Father's Day is this Sunday. How are you celebrating? Oh, haven't you thought of anything to do yet? You're not just going to buy your father a tie, are you? You can do better than that, you really can. Fathers tend to get the shaft in terms of receiving presents, or at least, my father always did. Although maybe that speaks to my own flaws rather than anything inherent in our society when it comes to giving gifts to men. I don't really know. All I know is that fathers—good fathers—deserve everything we can throw at them, because good fathers (like good mothers) inform everything everything about who we are when we are young and who we become as we grow up. Our parents write the beginnings to our stories and the best ones help us transition seamlessly into finishing our own narratives, constructing our lives on the foundation they built. So, you know, we should show our love. And is there a better way to show love than through material consumption? If there is, I don't want to know.
Ultimate "Dad musician" Bruce Springsteen is playing in England on Father's Day weekend, so you won't get to surprise your father with tickets to see Bruce anytime soon. Which is really a shame because there is no musician that dads like more than Bruce Springsteen. Well, except for Bob Dylan. But you don't really want to take your dad to see him live, do you? I didn't think so. There's always the Rolling Stones, though, who, sure, are probably way older than your dad, but still qualify as dad music. The Stones aren't playing in New York, but they are playing in Philadelphia on June 18 & 21, and so if you get tickets for you and your dad, you could take a road trip together. Which, if there's one thing that dads like more than the Rolling Stones, it's listening to the Stones while taking a mini-road trip to see the Stones live. If you do this, your dad's head will probably explode with happiness. Or, for an alternate musical experience, take your dad to see the Walkmen at the Northside Festival this weekend. Bonus: your dad will feel cool and tickets are free.
Dads love to read. What was the first book that your dad ever gave to you that you knew really meant something to him? For me, it was Steven Millhauser's first novel, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright. At the time, the book was out of print and when my father told me that we shared a look of disbelief. What, we both wondered, was wrong with the American reading public? But so anyway, that book remains one of my all-time favorites, because it is about writers, and professional jealousy, and children, and agonizing love (as if there was any other kind, right?), and death. It is also about death. You could always get your father Edwin Mullhouse, in case he hasn't read it yet. That wouldn't be the worst idea. Another idea is Train Dreams by Dennis Johnson, which is maybe not the most uplifting book for Father's Day, but it's not like I'm recommending The Road, you know? Although, I do kind of recommend The Road as a Father's Day book, because that's just kind of funny. Two brand new releases that would be great for dads (hot off the presses!) are Ben Greenman's The Slippage, which starts off with a suburban party scene to rival anything that Updike ever wrote, and Benjamin Percy's Red Moon, which is about the cost of humanity's survival, something that every father has contemplated at one point or another.
Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright Steven Millhauser
The Road Cormac McCarthy
Trains Dreams Dennis Johnson
The Slippage Ben Greenman
Red Moon Benjamin Percy
There's nothing wrong with giving your father clothes, just try to avoid ties. Or, actually, no. Get your dad a tie if you want, just make sure it's a cool tie. But where should you go to find this tie or other smart dad clothing choices? Well, you should go to Goose Barnacle in Brooklyn Heights. Owner David Alperin, a third-generation Brooklyn native, has curated a beautiful selection of men's clothing and accessories (as well as a rotating art collection) that makes it impossible to go wrong in selecting something for your father. There's everything from the perfect summer dad shoe (the Sebago Docksider) to a Nordic raincoat that will make your father feel like George Clooney in that most manly of movies, The Perfect Storm. And even though no one wants to live out the ending of that movie in real life, that final shot of Mark Wahlberg in the ocean is pretty goddamn stunning.
Goose Barnacle; 91 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
I don't want to be too gender-normative with this list, because, how boring, really. But I am of the belief that every person—male or female, father or mother—could use a nice knife. This little French pocketknife available at the Brook Farm General Store is the perfect thing to get for your dad. It's a pretty little thing and has a nice weight in your hand, plus it can be used as a whittling tool, I'd imagine, and whittling is a very dad thing to want to do.
Opinel Pocket Knife $18
Brook Farm General Store; 75 South 6th Street, Williamsburg
Why should jewelry be only a Mother's Day gift? Who made those rules? Not me. Aaron Ruff of Digby & Iona makes pieces that all have their own narratives behind them; it's like they all have their own lives. Is it strange that I'm investing so much meaning into inanimate objects? Of course not. Jewelry is special precisely because each piece can be objectively admired for its intrinsic beauty, but it really assumes a whole new level of meaning when it adorns its owner. So give your father diamonds in the form of these cufflinks. Everyone wants a little sparkle sometimes.
