What to get for the guy who has everything (including the kitchen sink)
March 24, 2012 10:46 AM   Subscribe

My dad is turning 67, and he's a rather eccentric guy. I want to get him something unique for his birthday. Help me find a gift for him! Details inside.

I'm wracking my brain trying to find the perfect gift for my dad. He has a lot of eccentric interests, but he runs an antiques/oddities shop and collects everything he deems "neat" (Believe me, we have a early 1900's children's coffin, a polygraph machine, and 1950's-era hot dog machine). It's extremely difficult to pinpoint one area of interest, but again, he likes anything that's a little odd or offbeat.

+ He really, really likes history. He tends to veer more toward American history, but I caught him reading a book on European social folklore.

+ Buying my dad new books is out of the question. He has literally thousands of first edition books.

+ He doesn't really watch television, but he makes an exception for British dramas/comedies [Think "Are you being served?" and PBS programming rather than "Monty Python" or "Doctor Who"] I might be inclined to get him some DVDs or memorabilia, but I'm not quite positive what shows he's already seen.

+ He already has a desktop computer/laptop/cell phone/e-reader/etc. He's pretty satisfied with the level of technology he has, and getting him, say, a new cell phone will just lead to months of frustration and accidentally calling New Mexico.

+ He's also really interested in legal matters, especially of a historic nature.

+ I'm considering taking him somewhere for the day. We live in Upstate New York [near Albany] so anything within a 2-3 hour drive would be good. He's in pretty decent health, but outdoors-y things aren't really his style.

+ I'd like to get him something under $100.

posted by oxfordcomma to Shopping (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any weird museums/roadside attractions in upstate NY? Visiting a few of those could be a fun day trip.
posted by naturalog at 11:16 AM on March 24, 2012

This book (discovered due to this FPP. )
posted by maggieb at 11:17 AM on March 24, 2012

If he hasn't seen Sherlock (PBS just reran the first season and will show the second) it may appeal to him. I have heard good things about the HBO series John Adams. Maybe Cadfael?

There are all sorts of old mechanical oddities like these electrical wands they use to think had some medicinal/therapeutic value. They use to be cheap and plentiful, so if he doesn't have one of those, you can look around. They are visually, mechanically interesting and, as far I know, harmless.
posted by provoliminal at 11:18 AM on March 24, 2012

A winery tour?
posted by Wordwoman at 11:26 AM on March 24, 2012

provoliminal and OP, HBO's John Adams was very good.
posted by maggieb at 11:27 AM on March 24, 2012

Buying my dad new books is out of the question. ...

We live in Upstate New York [near Albany] so anything within a 2-3 hour drive would be good.

I know you meant the location to be about taking him somewhere, but would you consider going to NYC on your own and checking out the excellent Rare Book Room at Strand?
posted by John Cohen at 11:38 AM on March 24, 2012

Might be a little off base but what about scanning old family photos and putting them on smugmug (or comparable) site for him to view? Did this for my dada and he was thrilled to see lost pictures and people again - it led to story telling, commentary, jokes and memories - he could look at them anytime & anywhere, send the link to others, etc. It wasn't long before all the siblings were adding their family snaps. Bonus, his grandchildren have now learned more about him. It's historic, right ? The whole project came to mean a lot to all of us.
posted by henry scobie at 11:45 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A subscription to Netflix's streaming service? Lots of good British TV there.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:55 AM on March 24, 2012

Get a family portrait done by a contemporary daguerreotypist?
posted by Scram at 12:00 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A short stint on the Vermont Cheese Trail, perhaps? I was up in Manchester last summer and I remember it being 1 1/2 or 2 hours from the Albany area. Lots of general stores and interesting bookshops along the way. I recommend the Chocolatorium in Arlington, not far from Manchester.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:29 PM on March 24, 2012

This isn't exactly an item type gift but maybe point him at Lars Brownworth's 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast or download all of them for him? The book is good but I liked the podcast slightly more. It might be more casual if he is of the more academic bent.

Alternatively, there are a few random books about the Father Divine Peace Mission Movement, a racially integrated, celibate, religious group that was big in the earlier 20th c. in the US (official website). The surviving followers are fading out now and I learned about them in a folklore class (vernacular religion).

On preview, that cheese trail looks delicious.
posted by tangaroo at 12:36 PM on March 24, 2012

Has he seen Downton Abbey yet?
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:38 PM on March 24, 2012

Get him something that isn't and doesn't really refer to things used and/or old, which it sounds like he has a lock on. Gifting against type is something I do in these situations.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on March 24, 2012

Has he been to the FDR library?
posted by brujita at 1:01 PM on March 24, 2012

Albany and history? What about a weekend trip to Cooperstown and the baseball hall of fame. Great stuff there some of it pretty odd actually.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:58 PM on March 24, 2012

another vote for the FDR library and home in Hyde Park for a great visit (though it's generally overrun by kids on school field trips)

other good sites to visit:

Frederick Church house at Olana

Kingston, NY, particularly the Old Senate House, where the NYS constitution was written and signed; there's lots of fascinating Revolutionary War history in and around Kingston

more ideas for visits in the Hudson Valley
posted by Corvid at 4:06 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I, my sisters and brother arranged for my father to go to Gettysburg. Aside from the actual trip, we hired a local historian to give him (and my mother was with them) a personal tour of the battlefield for an entire day. They drove around the place all day and stopped as they felt like it. It took a few hours at least.

The trip was one thing that he enjoyed, but that particular tour he spoke about for 20 years afterwards. As he was an history buff, the ability to engage with an actual person who had a real knowledge of the place and its history was priceless to him.

I know a whole trip is out of your budget, but arranging a tour guide with some credentials could be had depending if they are planning to make a visit to a place of interest in your area.
posted by lampshade at 5:06 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in the west and can't suggest any specifics about the Albany area, but as a 61 year old (somewhat eccentric) dad, I can tell you that I would appreciate going somewhere much more than a physical gift.
posted by gteffertz at 5:07 PM on March 24, 2012

If he'd use stationery, you could have some made up (for his business or him personally) in the style of some historical figure that would be of interest to him - see Letterheady.
posted by lakeroon at 5:37 PM on March 24, 2012

Foyle's War is a British WWII drama-slash-crime series. All character dev, no sensationalist crime stuff, and lovely period detail.
posted by scratch at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2012

A four DVD history of the U.S. Supreme Court from PBS.
posted by Gilbert at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2012

Antique framed maps?
posted by brorfred at 10:12 PM on March 24, 2012

Take him to the Oneida Community mansion house.
posted by maurice at 6:06 AM on March 25, 2012

All of these are really good ideas! I think I'm going to take Corvid's advice and take my dad down to Kingston. And I'm loving the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast.
posted by oxfordcomma at 12:43 AM on March 31, 2012

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