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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Nostalgia can be a stifling thing, particularly around the holidays, and often the best antidote is a sense of humor. Enter Dave Barry. For years now the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist has been poking fun at Christmas with an annual gift guide full of the unusual, the unorthodox and sometimes the simply ridiculous: a travel hot dog cooker, do-it-yourself Pokemon cards. This year he takes on the classic Christmas story, full of childhood memories, Christmas Eve pageants and family, and adds a dollop of bat poop, a Betsy Wetsy Jesus doll and a canine corpse.

Later in the program, bloggers weigh in on the Election Day exit poll blackout and your letters. But first, Dave Barry joins us from our bureau in New York to talk about his new book The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog, and he'll take your calls. His annual holiday gift list isn't out yet, so if you have ideas for that - that very, very special something - our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail us: talk@npr.org. And, Dave Barry, nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. DAVE BARRY (Author, The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog): It's good to be back, and I want you know that I've actually written my 2006 Holiday Gift Guide already. It isn't out yet, but I would be willing to reveal to NPR listeners some of the items that we have this year.

CONAN: Really? I just assumed that you hadn't done this piece of homework as yet and...

Mr. BARRY: Come on, Neal. This is like the newspaper business. We do everything like months and months ahead. We've already written our election coverage, for example.

CONAN: Really?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, we know who won. We wrote it like last July some time.

CONAN: Some time last July.

Mr. BARRY: We run the world, Neal.

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CONAN: So what's on your Christmas guide? Give us a couple of hints.

Mr. BARRY: Okay, I'm going to give you a couple of good ones we got this year. We have for the kids - this is - and I have to stress, all of these are real items. You can actually purchase these items. Why you would purchase them, I don't know, but they are for sale. One of them is the Marie Antoinette ejector head doll.

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Mr. BARRY: That is to say it looks kind of a Barbie. You know, it got a little - it's a Marie Antoinette figure...

CONAN: Uh-huh.

Mr. BARRY: ...we've gotten pretty - but if you push a button, poof, off comes her head. And it's got a spring, so it goes a pretty good distance.

CONAN: Does it have one of those rings at the back so you can pull it and she says let them eat cake?

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Mr. BARRY: No, it doesn't. It doesn't speak. It's just the head shoots off. That's the long and the short of it, so it's either a great gift for a boy or a really terrible gift for a girl.

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Mr. BARRY: Not to be sexist or anything, but I'm just going back to my childhood. So that's one item. And we also have - my favorite and I've got to say by far the most expensive gift guide item we've ever featured - it's called a Cruzin Cooler. And it's a cooler, like a beer cooler that, for reasons I don't understand - it happened in California - they modified it and put a motor in it and wheels on it so you can drive down the street in this - on a cooler, basically.

CONAN: Ah-ha.

Mr. BARRY: And it's working cooler. I mean you can carry your cold beverage in it while you're driving down the street. And I live in Coral Gables, Florida, which is a strict community. It has lots of rules and laws. And I drive my Cruzin Cooler, and I get a lot of attention.

CONAN: I bet you do. Most vehicles are rated on their speed from zero to 60. This would be rated on its speed from zero to .08.

Mr. BARRY: It's a six-pack, yes.

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Mr. BARRY: It's like, yeah, and - but the thing is - advantage of if you drive in South Florida, nobody's really obeying any laws anyway, so it doesn't stand out that much.

CONAN: All right.

Mr. BARRY: But the one - I've got to tell you one other item because I really love it. It's a woodpecker repeller item. And I don't understand the thinking here, but apparently this actually works. If you are afflicted by woodpeckers -and who isn't, really? - this thing, when it hears the pecking of the woodpecker on like on your house, it's attacking, right, a spider drops down. This thing is like eight inches in diameter. The sound makes it come down. It's not a real spider; it's a fake.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BARRY: And the woodpecker is apparently terrified and flies away, because apparently woodpeckers are so stupid that they believe spiders eat them. I don't think that's true in real life, but they're not the brightest bird, possibly because they're just always hammering wood with their heads all day. I don't think I'd be that bright if I did that either.

