Home » art is fun » Fishmael Part II, or How To Choose Fantastic Souvenirs

Fishmael Part II, or How To Choose Fantastic Souvenirs

Shopping in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

The people spoke, so Fishmael will stay for autumn! Bostonians drink water all year, apparently, and “being awesome never goes out of season.”

Clearly, the gurgling cod was a good choice. I hope we’ll use it him during dinner parties for years and years; he’s fun yet fancy; he says glug glug; he will always remind us of the trip we took when I was pregnant with Mary Tobin. All in all, a fantastic souvenir.

I’m not necessarily qualified to give retail advice, except that I love stuff too much so I’ve had to become more selective to combat my hoarder tendencies. Since I was young, when I see a collection, I feel I need every piece. (Ahem, American Girl dolls.) No one could accuse me of being a minimalist.

I’ve gotten better at thinking through what I really need and/or want, and I try to choose carefully, with the goal of only surrounding myself with things I really do like. (Not just things that I got because they happened to be there.)

When it comes to souvenirs, what’s worth buying and why? Here’s the rubric I’ve come up with for choosing a little goody to commemorate your trip to a great place. (Similar but different from my brother’s old dating philosophy: Smart, pretty, sane. Pick two.) For souvenirs, try to find something that’s all three:

  • beautiful
  • useful
  • representative

Beautiful. Ask yourself, would I want this in my house if it wasn’t a souvenir? A gurgling cod? Of course! Timeless. And I love the blue and white pottery from our honeymoon to Mexico. I’d buy it in a store today. Please don’t get something just because you feel like you have to.

Useful. What’s something you’ll always need and use? Think housewares, clothes, etc.  My best example is our comfy blanket from Paraguay, in classic white. (I admire my own restraint! That’s another tip: don’t get carried away by your exotic locale and buy a multicolor tapestry that’s going to look crazy in your house.) I still wear the earrings I got in Rome and Chile. Be careful about clothes though. My epic fail in this area was the gladiator-style disc belt I bought in Cardiff, Wales. Useful in theory, but fails in the beautiful/representative categories. Ridiculous looking. Forced it. Never wore it.

Representative. Will your souvenir be a good reflection of the place? Are they known for that type of thing? Don’t buy a sweatshirt that says St. Thomas USVI; get a nice big beach towel instead. When I studied abroad one summer in Oxford, my splurge was a nice rugby shirt in the colors of University College where I stayed. Now I love to get cozy in that thing on cool days, and remember the big park behind Univ, eating brie and apples, the school boys walking by in their uniforms, the chapel bells tolling the hour. Had I purchased a bathing suit in Oxford, however, that would not be representative.

What do you think of my system? Can you add or comment? Please share your souvenir triumphs and failures!

Kathleen: It happened in Spain. People do really stupid things in foreign countries.

Frank: Absolutely! They buy leather jackets for much more than they’re worth, but they don’t fall in love with fascist dictators.

-Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail, 1998

One thought on “Fishmael Part II, or How To Choose Fantastic Souvenirs

  1. Pingback: A Decorating Idea for Crazy Hoarders | tell me a story

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