Good present for a teenaged boy.
November 30, 2007 10:33 AM   Subscribe

What would be a cool present for a 15-year old boy who wants for nothing.

My 15 year old son has nothing he wants for Christmas. I'm enormously proud of him this year. He's a very hard worker - harder than I ever was. He started high school, and has gotten mostly As with a couple Bs in the most challenging courses offered. He is on the hockey team, he plays Lacrosse in the spring, and he fences all year round.

He's very interested in games, especially World of Warcraft and D&D. I know almost nothing about these, other than my trusted adult friends who grew up on them say they are wholesome.

He's also a talented saxophone player. He needs a new horn, but I'm thinking $5000 is more than I want to spring for for a christmas present. I was thinking some kind of windsynth might be a good toy, but maybe I'm just thinking about what I would like for myself.

Any good ideas? I'm looking or something that will astonish him. (We talked about getting him a girlfriend, but decided that was too hard, and he probably needs to make the choice himself.)
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A concertina.
posted by rabbitsnake at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2007

What about an experience instead of a thing? That's the route I go now with my nieces, nephews, and parents -- for dad it was a trip to see the a baseball game, for my nieces and nephews its usually dinner and a movie or a shopping trip. Maybe a trip to somewhere to see some jazz, if he likes the sax, or to see is favorite NHL team?

Or if he's into games, a new computer for them?

Or, maybe enough money that he can play with in the stock market, or loan out on one of the micro-lending sites like Kiva?

Or, give him some money and tell him since he wants for nothing, he has to decide how to give it away to people who do want something?
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:38 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding the experience thing - it's something I'm trying to ask for more and more. A play, a concert, sporting event, etc. If he's into gaming, perhaps a membership to a local gaming Con? (may be too geeky).
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:40 AM on November 30, 2007

does he have the latest patch for world of warcraft?
posted by alkupe at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2007

Theater pyrotechnics. They're reasonably safe and a stupid amount of fun.

...I mean really, what 15yr old boy wouldn't want to shoot fire from his hand? Or be able to snap his fingers & create a fireball?
posted by aramaic at 10:46 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He has everything for WOW he can think of, and he can think of a lot.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 10:46 AM on November 30, 2007

How about dice for the D&D game, as well as a nice dice bag. You could probably ask one of his parents what D&D books he has/is looking for and get that as well.

As a gamer, I am ~always~ looking for more dice. (they get lost, somehow.) And gaming supplements are always cool as well, since there are so many.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 10:47 AM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: A concertina is a good suggestion. We actually have a concertina that nobody really plays. We had a McCann Duet concertina, but it was too hard for me to figure out, and nobody else wanted to try it. I'm a Morris dancer, or rather a former Morris dancer who has become a musician due to bad 54-year old knees. So, concertinas are associated with morris music, which is associated with old guys. My team has a ton of high school and college boys, but he doesn't look past me, and thinks morris is too creepy for him.

Great suggestions so far. I like the one about theatrical pyrotechnics.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 10:50 AM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: I'm his father, and he has more dice than you could shake a can at.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 10:51 AM on November 30, 2007

If BOTH of you go to a fabulous saxophone concert (jazz, classical, whatever he's particularly interested in) together, he will be inspired, and you will learn more about the music he likes. This could allow you to better appreciate the music he plays, both now and in the future.

If you want to make it extra fine, be willing to travel for said concert. New York? New Orleans? Anywhere new, I guess.

If he has a teacher, you could ask the teacher for recommendations.

I'm sure my parents wouldn't understand my music at all -- but how cool would it be if you really could share that with him.
posted by amtho at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2007

He needs a new horn, but I'm thinking $5000 is more than I want to spring for for a christmas present.

I don't know much about saxaphones (or woodwinds in general), but I played trombone for many years. I know that short of an entire new instrument, I would have truly appreciated a new mouthpiece (specifically a 51 Schilke) as a present. You might stop by a local music store or ask the school's band director if there is a nice mouthpiece in your price range that they could recommend. A good mouthpiece obviously won't eliminate the problems of a worn out instrument, but it certainly makes an immediate improvement in tone and feel.
posted by Lokheed at 11:01 AM on November 30, 2007

Would he think a donation in his name to something like Music for All is cool? It wouldn't have to be the only thing, obviously. I think they send you one of those powerband bracelets when you donate, too.