CONAN: Have they considered the liability if it encounters, for example, a very persistent Girl Scout cookie seller.

Mr. BARRY: Or - yeah, that's what I - that's when we did our gift - you're just thinking ahead. You could have written Holiday Gift Guide this year. We show an elderly person with a heart condition knocking on the door in the first scene. In the second scene, this person is no longer - well, she's not standing anymore. Let's put it that way.

CONAN: Well...

Mr. BARRY: So those are just some of our Holiday Gift Guide items this year.

CONAN: Well, we know that Dave Barry has at least three. We - I still suspect he hasn't finished the darn thing and...

Mr. BARRY: No, it's done. It's done. It's over.

CONAN: ...and if you have suggestions for him this year, that very special gift, give us a call: 800-989-8255.

Mr. BARRY: You're going to stick to your script no matter what.

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CONAN: Well, I got to get calls for something. Nobody wants to talk to you. 800-989-8255. Or e-mail us: talk@npr.org. Your book, though, is set in 1960 in the New York suburb of Asquont. You grew up in the suburb of Armonk, New York. Total coincidence.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. There's absolutely no connection between those two.

CONAN: None whatsoever.

Mr. BARRY: And I actually every year was in a pageant at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Armonk, New York, and this book is set at St. John's Episcopal Church in Asquont, New York. So really there's no connection at all. And at the - there's a young man who is the narrator and is the same age I was back then, whose name is Douglas Barnes.

CONAN: And there's one scene that I'd really like you to describe for us: the manger war.

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CONAN: Is this something that might have happened in Armonk?

Mr. BARRY: Well, yes, it might have. It didn't, actually. This sort of - there are many parts of the book that sort of came from my experience growing up there; but the manger war didn't, but it could have.

In my book, the Catholics have a manger, and just down the street the Episcopalians have a manger. And at some point a manger war breaks out. The -suddenly one morning there appears on the Episcopalian manger, Joseph is wearing a Yankees hat. So he's looking down at the, you know, the baby Jesus, but he's got a - it's like he's a Yankee fan, suddenly Joseph. So the next...

CONAN: And everybody knew he was a Mets fan.

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Mr. BARRY: Exactly. How could that - and then the next day like a football helmet appears on a cow in the Catholic manger, and it goes back and forth. And it escalates, and finally there's trouble at the junior high school. And that's the manger wars.

CONAN: Well, it erupts when one plucky young lad decides to put a bra on Mary.

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Mr. BARRY: Oh, yeah. Well, yeah. It got carried a little too far, the manger wars, when the brassiere appeared on the Virgin Mary. And as Douglas Barnes, the narrator, points out, apparently the Virgin Mary is a big a deal to the Catholics, and so...

CONAN: Apparently, yes.

Mr. BARRY: Apparently so. And so that's when it really gets a little out of hand and violence erupts at the junior high. But I just want to say that that never did really happen except in my mind.

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CONAN: You wanted it to happen, but you...

Mr. BARRY: I wished it had happened, yeah.

CONAN: ...you didn't have the nerve is what you're telling us.

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CONAN: There is a passage - we hope you brought in a copy of the book - that we were hoping you would read for us.

Mr. BARRY: I do. I have a copy, and I believe you asked me to read on page 49 here, so I will read it.

CONAN: Go ahead.

Mr. BARRY: (Reading) I really like Christmas Eve. I think I like it even more than Christmas Day. On Christmas Day you get to open your presents and see what you got, but you also know that Christmas is starting to be over for a year. And by nighttime some of the stuff you got is already broken.

But on Christmas Eve all the tree lights are on and the carols are playing and people are saying Merry Christmas and everything is about to happen, but it didn't happen yet. That's the best time of the year.

CONAN: And this is a book about things that happen on Christmas Eve: The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. It's going to be a stocking stuffer, don't you think, Dave Barry?

Mr. BARRY: It could stuff a stocking, yeah.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: I think.

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CONAN: All right, let's get some listeners on the line. We're sticking to our script about the ideas of wacky Christmas gifts because...

Mr. BARRY: Yes, I'm looking for wacky Christmas gift items (unintelligible)...

