It's A Laughing Matter - The Catalogs Are Coming, The Catalogs Are Coming
December 2, 2016
When God said, “Be fruitful and multiply,” He was talking about human beings, not holiday catalogs. I gave up counting the daily arrivals. It is easier to weigh them. Each day since September our mailbox is stuffed with three or four pounds of catalogs.
It started innocently enough when we moved into our house. My children were small, we moved in January, and I knew no one in the neighborhood. Under those conditions, daily mail delivery takes on great significance.
I happened to be by the mailbox one afternoon when our mail lady arrived. Besides the usual welcome neighbor material and new homeowner’s discount coupons, I saw what appeared to be a magazine with a high gloss cover and a picture of my favorite Masterpiece series, long gone from the air. Unfortunately, it was addressed to the previous owners, so I handed it back to the mail lady. She glanced at the mailing label and handed it back. To my delight, next to the previous owner’s name were the words “or Current Occupant.” I had my first catalog.
Over the next few weeks several more arrived. I’m not sure what my first order was. Was it the valentines I ordered by mail, because I was snowed in by a blizzard? Or was it the decorative doormat and porcelain figures I telephoned in, on an 800 number, when I was house-bound that spring, because both kids had chicken pox and our internet connection was down?
What I didn’t realize was that catalogs beget catalogs, almost to biblical proportions. Suddenly, I was receiving gardening catalogs not just in the spring, but all year long. While gardening tools and wooden shoe-shaped, yellow rubber clogs look good in the dead of winter, I was sick of them by mid-July. The last thing I want to see are happy, smiling people standing in neat weedless rows of vegetables and not a tomato horn worm in sight. Conversely, a creeping weed colorfully called Colorado bindweed has overrun my garden. Bindweed is a misnomer; strangle weed is more like it. Then, what the weeds hadn’t killed, the bugs ate.
To rectify this invasion, a friend gave me a catalog of organic pesticides and weed killers. After a few clicks, I not only had a more natural way of obliterating unwanted pests, but three more catalogs. The three new catalogs being natural skin care products, natural fiber clothing and an entire catalog of incense.
And so it went, year after year until our house approached catalog Armageddon. So I decided to do a little catalog genealogy. I saved all the catalogs we received for one month. Then, I sorted them by the “stuff and box” method. This very unscientific method involved three large boxes and a lot of floor space. Basically, you throw catalogs into boxes, which represent household junk, personal junk and junk junk. By my calculations, catalog genealogy runs something like this:
The gardening catalog begat Alstro’s Handy Helps that begat Somerset, the “Good Catalog Company,” that begat the Linensource, that begat Home Decorations, that begat the Horchow Catalogs. Horchow is important for two reasons. First, Horchow’s catalogs are its own industry. There are separate Horchow catalogs for Fine Lines, the Garden, the Home, a Cooks Collection and finally the Horchow Holiday Collection, which is basically a compilation of the four other catalogs.
The second reason why Horchow is important is it’s a crossover catalog. Once Horchow arrived, I also started receiving Frontgate, Brookstones, What On Earth, What On Earth Home, Lillian Vernon, Potpourri ad nauseaum.
I suspect that one of these companies is closely related to a mail order clothing store, probably through a huge multi-mega, global conglomerate that is controlled by a select group of people on a remote island in Indonesia, whose sole purpose is to support the U.S. mail through junk mail and catalogs. Some how Land’s End led to Orvis, which notified Eddie Bauer, that attracted L. L. Bean, who informed Brooks’ Brothers, Vermont Teddy Bear and the Company Store. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to how Victoria’s Secret became involved.
Finally the mother ship of all catalogs arrived, the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. Where else can you order a “marionette that captures the look and personality of each commissioned subject,” for only eight grand?
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had great fun ordering unique gifts that drive my friends crazy. I’ve ordered moose made of both chocolate and birdseed, plus a miniaturized, fully operational medieval catapult. Through various catalogs and websites, I ordered a beautiful Norwegian sweater, a halogen strobe safety belt for night bike riding and a tee shirt, which stated, “In order to assure complete and proper operation, this parent is tested daily.” I’ve toyed with the idea of sending a life-size reproduction of a suit of armor, suitable for jousting. But for $3,400 you would think it would come in an extra large.
Before I make my next holiday order I hope letter carriers in Chicago have hernia belts. They will need it, because I’m sending one special friend the five-foot tall Chained Gargoyle of Turin. I paid extra for the indoor/outdoor resin coating. But that, as they say, is another column.