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King Nut

If Feng Shui were a superhero, Lamp Man would be his archenemy

By Roger Naylor

THERE IS NOTHING smirky or punk-ass about him. That's just something he does with his mouth. He is actually a source of strength, perched in the corner of my home office, all sideburns and twitchy lip with eyes locked in a permanent cool droop. A reminder not to take anything too seriously.

The collar of his rhinestone-studded jumpsuit is turned up high and open at the throat. A blue scarf dangles seductively. His hair is impossibly black, swept back and big, marred only by the bulb and shade protruding from the top of his head, throwing off a hunka-hunka burning light.

If you know me, you know my Elvis lamp. We've been together for more than two decades. He is a holdover from my bachelor days, the lone piece of furniture I contributed to the marriage. What, you thought maybe I bought the lamp while married? That my wife signed off on the purchase? That maybe we went shopping together, with a fabric swatch to make sure the specific King of Rock & Roll illumination device we picked out matched the window treatments? Is that what you thought? Bwa-ha-ha! Good one.

No, "E" and I are a team from way back. He's my talisman, my confidant and, yes--by God, I'm not ashamed to admit it--my friend.

But friend or not, there is still no getting around the fact that the King is 3 1/2 feet of raw, glaring ceramic kitsch. An insult to anyone with even a modicum of taste. So over-the-top tacky he would hurl Martha Stewart into a grand mal seizure. If Feng Shui were a superhero, Lamp Man would be his archenemy, stomping down chi at every opportunity.

When we have female visitors, I hear my wife warning them in a hurried hiss as they come down the hall. Afterward, I hear them consoling my wife as if she had grown an extra butt cheek.

Which helps explain the tense ritual that occurs this time every year. The one where my wife tries to convince me to donate the King to her annual yard sale. After a frenzied bout of spring cleaning, my wife is eager to dispose of any possession that might require future dusting, washing or waxing. She prowls the premises turning her stone-cold appraiser squint on everything not nailed down, built-in or load-bearing, sizing up not only what needs to go but also what will move, what the yard-sale public is clamoring for.

Used to be, having a yard sale was a pretty straightforward deal. Drag a bunch of crap out onto the lawn, set up a couple of card tables, put a sign up at the end of the street. It was casual and hobbylike, a pleasant way for old folks to spend their Saturday mornings. People got to meet their neighbors and paw through their belongings. And if you actually stumbled on some kind of bargain, like a one-wheeled lawn mower without a blade for only a dollar: bonus.

But that was before eBay became a national pastime, before Antiques Road Show convinced everyone that crap plus time equals treasure. Now everyone's a bargain hunter looking for that one big score so they can quit their day job and become a full-time crap trader.

My wife knows how to hook them, knows that certain buzzwords and phrases mobilize their ranks, phrases like "Elvis memorabilia." (She's also after my Elvis toenail clippers and Taking Care of Business melon baller.) Like a Col. Parker with ovaries, she wants to cash in on the King. If she happens to do so by disposing of the ceramic monstrosity currently haunting her house, that would be a happy coincidence.

But I draw the line. The King stays. For the sake of my inner bachelor. And as a memorial to every guy who's ever decorated with neon beer signs or cinder-block shelves or traffic cones or seats swiped from stadiums or black-light posters or inflatable furniture or a car-battery ottoman: the King stays.

By the way, those black-light posters are now worth a fortune in certain crap circles.

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From the April 3-9, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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