Gift Guide '98 

Will you really get what you want this holiday?

Indy writers predict this season's gifts

Millenial Visions

What you want: Flat TV

You saw the commercial-hip 20-year-olds lugging a flat TV into their incredibly narrow beach house to watch "Flipper"-and you just couldn't forget it. You had to have that Philips TV that hangs on the wall like a picture frame, taking up close to no space.

"It's a plasma TV," the salesperson at Vann's tells you. "It has gas on the inside."


It costs $15,000, including surround sound and installation, and you can get it at Vann's, 3623 Brooks.

What you get: rabbit ears

Rabbit ears may not look that great on top of your yellowed, 12-inch, black-and-white box, but they sure make the picture clearer on the six channels that you get. And not only do they serve their purpose well, they are fun to twist and twirl, making an alien out of your already-obsolete piece of junk TV. The RCA Indoor Antenna and mount cost $9.99, also at Vann's. (BW)


What you want: a'98 VW Beetle

And why not? Both retro and progressive, the New Bug is probably the best specimen of product design to come out of the 1990s, from its grinny, wide-eyed front to the little bud vase built into every dashboard. They're so popular, in fact, not even their full-scale recall earlier this year (due to wiring problems) put a dent in their sales. The $16,000 base price has remained in tact, too.

What you get: a long-board style skateboard

More portable-and more affordable-transportation, if you ask us. Lengthy and tapered, they're pretty good examples of design in their own right, and they start at about $140 at Boards of Missoula. All told, it's a damn sight cheaper than that Beetle you've been pining for, and-in our book at least-it's got way more street cred. (BdeP)

The Outdoor Life

What you want: some super-fly fly fishing gear

Few hobbies in this life bring the meditative calm of fly fishing-and few experiences on the river are more sensuous than casting a fine fly rod and capturing a wild trout. But when it comes to angling-as with sex or driving-the equipment you use can make all the difference in your pleasure. Hence, Tony Reinhardt at Grizzly Hackle recommends the new Winston LT 5-piece rod, which measures 8 feet 9 inches and handles a five-weight line ($595). Reinhardt calls the Montana-made rod one of the best on the market, noting that Winston's success comes from craftsmanship and better materials; he adds that given the small size of the manufacturer, you'll also receive better service over the years. Add an Able five-ported reel ($470) and you've got an outfit for the ages.

What you get: the ol' spinning reel

Of course, fishing should not always be made to conform to aesthetics. Sometimes angling is more about catching fish and eating 'em, and while fly rods can be used in this endeavor, it's occasionally easier to land the big one with a spinning outfit. So, let us recommend for the fisherman or -woman on your list the Brave Eagle from Eagle Claw ($14.99), which comes complete with a push-button Zebco reel. It may draw a skeptical eye when you're fishing among snobs, but they'll be jealous as hell when you bring in that lunker. Available at Sportsman's Surplus in the Tremper Shopping Center.

Speed Demons

What you want: a snowmobile

Motorsports fans who get a touch of the snow jones this winter can find their dream machine at Reserve Street Polaris/Cenex. It's the Polaris RMK-700-the Rocky Mountain King-one of the biggest models and goes "where the other sleds get a nosebleed." It features a bigger engine (700 cc) with an altitude adjusting carburetor, a 1.75-inch deep-lug track that wears down less on the snow and ice than previous models, added traction to the running boards so you won't slip off when you're going 120 mph and a deep blue paint job that rivals most of the metallics from Detroit. And it's all yours for $6,650.

What you get: a sled

Those who can only afford gravity should consider the item all winter speed demons use to start out: the American Flexible Flyer III runner sled. It has retained the same classic design for decades: sanded and finished light-grain wood riveted to a blunt-nosed frame of red metal runners. The steering system is fully user-powered; hands or feet push the wooden cross bar at the front to negotiate the slope. Add a rope to the cross bar, and this 10-foot beauty can easily be hauled up any favorite sledding hill. Missoula Ace Hardware has them for $54.99. (EA)

Big Bytes

What you want: a Pentium PC

The reason to have a PC isn't work, it's playing spectacular 3D games and surfing the Net. For this, Future Shop has the Compaq Praesario 5660 for $2099. It has a 450 MHz Pentium II processor, a 2X AGP graphics card, surround sound and a 12 GB hard drive. Net surfers will like the 56.6 K modem, the port for future cable hook-ups and the special keyboard for fast Internet access. And its DVD-ROM drive will play movies as well as games. Monitors are extra, but this Compaq is ready for the next generation.

What you get: a Playstation

Gamers can still get all the 3D action without zapping a hole in anyone's cash supply. Software Etc. at the mall has the Sony Playstation and the Nintendo 64, each selling for the manufacturer's price of $129.99. Nintendo's system has slightly better graphics and sound, but the games are on cartridge and are designed for a younger audience. Playstation has three times the games on CD, and they usually go for more mature players. The systems both come with plug-and-play hookups for your TV and stereo sound. Extras like controllers that give physical feedback from the game, multi-player game ports and memory expansion are available for each system. (EA)

Say Cheese

What you want: a Nikon F5

It's "the Holy Grail of Cameras," according to the staff at The Dark Room downtown. Their Nikon F5 usually is hidden away and only brought out for the serious buyer. It's half the size of a notebook computer and has electronics for automatic everything. The F5 snaps eight frames per second, not only metering for light but also the color for each shot, and you can connect it to a PC or a Mac to program settings and download shooting data. The body will cost you $2400, and lenses-nearly 100 will fit-range in price from around $400 on the low end to $11,000 for a fisheye, for a very big panoramic view.

What you get: a disposable camera

Those who would break the bank for an F5 might do better with "the plastic cup of cameras," the PSI Smiletime one-time-use camera. It works only in the daylight and has one setting for its focus-free lens. Plus it features a "small and sleek, go-anywhere design" that takes 27 exposures. Even better, it's recyclable. You shoot your pictures, then drop it off at your favorite developer. They develop your shots and send the camera back to the factory to be reloaded for sale. This plastic-and-cardboard gem will run you $7.59 at any Noon's convenience store. (EA)

Pedal Power

What you want: a new mountain bike

The Trek YSL-200 full suspension mountain bike, from Open Road bicycles, 517 S. Orange. This geometric wet dream features a 1.65 lb. Superlite carbon fiber frame, Shimano rapidfire shifters and derailleur and Bontrager clipless pedals. Front and rear adjustable Rock Shox make bombing down the Rattlesnake as smooth as a fandango in a silk kimono. Cost: $1,999.99 with water bottle.

What you get: a used mountain bike

A used 21-speed Diamond Back Outlook, from Rocky Mountain Pawn, 219 W. Broadway. Features center-pull brakes, decent tires treads and "your-foot-goes-on-top" pedals. Earth tone paint job hides mud specks and blends well with trail surfaces, making you all but invisible to larger predators. Cost: $150, negotiable. (KP)

Fancy Feet

What you want: a new pair o' cool shoes

Ah, shoes. Many women churn through them, pair after pair, like so many bad men. Styles constantly change-stiletto heels popular one season and wedges the next-and no matter how flawed folks perceive their physical attributes to be, they can always rock a fresh pair of kicks. What we want is sturdy, quality goods, such as Mary Janes by Kickers, available at Hide & Sole for $88.

What you get: a new pair o' OK shoes

Grappling with a shoe addiction requires serious budgetary control, and believe me when I tell you cool pairs are consistently available at Pay Less. These height boosters were on sale for a mere $12.99. (SS)


What you want: your own diamond ring

Perhaps you've been seduced by those syrupy commercials where the silhouette couple cavorts on a beach, or something, and at the end, the man slips a huge and shining diamond on the woman's finger, as if to say, "All right, I give up. You won!" Some gals go insane for jewelry, and what they want is something along the lines of a 2.01 carat diamond with .92 carats of baguettes in platinum, available at R. P. Ellis Fine Jewelry for (gulp!) $28, 900.

What you get: someone else's garnet ring

A diamond ain't nothin' but a rock with a name, so if you lack the loot to drop 30 Gs on a shiny trinket, this custom-manufactured star garnet ring from Alderwood Estate & Loan might be the answer. Star garnets can only be found two places in the world, Idaho and India, and at $89, the price is certainly right. (SS)

Toy Story

What You Want: a Furby

The cuddlesome Furby, a stuffed toy suspiciously similar to the Mogwai in Gremlins, has become this year's Tickle Me Elmo: the must-have gift that you probably won't find anywhere. Stocks sold out in record time in Missoula area toy stores, with future availability tentative at best. "We're supposed to get 36 in," says Dennis DeMoss, assistant manager at Southgate Mall's Kay-Bee Toys, "but gosh only knows."

Why the mania surrounding this hirsute little imp, which typically retails for about $40? "It's just what the manufacturer is pushing this year," says DeMoss. "You can teach it to talk. You can teach it to do almost anything."

What You Get: a Montana Turd Bird

It may not have the tactile appeal of the Furby, but nothing says "Somebody in Montana loves me" like a googly-eyed horseapple mounted on spindly pipe cleaner legs. Long a staple of roadside tourism, the Montana Turd Bird can be yours for five bucks or less at gas stations and gift shops from Superior to Glendive and all points inbetween. You can't teach the Turd Bird to talk, but, as the bizarre accompanying pamphlet informs, you can "clutch him to your breast ... peer into his concerned, piercing eyes, and be mindful that he has lived throughout time." Your child will never think of Christmas the same way again. (AS)

-Dan Oko, Blake de Pastino, Beth Wohlberg, Ken Picard, Earl Allen, Andy Smetanka and Sarah Schmid. Photos by Loren Moulton, Sumner McKane, Sarah Schmid and Dan Oko.

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