ANYONE FOR A PINEAPPLE DAIQUIRI?
Cat Sparks, guest blogging
I turned 40 a few weeks ago. I had a big party and friends gave me heaps of cool presents. But I have to admit there was one gift I was especially looking forward to. Kaaron couldn't make it on the day, but she'd been dropping hints that she'd bought me something special. She'd even casually let the price tag slip: two bucks fifty. Kaaron and I are into the same sort of stuff, and what you pay for this stuff is important. Its like cheating if you pay too much. The last thing she'd given me had cost a dollar: a lacquered slice of tree trunk depicting a shack and palm trees on a tropical beach. Anything with palm trees works for me – I knocked a new nail into the feature wall for that one. It hangs in pride of place above Dimitri, my 90 per cent proof Metaxa 'Greek dry apertif' bottle shaped like an Athenian guardsman in national dress – carried back from Cyprus for me by archaeologist buddy Helen after a dig. Another time Kaaron gave me a copy of 'Power of a Praying Wife' by Stormie Omartin. That sits well next to the Spanking Encyclopedia, vol II and a Carter Brown paperback, The Bump and Grind Murders'.
These treasures and many others are features in what Deb refers to as my 'Wall of Shame'.
I collect disgusting artefacts from around the world: nodding dogs, chocolate cigarettes, wailing mosque alarm clocks – I have three of those. Airline ashtrays, Leonard Nimoy poetry, nekkid lady playing cards, snow globes where it snows in strange places, like Bethlehem and Alcatraz… The oldest piece in the collection is something I purchased as a small child on a trip to the Blue Mountains in the Scenic Railway gift shop. It’s a plastic shrunken head with stringy nylon hair. The pencil itself has long gone but it had the words 'Sorry I lost my head' stencilled up the side. My younger sister confessed many years later that she was bitterly jealous of it.
I've got a plastic donkey cigarette dispenser – guess where the cigarette gets dispensed from; a Gautier cognac bottle shaped like the concord; a light-up venetian gondola, a Virgin Mary pickled in Lourdes holy water; a Sadaam Hussein fob watch and silver scud missile earrings; a 'Master Piece' port decanter in the shape of Mannequin Piss -- guess where the port gets dispensed from. A row of assorted edition James Bond books, a Walther PPK replica cigarette lighter; 'The Outlaw' Automatic presentation set:[The modern Automatic pistol is favoured by the detective and secret service agent for its compactness and ease of concealment…] This particular toy comes with 2 guns, red plastic bullets, BP gun oil and a cleaning brush.
And then there's Cuban cigars, opium spoons, 1920s venetian glass cocktail ornaments; Nymph ladies razor blades, a Skylab souvenir ashtray, Star Trek Ken and Barbie. Deb gave me a Laverne and Shirley LP one year (with the $6 price sticker proudly in place). The album is called 'SING' but the lettering is so unclear that every time I walk past and see it, I read the word 'SLAG' instead… And then there's the ones that got away: precious treasures that for no apparent reason I neglected to purchase when I saw them and now they're gone forever: a talking Peewee Herman, a pineapple ice bucket, Boy George and Michael Jackson dolls.
One time I returned from Kaaron's place utterly frothing with envy because of her British Royal family pop up book. You pulled cardboard tags to make the Queen's corgis jump, Charles and Diana kiss & on the balcony, Princess Anne drink… Rob managed to score me one of those on Ebay for six bucks.. which was just as well cos I was pretty much ready to break into Kaaron's house and steal hers.
So what did Kaaron give me for my 40th birthday? It kinda defies description so here's a photo.
One thing I love about kitsch is the knowledge that somewhere out there is (or was) a factory pumping out the stuff. Just imagine that your day job is sitting on a production line cracking open the moulds of lurid plastic imitation carnival glass buddhas mounted atop roaring dragons. Or maybe you're the dude who gets to add the musical device or the gizmo that makes it light up.
Cat Sparks, Sept 2005
(Cat Sparks runs Agog! Press. She is also a writer, graphic designer, photographer and desktop publisher. In 2004 she was a graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers' Workshop in Queensland. She was awarded the Aurealis Peter McNamara Conveners Award in 2004. She has just returned from Writers of the Future, where she was a 2004 prize winner.
Cat lives in Wollongong and collects horrible things.)