Hansen: Sacred and profane, top 10 skewed Laguna gifts

Why wouldn't you want a water-spitting hippo?

People shop in Laguna Beach during Christmas for a reason: We have weird stuff.

So if you are still shopping for last-minute gifts, here are some hand-picked, original suggestions sure to enliven every holiday gift exchange. Some, however, may not be appropriate for the office party.

Dave's annual top 10 skewed Laguna gifts:

No. 10: Succulent crosses, Blast Consignment, 1936 S. Coast Hwy.; $250. Starting off in a sacred mood, consider these works sustainable spirituality. They are made out of water-wise plants by Laguna landscape artists Tim Villalobos and Shawna Rice. The two also offer custom designs at mysoulgardens.com.

No. 9: Rare coins you can't spend, Tangible Investments, 1910 S. Coast Hwy.; prices vary, up to several hundred thousand dollars. Old coins are always fascinating but when they are from the 1700s and have pictures of women on them, they are in their own league. This new shop also has attractive art deco jewelry and other high-end rarities.

No. 8: WTF pillow, Vertigo Home, 1550 S. Coast Hwy.; $150. For all of you World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) members out there, this is the perfect pillow to rest your weary bones after those brick-breaking competitions. Custom-made with an old German knitting machine, these comfy pillows should be good conversation starters. Other designs and unique items are also available in this larger, new location.

No. 7: Custom rocking chair, Archive, 3305 Laguna Canyon Road; $2,500. More original than an Eames chair, check out the eye-catching rocking chair designed by architect Leon Meyer in 1977. This store specializes in California modern or sculpted furniture from the 1950-70s.

No. 6: Jules Verne lamp, Twig, 1175 S. Coast Hwy.; $595. OK, maybe not the real Jules Verne, but it's close. This gadget is actually a functioning modern lamp made out of a cigar box and vintage machine lights. The store calls itself a "different kind of shop" and just celebrated its first-year anniversary. Lots of other one-of-a-kind doodads.

No. 5: Anything in the Laguna Art Museum gift store, 307 Cliff Drive; prices vary. If you're in a hurry, just go to the museum gift store, where you are guaranteed to find original artwork from Laguna residents. The newly expanded store has creative gifts for reasonable prices. A very nice glass plate by artist Sian Poeschl, for example, is only $55.

No. 4: "Bondage" candle, Sin is Pretty, 1850 S. Coast Hwy.; $10-$12. Nothing says the holidays like candles that smell like leather. It's a miracle how these candles smell the way they do. There's "Church," which of course smells a little musty yet has a vaguely cultish incense smell. Then there's "Holy Ground," which smells like wet dirt, in a good way. Sure to set the right mood for visiting relatives.

No. 3: Tandem scooter, Beach City Mopeds, 3295 Laguna Canyon Road; $3,799. Who doesn't want a Vespa in Laguna? Get the tandem attachment and you can charge tourists for rides in the summer. Heck, probably pay for it by July.

No. 2: Water-spitting hippopotamus, Laguna Nursery, 1370 S. Coast Hwy.; $6,000. Some people have Greek gods peeing in their garden. I prefer a 3-ton river horse. This nursery is consistently good. It has an old Indian alter for $5,000; miniature Easter Island heads for $60, and a huge, inexplicable moose head. Oh yeah, and they have plants, too.

And the No. 1 gift recommendation: Give to local nonprofits.

No one needs more useless gifts, so consider donating something that will result in real value. My favorites:

• Boys & Girls Clubs of Laguna Beach, bgclagunabeach.org

• The Friendship Shelter, friendshipshelter.org

• Laguna Beach Community Clinic, lbclinic.org

• Laguna Beach Historical Society, lagunahistory.org

• Laguna Relief and Resource Center, lagunareliefandresourcecenter.com

• No Square Theatre, nosquare.org

• Pacific Marine Mammal Center, pacificmmc.org

• ZeroTrash Laguna, zerotrash.org

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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