Turning the page(s) on the holidays

Had enough of gift catalogs yet? Does your kitchen table sag under the weight of them? Does your mail carrier glare malevolently at your house as he crams another 86 pounds of glossy, full-color catalogs into your mailbox? Mine does. In fact, I refuse to be anywhere near our mailbox when he arrives – there’s that whole “going postal” thing, y’know, and I wouldn’t blame the guy.

I admit to being an over-achieving enthusiast of what used to be called “mail order” catalogs – although today I think they should be called something like “online ordering catalogs.” After all, I can’t remember the last time I ordered something over the phone, much less mailed in an order form. How quaint.

Today’s catalogs (and accompanying websites) offer an almost overwhelming choice of both everyday and specialty products. From the catalogs that arrive in my mail throughout the year, not just prior to Christmas, I can order a kit to build my own hammered dulcimer (Lark In The Morning), a hand-made, Japanese flush-cut saw (Garrett Wade Specialty Tools), or even tighty whitey underpants for a squirrel (Archie McPhee) – although I’m not sure why I’d do that.

As I’m writing this, more catalogs have arrived. Just today, our mailbox was stuffed with catalogs from Patagonia, Magellan’s Travel Supplies, Wireless, JC Penny, Signals, What On Earth, Constructive Playthings, Macy’s, Chefs, REI, Brookstone, Performance Bicycle, Acorn Gifts, Fetchdog, National Geographic, Levenger, Plow & Hearth, Discovery Store, Williams Sonoma, Bas Blue Books and last but not least, Pottery Barn. That’s just one day, folks.

Other catalogs that have arrived during the past week include Red Envelope, Cabelas, BassPro Shops, The Vermont Store, Homespun Music Lessons, Title Nine, Lillian Vernon, I-Didn’t-Know-They-Made-That!, Cooking, Sur La Table, Nica Shooting, Sam Ash Music, the Museum of Modern Art, Hammacher Schlemmer, Bits and Pieces, Duluth Trading Company, Drs. Foster Pet Supplies, Country Curtains, Shutterfly, Back to Basics Toys, the Sharper Image, L.L. Bean, Orvis, Orvis for Men, Orvis for Women, Orvis for Dogs (I’m not making these up!), Scientific American, PBS, BBC America, Guitar Center, The Territory Ahead, Dogs, Rockler Woodworking, J&R Music World, F/S Discount Archery, Luthier’s Mercantile, Musician’s Friend, Nashbar Biking, Blick Art Supplies, Midway USA Shooter’s Supply, Griot’s Garage, Porsche Designs, Christian Book Discounters, Gardener’s Supply, Front Gate, Turner’s Sporting Goods, Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Costco, JC Whitney Auto Parts, Edmund Scientific, Meisel Hardware Specialties, Cyberguys, Despair, Inc., B&H Video & Pro Audio, Cheaper Than Dirt!, Adorama, Harbor Freight Co., Crutchfield Audio – and well, you get the idea.

Not to belabor the point (who, me?), but we even regularly receive a catalog called, “The Best Catalogs Catalog.” I kid you not. What I still don’t understand is why some of the companies like Plow & Hearth or Cabelas, for example, send many multiples of catalogs over the course of a few weeks that are nearly identical in content, but have different covers on them. Do they think we won’t notice? Or are they thinking, “Ha! He pitched the first four in the trash, but we know that with the fifth one he’ll give in and order something!”

I’m still nostalgic for that mother-of-all Christmas-season catalogs that was the centerpiece of many of my childhood hopes and dreams – the Sears Wish Book. I would run to our mailbox every day starting sometime around Thanksgiving, hoping with every step that that glorious and glossy tome would be waiting for me. When it arrived, I’d study every page from top to bottom with the focus of a Rhodes scholar. I would dog-ear the ones with my favorite toys, circle the individual items in red, highlight the catalog number, underline the size and color if needed, and then conveniently leave the now well-worn catalog somewhere my parents would be sure to find it. Oddly enough, no matter what “hints” I left, Santa always seemed to think I needed JC Penny Towncraft underwear most of all. Go figure.

I’ll see you ‘round town.