Hawkeye Pop and the Merchandise of Mystery


Christmas is coming, so I've been scanning Ebay for stuff that I don't know what it is.

You see, my dad loves nothing better than to pick up cheap, weird old things.

Merchandise, I mean. It's not like he's out there luring elderly ladies in vulture hats at flea markets, or anything...

(They'd be more than fifty-cents.)

But for the Pop, the more bizarre the item is, the more quickly it needs to come home with him. Particularly, if it's cheap. In fact, if he finds something in a quarter box of junk that he absolutely has no clue what it could be? Why, it provides hours of quality entertainment!

Like this thing. Now, on first glance, you'd think it was a paper towel holder right?...


But what's up with the row of clips at the bottom, and the holes at the top? Not quite right for restaurant order slips... Too small to hold rubber stamps... So, no idea! It's been a cipher for two years now, and he isn't using it for anything...

But, oh, how he loves to admire its brushed steel finish!

Now this jobbie-- a candy dish? nut-dish? a business card holder? something for coins?--it's another fave.


Is it a cat? A monkey? And why does it have the legs of a Vegas showgirl?

You'd have thought my dad had found ancient Egyptian treasure when he came across it, such was his unbridled joy.

All of Thanksgiving, where other families sit around mesmerized by the Macy's parade, glued to football, or just sleeping off the tryptafan-- not us. Nope, we were on Ebay, as Dad honed his keen search skillz, trying to find anything remotely similar to Leggy-Monkey-Cat Butler-- as I like to call it. Anything that might offer a clue to the origins of his glorious prize.

Now, the artwork below was another Dad-find. Part carving... part bedpost... part, er... scary wooden cudgel...? Amusingly, there's a sticker on the bottom of it that reads, "Cowboy."


I understand that art, to an artist, is all about personal interpretation. All I know is, this is not how I personally view John Wayne-- even in his waning years. If a cowboy at all, it's possibly Bubba Ho-Tep. But I somehow think the Pop won't appreciate the comparison of a b-movie horror fiend to his fine $5 folk art.

I like to put it facing the wall when I visit.

Over the years, Dad has accumulated:

  • Electronic mystery meters printed in foreign languages...
  • Gadgets designed to open items lost to the sands of time...
  • Tools that swivel and ratchet and ding for reasons known only to innovators long-dead...

Dad says all of this will be mine someday.

And I tell him how I hope he leads a long, long, happy, healthy life. A long, long life. Really long.

Long.

Of course, some of this is mine now-- as Dad's taste for the unknown ends up having a natural runoff to me when my birthday and Christmas come around.

Each year, I ask that he not trouble himself with these gift-giving occasions. I know it's not easy, and I really don't need anything. I've given him a guilt-free pass to simply forgo the events.

But he insists.

Last year, I received a number of flat porcelain disks, with metal threading in the back of each one. Too flat to be drawer knobs and at the wrong angle for brass bed accents, I opened the box as Dad said beaming,

"I don't know what these are. But there are a lot of them."

Ah. Things like this make being specific in my thank you notes a little challenging. "Thank you for the Christmas mystery disks. I will use them for... something... once I figure out how they work, or what I can fasten them to."

The same Christmas I also received a silver snuff spoon. (No home should be without.)

This item I got for my birthday. I know what it is in theory, but...


It certainly is... different. It's a small mirror made of leather. And metal. And has a carved bone handle. The handle seems to be a dragon or possibly a snake. And, of course, there's our friend Mr. Hoot Owl on the back, with beaded eyes.

I make sure never to read aloud from any old books-- particularly anything in Latin-- around it, lest I inadvertently open up some portal to a heretofore uncontacted level of Hell.

This is my irrational fear. And I'm comfortable with that.

So, back to Ebay... I've been thinking that the perfect way of making my dad very happy for Christmas is to find the unknown.... the mysterious... the questionable... and gift them.

Just think of the hours of fun he can have on Christmas morning, opening up packages of the unfathomable and then researching them online!

And you'd be surprised just how many people on Ebay are selling things with search terms like "what is it?", "don't know what it is" or "do you know what it is?"


