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Run run Rudolph: Last-minute holiday shopping for that perfect gift

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Deadlines are a good thing.

It is a universal truth that, as a reporter, I see in action on a daily basis. A deadline can turn even the most hardcore procrastinator into a temporary whirlwind of productivity.

The principle seems to work the same way when it comes to buying gifts during the holiday season. Sure, a few goody-goodies get all their shopping done months before, but we all know that as the big day gets closer, the stores, streets, and parking lots will fill up with the rest of us poor slobs who feel the chilly breath of the Dec. 25 gift-buying deadline breathing down our necks.

DECK THE HALLS:  SLO-centric gifts, like this Motel Inn ornament, are a hit with my out-of-town family members. - PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • DECK THE HALLS: SLO-centric gifts, like this Motel Inn ornament, are a hit with my out-of-town family members.

This year I promised myself I’d try and change my last-minute shopping ways and was moderately successful. With just three days left until Christmas, I’d already purchased most of my gifts, but still had a few names to scratch off the list. I was feeling lucky as I strolled into downtown SLO to join the crowds out looking for the perfect Christmas gift.

At the top of my list that day were my grandparents. They fall firmly in the “you don’t have to get us anything even though we spent years and hundreds of dollars spoiling you as a child” camp. I made it my mission to find them both something they would genuinely like to make up for all the Christmases of my childhood, where my “gifts” to them mainly consisted of poorly drawn vignettes of the ninja turtles fighting Robocop scrawled in sloppy crayon.

My first stop was Barnes & Noble. I always seem to end up there whenever I go shopping. Like me, my grandfather has a lifelong love of reading. His tastes lean toward U.S. and military history, so I made a beeline for the nonfiction section. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find anything he didn’t already own or hadn’t already read. I was feeling a little despondent until I found a table stacked with desk calendars. There sitting next to the oddly specific “Just Pugs” calendars was an official History Channel calendar that featured 365 fun history facts for each day of the year. It was prefect. My grandfather loves the History Channel. For years, he refused to get cable television until he discovered that there was a 24-hour channel dedicated to history. I knew I’d found the right gift for him.

Finding something for my grandmother was next. She is a wonderful cook and continues to put together mouth-watering spreads nearly every Christmas, insisting on doing much of that cooking herself. I stopped by Forden’s and Williams Sonoma to see if there was a gadget or new device she might want in her kitchen. I came out of both empty handed. It wasn’t that they didn’t have some good potential gifts, but getting someone something that basically says, “Hey use this to make me food,” wasn’t really the vibe I was going for.

PUGS PUGS PUGS:  No matter what they are into, there’s always a gift for everyone. - PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • PUGS PUGS PUGS: No matter what they are into, there’s always a gift for everyone.

As I continued walking down Monterey, scratching my head. I was starting to feel a little frustrated when I hit Chorro Street and looked up to see the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. It was something my grandmother, a devout Catholic, always brought up when I moved out to SLO two years ago. I headed into the gift shop sure I’d find something for her there.

There was a lot to choose from, but what caught my eye eventually was a Christmas tree ornament with the Mission’s iconic entrance painted in vibrant and bright colors. Looking at it brought back memories of helping my grandmother decorate their tree each year. They always opted for the real kind and would decorate with fine-white faux snow and old-school bubble-style lights before letting me help put the ornaments on. It’s my hope that the ornament will evoke the same strong nostalgia in her.

With my purchases in hand, I was feeling confident that my gift-shopping venture would be a success. There were still a few more names on my list, but I was sure I’d meet my deadline with time to spare.

Staff Writer Chris McGuinness hopes he’s not getting coal for Christmas. He can be reached at cmcguinness@newtimesslo.com.

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