CONAN: Because there's always going to be another column you have to write next July.

Mr. BARRY: ...for next year or I could go back in my time machine and put them in this year's, too.

CONAN: All right.

Mr. BARRY: If they're really good.

CONAN: If it's really good. Let's talk with Mark(ph), and Mark's with us from Cleveland, Ohio.

MARK (Caller): Hi, I wanted to call in after I heard you talking about the wacky gifts because there a ton of them out there. My wife and I recently were babysitting for my niece and nephew. She took my niece out shopping, and she was looking for a doll. She wanted one with - that came with a dog, so they found a Barbie with a dog. Now she brought it home and I was helping her unwrap it, and of course they're tied down with 30 million things.

Mr. BARRY: You can't - yeah. You can't get Barbie out of her...

MARK: No.

Mr. BARRY: What is that?

MARK: So as I'm taking it out, and I take the dog out, I look at the back of the dog and there's a hole in the back of the dog. And I start laughing, and my wife is like wondering what is going on. The dog actually has these little pellets that you put in its food bowl...

Mr. BARRY: No.

MARK: ...and you open the tail - or you pull the tail up, and the jaw on the dog drops and you put the food in.

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MARK: You push the tail down, and it comes out the other end.

Mr. BARRY: That's very much like a real dog.

MARK: Yes, and - but she has this little magnetic pooper scooper that you pick it up in, and you put where? In the garbage. Well, the garbage is connected on the other side to the food, so it just goes right back into the food.

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Mr. BARRY: It's the cycle of life.

MARK: Yes, it is.

Mr. BARRY: Well, you know what? I just have ask, because you brought it up, does Barbie do anything like that?

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MARK: No, actually.

Mr. BARRY: Because I believe - I have - my house is - I have a six-year-old daughter, so my house is largely furnished with Barbie dolls.

MARK: Oh, yeah.

Mr. BARRY: Most of them are naked, just for the record, because you can get -as you've probably noticed, children can get the clothes off of Barbie but they really can't get them back on.

MARK: Yes.

Mr. BARRY: So it's - you know, when people say what kind of floor covering do you have your house? I saw we have naked Barbie dolls.

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MARK: Oh, yeah.

MR. BARRY: But anyway, there are no orifices on a Barbie doll, I'm glad to say. I mean not that I'm, you know...

MARK: Thank you.

Mr. BARRY: ...that's a big thing with me, so...

MARK: Neither were there on GI Joe when we were growing up, but of course they weren't anatomically correct back then either.

Mr. BARRY: No, they weren't. They were safe GIs, those GI Joes. They were GI Joes you could send and hang around with Barbie all day with nothing likely to happen.

MARK: Oh, yeah. Well, Mr. Barry, keep doing what you're doing. We love your stuff.

CONAN: Well, Mark...

Mr. BARRY: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Mark, thanks for redefining action figure for us.

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MARK: Not a problem.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go to - this'll be Marie(ph), Marie with us from Lehigh. Is that in Pennsylvania?

MARIE (Caller): That's in Utah.

CONAN: Utah, go ahead.

Mr. BARRY: Lehigh, Utah?

MARIE: And, Dave Barry, I'm a long-time fan. It's great to say hi to you.

Mr. BARRY: Thank you.

MARIE: Yeah, before I get on to my Christmas gifts comments I just want to give you my favorite name for a rock band, because you usually do that a lot in -when you were writing your column.

CONAN: Back when he was working for a living, yeah.

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MARIE: I wasn't going to say that.

Mr. BARRY: Before I got into radio.

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MARIE: How do you feel about the Withered Squash Blossoms.

Mr. BARRY: The what?

MARIE: The Withered Squash Blossoms.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, as a name for a rock band?

MARIE: Do you like that?

Mr. BARRY: It's OK. It's like I think that would have to be a girl band, though. Don't you?

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Mr. BARRY: That would not be a punk band.

MARIE: Okay, only for a girl band.

Mr. BARRY: That would not be like heavy-duty metal guys in that band.

MARIE: No, no, no...

Mr. BARRY: The word blossom.

MARIE: ...more kind of folksy. I'm with you on that.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah.

CONAN: Well, weren't there Gin Blossoms?

Mr. BARRY: That was a band.

MARIE: Oh, you know, they were just cheating on my name.

CONAN: Ah.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, they stole the Withered Squash Blossoms.

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CONAN: I'd always thought of Uptown, the Bronx, and Queens.

Mr. BARRY: As a band name?

CONAN: Yeah.

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CONAN: A trio.

MARIE: Do you like that, Dave?

Mr. BARRY: Or just the Yonkers.

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CONAN: Barbra Streisand already took that.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, she did.

CONAN: Yeah.

MARIE: Okay, here's my favorite from all your past Christmas gifts lists, which are so great. I'm so glad you're still putting them out. My favorite was I think the talking Gollum doll.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, yeah. That was a really fun doll.

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MARIE: Why would you ever do that to your child?

Mr. BARRY: And the thing is...

MARIE: I laughed all day.

Mr. BARRY: This was a very - like of the - of all the things you could give to a small child, Gollum is probably...

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Mr. BARRY: ...but - and he did talk in a creepy way. And when I think - the illustration we used was some child lying, you know, wide awake at four o'clock in the morning with this Gollum doll next to her in bed talking.

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MARIE: It was great. It was great. Thank you so much.

CONAN: Have a very...

Mr. BARRY: You bet.

MARIE: I absolutely appreciate it.

CONAN: Have a very warped holiday season, Marie.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah.

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MARIE: I just want to say I also really appreciate your sensitive article after 9/11. Thank you for that.

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. BARRY: And just for our listeners, I am the one playing the horn right now.

CONAN: We're talking with Dave Barry...

Mr. BARRY: I do everything for this show.

CONAN: ...as if you didn't know. We'll have more - God help us - after a short break. This is the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Dave Barry is with us today. We're talking Christmas memories, holiday pageants and ridiculous gift ideas, among other things. His new book is called The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. We've posted an excerpt at the TALK OF THE NATION page at npr.org.

And while you're there, check out our list of future programs. Just click on More Upcoming Shows. If you have an odd, silly or unusual holiday gift you'd like to see on Dave Barry's annual list - next year's, he swears he's finished this one - give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

And Christmas pageants play a large part in this new book, Dave Barry. I was fascinated by your experience as one of the three kings.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, I was in a pageant at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church every year, and the woman who ran the pageant, the director, had actually been in the legitimate theater in New York City and was a very dramatic person who took the theater very seriously and wanted it to be a really first-class, Broadway-style pageant production.

Unfortunately, she was working with us, me and my friends, and we we're kind of I mean not exactly juvenile delinquents, but we we're really not ideal fodder for a dramatic presentation. So several years where there were big problems with the Three Kings.

In one year, the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh were all played by this woman's antique - well, she had boxes and vases she would bring in - and one year we dropped the vase just as it was time to go on, because one of the kids in the pageant had stuck a rubber cigar in his mouth just to, you know, make the rest of us amused as we were supposed to go out for the three kings. And we...

CONAN: It's that all song: We three kings of Orient are...

Mr. BARRY: Smoking...

CONAN: ...try to smoke a rubber cigar.

Mr. BARRY: Again, right.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: It was loaded; it exploded. Aren't those the actual words?

CONAN: I believe they are.

Mr. BARRY: Anyway, and so we dropped the vase. And I'm not going to name the name of the person who dropped the vase; but if he's out there, he knows who his, Phil Grant(ph). And it dropped and smashed into a million pieces, and so that was kind of loud and we were laughing pretty hard. And then we had to grab Reverend Morris'(ph) Rolodex, and that's what we out to give the Baby Jesus, a Rolodex. Well, we gave him gold, frankincense, and a Rolodex.

CONAN: The Betsy Wetsy baby Jesus.

Mr. BARRY: Well, Jesus was a Betsy Wetsy doll, but you couldn't tell from the audience.

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Mr. BARRY: We didn't have, you know, the modern high-tech, you know, pooping Barbie...

