November 21, 2008

Vol. 18 — Ventura, CA

Ventura Beach

It’s to be expected, I suppose, but it sure doesn’t feel like November 21st here in Southern California. The sun is bright in a partially hazy sky… it seems like there are always some light, white clouds over the nearby ocean. It’s 73 degrees and when I walked on the beach this morning the surfers were doing their best to ride waves that appeared to me only barely sufficient to keep them standing. It occurs to me that if I’d been on my game, I might have been able to take a surfing lesson today, on this tractable ocean.

After sitting on the beach and enjoying the sound and the breeze for a while, I walked through the town, stopping here and there in shops that seemed interesting, but couldn’t really focus on buying anything. There’s nothing I want for myself regardless, but with Christmas approaching, I’ve been at least partially concentrating on finding gifts that might appeal to friends and family.

What’s becoming more and more clear, I’m afraid, is that I don’t have a damn clue what my friends and family might want or like. Gift giving has always been kind of a challenge for me, but it’s only gotten more so recently. Why should that be?

I mean, in part, it’s just lack of proximity… less time to absorb what’s been catching their attention, less conversations that might imply a desire.

The other problem is that, honestly, most of the people I know don’t have to really restrain themselves, so when there’s something they want, they buy it. The number of things in that elusive category of “would like, but wouldn’t buy for themselves” is dwindling rapidly. Books are nice, but you can’t give only books — and even then, finding books that are really well suited to someone isn’t a trivial enterprise to begin with.

The last really good gift I gave (at least by my measure), I mostly made by hand, and it took me 100 or so hours. I genuinely don’t begrudge the expense of gift giving, at least when I feel like the gift is good. I just don’t like to think that I’ve bought something that will only add to the growing pile of stuff that we all keep building, and which isn’t really all that useful or interesting to the recipient.

I really can’t think of a single thing I want right now, or really even anything that I need, now that I’ve upgraded my computer (and that essentially for practical reasons). I sold, gave, or threw away a ton of stuff when I left Atlanta, and honestly there’s more stuff that I kept but could do without. I moved about 3500 pounds worth of stuff from Atlanta to DC. Almost two tons of things. I don’t have kids, or family living with me, and that doesn’t include a washer, dryer, bed or dresser. There’s a part of me that finds that just totally insane.

I guess I’ll just have to keep my eyes and mind open and when something seems right for someone, go ahead and pick it up, and hopefully at the end of it, I’ll have something for everyone I care about.