Somehow, this year has wound up being the year of being broke. I'd like to blame it on George Bush, but truthfully, it's because I don't get paid enough. OK, no, really it's because I'm up to my eyeballs in debt and this has been the year of coming to terms with that fact and, in some small ways, trying to make it go away. So, despite (irrationally) buying an iPod and (stupidly) trading in my old car for a new one that cost just as much, this has been the year of selling stuff in order to pay off loan sharks.

Of course, the shedding of material goods in pursuit of financial stability is one of those double-edged swords: On one hand, you get the Zen realization that most of what you own is unnecessary and that it's great to live as simply and unencumbered as possible.

On the other hand, it sure does suck not to have all the stuff you want.

When it came time to compile this annual list of craven desires, I was having some trouble. I'm positively overwhelmed with the three things I love the most: music, books and movies. (The first two because of my job, the latter because I discovered that Netflix is a much better investment than cable.) So this list initially started out with a quaint recitation of things that would, in essence, give me more time to spend with my family.

So there I was, wishing for things like a dependable babysitter. Ahh, the thought of being able to have dinner with my wife without having to keep our Tasmanian devil of a 2-year-old at bay! Being able to go see a movie without worrying about it tarnishing the values of my 10-year-old! A man can dream, yes?

But that's not to say that my utopia doesn't include my kids. Au contraire. Another great gift would be maid service (Royal Maid Service, 117 N. Kirkman Road, 407-298-0809; price varies). This would allow us – as a family – full weekends in which to do, well, anything that isn't domestic work. Not that we're some chained-to-a-mop-bucket sort of family, but it does kinda suck when the only thing you've got to show for a weekend is a clean house and folded laundry.

It was about this point that my Real Simple vision of Christmas began to evaporate. It started with a simple wish for some poker materials. Now that the trend is dramatically waning in popularity, someone should be able to get me a couple of decks of KEM cards in a leather case, some 12.5 gram chips in a nice aluminum case and a tabletop at a decent price. Oh look, www.poker-wholesale.com has got 'em for $33.99, $78.95 and $44.99 respectively!

Yet, from poker swag, my wishing quickly turned to my fervent and unceasing desire for proper bookshelves. We've got a half-dozen mismatched, store-bought bookcases scattered around the house. Which would be fine, but for the fact that they're so overloaded with books that we've got books stashed everywhere from the linen closet to the kitchen counter. (And you wonder why we have a hard time cleaning.) So, if there are any out-of-work carpenters who would love to spend some quality time in my living room installing some badass bookcases, feel free to volunteer your time and materials. Like I said, I'm broke.

Thus empowered by a house with potential bookshelves, I quickly began stocking them with potential books on my Christmas list. Harold Lloyd's Hollywood Nudes in 3-D! (Black Dog & Leventhal, $24.95) would be a great addition; Lloyd was a legendary Hollywood actor who became fascinated with 3-D photography and took that interest to its logically ridiculous conclusion: photographing beautiful naked women. This book reproduces the photos and even comes with 3-D glasses! (Yes, you prudes, we'll put it on the top shelf ... of our brand new bookcase.) There's also a new translation by Stephen Mitchell of Gilgamesh (Free Press, $24) you can give me if you don't feel like contributing to the delinquency of a parent, but in the end, the story of Endiku and Gilgamesh is probably sexier than the sight of anyone leering over nudie pictures while wearing 3-D glasses.

The book I really, really, really want is the book that's impossible to find. The death this year of Richard Avedon couldn't help but remind me of Portraits by Avedon: 18th July 1989 by Shinro Ohtake. It came out in 1996 in a ridiculously limited edition, thus you won't find the book on Amazon ... hell, I can't even find it on eBay. But it's a collection of 73 sketches Ohtake made during one day, all of which were of different Avedon portraits. Although most look like figurine scribblings on a white background, Ohtake (an artist most well-known for his strikingly colorful found-object collages) crudely emphasizes the emotional impact of an Avedon portrait by taking an ironically un-detailed approach. I found it "for sale" at www.artbooks.de, but they won't even quote me a price on it.

Dreaming about books naturally got me thinking about more music I could stuff on my shelves, but honestly, only a couple of things that I really truly wanted came to mind. The first is a spectacular-looking new Albert Ayler box set, Holy Ghost. The nine-disc compilation of rare and unreleased tracks was put together by the fine and crazy folks over at Revenant and lists for an unwieldy $105.98. Again, when you're broke, shelling out a bill for 10-plus hours of Ayler's soulful skronking seems the height of financial stupidity.

Likewise, if I were to receive a copy of Cloud Box by His Name Is Alive, I'd be nothing but grateful. It's a 10-disc set of unreleased material recorded by Warren Defever over the past few years (including an entire album of covers, Dreem Up), all put together in a wood box painted with a ... cloud. It was only $110 from www.timestereo.com, but they sold out all 50 in an hour. Did I mention it was an insanely limited edition? Might cost you a little more than $110 after all.

On the cheap end, I'm also stoked about the So Young but So Cold: Underground French Music, 1977-1983 compilation that Tigersushi put out this year. It's only one disc, but it looks like the only disc you'll need if you were ever curious about groups like Mathemetiques Modernes and Charles De Goal or if you just want to hear some of the most engagingly pretentious music ever made.

Speaking of France, somebody please send me and my family there. Or anywhere. A round-trip ticket out of the country would be fantastic. You know those Icelandair ads that are always running in this paper? Damn, those are good fares (and I'm not saying that because they advertise with us ... no really, I'm not.) You don't even have to send me to Iceland. But you could. Or you could send us to Glasgow. Or London. Or Istanbul. I don't care. All I want is for my family to breathe the air of a different country for a few days. It's just the sort of ending a year of being broke needs.



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