ragtags studio central: sarah's random this & that

random means "having no definite aim or purpose," (1655), taken from "at random" (1565), "at great speed" (thus, "carelessly, haphazardly"). In 1980s college student slang, it somehow, and sadly, acquired a distinct sense of "inferior, undesirable." (Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper) Well, okay, fine, Mr. Online Etymology Dictionary person, but THIS is the 21st Century. It's a whole new ball of wax.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dancing in the Moonlight - The Rose-colored Velvet Love Seat, reprised

Play back the circumstances and events of my life; I harbor few regrets, and none daily. Not having stick-straight hair, nor a pinto pony or palomino, and the tragic loss of our rose-colored velvet love seat are the exceptions. Thank God for product and straightening irons, and yes, I MIGHT someday lasso a horse. As for the third, no remedy seems likely. We left it behind years ago, flying back to the desert, we gave it away to a friend. He was getting married and after all, a plane is not a boat. Unquestionably, through either miracles or hard work, heavier losses to other people have been overcome.

Details are what truly matter --- you know, it’s always the little things. Our lives hinge upon, and play out amid, exquisitely, often achingly felt, then remembered, touches, sights, smells. Acts of living are accomplished in scenes set upon stages we each craft to our particular muse.

Picture a city --- Chicago comes to my mind, but pick another if it suits you. It’s early summer, a fair number of years ago --- not too many, say 33, more or less. The neighborhood is mostly Puerto Rican, a little Creole. Radios through open windows inform us, sweetly --- and we can dance to it --- that we are the sunshine of Stevie Wonder’s life. Edgier unknowns are heard, too. Their fingers and lips interpret Hancock and Corea and mimic Muddy Waters, from within shadowed, though wide open, doorways. Platform shoes create a back-up rhythm and say “Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

Think of a girl --- a pale young woman, a girl really, appears on the sidewalk, heading for a cross street further up Halsted from Cornelia. A bit bedraggled, generosity compels us to fashion her Bohemian. Filigreed opal earrings, camisole, sandals, and a long handmade skirt comprise her everyday costume. With a black gypsy scarf covered in enormous vintage roses holding back long, ever unruly hair, she’s like a kid from some Wild West version of Hester Street. Truth be told, the girl stopped here in this midwestern town, where Marshal Fields meets the lake shore, and took an available third floor walk-up. Coming from the clear blue heat of some years spent in New Mexico, she hadn’t the heart to continue further east where [at least the semblance of] prairie gave way to Indiana.

Imagine the hour --- earlier that day, on an especially roundabout way home from work, she had seen it, past the window box flowers and street reflection, just inside the junk shop door. Stepping inside she smiles and happily approaches the owner. It’s a good sign, she thinks, that no one bought it “in the meantime”. Two other pieces catch her eye. A little piano bench and botanical print (“Gurka vit.”) aren’t quite so dear; she schleps them home on the bus that afternoon.

A week or two later, she returns for the rose-colored velvet love seat, pays a second or third installment, pulls it out through the shop door and continues down the several blocks to her old brick apartment building. She stops occasionally to catch her breath, sits down on the love seat right there on the sidewalk. The wood trim of the arms and the feet have a nice, just-polished, sheen. It’s in perfect condition. People passing her admire it. That velvet is such a lovely shade of dusty rose --- just like the sky over the west mesa late in the afternoon, when the smells from everyone’s kitchens begin to mingle and entice. And really, it was SUCH a bargain, though of course she had had to scrimp some, and save.

At the foot of the steps in her building, the girl is momentarily distracted by the row of mailboxes. She can tell at a glance if there’s mail; she can see it through a slot. There’s something anyway; an eagerly awaited note from home, a plea, a prayer, a promise. She’ll come back downstairs for it later. On the 2nd floor, someone comes out to help her the rest of the way. His door closes on a room crowded with people, guitars, old women, music, glasses clinking and babies crying. Once the 3rd floor landing is attained, he heads back down and she pushes her vintage treasure into the apartment. A couple of panes in the bay window are open and there’s a light breeze off the lake. The apartment is nearly empty of household goods. Except for a borrowed radio, two enameled cereal bowls, a handful of silverware and small paring knife, a Baby Ben that keeps falling out a window onto the alley below, a few postcards (reproductions of Symbolist art) and a vintage photo postcard of a dancer, there’s really nothing.

The radio plays something new. At least, the girl thinks, I haven’t heard it before. Dancing in the Moonlight. Centered in the living room, the rose-colored velvet love seat looks perfect. The pretty botanical print of the fresh from a turn-of-the-century garden, Swedish cucumbers hangs to its left, and the little piano bench completes the tableau. She keeps walking back into the room to admire it as she runs a bath.