Living With the King

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 state of droopy-cool. 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 over 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 of a giant Elvis lamp? That maybe we went shopping together, with a fabric swatch to make sure the specific King of Rock and Roll illumination device we picked out matched the window treatments? Is that what you thought? Ba ha ha! Again I say, ba 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 three and a half feet of raw, glaring kitsch. An eyesore. Jarring and jangly, coming at you out of nowhere, like a forearm shiver from a drunked-up hillbilly in the parking lot of the discount smokes and bait shop.

He is a great hulking ceramic beast. 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. Interior designers can only gaze upon him through a pinhole in cardboard. 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. I know they steel themselves before walking in, yet still they flinch at first sight of him. There’s just no way to prepare oneself for how the King dominates the room, overpowers the decor. Afterwards, I hear them consoling my wife like she grew an extra butt cheek.

Which helps explain the tense ritual that occurs this time every year in my house. 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 which 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 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 on to the lawn, set up a couple of card tables to hold additional crap, put a sign up at the end of the street so that that people who felt like they didn’t own enough crap already could swing by and haggle for more.

It was casual and hobby-like. 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 the collectible market went gooney. 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.

By now most people have done a thorough inventory and assessment of their own personal crap. They know it’s worthless. So they figure others must be hoarding all the good stuff, the high-grade, top of the line, primo crap. And they’re out to get some. They want a piece of the crap pie. Before the value falls out of the crap market and crap turns into... well, crap.

My wife recognizes this ruthless scavenger mentality. She 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 Colonel 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 just 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 blacklight posters or inflatable furniture or a driftwood dining set or a car battery ottoman.

The King stays.

By the way, those blacklight posters are worth a fortune in certain crap circles.


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