Welcome to a special holiday edition of Uncultured, your weeklyish antidote to lockdown lethargy.
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Many people have been asking over the last few weeks how they can enjoyably spend their winter break. They’ve been looking toward it not with the usual joyous anticipation, but with a special kind of dread that has become a hallmark of 2020.
You know, that sense of impending boredom and isolation that strikes fear in the soul long before the actual boredom and isolation sets in? The long, cold lockdown nights of late December combined with nowhere to escape make that feeling extra acute.
Once we’ve done all our sudokus, read all our e-books and finished Netflix, then what?
I didn’t always have the most imaginative answers. This is why I’ve been writing a series of lockdown survival guides for the Toronto Star this month, offering suggestions on:
How to level up your game night, whether playing alone, with members of your household bubble, or with family, friends or strangers online.
What follows is the companion last-minute gift guide — some practical, some hopeful, some silly yet quintessentially 2020 suggestions to help your loved ones (or yourself) get through the hump between now and whenever it is we’re all vaccinated or cured.
Pandemic the Game. Turn trauma into drama? This one is still a hot seller and, we’re told, has excellent play value.
If you’re super serious about staying warm outdoors, Home Depot (one of the few places still inexplicably open, for now) sells an entire line of heated apparel. You’re not going to top any most-fashionable lists in your battery-powered vest, but when you’re the only one on the trails in -15C weather, who’s looking?
Official Schitt’s Creek merch.
Unofficial Tiger King merch. Ensure that no one comes within two metres of you with this hideous Joe Exotic mask.
A subscription to Calm or Headspace.
For a quicker chill: CBD-dominant edibles.
If you listen to one Christmas album, make it A Very Chilly Christmas. Watch Chilly Gonzales’s concert special, with Feist, Jarvis Cocker and other guests, on Dec. 23. Tickets here.
A pizza subscription from General Assembly.
A cocktail kit from the bar-turned-bottle shop of your choice. The LCBO will be fine without you. Your favourite local will not.
A scoby for your next home-brewing passion project: kombucha.
A Bike Share membership. With the unprecedented expansion of Toronto’s bike-lane network, and a year-round bike-share system that now includes e-bikes, there’s no better time. (Plus my own bike was just stolen, so I expect to borrow these wheels a lot more in the near future.) 😥
Tickets to something that may never happen. What do you love? Musicals? Shakespeare? Orchestras? Standup? Show your support for an institution you hope continues to exist a year from now by buying tickets, a gift card or an online membership to whatever programming they’ve made virtual in the meantime. It beats praying for them.
The ultimate souvenir. We can all agree that 2020 was a subpar year, but a miniature dumpster fire with flickering LED is a bit on the nose. (It’s a hot seller, so what do I know?) And a toy murder hornet is just plain creepy.
Consider instead the 2020-themed 20-sided dice from Toronto nerd bar Storm Crow Manor. Its sides are engraved with the year’s greatest hits (including ones you’d forgotten happened this year): bleach injections, lockdown hair, Australian bushfires, Brexit. And the price? $20.20, of course.
Payback time. If you have the time to read this diverting listicle, it probably means you’re in better shape than the many who need help getting food and necessities this holiday season. Consider this a gentle reminder to donate what you can if you haven’t already.
And when you do, you won’t feel guilty ponying up for the final item on our belated gift list…
A toilet upgrade. An inexpensive bidet attachment for your loo is not just luxurious; in 2020 it’s become a pandemic necessity. Even as supermarket supplies of toilet paper wax and wane, you won’t be caught with your pants down again.
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Rest up, and see you next week.