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I'd Give You the Moon: Or at least a theoretical piece of it.

Say It With Nothing

From buying space on the moon to giving to local charities, the Clutterless Gift Guide proves love doesn't have to take up space


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Way, way back in the 1960s, when Top 10 radio was often a crime against humanity (wait, it's still a crime against humanity), there was an especially sappy song that became a nationwide sensation. It even inspired a Coca Cola commercial. It was Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now," sung by Jackie DeShannon, and in its lyrics--right after establishing that what the world needs now is love, sweet love--the musical bridge asserts, "Lord, we don't need another mountain, there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb, there are oceans and rivers enough to cross, enough to last till the end of time."

While this song is still banned in certain civilized countries, and though its intrinsic insipidness has not diminished with time (nor has its anti-environment message), we'll say one thing about it: it perfectly sums up the most pressing problem that exists in regard to Christmas today.

In short: we don't need more stuff, but we could use more love.

Lord, we don't need another knickknack, we have knickknacks and doodads enough to fill the garage and the closets till the end of time. So what does one give to the loved one whose cupboards are already full of the whimwhams and trifles of Christmases past?

It's easy.

You express your love by giving a clutterless gift, by which we mean a gift that does not linger about in true physical form. These are gifts of the mind and the heart, but they are gifts without corporeal matter or substance. Such gifts might include almost totally worthless but kind of fun crap like "naming" a star after a lucky relative, or buying them some real estate on the moon, which you could do if you wanted by calling the Ministry Of Federal Star Registry in Palm Springs (800.528.STAR) or by visiting the Lunar Embassy at www.lunarembassy.com. Gift certificates and gift cards are always a good clutterless gift, but unless they are cards from a restaurant or a movie theater, they would probably result in yet more clutter. So then, to help the holiday shopper who has set out to disseminate fewer geegaws, baubles and bric-a-brac, here are a few suggestions of gifts that cannot and will not spend the year gathering dust in the back of someone's storage space. Aside from a possible paper certificate or disposable gift packet, these thoughtful gifts communicate your friendship and your love, without having the bad taste to actually exist.

This is your clutterless gift guide.

Physical Love

One time-honored method of expressing your love is to nag your paramour or family members about the state of their health. Down deep, the phrase "Are you getting enough exercise, dear?" is really just another way of saying, "I care about you, and I don't want you to suffer a heart attack just yet." To that end, why not give the, ahem, gift of health, by slipping someone a trip to the gym or a date with a personal trainer? Sure, if you wanted to go the whole enchilada, you could buy someone a full-on membership to a health club, but if you are hoping to dole out your love in smaller portions, there are a number of local spots that have invented clever ways to help.

There are lots of great local health clubs--everyone has their favorite--but if you're looking for something girl powerish, Curves (formerly Curves for Women), currently the fastest-growing health franchise in America, has over 6,000 locations from coast to coast, with two in Santa Cruz and one each in Felton, Scotts Valley and Aptos. Serving only women, in pleasant, small, well-organized facilities, Curves uses an extremely gentle fitness approach, and has developed schedule-friendly 30-minute workouts for busy women. For the holidays, Curves is offering gift certificates beginning at around $75. Should this appeal to the woman-loving health-supporting gift giver in you, call 'em up or check out www.curvesinternational.com.

Jaws of Love

There is no grander expression of love than to suggest the adoption of a baby and the formation of a new kind of family bond. But let's face it, babies smell, and they make a lot of noise, they injure the once-healthy sex lives of their parents, and they should not, as a general rule, be left to the care of others for months or years at a time, at least not until they are old enough for boarding school.

How useful, then, that we can adopt certain animals, for a reasonable fee, and enjoy the sense of connection we feel to the animal kingdom without ever having to have the filthy things in our own homes. There are few animal preserves or animal welfare organizations on this planet that have not established some sort of adoption program as a way of raising money for their important work. There are usually hyphens involved. You can adopt-a-dolphin, adopt-a-wolf, adopt-a-wombat and adopt-a-bat. Imagine the thrill you'll cause them when you give a loved one their very own adopt-a-shark membership. Sharks are dangerous and toothy, and are really quite excellent as gifts, especially for that young lawyer on your Christmas list.

The Fox Shark Foundation, in Sydney, Australia, offers an especially nice adopt-a-shark program, and unlike other such programs does not force embarrassing names, like Lumpy and Scarface, on the sharks your money supports. Founded by one-time great white shark victim Rodney Fox, the organization has been working to promote the preservation and scientific understanding of the endangered great white. Adoption packages range in price and come with different goodies and "privileges." The standard package runs $100 Australian dollars--about $75 American--and allows the "parent" to choose from a list of identified sharks that have been tagged, and now live off the Neptune Islands. Your shark-loving loved one will receive an adoption certificate, a photo of their shark and a bunch of statistics about shark markings and other scientific stuff, along with regular updates about how the little man-eater is doing.

To adopt, visit the website at www.sharkfoundation.org.

Universal Love

Let's just say it straight up: your Uncle Charlie really doesn't need anything new. He's already got everything. Mom and Dad just want to know that you still think of them from time to time. And your boss does not need or want an assortment of collectible cheeses. Truth is, most of the people on your gift list don't really need anything. But there are people on this planet who do need things. There is a family in Burundi which could use a goat. A village in a Haiti, where they are ill from lack of clean drinking water, could use a new well. There are children in dozens of poverty-stricken countries who would like to go to school, or to be immunized against deadly diseases. There are plenty of people who'd love a few fruit trees, which could feed their families and provide income. Homeless kids in America need some new clothes.

You can give these things through World Vision, an organization that provides lifesaving items, medical supplies, tools and other necessities to poor people around the globe. Through a program called World Vision Gifts--www.worldvisiongifts.org--you can send a child to school for a year for just $50, which includes tuition, school supplies and a uniform. The cool thing is, you can do it in your loved one's name. For $75, you can buy that goat for that family in Burundi, and your friend will receive a special card describing the gift and its impact. On the World Vision Gifts website, there are over 100 such gifts. Want to give that water well in Uncle Charlie's name? World Vision will show you how, and your donation will spread the love around a whole lot further than you would by giving anyone another thingamabob. After all, as Burt Bacharach has firmly established, it's love, sweet love that the world needs now, not another Chia Pet.

Closer to home, there are dozens of local charities that could put a gift in the name of your favorite concerned Santa Cruzan to good use. A good place to start thinking about how to do that is through the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz, located at 2425 Porter St., Suite 17, Soquel, 95073. They know lots of ways for you to give to local organizations dedicated to health and human services, education, arts and humanities, historic preservation, community development and the environment. Give them a call at 831.477.0800.

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From the December 10-17, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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