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Gifts for Dad

Originally Posted: June 09, 2005

Tom Edwards

As we look towards June, the gift-giving community turns its attention to "dads and grads". As catchy as the rhyme is, the best thing you can give to a high school or college graduate is money - no teenager will refuse cash payments (after all, anything you bought is surely wrong), and college graduates are already so far in the debt hole that any contribution will be gladly appreciated.

Not to slight Flag Day (which either involves giving people you love flags, or giving gifts to flags, which doesn't make any sense), but Father's Day is the time in June where thought has to go into the purchase of a gift. Despite the fact that family members had a month's warning, too often Father's Day gifts end up being bought last minute without much thought, as Cliff Huxtable reminded us during the first season of the Cosby Show. Sure, Dad may say that he loves the tie/socks/underwear you got him, but let's face it - he loves the fact that you thought enough to get something for him, but those gifts might never see the light of day again.

I strive to change that. You see, I became a dad for the first time last year, so I'm pretty new to this whole "Father's Day" gift-receiving thing. I figure that if I can help to get dads the good gifts gradually now, I'll get good, thought-out gifts in the future.

So where do we start?

Everyone knew a dad that, while not having anything great to add to the conversation, would always chirp in with some random tidbit to remind you that he, as a dad, had worldly knowledge that you didn't have, and could always turn to him. Learning that the coral snake was the deadliest snake in America from him was informative, but not while you were doing your math homework.

Take a trip over to Bookhampton and order up these books to feed his useless knowledge craving. Poplorica : A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America by Martin J. Smith ($12.95 - Bookhampton) looks at 20 significant milestones that weren't necessarily considered significant at the time, but have shaped the way we live life as we know it now. He points out things like a book written in 1870 that may have been the beginning of America's obsession with lawn care, and Robert Patterson, who published a magazine in the 50s called "Confidential" that paved the way for checkout periodicals such as the National Enquirer and the Star, and also less controversial magazines as People and US Weekly.

Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again by Will Pearson ($14.95 - Bookhampton) gives plenty of information in a handy to digest form - good for bedtime reading or better yet behind closed doors in the "reading room", better known to you and me as the bathroom. Offering up information packed lists that go from informative (five scandals that rocked art) to surprising (four things Einstein got wrong) to wacky (four things your boss has in common with slime mold), each list offers about two to three paragraphs of information about each statement in the list, which allows dad to be entertained without having to read through ten pages of filler just to get to the information. After all, you don't want Dad locked in the bathroom all day, do you?

Finally, there's the case of A.J. Jacobs, who set forth to read the entire encyclopedia and write about his experience. After all, if the encyclopedia has all the information in the world, reading it will surely make you super intelligent, right? In The Know-It-All : One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World ($25.00 hardcover, not yet released in paperback - Bookhampton), Jacobs journals his experiment and how his suddenly unending amount of trivial knowledge gained from it affected his life. Jacobs ends up being a bit of an outcast, and his misadventures during his experiment may work as more of a subtle hint that those trivial bits of information are nice to hear in small doses, but can get annoying after a while. Tell Dad to read the first two books first, then Know-It-All to make sure he doesn't repeat it all to you.

Sometimes Dad just wants a little time to himself in his own room. What rooms in the house do Dads usually get? The basement and the garage - not exactly the most comfortable of places. Why not make it more comfortable for him? Hook it up - make it somewhere worth visiting instead of a punishment by putting a few tunes and drinks down there.

I'm not sure what it is about a soda machine that appeals to me. I'm not alone - I recently watched one of those home makeover shows where they gave the family a soda machine as part of the makeover, and they blew off the description of the house to go to the soda machine to check it out. While an actual soda machine isn't that practical (although you can find one for sale on eBay, they're pretty heavy and cumbersome), the Maytag Skybox Beverage Vendor ($499 - Home Depot in Riverhead) may be what Dad needs.

Holding up to 64 cans (or 32 glass or plastic bottles), the Skybox has four separate sections for Dad and his buddies to grab a soda and watch the game. The Skybox is customizable too - the backlit front panel can be switched to logos of Dad's favorite sports team or NASCAR driver, so that everyone who grabs a beverage can remember who Dad's team is.

And don't worry if you decide to put a few "adult" beverages in the Skybox - the unit is lockable, and child safety locks on each of the four sections can prevent kids from making "accidental" selections.

Music? Sure, you could buy Dad just a CD player, but what does that do for a room? While in Riverhead, head over to Game Depot and pick up the Bubbler Juke Box ($6595 - Game Depot). The Bubbler reproduces the feel of a 50s jukebox perfectly, from the small bubbles that rise on the sides to the kaleidoscope of color that flows through the translucent plastics. The Bubbler even takes the CDs and mechanically places them down on the playing surface of the internal player just like original jukeboxes would place down 45s.

