I remember last year, during the Christmas season, several of you commented that you prefer to give presents of experience. (And before I go any farther, let me just say to those who don’t celebrate Christmas the hubbub I know it can feel intrusive and exclusive and I do apologize but this year I need cheer and something to focus on.)
But experience. I received an inheritance when I turned 21. I was still in college. I had no interest in fancy shoes, or diamonds beyond the ones in my mother’s jewelry box. But I still wished. My first splurges; I bought an impractical Alfa Romeo sports sedan that everyone thought was a Toyota for myself, a silver cigarette holder on an impulse for a friend (we ducked in to Tiffany’s together, it was cold), and, about a year later, for someone else, an airplane ticket to England.
In each case, the experience was it. The car broke down a lot but served to drive me across the USA with my beloved middle sister. Waltzing into Tiffany’s and saying, “Yes” trumped the purchase itself. And the ticket, although I didn’t really understand it then, was felt as true generosity.
Do you give experiences now? No inheritance required. Just considering the idea surfaces memories.
Oh traveler, oh vagabond. Extravagantly, you could send (or accompany) someone to a great city. I loved Washington, D.C, having really seen it for the first time ever in 2011. The D.C. St. Regis has a great chandelier and an even better location. Speaking of St. Regises (how does one make that a plural?), the one in San Francisco is completely gorgeous. You could bring the kids.
But if I were on the receiving end, I guess I’d want to visit a city I’d never seen. I’ve been to New Orleans, twice, but both times for business. I’d love to go back and spend some time. Maybe stay here? Otherwise, I’ve always fancied a road trip through the American South. I imagine roadside motels. (Or a renovated sharecropper shack?) A rental car with good speakers. Water-filtering water bottles. Sturdy Gals of a certain age are always thirsty but worry about contaminants.
You could also give tickets to an event. A Canadian company called Venue Kings showed up in one of my affiliate networks, and reminded me that live performances still happen. That games are still played in stadiums. My son loved Stevie Nicks for a while, may still do. She’s touring. VenueKing’s interface lets you set a hometown, and they do support events in the USA. Of course you can always try the usual US suspects – Ticketmasters, Hubstub.
Or, writ smaller, dinner out. Do you guys use OpenTable for reservations? Their geographic coverage by no means perfect, but here in Silicon Valley it’s the way to go. They offer gift certificates. I took someone out to lunch the other day, it cost me almost nothing but made me feel so gracious and adult I think I got more than I gave.
That salad at Ladurée was better than 1,000 macaroons.
In this day and age, give subscriptions to online video, or print publications. Give someone an ad-free subscription to Hulu, or a year of Amazon Prime (free shipping, lots and lots of great free videos.) Or a publication. Let us all support high-quality journalism. I’ve subscribed to the New Yorker, Mother Jones, and the New York Times, online. Someone you love might prefer the Wall Street Journal, or Foreign Affairs. (While I admire The Economist I cannot for the life of me slog my way through it.)
The experience of taking a stand. Donate in someone’s name. To the ACLU, who fight for the rights of the bullied. To the Sierra Club, protecting the earth that was here before us. Those are my values. You will of course have your own, most important is to see them clearly, act, share.
Presents of travel and events tape a mark in the future spotlit with anticipation. Afterwards, memory’s smoke and mirrors, presto chango a story to tell. Presents of reportage or charity offer an opportunity for agency, to know what’s actually happening and that something’s been done about it.
Generous gestures give to the giver. No need, of course, to spend a lot of money. Generous time is often even better.
Photos: The bar at the St. Regis San Francisco || A red train passing a boy in India, 1982 || Reflection of a previously anonymous blogger in a cab on the way to dinner at the Mark Hotel || The Eugenie salad at Laduree in Paris
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