Why, there's a whole slew of folks out there making money off selling unidentified found objects. And that's nice to know. Because, again, someday all of this will be mine.

Oh, goody.

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32 comments:

unfinishedrambling said...

Luckily my father hasn't discovered Ebay yet. He's still having quite a time figuring out Facebook -- and the new Facebook, oh, fughgeaboutit.

The mirror looks like something out of Harry Potter. The other things: too freaky to even contemplate. I have no idea. Not that you were asking my opinion or anything. ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Unfinished- Hey, I'm glad for your opinion-- though I'm kind of hoping someone will look at one of the items and say, "OH YES- that is a fill-in-the-blank". And then I can let my dad have closure with some of these things.

Mostly, he just brings the items he finds to dinner with them and quizzes the waitresses and other dinner guests on what they think stuff is. :)

Matt-Man said...

I actually like the "Cowboy" bedpost thing. Even though it looks like the top of magic stick that an African Shaman would use. Cheers!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Matt- Heh, it is well-done, admittedly-- and it DOES look like some sort of shaman staff. :) Dad has talked about giving it eyeballs, but I told him he'd better just leave it alone. I don't want it getting angry. :)

Tiggy said...

Oh, so that's who keeps buying all my old junk on eBay!

Shirley said...

I like the mirror. It does have that storybook kind of feeling.

Chaotically Calm said...

Ha-ha, I have a quick question, where does he house all these lovelies?

Jenn Thorson said...

Tiggy- Heh, got any weird carved things with, like, three heads or something? Because I might be in the market. :)

Shirley- I've certainly never seen another one like it! :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Chaotically Calm- Oh, boy-- that's a story in and of itself.

He was supposed to be downsizing. But, as you have cleverly noticed, he isn't really. So this stuff is in storage boxes, and displayed on various surfaces, and, well, everywhere. :)

Da Old Man said...

One thing you should admit; it seems whenever you become the lucky recipient of one of hese treasures, you are never able to tell him you already have one.
But I can see why you would say, "Oh you shouldn't have."
BTW, those flat discs sound awesome.
Maybe you could do a whatsit post once a week or so.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- If I'm able to net him some excellent things I don't know what they are, I will certainly compile them into a nice gifting post. :)

I think Dad would have kept the disks for himself, only they had transfer roses printed on one side. When I thanked him for them, his modest response was, "Well, what was I going to do with them?"

Just makes the heart all warm and gooey inside, doesn't it? :)

Kirsten said...

I'm glad to know about your dad! I have a few item that he might be interested in. But, then again, maybe I won't do that to you. :)

Jenn Thorson said...

Kirsten- It depends on how desperate I get to find him something for Christmas. I may be in touch. :)

Susan said...

When he goes out for the day, you should charge tickets at the door for the 'Dad Museum'. I'd pay to see some of that stuff...except the bed post. It scares me. Great for a guest bedroom though, I'd say...nobody overstaying their welcome in that room... !

Thanks for sharing this, I loved it!

Jenn Thorson said...

Susan- Fortunately the "cowboy" carving that seems to have been made from a bed post is not attached to a footboard or anything-- it's just a post. So it's, er, portable.

Me, I stay at a hotel when I visit. There's really no room for me right now. :)

chyna said...

Is there a spot on the bottom of the silver thing that looks like maybe it used to be attacted to something? My thought is that it is a cigarette butt recepticle or humidore part. My grandparents had this cool one with those type of clips on the side that held the microphone looking thing and other "stuff".

Maybe the bedpost carving was done by a guy named "Cowboy", leggy cat monkey does look like one of those fanciful candy dishes or a calling card holder. It is pretty interesting looking that's for sure.

You should post a pic of the disks and let us all make a guess. That would be fun. Your dad sounds like my grandpa. His work study at home was chock full of stuff you'd have to wonder WTH is that?!!!!

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- I don't know that I remember turning it over. I don't know much about smoking paraphenalia, but I'll look up humidores to see what those clips might be-- it's a good starting point.

Re: Cowboy- I never considered it might be the artist's name. Now that's a good idea!