Digby & Iona; digbyandiona.com
Food is such a big part of Father's Day celebrations, usually in the form of barbecues. And that's all well and good, and if you want to indulge in some barbecue in Brooklyn, well, you're in luck. There are plenty of options for you, as we recently rounded up with a feature on Brooklyn's Best BBQ. But what I'd suggest for Father's Day is to actually indulge in some Brooklyn nostalgia. Hit up some of the Brooklyn eateries that are most likely to spark memories of your father's childhood—head over to Hinsch's in Bay Ridge (est. in 1946!) for lunch and then go grab some beers at Farrell's in Windsor Terrace where you'll feel transported back into the 70s. It's like you'll be time-traveling through Brooklyn with your dad. What a perfect way to spend the day.
You know what dads like? Beer. And they like history. Dads like history. Someone has to, right? Anyway, you don't just want to get your dad any old six-pack on Father's Day. You want to treat him by getting him a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery's 25th Anniversary Lager. The beer, which, in the words of Mike Conklin is "an awesomely jacked-up, 9% ABV double bock version of their flagship Brooklyn Lager" is also a nice present because the labels feature original work by artists like Fred Tomaselli. This is just one of the many Brooklyn-made booze gifts that you can give your dad. There's also Widow Jane whiskey and gin from the New York Distilling Company and wine from Red Hook Winery. So, drink up.
One of the most important things my dad ever taught me was how to dodge. He taught me how to do this by pegging me with wiffleballs when we'd play "friendly" games in my grandmother's backyard on long, sticky summer days. When he would hit me successfully he would laugh and tell me that I had to "learn how to dodge." So, I did. I learned. And hopefully your dads all taught you how to dodge too, so that you can go with him to play paintball (or laser tag if you're afraid of bruising or something) and practice your dodging skills on each other. It's the perfect Father's Day activity. But, if you and your dad aren't up for paintball, you can also head over to Coney Island where you can play Shoot the Clown. While Shoot the Clown doesn't have the much-missed moniker of Shoot the Freak, it operates under the same principle. Namely, you shoot a guy who is dressed up like an idiot. It's a lot of fun. Do it! Shoot that clown.
Indoor Extreme Sports; 47-11 Van Dam Street, Long Island City (which is not Brooklyn, but there's no paintball in Brooklyn!) indoorextremesports.com
Shoot the Clown; Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney Island
A really cool gift to get your dad—if, that is, your dad is a really cool guy, which I'm sure he is!—is this n+1 tote bag. First of all, n+1 tote bags are all pretty great. But this is my favorite, by far. It's the "I Had an Abortion" tote and , per the n+1 description, it is meant to help "destigmatize abortion." I had kind of wanted to recommend this as a Mother's Day present, but worried that would be confusing. However, if you give this to your father, no one can possible be confused about anything, and can only be confident that your father is an open-minded man who believes in a woman's right to choose.
I Had an Abortion tote bag $15; nplusonemag.com
A watch is a nice gift for your father. But also, just spending time with him is probably all that he really wants. I mean, that's what parents always say, right? That they don't want presents, and just want to spend time with you. Well, maybe that's what you should just do. Hang out with your father. Sit somewhere and talk. Maybe put some Springsteen on in the background (Nebraska, obviously) and ask your father to tell you a story. If you're lucky, he's a good story-teller and you'll hear about the time he and his college friends decided to drive from New York down to Tierra del Fuego but only made it as far as Veracruz before their car broke down, convincing them to stay there for three months before hitchhiking back to the States. Or maybe you'll hear about the time he was in Puerto Rico for a long weekend with his best friend's girl, and how on one of those nights he was so drunk that he almost got a tattoo of a palm tree, but then didn't because, at the last minute, he remembered his mantra, "Why put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?" Maybe this is something he'll say to you if you're thinking of getting a tattoo and even though you know it's ridiculous, you still don't get a tattoo until after he dies. I don't know really what kind of stories your father has, but probably he has some good ones. Most people do. And so even if you do get your father a watch, don't look at it too much, if at all. Just let the minutes slip away. They'll go slowly. Father's Day is always one of the longest days of the year. But that's ok. You've got time. It's a gift.
Brooklyn Watches by David Sokosh; brooklynwatches.com and available at the Brooklyn Flea
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen