They haunt Christmas Eve afternoon, those hollow, credit-card-clutching wraiths who just plumb forgot: last-minute shoppers loaded down more by guilt than by packages to give. As far as we know, there is no rehab center where recovering Scrooges can check in and out. So the next best thing may be a few timely and unique ideas gathered from a handful of past Best of Denver recipients:
At the Hue-Man Experience Bookstore, 911 Park Avenue West, you can take your pick of Afrocentric purchases, either for Christmas or for Kwanzaa. If you're looking for a kinara (the seven-armed Kwanzaa candelabra), co-owner Joi Afzal was down to one a while ago. But Hue-Man also stocks Kwanzaa books and boxed cards, as well as black Santas and tiny handcrafted Kenyan baskets, figurines and ornaments. Or plunk down twenty bucks for Laura Mauck's fascinating historical picture book, Five Points Neighborhood of Denver: Images of America. Call 303-293-2665 for more information.
For a niece or nephew, don't even think about pulling the last bedraggled Nutcracker Barbie or Bob the Builder off the shelf at Target. Instead, try small and reliable Timbuk Toys, 2780 South Colorado Boulevard, 303-756-2522. Manager Sylvia Fajardo-Horton recommends Thomas train accessories for toddlers, Groovy Girls dolls and accessories for girls five and older, and for grown-up kids of all ages, metal tavern puzzles you mount on the wall to play with. Stocking stuffers are a no-brainer here: For girls, there's an array of Sanrio Hello Kitty trinkets; for boys, there are lovingly detailed classic Corvettes and Thunderbirds with doors that open and close.
Or try 5 Green Boxes, 1596 South Pearl Street, where you can pick up anything from a beaded pen-and-journal set for $5.95 to a Russian rug for a cool thousand (although wrapping one of those could be daunting). A popular quick pick that fits more easily in a box might come off the shop's rack of diaphanous, jewel-hued scarves, $13 to $60. But proprietor Charlotte Elich's all-time favorite is Johnny Fish Bag, a latex fish wallet in two sizes that retails for $12.95 or $17.95. What a catch. Call 303-777-2331.
Should you seek a minuscule something meant only for the eyes of your beloved, erotica maven Kevin Larson of Pandora's Toy Box, 528 South Broadway, 303-778-8828, suggests an Abaude French embroidered-lace bra-and-panty set as a perfect gift for either gender -- an especially sexy choice when given to a man by a woman, who would, of course, change into the scanty duds once they're opened. The shop's Kama Sutra bath and body products are appropriate for your mother or anyone else on your list, though it's hard to imagine Grandma sprinkling scented "Honey Dust" on her sheets. And what would Larson slip inside a lady's stocking? "Nympho's Desire: twenty minutes of foreplay in a tube. It's unbelievable what it'll do for a woman." And it's under $20.