A simple Chinese dress, an African walking stick, a glass dreidel in a velvet bag.
In Los Angeles, all it takes to roam the world--and knock off a holiday shopping list--is an adventurous spirit and half a tank of gas.
To work a little cultural diversity into our annual haul, we hit gift stores specializing in Chinese, African and Filipino treasures; a gallery filled with Jewish crafts; the shop of a jewelry maker named Sika, and one place, Uncle Jer's on Sunset Boulevard, with eclectic items hailing from all over the planet.
At Tatak Pilipino in Los Feliz, traditional parols blink at a huge tree dripping with gift potential: balls of twigs, butterfly ornaments and strings of lights shaped like stars or lanterns. Perhaps the best buy here, though, is the unisex shirt--a pin~a barong--in shimmery silk organza. That, or the net fabric in brilliant metallics. (At $1.50 a yard, why not wrap with it?)
On Degnan Boulevard in Leimert Park, the Kongo Square Gallery & Gift Shop is filled with eclectic and affordable treasures from Africa, some of which turned up in the current film "White Man's Burden." A few doors down, the artisans Sika and Shaka stock their store, Bak-Tu-Jua, with handmade clothing and jewelry fashioned from amber, silver and cowrie shells.
Farther west, Gallery Judaica in Westwood contains unusual arts and crafts, including a menorah rendered from parts of an old car, by 400 artisans worldwide.
Perhaps the nicest part of global shopping is the chance to sample food from neighboring restaurants. After perusing the goods at Imperial Dragon Gifts in Chinatown or TS Emporium in Monterey Park--both havens for budget-conscious shoppers--we reward ourselves with lunch.