As a sax/clarinet player in my high school days, I always had my eyes on nice accessories--things that weren't necessary, but would have made things nicer. Oooh--a nice reed case, if he's using those crappy plastic LaVoz ones? OR a reed knife/fine grit sandpaper and a box of VanDoren Javas (green box, my absolute Cadillac reeds).
posted by rhoticity at 11:01 AM on November 30, 2007

One of my fondest childhood memories is when my stepfather picked me up from 8th grade on a Friday for a weekend "guys only" fishing trip.

Since he never picked me up from school otherwise, it was exciting to have him waiting for me, the car and the gear loaded up, ready for us to head out, just the men folk to do men things. That was way better than him bringing home a video game or some other toy that I'd have long forgotten by now.

That was 25 years ago. I've got no idea what I got for Christmas that year, but I remember that trip like it was yesterday. I remember where we stayed, I remember the rustic old seaside restaurant we ate fried oyster po-boys at. I remember wading out in the surf and pulling in whiting that he helped me take off the hook. I remember so many little details, and I don't know if he ever knew how much that trip meant to me, and now that he's passed, I don't have the opportunity to tell him.

So, I suggest you take him somewhere, do something special, and make a memory. It doesn't have to be fishing if that isn't his or your thing, but in 25 years, he will remember the time you gave him more than the gifts.
posted by grumpy at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2007 [14 favorites]

D&D is great - though it can suck hours like no other activity.

A gift card at a gaming/electronics store - then he can choose games.

An experience. A trip, something unique - even if it is 6 months out - it will give him something to look forward too. A caving adventure, scuba/snorkelling, fishing on the ocean. Kyaking/rafting down a river for 3-4 days.

A trip to London, Paris - Hong Kong.

When I was a kid - I dreamed of travel...
posted by jkaczor at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2007

Mouthpiece--Selmer C* (c-star) if he doesn't already have one. Great general all-purpose mouthpiece. I used it for everything from marching band to jazz.
posted by rhoticity at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2007

I'm looking or something that will astonish him.

If he's interested in jazz, take him to see a few really great live performances, especially if you have interesting small venues near you that admit the under-21s.

Going to all ages shows as a young teenager opened up a whole world to me - one that's led to good friends and great experiences, and that I'm still learning from.

Also, buy him some CDs by any of the following: Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler, David Murray, Kidd Jordan, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Coleman Hawkins, Oliver Lake, Mats Gustafsson, Booker Ervin, Charles Gayle, John Gilmore, Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean, Evan Parker, Sabir Mateen, Wayne Shorter, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sonny Simmons, Archie Shepp, Pepper Adams, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Peter Brötzmann, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Ornette Coleman, or Joe Henderson - many astonishing sounds out there!
posted by ryanshepard at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

If he is really into fencing a high quality weapon with a FIE certified blade will probably go over quite well. Assuming he doesn't already have one or more of those!
posted by COD at 11:09 AM on November 30, 2007

If he's a fencer, then a really nice sword might make an excellent gift. It would probably be more of a display thing than a competition blade (unless you're a fencer too, and know what kind of blade he fences with). There are so many places to buy a nice-looking sword online, but Museum Replicas Ltd tends to have a relative diverse selection.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:12 AM on November 30, 2007

I fenced in college, using club equipment... I don't know what HS fencing is like. My first hand assembled pistol grip left handed epee of maraging steel was like finding some god-blessed awesome magical weapon in WoW/D&D. It sung to me like a siren, it would bobble and weave like an extension to my arm, it was awesome.

If he likes fencing and doesn't have a personal custom weapon of choice... a gift certificate 'or just a you have X$ to spend' building a custom fencing weapon would be awesome.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is there some sort of college world series of Lacrosse or hockey or fencing you guys can go to?
posted by shothotbot at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2007

Who is the absolute best saxophone player in your area? Find that out and either arrange a meetup or tickets to that player in concert.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:52 AM on November 30, 2007

Take him to PAX or GenCon.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:54 AM on November 30, 2007

He doesnt sound like the personalty type who would benefit from WoW. Its a huge timesink and to play it effectively requires uninterrupted sessions of 4-6+ hours. I imagine someone this busy and ambitious might think its a pretty big waste of time. Especially when 20-30% of playing time is walking to the next zone/level.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:03 PM on November 30, 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary (even though you didn't specify vast—and astonishing—dictionaries amongst his interests). (The compact edition also happens to be 69% off at Amazon right now.) It's at least as snazzy as singeing the drapes with hand-spun fireballs.

