Full Circle: Splendiferous Junque

Published 9:27 am Friday, October 14, 2016

Kitsch: an object of tawdry design, appearance or content; gaudy, sentimental, tacky — with the intent of appealing to undiscriminating taste.

Could this, perchance, describe me? My possessions? What I mean is this. When it comes to the things that surround me, I can be serious for only so long before I must break free of the accepted norm and add an element of the ridiculous. Surely I would die of boredom if I did not.

But, how, I wonder, could I really call my unorthodox treasures tacky? Hmmmm, let’s see. For starters what’s so brazen about the resplendent tin mermaid who hangs on our sun room wall? Don’t all sun rooms have mermaids with large outspread wings and even larger outspread bosoms? And don’t all mermaids, like mine, have a face with the perfect likeness of Frida Kahlo … ala the infamous unibrow? I believe I’d call this art. Wouldn’t you?

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Then there’s the black iron table lamp. Under the bulb sits a pug who pugnaciously dares anyone to turn it off. You see, it likes basking in the spotlight. Surely, though, that cannot be deemed re-pug-nant. Or how about the flower pot on our patio that is the head of a woman? Actually it’s her empty head for there is a hole where her brain should be. In it I have inserted a fern which makes her look like she has big bushy funky green hair. What empty headed woman wouldn’t want big bushy funky green hair?

You see, folks, these things are not junk. They are my splendid junque! Here’s another example of what I mean: the gray cement true-to-life, knock-off of a teenage pig that resides outside our front door. He looks like the real deal although I’ll be the first to admit he’s a tad inert. Actually, he hasn’t moved a muscle in all the twenty-five years we’ve owned him. He also has never complained about being out there in the elements with no coat in the winter or swim suit in the summer. People could take a lesson from our pig’s stone cold stoicism.

Indeed, I was so inspired by him that I was moved to get him a pig partner. She is my newest art acquisition which I recently purchased at the Mower County Fair. As I strolled down the main drag of the grounds her sheet metal body irresistibly beckoned to me, breaking down my powers of sound reasoning. Thus I snapped her up before good sense intervened. My new porker is name  LaVerne and I will admit that she arrived at our door in a sorry state. Her entire being — from head to tail tip — had a most unattractive sheet metal gray pallor. This I quickly remedied, albeit, by jazzing her up with pink spray paint from Ace Hardware. Who, after all, wants an anemic pig in their yard? Even if her name is LaVerne?

LaVerne lives on the hillside in our backyard overlooking Turtle Creek. Out there she is like a mute sentry never announcing, pronouncing or denouncing anything. At first the abundant deer population was startled by the new occupant who had moved into their formerly sole territory, but now they simply ignore LaVerne altogether. Actually I think they do find her somewhat on the tacky side. It’s either that or they just regard her as an unrecognizable woodland creature who has inexplicably hatched from a bright pink sheet metal subgenus.

Returning to our sun room — and giving it some serious thought — I’ve concluded that, yes, it may well be Kitsch Central. Leading the pack is undoubtedly the large wooden Mexican merman. Note I did not say “maid.”  He sits on his long mer-manly piscatorial tail with outstretched hands imploring us to approach him for a hug. It’s either that or he’s begging for money. Not sure. He is resplendent in rich colors and … oh, yes … he has a long curly beard and flowing black tresses. Ariel would be smitten. Fabio would flip out in a jealous rage.

Next to merman is the clay reclining figure of a bikini clad woman. Her swimsuit is size 3. She is size 24. But … but … it’s polka dot and she has a real pretty face! Honestly, she could never be construed as being questionable taste, could she? Besides, she lies on top of a real honest to goodness, hundred-year-old Japanese Shinto shrine. They are, I suppose, artistically somewhat juxtaposed; oddly paired. But, isn’t this the very kind of thing that made Picasso famous? Let’s face it, no one ever called Pablo kitschy, did they? Weird, yes. Kitschy, no.

And what is so tawdry, I’d like to know, about the bare naked lady who sits in a flower bed in one corner of our yard? She stands on a Greekish pedestal and apologizes for her behavior by wearing a frothy sash which cascades down her white marble nudeness. But, do not rush to conclusions here. She is a modest maiden. Yes, she is. To demonstrate this, she is hiding behind two needly Arborvitae. At Christmas I bedeck her with a bright red felt stocking cap and scarf so she won’t be cold. Santa thinks she’s hot!

Even I will admit that quite possibly the best candidate I have for true tawdriness is my 9” replica of a man’s suit jacket. But hold on. This is not just any old suit jacket, mind you. This one is molded out of a screen. Yes, the very thing you put over your windows to keep mosquitoes at bay. One has to be madly enthralled with a person who could create such an object d’art out of a building material. I spotted the suit jacket one day at a rummage sale. Instantly love sparks glittered across the garage floor. Sealing the attraction was the 25 cent price tag. Within moments the treasure was mine. Mine! The suit jacket sits in my bathroom where I relish it everyday. Because I suspect there may be a chance of its questionable taste, I have tucked a tiny red silk flower in its lapel. Kitsch with class! In case of a house fire, there is a good chance I may grab it first, ignoring the albums of our children’s baby pictures.

Additionally, I could not possibly write this column without the mention of Duane. Lots of folks know him. He’s my almost life-sized papier mache likeness of a zebra. What? Doesn’t everyone have a zebra named Duane?

Let it be known, however, that I have my limits. I have neither a stuffed pheasant in my front entrance nor a moose head hanging over my fireplace. I do not have pink flamingos or a fake deer in my yard. (And just what is it with those fake deer on Austin lawns, anyway? For Pete’s sake, if anyone wants a real one, I’ll gladly give them one. Six?)

Meanwhile, what can be said about those people who leave their Christmas decorations out all year long? You know who you are. I realize that it saves time and effort come December, but come on now, poor Mary and Joseph sweating out on the front lawn in June with sparkly plastic icicles hanging from the gutters above them? It just doesn’t seem right.

And while we’re on the subject of undiscriminating taste, let’s talk for a moment about bra straps. They’re all over the place! Didn’t we girls used to hide them? Like weren’t we embarrassed if they showed — akin to our wishing for an instant death? And if it happened in school, wasn’t the mortification reason enough to change schools to a distant district … say Greenland … where no one knew us?

Furthermore, what about slips? Slips showin g! Hands down certain grounds for quitting school … or the lesser evil … hari kari. But, then, what’s a slip? It’s 2016 and no one knows anymore. Girls, go back to your old school days when underwear was supposed to stay … well … under! That’s why they called it that. It seems that nowadays some boys believe the waistband on their skivvies is an accessory. Like a belt. Something to show the world. I’ve even seen their rumpy backsides exposed down to their jockey leg bands. It makes me wonder what will happen next? Forget the jeans and wear only the briefs? Doesn’t leave much for the next elimination round, does it?

The truth is that kitsch is as personal as your choice of toothpaste. You love yours and I love mine. You probably think your kitsch is really keen. I can assure you, however, that mine is Keener!
Peggy Keener of Austin is the author of two books: “Potato In A Rice Bowl” and “Wondahful Mammaries.” Peggy Keener invites readers to share their memories with her by emailing maggiemamm16@gmail.com. Memories shared with Keener may be shared or referenced in subsequent editions of “Full Circle.”