Last week Neiman Marcus unveiled its 2009 Christmas Book. As usual, the extravagant offerings in the 83rd annual catalog do not disappoint, particularly the A5 Sports Aircraft and Pilot Training for $250,000, Algonquin Round Table Experience with such luminaries as Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Nora Ephron and George Stephanopoulos for $200,000, and cupcake car with a 24-volt electric motor, customizable frosting and sprinkles and a matching hat for $25,000.
This year, however, in an apparent nod to the continued economic woes plaguing the country, not only are there none of the traditional million dollar-plus selections, but there are some surprisingly recession-conscious gifts.
Livers everywhere are expected to be tickled and pickled as Neiman Marcus invites customers to drink their troubles away Kennedy-style with the opportunity to become a Maker's Mark Master Distiller for a day. For just $7,500, you and friend can participate in the unique whiskey-making process step by step. Or skip the demo, go directly to the bar and do shots until you throw up or black out. For another $500, a confidentiality agreement will be signed and notarized guaranteeing the video of you passed out in the parking lot with a red wax stamp on your forehead will not be posted on YouTube.
Whiskey not your cup of tea? Then why not opt instead for the Hall Artisan Wine and Art Experience for $20,000. An exclusive immersion into the art of winemaking, you can have the chance to create your own vintage in a private blending session. Unemployed? Ask to swap out the wine estate tour for bartending lessons (while supplies last).
For $12,000, become the owner of a custom-made C.F. Martin & Co. six-string acoustic guitar and try to sing away your financial blues (Zoloft prescription sold separately). Guaranteed excellent acoustics for street corner performances (guitar case also sold separately). And should you lose your shirt, and house, to the bank, you can always burn the guitar and use the heat to roast a Neiman Marcus hot dog (made from grass-fed pork parts, bien sûr).
Also for $12,000, a sustainable design art tree chandelier made from 366 recycled soda bottles sends a strong message to the gardener that you might be nearly broke, but you're still too good for a tiki torch. There's also a considerably less expensive version for $18.30 -- Neiman Marcus will sell you 366 empty soda bottles for recycling and throw in a complimentary votive candle that you're welcome to try and shove inside a bottle (extra long lighter not included). Perfect for those who'd still like something by Neiman Marcus under the Christmas tree despite not being able to afford something from Neiman Marcus to hang on a real tree.
A limited edition, preserved 8.5-inch beetle posed in mid-flight and festooned with "gears, dials, springs, and other mechanical thingamabobs" from antique pocket watches displayed under glass on a walnut base and adorned with a brass plaque can be yours for $8,500. Because even Neiman Marcus runs out of gifts ideas every once in a while.
And for $199, Neiman Marcus sympathetically offers the tools to fake a luxury vacation to St. Barts to those who lack the funds to be seen among the rich and famous in the Caribbean this holiday season.
It starts with a limousine ride timed perfectly for when your most obnoxious neighbors step outside to retrieve their morning newspapers, at which time the driver will carry a set of rented Louis Vuitton luggage from your front porch to the car. While you spend the week at a Motel Six in your town (Dominos and Netflix coupons may be requested upon check-in), you will be provided with photoshopped pictures of you partying with P. Diddy on Paul Allen's yacht, his and her NetJets baseball caps and a five-punch pass to the nearest tanning salon.
Upon your "return," a detailed bill from the Hotel Guanahani & Spa will be "accidentally" emailed to the secretary of your office nemesis. And for an additional $39, Neiman Marcus will arrange for a Victoria's Secret model to interrupt your conversation with a golf club acquaintance at the neighborhood dry cleaner's. She'll shyly ask if you're the same person who gallantly retrieved her bikini top while she was body surfing at La Page Grand Saline a few days earlier. For another $11, she'll wink at you suggestively and press her calling card into your palm.
Some restrictions and exclusions apply, particularly to employees of Goldman Sachs and anyone named Madoff.