When I think “Presents for Men,” I instantly think, old stuff. Maybe that's because many guys seem to adore things from their childhood. Perhaps it's because these things transport them back to a time when life was easier and more carefree? Or maybe I just have a proclivity for men who like old stuff.
Solo in Solana Beach (309 S. Cedros Ave., www.solocedros.com) is the ultimate gift store if ever there was one. Comprising eight departments curated by eight different women, it's a treasure trove of gifts for men, women and children. But my favorite sections of this store are chock full of old stuff—or books about old stuff. It has arguably the best selection of oversized, extravagant and cumbersome art books from publishers like Rizzoli, Thames & Hudson and Taschen. The Atlas of Human Anatomy and Surgery; Maria Sibylla Merian: Insects of Suriname; Cities of the World: Complete Edition of the Colour Plates 1572-1617: The elaborate names are oppressive, but in a fun gift-y sort of way. The south corner of the store is filled with actual old things—odd metal pieces, racks and signs, industrial spotlights and car parts turned into ornamental guy flourishes and glass cocktail sets and decanters that would be at home on the set of Mad Men. There's a cast-iron gambling wheel, hand-forged scissors and a vintage level. There's an abundance of things beginning with the letter B: bags, boxes, boards and balls, each one glimmering with the patina of being slightly more worn than the next.
For more old stuff, I usually head slightly north on Cedros and cross the street to the Antique Warehouse (212 S. Cedros Ave., 858-755-5156). It's one of the few remaining antique malls that survived the onslaught of eBay. And it doesn't look any worse for wear. Toy soldiers, vintage fishing reels, dusty copies of Surfer and Popular Mechanics, lots of naked-lady art. Recently, I spotted both an Al-Bahr Shriner bongo and a Nelson Bubble Lamp within five steps of one another. You'll need to block out hours and really comb the aisles for that perfect present, but I don't doubt it's here.
There's a little cubby of a store closer to central San Diego that, despite its tiny size, is crammed with more old stuff. Succinctly called The Junk Yard (3774 Park Blvd., Hillcrest, 619-291-0554), the inside looks just like my husband's closet, so I know I've hit pay dirt. It's sort of like a “best of” of your neighborhood thrift store: boots, vinyl records, belts, cowboy shirts. The folks were kindly, and the prices seemed fair.
If old stuff ain't your guys' bag, I still have an idea for you. In fact, it's a fantastic idea for anyone on your list for whom the perfect gift has remained elusive. Everyone, every single person I've ever met (save one, but she shall remain nameless), has a hobby, interest, obsession, sport or diversion of their very own. And Paras Newsstand (3911 30th St., 619-296-2859) in the heart of North Park has at least one magazine for every hobby, interest, obsession, sport or diversion known to man. You send in the subscription card, you “wrap” the magazine with a stick-on bow, and you're done. It's a gift that keeps on giving for the next 12 months.
One last word on gifts that keep on giving. For $25 you can purchase a pal a one-year membership at Citizen Video (2207 Fern St., South Park, www.citizen-video.com). What will that get 'em? Thirteen free video rentals throughout the year and a discount on additional rentals. The selection here is so exciting and unique and there's something far more satisfying about perusing the walls and reading the backs of well-designed movie boxes than making a list online. Plus, you'd be supporting a small, independent local business—and while that's not exactly the spirit of Christmas, it's most assuredly the spirit of the busiest shopping season of the year.
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