Dish & Dat (716 E. Washington St., 407-426-9696), there are ways for you to satisfy a couple of those obsessions you don't have. Dish and Dat sells, guess what, dishes and other table-setting, party-giving and cooking-related items, most of them new but some, intriguingly, from restaurants that have gone out of business. If, for example, you and that ex of yours, the one you're currently stalking, had your first date at La Venezia, now you can buy their cups with the logo on them for a mere $2 and relive those wonderful old memories that are so helpful in preventing you from getting on with your life.

Another fascinating item Dish & Dat was carrying as of this writing was the tableware used in the movie "Titanic" ($27.88 for a four-piece set). The flick notwithstanding, it's quite nice, white and decorated with silver stars (for the White Star Line, for those of you who remember). Now you can have a dish that Leonardo might have looked at!!!!! You are now free to die and ascend to heaven.


Collection agency


Also ready to cater to the collector's whims is Cottage Garden Collectibles & Gifts (105 E. First St., Sanford, 407-320-8043), in Sanford's burgeoning antiques district. They have Shelia's collectible building facades, miniatures by Goebel and Disney, lots of Department 56 items, selections from StorybookVillage, and some particularly beautiful statuettes from the Ebony Visionsline. They even feature an enchanting collection of miniature porcelain footwear called Just the Right Shoe, which every girl (and some guys) would love to own.

And if you're looking for things to store things in -- and you can't get more retentive than that -- beautiful pots, urns and bowls await at the Bureto Metal Studio (1425 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-5553). Every-thing we liked ranged from $20 to $55, good prices for these exquisite and aged-looking creations. And when it's time to stop your gathering frenzy, they also feature antiqued metal headboards. Have a nap.


Spark of life


Just how whacked out you are really depends on the culture you live in. Some people eat dogs while we wouldn't dream of it. A hundred years ago it would have been scandalous behavior for a woman to show an ankle (and still is in some places). When you look at our current culture, it's not hard to believe that it's the people who are outside of the mainstream that have their heads on straight, and the regular ol' American dreamers who are insane.

Static (110 N. Orange Ave., 407-650-8381) is the right place to shop for people who have their heads on straight. There's not one middle-of-the-road item in the whole shop, their prices are surprisingly low, and if you walk in looking for a gift you won't have to walk out and go elsewhere.

There's a huge selection of clothing for men and women, like the men's bowling-style shirt decorated with the classic painting "Dogs Shooting Pool" ($40), Dead Kennedys light-switch plates ($5, and yes, there are other bands, too), nail polish in a skull-shaped bottle ($4), a flask with Dean Martin's photo on it in case you forget you're a swinger ($26.99), chain wallets depicting the Virgin Mary ($10), and ties by Archaic Smile that have beautifully drawn '50s-style pin-up girl scenes ($18). They also generally have a huge line of Paul Frank stuff, and though they were a little low as of this writing, they're bound to have more around holiday time.

With the same giant stores carrying the same old junk, it's a cool and unusual feat in itself that Static has managed to fit an enormous amount of unique and inexpensive things -- sunglasses, ashtrays, lighters, hats, purses, T-shirts -- into a very small space. That concentrated quality is what the store is all about. If you know someone who your parents would call "a bit eccentric," first be grateful, then shop for them at Static, the clear choice.


Dry wit

Say you're skiffing down the Wekiva in a canoe (or whatever it is one does with a boat). Say you're trying to bravely address an advanced case of potamophobia, a condition that prevents you from dealing with rivers. Alone, you come upon a flat, open sheet of watery expanse. The wind begins to suddenly whisk down from a rapidly darkening sky; the previously glasslike surface of the water turns a murky shade of green and begins to chop and heave with sickening irregularity. You know it's only a matter of minutes before you swim with the fishes.

You may end up soaked to the skivvies, but your K&H Waterproof Boating Maps will have weathered the storm. These contour maps for boating, fishing and recreation feature various and sundry water systems, so you'll never again worry about keeping afloat on the Wekiva when you're actually out on the St. Johns. You can get them at DeLeon Springs State Park north of DeLand, in the gift shop attached to the make-your-own-pancakes Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant (maps $9.95; restaurant and gift shop, 904-985-5644) -- a good place, incidentally, to dry off after indulging in water sports. Generating all that steam heat at your built-in griddle table will soon have your knickers dry as toast. And that's a good feeling.


Time lapse

The too-quick flight of days always causes us unending unease, mainly because there's just not enough time for everything we need, want or have to do. That's great when it applies to an office job -- Time's run out! Go home! -- but not so good when it comes to fun stuff like lounging around, inventing new combinations involving vermouth and whiskey, and generally feeling carefree. Don't you wish you could turn those flapping calendar pages back to a time when things were easier?

