I shoved it right into the barf bag. Funny. Until now, the in-every-seat-pocket-in-front-of-you Sky Mall® catalog never bothered me. Aux contraire. It had been a welcome time killer, always good for a chuckle or two and a few minutes of escape from the reality of being wedged into an economy seat. It also helped me forget for a moment the self-diagnosed possibility that the thigh pain, that began after something resembling food was served, was actually the onset of deep vein thrombosis.

That was then. Now, WHEN Main Street is battered by high unemployment, foreclosures, rising commodity prices, inadequate or non-existent health insurance and is bent over double on the receiving end of a non-consensual butt ramming, WHILE the fiduciary wizards who were in the driver’s seat high on irrational exuberance (and apparently divine instruction) for the largest financial joy ride and ensuing wreck since the Great Depression are, having been made whole by our tax dollars, cachinking larger cachinks than ever before, the SkyMall® catalog just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What was this perverse anachronism, this symbol of the great disconnect between those too big, too entrenched, too connected to fail and the rest of us teetering on the precipice of the crater left when the grand illusions of the years past imploded under the weight of superficial substance, doing in my face?

Okay. Agreed. A bit dramatic. After all, the SkyMall® catalog is nothing but a tabloid designed to take advantage of one’s susceptibility to retail therapy when decision-making is compromised by the mind numbing drone of too many in flight hours. And yet there are similarities, it seems, between the too good to be true products (destined to fail to deliver on what is promised) being peddled by SkyMall® and the financial shenanigans that have shattered the world’s economies. Take collateralized debt obligations. You (the uber-savvy upper crust ivy credentialed seven figure optioned better than the rest of us greedy fucks) start with crap – shit-loads of sub-prime mortgages pushed on suckers who should never have been in the game in the first place – and scoop dollops of this sludge into a big pot, disassemble, reassemble and stir up this toxic brew until “Presto!” you end up with a three Michelin star concoction except that this witchcraft is exempt from all scrutiny and instead of stars the goop gets triple A’s as in Triple A Rated Securities. Nice. If that doesn’t bear some similarity to the promise of never again having to scoop poop out of a liter box, as promised by one of SkyMall®’s products, I’m not sure what does.

Still, why this vehement reaction?   Don’t many of SkyMall’s® products better our lives? Sure. For a price, SkyMall® offers solutions to your problems of too much hair[1], not enough hair[2], pimples[3], cold sores[4], bed bugs[5], bugs[6], bacteria, fungus, bad odor[7], cardiac arrhythmias[8], nasal dryness[9], poor circulation[10], bunions[11], lower back pain and so much more. These classic phobias may have been at the forefront of our worries during the bubble years when we, flush with the sense of well being inspired by easy credit for all, faster cars, bigger homes, smaller phones, flatter TVs and whatever else was necessary to keep up with the Joneses (complements of a second mortgage and the delusion that real estate value would keep going up up up) needed something to be worried about.

Today’s reality is more devastating. It therefore seems particularly crass that the first product to be featured in the Late Spring 2011 SkyMall® catalog is “the solution to dog anxiety – guaranteed!” Now I own three dogs and while I am just as concerned as the next person about the mental health of my furry friends, it struck me as out of touch – in the same way that the President of the greatest country on earth once marveled at a supermarket bar code scanner – that the “Thundershirt” doggie jacket is what the good folks at SkyMall® teed up as an appetizer to the smorgasbord of the “must have now don’t know how I lived without it” offerings.   Interestingly, the “Thundershirt” doggie jacket works on the same principle as swaddling does with a colicky infant or as pressure shirts may for autistic children. The constant pressure exerted by this vestment (available in seven sizes) is said to have a “profound calming effect for most dogs when anxious, fearful or over excited.” This can be used for the fear of thunder, fireworks (the celebration is apparently continuing for some), separation anxiety and more. I now know that whenever I am feeling a little edgy, relief is just a tight shirt away though I’m admittedly self-conscious about how pronounced the undulations of my mid section then appear, but given the overall benefit of the therapy this tradeoff seems worth it.

