If these chairs could talk…

Buoyed by the success of last summer’s Project Table, I’ve been looking around for another little occupational therapy task for this summer. I check the classifieds daily for just the right diamond in the rough. I’m looking for something old, neglected and without lots of pain-in-the-ass scrollwork or other detail that will drive me crazy when I’m trying to strip/stain/varnish it. If it’s something I can use when it’s all done, so much the better, but something to sell would be OK, too. It has to be cheap. It has to have a certain nay-say-quaw, as those Frenchies say.

In other words, I’m looking for a low, wide bookcase, unless I’m not. I’ll know it when I see it.

One of the great tragedies of the impending death of the American newspaper is the loss of yet another source of accidental stories. All the effort goes into Page One, but the rest of the paper is full of nuggety goodness, too, with the added attraction of not being all laid out and packaged for you; you get the thrill of connecting the dots yourself. Yesterday the editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press made Romenesko for speaking aloud this heresy: Readers buy papers for the ads, too. Well, duh.

For this reason, I’ve always loved the classifieds. Classifieds are super-short stories told in 10 words or less: Wedding dress, size 16, never worn. Make offer. Or: Moving out of state, must sell misc. furniture. Bedroom, living room, kitchen. Traveling light, all must go. When I was stuck for column ideas, I’d turn to the classifieds to get the juices flowing. Sometimes I’d be close to tears. I’d keep thinking about that size-16 wedding dress, NWT.

Now the classifieds are online, on Craigslist. People selling something inexpensive don’t want to spend much on the ad for it. Twice a day I check the furniture-for-sale listings. I have to check it twice because it’s so active, and if you fall behind you’ll miss something. You’ll be relieved to know that even without the self-imposed brevity that goes with paying by the word, the free Craigslist classifieds are as rich with narrative drama as the ink-on-paper kind. Everyone’s moving out of state, it seems. Everyone’s downsizing. Everyone’s liquidating a business, divorcing or otherwise re-ordering their lives. And there’s still stunning waste in the corporate world. Two Le Corbusier black leather chairs for sale, with this note: They were used for one day (one day!!) on stage at an executive conference for one of the car companies. We’re not using them again, so….here they are.

Other cultural notes to be gleaned: If you have an armoire-style entertainment center you’re ready to part with, take it out in the back yard and bust it up for firewood, because you’re not going to get a dime for it in this market. The new entertainment center is long, low and buffet-style, the better to show off your plasma-screen, my dear, and everyone’s trying to get rid of the old one. My father (who sold furniture) always said you should spend your money on wood, not upholstery, because the latter declined in value faster; I think of him whenever I see some poor shlub expecting to get six bills for a double-reclining La-Z-Boy sofa (“from a pet-free, non-smoking home”). Also, this: Whoever came up with the idea of the bed with bookcase headboard, recessed lighting and Luuuuvv Mirror is awaiting a place in the levels of hell reserved for the tacky. Finally, correct spelling is the trigonometry of modern life — no one can do it anymore. I’ve looked at ads for “intertainment centers,” “armwars” and my personal favorite, a pair of “Chip and Dale chairs.”

Haven’t found my bookcase/table/whatever yet. But it’s out there, I just know it. The other day someone was selling two ’40s-style office chairs, in oak, with the added backstory that they were from one of the old Ford factory offices and were given to Dad upon his retirement. See, that’s something you wouldn’t see in a newspaper classified, not when you pay by the word. Just thinking about all the gabardined behinds that sat in those chairs, and the work those people did — designing the Edsel, maybe — is almost impossibly romantic to me. Which is why I always pay too much for stuff like that.

(On the other hand, my sister credits my occasional rewrites of her eBay listings with bringing higher prices. I turned a description of a Heisy glass cocktail shaker with an etched fly-fishing scene into an evocation of the lost era of Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. It sold for nearly $400. [Blows smoke from pistol barrel.])

So, bloggage:

You will get me on the Grand Canyon Skywalk when you pry my cold, dead fingers from the closest upright land-rooted structure, then quiet the shrieking of my ghost as my corpse is carried onto it. I mean, for someone nervous at heights, this is nightmare material. Good luck with that tourism, Hualapai tribe.

American Idol observation: If LaKisha wanted to cover a James Bond theme sung by another black woman with a big voice like hers — and I can think of no other motivation for choosing Shirley Bassey’s little corner of the British Invasion — why on earth didn’t she pick “Goldfinger”? Yet again, Ken Levine is the go-to funny guy for this:

Interesting that not one contestant chose a Herman’s Hermits song. I just picture Hannibal Phil Stacey singing “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and Mrs. Brown being so terrified she gets a restraining order. …Sanjaya is now just humiliating himself every week. This is like when people dress up their dogs. William Hung was cringing. Please vote him off before Tony Bennett week. I beg of you.