You can, with a "Slide On Over" 50-Year Perpetual Calendar from Restoration Hardware (400 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-1050).With one deft flick of its brass knob, you can turn this beautifully styled deco desk accessory back to a more peaceful time. Even if it's not really April of last year (remember that cruise to Cancun?), you can pretend that it is, and you'll feel all the better for it. And get this: It's only $2.99, down from $16. Get one for everyone on your list, and indulge in a mass re-enactment of Time Tunnel. For the more practical among us, it can also display the current month. But that rather defeats the purpose, don't you think?


What floats your boat

The Greeks had a word for it: agoraphobia, the fear of the open market place. Translated into today's vernacular, it can mean simply being unable to face Orlando on a day-to-day basis. One can easily get one's fill of singing mice and dancing bears.

Assuaging your anxiety is easy with a dip in Alar's Flotation Therapy Isolation Chambers. Located at the Sheraton World Resort (10100 International Drive, 407-352-7741), these salt-water-filled cocoons let you disappear into aquatic bliss for up to 90 minutes. The ratio of salt to water is very high, allowing one's body to float rather than sink to the bottom like the Lusitania. Or you may just bob there in silence, like a cloistered nun. At $35 for a half hour, $50 for a full hour, and $75 for the hour-and-a-half saline bonanza, it's worth a million bucks to be able to just do nothing.

Conversely, the claustrophobiac in your life might also benefit from this sort of therapy; after all, aren't the holidays a time for us to help our friends confront their daily dilemmas? Have you tried to get a parking space near the entrance to a mall these days? Why should we be the only ones in town experiencing anxiety attacks?


An outside chance

There's someone on your gift list that you would like to give a present to, but you can never find them. They have skedaddled off to the beach for the weekend, or they're sitting in a duck blind staring obsessively at the skies, or they're traipsing around in the woods like those nutty "Blair Witch" kids.

These are people who don't want to join us in a world where we enjoy supermarkets, hotel rooms and restaurants. They want to catch and kill the things they eat, sleep without pillows and use the great outdoors as their toilet. Whatever way they're bent, you know one, and there's a place to fit any gift needs they have that the good earth can't cough up.

Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World (5156 International Drive, 407-563-5200) is like a Ron Jon's for the hunting-and-fishing set. This ridiculously gigantic mecca looks from the outside like a posh ski resort, almost like Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and when you get inside the feeling scarcely changes. There are mounted fish, rams, moose and other animals; a fireplace so big the flames came up to my eyes; leather couches and chairs; and a chandelier as big as a kiddie pool. You'll wait quite some time for someone to take your order for a hot toddy before you realize you're not in a lobby in Aspen.

The fishing section alone is a forest of fishing poles, enough to pick the whole ocean clean. This enormous area does not even include the section devoted to fly fishing, the "White River Fly Shop," which is the size of a couple of 7-Elevens welded together. Still, it's like closet space in the enormity of this store.

Once you meander from the fishing section you get into the home furnishings and books and video departments, where you can buy old tin signs advertising bait shops ($9.95), salt and pepper shakers shaped like trout ($4.95), and volumes such as "Outwitting Deer," by Bill Adler Jr., who also wrote "Outwitting Squirrels." I couldn't find a sales rep to tell me what video was running on the monitor but watched as a guy hidden in the reeds blew on a whistle and a bird flew frantically toward the signal, mad for love or companionship, and was summarily blown out of the sky. There's a lesson in holding your cards closer to your vest.

Camping gear, including Coleman inflatable beds (double, $49.99), filled another big section and bled over into the hunting area, with its gigantic selection of camouflage clothing. The whole lot failed, though, because I found it. They had a number of gun safes for sale (prices vary), which could be a gift that gives back in security way more than it costs in cash. But if you'd rather lock-and-load than lock up and throw away the key, there's also a shooting gallery, the Old Time Shooting Arcade, which warns, in that old-timey way, "CAUTION: Laser radiation. Avoid prolonged staring into beam." The scene you are shooting into is a bait shack on a bayou with all kinds of critters, including a mosquito that is the same size as the raccoon, so you know it's set in Florida.

Outdoor World is so expansive that you get that theme-park feeling at a certain point: You would continue, but you've been overstimulated and cannot absorb anything else. I couldn't even really look at the Rain Wear Center. Who knew "roughing it" required so many accessories?


Pet projects

Fear of commitment doesn't just occur in relationships, you know. Once in a while you get someone who prefers to buy cheap clothes, watches and flatware so they don't feel guilty when they throw it away. People like us don't live in houses. We rent.

And renters have to put up with restrictions that homeowners do not, the most irritating of which is frequently "No pets." It's sad, but we're often deprived of the affection of a loyal dog or calming cat because these animals shed, pee and have fleas. They wreck those places we can't call our own.

But we can usually get away with the types of pets that can't show any affection, which is all right with us, because then we can't get attached. These pets include fish, reptiles, rodents, birds and insects, all of which can be found at Safari Pets (419 E. Michigan St., 407-423-5969).

