The Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, a seasonal guilty pleasure, arrived on the desk with a solid thud, bespeaking the 175 glossy pages of improbable, and improbably expensive gifts, inside.
The catalog is aimed mainly at women since they control most of the discretionary household spending. The cornucopia of costly goodies opens with a set of a dozen "high-performance lipsticks." I have no idea what a "high-performance" lipstick is and have no intention of paying $588 to find out.
A mere page or two later there is a two-page spread for a petty red dress that has a "hand-sewn horsehair hem to give the skirt its structured flounce." I thought horsehair was what they stuffed old time sofas with.
There is no scenario I can envision that has me giving my wife a $7,695 dress and amid the demand for explanations, saying, "But, dear, it has a structured flounce."
But the real reason for anticipating the Neiman Marcus catalog is to see what this year's over-the-top "fantasy gifts" are.
Leading off the list is the "His and Hers Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment System," a sort of backyard drive-in movie device that rises up out of its underground hiding place and dazzles you with its 201-inch screen and choice of 300 movies. I can't really see it in our neighborhood although the "technologically advanced speakers, subwoofers and amplifiers" would probably kill off any mosquitoes and bats that got within earshot.
It's called "His and Hers" because it comes with two remotes, which sounds like a certain recipe for domestic disputes but if you're willing to risk it the system can be yours for $1.5 million.
What I really wait for is the Neiman Marcus Christmas fantasy car, which this year is the 565 horsepower Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, one of only 10 in the world. It has a top speed of 185 mph, which means I could get to work in under three minutes except that Washington, D.C., traffic moves at only 25 mph when it moves at all.
Unfortunately, you were to reserve your Aston Martin by Oct. 23. Story of my life: a month late and $344,500 short.
To be fair, Neiman Marcus makes substantial donations to charity with each of these purchases, which is good because the next catalog to arrive on my desk was the 20-page World Vision Center wish list to offset greed with guilt.
The center's top-of-the line fantasy gift appears to be a hand-drilled water well with pump to deliver clean water to remote Third World villages for $3,000, or you can pay for a share of the well for $75.
The next ranking gift is kind of a livestock starter kit, 28 farm animals — two cows, two sheep, two pigs, two goats and 20 chickens — for $2,362. For $70 extra they'll throw in 10 ducks, recommended for flood-prone countries like Bangladesh.
One can only fantasize about orders getting mixed up and the owner of a McMansion in Neiman Marcus' hometown of Dallas coming downstairs Christmas morning and finding a dairy cow ($650) and a donkey ($322) under the tree - or perhaps eating it.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://shns.com)