Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
With Halloween past (and passé) and Thanksgiving about to scream by, Christmas season has pretty much officially begun. Although the formal beginning of the season is surely the Target overnighter (what a scary sight – thousands of eager shoppers in their jammies). The 99% on a Black Friday binge. Who you won’t see there is the 1%, those members of the conspicuously wealthy class (oops, a little bit of class warfare snuck in there). They don’t do Target or Wallymart or the Super K. When they’re not busy creating jobs, they’re shopping along with Newt at Tiffany’s and other posh consumer watering holes.
Or they may shop by catalog. Not just any catalog. The iconic catalog for the conspicuously wealthy must surely be that eighty eight pages of prestige that’s been brought to us for 163 years by Hammacher Schlemmacher.
How I came by a Hammacher Schlemmacher catalog is a mystery. I found it one morning in my pajamas. How it got in my pajamas, I’ll never know. Just slumming, I guess. Let me share some of the wonderful products within the pages of this catalog with those of you who were not fortunate enough to find one in your pajamas.
How about a personal movie theater? It looks like a pair of ordinary designer sunglasses, but while you’re standing around looking cool, you’re watching Harry Potter or Twilight. While the images are only as big as your eyeballs, you think you’re watching a giant wide screen. And surround sound, of course. For a mere $499.95.
Or there’s always the Flame Eating Engine, a precision device crafted from brass and stainless steel, that sucks the flame from an alcohol burner into its engine cylinder heating a piston and a flywheel and levers and pulleys, causing the flywheel to spin at 800 rpm and the piston to thump and bump for twenty minutes until, exhausted, it passes out. Sort of like Uncle Fred on Christmas Eve when he’s burned all that alcohol. What does it accomplish? About as much as Uncle Fred. But it’s $999.95 worth of fun.
It’s never too early to start teaching your five-year-old how to handle conspicuous wealth. Do it with his or her own ATM machine. You can deposit up to $999.95 in real money for the little tyke to manipulate and withdraw at will. The price is so low it’s not even worth mentioning.
If I still haven’t hit upon the one that makes you scream “I’ve got to have that!”, this is probably it: Bionic Bopper Cars. Two motorized boxers on wheels controlled from inside protective cockpits by players (but no one over 300 pounds!) who use dual joysticks to inflict blows upon the opponent. A successful blow to the opposing robot’s head sends it aspinning and scores a point. Five hours of uninterrupted pugilistic pleasure per battery charge. A steal at only $17,000 (not $16,999.95) – and with free shipping!
Something a little more refined perhaps? How a bout a finely crafted Swiss Watchmaker’s Music Box. It features a rotating brass cylinder with 3,800 wire pins that pluck 72-note steel combs with deadly accuracy. It plays four 50-second musical selections by Vivaldi, Verdi, Liszt , and Bizet, at a cost of only $126.50 per second. (For a total of $25,300, but again with free shipping.)
Hammacher Schlemmacher a little too conspicuous for you? Join me next week to explore a more down to earth catalog: Doctors Foster and Smith Holiday Gifts for Your Cat.