V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer

Weird and wacky souvenir

Published online at www.msn.ca, June, 2010.

They’re the gaudy and the useless. Tacky, kitsch souvenirs which seem to be a good idea — at the time. It’s only natural to want to preserve memories of your amazing vacation. But do you really need that bagpipe singing car air freshener (No. 5 on our list) to reminisce? Here’s our list of some of the weird, wacky and tacky souvenirs out there. Remember kids: just say no.

Snake wine, Vietnam
This delightful brew of pickled snakes in alcohol takes the question “What’s your poison?” to a whole new level. Coils of whole snakes are steeped in rice wine or grain alcohol, which is said to neutralize the venom. It’s also a literal, Asian version of “snake oil,” as it’s said to cure everything from hair loss, eyesight, and enhance one’s sexual prowess. If you’re so inclined, you can also get your aphrodisiac fix by drinking a cocktail of fresh, warm snake blood with alcohol. Mixologists will slice the snake along its belly, drain the blood into a cup of rice wine, and then it’s bottoms up. Cheers!

Barack Obama condoms, U.S.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election used the slogan. “Yes we can.” We think entrepreneurs would have had better luck using this campaign motto on their condom covers to send the same message to prospective partners. As far as memorabilia commemorating historic elections go, however, we think this one’s kind of  funny. You betcha!
Clogs, Netherlands
Boats for feet. That’s what they look like. No jewelled brooch, no bow or sequins shiny enough could embellish these clogs enough to make them presentable, much less wearable. The Dutch brought us many things, and for the following we are very grateful: their beautiful tulips, Gouda cheese, Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh and some gripping soccer action at the World Cup this year. But footwear— especially when they come as fridge magnets — isn’t one of them. Pass.

Alligator head, Florida
As a general rule, we like to advise against buying carcasses of dead, once endangered animals and mementos that can scare little children — souvenir or no souvenir. In Florida and other southern states, after alligators are harvested for their meat and their skins, the heads are lobbed off to be sold as trinkets. Tourist shops line their shelves with rows of decapitated heads, and display them —mouths gaping — as though they were caught mid-chomp. Just say later, gator.

Bagpipe, singing air freshener, Scotland
This is when it’s entirely appropriate to summon your best tone of dripping sarcasm and mutter emphatically: “Just what I always wanted: a singing bagpipe air freshener.” Here is the only scenario we could think of in which such a car ornament would come in handy. You’re driving back from a gluttonous, carnivorous meal of haggis, a bi’ o’ black pudding and Abroath Smokies (smoked haddock) all of which aren’t sitting well. In order to conceal indelicate sights, sounds and malodorous scents, at the opportune time, when you feel the meal coming back to hit you, as instructed, “press to play.” We welcome other suggestions or scenarios to justify the mass production of singing bagpipe air fresheners.

Lactating mug, Atlantic City
It’s fitting that the slogan for this east coast city — the smaller version of Las Vegas  — is “Always turned on.” Apparently that includes breakfast, when you can, for about a buck, drink from a lactating boob mug. We must admit we’re impressed at the attention to detail on the coffee cup, RE: slight pinkish hue near the “spout” area. Now, in our bid to give souvenir makers the benefit of the doubt (like the aforementioned singing bagpipe air freshener) we could see this coffee mug be an appropriate gift for a lactation consultant, or maybe as a novelty gift for someone who’s just had a boob job. Depending on your comfort level with exposed ninnies as dining ware, however, purchase at will.

Lousy T-shirts, everywhere
In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the “I heart NY” T-shirt enjoyed a renewed popularity, meant to display the wearer’s solidarity with the citizens of a broken city. Fair enough. But T’s emblazoned with tourism slogans, rainbow coloured parrots and palm trees or underground metro systems are tacky attempts of announcing one’s travels. And that ubiquitous slogan “My husband went to London and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?” Wasn’t really funny the first time, not funny now. Pass.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
If there’s one souvenir that’s been reproduced more than any other be it plates, plaques, keychains, ashtrays, figurines, magnets, or mugs, it’s likely this. Odds are that mini Eiffel Towers are clogging garbage dump sites in every major city in the world from tourists who’ve just returned home. While some francophiles are able to display these iconic towers in their homes as tasteful decor, most end up in the bins. If you need to be reminded of your trip to Paris, set up the best of your gazillion Eiffel Tower photos as your desktop photo, et voila! You’re set.

Sombrero, Mexico
It’s the same thing on all inbound flights from Mexico: oversized sombreros are crushed, squished and lodged between suitcases and then donned by beaded, braided ladies who deplane like a single file, Mexican fiesta. But we challenge you to show us a home where the sombrero makes it out into the open, and is displayed in good taste (operative word, “good”). Got nothing? Yeah, we thought so. Please, say adios to the sombrero. And while you’re at it, no gracias to the beads and braids.

No matter how great your trip, no matter how much you’re loving your vacation, we urge you to think long and hard about those plans to etch an iconic monument on your skin. The building may be timeless, but your body ain’t. That Leaning Tower of Pisa, tattooed cleverly on your stomach so it leans as you bend over? Pack on a muffin top over the years and it will arch permanently. Remember kids: trips and tats don’t mix.

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