Then again, if you have a jukebox, you have to have a pinball machine too. While the stand-up arcade machine industry has slowly died thanks to home console systems, pinball keeps a steady niche of fans and produces new machines full of features. One of the newest machines themed after the HBO show The Sopranos. Stern Pinball's The Sopranos pinball machine ($4995 - also at Game Depot) features the voice talents of six of the original actors and targets designed after Tony Soprano's "Bada Bing" strip club and Tony's boat, The Stugots. After all that, Dad won't want to leave his new garage/game room, so you might have to think of a way to lure him outside.

What appeals a man to grilling that keeps him from the kitchen in general? Maybe it's the audience. While regular meals are prepared for the immediate family, barbeques are generally occasions to invite over friends, neighbors, or anyone within a fifteen-mile radius, regardless of who they are.

"You're inviting the Bin Ladens down the street?"

"Sure, we're going to have plenty of ribs."

"I'm pretty sure they don't eat pork."

To satisfy dad's urge to feed the village, look to the Weber Summit Platinum D6 Propane Grill ($1999.97 - PC Richard & Sons, Southampton). Weber is the first name in grilling, and while most grill snobs will look down on propane grilling, the gas allows for even cooking. For those who still complain, let them know that they can have a half-raw, half-charred steak over briquettes at home. 902 square inches of cooking surface, including six stainless steel burners (not including a side burner for baked beans or - well, just baked beans), spit fork rotisserie, and a stainless steel smoker box to show that real barbeque doesn't just mean drowning meat in sauce.

Maybe Dad doesn't like to cook - just to eat. You don't have to know how to paint to enjoy the art, right? One of the more delicious (and accessible) luxury items out there is the lobster. There's something primal about lobster. Few foods give you the opportunity to sit down in front of it and rip it apart with your bare hands, ripping off limbs and breaking apart it's skeleton just for one delicious meal.

Ok, maybe it's not best to think of it that way.

Every year, the good residents of Rockland, Maine put on a lobster festival that sees the community go all out to pay tribute to the tastiest crustacean. Last year, over twelve tons of lobster was prepared in the world's largest lobster cooker. The Hampton Jitney is offering a four-day tour to Rockland, Maine and their lobster festival ($585 per person - Hampton Jitney) in their touring schedule this year on August 3rd through 6th. The tour not only includes the trip on the Jitney, but three nights hotel accommodations at the Boothbay Harbor Inn, three full breakfasts and three dinners, a Balmy Day Cruise Boat Lighthouse Tour, a ride to Burnt Island for a tour and demonstrations.

Maybe you have a dad who doesn't want to succumb to the maturity associated with fatherhood. Maybe he's one who wants to be stern and tell the kids to do the homework, but as they retreat to their room, he's playing their video games.

Well, before the next generation systems from Microsoft (Xbox 360) and Sony (Playstation 3) come out, there's always the recently released Sony PSP. The PSP (which stands for PlayStation Portable) packs the wallop of an advanced video game system in a handheld device no larger than some remote controls. Not in the mood for a game? The PSP can also play movies at DVD quality, and offers a media player which can play video and audio through memory sticks similar to those used with PCs. It's tough to find one without buying a "bundle" through a retailer, which usually sticks in a handful of mediocre games and unnecessary accessories that otherwise can't be sold standing alone because the demand for the one product is so high.

EB Games in the Bridgehampton Commons is selling a "PSP Sports Packed Bundle" ($339.97 - EB Games, Bridgehampton) which features the PSP, memory stick, headphones (with remote control, so you can listen to music on your PSP without having to touch it, apparently), battery pack, AC adaptor, demo disc, and the games Ridge Racer (a classic Playstation title updated and brought to the PSP) and Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix (a skateboarding game that features storylines and missions you must complete), both highly rated games.

But what if you've read this far and said to yourself "no, not my dad." Your dad needs more. Your dad needs a real toy - not these mere playthings. He needs something to get behind the wheel of. But what? Let's face it - there are men who like the speed of sports cars, but if your dad is over six foot tall, a sports car might not be the direction to go in, unless your other gift is arthroscopic knee surgery.

Trucks are cool - their power and ruggedness just screams "man" and makes you want to grow a beard just sitting in one. But with strength and power comes a price; most trucks can count their zero-to-sixty time on a sundial.

Enter Dodge, and the 2005 SRT10 RAM pickup truck ($53,535 - Buzz Chew Chrysler/Dodge, Southampton).

The SRT10 is the fastest production truck on the planet. Under the hood? A Dodge Viper powered 8.3 liter V-10 engine that will blow the doors off most sports cars, let alone a pickup truck. Zero to sixty? 5.2 seconds. Towing capacity? 7500 pounds - enough for that boat and trailer you got him for his birthday.

You did get him a boat and trailer for his birthday, right?

All that for a little over fifty grand, and Buzz Chew has one sitting on the lot right now. Of course, you could probably get it a little cheaper if you got rid of the satellite radio, the GPS, and the sunroof, but if you're going to do it, why not go all out, right?

It's a quad cab too, so you can put the whole family in it, but have them chip in for gas - the SRT10 gets a hearty 12 miles to the gallon (9 city).

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