Go ahead, ask me why am I sitting in my blue club chair, naked as a jaybird, in the meat locker of the Stop & Shop in Southbury, reading Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation (in the original Latin).
I am glad you asked.
The matter of the blue chair has become a source of contention between myself and Gary Moss, my long standing friend (we go back to the 4th grade, or so). This chair originally graced the small study of my Brother Paul’s bedroom in our home on 25 Alston Avenue. When Paul fledged the nest to Union College in 1957 and my Mother decided that rearing tropical fish was not in her skill set, the chair moved from the study to the bedroom proper, and to the place that had previously been home to a rather large fish tank.
Our two Bedlington Terriers took advantage of the chair’s more convenient location by using the chair as an indoor “fire hydrant.”
It should be pointed out that back in the day the chair was covered in a black and ivory houndstooth check fabric of shetland wool sourced from the hand looms of Scotland’s Thomas Adie. Also noteworthy, the wool for the handcrofted tweeds of the Isle of Harris is cured in sheep’s urine. This latter tidbit of information explains why it’s not a great idea to stand next to a gent wearing a sturdy Harris Tweed sport coat during a light rain, as the moisture returns the wool to its original pungent aromas.
The fact that the Bedlingtons peed on the chair with alarming regularity produced a yellowish tinge to the black and ivory at “lifting the leg level”, not to mention giving the chair an earthy scent that would be immediately recognizable to anyone standing next to an Oxford Don in a drizzle. I won’t give dignity to the rumors that I may have contributed to the Bedlington’s activity in “blessing” the chair. Certainly not while sober.
When I took full possession of the chair in 1972 the fabric was changed to its present blue so that it could be added to the other pieces that would become the living room on Courtland Avenue. The chair has survived seven moves and was added most recently to the den in Woodbury where I can sometimes be observed reading, listening to tunes, watching a flick or enjoying a superbly assembled Tanqueray Martini.
If Sherlock Holmes needed Professor Moriarity as a raison d’être, and Adolf Hitler needed the Jews… then Gary Moss needs my blue club chair. For reasons that are best left to the analyst’s couch, Gary has launched a crusade to recover my chair. He has lamely suggested that he is trying restore the chair to the beauty it once possessed… this being a favor to the memory of my dear departed Father. It is rare for a day to go by without an email being sent to me with fabric suggestions… a sea foam chintz, an Edwardian fox hunting scene, another print with leopards poised in ambush on the veldt. And it doesn’t stop there. Now I am getting recommendations for replacing the entire chair… divans that look like cast-offs from a Hollywood set for a French bordello and stiff wing chairs that look as comfortable as a saguaro cactus. In the words of Sir Thomas More, he is hocking meir in chainik! I like the chair the way it is!
He is not letting this rest. He has recently removed the chair from our den without my consent (undoubtedly with the aid of a sympathetic confederate… I have my suspicions as to the person’s identity). But I am not without my resources… and within days I was able to track down its new location, secreted in the aforementioned meat locker of Stop & Shop.
Now I sit in my beloved chair in this cozy refrigerated room… surrounded by hanging sides of beef. I come here three times a week and spend an hour or two in the nude reading More and other classical scholars.
I call this the silver lining in the cloud.
You see… my metabolism has slowed to the rate of a tree sloth. I swim 3000-4000yds four days a week and if I look at the pictures in Bon Appétit I gain two pounds! I love those ads on TV promoting easy ways to lose weight without dieting. Intriguing, but bull shit! But even with eating less and exercising more my results have been less than satisfactory. There has to be a more efficient way to burn calories. How about cold? In cold temperatures our bodies have to burn more calories to keep our body temperature up to 98.6°! I could always volunteer to spend a winter in a Siberian Gulag. Good thought… but I want to lose some weight, not die of exhaustion and malnutrition!
Hmmmm, maybe I could take advantage of my friend’s passive aggressive hostility and find an alternate way to help shed some pounds? The cold treatment! Not only could I subject myself to the frigid air of the meat locker, I could magnify the demand from my “body thermostat” for heat by taking off my clothes!
There is some precedent for this Spartan behavior. It’s the compulsory military training that free citizen males had to endure in Sparta’s heyday in the 6th to 4th centuries B.C.E. The mental and physical rigour of the training became the model for every elite military formation from the Praetorian Guard, to the Knights Templar, to the Brigade of Guards, to the Navy Seals.
It is that legendary discipline that allowed a force of 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas to confront Xerxes’ Persian Army of 100,000 at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E. Never mind that all the Spartans died in that battle… it’s the attitude that counts!
I sit here amongst the cows willing myself to ignore the cold, taking comfort in the wisdom of Thomas More’s well selected words, and the knowledge that I am burning extra calories. I resist the urge to take a whiz on a hind quarter; but think to the day when my goal weight is reached and I can return my chair to the confines of our den. Some have suggested that I could speed this process along if I were to sacrifice my enjoyment of gin, fine whisky and Côte de Beaune Burgundies. Yeah, right… like that’s even a remote possibility! No thank you! I prefer to turn to More: “Adversarius vester diabolus tanquam leo rugiens circuit quoerens quem devoret…”
At 3:00pm a well chilled martini… next week I begin Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.