I love CVS. Seriously. But it’s a complicated love. More of a Freudian attraction/repulsion sort of thing. You know how you can go to Starbucks in any city and have the same pleasant experience? That’s also true with CVS, but, like, the opposite of pleasant. They’re all just a little too dim and vaguely frightening. CVS is sort of like someone wished for a store that sold everything, but they wished upon a monkey’s paw. Every time I step into one, I get the feeling that I’m walking into a Rob Zombie movie.
But it’s the store’s grittiness that makes it so endearing. It’s like if a drugstore played by prison rules. I know there are other places I can fill a prescription and buy a handle of Popov—many of which don’t require a clerk to remove the security cap—but only at CVS does this feel appropriate. Nay, right.
And to be honest, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to do all their Valentine’s Day shopping there. I mean, this is something I’d recommend regardless of the pandemic, but after a year of sitting around being all sad and gross, it just seems extra perfect.
So here’s your special Valentine’s Day gift guide featuring items found exclusively at CVS (specifically the carpeted [shudder] CVS on University and 31st in North Park).
“I Love You a Bunch” Ape
Nothing says romance like a stuffed animal. Yes, it may seem infantilizing and cheap and the epitome of “I was driving home from work and remembered it was Valentine’s Day so I stopped at CVS and, well, here,” like a soft plushie, but also...it’s a red ape wearing boxers. Let’s imagine the development meeting that produced this thing: it’s 3:00 a.m., Chinese food boxes litter the office, everyone is half-crazed. Suddenly, lightning strikes. “I love you...a bunch,” someone says. An awed silence falls over the group. Then, someone else whispers, “It’s written on a banana.” Pure synergy. Finally, the cherry on top: “The banana is held by an ape.” Massive applause. “And also the ape is red and wears boxers!” The applause dies a little because it’s a weird thing to say, but everyone just rolls with it because it’s late and they’re tired.
“Happy Valentine’s Day” bear in mug
A little more practical than red ape, but way less romantic. Bear-in-mug is for the long-haulers: couples who are not wooed by red apes in boxers, who enjoy peaceful mornings together without needing to fill the silence and just passive-aggressively slurp from their “Happy Valentine’s Day” mugs. Ah, that’s amore.
“Hot Stuff” devil dog // “Come N Get Your Love” flower
Nothing gets the blood rushing like a stuffed animal that sings and when you press the “Try Me” button, and these two are especially spicy. Look at the devil dog’s sly grin. He’s definitely gonna cuck you. And the flower’s gesticulating pelvis conjures a litany of unclean thoughts. Didn’t know we’d stepped into CVS After Dark, amirite? (JK, CVS after dark is literally a nightmare and I don’t recommend you going into one after sundown).
Russell Stover chocolate and bear combo
This bear is straight-up a dog toy.
Sports! Gel Cling Valentines
Buying your children these types of non-romantic Valentines is a great way in instilling the value of suppressing their emotions and hiding affection—two qualities that come in handy if you want them to grow up to be successful in most business fields. Granted, it might result in them becoming sexually aroused at the sight of a basketball later in life, but that’s for them to work out, and I’m not here to kink shame.
“Teaching is a Work of Heart” notepad
There’s a whole genre of VD gifts that are specifically aimed at kissing your teacher’s ass. I mean, sure, if this is what you need to get that A, then go for it. But we’ll remember this, narc. Oh, we’ll remember.
Whitman’s assorted chocolates
At $30, The Whitman’s sampler is the most expensive item in CVS’s Valentine’s Day section. We all know that the more you spend, the deeper your love, so I’d only recommend this if you’re in a serious relationship or looking to take it to the next level. The box is covered with thick velvet—the most sensual of fabrics—and it sort of makes you feel like a pervert to touch it. I can only imagine what delights of aphrodesia await in this mysterious vessel. Alas, ‘twill remain a mystery because $30 is a lot to spend on chocolates.
Why’s the strawberry saying “Scented!”? I mean, I get that the putty is scented like a strawberry—it’s just a weird thing to put in a word bubble. This is the kind of stuff you can mull over when your partners break up with you after giving them Puffy Putty for Valentine’s Day.
Tiny Conversation Hearts
Before you go bad-mouthing candy hearts as being the second-worst holiday treat after candy corn (don’t @ me), just remind yourself that we brought this upon ourselves. We, the human race, created this holiday, and continue to celebrate it year after year. We’ve told the corporate overlords that, yes, we do need another occasion to remedy our emotional inadequacies via capitalism. We’ve reaped, reaped, reaped, and now it’s time to sow. So go ahead and buy that dusty bag of chalky confections. Read those little heart-shaped missives and pretend you can feel anything at all. Open wide, assholes, cuz this is your Valentine’s Day.
