Many of you are no doubt scurrying about and tying up -- literally and figuratively -- the last preparations for your Christmas celebrations. Here then, as promised is my last minute cadeau to all of you.
These are the most precious gifts I can imagine and I hope you feel the same way. I asked nine men I either love or really, really, really, really like to answer three questions for us.
1.) What is the best Christmas gift you ever received?
2.) What is the worst Christmas present you ever received?
***3.) If you could give the love of your life anything -- absolutely anything -- whether real or a fantasy gift, what would it be?
So you know something about the men I care about, I'll tell you what they do. I couldn't even begin to tell you why they mean the world to me. You will understand from their answers.
They are listed from one through nine in order of the length of time we have known each other.
Paul Jett, Director of Conservation & Scientific Research at the Freer/Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian, and my former brother-in-law, except we have never used the prefix, "ex" -- he is the brother I never had.
1.) The best: A dark blue bicycle I got when I was fairly young. The memory makes me think of freedom, and traveling and deep, dark blue is still my favorite color.
2.) The worst: I'm sorry if I sound like a Pollyanna (or just greedy), but I can't think of a present I didn't like. Even the bad ones were good, in a way. . .
3.) For her: This seems easy: Health and happiness.
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.
1.) The best: Early release, just before Christmas 1971, from Vietnam. From my dear Uncle Sam.
2.) The worst: Received and received throughout my childhood: white cotton handkerchiefs from a very near relative who waits for me even now, bless her heart, in the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel from which only occasionally does someone turn back, but down which everyone will someday go and not return. She waits to wipe my nose.
3.) For her: A ticket to Tallahassee, Florida, so I can finally discover who she is.
Philip B. Miller, Retail Consultant (you may google him if you would like more. . .)
1.) The best: A surprise trip to Paris.
2.) The worst: Those towing baskets of dreadful goodies (candy, cookies, fruit, various other disgusting sweets. . .) and it comes every year.
3.) For her: Eternal love and care.
1.) The best: When we're all here at home for Christmas: Andrea, Will, Catherine and the dogs (and you of course).
2.) The worst: A red sweater. [Ed. Note: Given to him by me -- and it was gorgeous, from Old England -- because I thought he needed some color (!) in his wardrobe.]
3.) For her: The sensation to feel and know, every day, she is the most loved woman in the world.
Scott Minick, designer, artist, author (you may google him if you would like to know more. . .)
1.) The best: When Hayden [his son] went out, spent his own money and bought me a shave package from Smith & Wesson.
2.) The worst: Well, I could tell you about the gift I gave an old girlfriend, a spring form cake pan, she threw it at me and said, "kitchen utensils are NOT gifts."
3.) For her: The only gift of real significance is the one Ping [his beautiful wife] and I have been giving each other for the last five years, our beach in Thailand. It has yet to be fully realized or enjoyed.
Art Joinnides, President, SoHo Publishing and Sixth & Spring Books.
1.) The best: I just received this one. Anna, our eight-month-old granddaughter, after a three-hour operation is perfect and acting as if it never happened. So, ultimately, it's all about health for the ones you love.
2.) The worst: I'm the worst person to ask any of these questions because I dislike the philosophy of "forced" gift giving. When I see something I like, I buy it for Cookie [Art's wife].
3.) For her: Use of a private jet and a month to see the Great Wall, Taj Mahal, Barrier Reef, and any other place that would make us happy together.
Vincent Ricardel, Photographer (just click).
1.) The best: An exceptionally fine crafted guitar.
2.) The worst: Fake cigars in a wrapped cigar box.
3.) For her: Little acts of kindness and unconditional love when things get tough. (A trip around the world perhaps?)
Will Fletcher, lawyer, writer and my son-in-law.
1.) The best: My first dog, a yellow terrier named Swift. I was 11 or 12-years-old and I'd been angling for a puppy for three or four years and my mother finally caved in. The dog would go on to bite me in the face (requiring stitches) and, when I walked him three times a day in the winter, I sometimes wondered why I ever wanted a dog so badly. But, at the time, he was the best Christmas gift I ever received.
2.) The worst: I've forgotten what it was called, but here's what it was: the size of a small transistor radio with vents on both sides resembling a wall unit air conditioner. At the top was a hook like that of a hanger. It was tan and ran on four large batteries and it whirred like a bar fridge. It's function? It was supposed to hang in your closet and make the wrinkles fall out of your clothes. Now I remember: it was called the Portable Dry Cleaner.
My dad gave it to me and I think he bought it from the Sharper Image or some other similarly overpriced store whose products make vague allusions to science and first-of-its-kind technology.
3.) For her: I would take Andrea on a chocolate-themed trip around the world, hitting all the major world hubs for chocolate from start to finish. Where it comes from, how they make it, how they eat it.
James, Philosopher, Gentleman, Man of the 5os (and my newest friend).
1.) The best: Vienna sausages and the crackers. It was what I really wanted.
2.) The worst: A velvet tapestry of a dog. It was my wife's family's gift exchange and I certainly accepted it with the spirit that it was given. He said he just didn't know what to get me and was happy I liked it.
3.) For her: What I would love to give my wife would be peace of mind, no worries or pain for the rest of my life.
Now you understand how special and wonderful these men are.
I hope you have the happiest of Christmases in every way you wish.
Je vous embrasse et Joyeux Noël,