CONAN: I was going to say, was the action figure that it could look up the address of somebody on the Rolodex?

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Mr. BARRY: It could have been handy, yeah.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some more callers on the line. This is Pat(ph). Pat's with us from Northport in Florida.

PAT (Caller): Hello, how are you?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

PAT: I have got to know: Does your book tell you where you can get these toys, because I have got to get me some of those do-it-yourself Pokemon cards.

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Mr. BARRY: Well, that was last year, but if you go to the Miami Herald Web site and search for the gift guide. It's called Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide. You'll want to look for the 2005 one, I think. That tells you where we get them, we get this items. And if you have a problem with that, you can write my assistant at the Miami Herald, whose name is Judy Smith(ph), and she will find it for you.

PAT: Awesome, that is going to save me a fortune in that every time my son goes to Target with me I have to buy him a set. This is going to be great.

Mr. BARRY: Can I just say, sir, you're a really bad father.

PAT: I know, thanks very much.

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CONAN: And in fact we've got child services on the other line.

Mr. BARRY: Your child...

PAT: (unintelligible)

Mr. BARRY: ...you're going to give your child fake Pokemon cards, and you're happy about it. Now let's...

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Mr. BARRY: You should also look at the Marie Antoinette ejector-head action figure (unintelligible).

PAT: Oh, yeah, that's on my list as well, thank you.

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CONAN: Thanks for the call, Pat.

PAT: Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go to Aaron(ph). Aaron's with us from Chagrin Falls in Ohio.

AARON (Caller): Hi, Neal and Dave.

CONAN: Hi.

Mr. BARRY: Hello.

AARON: Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

AARON: I just had an interesting gift idea in the spirit of delinquency. You can purchase these on most geek Web sites. But they are small, keychain-attached television remotes. And you can sit in a public area, if you're irritated with the TV on, you can hit a small button and wait for about 30 seconds and it'll turn about any television off.

Mr. BARRY: I have seen that. In fact, I know a person who owns one, and I think it's a wonderful idea. I speak as a person who spends a fair amount of time in airports. And I don't know if you've ever had that you're sitting at the airport, it's like 6:30 in the morning and it's blaring at you. Now if they were have NPR on, that would be fine.

CONAN: There you go.

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Mr. BARRY: But they're blasting. Usually it's CNN, so it's usually kind of depressing and it's loud. And sometimes they have not only that, but they have, just in case any part of your ear is not filled up with sound at that moment, they have kind of loud, fake jazz playing, too.

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Mr. BARRY: Just so there's noise - and then of course every single person around you is on the phone, so it's a real noise fest, the airport now.

CONAN: The one that I liked, Aaron, was - I think I was reading this in Tom Jones' - or he may have been telling me this story, I don't know, his book about memoirs. At one point he was a B-52 pilot and there was an electronic warfare officer in one of the planes in his squadron that, when they used to take those 52s and fly them real low, that liked to aim - tune the electronic jamming equipment to the correct frequency and open and close every garage door on the whole street.

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Mr. BARRY: That's your tax dollars at work, huh?

CONAN: There you go.

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AARON: Thank you, again.

Mr. BARRY: We should you use that against some country we don't like, like France, you know, because it's a way lower level than dropping a bomb.

CONAN: And it would really annoy.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah.

CONAN: Yeah. Aaron, thanks very much for the call.

AARON: Thank you, bye.

CONAN: Here's an...

Mr. BARRY: But I just want to say, if anybody out there is French. I was just kidding. We really love you very much.

CONAN: And we know that the French do buy books.

Mr. BARRY: That's right, and mine is for sale probably - probably not in France at this point - but if it ever gets over there, I really apologize for the thing about the garage doors. I was against it before I was for it.

CONAN: Now it is dove season here in West Texas, e-mails Keith Winfrey(ph) in Midland/Odessa. The hunters are getting out there special equipment. I have recently seen camo-colored toilet seats that slide into trailer hitches or pickup trucks.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah.

CONAN: The gift that the owners of these need is a seatbelt.

