This next Comedy Goldmine comes from an old friend of mine. GeeVeeBee and I once studied abroad in the darkest jungles of Africa. We did everything together - cooking, cleaning, marrying indigenous women only to see them carried away from the pulpit not by us but by millions of tuxedo clad army ants, singing and dancing and devouring our child brides as one terrible, mindless horde.
Those were dim and bloody days, and we each developed our own idiosyncrasies to deal with the lonesome brutality of it all. Our group leader developed a most unhealthy fascination with ladybugs. He would cover his finger in honey and stick it into a nest, and cackle as they swarmed all over his fingers, flapping their matronly wings, before engulfing them in his mouth and sucking his finger clean like an many legged popsicle. Every time he belched, two or three lady bugs would fly free, and he would gargle incoherently as he waved them goodbye.
GeeVeeBee became obsessed with ghostmasks. He would shake me awake at dawn and tell me that the monkeys outside his tent said that only a few days east lay a most fascinating specimen of indigenous maskmaking, abandoned by its long-dead creators to the elements and time. I would protest groggily; he would not be dissuaded. And so I would rise and gather my things as he fidgeted and ran impatient, knobbly fingers down the sides of the large grass skirt he'd taken to wearing. These expeditions were, without exception, complete failures. We would arrive at the alleged location of the mask only to find an empty clearing and faint whispers, and we would shake our fists at our hooting, impertinent monkey guides.
What was my strange habit, you ask? Simple really. I can only poop naked.
But that is neither here nor there.
In any case, I had not spoken to GeeVeeBee for years. I assumed he had finally died, perhaps killed by a jaguar, dying disembowelled and alone in one of those clearings he loved so much, as the monkeys grinned and danced overhead. And then suddenly, like a phantom mask itself, he appeared out of the Pacific Northwest.
Ever since I got in trouble with the department and the AAA for borrowing research material from the university musuem and the PhysAnth storage lockers (last minute party decorations is all, but the lack of understanding was palpable. 'Grave robber.' 'Monster.' All totally unnecessary epithets.) I've had to look elsewhere for my interior design and hobby supply needs.
Fortunately there's always eBay.
The various provisions of the 1906 Antiquities Act, ARPA, NAGPRA, and (on the Canadian side) the Cultural Property Import/Export Act make it difficult to get ahold of genuine haunted Indian artifacts without having to resort to the tedious business of semi-clandestine meetings at swap meets and auctions. It also makes it a bit difficult to suss out what is and is not a contemporary creation when making online purchases. Getting the language right helps. "Old Family Heirloom" CAN be a good hint, but caution is at all points necessary. The same vaguity in regards to point of origin that indicates that someone is trying to move the real deal also serves to cover the sale of tourist trap trash.
Some of my colleagues maintain that artwork by contemporary native artists possesses the same power to direct and command the spirits, but I have found that funeary objects, totemic figures, and shamanic regalia are more powerful for ritual purposes when they are imbued with the suffering of untold generations.
So, watch out for scams and fakes, which will usually turn out to be the stuff made by rez high school craft classes and people at First Nations cultural awareness seminars and the like. Don't be fooled. Getting burned like this is the equivalent of getting a 'Rollex' off the street in TJ.
At any rate, my Tlingit Ghostmask arrived via UPS earlier this week. I'm very pleased.
And I have to admit, ever since it came I have been unable to stop wearing it.
I have a pretty handy system for checking the authenticity, proveniences, potency, and "legality" of my purchases which mainly relies on secrets of great power wrested from countless reluctant tribal elders.
For those of you who are working from a couple of Tony Hillerman novels and a the occasional episode of Antiques Roadshow, here's a tip. Buyer feedback is key. Keep an eye out for comments like these--
If you've had experiences in the underground (pun intended! ) online trade of First Nations funeary objects and religious relics, feel free to post your reviews and commentary in this thread!
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The Comedy Goldmine examines the funniest and most creative threads from the Something Awful Forums. Although the Comedy Goldmine has changed authors many times over the years, its focus on the Something Awful Forums is still the same. Includes hilarious Photoshops, amusing work stories, parodies, and other types of oddball humor.