Continuing along the theme of stress relief – for Homo sapiens now – the Head Spa Massager at $49.95 (only nine bucks more than a large size “Thundershirt”) seems like a veritable bargain. Looking like an early prototype of Robo Cop’s helmet, this “patented Italian design incorporates Japanese engineering” and can be used at home or at work (if you have a job) and guarantees to “relax away migraines and more without drugs” (emphasis added). Impressive, except that you would have to be ON drugs to be caught sporting this back to the future contraption. The spa theme is echoed with promises of a “spa like environment in the comfort of your own shower” thanks to the “Relaxing Magic Showerhead” that magically (appropriately) causes “seven colors to fade from white to yellow to orange to red to purple to blue to green.” For those who have always wanted to “enliven their shower experience” (me definitely) a mere $59.99 will “transform your regular shower into a fountain of brilliant fun.” Think of it as your personal though watered down version of the Bellagio fountains in the comfort of your own shower stall.   Speaking of showers, a full on replica of the “The Peeing Boy of Brussels” cast in quality designer resin and finished in genuine faux stone is available for only $99.95, though the more desirable piped in version of the lad, capable of a faux pee effect, sets you back an additional $100. These guys should get together with the engineers at Relaxing Magic Showerhead and capitalize on the obvious synergies. That the term “faux” is bandied about as much as it is and that it is accepted as indicative of a redeeming quality is a testament to the pliability (euphemism) of the consuming public and how deeply we have all swallowed the hook.

I didn’t know this but every real man needs “a stainless steel BBQ Branding Iron.” I’ve always felt that cleaning the pit, firing up the briquettes (especially the non self lighting kind) and manning the grill were manly endeavors, but I concede that searing my initials on a slab of beef would kick up the manliness factor several notches. $59.95 seems a small price to pay for the boost in self-confidence you’ll radiate at the next BBQ. I know. An ordinary beer cozy is going to look glaringly out of place next to your branding iron. Fortunately for $19.95 (or two for $29.95), “Tex the Armadillo Beverage Holder” is “rough-n-ready” to “protect” and hold your frosty beverage of choice cleverly gripped between his paws and balanced upon his whiplash tail. Tex we are assured “is a sure-fire conversation piece.” What is not disclosed is that this conversation will take place behind your back and be something to the effect of, “I think he’s loosing it.”

The people at SkyMall® have identified relaxation as a major need among their customers and every other product seems designed to provide you with just that. What could be more relaxing than a round of golf especially if one is equipped with the “Weed Whacking Golf Driver?” Clearly one of those “why didn’t I think of that” products, this golf driver features a bottom that flips open to expose a string trimmer that allows for “surreptitiously improving one’s lie.” Eat your heart out Q. If you plan an early tee time you may want to invest in “the civilized butler awakening device” that substitutes rude buzzers and alarms with a “charming and amusing message” such as “I’m sorry to disturb you, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient I agree. I believe it is the rotation of the earth to blame.” Skeptical? The recorded voice is that of the British actor Stephen Fry of Jeeves fame and there are more than 180 unique messages. Thus, assuming you use your alarm once a day, it will be at least six months before you hear the same message twice. Only $99.95.

I think we all agree that “life’s too short to drink fine wine from paper cups.” Thanks to SkyMall® this is no longer something you have to worry about because for $19.85 you and yours can sip your fine wine from a set of packable (the kit collapses into two parts) wine “glasses” made of “virtually indestructible BPA-free plastic,” the choice of plastic over paper never having been easier.

[1] No!No! personal-at-home hair removal system $270

[2] X5 Hair Laser $199 or HairMax Laser Comb $459 or I Restore Hair Laser $499

[3] No!No! Skin acne clearance system $180

[4] DermaSeptic $99.95

[5] Nano-UV Wand $159.99

[6] The Keep Your Distance Bug Vacuum $59.95

[7] Nano-Silver Sanitizer $299.99

[8] Handheld ECG Monitor $229.99

[9] SkyCap Swabs Round Tip (4 swabs) $9.99

[10] Leg Elevator $79.99

[11] The Original Foot Alignment Socks $19.95