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Heart-Shaped Boxes

A Valentine’s Day gift survey

by The Staff on February 10, 2014


Once again, we offered about a dozen and a half local notables a chance to take our Valentine’s Day gift survey. We’re not sure if it’s the harsh winter, the lingering economic doldrums, or perhaps a few recent smashed-up hearts, but we had more than the usual negative responses toward the holiday and the survey (one local singer-songwriter at first replied enthusiastically, then backed out, admitting she’s “never had a great Valentine’s Day; another, a usually effervescent saleswoman, answered every question with “I do not celebrate the holiday”).

However, we went back in time a little and found someone not jaded by modern-day cares and anxieties. We hope his answers lighten things up somewhat and bring some cheer to your Valentine’s Day.

1. What is your favorite Valentine’s Day gift you have ever received and why was it your favorite?

My girlfriend, now wife, handed me keys to a rental car. I got in and it was covered in Valentines decorations. When I started the car our song played, U2’s “All I Want Is You” (featured in Reality Bites). It was such an adorable gesture, I teared up. The Casino we stayed at was icing on the cake. My best Valentine’s gift was a song. —Jon Russell Cring, Troy, director/filmmaker

My late grandmother called me one Valentine’s Day to wish me a happy day and informed me that I would forever be a special person and loved by her regardless. Probably the sweetest and most memorable thing that’s ever happened to me surrounding Valentine’s Day. —Mateo Vosganian, Queensbury, drummer, Wild Adriatic

A home-cooked meal is probably my favorite “gift.” Avoiding the crowds and spending a quiet night at home is worth much more than stuffed animals and chalky heart candies. —David Siewert, Watervliet, general manager, Upstate Concert Hall

My best friend gave me a very snarky Valentine two years ago and I refuse to throw it away. It’s an old-school style card, on construction paper cut into a heart shape, collaged with materials from a vintage magazine, fit for a single lady with a good sense of humor and, thankfully, good friends! —KC Orcutt, Albany, writer

At one point in my life I wanted to change my last name. I sent my father an e-mail asking his opinion, and having never heard back, I assumed he was disappointed. A week later on Valentine’s Day I received a pen engraved with my new name from him. I never did change my name, but I have always cherished that pen and that gesture. —Emily Zimmerman, Troy, assistant curator, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)

I do not know this Valentine goddess. Our Goddess of Love was Hathor. She was also the alter ego of Sekhmet the Destroyer. My favorite gift at the Festival of Hathor was red beer—and lots of it! —Ankhefenmut; prior residence: Karnak, Thebes; current residence: glass case, Albany Institute of History & Art; prior profession: sculptor and priest at the Temple of Mut; current profession: museum exhibit mummy, AIHA

2. What would you like to receive this year for Valentine’s Day?

Just a quiet night at home with my wife, enjoying her company. Since we’ve both always worked in the restaurant industry, we usually celebrate a day or two late. —Evan Brown, Oneonta, executive chef at Café Ommegang in Cooperstown

A large dose of joie de vivre. –Emily Zimmerman

Majority of the time, the way to my heart is through my stomach, so I’d be happy with a delicious meal, preferably cooked at home. –KC Orcutt

I’d love to see my friends and family happy and healthy in their relationships, new or old. —Mateo Vosganian

Lingam massage . . . tantric massage. –Jon Cring

Fresh dates and flowers. I miss fresh things. –Ankhefenmut

3. What is the best (or most well-received) gift you’ve given someone else?

That’s a secret. –Emily Zimmerman

I gave my wife Siu a four-foot tall orchid. –Evan Brown

I can’t remember if it was Valentine’s Day or not, but my favorite gift I’ve given was for my friend who wasn’t allowed to paint his apartment at the time. He’s a huge fan for the show Arrested Development, and we found that we had that in common early on in our friendship. I gave him a couple small canvas boards smeared with blue paint smudges and fingerprints, just like the episodes with the character Tobias where he joins the Blue Man Group and leaves traces of blue paint around his home on the show. My friend was able to hang up the canvases with the paint stains and have little reminders of the show and inside joke in his apartment as a result. I thought I was clever. –KC Orcutt

The best things aren’t necessarily the most expensive or creative. Usually even something as basic as candy works well as long as there is thought behind it. A specific candy you had on a special evening or a small gift that she may not even remember caring about. Candy always works. Brownie points if it is from a memorable moment. —David Siewert

I flew home from a tour with only eight hours to actually spend with an ex-girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. She was completely taken by surprise and then four months later I found out she was cheating on me. Moral of the story: Whoops. —Mateo Vosganian

Isn’t the gift of my company enough? –Jon Cring

A sculpture for the Goddess Mut, my patron. (I carved it myself.) Plus, I served as her priest all my life. –Ankhefenmut

4. What is the naughtiest or most unusual Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever received?

A flesh-light, but I ended up using it to hold spare change. –Jon Cring

In my mind there is nothing more transgressive than scent. I am not talking about heavy perfumes that assault your nostrils from a mile away, but that subtle, age-old art that is unrelentingly personal and intimate, subverting both logic and language. These kinds of scents are rarely found at your local mall (except for the classics), but must be sought out from the great noses. If you need a place to start, go to Element (Hudson), which carries a good number of hard-to-find perfumes.–Emily Zimmerman

My friend Christina Stott makes naughty art and jewelry, perfect for gift giving. A couple of her pieces have a happy home in my apartment. –KC Orcutt

An ex once set me up on a surprise Valentine’s Day date with my best male friend when she was out of town on business. He and I had a very romantic dinner for two, and I never called him again. At least not for a date. —Mateo Vosganian

Naughty? To us, loving is natural. Has it really changed that much in 3000 years? (Oh wait, I did see some interesting things at Lark Fest last year . . .) –Ankhefenmut

5. Is there any popular Valentine’s Day gift you could do without?

Cards. They are always to frilly and glittery. By the time I throw them out, there’s glitter everywhere. Don’t tell my mom that though. She always sends me a card. —Evan Brown

Stop giving me those hearts with all the different chocolates that aren’t labeled. I don’t want chocolate surprises. I want a very specific kind of chocolate deliciousness and every time I open that box and eat a crappy chocolate I think of you and how mad I am at you. Happy Valentine’s Day. —Mateo Vosganian

Not a fan of stuffed animals. –KC Orcutt

Poorly made chocolate. –Emily Zimmerman

Teddy bears. They sit there on the shelf or dresser and do nothing. Yet hold just enough meaningless “value” that you can’t just throw them away. Except of course, the teddy bear my wife (then girlfriend) got me when we were much younger. I have stopped our beagle from ripping it to shreds several times. —David Siewert

Have you ever tried edible underwear? It’s really just fruit roll-ups. Like the Fruit roll-ups factory sells off all the extra and misshapen product, it gets melted down and turned into undergarments. –Jon Cring

Candlelit dinners. Fire bad! –Ankhefenmut