Precious Gifts for Dad

WELL, I've survived another Father's Day. I got a mug that told me the dog loved me. (A dubious assertion just the day after the dog accidentally locked herself in the bathroom and destroyed my robe in a fit of anxiety).

From my older daughter I got boating shoes and an array of wonderfully hued socks. (She is trying to spiff up my image and wean me away from my selection of black socks for work, white socks for play).

From my son: new overshoes (to keep the new colored socks dry in wet weather).

From my wife: a cleverly selected tie, which is almost the exact duplicate of my favorite frayed, stained, striped old one she has been trying to rid my wardrobe of for some time. (Hello new tie; goodbye old faithful, we've been through a lot together.)

And a variety of cards telling Dad the kids are grateful for him.

Well I'm grateful for the kids too. And one of the things I'm grateful for is that they stuck by the sensible, old reliables for Father's Day presents instead of going the bizarre route urged by some of the more exotic mail-order catalogs. I've nothing against the mail-order folks. They perform a useful service for people who are unable to, or unenthusiastic about, doing their shopping face to face.

But when I did a column a couple of months back on some of the more entertaining items the catalogs offer, I must have struck a chord. The mail from readers flowed back, citing their own pet chuckles.

Not everybody, of course, was amused. One anonymous reader wrote back defending the $195 indestructible mailbox I had been rather unkind to. He, or she, had replaced vandalized mailboxes six times in seven years, and sent some impressive pictures of mailboxes in various stages of disarray. ``I am sure you won't read this,'' the letter began. But I did. And I am contrite. I just didn't know which indestructible mailbox to send my apology to.

Anyway, all this has focused my interest on a new crop of mail-order items that may be great for some, but which personally I will probably never buy.

I'll pass on the sunglasses plated with 24K gold. The thin gold coating on the lenses is supposed to screen out certain rays from the sun. With my new socks, they would just be too much for my image.

I am intrigued by ``Europe's latest status symbol,'' the Soviet ``Perestrojka'' watch. It is stainless steel and its design is of the 1950's. I thought perestroika was introduced because Soviet industry was so poor, but the catalog tells me that the Soviet watchmaking industry is ``dedicated,'' and the ``third-largest in the world.'' The watch has five red stars on the dial ``similar to the model worn by commanders of elite Soviet infantry.'' Apparently Italy has gone wild over the Soviet watches, and now they're being faked in the West. But they cost $149. I'll wait until some country in Asia fakes the Western fake of the Soviet one.

And though the 1950's were fine, I like the present, and the prospects for the future. So I'll pass on the 1950's radio, the 1950's jukebox, the cassette player shaped like a 1950's Coca Cola cooler, and the 1950's toaster (with ``Wide Slots For The 1990's'').

I'll get by without the motorized tie rack (don't want to risk shredding my new tie in it). If I can forego the ``Perestrojka'' watch, I'll struggle along without the Swiss railway watch, the watch with a spider's web over its face, and the watch celebrating Mickey Mouse's 61st anniversary. (The less jewelry I have, the less need for the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner which, for $59, will generate 42,000 cleansing sonic waves per second.)

I paused at the color-coded earphones, imported from England. (What will the English think of next?) They come in a set of four - blue, yellow, pink and green - for only $24.95. You choose a color according to your mood. But I don't think they're me. And anyway, they'd never match my socks.

Nix on the weather station modeled after Orca, the killer whale. No on the back pad, filled with 47 herbs and minerals, designed to beat jet lag. No even on Black Thunder, the four-wheeler man's toy which, for $249, I could take to the beach and race by remote control at speeds up to 18 m.p.h.

And no on any more columns about mail-order exotica. At least until the reader mail pours in again.

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