Here they come!
I am ready to gird myself against the onslaught of junk mail that is starting to roll in for the holidays already. I do not buy from catalogs. Never have. Don't even read them.
North Face? L.L. Bean? Omaha Steaks? Vermont Country Store?
Except for one.
I must admit that I have succumbed to the withering siren's call of one, and only one, holiday catalog. And it just came in the mail. And I have devoured it. Let me preface all of this by saying that as much as I adore this company, I have never spent a single cent with them. But for fascinating reading, it can't be beat.
I speak of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Talk about entering the looking glass.
This company proudly professes to be the oldest continuously published catalog in America. It began selling useless stuff back in 1848. Al and Bill (that's Hammacher and Schlemmer to you) created a catch-all store in the Bowery in New York City in 1848. Since then, the company has sought to bring middle-class America all the wonders of the rich and famous and useless. Their catalog is a page-turner in every sense (and yes, you once could actually buy a battery operated page turner from the catalog for $29.99).
In this year's compendium of frivolous favorites you will find everything from a 10-person Aqua Totter which "rocks up to 10 people on a water teeter totter that is safe and provides reliable waterborne fun for all;" $4,000, to an Inspiration Archipod "a place to enter and privately contemplate life's challenges;" $40,000." Of course these are the big ticket items.
I like to troll among the less expensive yet still totally unneeded items. Believe me, bottom feeding in the H-S catalog is great fun!
The Wellness Monitor, for example, is under a hundred bucks. It is a little clip-on device you wear on your belt that monitors your general health profile on a daily basis. Among its many wonders, it will "send tiny tremors down your wrists to tell you exactly how long it took you to fall asleep at night." They describe it as "similar to NASA technology."
I always get a little suspicious when something is described as "NASA-like." And besides, I know exactly how long it takes me to fall asleep every night. Twelve minutes into a Law and Order re-run. Twelve minutes, exactly.
Another great item in the H-S catalog this year is "The World's Thinnest 20 Credit Card Holder." This item ($79.95) holds "twenty of your most used credit cards in a flat, efficient, side-by-side nest."
Brother, if you carry twenty credit cards around with you, I can give you an 800 hot line number you need to call, now!
How about this gem. The Sandless Beach Mat ($59.95). "It is impossible to cover this mat with sand. It is used by the U.S. military for helicopter landings. Two layers of polyurethane actually sifts sand back onto the beach and off the mat. You will never have to lay on a sandy beach mat again."
Does anybody really believe this thing works? I gotta tell you, by the time I spread my mat down on the beach at Gilbert Lake, lug a couple of coolers up on to it, unwrap my large liverwurst sub, pile up the kids' toys on one corner, carve out a corner for the dog and then spread out my Sunday New York Times, there is enough sand on my blanket already that I can't even find it.
But hey, the ad says, "the U.S. military uses this." I think if you had to bet between the Sandless Beach Mat and the high deserts of Iraq, well, I'll double down on the Iraqi desert to win.
So of course there has to be one item that is my favorite, right? You knew that was where this column was going didn't you?
My choice for the most fun, most unusual, most totally ridiculously unneeded item in the new Hammecher Schlemmer catalog is the Remote Controlled Rolling Beverage Cooler ($69.95). The copy reads, "This remote-controlled cooler can roll across a patio, deck, rug, or kitchen floor to deliver that perfectly timed beverage to parched party guests. It holds 12 bottles and cans and ice."
I have to admit that $69.95 seems like a steal for this "sure to impress your friends" life-enhancer. I am torn as to whether or not to buy this item and break my life-long personal ban of purchasing from holiday catalogs.
But first, I'll have to find out if the remote controlled cooler can roll across the sandless mat.
If it does, well then, maybe ...
I'll catch you in two ...
'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.