Their selection of saltwater fish is extremely varied, and the creatures are so brilliantly colored and elaborately decorated they look as if they were designed by Pucci, Mackie and Versace. You could warm up -- but not too much -- a lonely apartment dweller's life with something as cuddley as a turbo snail ($1.99), a gorgeous jumbo goldfish about the size of a small calzone ($19.99), a hideous giant millipede ($14.99), a male veiled chameleon (the kind on the Bud commercials, $100) or a baby-ball python ($59.99). The stock at Safari Pets changes frequently, so while some of these creatures may be gone by the time you read this, others will have taken their place. You could be doing a very good turn for those of us who don't want something to love, but like having something weird to sit next to.


Sip of the tongue

Holiday parties can bring on as much tension as they're meant to relieve: What to wear? Who'll be there? Will anyone talk to you? It used to be called "nerves," but these days when there is a clinical name for every one of your weird traits, it's called "social-anxiety disorder." There are pills for it, but the truly centered among us know that no method works to dispel shyness like good old-fashioned alcohol.

One place to buy alcohol where the bottle will have just as much going for it as the contents is Thornton Park Liquors (716 E. Washington St., 407-650-9112). The absolute -- no pun intended -- best example of vodka presentation is the Vincent Van Gogh vodka from Holland, in a bottle with a picture window through which you can look and see the earless master's paintings, a museum trip to go with your cocktail ($29.99). They have great gift baskets too, like one with piña colada mix, a bottle of Bacardi and rum cake, plus leis, fans, cocktail umbrellas and a tub to keep your concoctions cooled in ($61.99). If you don't see what you want, they can order it, but if your eyes are working you'll probably see something you like (the beer and wine selection is modest, but present). Here's the cure for that social-anxiety disorder: "Just say when ..."


Spirit realm

Having been raised Catholic, and sometimes prone to religious excess, we are used to gift shops featuring light-up baby Jesuses, painted Virgin Marys with too much eye makeup, and pictures of saints you haven't thought of since third grade -- for example, Saint Lucy, always shown holding a dish in which rest her eyeballs. (Can you see what I seeee!)

Kathmandu (120 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 407-647-7071), a tiny Eastern/spiritual shop, features religious or simply spiritual accessories from the other side of the coin, and we promise that it's not a mortal sin if you go inside. Ebony-hued Indonesian statues evocative of mysterious deities watch your every move, incense perfumes the air, and colorful paper lanterns sway beneath the ceiling. Keeping them company are gorgeous Balinese flying goddesses, exquisite creations carved in wood.

One of the most comforting things are the Akshamala Tibetan rosaries. At $6-$25 a set, these charming meditating beads confirm that a prayer is a prayer, no matter from whom it comes. Toe rings in many styles and prices are sure to please He Who Walks Barefoot By Day, but He must be careful not to get hooked in the sheets when it is time for Him to lie down. There are also lots of things devoted to Ganesh, the elephant god, and Ganesh himself comes in all shapes and sizes. And why not hang some Tibetan prayer flags outside the house ($32-$42)? They're certainly more attractive than those ladybug banners that everyone and his brother has been flying. They'll be sure to generate comment from the neighbors -- and may even deflect that next lightning bolt. You never can tell.

Gay day-trips

Being gay used to be officially considered a mental ailment, but these days it's as popular as "Will & Grace." There are now whole industries devoted to gay people, and one of the most popular fields is travel. Yes, many gay couples may be yearning to settle down and raise a kid or two, but it's a whole lot easier to circumnavigate the globe unfettered. And gay people are swarming all over the place in ever-increasing numbers.

Being gay used to be officially considered a mental ailment, but these days it's as popular as Will & Grace. There are now whole industries devoted to gay people, and one of the most popular fields is travel. Yes, many gay couples may be yearning to settle down and raise a kid or two, but it's a whole lot easier to circumnavigate the globe unfettered. And gay people are swarming all over the place in ever-increasing numbers.

But how to navigate? Scoot on over to Out and About Books (930 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-0204) and stroll through their travel section, which features a host of titles written exclusively for gay and lesbian globetrotters. These user-friendly, portable guidebooks offer overviews of gay venues and services in practically every city and country on earth. They'll even warn you to refrain from making yourself too gay, like, for instance, in Albania, which has no gay bars -- well, neither does North Dakota, for that matter. Apart from the gay staples, big-name imprints like Access and Fodor's have gotten into the act, too. (Prices range from $10.95-$19.95.) There's even a tart little tome called "Dykes With Baggage: The Lighter Side of Lesbians in Therapy." Who knew? Edited by Riggin Waugh, it offers a devilish take on the angst-ridden sisters among us -- the perfect antidote to all that serious holiday "she said/she said" trauma. Give a copy to all the womyn on your list. And then duck.


You cast a spell on me

We went into Zany Brainy (509 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-384-3331) intending to find a Super Soaker water gun that a person could fill with holy water and squirt at someone suffering from demonic possession, which seems likely to happen around the holidays when you're feeling mean and miserable and therefore more welcoming to evil spirits.