Mr. BARRY: I have already done the toilet - the bumper seat - the bumper hitch toilet seat, believe it or not. I didn't know they came in camo, but just about everything does anyway now, including brassieres, so I don't see why. But this is a toilet seat that hitches - that you slide into the bumper hitch on the back of your car. And it's just about the right height, and you can sit in it and use it as a toilet seat in the wild.

When we did the photo shoot for this for the Miami Herald, the photographer wanted to have it - he thought it would be hilarious to have it by the side of a busy highway. So he took me out to U.S. 1, Dixie Highway and parked the car, put the toilet in the - and I had to drop my pants. Now I left my - I was wearing boxer shorts and I left those on - but sit by the side of the road reading a newspaper, sitting on the - and that's what I do for journalism.

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CONAN: Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice.

Mr. BARRY: That is the picture that we had in the Miami Herald.

CONAN: Let's get Nancy(ph) on the line. Nancy with us from Columbus, Ohio.

NANCY (Caller): Yes, speaking of camouflage. I don't know if this has been on a past list, but last year I got my brother camouflage-colored golf balls.

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Mr. BARRY: You know...

NANCY: And I actually think they improved his game because (unintelligible).

Mr. BARRY: That would be so good for me, because I have only played golf three or four times in my life and what I realized is that when you lose all the balls, then you can leave and go back to the clubhouse and have a beer. So my -I usually - my goal is to get it under two or three holes. I just, you know, ah, sorry. I got no more balls. I'm going back.

So if I had camouflage ones, that would be great. The only thing even better is they make a mock golf ball that if you hit it - it's made out of powder - and it just explodes in a puff of powder and it's gone. Then you don't even have to leave the first tee. You just whack all the balls, they're gone, and go back to the...

CONAN: Nancy, do they come regionally adapted? I mean, you know, New Jersey on one, which has got a little brown in it, and maybe, you know, sand-colored for Utah?

NANCY: Yeah, I don't know, but I think we actually got them from someplace called Stupid.com off the Web.

CONAN: Sounds like Dave Barry's kind of place.

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Mr. BARRY: (unintelligible) Yeah, I've got a frequent flyer number for them -frequent buyer.

CONAN: Nancy, I'm glad I'm not on your gift list.

NANCY: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

Mr. BARRY: Camouflage golf balls.

CONAN: Let's go to Bob, Bob with us from Tallahassee.

BOB (Caller): Yes, I am.

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BOB: I have an inscribed copy of Dave Barry Turns 50, dedicated to a (unintelligible) of Florida somehow. And I was thinking of putting it on eBay to see - I don't know what I should start the bidding at.

Mr. BARRY: I would say it's worth probably a lot less than before I signed it.

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Mr. BARRY: So whatever the list price is, I would drop that baby quite a bit.

CONAN: Now how could you possibly have gotten that signed copy, Bob?

BOB: Well, Dave spotted me at a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Coconut - in South Miami.

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Mr. BARRY: I made him buy it. I made him.

CONAN: Yeah, once he'd inscribed it to you, the store insisted that you had to buy it. It's the same as if they caught you shoplifting or something.

Mr. BARRY: I pretty much - what I do is I walk around bookstores and when people aren't looking I sign books and stick it in their bags and stuff. That's how I do it.

BOB: I thought your announcement that AARP is pronounced aarp as the last sound people make before they die was especially appropriate.

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Mr. BARRY: Yeah. And I just want to stress that I think of course AARP is a wonderful organization. It's right up there with France in my view.

CONAN: Bob, thanks very much.

BOB: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Sid, let's go to Sid. Sid's on the line from - a lot of listeners in Ohio today - Kent, Ohio.

SID (Caller): Yes. Hi, Dave. And, Neal, I love your show.

CONAN: Thank you.

SID: I was calling because when I was a child I really wanted a hockey stick and my parents gave me a snow rake. And I think that should be added to your list of gifts. Do you know what a snow rake is?

CONAN: I don't have any idea. Why would you want to rake snow?

SID: It's a snow rake and it basically rakes snow from your roof.

Mr. BARRY: And they gave you that - did they give you any Pokemon cards by any chance? Because those were probably fake.

