The Wishing Chair

Classic Eames lounger and ottoman – $xxx (haight ashbury)
Reply to: sale-131113385@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-02-03, 10:09PM PST
I have a classic Eames lounger and ottoman for sale. Bought it from dwr for xxx. Will take xxx for it. Was a gift but can not afford to have such luxuries. cherry finish with black leather. in perfect condition. rarely used.
* This item has been posted by-owner.
* no — it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

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The orange sofa was demoted to the kitchen when we moved to the new house. Although it was born in the seventies, the shade wasn’t that 1970s burnt-orange, exactly; it was more the marmalade tan of old Florida ladies. Its leathery skin had crackled, and it sagged. It was homely.

You could drape yourself across the top, and then roll-flop down onto the cushions, like a sea-lion cub. The back would support timid headstands, and while you lolled upside down you could pull fluff from its deep buttons. Or—and this was what I liked best—you could burrow into the left-hand corner, safely sandbagged by the wide leather arm that came up to a seven-year-old’s chest. That’s where I sat for hours with Enid Blyton for company. In spite of all the scoldings for reading in the dark, my shoulders are still rounded from those winter afternoons.

I read about The Enchanted Forest and The Wishing Chair. “Mollie and Peter have a thrilling secret. The chair in their playroom is a magic Wishing Chair. When they sit in it and wish, it grows wings and takes them on lots of exciting adventures.” When they finished their adventures, I’d start the books again, chewing strips of the pulpy paper as I went.

My grown-up sofas have not been squashy. I own two: both built for two, and neither built for lounging. Over the last year, it began to occur to me that I live alone, and that I might like to lounge once in a while. A chair arose in answer. It would have arm rests broad enough to balance notebooks and cups of tea; low enough to keep my typing elbows free; soft enough to pad my bony arms. There would be a place to drape my legs. When I sat down each evening, the chair would remember me like an old lover. From this chair, I could gaze out at Twin Peaks and the Golden Gate Bridge, or watch a whole season of Six Feet Under in a single weekend. It would grow wings and fly me to the woods to talk to pixies when things got rough.

I tried out friends’ favorite chairs: La-Z-Boys and Saarinen wombs; Jennifer Leather and IKEA. Either they looked good or they felt good. Then Keith let me sit in his vintage Eames lounger. He claimed it was the best chair for nursing, though he lacked the boobs to be convincing. Still, the old baseball mitt was a comforting cradle, and it was the first seat in years that made me want to reach for an Enid Blyton. (In chairs, as in music, my tastes are those of a middle-aged man.) I dug out Charles and Ray Eames’s exasperated letter to Henry Ford, and remembered how likeable they were.

I started to type their name into Craigslist every few days; another idle surfing tic. There was a lot of junk. Like “web 2.0,” “eames” is now a code for raising cash. Every swindler with a particle-board bookcase adds “eames herman miller midcentury” just to bump the search results. After eight months I found Truong’s ad for an Eames lounger, several days after he’d posted it. I guessed it was gone, but a few days later I got a terse reply. The first guy had flaked. He would show the chair to the next three people at 10am on Wednesday, and the first one with cash could take it. I explained that I had the cash, but had to be at work at 10. After several exchanges, he relented, and let me come early.

I thought about his post as I biked up Haight Street, lungs bursting: his frank (stern?) admission “can not afford to have such luxuries;” the chair for sprawling that was “rarely used.” Why did I think a chair was worth a month’s rent? Did I think I could sprawl more than “rarely?” I pictured a tough-minded Vietnamese accountant who would barely hide his distaste for my American self-indulgence.

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But of all things, Truong was a poet. His bay-windowed apartment was stuffed with furniture that would have looked good in the modernist Reunification Palace in Saigon. He sold pieces from time to time to raise cash for poem-writing. He showed me his books. “Are you a dealer?” he asked, and was pleased when he learned the chair was for me. I wanted to ask him about Vietnam but instead we talked about poetry. Poets always seem surprised to meet punters who read poetry–most don’t themselves, as far as I can make out.