What distracted us from our mission was Harry Potter. Zany Brainy had a big lot of Potter paraphernalia, a new and wonderful sight to a fan's eyes, including secret boxes depicting Hermoine the Bookworm, Hedwig the Owl (both $19.99) and Harry and Hagrid at Gringott's ($27.99). If you know a kid who's really into it, you could outfit them like Harry, with a magic wand ($2.99, magic not included), a cape ($24.99) and a conical wizard's hat decorated with moons and stars ($19.99).

If you really wanted to make them feel like they were in the story, you could get them the Air Maze Sky Magic fan-inflatable castle (you could tell them it was Hogwart's), with adventure tunnels and three oversized play domes ($199.99). If I were you, I'd tell them it was under a "Ssssshhhhh!" spell that meant they had to whisper until they were 14 or they'd turn into a crab. The great thing about kids is they believe that kind of thing.

Zany Brainy is full of regular toy-store toys that aren't as pricey as the whole castle, like the alien hive plastic stacking puzzle (who knew aliens lived in hives? $7.99), the talking Mr. Potato Head game ($27.99) and Sculpey III, which is clay you can fire in your own oven (come in 10 colors, $14.99). Then we came across something like the "Radio DJ Broadcast" studio, a cool thing that makes the olden among us go, "We never had stuff like that when we were kids. We had to use live bugs for toys. Do they still have live bugs?" The toy broadcast studio "transmits through any radio up to 30 feet away," includes "fade-in" and four sound effects, and lets you play your CDs "on the air." This could be a great way to encourage your kid's interest in music ... or it could make him or her start talking like one of those "smooth jazz" people and drive you up the wall. Invoke the whisper spell.

Zany Brainy is also where you'll find the "Password" notes box and journal ($19.99 and $24.99, respectively). Instead of a diary with a key that could easily be opened with a pin or a knife (as everyone in the family knows), these two items seal your secrets with voice recognition. That makes it a good thing to ensure a child's privacy, but a nice gift for the paranoid, secretive adult on your list as well.


Play's the thing

Just down from Zany Brainy is a toy store for slightly bigger kids, Gamestop (495 N. Alafaya Trail, 407-207-1052), where you can load up on computer games, so they can get the current version of that Dungeons & Dragons disease where they can't separate real life from the game anymore. At least it keeps them out of your hair.

Not only does Gamestop have all the current stuff you need, but they've also got a preowned section, so you can buy things you find for a lot less and unload some of your own tired stuff for trade or cash.

We had to have one of the young whippersnappers behind the counter tell us what's high on the desirability chart, so here they are: Play Station 2 ($299.99), Play Station One ($99.99), Final Fantasy IX ($39.99), the Sega Dreamcast Sports Bundle ($169.99), Shenmue ($49.99), Hey You Pikachu! ($84.99), and the Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask ($59.99). And you thought kids were expensive when they wanted bikes.

There is something in here for the family fossil to enjoy as well. We were shocked and delighted to see an action figure of the Abominable Snowman from the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" TV special, the one that was made almost before TV was invented ($9.99). And there were four new Beatles Yellow Submarine action figures ($12.99). There were 'N Sync figures as well ($19.99), and if it bothers you that ‘N Sync costs more than the Beatles, feel free to buy an 'N Sync doll and attach a firecracker to it. This kind of psychotic acting out could be either cleansing for your disgusting soul or the prelude to a stint in the booby hatch; you'll just have to roll the dice on this one.


Escape artists

It's not a psychological disorder: It's a necessity. Everyone turns escapist at one time or another, and nothing is more appreciated by the overloaded, overburdened and overworked than an escape route. It doesn't have to be elaborate -- an actual trip, after all, can be as much work as work.

There's no better escape than disappearing into a good story for a couple of hours, and nobody has more excellent, varied and surprising stories to run away into than Stardust Video & Coffee (1842 Winter Park Rd., 407-623-3393). If you buy someone a Stardust gift certificate, the time you spend in the store will be an escape in itself. There are so many movies, all the major and minor new releases, lots of DVDs, and the rest of the store divided mostly by what country the movies are from and who directed them, plus special sections like "Teen Angst" and "Neo Noir." It's an arty but unpretentious place where you can just hang out, maybe catch an art show or performance, and always get expert recommendations on flicks you might never have thought about seeing on your own.

Don't tell us you couldn't use a little escapism around the holidays. Besides, shopping for others is much easier if you employ the "one for you, one for me" method. You could really catch up on your movies this way.


Sense and sensibility

One of the hardest people to buy for is the normal person, that rock of everyday stability who doesn't show signs of mental disturbances, someone who is likable and pulled together and not in need of isolation tanks, busy work or aid in stopping the voices. Someone who is weird because they're not.

