The Devil’s Decor

 

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One or two of you might remember this photo. It was the featured image on my post about storage units. This lamp, this six-foot tall, 80 lb bronze snake lamp had been in my storage unit for ten years. That’s right, I said TEN YEARS! You might wonder why. Well, so do I.

It all started twenty years ago on a family trip to Jim Thorpe, PA. We were browsing in an antique shop when my late husband got excited and stopped in his tracks. He said, “Honey, look at that lamp! Man, that’s great looking!” I answered, “What lamp?” There was only one lamp on display in the store but I didn’t want to believe he meant the hideous thing in front of us.

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I mean, look at it! It has a red glowing eye. The long tongue is extending out four inches. And it’s looming out of its basket and standing on its tail. So not only is it ugly but it’s a menacing snake lamp. I felt it was impossible for anyone who was serious about decor to work this curious floor lamp into a design concept. But because of B.T.’s attachment and the support of clueless children, we loaded the stupid thing awkwardly into our minivan for the drive back to Massachusetts. (It served those kids right to spend the five-hour trip maneuvering around the tail to reach their snacks. The tongue kept poking the youngest. The oldest spent the trip holding the heavy yellow glass shade which unfortunately didn’t break.)  I tried to get B.T. to take it down to his basement man cave but he wanted to see what it’d look like in the family room. He thought it was unique and stylish. If I could have lifted it by myself, I would have taken all that uniqueness downstairs as soon as he next left the house but I couldn’t so there it stood for all the world especially my friends and neighbors to see.

In the following years I had to pretend to be obsessively interested in rearranging the furniture so I could move it farther and farther into the corner of the room. I even tried hiding it behind the curtains. Nothing worked. It’s so big some part of it was always visible. I felt like the mom from A Christmas Story who had to deal with the leg lamp. At least that was small enough to push over.

When I downsized to a condo I had to put some furniture into storage. The snake lamp was the first item in, way in the back. I would have tried to get rid of it then except the offspring were sentimental about it. I kept the unit longer than planned but I disposed of everything over time…except the lamp. Last month while visiting family in Boston, I closed out the storage unit. The lamp was the only thing left. I wanted to sell it and have the buyer pick it up at the storage place. I thought maybe I could get $100 or so for it. I checked online (well you do, don’t you) and my luck, the thing is worth a little coin. I guess the lamp is in the style of Edgar Brandt’s La Tentation. Who knew it was a thing. Apparently there are other people who like the style and can make it work. My serpent isn’t worth the price of an original but it’s worth more than I thought, damn it.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Yup, I loaded up the red-eyed devil lamp for yet another long car ride. This time it was just me and the snake from Boston to Alexandria, Virginia where I now live. There were a couple of times I thought I heard it hiss.

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So where is the lamp now? You already know. The Edgar Brandt style, six-foot tall, looming, intimidating viper is taking up valuable real estate in my living room right next to the one window. I can’t believe I’m living with it again. It scares my grandkids so I have to cover the head when they come over. But it’ll stay there until I can unload sell it to a susceptible  discerning buyer. How did this happen? I can only assume it’s because I’m in hell.

Of Love, Loss and Storage

Like most folks, I have my guilty pleasures when it comes to TV. You know, those shows you don’t readily admit to watching and that you try to justify by likening them to car crashes from which you simply can’t look away. I’m sure you have yours and I’m sorry if I’m holding  up an uncomfortable light in the darkened room where you indulge in your decadent viewing. In fairness, I’ll tell you that mine are (cough, cough) “Bring It” or as I like to call it, “Why Are We Teaching Our Girls To Be Strippers” and Married At First Sight (how old am I again?) Much as I’d like to say otherwise, you can find me sprawled out on my bed, chip bag in hand (if I’m going to be bad, I believe in going all the way) eyes glued to the TV when those two shows are on. I also read the live tweets while they’re on although I don’t tweet myself out of the fear one of my 10 followers will find out that I’m a trash TV watcher.

 

Funny I should call it trash TV because the kind of “reality” shows I can’t watch are the ones about the buying and selling of storage units. I think the philosophy behind these programs is supposed to be “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but that’s not how it feels to me. When I see the ads the tag line I come up with is “pricing peoples’ memories” and it makes me sad. Maybe it’s because I took a trip to Boston last January (just ahead of the hundreds of blizzards) specifically to empty out my storage unit and it made me sad. I’d been paying to store my stuff from other life for over five years. I no longer live in Boston, my kids are grown and it was time to move on. Plus I was anxious that I be the one to determine what happens to my things, not the storage company or mother nature. The junk people stood by as I opened each box and decided which of my memories to keep and which to throw into the dumpster. I had to touch each one of my children’s old toys and my late husband’s golf trophies then let them go. I kept the tears at bay for the sake of the junk folks and for my granddaughter who happily ran up and down the long corridor of doors, making a new memory of her own.

The snake lamp I couldn't throw away.
The snake lamp I couldn’t throw away.

 

That’s why those shows seem cruel to me. I can’t believe none of those buyers feel empathy for the people whose belongings are in those units. If they do, they don’t display it for the cameras. They paw through the discarded, abandoned, forgotten items making callous remarks like “Chump change,” and “This is nothing but a dump.” Surely they have keepsakes of important times of their own. Surely they have experienced the loss of a possession that was special to them. Perhaps they lost a loved one and hang on to a material object as a way of hanging on to the person. I think if I were in their position, the first time I saw something that even remotely reminded me of a time in my life, evoked a memory from my own experience, I’d have to pull down the heavy steel door and walk away. I feel the least they could do is talk about it on camera. They could allow the viewer the real emotion in wondering out loud about the circumstances around each unit owner losing their belongings.

 

But they don’t. At least, not that I’ve seen in the half minutes I’ve been able to stomach watching a couple of episodes. Instead they greedily assess the contents, then scurry to the nearest dealer or retailer with anything deemed valuable to sell the goods for the best price. Big red plus or minus numbers appear in the corner of the screen to let the viewer know whether the buyer was a “winner” or “loser” on any given unit. But isn’t the underlying understanding that the unit owner is the ultimate loser? Then again, maybe not. After all, those buyers also get the karma attached to disposing of other’s possesions without knowing the provenance and good luck with that. Anyway, I threw my junk in a dumpster. Maybe one day I’ll have the guts to throw in my TV.