OK, so let’s sign off with an eternal truth: When all else fails, a pretty girl can still move mountains with the right outfit. Particularly if it lacks foundation garments:

Posted at 10:10 am in Same ol' same ol', Television |

16 responses to “If these chairs could talk…”

  1. 4dbirds said on March 21, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I’m working on a project also. Two tables with NO detailing. I know my limits. I’m with you on the fear of heights. I even jumped out of a plane to cure my fear. Didn’t work. Photo of my project below.

    271 chars

  2. Rory on Lawn Guyland said on March 21, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Sanjaya humiliating himself? Maybe not; kid seems kinda clueless. However, I will admit to having voted for him THREE TIMES last night when the phone lines opened. (And this is the first time I’ve EVER voted in an AI competition.) I’m with the folks at VoteForTheWorst.com, trying to see how far we can carry him. Tonight’s results will be mighty telling. If the kid gets through (and he might; the movement is picking up steam), watch for the AI producers to announce that remaining contestants will survive “via your phone votes AND THE JUDGE’S INPUT” (Bet the rent on that; they’re worried.) Heeeee……

    607 chars

  3. brian stouder said on March 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

    well, I’m not qualified to have any opinion on American Idol, as the show has never pulled me in.

    But I will say (leaving aside the attributes N pointed to) – the Youtube bit made me think of Marcia, judging from from her website pic.

    And, in keeping with springtime DOMishness, thanks for the clip!

    308 chars

  4. Eric Zorn said on March 21, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I went to the Google — found the second defintion here


    before I found “New, With Tags.”


    166 chars

  5. nancy said on March 21, 2007 at 11:49 am

    You must not eBay, Eric. Or at least not for clothing.

    54 chars

  6. cce said on March 21, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the Levine link…hilarious send up. Don’t y’all think Haley’s just embarrassed about the lack of foundation garments this morning? She seems like a nice girl who just couldn’t figure out what bra to wear beneath a backless, sleeveless get up. Are there no fashion coordinators beyond the Idol red room to prevent people from making this horrific mistakes? Or maybe it’s all strategic and there’s more layers to this Idol thing than plot twists in The Good Shepherd.

    477 chars

  7. Marcia said on March 21, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    However, I will admit to having voted for him THREE TIMES last night when the phone lines opened.

    What the hell, Rory. I mean, stop it.

    As far as newspapers, I’m an old-fashioned dork, er, girl. Whenever I travel I have to have the local paper so I can read the obits and the classifieds. Besides a locally-written ghost story book, which I also have to have, nothing tells the true character of a place better, in my dorkish opinion.

    When my husband went out to the Fiesta Bowl, he brought sweatshirts back for the kids. I asked if he got me one, and he said, no, he brought me something even better, and pulled out…

    ….the Sunday edition Arizona Republic. Dude knows me.

    699 chars

  8. Marcia said on March 21, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Um, sailed right over Brian’s comment.

    Sure, okay. It’s a several cup-size stretch, but whatever.

    103 chars

  9. Kevin Knuth said on March 21, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I found my “project”.

    Last summer while thinking about getting an old table/dresser to use at as a “bar” at the lake I stumbled upon quite a find.

    I live in West Central and someone cleaned out a basement and threw out a perfectly good oak dresser! It is ugly with yellow paint, but I am getting ready to start the stripping soon.

    Here is the cool part- the top two drawers were lined with newspapers at some point. The ink transferred to the varnish inside the drawers- you can read the date, although it is in reverse! July 18, 1902!!

    Quite a find!

    565 chars

  10. ashley said on March 21, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Wasn’t it Hemingway?

    “For sale: baby shoes. Never used.”

    60 chars

  11. MichaelG said on March 21, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Chip and Dale — aren’t they chipmonks?

    41 chars

  12. brian stouder said on March 21, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Say, gotta proud-parent point to make –

    check out


    our daughter’s picture is under the “Upcoming events at McMillan” (she’s sitting next to a witch, at a recent birthday part/ice-skating outing)

    she gets all her looks from her mom (thankfully!)

    352 chars

  13. LA mary said on March 21, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    I have to vent. I’ve had a totally sucky day. An incompetent consultant has deleted a lot of my files, and I’ve been trying to reconstruct about three months work.

    173 chars

  14. Bob said on March 21, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    “Incompetent consultant”

    Isn’t that a tautology, like imbecile manager?

    I tried consulting for a while, but became alarmed when I realized how my mental acuity was declining. I decided to quit while I could still dress myself and shop for food without assistance.

    269 chars

  15. LA mary said on March 21, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    This incompetent consultant was supposed to assist the transition to new software. He never bothered to learn the new software himself. He’s been deleting things from my inbox for three months, and I haven’t known about it. He didn’t realize that when he opened some files, it removed them from the inbox and deleted them when you left the program. What an asshole. I’m a nurse recruiter and he’s been deleting nurse resumes.

    435 chars

  16. Colleen said on March 21, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I have a house full of old furniture from various relatives. When gramma went from assisted living to the nursing home, I got the old waterfall style dressers that had been my mom’s and aunt’s when they were small. I opened the middle drawer, and there in purple crayon is scrawled “SHIRLEY”. Apparently my aunt was territorial.

    332 chars