One nice, surprising new shop where you can buy for the girls on your list who make the season slightly less neurotic for you is American Modern (2912 Corrine Drive, 407-894-8941). There are clothes, gifts and accessories to please lots of tastes here, plus they make their own jewelry, lots of different kinds, so the prices are as close to wholesale as you're going to get. But that's true of most things in the store, not just the necklaces, earrings and bracelets. For example, there are beaded purses ($12.99), candle holders made of metal and glass with etched ladybugs, dragonflies and grasshoppers ($9.99), beautiful gauze hippie dresses (about $26-$46), Madras nylon backpacks ($5) and T-shirts by Be As You Are (my favorite showed a pet owner tied to a chair with the caption "Old Dog Learns New Trick," $17.95-$22). You might think that a calm mind is its own reward, but honest to God, don't the good girls deserve a little something in a box for not driving you batshit like everyone else this year?


Be sweet

For those who think we're being a bit nasty by picking on various emotional difficulties, well, we are, but many of them are things we suffer from to at least some degree ourselves. Just because we haven't been diagnosed doesn't mean we don't have it; we're just too stingy to go to the doctor. God knows with my undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder I could save a good hour every day that I otherwise spend checking coffee pots, rechecking locked doors and making sure that the oven, which I don't think I've ever turned on, is off. My editors wish I would direct this disorder at my spelling and facts, but you can only channel so much energy into good things.

Which brings us to compulsive eating. Believe me, it isn't that I don't understand this weakness. My size goes up and down at about the same rate as an 18-year-old boy's private parts.

If you know someone who you would like to give an unbearably sweet holiday to while simultaneously ruining any attempt they might be trying to make at dieting, get them something from Schakolad Chocolate Factory (509 S. Semoran Blvd., 407-677-4114, and 3201 E. Colonial Drive, 407-895-0040). With more than 1,000 molds, "We can make anything in chocolate," says Schakolad's Michael Naylor -- chocolate telephones, violins and, my favorite, baskets, which are made of about a half-pound of chocolate and are then filled with a half-pound of chocolate truffles ($25). As I write I'm looking over the catalog -- cheesecake truffle, mint truffle, milk white truffle, mocha truffle -- and wondering if I could eat them off the page. If you really want people to remember you, they also can make business cards in chocolate ($2.50).

If you're not looking for anything too elaborate, you can get a small box of four truffles, make their day and not ruin their diet. Be careful if you enter the store yourself, however. If you weren't a compulsive eater before you went in, the divine scent alone will get you there.


Towers of London


Ever wish you were a nationality other than the one you were born with? Ever actually begin to speak in accents you weren't born with? Here in America, plenty of people (and Joan Collins) have tried it. These people are so desperate to fit into their concept of "class" that they'll do anything to siphon off their birth blood in a mad pursuit to replace it with something bluer.

Or at least more British.

When you feel the urge to start talking like Mr. Thurston Howell III, the place you can do it is the Pence & Pound House (630 S. Maitland Ave., Maitland, 407-628-4911.) Walk through its door and you'll feel like you've wandered into a sunny Sussex afternoon. The shop is set up like a house. There's a bedroom dressed in rich white linen and scented with hard-milled lavender soap ($7.50 per cake), and even a "kitchen" area stocked with more jams and jellies than you knew there were fruits to make them from, plus all sorts of crackers and teas. (Yes, there is life beyond Earl Grey.)

Lose yourself in what looks like the "game room," which has books devoted to Labradors and decoys, and things for golfers, equestrians and those of you who like to fish with something other than baloney. Showcased in a built-in bookshelf, beautiful ties by Fox and Chave are a bargain at $35. And on a side table a jar of Sable & Rosenfeld's Tipsy Colossal Olives ($9.85) are spiked with vermouth, so all you have to do is add the whiskey. Soon you'll be hankering for cocktails on the links. Now, that's WASP!

Second string


If you have put this very long story down four or five times during the course of reading it to answer an e-mail, use the bathroom, converse with another person, clean out the car or whatever duties you must attend to, you may have ADD, attention-deficit disorder. Since this is the most riveting piece of literature you've picked up since "Go, Dog, Go!," you'd have to be a little imbalanced not to have read it from start to end.

Attention deficit can get expensive for the hobbyist. They run out and buy $4,000 worth of photography equipment only to tire of their avocation after a while, and while that expensive enlarger gets used as a clothes rack, they turn their attention to scuba diving and all the gear and classes required for that.

Play It Again Sports (multiple locations) addresses this problem. If you own a treadmill that has been used once, to dry a pair of pants on, you could take it to Play It Again Sports, trade it in, and with the money either buy someone something or indulge yourself in your next hobby that you will never actually pursue. About 70 percent of the equipment here is new, but the old stuff is quite inexpensive. You could get a new golf enthusiast a golf bag for as low as $5, fill it with a set of Power Play 3-PW iron clubs ($99), and then when they move on to boxing, buy them a free-standing heavy bag ($169.99). Children's bikes are something that children outgrow pretty quickly, but a used Zephyr Rage Boys Bike ($29.99) doesn't hurt as badly as a new one and you know you can trade it in when he moves on. There's even an ab-roller for $14.99, just in case you already know what you want to not do anymore by next week. And whatever you do, make sure you protect yourself with an athletic supporter ($7.99). No, these are not pre-owned, ya pervert. Get out.

