Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ghost Chairs

I lived once in an impossibly grand, impossibly decrepit 18th century country house, as the informal ward of the Squire; like Dick Grayson under the care and tutelage of Bruce Ward. The Squire had held dozens of elaborate parties over a dozen years and just about any gay man over over forty in the city has memories of the halls ringing with laughter and the lawns swarmed with lithe fellows in button down shirts, trampling the thick green grass with their penny loafers and Top Siders, or soiling the knees of their khakis in the cover of the magnolia hedges and holly trees. That was all before my time. While I was in residence, he and his partner held a sit down Thanksgiving dinner for one hundred people. In the perfectly symmetrical elliptical salon, the deep window embrasures ledges and the mantle shelves of the twin fireplaces, and the tables, were filled with candles. Their soft focus flicker blurred the harshness of cracked sagging plaster and moldings so chipped and scarred that they looked as if they'd been chewed. Though love seats and blanket chests were pressed into service, every guest had a seat around the green baize draped saw buck tables configured in a giant H-shape, which filled the twenty by thirty foot room. I was hugely impressed by all this, and especially by the vast availability of seating options. The Squire laughed and told me that it was always good to have extra chairs, in case company comes. One can never have too many chairs.

The chairs pictured were imagined in 2001 by a designer who's work I often admire, but who's personality I kinda hate. For years now I've hated him. He was one of the 80's design "star" personalities, marketed himself just as heavily as his idiosyncratic output. He's since furthered his career by decorating expensive boutique hotels frequented by the media/design crowd, and designing condos for them to live in when they return home to L.A. and South Beach. He is a "brand". He is French.

The chairs are ridiculously expensive, especially when you consider that you can get a half dozen other plastic stacking chairs at the drug store for about the price of a case of beer. The only reason I have them at all, is 'cause they were used in a window display, so I got them for cheap cheap after it came down. It's been pointed out that my basement and garage are largely unusable due to a centuries spanning survey collection of chairs (among other things) and that I am hardly lacking in places to sit. However, the more chairs, well, the merrier - and there are a number of 'em.
So festive.

In the freight elevator lobby I played with my new chairs for some time after they arrived, arranging them in rows and columns and conversational groupings and taking pictures of them in varying lights. A painter from down the hall witnessed this and observed that the transparent chairs would be ideal accommodations for all of my imaginary friends. I recalled a line from a stand up guy on T.V., who reminisced that he "only had two friends as a child...they were both imaginary...and they only talked to each other." I couldn't bear the potential snub, so dragged them back into the studio and stacked them behind the black vinyl chair in the lounge. It's always good to have extra chairs. In case company comes.

That Thanksgiving was the last event held at the big old house. Soon afterwards I saw the oval room stripped to it's neoclassical bones, no table, no gold framed portraits, no book cases filled with the history and design volumes I studied at the Squire's knee, across the hall in the perfectly square pea green room where we sat long into the nights, smoking hashish from a china trade opium water pipe engraved with temples and Mandarins. Nothing but furrowed floor boards and a few brown leaves, and naked windows with panes loose from dry rot and missing putty looking over the sloping brown south lawn and the river beyond skeletal leafless grey trees. I picture my new chairs in that room perfectly and equally emulating both the fine proportions and stark emptiness of the once vibrant space, now occupied only by ghosts and spiders. I think the squire would approve. I think he would say that they are perfect and that we must have a hundred of them mirroring the shape of the room with their oval backs as they lined the curved walls and standing sentry like long the broad passage through the center of the house. They would be ideal accommodations for all the guests who are now only memories, and besides, one can never have too many chairs.
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