8/29 -- What Dubya Didn't Buy Me.
Yo! Batman!

This is a wall decoration from Spanky's, a restaurant in Fredericksburg, VA. Spanky apparently has a bit of a Batman fetish, so he can't be all bad.

Last Friday, Bill and I played hooky from work. Our mission: to cash in our tax rebate check, split it up, travel to the funky little antiques district in Fredericksburg, VA, and buy ourselves something totally impractical, frivolous, but yet fun. (Yeah, we could have invested it or something, but ... pffft. Who needs to be a grownup?)

I have no problem whatsoever with spending my money. I learned something interesting about myself this weekend, though: if I go somewhere with extra money actually earmarked for a shopping spree, I'm much less likely to spend it. (Whereas I'll take the $45 that needs to last me for another week to Borders, and I'll walk out with two new books and a magazine and plans to dine on microwave popcorn until the next payday.) If I've got honest-to-God spending money, I don't want to waste it on just anything. I get picky. I get practical. I get a conscience, and that's a totally new and not all that welcome experience for me.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Our first stop: the same antiques mall that yielded a mint-in-box Brooke Shields doll when we visited it for my birthday two years back. I really like this place. Like most Antique MegaLoMarts of its ilk, it's filled with about 85% crap (some dealers still haven't heard that Furbies aren't going for hundreds of dollars anymore), but the other 15% generally makes the trip worthwhile.

And I ran into great temptation: The Incredibly Cool Japanese Pachinko Machine.

pachinko machineThe machine worked; I turned the knob and watched as little steel balls shot through the maze, and then one landed in the right slot, and then lights flashed, and everything beeped wildly, and three little electronic card guys waddled into the LCD display and didn't all match, so I didn't win anything. But it was so neat. I stood there in front of it staring longingly. The machine was colorful and bright and happy and covered with anime-ish looking characters.

The machine would also have eaten up my half of the money. And then that annoying practicality I didn't know I had weighed in: "Just how are you planning to get that home, missy? And where in the hell are you going to put something like that? And how will you hide those little steel balls from the cats? How long do you think something like this would really hold your interest?" And all the instructions on the back were in Japanese, which I can't read and which would have made any future maintenance a true challenge.

I still wanted it, but we left the antiques mall with the resolution that if I didn't find anything else cool in Fredericksburg proper, we'd come back on the way home and buy it.

We reached Fredericksburg and ate lunch at Spanky's, a fun little place with godawful food. Who in the blue hell puts onion dip on nachos, for Chrissakes? However, the decor almost made up for the food. Life-size Batmen and Spidermen and pixies crawled around the ceiling. A frightening Elvis mannequin glowered at us from a phone booth. There was a Phoenix machine out in the lobby (Phoenix being my favorite mid-80s arcade game). If the Phoenix machine had actually been working, Spanky's would shoot right up to the top of my Cool Places list. It's still worth checking out, I think. But don't eat. Just drink and look at everything.

We visited a few of the antique shops along the street, but despite our wasteful intentions neither of us found that cool, expensive item we'd expected.

aaaaiiieeeeeeeee!I did see this horrible painting, though. "The John Wayne Gacy Fan Club Meeting." "Everybody Doesn't Love A Clown." "Send Those Clowns Away, Dear God." The bit shown here is only a detail, by the way. Reducing the entire image too much robbed it of its impact, so if you'd like to see the full horror in all its bandwidth-hogging glory, click here.

I giggled madly and another shopper turned around, glanced at it, and chuckled herself. "Hee. That is cute, isn't it? Sure does put a smile on your face!" Oh, yes. Especially Ring-Eyes The Toothless Wonder up there. Ha ha! Smile or he'll kill you. Everybody run!

It's possible that woman was being sarcastic, of course. But I honestly couldn't tell. I did consider buying it, but it was $99. I decided it wasn't $99 worth of funny plus schlepping the thing home and finding a place to put it. God, there was that practical side again. What the hell was happening to me?

I did buy two meat cookbooks from the late 50s. Now I know that if I scanned them and put them up here with snarky commentary, I'd be struck dead by the Web Gods and dragged down to Web Hell for daring to rip off Lileks so shamelessly. But trust me: they're prime Gallery of Regrettable Food material. With chapters titled "Burgers and Balls" and one illustration of a pig and a cow standing outside a kitchen window and deeply inhaling the aroma of their barnyard friends being roasted and fried, I made quite a find with these. I'm seriously thinking of sending them on to Lileks. He'll know how to show them off to their best and most disgusting advantage. Either that or he'll toss them on the pile of similar books he's undoubtedly gotten from other readers over the years. Maybe I should just leave the poor man alone.

In the end, I didn't buy the pachinko machine. I just couldn't justify the waste of space and the waste of money. The coolest thing about owning something like that would be showing it off to other people. And hey -- I didn't get the machine, but I got its picture. So have another look at the shot above and pretend it's in our home, or something.

The next day, I bought a crystal bracelet from Nordstrom's. It's big, tacky, and gaudy. Just like me. And it didn't even eat up all my money. I'm actually considering socking the remainder of my rebate away for that proverbial rainy day.

And I'll finish up by giving you another look at that clown painting, which was cute and sweet and charming and funny and not at all scary:


Indulging my inner hit slut

(Clix, please?)

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