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Hood River Christmas Project

Shopper tackles teen challenge

This is the third of four "shopping trip" articles published in editions of the News this holiday season. Staffers shop for items to be donated to the Hood River Christmas project.

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I faced the ultimate challenge this week when I was handed $50 and asked to buy gifts for teenagers.

My first reaction when I learned that I would be selecting items for the 13-19 age bracket was to break into hysterical laughter. Since I have two teenage sons I have a complete understanding of just how difficult it is to find an "acceptable" gift.

While it is politically correct to say that teenagers are finicky to shop for, it is more realistic to say that they are impossible. The reason for that problem, in large part, is that youth appear to have an instinctive disdain for anything chosen by one of the "old people" (age 25 and up) who "just don't understand what's up."

However, since I was already privy to several retail outlets that my own kids haunted (which gave me an edge), I accepted the mission to select gifts for the same age group of people who have hung my dancing Santa from a plant hanger and taped a beard on my tree angel.

My first stop was at Zeman's Music on West Cascade Avenue where I purchased a $20 gift certificate. Based on my own partial loss of hearing, I fully understand that teens crave a lot of white noise so the option to purchase either three used CDs or one new release was sure to please.

Although I debated about actually choosing the item(s) myself, I decided against it since music is an individual choice. For example, my youngest son, Luke, loves jazz and pop tunes while the older child, Jesse, apparently enjoys listening to people howl, scream and throw their instruments against the wall.

Feeling triumphant with my first purchase, I set off for Artifacts, which is located in Mall 202 downtown. From past experience, I knew I could pick up any number of irreverent items that would appeal to the rebel spirit which possesses every teen. When my eyes fell upon the Sarcastic Ball for $9.95, I knew it would be a winner.

I envisioned a group of kids cleaning out the cupboards at some overworked parents' home while insulting each other -- a popular pastime -- with this classic toy. Since no one at the office told me I had to use good taste in my gift choices, I then honed right in on the $1.95 Whoopee Cushion. That gag gift was an overwhelming favorite with my own sons, who used it frequently to embarrass their grandparents and other visiting dignitaries. An interesting side note here is that people are generally still hesitant to sit down on any of my chairs even though our household Whoopee gave out years ago.

Believing that I was on a roll with the joke items, I decided to put together a package that included $2.95 of life-like plastic ants which could be subtly inserted into daily meals, a two-headed nickel for $1.95 that would guarantee a win on any coin toss, and the truly annoying hand buzzer that does carry liability since the victim, after being "stung," usually has a strong desire for vengeance.

After laughing my way past loaded dice, Alien slime eggs, and the tempting banana slugs, I left Artifacts with a promise to return for my own personal shopping, and went next door to Ikote. This unique shop has a wide variety of jewelry, candles and clothing that would appeal to the younger set. I chose an incense set with six different scents that included 36 cones and 36 sticks and a burner - all for $8. With my final $3 I purchased a hand-woven hacky sack which is soft enough not to take out any lamps if kicked in the house and colorful enough to be decorative when left laying on the living room floor.

I don't know how my selections will be dispersed but I picked them to either be used in combination or as "filler" items for a basket. An added bonus was that it was really fun to just browse through the shelves of unique items offered by all three businesses.

Plus I got a lot of good ideas for presents to give my own children. I'm going back to pick up a kazoo at Zemans, the dashboard hula girl at Artifacts and the ultimate fuzzy steering wheel cover at Ikote.

As you can see, this proves you can find everything you need for any occasion in Hood River.

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