On Death, without Exaggeration
It can’t take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.
It can’t even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.
Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.
Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
and repeat attempts!
Sometimes it isn’t strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.
Ill will won’t help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d’etat
is so far not enough.
Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies’ skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.
Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it’s not.
There’s no life
that couldn’t be immortal
if only for a moment.
always arrives by that very moment too late.
In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you’ve come
can’t be undone.
Last year, I made Hank this fancy box with ten chocolate coins inside, and told him he could trade each one for a new iPad game (under $5, but he only ended up choosing free ones). When he traded it in, he also got to eat the chocolate. The gift lasted for six months, because he kept forgetting he had the coins and then remembering in a fit of ecstatic glory.
This year, I got one of these Super Mario Bros. chocolate coin tins, because hilarious, and I’ll adjust the coins inside. If you have a tablet-obsessed kid, try it.
Beard oil, $50 boxers, a wooden carrier for a six pack — most men’s gift guides know as much about how men think as a Cosmo quiz.
These are the gifts I return to when I care about someone and I want to treat him well. Many of them indulge vices. Gifts should tell the people in your life that you like them how they are.
Bacon of the Month Club, $145 for three months
Your dad does not care that bacon is a carcinogen. That man is out back sneaking a smoke as you read this. And if you’re not feeling this flush, get him an Adam’s Meat Rub, $6.
Stanley Classic Flask, $17
The flask that says, “I like whiskey, and I know how to pitch a tent.” That’s a perfect weekend right there.
The Fold Wallet by Leffot, $100 for the small, $125 for the large
He’s a simple guy with expensive taste.
Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds – Set of 2, $9
Ice balls melt more slowly and look satisfying in the glass. Speaking of which.
Badash Galaxy Rocks Glasses 4 pc Set, $40
Crystal glasses that feel heavy in hand. They aren’t cheap, but one of these plus a bottle of whatever he’s drinking makes a nice progressive gift. Make it a habit, and soon enough he’ll have a set.
If the man in question drinks, investing in his bar is always a sound choice. Call first to ask whether he drinks, and then what he drinks, so you can surprise him with something interesting in that category.
Palo Alto Firefighters Pepper Sauce, $6 for 8 oz, $28 for a jug
Cowboy syrup. Palo Alto Firefighter Lee Taylor has been growing peppers in the fire station backyard since 1994. Savory with a bit of kick, really so damn good, and all the proceeds go to charity. Plus, where did you find this? You’re a genius.
Jack Dawes Custom Penny Bottle Opener, $50
I know this seems like a crazy price for a bottle opener, but it is one of the most perfect objects I own. The penny opens your bottle, and you can specify which year you want to commemorate a birthday or anniversary. It feels silky in your hands, and the hardwood has a magnet inside. So you can keep it on the fridge when you’re not using it, and it holds onto the bottle cap when you pop it off. Totemic.
Imco Windproof Petrol Lighter – Junior / Single Packing, $100
Windproof lighter, goes great with the flask. A cigar lighter is also a great gift for someone about to have a baby, eh? If you’re game for a slightly less James Bond choice, the Lotus 47 Intrepid Red Cigar Lighter L4730 is only $49.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven, Cherry, $300
He likes to cook, and he especially likes to cook meat. This heirloom quality French Oven will remind the kids of his Sunday dinners when it’s their turn to cook with it.
Sunday New York Times Subscription, $6/wk.
Once a week, a real, live newspaper. One that smells like the morning air and protects the dining room table from damage when he’s gluing something back together. If you know where he gets his coffee, pick some up to package with a paper. Nice gesture.
As always, let us know in comments if you have a go-to guy gift.
I’m updating a bunch of my gift guides, with fresh links and product replacements for things that have disappeared. This originally appeared as My Favorite Classic Gifts for Men.
Did you read The Lonely Death of George Bell in the NYT? This quote from a guy who cleans out the apartments of people who die alone stuck with me:
This job teaches you a lot. You learn whatever material stuff you have you should use it and share it. Share yourself. People die with nobody to talk to. They die and relatives come out of the woodwork. ‘He was my uncle. He was my cousin. Give me what he had.’ Gimme, gimme. Yet when he was alive they never visited, never knew the person. From working in this office, my life changed.
Jerry Parr was the Secret Service agent who saved Ronald Regan’s life in an attempted assassination. He was inspired to become an agent because, as a child he saw Ronald Regan starring in a 1939 movie called Code of the Secret Service.
“It was such a strange thing,” Mr. Parr said, “seeing this image on film when I was 9 years old, and then I ended up helping save his life.”
quote via NYT
Lately, I’ve been watching some of the movies on this list:
Speaking of which, have you seen Upstream Color? It’s a surreal, beautiful movie about two people who experience a traumatic event, find each other later, and fall in love. Pigs feature prominently. I’m not sure how else to explain it without just telling you the entire plot. Anyway, watch it if you’re into arty shit.
On a side note, I wish there were a way to keep track of movies I love, something like Goodreads but for film. If you know of something, please let me know.
** SOLD OUT ** See you next year!
If you’ve been meaning to order an Advent Kit, today’s the day! We’ll close the order page tomorrow at midnight.
Twenty percent of the proceeds go to IntraHealth, and there’s more info over here.