Sunday, November 9, 2014

the magic chair

Ok.  I got a new chair.  I've tried a whole bunch of chairs through the years.  I was looking for the magic chair.

The first chair that applied for the position the tzaddik got for me at Clars auction as a surprise. He knew I was looking. He decided to act. It was about 200 years old. Intricately hand-carved, and it had an embroidered seat. Nobody would sit in it. They were all afraid.  But it was great to look at.  So Vladdie, our black kitty, took it upon himself to inaugurate it as kitties do. It lasted a number of years, and then it went back to Clars. Nobody appreciated it there, either.

The second chair was the Mormon chair. Hand carved, austere, and just plain awesome quarter sawn oak. Carved by a Mormon farmer in Utah about 100 years ago. I had dreamt this chair. And the next day it appeared to me in the flesh at the Alameda Flea Market, and so of course I had to bring it home. Nobody would sit in this chair either. I moved it from spot to spot for years. Until eventually it went off to auction as well. I miss it. Nice to look at.

The third chair was a bright orange Scandinavian Designs jobbie that was one of those trick chairs. It was comfortable as hell in the store, but when you got it home it crippled your lower back. So the solution, of course, was to order the matching ottoman, thinking that feet up might do the job. Uh. No.

I complained about the third chair to a good friend.  I had forgotten that I'd given her my dad's 'grading chair'—a cushy chaise that he never got to use because Mrs Tzaddik had stolen it from him because it was a thing of beauty.  She never sat in it either.  It was there to be looked at.  My friend, who was sitting in said bright orange back-breaker while I was complaining about it, said she liked it just fine, in fact quite a bit better than my dad's grading chair. I proposed we trade.

Why the bad colors in chairs? Floor models. Half price. You should see the couches. Purple. Now faded, so they embarrass my daughter less. She still thinks I should get rid of them. But hey, the dogs like 'em.

So the fourth chair to apply for the position for comfotable-chair-in-the-living-room was the tzaddik's pristine cushy Italian green chaise, same as my own old grading chair that sits across the living room. Also from Scandinavian Designs (a winner but they don't make it anymore). I now had two grading chairs virtually side by side, and they battled it out for the territory. The dogs preferred my old grading chair and had beaten it down pretty well. It was a glory of a broken in chair.  I had gotten it many years before as a present to myself for getting tenure. Or full professor.  Or something like that. But they duked it out and the Tzaddik's grading chair won.  It was a shock to me.  My beloved old grading chair had to go.

Luckily, I had a former student who was participating in our Beit Malkhut Study Group. Now in a PhD program. And she has claimed, (though I think she's being both sweet and sardonic and kind, and doesn't mean it at all) that she wants to grow up to be me. So. What better person to appreciate my old grading chair? After all, her own papers (generally turned in late or very late, but very well worth the read) were read and graded in that very chair. She accepted the wonderful old grading chair with all the pomp it deserved. And put it in storage along with her daughter's furniture.

We have ascertained that I am not good at this.

I sat down (low kitchen stool) to really analyze  my chair history. I had tried chairs based on beauty alone (as I'd been raised to do). As if chairs (and everything else) were only about aesthetics. I had purchased chairs because they were so hideous they were affordable. I had tried chairs because they were gifts and you couldn't turn them away. Because they were used. Because cats had already dug into them, so nothing to worry about them. Because they reminded me of someone I loved. Hm. Beauty and comfort didn't go hand in hand. And now my spine was making its own demands.

So. What are we up to, fifth chair. Now, in the Middle East, the number five has great protective value. Against the evil eye. For good health. You know the word 'hamsa' and maybe you wear a little hamsa that looks like a hand (five fingers) around your neck or on a keychain. Or have one up as an amulet about your desk.  At any rate, I now realize we had reached the fifth chair.

The magic chair.

I decided to go for the real deal. It had to be beautiful. It had to be new. The color had to be decent. And it had to be comfortable. And Stickley was having a sale. The tzaddik and the Mrs Tzaddik would be pleased in their graves. I think.