A few weeks later, my friend Kevin helped me pick up the chair his truck, on a night when I was so frazzled that I left my bag at the office and he had to pay my taxi-driver off. He carried my chair up the stairs and then left us alone. I sat down and swung my legs up, and the cool leather unfrazzled me. I burrowed in and read Truong’s poems.

A chair should feel like home. A chair should have some history. This one does. Now I’m waiting for it to get its wings.

yes the stories are at times overwhelming but would i stop listening the answer is no for without the stories there would be no history and without the history there would be no people where then would i be if not for the acronym the oddity the visitor the native
—Truong Tran

11 thoughts on “The Wishing Chair”

  1. I think I read in your blog somewhere that you lived in NYC for a while? Did you get the see the modern furniture collection at MOMA? Eames is there and his stuff is amazing, but so is Eileen Gray – some of her chairs (not too many at MOMA unfortunately) are just out of this world. Pretty cool for a girl that started out in Wexford.

    Enjoy!

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  2. My sister has an Eileen Gray side table; I’d love one. I always thought she was from Boyle, Co. Roscommon!

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  3. As I said to the 50ish year old lady in shannon airport on Saturday “you turned my head” cheeky but good karmically (is that a word) So Lady in Tv Reflection “you Turned My Head!” (i even walk by my PC in work to do so!)
    I have a best place for lounging so to speak. it not a chair that one can buy but it’s two rock out on the farm in roscommon. they have moss on them so well comfy and on a long summer evening when we would be out collecting hay or what ever we (my brother and I) would stop by and sit and lisnen to the land and have a smoke and talk about stuff that tenagers from the country talk about . no eames lounger but you can not buy that in the shops:-)

    Pardon the Rant

    toucan:-)

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  4. As I said to the 50ish year old lady in shannon airport on Saturday “you turned my head” cheeky but good karmically (is that a word) So Lady in Tv Reflection “you Turned My Head!” (i even walk by my PC in work to do so!)
    I have a best place for lounging so to speak. it not a chair that one can buy but it’s two rock out on the farm in roscommon. they have moss on them so well comfy and on a long summer evening when we would be out collecting hay or what ever we (my brother and I) would stop by and sit and lisnen to the land and have a smoke and talk about stuff that tenagers from the country talk about . no eames lounger but you can not buy that in the shops:-)

    Pardon the Rant

    toucan:-)

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  5. I have an Eileen Grey side table (knock off) and a Barcelona chair (knock off), but I’d love an Eames Chair (fo’ real).

    I’ve probably been watching too much Frasier on DVD.

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  6. Toucan, I love the notion of listening to the land. You have to work it, I think, to feel it as whole, breathing thing. Walking it isn’t enough.

    I’ve wondered what teenagers from the country talked about. Not a lot of teenage chatter in John McGahern…

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  7. Yea funny that, the day my paternal grandfather died he walked the land at home, a final good buy to a lives work and toil, would have loved to have met him. I agree with what you saying and that’s why we always stopped by on the way in from a days work in the evening with the long shadows growing in the fields half of life winding down half waking up, a change of shift one could say.

    As for the chat it was generally things like why was Lennon playing centre field for the U-16’s when he should have been centre forward and my bro should have been mid field (lennon was more skillful and a better scorer, P was fitter, bigger and more controlling of centre field)
    Of course girls as well but in a more innocent/ignornant way then now :-)simple times!
    And of course the father being a Bast**d to work with on the farm but, like spuds for dinner every day that one (for the record he’s a class act to try and follow now that i am a parent myself and i am glad i relised so soon, rough around the edges that all:-) Going to go out and bring the young lad there to have a sit and a chat this weekend, 4 year old are very interesting.
    Thanks Dervala

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  8. There were (at least) three parts to my ignorance: what did Irish teenage boys talk about, what did brothers talk about, and what did country kids talk about? (I grew up too close to Limerick to count, and for some reason wasn’t close to my cousins.) And the key to it all, which of course I’d forgotten, is hurling and Gaelic football.

    Thanks for clearing it up. Very evocative…I hope the four-year-old’s trip to Ros goes well.

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