You have noticed they never advertise on television anything you want. Unless you are a connoisseur of pills, toilet paper and soap that will make you irresistible in six easy washings.
The trouble with Christmas is not that there's too much stuff, or that it all costs too much. No sir, the trouble is that nobody wants it much.
I know you have to get undershorts and socks, but even if you put a big red bow on them (on the package) they are not going to make anybody squeal.
Female coresidents commonly say male coresidents are hard to buy for. It is true we can use only so many socks. Women think men adore mufflers, but they don't, and they don't like ties, either, at least not the ones women pick out. It would be interesting to know where they get their atrocious taste in ties.
This time of year you see all those shopping guides to tell you what to buy and where to buy it. They never suggest anything of the slightest interest. Usually they are all in a lather about some damned pot in Annandale that only costs $46. No wonder so many kooky little businesses go bankrupt.
Here is what to buy for a guy like me, and other men, I imagine, who are equally sensible:
Weathercocks. When properly mounted they turn in the least hint of wind. I have two, one an eagle and one a carp. They are copper. I need two because they point in different directions usually, because of lousy things like trees that deflect the wind. When they point the same way, as they do in a gale, it is very reassuring.
Sheet copper. An ideal gift. You can look at the sheet for some months before deciding just what to do with it. It is good to keep under the bed so from time to time you can pull it out and dream.
Sheet lead is grand. I once made a 20-foot fish pool out of it. It bends easily and is hammered to shape in no time. You can also hammer it around a wastebasket, put the wastebasket back, and strengthen your lead vessel with a lining of concrete, and then you can plant valerian in it for the garden.
Horse troughs. These are called stock tanks nowadays. They are galvanized steel. You paint them black outside and set them on the ground near where you sit outdoors. Goldfish or any carp do well in them if you put in enough seaweed, which you get at an aquarium or out of a stream.
Lath. Not lousy lath (though that is better than nothing) but one-by-two-inch clear pine. You can nail it together in squares and paint it black and it will last forever.
Dowels. I have never known anybody who used dowels and never known anybody who did not long for some. You can sometimes get a whole bag of them in different sizes and lengths. You never know when you will need one urgently.
Two-inch plank a foot wide and as long as you can afford. In my time I have had several such planks. Few things have given me more joy.
Telephone wire. This may not be the right name for one of the world's most desirable objects, but what I mean is copper wire covered with rubber, about a quarter-inch in diameter and usually gray. It is ideal for tying things outside. Once some linemen left about 30 feet of it in the alley and I parcel it out on various jobs like sapphires. I am now out. There must be some place you can buy it.
Tarred twine. The place I got mine was at Wisley, Ripley, Surrey, England. Not much is used but it has a smell rather as I suppose heaven smells. It could be kept in a bureau drawer to confine the fragrance.
Bale of hay. This stuff goes to pieces no matter how gently you handle it and should not be kept in the house. It is very good to have in a shed. On a dirt floor, it is lovely to walk on.
Rat poison. I asked the president of an internationally celebrated humane outfit the best way to kill rats. You can't shoot them in town, though I imagine that is the most humane way. He said he didn't really know but took my address, but never wrote. I am not going to put up with rats; on the other hand I don't want to dispatch them with agony. You are going to have rats if you have bird feeders or tomatoes or an empty garage. I get the kind that comes six boxes to a package and spend roughly $20,000 a year for it. A most useful gift.
Bricks. They used to cost two cents each, now more. I had a friend who once bought 10,000 to play with but his wife looked at them and hired a man to lay a new front walk and cover the floor of the front porch, with none left over. He was too embarrassed to buy any more. Except when one comes loose from the walk he has none to carry around the yard on Saturdays.
Buckets. Few things raise the heart like a shiny new pail, but the ones I covet (they are not all that cheap) are black rubber. You can feed calves from them.
Dormant clematis vines. Sometimes in December you can find these at garden centers in gallon cans. Nothing in creation looks deader than a clematis resting for the winter, so some- times you can get them for half price. December is the ideal month for planting them, much better than spring, when they charge an arm and a leg. Even at half price they cost too much, but what doesn't. I like old Nelly Moser best. Never have enough of her.
Cedar shavings. You have to pay for this stuff now, a clear sign of collapse at the foundation of the state. If you get a small bale, you can take some out and stuff some- thing with it for the dog and keep the rest in your clothes closet with church shoes. They cost too much but smell better than other shoes.
Four-by-four posts 10 feet long. Has anybody ever had enough of these? They are much better than those little Erector sets kids used to get. Be sure they are pressure treated.
Cut stone. I have rarely met a stone I didn't love, provided it's cut clean. How disgusting random pav- ing is. My front walk is great hunks of slate in random sizes, but when I am rich I shall buy rectangular slabs of fieldstone. Sometimes I buy just a one-square-foot piece of particularly nice color and personality and mortar it atop a small brick pier (you see how valuable bricks are, they go with everything).
Lanterns. I go fairly to pieces for lanterns, as I do for hinges, rabbit wire and Persian tiles. They all make me feel God is up there. I have a Coleman that needs a new mantle. How wonderful a Dietz is. When I was a kid they had Aladdins at the farmhouse Aunt Marie spent the summer at. You can blow your- self up if you don't know what you're doing, but what else is new. Miners' lanterns of brass can sometimes be got for peanuts in England where, alas, many miners have been thrown out of work and mines closed down. I will not pay more than $16 for a good one. I already have one and need no more, but there is not a man alive who wouldn't steal for one.
I never knew anybody easier to please than myself or the guys I know. Somebody once gave us an old Meissen soup tureen that thrilled my wife witless for a month. It is lovely and was most generous and I like to see people happy, but my God, do you have any idea how much rabbit wire you could buy?