You’re probably too young to remember what Europe was like after the War, or even in the Sixties, when I first went, but it was the era of Europe on $5 a Day. Now it’s like $40 for orange juice and a cup of coffee.
But in 1967 it was like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputs. We and our giant wallets. I remember once in Tossa, Spain, getting a hotel room not far from the Mediterranean that was $4 a night — including breakfast and dinner. We felt rich as kings!
Now, I’m not saying the Bright-Life mail-order catalog fully duplicates the post-War Mediterranean experience, and I’m not vouching for the quality and durability of all its offerings. But talk about feeling rich! Or at least affluent. The Sharper Image catalog makes me feel poor. Neiman Marcus leaves me gasping. But this thing?
How about a 12-foot roll-out pre-seeded flower garden (“plant a beautiful row of flowers — automatically!”) for five bucks? Feeling rich? Take three for $13. Your choice: flowers or herbs. (The herb roll-out mat could save you quite a stitch in thyme.)
How about an electric hook-hanger of the type you may have seen advertised on late-night TV — hang pictures without having to bang nails into the wall, and remove the hooks if you change your mind without leaving a hole — not for the $29.95 price that two-A.M. cable-TV viewers have come to expect, but just $9.95?
How about the razor-blade hair trimmers I’ve plugged from time to time (“cuts any style — long or short hair — no skill required”) that can save you hundreds of dollars a year on haircuts. (You needn’t go to extremes and never get a real haircut. But what if you got them just once in a while and used this doohickey between times?) The cost of this particular tool was always an afterthought, as far as I was concerned — I think they were $12.95 or something, which you’d recoup the first time you used it. But they’re not $12.95 at Bright-Life. No way! Just $5.95, three for $14.
Miracle Scissors? Three for $13. A 10-in-1 Multi-Fishing Tool (screw-driver, tape measure, fish scaler, pliers, weight scale, line cutter, knife, bottle opener, hook disgorger)? I don’t even fish and I couldn’t resist this at $9.95.
Not to mention the World’s Lightest Shoes for Men (“like floating on clouds — as if your feet had wings”) at $25 for three pairs. Hey: I’m a guy who sometimes spends $25 for one pair of shoes.
Solar powered radios; $69 “giant” inflatable swimming pools; “vacuum-air, soft-suction blackhead removers” ($4.99); three dozen fake long-stemmed roses that last forever ($13). I am not a religious man, but I bought three Micro Bible Key Chains (“Entire New Testament, just 1-1/2′ x 1′ — always there to comfort you wherever you go”). At $5.95, how could they not make great gifts?
I didn’t buy everything in the catalog, but for the price of a couple of things from Sharper Image, I could have. Many of the items might only have made good joke presents (the Exotic Balancing Birds struck me as such an item). But hey! The call for a catalog is free (800-206-9849). And one man’s kitsch is another man’s car freshener.
[Along the same lines, you might want to request a Lillian Vernon catalog if you aren’t already on their list — 800-285-5555. I have half a dozen American-flag donut-shaped floats making my pool look tres Olympique and they haven’t sprung a leak yet. Cheap!]