So I tried the fifth chair, my new Stickley recliner. A piece of absolute beauty. And I'm not going to admit that it takes some adjustment and compromise to be truly comfortable. But it's good enough. I mean, my god, it's a Stickley. And it's not from the flea market. A miracle.

So. I sat in it. I brought a tall glass of water with me to keep me put (I'm supposed to drink a ton of water. Ugh). I did not bring my iPhone or iPad. It was just me and the Stickley and the glass of water. All alone. Nobody home.

And I looked up. And I saw my living room. I saw the purple couches. The tzaddik's green grading chair. The old brass trays. The overgrown plants. The 'rescued' Moroccan armoire from the Middle Atlas Mountains. And the paintings.

I have two paintings in the living room. One over the purple couch. One over the (fake) fireplace. Over the couch is an 8' wide painting of an enormous red bull, and a person struggling to pull it in a direction it is not willing to go. Everyone I know hates the painting. It used to be kept in the red bull room (essentially, my closet) so it didn't disturb anyone. I'd wake up every morning, look at the painting, and think 'don't do that'  at least for today. Just. Don't. Do. That. And I'd be set for the day. No need of coffee. But no one else seems to 'get' the red bull painting. Some of them remember Red Bull Bob, a long ago student who had painted the red bull for a class project. He went to grad school. And stopped painting.

The other painting is a poster framed by the online poster company, but it does the job. It's La Belle Rafaela, by Tamara de Lempicka. de Lempicka was walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg one afternoon, and noticed that everyone was staring in a certain direction, and so she turned. And there was Rafaela. She approached. And the glorious odalisque painting that emerged shocked even 1920s Paris.

So. I'm sitting in my Stickley both looking, and seeing as if for the first time. The Red Bull that my friends despise. And the de Lempicka they adore. Or at least don't complain about. Two such different paintings. The red bull in bright thick strokes of red and red umber oil paint. The struggling white man (painted quite literally in white) trying to move the enormous red bull. A parable of colonialism and resistance. A domination game the white man will never win. And La Belle Rafaela, stretched out in all her orgasmic glory in tender strokes of evening colors.

And there they are, right there on my living room walls. The agony and the ecstasy. The paintings are perfect together. Neighboring figures emoting in accordance with the choices that they make. Blunt and to the point. Guiding us. Before, I saw them as individual works of art. Now I contemplate them together.

The Stickley. It's a keeper.


  1. I like the Red Bull painting and I always have but more importantly you still have another chair to find. Mine!

  2. Happy to go with you when you look! Flea market? Or, hmm. There's this arts and crafts rocking chair and ottoman that'll be at auction on the 14-16th coming up. I think you might like them.

  3. First, let's clear up a few things:

    Vlad's inauguration of the embroidered chair "as kitties do" is ambiguous. Claws or that other thing?

    If the dogs preferred the old grading chair, then how did the Tzaddik's win? Who are the "they" that duked it out—the chairs? How did they inform you of their outcome?

    Now, let's set some records straight:

    I do not hate the Red Bull. My only objection to it is the foreshortened leg. I want that fixed. Otherwise the painting holds no emotional content for me whatsoever. I still need coffee—you're not winning that one with a mere painting, sorry.

    As for chairs that please both eyes and spines, would it really be so difficult to find a nice forelengthened Ekornes in black?

  4. In 32 words or less:

    a) It's more fun to write it that way.
    b) The tzaddik will always win.
    c) The 'they' are all the elements involved.
    d) The usual way.
    e) You want art fixed??
    f) It was my coffee.
    g) Blech.

  5. A) sure but which was it?
    D) duh. Should have guessed.
    E) yes, don't you?
    G) fine, a purple Ekornes then

  6. a) The chair could not go back to auction having been debauched. Thus, the answer is clear.
    e) I'd rather be informed by the work than fix it.

  7. G. How about a green Ekornes?

  8. Turns out Ekornes wins in the comfort arena. Too bad they are so bloody ugly. So. My Ekornes couches are hidden in the back room, and that’s where we hang out the most. I’m still crap in the chair and couch department. And the ‘magic chair’ is beautiful and comfy, but it’s not magic.