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Great gifts from ridiculous to sublime for big boys and girls

“Won’t it be great when the boss unwraps his Deep Flight Aviator, a Christmas gift from me? Neiman-Marcus said it would set a new standard for underwater exploration. That should put me in prime position for the promotion I’ve been eyeing. Then I can dive into my own rhapsody in blue.”

Poof! Daydream over. Sure, it might be nifty to fork over $1.7 million for that cool underwater aviator gift, or $1.45 million for a 5,000-square-foot, four-lane bowling alley and entertainment center. It might be fun to spend $3 million for a lifetime American Airlines pass, or $5 million for a pair. Or plunk down $10 million for a modern Zeppelin NT, an 8-ton sky gem that measures 230 feet long, 60 feet wide and 53 feel tall.
If you’re looking to spend less than a mil, consider these doozies.

For $25,000, you can buy the Grand Ole Opry package, which includes a sit-in with the band on the show, a music lesson with an Opry band member, a pre-show gourmet dinner in a private dressing room, co-hosting a warm-up show live via radio, luxuriating overnight in a suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, wearing a customized jacket designed by Manuel, the legendary creator of cowboy couture for Elvis and others, and taking home a Takamine acoustic guitar autographed by Opry entertainers.

Instead of wrapping up a Valentino gown, how about giving the complete Valentino experience? For $325,000, the exclusive package includes a draped brown silk chiffon gown with an off-the-shoulder neckline and flowing long back tie and tiered skirt, handcrafted for 350 hours by Valentino and his team. It includes airfare for two to Paris and VIP access to a Valentino show, followed by a champagne toast with the Italian designer. The next day, there’s a private fitting for the gown at Valentino’s atelier de couture before dining at the Ritz Hotel and taking a private tour of the City of Lights.

If your budget falls into the “are you kidding?” category, here are a few of this year’s hot, must-have goodies found in Mississippi.

“Golfers are crazy about Club Protectors ($150), which attach to the top of a golf cart to cover up clubs and golf bags in case of rain,” said Randy Watkins, owner of Whisper Lake and Patrick Farms Golf Clubs and Randy Watkins Golf Cars. “They’re also very interested in the SG2 ($349), which has some nifty, new features.”

The SG2, a personal handheld digital caddy developed by Sky Hawke Technologies in Ridgeland, features auto hole advance and auto course selection for more than 5,000 golf courses in the U.S. Using a powerful microprocessor, GPS, and satellite-based accuracy enhancement technology, the SG2 automatically calculates distances to up to 40 targets per hole simultaneously in less than a second.

Want to wrap up a golf cart? Club Cars start at $1,400; a fully loaded brand new one costs about $6,500.
Not into hunting golf balls? How about wildlife? Join other hunters — that’s right, hunting buddies — who are converting electric golf carts into hunting cabs.

“I’m not kidding, it’s a big part of my business now,” said Watkins. “Instead of four-wheeling, deer and turkey hunters especially are going with ‘no scent, no noise’ transportation in the woods. They’re converting the Club Cars with lift kits and mud tires and painting them camouflage. You can get into one for $3,500, or pay up to $10,000. Most deer camps are like country clubs now. They’re very nice, with good road systems and woodland grass so you can hunt and not get mudded down. It’s so clean now that you could hunt in a tuxedo.”

Well, maybe not a tuxedo. Fur coats are all the rage this year, said Ken Szilasi, co-owner of Maison-Weiss.

“We’ve sold fox, mink, sheared mink, beaver, rabbit, lamb and Russian sable,” he rattled off. “When we get a call for a particular coat, we search the fur market in New York and Canada and with importers in Los Angeles, so we aren’t married to any particular vendor. That’s good for the customer. Russian sables sell in the 40s and 50s, but we’ve sold a full-length one for $75,000.”

Peyton Manning sports collectible items have sold like hotcakes, said John Mooney, president of Sports Card International, and Eli Manning and Walter Payton items had sold out at press time. Peyton Manning’s unused Tennessee jersey from his 1997-98 senior year is framed for $900.

“Upper Deck’s Ultimate Collection Football just came in, which has limited autographed cards that run about $400 a box,” he said. “It’s a gambler’s crap-shoot, though. If you happen to get Manning’s rookie card in the batch, that card alone could be worth $1,000.”

Fancy pens can cost up to $200,000, but gift givers can choose from 36 brands at Pen & Ink of Mississippi, ranging from $125 for a one-piece, easy writing Vanishing Point Fountain Pen, to $2,000 for the exclusive “Nightline” Namiki pen. Made from hand-laid Abalone shells with 24-carat gold, “Nightline” comes in an exquisite presentation box with a bottle of ink, papers of certification and the story behind its making.

If those gifts are still too pricey, you can never go wrong with a good book. Lemuria Books spokesperson Bill Kehoe suggested four new holiday favorites:

• “Christmas in the South: Holiday Stories from the South’s Best Writers” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $16). Edited by Charline McCord, Judy Tucker and Kaye Gibbons, it features watercolor illustrations by Wyatt Waters.

• “Escape in Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story” (Stoeger Publishing Company, $24.95). The truck driver from Macon who was lured to Iraq by a $75,000 tax-free contract from KBR to run supplies, money that paid for expenses related to his wife’s heart surgery, was abducted April 9. His escape 24 days later made worldwide news. Hamill recently kicked off a national two-month book tour at Lemuria.

• “Great Houses of Mississippi” by Mary Carol Miller (University Press of Mississippi, $45). This coffee table book features a stunning architectural tour that captures the antebellum grandeur of 35 showcase homes. Featuring 95 beautiful photographs by Mary Rose Carter, it’s garnering national praise for “anyone searching for remnants of the pre-Civil War splendor of the South,” said one critic.

• “Camp DeSoto: A History” (Well Writer’s Guild, $55) by Norma Flora Cox and Norma Bradshaw Flora. The mother-daughter writing team shares photographs and rich stories tracing the journey of Camp DeSoto’s beginning as a boy’s camp to the beloved girls’ camp of today.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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