A Not Gift Guide
Usually, gift giving is my love language. I am reluctant to use that phrase, love language, because it feels kind of silly but sometimes, silly things are apt nonetheless. I haven’t been feeling the holiday spirit this year. The reality is that my brother is dead. Nothing is the same without him. Very little feels like it matters. Grief and depression are kicking me in the teeth every single day. It’s hard to focus on work. It’s hard to feel like a writer. It’s hard to finish anything. I’m FINE. Everything is just… hard.
I haven’t done any Christmas or Hanukkah shopping this year, save for the kids in our lives. Normally, I get everyone gifts—my agents, accountants, lawyer and, most importantly, my assistant/colleague. I get something for my parents and many things for my wife. I randomly get friends gifts I think (hope) will delight them, and I rotate which friends I do this for each year. I want to do my regular gifting because I truly enjoy it but every time I try to motivate for holiday shopping, an emptiness washes through me. I know this won’t last forever but that is the state of affairs right now.
All that to say, I still have some nice businesses I would love to shout out as places you might consider for gifting or treating yourself.
Lady & Larder is a woman-owned purveyor of cheeses and other culinary goods. They’re based in Los Angeles but ship nationwide.
BLK MKT Vintage is a lovely store featuring, well, Black vintage ephemera.
There are countless amazing independent bookstores across the country but I’m intrigued by the new Salt Eaters Bookshop, also in Los Angeles, The Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, and The Lit Bar in the Bronx. All three stores offer online shopping.
If you’re looking for a great dispensary, Gorilla RX is a black-woman owned business in Los Angeles.
Camera Ready Kutz is a queer-friendly, black owned barbershop in Brooklyn. I love getting lined up there. Treat yourself!
I love art and often browse Artsy to find great new art and stay up on all the latest art news. If you’re interested in art collecting and are overwhelmed by how or where to start, Artsy is a great resource. Some galleries I’ve enjoyed this year are Sapar Contemporary, Nicola Vassell, Roberts Project, Marianne Ibrahim Gallery, Lehmann Maupin, the Cue Art Foundation, Albertz Benda, and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.
They are pricey but I do love Sonos products. The sound is just lovely and as someone who listens to music a lot, it’s nice to have some decent speakers. Now, I am not an audiophile. I just love music. I am sure there are fancier speakers out there but these are easy to use and sound great.
One of the nicer things we did in the past couple years was get a Little Free Library. It’s so fun to just give books away and see what people bring to the library to exchange. People stop by every day, throughout the day. It’s just sweet.
Do you need an event planner? I worked with Sojourner Auguste to plan Debbie’s surprise party and she was going to be our wedding planner. She’s awesome, as is her team.
In terms of my work, you can subscribe to this newsletter or gift a subscription.
You can join the Audacious Book Club at Literati. And, of course, I do write books that you can find at your favorite independent bookstore.
This is not so much for gifting, but if you’re looking for at home COVID tests, I recently got some at on/go; they work well and are easy to use. I am not affiliated with them or, really anyone on this page unless indicated.
There is a group of wonderful people who have taken it upon themselves to support the unhoused community in Los Angeles. They are the embodiment of mutual aid at its best. They have an Amazon wishlist of supplies for which there is always a need. To help them buy food and other supplies for meals and events, you can Venmo @catherine-schetina or @mnmnadams. And if you would like to follow their efforts and stay updated, please follow Eva Woods on Instagram. I absolutely vouch for this group. My colleague Kaitlyn has been part of this crew for nearly two years, if not longer and your money will be well spent and go far to people in need.
In terms of nonprofits, there are also two organizations I work with and one with whom my wife works that will be excellent stewards of your contributions.
Performance Space New York’s new mission statement is a commitment to artists, their community, and boundary-pushing art. Full disclosure: I am the board president of this amazing organization. You can visit @performance.space.new.york on Instagram, to check out their YES TO campaign and make a donation to their end of year fundraiser from now through Dec 31. While you’re there, let them know what else they should say YES to in the comments! Click the link in bio to donate.
YES to Artists
YES to Risks
YES to Community
YES to Every Body
YES to __________
You can also contribute here.
Hope for Haiti is another incredible organization, where their Haitian operations are run by Haitians. Full disclosure: my dad is the vice-president of their board, I am an ambassador and you can vet them, and most nonprofits, via Charity Navigator.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, for which my wife Debbie Millman is the president of the board, is working to eradicate the rape kit backlog. And they’re actually making headway on a longstanding problem.
The year is coming to an end. I suspect we are all hoping that next year will be better. It has to be. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate or don’t, and that your new year celebrations bring light and joy to your lives.