Re: your grandpa-- I think most families at least have one person who collect "WTH" items. I think perhaps as I buy things for Dad, I'll post them and let you all guess. That WOULD be fun. :)

Jay said...

LOL! That's funny! I'm drawn to mystery objects too, but at least I try not to buy them all.

The thing at the top is intriguing.

Now I'm off to look for 'what is this' on eBay. Gee, thanks a lot! It had never occurred to me to put that in the search box before.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- Heh, Ebay's going to be wondering why the "what is this" search is suddenly spiking. :)

Chat Blanc said...

Oh my! you poor thing! I wish you well on your quest to find the most unidentifiable object for your dad.

And I must say, that mirror is quite, well, unusual! :)

Laura said...

I have a thing like the first picture. It is for hanging photos. The one in your post is missing the frames which attach to the post. You can turn the post and the frames circle around, showing both sides of each frame.

Chili said...

No Clue on that first item at the top, but it just looks cool

Jenn Thorson said...

Chat Blanc- Yeah, it's some unique artistic style for sure. :)

Laura- You are my hero! Thank you for sharing that info. That was not remotely on our list of guesses. Maybe I'll wait to tell Dad what it is at Thanksgiving when I see him. He'll be a happy man.

Chili- Hey, thanks for stopping by!

Shieldmaiden1196 said...

Its too bad old Earl Proulx from Yankee Magazine shuffled off to the rummage sale in the sky; he used to answer those 'what is it' questions in a column. And he always knew.

That mirror is evil. Looks like something out of a teen horror paperback.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shieldmaiden- Well, at least Laura was able to tell us what that metal picture frame holder thing was-- so that's excellent.

The mirror, yes-- given the owl, I don't know if it's something from the 70s, or if it's influenced by some myth. I just know I've never seen another one like it. :)

mrsmouthy said...

I think Christmas morning would be way more fun if we did it your way! I'd much rather get a mystery object than the easily-identifiable free salad dressing jars my grandma saved up her UPC labels for!

Marvel Goose said...

When I looked at this, I thought of "found art". You see, your dad is just an artist who has not found the proper context to display his work.

Rather than explain in depth, I'll just quote from the good old Wiki:

"Found art derives significance from the designation placed upon it by the artist. The context into which it is placed (e.g. a gallery or museum) is usually also a highly relevant factor. The idea of dignifying commonplace objects in this way was originally a shocking challenge to the accepted distinction between what was considered art as opposed to not art. Although it is now widely accepted in the art world as a viable practice, it continues to arouse media and public hostility, as with the Tate Gallery's Turner Prize exhibition of Tracey Emin's My Bed, which consisted literally of her unmade and dishevelled bed."

ettarose said...

Jenn, I loved this the first time I read it, which fortunately for me I get first peek. I do have a certain ethical take on the carnival so I did not comment then. I may change my ways. I posted a picture with your link at humorbloggers. I was wondering if you knew what it was?

Marvel Goose said...

heck, I decided to just do the whole carnival over again. After further review, I believe that the first object is the hub of a revolving file

Jenn Thorson said...

Mrs. Mouthy- Here's hoping your Christmas this year was salad-dressing-jar-free!

Marvel- Hm... well, it's a nice positive spin, there. I MIGHT be able to convince myself of that... I'll try. It does sound so noble. And not just like, um, stuff from the fifty-cent-box and compulsive shopping.

EttaRose- Heh, thanks! And thanks for hosting the blog carnival, as well. I know it's quite a bit of work. I will have to track the photo you were including. :)

Marvel- Well, it's as good a suggestion as any!

Jessie said...

Lol.What an odd thing.I personaly like the cat monkey butler with the legs of a showgirl but hey...
That Mirror is gorgeous.A little creepy looking but gorgeous :)
So...how many restaurant managers have seen the tall wooden african cowboy stickered...thing?

Jenn Thorson said...

Jessie- How you have clearly grasped this situation and the way it goes down is quite remarkably perceptive... :) I can't attest to manager numbers, but I would imagine waitstaff and other patrons would be in the 5-10 range, possibly some in small groups.