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Cool Hued Lava

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Once upon a time I had a lava lamp. It was in the basement, in our little make-do recreation room where I’d watch soap operas and paint hieroglyphics on the walls. A brown vinyl beanbag provided a malleable surface for marble mazes. A tattered set of plaid furniture from upstairs formed the seating area, and we covered a lightweight wooden storage crate with a small blanket to make a coffee-table. A throwaway coffeemaker stood on a pedestal; I would put potpourri into it and the hot water would spread the scent throughout the small space. The gay boy in me would always find a way. (I’m not sure that my Uncle, who lived on black coffee and cigarettes, was as impressed by the double-duty of said coffeemaker, but he never said anything about the floral coffee that would later result.)

The lava lamp of my youth was a standard red and yellow version, glowing warmly on its stand, unlike the modern-day version you see here. I’m not sure which appeals to me more – each has its merits, each conjures and conveys a different mood. I’ve seen riveting purple versions, and if I were to get a new one, it would probably be that. Not that I’m getting a lava lamp. Some ships are better off not returning to port.

Yet they remind me of that crazy childhood basement room, where extra pieces of unused carpet made for a patchwork floor, and a fold-up cot was mounted on a former kitchen cabinet, rising almost to the ceiling in fun, if slightly dangerous, fashion. We were kids then, and my brother and I didn’t care about cohesive design or sensible furniture. Instead, I worked to create little pools of beauty – in a bouquet of dried flowers, a swath of colorful fabric, or the psychedelic bubbles of a lava lamp.

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