MY KINGDOM FOR A CHAIR !

So I bought a chair. I needed a chair. I needed a chair that would hold me—comfortably. And not for just a short while. A chair that would be beautiful, with nice lines and a happy look that would beckon to me to come and sit on it when the light was soft and the afternoon or night was still. A chair to read in and perhaps think in. A chair is an intimate thing, the relationship to it I mean. Few things touch us quite the same way. Few things make possible so much. There is bond between a man and his chair, the right chair. A man should have at least one of these in his house.

The other chairs we have in the house are not for me, at least not for any deep, on-going relationship. We have a lot of chairs, scattered through every room in the house. From the mud room to the kitchen. None of them suited to higher purposes. Take the kitchen. Those chairs are designed to tilt you at a discreet and none-too-comfortable angle; not to speak of the pillows they have that are designed to keep sliding and shifting and slipping and falling; they're meant to facilitate one's relationship to the tabletop and whatever's spread there. Utilitarian is what they are—at their best. In the living room there are two Savonarola chairs (with carvings of the great Dominican's profile on their backs). These are stylish, High Renaissance chairs,  but hard, incomparably hard. Uncomfortable in every conceivable way except one: one has to be perfectly poised and stay that way for not too long. They're meant for brief, philosophical visits. Also, I have a fine, cushioned, dimpled piano stool; the kind any man having Vladimir anywhere in his name would look elegant upon. Yet being backless puts a limit on how long a poor piano player can stay with it, before he has to rise up and crackle his backbone. At my desk I have a petite, straight-back, hard, flat-seated chair that my wife's Aunt Irma left behind on her way to heaven. Solid and delicate, serviceable, but I can't sit on the damn thing for long. There are two other chairs I should mention. The first is a recliner, soft, spongy, pink, with a little hollow where the back leans back which doesn't allow for long sits. Falling asleep watching a movie in it isn't a problem, but no matter or how long or short a time one occupies it that buxom baby always succeeds in nudging one's spine out of alignment. I got it at a furniture place out in Newport and I thought at the time it was the living end. Of course I've thought that about a lot of things over the past three-quarters of a century. And, now that I mention it, it seems like I've been searching for a chair on and off for as long as I can remember. Same goes for shirts and pants and shoes and women. Cars, too. The list grows longer the more I think about it. Books and bicycles and songs and the truth about things. But that's enough. You get the idea. To end this inventory of chairs I have to mention one more. It has short legs and a rush bottom. Good for taking boots on and off, and tying shoelaces, but not much else. I forget what they call it.

So I bought me a chair. Which is no mean accomplishment. At least not for the kind of chair I'm talking about. It was a challenge that had all the earnest air and farflung hope of a Galahad-like quest. I didn't even know where to begin, until I realized I knew someone who knows more about shopping than anyone in the wide world. My wife. Joyously did she rise to the occasion. She dragged me out into the bitter winter, dragged me from store to store, made me sit on all manner of monstrosities the furniture business has been contriving in its effort to hold a mirror up to the unnatural and the nightmarish that Hollywood has become so obsessed with. Junk, junque, zshunk, jszoink. Doesn't matter how you spell it. Just awesomelyawful. And then, and then, and then we came to the place. An immense store dedicated to the twin goddesses: Beauty and Quality, an unimaginable combination in times like these. In, bejees, of all places--Poughkeepsie.

Well, I peered and I fondled and I circumambulated and sat and sank into and leaned back. There were scores of maybes, and at another less desperate time I might have succumbed and bought one of them, knowing full well that it wasn't exactly right. Then there it was—the chair! It reached out and caught my eye. Red, a nice red. With piping and accenting that had the lift and exhilaration of a circus tent. This was the one. And shapely, too. Tentatively, not wanting to expect too much, I slid down into it. Yes, yesss. Even the arm rests allowed your arms to rest in a natural, casual way. The other grotesqueries either lifted your arms up as if they were preparing you to take to the sky, or forced you slither down to get some feeble, awkward arm support. I poked around a little more just to be sure, but I knew in my bones that I'd found the chair. I was ready to buy it, too.

But the lady saleslady was not going to make it that simple. She said, with a sly smile, that I didn't have to buy the chair as is, with the color and material it had, but I could have any color combination I wanted. Dear God, my heart sank when she showed us the long, long racks of swatches. My wife and I and the saleslady proceeded to go through every last swatch and every last possible combination. And at the end of an hour and three quarters I had found a much better, rich, textured red and a much finer and more evocative circus tent to go with it. I had found and cooperated in the creation of the perfect chair.

According to Vicky, the perfect chair saleslady (whose patience had nearly run out as we sweated and hacked through that jungle of swatches) the chair would be ready in six to ten weeks. Then came my chance to be patient. I was, mostly because my mind was on other things, but as time ticked tentatively to the ten week mark, I got itchy and called. Yes, Vicky sang, your chair just came in this morning!

It sits, so to speak, in my study now. And I've read and thought a little bit in it. Some visitors have come to view it and sit in it. All complimentary. Even my son, Nicky, who reveres the accuracy of the exactitude of perfection, proclaimed it to be the cat's meow. While the universe, which is ever on the lookout for men possessed of overweening pride in their accomplishments, frowned and warned both father and son to " Beware "—by having him step, in his stockingfeet onto a dog turd (camouflaged by the design of my Persian carpet) which one of my wife's well-meaning schnauzers had so surreptitiously and serendipitously deposited earlier that glorious day.

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