The right side of the tracks

"Beyond the Forest" is one of Bette Davis' worst movies. Based on the timeless "Madame Bovary," Popeye the Magnificent plays a character named Rosa Moline (" She's a midnight girl in a 9 o'clock town!" ) who quickly tires of the home life she shares with her dull and sensible doctor husband. She's bored, reckless and suffering from a delusion -- she deserves something better in life, and by God she's gonna get it, no matter WHAT!

This is the movie that brought the world Bette's famous line, "What a dump!" It's bad, but fun bad. Pining for life in the big city (Chicago) all through this turgid melodrama, Bette eventually succumbs to some horrible malady and dies away from the railroad tracks upon which, symbolically, runs her train to freedom. WAA-wa-wa-wa-WAAAAA sounds the whistle. The end.

You can build your own little version of Dr. and Mrs. Bette's train town by stopping in at Trainland (in Altamonte Mall, 407-260-8500). While Thomas the Train does grace the shelves of this store, it's obvious as soon as you step inside that this is a place for adults who like to make tracks. Model-Power's Midnight Express ($129.99), Bachmann's Civil War Confederate Set ($169.99) and Rail-King's Amtrak Set ($400) all let the little boy (or girl) in you stay little for a lot longer. Trainland carries many other sets guaranteed to blow your whistle, and they stock wooden whistles, too: Spend from $4-$8 and sound like the Silver Meteor as it ambles through Winter Park. WAA wa-wa-wa WAAAAA! never sounded so good.

Wish upon a spa


We all know how heavy drinking makes you feel at the party. We also all know that the next day you will have the direct inverse of all those ;feelings. Your stomach will feel like Alien is trying to bust out of it, your head will feel like Divine is nesting on top of it, and as far as your appearance, well, people will mistake you for the Phantom of the Opera. Yuck.

Why do you do it to yourself? Why does anyone? Well, two reasons: Either you are just having such a good time you forget to stop drinking, or you are a masochist. You know full well when you do you X-teenth shot of kerosene that tomorrow you're going to feel like the stuff in the Dumpster at the rendering plant but you don't care. A lot of people get that way.

Much misery could be relieved with a gift of luxurious treatment from The Spa of Thornton Park (33 N. Summerlin Ave., 407-649-8889). Right around the corner from the aforementioned liquor store, this intimate little spot offers gift certificates for any amount toward treatments like a "Revitalizing Hand and Foot Massage" (25 minutes, $30; add face and scalp massage, $60), "Restorative Back Treatment" ($60) or a "Seaweed Body Wrap (50 minutes,$60; add hydrotherapy, $70; add salt exfoliate, $90), just to name a few off the menu. Or you could just buy your cracked, stressed-out friend a bottle of Burt Bee's Carrot Seed Oil Complexion Mist ($6); that ought to help those eye bags. Or a bottle of American Crew Herbal Shave Cream ($13) to help eliminate that three-day bender beard growth.

If you're still feeling like you need a little more pain, the spa also does waxing (brow, lip, chin, $10 each, up to full legs, $55), wherein you get to have hot wax poured on your skin and then ripped off in a manner that is supposed to tear your hair out by the roots, leaving you smooth as a toilet, but wincing. If you're a bit of a sadist and purchase this service with a gift certificate, you might also enjoy knowing that someone is out there wincing on your dime.

You've urned it


Speeding along I-4 the other day, we found ourselves thinking of … death. The smoking engine and a rapidly decomposing crankcase probably had nothing to do with the melancholy mood, which nonetheless started us to wonder if there was a word to describe the fear of one's eventual demise, and there is: thanatophobia.

We may have lots of fears (bees, lightning, packs of young men wielding knives and unfiltered cigarettes), but this isn't one of them. We all have to go. Wouldn't it be nice to at least be prepared?

Frankly, we don't care who shows up at our funeral, as long as ticket sales are good, but we do want to be interred in style. Old Time Pottery (3750 Flagg Lane, Lake Mary, 407-333-2001) is featuring giant Japanese urns, absolutely covered in bucolic Nipponese scenery, that are like 6 and 7 feet tall, and priced from $500 to $700. Now, that's stylish, and something so beautiful won't necessarily have to be kept out of sight, right? Your loved one will have to display the thing, and may even be forced to add a room to the house to ensure a resting place for your remains. (Don't tell us they're for flowers; nothing grows that big except redwoods.) Just don't let the sales help catch you trying them on for size.