As you appear to be in the Boston area you could spend an afternoon at the Langham Hotel's chocolate bar (Saturdays from 12:00 to 15:00 (September through June)).
posted by yz at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2007

"How about dice for the D&D game, as well as a nice dice bag"

See This thread on dice.

"My first hand assembled pistol grip left handed epee of maraging steel was like finding some god-blessed awesome magical weapon in WoW/D&D"

True that. A weapon made from all-German (Uhlmann or Allstar) components with a proper cant (bend at the meeting of tang and blade) makes a huge difference. You need an armorer who knows the fine details to realize the full benefit though.

A dedicated Fencing Bag is a nice luxury (I stuck with cheaper golf club bags myself, but always wanted one). An FIE grade uniform and mask will set you back several hundred dollars but is considerably safer than the cotton garbage I tend to see Highschool kids fencing in. Adidas fencing shoes are also pricey but make a difference in footwork (unless he is fencing on a dusty gym floor, in which case conventional cross-trainers may be a better bet).

On a cheaper budget, a fencing book might be a nice gift (see my recommendations in this post), or you could get him a couple fencing t-shirts.
posted by Manjusri at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2007

Another thought: Quality instruction makes a vast difference in fencing, and there is a serious scarcity of qualified instructors. If there is a top tier coach in your area and he is not training with him, a series of lessons will give him a significant edge. To identify a qualified instructor, look for nationally ranked competitors in your area and find out who they are coached by.
posted by Manjusri at 12:45 PM on November 30, 2007

Most 15 year old boys enjoy outdoor adventure/extreme sports. Rock climbing, snow boarding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting -- your local outdoor equipment supplier could point you towards guided weekends or starter trips that the two of you could do together.
posted by junkbox at 12:48 PM on November 30, 2007

That was 25 years ago. I've got no idea what I got for Christmas that year, but I remember that trip like it was yesterday.

Amen; I can't tell you many of the things I got as presents as a kid (well, I can name a few, but they're rarely the things I think my parents thought I'd of them happens to be a pencil sharpener; go figure) but I can remember every special trip I took with them, particularly if it was just me and one of them -- i.e. no siblings.

I would definitely go for the 'experience' angle rather than the physical-item one. Maybe give him a card or something on Christmas morning as an "IOU" for whatever you're going to do together. (Or, if you want, don't specify it exactly, just tell him to save a certain date, and build the suspense a little longer.) If you can, I'd do it sometime after Christmas but while he's still on break from school (so pick something that doesn't demand really warm weather). That way he still gets it before he goes back to school, which is essentially the end of 'Christmas' when you're a kid.

Making specific suggestions of what you should do is hard, but to be blunt I'm not sure it really matters all that much. One of my fondest memories involves taking the train down to NYC with my father for the sole and complete purpose of buying and eating a pastrami sandwich, then turning around and coming back. I'm not even sure I really liked pastrami all that much at the time, but it was spontaneous and slightly out of character and it was wonderful, for exactly those reasons. So just keep an open mind and the next time you or your son say "we should do that sometime," make a mental note and do it.

Just one thing though: don't promise what you can't deliver, and make sure you deliver what you promise.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2007

seconding the idea of giving him some money to loan out on (microfinance for developing countries). he can browse the site for a few days, choose individuals whose business profiles interest him, and then loan money to a bunch of people in $25 increments. that turns into a little portfolio, and he can log in to see how each of the businesses he heped fund are doing. over time, the entrepreneurs pay back their loans (without interest), and then your guy can withdraw the original contribution amount, or re-loan it to new businesses. i think it's really cool- i like checking on my little portfolio and look forward to expanding it in the future- highly recommend it. kiva money is what i'm giving my whole family this year.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2007

ps, grumpy- reading that comment, especially followed by your handle name at the bottom- warmed my scroogey little heart. i bet your stepfather treasured that day too. what a great idea.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am gonna go against the WOW gaming thing. He is busy already, the last thing he needs is more of a time suck - especially sitting in front of a PC. He does sound like a tremendously well-balanced kid though.

I do however agree with the posters above who said a concert, or an experience thing. Rock climbing with you, a BB King concert with you, a professional lacrosse game with you, are all winners. More likely than not, he will appreciate your time - and the reflection in your eyes of him as an adult.

You sound like you are tremendously proud - and you should be.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 12:58 PM on November 30, 2007

As you appear to be in the Boston area ...

A good all-ages show coming up -

12/27 & 12/29: The McCoy Tyner Trio at Regatta Bar
posted by ryanshepard at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2007

A used car. Since he's 15, he'll be getting his learner's permit soon, right? It'll help him learn (without the stress on the family of learning on the family car), it'll help him get a job... and it'll help him get the aforementioned girlfriend.

