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April 28th, 2007

We spent some time, tonight, watching the telephone auction on the local public TV channel.

For those of you who have never enjoyed this experience, let me share:

To help finance public and educational programming, friends and businesses are encouraged to make donations of art, antiques and useful items to the station. Then, all programming is halted for a week, as they show endless arrays of other people’s weird cast-offs, and viewers are supposed to call in with bids. Each auction lasts about 10 minutes, and high bid takes the item.

It is mesmerizing.

Items range from the useful (like books of car-wash coupons) to the truly collectible (Hummel figurines and framed art prints) to things that are a little off center or way past their prime. Maybe a business is stuck with an item it can’t sell. Or somebody got a weird wedding gift. Donate it to the auction, take a tax deduction for supporting a charity. And get the thing out of your hair.

And then, there are things that I like to think of as cursed gifts.

Like the hand painted Troll doll on my desk. It came as a gift. It is painted with a metallic nail polish to have a full body tattoo of a face, with a beard where the pubic hair would be (if Trolls have sex organs) a heart on its ass, and a grin like that knife-wielding, African doll that chased Karen Black around the house in “Trilogy of Terror”.

(You either know exactly what I mean, with the Karen Black reference, or you don’t want to. Trust me.)

But anyway, I got this Troll. It’s a gift. And the thing looks like, should I bury it in the back yard, I’ll find it dirt-covered and angry in my office chair the next day. It has a sign in its hand that says “I love you.” It always seems like a threat.

If I ever want to get rid of it, I need to find someone who is willing to take it off my hands, to neutralize the juju.

I think this is how some things end up in the public TV auction.

Tonight, we saw a set of clown paintings, that can best be described as original acrylic mug shots. A full front and a profile of Yum Yum the Clown, complete with orange hair, yellow bow tie, and a mad gleam in his eye.

To make the items more appealing, copywriters have come up with descriptions for each item. The clown pictures were supposed to be “perfect for a child’s room!”

If you want your child muttering, “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.”

And then there was the painted bowling pin, named Marisole, who could sit on your desk and listen to your problems. Although how well Marisole would listen, I am not sure. Her head was smooth and earless. Because she was a freakin’ bowling pin. No amount of latex enamel was going to cover that up.

Go ahead, bid. But don’t let anyone know that your bowling pin has a name.

But the capper for the evening, the item that had me grabbing for the phone:

It appeared to be a painting or print, done on the back of a sheet of glass, which gave it a weird, three-dimensional look. It was framed in wood-grain vinyl (nothing but the best for public TV) and had a heart shaped mat, with laser cut outs along the edge.

It was Xena, the Warrior Princess. And she was about to lay a big, old, passionate kiss on Gabrielle.

And did I mention? It glowed in the dark. They assured us that, if it was exposed to light for an hour, it would glow for up to ten hours, and you could “gaze on it in quiet reflection.”

Mingled with incredulous horror.

They put a value of $125 on it.
Maybe this should have been 125 credits, or 125au, or whatever currency Xena was carrying in her leather loincloth. But the Friends of Public TV weren’t going for it, it had an opening bid of zero, so I grabbed the phone and put $20 on the nose.

And got beat out. Someone bid $26. Actually, the DH suspects that Someone bid $25, and then got trumped by $26.

So, there were probably two other people, in Southeastern Wisconsin, having the same idea as we were. At some point in the future, there was going to be a white elephant party, in need of a gift. Or a wedding of someone we really didn’t like. And then, Xena and Gabrielle were going to come out of the closet (I mean, really. I wasn’t going to hang it in the living room. Come on…) and get wrapped and given away.

The only question is, do you wait until the victim has unwrapped it, and smile and say, “It glows in the dark!” like this was the deciding factor in the purchase.

Or do you wait until they get it home, and let that part come as a surprise?