Gift Guide 2012: Your Unemployed Cousin

For your recently de-commed cousin, the holiday season is likely to be a heady mix of frustration, PTSD and soul-crushing concern about meeting basic adult responsibilities—and on top of that, no job! Have a heart. Remember (or imagine) what it's like to be on the receiving end of limited public benefits, and give generously.


ADX Portland

417 SE 11th Ave., 915-4342,

Oh, the canoes you'd build, the metal you'd weld, if only your days weren't monopolized by the thankless minutiae of financial survival. But realize this gift of time too often comes with strings attached—general malaise, say—and is too often squandered if you don't get a healthy push. At ADX, you can offer your underworked friend the chance to learn a skill or master an honest-to-God craft. ADX is everything you thought a shop class could be, whether your preferred medium is wood, metal, textile or some unholy hybrid of all three. A shop pass allows unlimited use of wood and metal shops, access to production space and discounts on classes as enticing as Intro to Welding and the Makers series. Who needs to work when you're learning a trade?

1. Buy this: Shop pass ($150 a month, $40 a day or $10 an hour).


635 NW 23rd Ave., 971-244-0995,

Your cousin is probably feeling some profound mind-body tension, and the best thing for it would be a regular practice of stretching and mindful breathing. But if looking for a job is itself a full-time job, playing yoga studios' promotional deals against each other is like working a double-shift. Your childhood chum needs none of that. She needs comfortable loungewear that makes her feel like she might spring into action at any moment, even if she's spending the better part of the day in what yogis call "fetal position." Help her discover what so many trophy wives already know: Nobody will believe you're depressed when your ass looks that good. Such is the magic of yoga wear. 

2. Buy this: Vivi Pant ($84). Satori Pant ($80).

Andy and Bax

324 SE Grand Ave., 234-7538, 

If you're overqualified and underemployed, you're liable to be on the receiving end of empty advice, with insufferable friends and relatives reminding you to stay adaptable in a changing job market. You can help your browbeaten buddy stay truly nimble by giving her the gift of preparedness, survivalist style. With a quick trip to this military surplus and camping supply outpost, you can ensure she'll always be sheltered, fed, dry, vigilant and, perhaps most important, mobile—whether her employment situation requires that she get creative about her housing options or the economy finally implodes for good, creating a lawless, bitter wasteland. 

3. Buy this: A rucksack gift bag containing a hatchet ($9.97). Two tanks of propane ($3.97 each). Water purification tablets ($5.97).

The Lego Store

9410 SW Washington Square Road, Suite K-11, 670-9109.

In the absence of company-provided health insurance, therapy's out of the question. A cheap way of regressing into childhood innocence—and driving away nagging pangs of failure and regret—is to get lost in the tactile joy of building something. Offering a big bucket of these colorful blocks is like giving your cousin permission to go easy on himself for a little while, and who knows? Maybe he'll find his tribe along the way: PortLUG ( is a Portland-based group of Lego enthusiasts that demands minimal social interaction but provides a well-earned sense of validation for simply making the pieces click into place. 

4. Buy this: Lego Fun With Bricks set ($29.99).

Dave's Killer Magic Shop

910 SE Minnehaha St., Ste. 1, Vancouver, 360-448-9022,

Navigating social gatherings becomes all the more harrowing when your change in employment status has thrown you into an existential tail spin. But one cannot hide out in a darkened basement forever. The key is to head off "gotcha"-style cocktail party questions like "What do you do?" or "How's the job hunt going?" with one simple trick: misdirection. In the form of magic. Show your cousin that he can maintain his dignity and a little mystique by keeping a slick card trick in his back pocket, or by whipping out an endless flow of colorful scarves from his trachea. And just like that, he'll have gotten the upper hand in the conversation.

Buy this: Classic Mysteries/Master Magician's Set ($19.95).

Urban Farm Store

2100 SE Belmont St., 234-7733,

Mickey Rourke famously claimed that he was pulled out of his soul's darkest night by…his dog. When Rourke roused himself out of his literal closet of shame to tend to another creature's welfare, it gave him something like perspective. With all due respect to your kin, we all need a hobby to keep us sharp. If that hobby should involve seeing a helpless hatchling all the way to its adulthood as a productive member of an urban farm cooperative, so much the better! Urban Farm Store offers everything from the baby fowl to classes in its care and upbringing. And depending on the zoning regulations where your cousin lives, you may just be giving him the added distraction of leading a double life!

Buy this: A kind of IOU from the store, perhaps, since chick season won't start until February ($5.95).

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