Don't Put a Cactus on It. The Arizona-Themed Design Trend Needs to Die

Apparently it isn’t enough that both Patty Duke and Leonard Cohen have died, or that in a very short while a woman-hating racist will be named the leader of the free world. Someone — some very terrible someone — has decided that things aren’t quite shitty enough, and so we must have kitchen cutting boards shaped like the state of Arizona and jelly that tastes like pyracantha. The Zika virus is barreling our way, and David Bowie is dead, but let’s pour salt into those wounds, some dickhead has decided, by inventing saguaro-shaped edible mug toppers. What’s a mug topper? Don’t ask.

Welcome to Christmas in Arizona, where the seasonal trend in ugly-crap-for-sale has taken on an apocalyptic, Sonora-inspired sheen. This year’s pet rock, according to Santa, is arid and vapid and smells like creosote. You’re in luck if your holiday shopping list is made up of people you hate who can’t get enough of Kokopelli or things shaped like prickly pears. Gift shops all over town are filled with unattractive and inexpensive tchotchkes that scream “desert Southwest!” in an especially annoying way.

Armadilla Wax Works, for example, offers a candle shaped like a cactus for only $25. It’s unscented, but it would have to be — does anyone know what a cactus smells like? This candle is unattractive and won’t cover the smell of your guest’s eggnog-y flatulence. What’s the point?

If you’re shopping for someone who demands “the real thing!”, Sibley’s West offers something called the Grow Your Own Cactus Garden Pencil. You can either write with it or you can stick it in the ground, pour water on it, and wait about two years for something to sprout, because this is a writing utensil that contains Saguaro seeds and comes with cactus-planting instructions. This same company is peddling lotion bars, a disgusting idea made more horrifying by scents like Arizona Cowboy and Ancient Sedona. Because when you moisturize, you want to smell like old real estate or a cowhand.

Amazingly, dream catchers are still a thing. You probably know someone who believes that the night air is filled with dreams, and needs one of these unattractive spider-web things to filter out the good from the bad. Hand-n-Hand Designs offers these preposterous objects along with a promise: “Good dreams slip through the warp and slide gently down the feather. The bad dreams become entangled in the warp and perish.” Hand-n-Hand also sells a tile trivet shaped like a coyote wearing a bandana and howling at the moon, because 1987.

Williams-Sonoma might this year be offering tins of chocolates shaped like cute little mice, but Danita Delimont is selling a jigsaw puzzle depicting a trailer park in Bisbee. One can also have a dead scorpion tree ornament, a mouse pad portrait of last year’s Seligman Corn Queen Pageant winner, or a shower curtain printed with red chiles and cactus flowers. All these awful things can be wrapped festively in rolls of State of Arizona Tartan Wrapping Paper by Plaidwerx. So to hell with peppermint bark! Let’s insult our friends and family with tins of cactus jelly and a Terrell Suggs blow-up doll! Because it’s Christmastime, and this is Arizona.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela