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Wed, Dec. 11

Valentines: a real man offers tips for next year

Last week new Tribune columnist Vikki Phillips shared with us her anxiety over finding a creative Valentine's Day gift for her husband. Managing Editor Heidi Dahms assigned me the task of enlightening Vikki and her gender on the male perspective of a great V-Day gift, though I think Vikki did pretty well in the end (a can of beer and two straws).

The first step, ladies, is to recognize that you probably aren't going to find a really great Valentine's Day gift for a man in any store where you like to shop. Shop where they sell guy things. If they're selling flowers and candy and teddy bears, you're in the wrong place and should get thee to a gunnery. A gunshop, that is.

The gunshop is a great place to shop for Valentine's Day unless, of course, your true love has a former felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, in which case federal law says he can't have a gun. If you buy him a gun anyway you'd be what BATF agents call a "straw purchaser," and you would get separate His and Hers cells without conjugal visits on Valentine's Day.

But you wouldn't be with him if he was a domestically violent kind of guy, right? So go to the gunshop and ask, "What's new?" and then buy it. That's what he does. If you don't understand calibers just remember that bigger is better.

The archery shop is a good bet, too, 'cuz all real men know that all real men hunt, and all real hunters shoot deer at 2,000 yards with a magnum rifle or at 10 yards with a complicated bow. Two dozen carbon arrows tipped with dangerous and manly broadheads would make a lovely gift, but make sure the arrow length and spine are precisely matched to his bow. Just to be safe, better get him a new titanium single cam compound bow to match the arrows. Such a gift has obvious references to the whole Cupid/arrow thing, don't you think?

Nothing says "I love you" like, "Sure, Honey - go fishing and have a wonderful time. Don't worry about entertaining me and the kids." If you're feeling especially creative go buy him a dozen #14 dry flies and arrange them in a heart shape on a piece of red styrofoam. But, for crying out loud, be careful not to crush the hackles!

By all means get him that expensive 1 weight, 2 ounce fly rod made of space-age graphobendum, and be sure to include that gold-anodized large arbor reel with disc drag; it will only add another two or three hundred dollars and isn't he worth it?

Don't try to buy fly line too, unless you know the difference between a weight forward and a double taper line - you'll get it wrong and isn't Valentine's Day all about making him happy? On the other hand he might think your ignorance is kinda cute, so long as he likes the rod and reel.

If you've got the means to buy him a new boat, don't forget the motor and trailer too. And by personally carrying the insurance and paying the registration on the boat and the trailer each year, you'll be giving a gift that keeps on giving.

As an added bonus, unlike owning fast cars men only drive boats to impress other men. You never have to worry about him trying to pick up younger babes with his new bass boat (when's the last time you got all dreamy about some guy and his Evinrude?).

Speaking of cars, most guys like to work on them, but shopping at the auto parts store for a car-type Valentine's Day gift will certainly result in you buying the wrong part because it happens to men all the time. Buying him car tools can be risky too, because you can never be sure if you're buying him a truly useful tool.

I bought a piston ring groove scraper back in 1977 to overhaul a Buick V6, and I haven't used it since. If my now-ex brother-in-law hadn't borrowed and never returned my piston ring compressor in 1978, it never would have been used again, either. If you think your special guy might like that special forked tool for pulling window crank handles from the door panel of a 1969 Chevy pickup, you can give him mine. It still looks brand new.

It's hard to go wrong with power tools, though. Go to Sears or Home Depot, look for a power tool you don't recognize, and buy it for him. If you've never before seen a powered rotary oscillating jablivet that means he hasn't got one and so he definitely wants it.

See how easy it is? But if you don't like my suggestions, don't call me. Instead, call Heidi and tell her not to assign Valentine's Day material to a guy who's been divorced for 11 years.

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