(If you're in the middle of a major walkable urban center, on the other hand, you can nix this.)
posted by eschatfische at 1:37 PM on November 30, 2007

Does he have a Wii? Because if I was 15 and didn't have one, I'd really want one.
posted by General Malaise at 1:41 PM on November 30, 2007

Gaming and fencing? I am your son, *mutter* plus 25 years or so.

I would recommend a trip over to Chivalry Bookshelf.

Recommended titles:
Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship
Fighting with the German Longsword
The Swordsman's Companion
Medieval Sword and Shield
English Swordsmanshp

These two DVDs are also excellent:
The Longsword of Johannes Liechtenauer, Part I
Leibringen:Introduction to Medieval Wrestling

The DVDs would tie in nicely with the German longsword books.

You can get a waster (practice sword) or two at a variety of cost levels: wood aluminum steel

If you'd like some more information, my email address is in my profile.
posted by zueod at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: These are all marvelous suggestions. I'll sort through them and let you know. I really like the one about I also like the mouthpiece idea. I remember travelling from punky Bloomington Indiana to Chicago to buy a metal Otto Link mouthpiece that made me sound like a train (not a Trane, though) when I was in college. I'll be he would be excited about something really outré like that.

McCoy Tyner is a good choice as well.

Thanks to all.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2007

The podcast "speaking of faith" recently had a guest on who recommended giving money, with the understanding that it is to be donated to a charity of the recipient's choice. The idea is that this will breed philanthropy and get him thinking about what he's passionate about individually. That seems pretty lesson-heavy, though, and probably isn't something that would be as hedonistically (not using that term derogatorily) enjoyed. Personally, i vote for giving a trip of some kind; ideally to a foreign country. Something culturally different, like africa or japan.
posted by ncc1701d at 2:14 PM on November 30, 2007

When my stepson turned 16, my husband and I took him to Nigara Falls. We drove up from the Boston area and took in the sights, the wax museums, the Hard Rock Cafe etc. The next day the guys went to a Bills-Packers Game. It was an absolutely great trip and his younger brothers can't wait until they get to go away with us for their 16th birthdays!
posted by Biblio at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2007

Road trip. The less planning ahead of time, the better. If you wanted, you could replicate the unplanned car-free college road trip my mom and I took this summer (minus the colleges)- we couldn't get a rental car because my mom accidentally forgot to renew her license, so we traveled around New England by Amtrak and bus. You definitely see a different side of places going that way. Obviously you would need a bit more of a planned thing (the only reason I can come up with for why we never got stranded is blind luck and the kindness of strangers). On the plus side, having to figure transportation out made us more of a team- arguing is pointless when you have to find a place to sleep. It was far more fun than I thought it would be when we started out.
posted by MadamM at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2007

How about an Outward Bound or National Outdoor Leadership School trip for this summer? Stuff is just stuff, ultimately. Growth is priceless!
posted by kookoobirdz at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2007

If he truly enjoys playing music, then getting him new sax accessories and upgrades could be a great gift.

If he has a regular molded mouthpiece (I saw the C* recommended above) then you may want to instead look into a metal mouthpiece. When I was his age my parents got me a nice Meyer metal mouthpiece. If he is at all interested in Jazz, or finding his "own sound", it will turn his boring usual tone into an amazing growly fun sound which you just don't get tired of. Just remember it would take quite a bit of getting used to, finding the right reed hardness for a new mouthpiece can be difficult. (To this day I am still trying to find the best reed for that mouthpiece, just about the time I am looking to upgrade or at least fix up my old sax.)

Does he have a nice neck strap? Neotech makes a pretty standard neck strap with a metric ton of padding that works great whatever type of sax you play (recently had to play a bari for a while with just a synthetic strap, oww!)
posted by MaHaGoN at 7:24 PM on November 30, 2007

If you still want ideas, you might consider looking for a good game that you would enjoy playing with him.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:40 PM on November 30, 2007

posted by holdkris99 at 10:42 PM on November 30, 2007

A challenge.
posted by FauxScot at 4:47 PM on December 1, 2007

Response by poster: These are are very cool. I think we are going with the Kivo money. We also found a relatively inexpensive GPS device he can wear while he is running, to track the amount of distance he has run. He's started a running program to get in shape for hockey.

Thanks all.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 2:32 PM on December 3, 2007

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