I love giving gifts. When I've hit on the perfect item for someone, I know it and I get joy from it. I'm not someone who shops for Christmas all year long or anything, but I do put quite a bit of thought into each gift giving occasion and each gift recipient.
The first gift I remember getting for Paul was a rare-ish Tom Waits poster that I had noticed him admiring at Amoeba Records. I picked it up for his birthday. It was a tad more than I was used to spending on gifts at the time, but I've never seen someone appreciate a present more, and to this day it occupies a prominent spot on our living room wall, and I love it nearly as much as he does.
And last Christmas, I recalled that my dad was having a Richard Avedon moment, as he had visited the Avedon exhibit at SFMOMA not once but twice, so I chased all over town trying to grab the last copy of a gorgeous Avedon book, which brought me to a Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn in the end. And he loved it, and I didn't mind the quest because he loved it.
Now I don't want to imply that I always hit it out of the park. There have been some rather big misses along the way. I once knit my sister a hat covered in silver paillettes for Christmas, which she found in my suitcase and mercilessly mocked, thinking it was mine. And then there were the tiny metal bird feet that I thought were so fabulously gothic and got for everyone one Christmas, and no one got them at all. I got a lot of, "oh, I think perhaps we're missing a piece?" type questions.
But it really is weddings that I think are the ultimate gift giving occasions. Marriage is a fabulous thing, and the love of a couple is something that should be celebrated with a lovely gift that can be cherished for years. I have a rather bad habit of eschewing the registry...I can't ever imagine that people really want the casserole dishes and bar ware, so I usually go off script, probably to slightly mixed results.
I've given everything from cases of wine from Sherry Lehman to cookbooks with cards listing my favorite recipes from each to cash, if that is the preferred option. I often go to the wedding before purchasing the gift, as sometimes I get an idea of what to give from the speeches or party somehow.
But at the last wedding I attended I was stumped, absolutely stumped. Which was odd, as the groom is quite a good friend of mine so I in theory should know what he likes. But I had no idea what the two of them would like, you see. So I did what any sensible girl does in a pinch...I called my mom. And she, always a favor of practical, high quality gifts, steered me in the direction of a Japanese knife store in Berkeley.
This probably sounds like an odd idea, but I assure you, a really good knife is one of the more ultimate luxuries around, and in that respect a really good knife makes a wonderful gift. So I went on the website of Hida Tool, and began to browse. And browse. It took me a good couple of days to make up my mind actually. I was so baffled by all of the choices that I went purely by looks. So I ordered a sashimi knife, a chef's knife and a small petty knife, all gorgeous.
So I placed my order, and they called me to confirm it and get my credit card information. I found myself speaking with a man who sounded old and Japanese, and by the time I had gotten off the phone with him I had a much more appropriate set of knives than what I had chosen originally, and was spending less than I had planned. He talked me out of the sashimi knife (do they make sushi he asked? No. Don't get the knife then) and suggested I upgrade the chef's knife to a model that he seemed nearly to revere. Such service! Doesn't happen much these days.
Shortly thereafter, I received two incredible knives in the mail, which I promptly wrapped up and dropped by the new couple's apartment. I was happy that they would have a good home, but highly depressed that I wouldn't be able to enjoy them and their oh so sharp blades and polished wood handles. I simply must make a trip to see Mr. Hida when I'm home for Christmas.