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Three Simple, Yet Tactical Rules to Remember When You’re Buying Souvenirs
By Kregg P.J. Jorgenson

Posted December 16, 2007


   Rule # 1: Whenever you see a souvenir you want to buy on vacation always buy another really, really ugly or incredibly tacky one to go along with it. Then, when you get home, make sure you display the ugly one prominently. 

   “We have too much kitsch,” my wife said staring at the crowded window sill in our kitchen. In wife-speak ‘we have too much kitsch’ actually means ‘you have too much kitsch’ and apparently, it was driving her crazy. 

    By kitsch, I mean those inexpensive, tacky or sometimes ridiculous souvenirs we all tend to chuckle over and buy on vacation- whether it’s the wooden, plastic or ceramic knick-knacks or the odd and even odder ends that remind us of where we’ve been and what we did.

   By crazy, I mean that semi-frustrated, not quite angry but lower lip pursed, stern-eyed, crossed arm, foot tapping stance that taps out ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ in wife-Morse code.

   “Too many, huh?”

   “Way too many.” Tap, tap, tap.

  “Do you know that the word ‘souvenir’ comes from the Old French meaning ‘to recall,’” I said, dodging the incoming salvo. “It’s a thing to trigger a memory and it stems from the Latin ‘subvenire’ which means ‘to come to mind.’”

  “What comes to mind is that there are too many.” Tap. Tap.

  I started to reply that what comes to mind when I look at them makes me smile or grin from something fun or foolish that happened on a specific trip. I wanted to remind her that the value of any souvenir we bring home is what special meaning and value it takes on long after the purchase. I wanted to remind her that life is all too short and that the good moments matter.

  I wanted to but I didn’t, of course because I’m smart enough to realize that some wives, husbands or significant others are like International chess player grandmasters or battle-tested generals. They instinctively know how to effectively maneuver us around any field of contention and deftly directing us into indefensible positions. The secret is to remain alert.  

Rule #2: Encourage your husband, wife or significant other to buy a really, really nice and/or expensive souvenir of their choosing on vacation or holiday as well. 

  “For every one item you remove you can keep one,” my wife said outlining the parameters of the potential cease fire while securing the high ground so she could take better aim at some of my tacky troops.

  “Fair enough,” I said recalling that in The Art of War the ancient Chinese tactician Sun Tzu wrote, ‘Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious.’

  I believe it was Mrs. Tzu who pointed out that those who know when to fight and when not to fight would also have an inkling of what couch they would sleep on or not sleep on depending upon the strategy they employed.

   I began the souvenir culling peace process by removing a well-crafted, hand-painted and expensive collectable lead Eiffel Tower from the window sill.  

  “Oh, no!” protested my wife. “Not that one!”

  “No, of course not,” I said, trying another tact. “That’s right, you bought it in that little shop just off St. Germaine, near that restaurant with the great Creme Brulee. We had a really good time in Paris, didn’t we?”

 “Yes, we did,” holding onto her high ground. “And that’s besides the point…”

 “Okay then, what about this?” I said, holding up another one of her Delft collectables.

  “Do you remember what we paid for that?”

  “No, was it much?” I asked, knowing exactly what it cost just as I knew that there was no ‘we’ involved with the purchase. I also knew it didn’t hold much in the way of used 10W30 car motor oil. This I discovered when I was trying to change my car oil and realized the pan was going to overflow. So rushing in from the garage I spotted it on the counter, grabbed it and ran out and stuck it under the leaking oil until I found something more suitable.

  It cleaned up pretty spiffy so I saw no need to mention its viscous capacity limitations to my wife at this or any other moment.

  “So those two souvenirs of yours will stay, I mean because you like them and all,” I said as I reach for a small blue Wedgewood egg ‘we’ picked up in England. Here, I should point out that I didn’t know what Wedgewood was before ‘we’ bought it nor did I really know what to do with a blue clay egg reasonably certain though that it wouldn’t hold anywhere near the amount of fine crude as the finely lubed Delft jar.

  However, when I put my car keys in the ceramic egg one day I quickly learned what not to do with it too. “Maybe we should take this down too before we accidentally knock is over and break it. I am bull, you know and this represents China shop.”

  “You are bull but its okay,” she said readjusting it. “I like it there.”

  “You sure?”


  “Let’s see then, how about this?” I said, reaching for my miniature Hofbrauhaus beer stein that I got in Bavaria. Her battlefield excitement was as palpable as Genghis Khan breaking in a new war pony.

  “No wait, I like it,” I said, reining in some of her enthusiasm. “Maybe the windmill I got in Holland…”

   “It’s kind of cheesy,” she said.

  “Gouda you to point that out. But come to think of it, I like that one too. So, let’s see if I have this right? You have three things up there you like so I get one more…” I say taking a Beefeater tin soldier I picked up at the Tower in London and placed it next to the Delft jar to keep it safe from marauding minute lubers. “There we go!”

  “Well, something has to go,” she said bringing her full force to bear. 

Rule #3: When your husband, wife or significant other wants you to get rid of one of ‘your’ souvenirs, don’t argue. Keep the one or ones you really want and toss away the ugly, tacky one. 

  “Yes, you’re right,” I conceded waving the proverbial white flag. I pulled down a small sword wielding ceramic Viking ‘berserker’ I found in in a flea market in Scandinavia. “I…I guess this can go.”

    “See! That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

   I nodded, feigning serious injury knowing that on the next trip I would replace it with another tacky, totally ridiculous souvenir destined for the window sill and destined to be thrust blindly into the guns in the next battle of the souvenirs.

  Okay, so maybe not blindly.


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