SID: (Unintelligible) and that's one way that you can basically ensure that your children will write bad things about you as an adult.

CONAN: Did they give you a ladder and hope that you would climb up and, well, come to your - this was to get it off your roof?

SID: No. There was no ladder involved. And it looks so much like a hockey stick I was so excited. When I opened it up I was just dumbfounded. And I've kept it for years and years and I hope to have it presented to my parents at some point in time when they really need me.

Mr. BARRY: Like instead of medical care you'll give them that.

CONAN: That's right. And their...

SID: I'll show up at the hospital with the snow rake.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

CONAN: Sid, we're glad that...

Mr. BARRY: I think he made that up. I think it's like a skyhook. I think there is a snow rake.

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SID: They come in different colors, too.

Mr. BARRY: I - is camouflage one of them?

SID: No, but you may have a new industry there.

CONAN: White would be an appropriate color, don't you think? You could lose it really fast.

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Mr. BARRY: I can't find the snow rake.

SID: Add that to the list.

CONAN: Sid...

Mr. BARRY: Boy, there's some sick people in your audience, Neal.

CONAN: They are. They are. And what's more they're calling in to talk to you. So what does that say to anybody?

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

CONAN: Sid...

SID: Love your books, Dave. And I have an auxiliary dog named Zippy, too.

Mr. BARRY: Excellent.

CONAN: An auxiliary dog?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. I've long favored the two dog system, where you have a large main dog and then in case there's a problem you have a small, emergency, back-up dog.

CONAN: I see.

Mr. BARRY: Just in case. Just in case.

CONAN: Like those people who have a Mini Cooper in the back of their RV?

Mr. BARRY: Exactly.

CONAN: All right, Sid. Thanks very much for the call.

SID: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Let's go to Virginia. Virginia in Salem, Oregon.

VIRGINIA (Caller): Hi there, Dave.

Mr. BARRY: Hello.

VIRGINIA: I'm calling from rainy, rainy, rainy Salem today. But listen, I love your stuff. I have a wonderful idea for your best Christmas gift ideas.

Mr. BARRY: All right.

VIRGINIA: I recently participated in a very large church rummage sale where we were sorting through tons of debris, and the very best thing I saw was one of these manual potato peelers that you use standing over the sink to peel one potato at a time. This thing had an electric cord attached to it. So I think an electric potato peeler would be a grand idea.

Mr. BARRY: And when you plug it in - I hate to ask - did you plug it in?

VIRGINIA: You know what, I thought about it all night, went back the next morning to get it and somebody had snatched it up.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. They don't last long, those electric manual potato peelers.

VIRGINIA: No.

Mr. BARRY: And that's why you don't see them out there.

VIRGINIA: It probably is a match item to the electric fork.

Mr. BARRY: Well, if you do find one again, I'll sign it and we can put it on eBay and see what we can get.

VIRGINIA: That would be just great.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. Okay.

VIRGINIA: All right. Thank you so much. Love your material.

Mr. BARRY: Thank you.

VIRGINIA: All right. Bye-bye.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Virginia.

VIRGINIA: Bye now.

CONAN: We're talking to Dave Barry. His new book is The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Shelly's(ph) on the line with us. Shelly calling from Niles, Michigan.

SHELLY (Caller): Hello, Neal. I love your show.

CONAN: Thank you.

SHELLY: And hello, Dave, I've read everything you've ever written.

Mr. BARRY: Well, thank you. Even I haven't done that.

SHELLY: My idea is - the Christmas I was 21 came from my mother. And everything that I had left at home that she'd been badgering me to take she wrapped in Christmas paper and put it under the tree.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

SHELLY: So I had to take it.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

Mr. BARRY: I had no idea that there was so much revenge involved in Christmas.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

SHELLY: Well, you know, actually it was...

Mr. BARRY: Did you get a snow rake?

SHELLY: ...the best Christmas Eve I'd ever had because I thought, oh, man look at all the presents.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

CONAN: Had she heard about the concept of re-gifting by then?

SHELLY: No, no. I was 21 about 35 years ago.

CONAN: I see. So there was not a concept then. But you couldn't take them back to the store and get a refund either.

