Drag out your sense of humor, useful during this holiday melee, and head to one of my favorite stores, Uncle Fun on Belmont.
If you missed the opera "Nixon in China" last year or didn't, you'll want to grab the irresistible booklet of "Richard M. Nixon and his Family" paper dolls. Other paper doll choices too. Look up to the ceiling for the oversize traditional sock monkey toy.
Toward the back of the shop there's always a swell collection of out of print art and art related books as well as some carefully chosen children's titles. I found a thick origami tome for my grandson and noted a Leger art book, "New Design Miami", "Art Cuba" (from Abrams) and "Arte Latino," all at low prices. Also "50 Favorite Furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright."
I hope someone I know reads this and buys me one of those cool Mexican wrestler masks (see photo). There's an assortment of styles at $22; one could build a collection on the spot.
Tons of stocking stuffers too, such as the shower cap emblazoned with discreet images of raw meat, perfect for my Argentinian daughter-in-law.
Don't panic at the unusual environment, but look around carefully. Staff is pleasant, funny and helpful.
Uncle Fun is at 1338 W. Belmont. 773.477.8223. Check out Southport to the north for parking if there's none on Belmont.
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While you're in the neighborhood, check out African Safari Imports at 3705 Broadway, festively adorned with holiday lights in an otherwise dull neighborhood. The pleasant owner who has lived in the U.S. for some time offers a potpourri of items from all over Africa. I spotted a handsome banner from Burkina Faso (see photo) priced under $100 and an impressive assortment of heavily beaded Yoruba tribal headdresses from Nigeria with three dimensional bird motifs, see photo at right.
The owner has lived here for about 15 years and paints when things are quiet, converting the shop into a makeshift studio. You can view some spare landscapes on the wall in back that he says are reminiscent of his former homeland.
There's jewelry, fabric, handbags, clothing, small gifts, etc. here and a range of tribal music CD's that you're not likely to find easily elsewhere.
African Safari Imports, 3705 N. Broadway, 549.2744.