Scale model


By now you either feel like spreading good cheer wherever you go or running naked through the streets screaming, "I can't take it anymore!!!" You need a quiet place to wind down, but your insurance probably won't approve it.

Create a sanitarium atmosphere of your own with a pond of tropical fish. Why do so many doctors have them in the waiting room? Fish are a low-grade, visual Valium -- beautiful, tranquil and there to stare at like floating art whenever you need them.

Koi are an especially popular breed, the Japanese fish that decorate dishes, cups and ponds at lots of the restaurants you've been to. You usually see the white-and-orange ones, but the variety they come in is incredible. Water Garden World (1901 W. Oak Ridge Road, 407-856-1219) can set you up with all kinds of stuff to start a koi pond in your own backyard, and even hosted the First Annual Young Koi Show in October. Yes, a fish show, just like a dog or cat show, with contestants judged by their shine, their pattern and other good graces, just like in real beauty pageants. They are not judged on talent; their talent is just looking nice (don't you wish they'd realize this about human pageant hopefuls?). They are not judged on congeniality either, though owners and experts say they don't fight or get aggressive unless food is involved (just like in real beauty pageants).

The larger koi can run $75-$100, but they get cheaper as they get smaller. These things have been known to live 66 years and grow up to 5 feet. Try to get a bottle of Prozac to last 66 years.

Water Garden World also has accessories to complement what's already in your yard (even if your yard is just an apartment patio). You can get fancy with an Egyptian fountain ($150) or keep it simple with some sparkling geodes that range from $1.99-$8,000. If you can afford a rock that costs more than our cars, call us; we should get to know each other.

A sew-sew idea


Ever wonder why Madame Defarge did all that needlework while French royalty dissolved into ruins around her grungy head? It turns out she had obsessively and compulsively kept a list of the names of French aristocrats and then encoded them into her knitted handiwork. She and her revolutionary compatriots used to knit while encouraging aristocrats toward the guillotine via the excesses of the Convention. Yeah -- some Revolution! A few years later they were back to having a king again, so what good did it all do?

That thought occurred while perusing the cross-stitch canvases at Distaff and Spindlecraft Studio (245 S. Maitland Ave., Maitland, 407-645-0878). The place hosts classes, sells all manner of yarn and floss, and offers all sorts of counted cross-stitch projects ranging from a few dollars to more than $100 (highly recommended for those who have a fixed need to enumerate everything they see).

The favorite: a sampler whose sentiment reads, "Let me call you sweetheart, because I can't remember your name." This should be framed and hung in every senior kitchen in the state, we think.

See a little light


From time immemorial (one of our favorite overworked phrases), mankind has come up with solutions to ward off fear of the night: fire, lighted disco balls and scented electric lanterns that electrocute bugs. Snap! Crackle! Pop! Aren't we ingenious?

But there's more. Look at the simple but beautiful neon sculpture lamps available at Lightbulbs Unlimited (601 S. New York Ave., Winter Park, 407-539-2852). You've driven by them a million times, but the fixtures are even more engaging seen up close. They come in all sorts of shapes: cat, boot, pepper, dolphin, guitar, howling coyote, crescent moon, musical clef, and the word BAR linked to a martini glass. At $179.99, they add class to any finished basement, into which you'll never be afraid to venture again. But since we don't have a lot of those here in the Sunshine State, they'll look right and nifty in the kitchen window.

Do you hear what I hear?


Schizophrenia once was thought to mean a split personality, hence the charming rhyme, "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm schizophrenic, and so am I." It's actually a bit more complicated, and one of its symptoms is hearing voices.

Since they've already got the vocal tracks down in their head, we figure all they need is a little music, and for this you could go to Park Ave. CDs (528 S. Park Ave. Winter Park, 407-629-5293). Music is a gift that would help those with split personalities as well -- get the good twin Charlotte Church and the bad twin Marilyn Manson. Come to think of it, there's no disorder from insomnia to social anxiety that music won't make better, and there's enough of it here to satisfy every kook on your list.

From the very mainstream to "that one freaky, odd item that nobody has, it's probably here," says Park Ave. CDs' Matt Gorney, also a WPRK DJ, offering as an example a two-disc set of Raymond Scott's "Manhattan Research Inc." that's full of '50s commercial jingle music -- the real thing that all the retro stuff is based on. You'll also find box sets like the "Sun Records Collection" (74 tracks from Sun Studios, $46.98) to the Ramones' "We're Outta Here" (includes a video of their last performance, $24.98), lots of local music and a big vinyl collection including "Xen Cuts", hip-hop and experimental dance ($20.98 on CD, $35.98 on vinyl).

Other unique outlets with strong music selections include East-West CDs & Tapes (two locations), Rock & Roll Heaven (1814 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-1952) and Underground Record Source (926 N. Mills Ave., 407-894-5944). Wherever you end up, wouldn't it be nice for the voices in your head to have something to sing to?