Happy Valentine’s Day, here’s a balloon. PS: Fuck the environment.
By Kelly Davis (yay, Kelly’s back!)
The Genever Summit
Recently, I was invited to participate in a virtual tasting / education session focused on genever, a Dutch spirit that’s getting a lot of love via the EU’s well-funded “Enjoy, it’s from Europe” marketing campaign. Genever is similar to gin — it’s actually gin’s predecessor — and given gin’s ties to the U.K. (Beefeater, Bombay, Plymouth) the E.U.’s genever campaign feels a little like a post-Brexit victory lap, perhaps? But, really, genever is totally legit. As much as I love a good gin cocktail, I’d gladly swap in genever. “Harmonious” is the word that came to mind as I recently sipped a genever cocktail. Genever’s rich malted barley base really helps tie ingredients together, like a big cocktail group hug.
Here a few genever (juh-NEE-ver) fun facts:
· It dates back to the 1500s.
· Legally, genever can’t be called genever unless it’s distilled in Belgium, the Netherlands or parts of Germany and France that border those countries.
· It must be distilled with a malt spirit (like whiskey) and Juniper berries (like gin). Like with gin, genever distillers use citrus, spices and botanicals for flavor.
· Genevers can be yonge (unaged) or oude (aged). Aged genevers take on a caramel color while unaged genevers are clear.
· If you fly business class on the Dutch airline KLM, you’ll get a cute little ceramic Dutch house filled with genever. There are dozens of different houses. You can build a whole mini Dutch village. I once flew business class on United and all I got was a pair of socks.
· The Dutch have a drinking tradition called kopstootje that involves a genever-and-beer pairing and slurping.
Personally, I prefer the lighter, yonge/young genevers. They’re more versatile. A good starter genever is Bols, which around $32 a bottle, or Rutte Old Simon Genever, which is around $40. If you want to try an oude genever, there’s Bols Zeer Oude ($32) or De Borgen Old Style Genever, which comes in a really pretty bottle ($47 at Old Town Tequila). Whichever genever you choose, try it instead of gin in a Dutch Negroni or a Martinez, or find some great recipes (and lovely photos) here.
My Blushing Valentine
1.5 oz Genever
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes chocolate bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a wine glass and top with 1.5 ounces of sparkling wine.*
*So, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing and forgot about the sparkling wine. The cocktail was tasty without it, but a little sweet. If you want to leave out the sparkling wine, reduce the simple syrup to 1/4 ounce or so.
THE WEEKLY GOODS
Just in case you didn’t realize after reading an entire newsletter dedicated to the subject, Valentine’s Day is coming up. What a strange holiday. It’s sort of like a lose-lose situation: you either use the opportunity to show off how much you love your partner and risk looking like a psycho, or you bristle at the idea of commodifying your emotions with garish trinkets, which makes you unromantic. It’s complicated, my friends. In honor of this complex holiday, I wrote about six excellent, recent-ish books that feature fucked-up love and gnarly relationships. Head over to PACIFIC Magazine to read it.
The San Diego-produced zine Possessed is very funny, but I don’t really know how to describe it without putting myself in the crosshairs of its scorn. The subhead reads: “The fanzine for slackers and haters,” and I think is an accurate description. Reading it reminds me of mid-’00s Vice—smart, funny and mean, but not problematic like old Vice. Strongly recommended for people who like to read about other people’s gripes. The ninth issue just came out about two weeks ago, and I read it the moment I walked in from checking the mail. Just stood in the hall reading, didn’t even sit down. Not that Possessed is a short read—I was just so entranced. Go buy a subscription at the Burn All Books website or you can get the latest issue at Possessed’s Instagram.
Buy tix for this
Golden Globes really flubbed it when they refused to nominate Minari in the category for Best Picture, opting to nominate it in their Best Foreign Language category instead. It doesn’t matter if the film is about a Korean family planting roots in Arkansas during the 1970s, or stars national treasure Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and just about as American of a story as American stories can get. The whole thing smacks of “Well, we gave awards to Parasite last year, so now we can get back to rewarding white movies.” So yeah, fuck that, but the good news is you can now watch Minari trhough A24’s digital Screening Room. I haven’t seen it, but my friend and film expert Glenn Heath Jr wrote about it in his newsletter Afterglow (which you should subscribe to), and said “every frame feels personal, lived.” There are only a handful of shows with tickets still available, so get on it ASAP.
Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.