Being that I didn't receive one item off my lengthy Christmas list last year, I've decided to up the ante and ask for strictly big-ticket items this time. I'm hoping a shorter list will make it easier to remember and thus easier to buy for me. You know I've been extra-good this year.
Topping my list is the biggest-ticket item of all: a house ($115,000 to $189,000, depending on location, building costs and options). That's right, after 20 years and twice as many rentals in the Orlando city limits I want out. I'm opting for the Habitrail in the hills with a garage (meth lab), a breakfast and/or bathroom nook and the extra-large exercise wheel. I'm tired of exorbitant rents for in-town places with dilapidated floors, walls and showers and no dishwashers. Any scintilla of charm and character I told myself that older homes downtown had over newly built "cookie-cutter" houses vanished as soon as the hurricanes left me powerless for two weeks, while my in-laws in the suburbs (where the power and phone lines are underground) were swathed in an orgy of electricity.
I'm looking to have my new abode on an acre or nine somewhere off Highway 46 between Sanford and Mount Dora, maybe Mount Plymouth or Ethel. I want to be far enough away from others so that when I play the drums in the meth lab, the cops aren't called, and close enough to still be able to catch a show at Will's and keep the cab fare under $150.
I've got a couple of examples of floor plans that I like by America's Home Place (www.americashomeplace.com). Take a look at the Hill IV models or the Franklin models and get me the complete option package, including the new appliance package, kitchen island, extra cabinets, the add-on porch and vaulted ceilings (even in the closets). Feel free to run with these examples and add bedrooms and bathrooms to your heart's content. Cement ponds. Shuffleboard courts. Go absolutely nuts. But keep in mind that the bigger you build it, the harder it is for me to clean. So anything over four bedrooms, be prepared to throw in a maid service.
Secondly, I'll need a new car to travel sporadically from my fabulous new house in B.F.E. to Orlando Weekly. So how's about putting the 2005 Honda Pilot EX (MSRP $27,350, Classic Honda, 4000 W. Colonial Drive, 407-291-6090) under the tree? One with "leather and Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with 8 GB DVD-based memory ... synchronized front and rear automatic climate control system, upgraded interior fabric, an AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD changer/cassette audio system with seven speakers (including subwoofer)" will work just fine. I'm also open to the Honda Odyssey (MSRP $24,995, Classic Honda, 4000 W. Colonial Drive, 407-291-6090) with the DVD Entertainment System with remote control, 9" screen, and personal surround sound headsets. On either of these vehicles, I would like the "Vehicle Stability Assist" braking system, the stowable second-row "PlusOne Seat" and the PAX System, you know, for the kids. It'd be really sweet if you threw in a prepaid gasoline credit card stocking stuffer for any incidentals I may incur.
And lastly, two perfect housewarming gifts that you might as well give me at Christmas are the Dell Inspiron 9200 Laptop with the Intel Pentium M 765 Processor, 100 GB hard drive, CD/DVD burner and the four-year "At-Home Service" plan ($2,969, www.dell.com), and the Philips high-definition 50" Pixel Plus 2 Flat TV with Ambilight ($8,999, www.flattv.Phillips.com).
Well, that about covers it. If you're short on time, a $300,000 American Express gift card will suffice. I've already written out the thank you card, and left cookies out on the table. Don't make me look stupid again in front of the kids.