Finish lines


Blame is when you lay the fault for your ills on anything BUT yourself, thereby rendering yourself an empty canvas of a human being. Sure, you'll feel better, you might even look better, but you won't be whole. A human being is supposed to have creases and foibles and troubles; that's why we were invented, so that the angels would have something to be more perfect than. Nobody can be as perfect as the angels, except Della Reese, so it's best to remain truly human, and not faux at all.

The only time faux works is when it's applied in different finishes to inanimate objects, and if this paragraph doesn't win the Award for Worst Segue, we don't know what will.

Give yourself a break and do some fauxing where it won't do any harm: Fee Fi Faux (1423 N. Orange Ave., 407-894-9855) offers classes in the ingenious art for $75, which includes supplies. Faux is such a French word, and the whole world knows what masters of artifice these people are. You can faux a dresser, a mirror or an entire Mediterranean village if you want; they'll show you how. They also sell articles of furniture and objets d'art -- that's French for "objects of art" (see what we mean?) -- such as a beautiful deco vanity for $625. No kidding. Faux real.

Stamp of approval


Some people have to label everything and everyone. Who's straight, gay, bi, transgender, half-black, part-white, sort of Asian, mostly Iranian -- it's as if they can't see a person for what she is as opposed to what we assume her to be.

If you just have to stick labels on things, at least do it in a healthy and wholesome way. Sentiments (1903 W. State Road 434, 407-831-3181) is a wonderful little haiku of a shop that sells rubber stamps, reams and reams of colorful papers, and millions of labels in all shapes and styles. You could go mad in here choosing what to buy, so get a little bit of everything and start labeling. You can label books, posters and windows, or stick them on your arm, on your mother or on the mailman. You'll have mindless fun, and you won't end up insulting anyone. (Some may ask: "OK, what's the fun in that?" All we can say is, there are shopping experiences for people like you, all located in the Ukraine.)

Wurst case

There's a great German word, "schadenfreude," which translates as "the concept of taking pleasure in another's misfortune." You know, like when somebody falls comically down the stairs. There's not an English word to match it, but each and every one of us is guilty of indulging in a little "schadenfreude," especially during the holidays, when we are all at one another's throats.

Rather than run to confession, make it up to the victim with a gift basket from Wunderbar (in the Altamonte Mall, 407-831-0116). This shop serves meals during the day at a long, homey counter, and is stocked with German delicacies for takeout. For about $20, you can transform your guilt into something memorable and tasty. Start with some cheeses, toss in a few unusual cookies and candies, and then choose from a selection of wursts (pronounced "voosht" ) to round it all out. There's a goose liverwurst, which includes pork; the amusing-sounding apinkelwurst; teawurst; your standard bratwurst; the pale weisswurst; and something called touristenwurst (we don't even want to know what's in it).

Toss in a few strange beers for good measure, and anyone would be thrilled to receive a basket filled with such goodies. What can you get a basketcase? You could do wurst.

The lines of fire


That old Burt Bacharach song wonders what you get when you fall in love, and then answers its cynical query: enough germs to catch pneumonia. It steeped a whole generation in philophobia, which, as you will know in a second, is a fear of being in love.

What bosh! Love makes the world go 'round, it's a funny thing you can't explain, and it's the answer. Love should be sought, and potential lovers stalked like gazelles on the African savanna. To get started, leave the object of your affection with something (if not someone) to remember: a book of poetry. Not by Rod Mc Kuen or even that Dickinson dame, but something by an obscure author who preferably has been dead or at least out of print for generations. You can't get much more romantic than that. And make sure they show signs of having been caressed and thumbed by generations of people pining away in their pursuit of Eros.

Chapters Bookshop & Cafe (717 W. Smith St., 407-246-1546) has scads of these little books, and serves up an excellent sandwich or pizza while you browse. It's homey and comfortable, showcasing its College Park sensibility, and an absolute delight on a rainy day. Best Books (6861 S. Highway 17-92, Fern Park, 407-740-6990) is more spread out and doesn't offer sandwiches, but they have an immense selection and a surprising amount of older books, too. Buy a gift of words and wrap a length of grosgrain ribbon around it, drop it down your crush's chimney, and watch the world light up again.

Self referential


There is always an egomaniac to be dealt with, but this time I'm not talking about the one on your gift list. I'm talking about me, Liz Langley. I'm not sure about my colleague, but if you've enjoyed this guide and want to do something for me (for a change), you could go to any Borders Books & Gifts and buy my book, "Pop Tart: A Fresh-Frosted Sugar Rush Through our Pre-Packaged Culture" ($10). It's 42 columns' worth of material that is guaranteed to be even more offensive than this guide has been. Yeah, they have other stuff there, like books and CDs and videos by other people. But really, you want to buy my book. You can contribute to the fund I'm starting to have my entire home and car interior mirrored. Finally I'll have the view I've always wanted. Won't you help?


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