SHELLY: No, no. I couldn't do that.

CONAN: Okay, Shelly.

SHELLY: Thank you.

CONAN: You've never inflicted that on any of your children?

SHELLY: No, but I've suggested it to any number of people.

CONAN: All right. Thanks very much.

SHELLY: Bye-bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go to - this is Jeff. Jeff with us from Portland, Oregon.

JEFF (Caller): Hey there.

CONAN: Hey.

Mr. BARRY: Hello.

JEFF: I love your stuff, Dave. And, Neal, you're a wonderful host. But I had the most bizarre Christmas gift years ago and it's always stuck with me. It was one of these things that's just so bizarre and absurd that I thought you'd love to hear about it.

Mr. BARRY: Well, sure.

JEFF: Of course. Of course. Well, years ago McDonald's had an ad campaign to give away gift certificates instead of burgers. And they had this campaign where the guy was wrapping up burgers and sending them to people. Well, my whacky friends thought that's a great idea. And I got a burger and, you know, cold and several days old, wrapped up.

And I thought well that's fair. So I kept it and gave it back to them the next year. And this became a tradition. We wrapped up the burger and sent it back to each other, and it didn't mold or die in anyway.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

JEFF: It just kind of, like, became solid. And for about four years this went back and forth until it was my turn to send it and I couldn't find it. I was looking around and all I found was the wrapper. My parent's Beagle had eaten it.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

JEFF: Four years on one little McDonald's...

Mr. BARRY: Then you started sending the Beagle back and forth.

JEFF: You know, I think it would have made a case for the auxiliary dog.

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

JEFF: It was the most bizarre Christmas gift in the world.

Mr. BARRY: That's kind of like the proverbial fruitcake that you get and then you give again.

JEFF: Yes. It's exactly like that, but it came in a, you know, little kind of McDonald's wrapper.

Mr. BARRY: In my family - this is absolutely true - we had a fruitcake tradition. It wasn't mailing it back and forth, but my mother and I - my mother was a pretty funny lady in kind of an edgy way - and we used to get every year from this lady we knew a fruitcake. And nobody in our house liked fruitcake. Nobody.

JEFF: Perfect gift.

Mr. BARRY: It was a classic, extremely dense fruitcake. And at some point one year my mom and I kind of got to laughing in the kitchen and we put the fruitcake in the kitchen door just to see if it would - and we slammed it on it just to see if it would...

SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER

Mr. BARRY: ...have any - and so that became a holiday tradition that is still -my mom passed away, but it's one of the most cherished memories I have of her because we would make an elaborate thing.

Oh, look, we got, you know, the Peterson(ph) fruitcake. And I'd say well let me just put it over here by the door. And mom would say well I hope - I'm going to slam the door and I hope there's nothing - oh, no. And that was our - the slamming of the fruitcake in the door.

CONAN: Every family has their tradition.

JEFF: A tradition.

Mr. BARRY: A tradition. I admit it's a weird tradition, but we did it every year.

CONAN: Jeff, thanks very much.

JEFF: Yeah. Thank you.

CONAN: We're going to try to squeeze in one last call before we go and this is Steve. Steve in Livermore, California. Be quick.

STEVE (Caller): Hi guys. We got a catalog last night that we just had to laugh and say we should send this to that guy who does the book. It's a big piece of fudge in the shape of a cow pie. It's called Ms. Pasture Patty's pasture patty. And it's a pound - or two pounds for twice the price - of fudge that looks just like a cow pie. It's even packed in little artificial grass.

Mr. BARRY: And you're confident that it is in fact fudge, sir?

STEVE: Well, I haven't ordered one and tried it yet to be sure.

CONAN: And don't slam it in the door, whatever you do.

Mr. BARRY: Yum.

STEVE: Yeah, really.

CONAN: Steve, thanks very much for the call. Dave Barry, as always we appreciate your time.

Mr. BARRY: Thanks for having me on.

CONAN: Dave Barry's new book is The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. He joined us from our bureau in New York. When we come back, bloggers weigh-in on the Election Day exit poll blackout and your letters.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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