Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A Movable Desk
I’m a mobile scribbler. My movable desk (AKA my lap) finds its way onto buses, planes, trains, and other automobiles. I’ll sit on a rock with my notebook and take stock of the confluence between the world around me and the one passing through my brain.
Yesterday, I decided I needed a real desk. What with my recent move I’ve been typing away on the dining room table. I probably could have kept up for a little while longer, but I’d already been testing my better half’s patience long enough.
My buddy offered me a retro office desk. The thing was as big as a Greyhound. I had no idea where to put it. I needed something simple. Fortunate for me that I live in the neighborhood Furniture Central, Steinway has so many table shops, good stuff, junk, and so-so. You have to have a good eye. The prices are another story. I’m convinced there’s a black hole parked between taste and tacky. Prices not commiserate.
I’m not cheap, but I’m not willing to plunk down a month’s rent for gaudy or impractical. When I veer off onto a side street and see a piece I can imagine in my bedroom/office I poke my head in the shop to inquire on the price. Nobody. I could sweep the desk off the sidewalk and be on my merry way. My bad back is my conscience for the day. I rub my hand over the flat top. Pretty smooth. But, it’s a street model.
A middle-aged man in an ill-fitting fishnet cap and fleshy ears walks to the desk. He has handout written all over his grimy face. I stand my ground.
“Nice desk,” he says.
“How much?” he asks.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
He scratches his fleshy ear and lopes into the shop. At this point, I say to myself you’re not horning in on my desk, bub. When I make it into the shop he is already sidled up to the counter, but there is no attendant to wait on him.
Two can play at that game.
“How much would you pay?’ he asks.
And there’s no way I’ll let him bait me. “You first.”
“Strong pine, last you a long time. Seventy dollars.”
I do a quick mental calculation to make sure I have enough cash on me. My fishnet-hatted foe probably only carries sweaty bills and this place doesn’t look like it takes plastic. When I figure I can beat him by twenty-odd bucks, if the bidding were to go that high, I make a kind of smirk.
Then a skinny kid comes out of the storage room. Finally, we’re going to get a little service around here.
“It come in tan or you like burgundy maybe,” the man says.
“Yuri, go bring burgundy piece for show.”
The skinny kid ducks back into the dusky storage area and then it hits me that this clown is the owner. Somehow I feel more embarrassed for him and the flat beak of his cap that makes me think of a duck-billed dinosaur.
I take two crisp twenties and a crinkled ten out of my pocket.
“Strong wood. Yuri carry it for you home and put it together, seventy-five.”
“That’s ok, I can take it myself.”
“Sixty five, we tie it up neat to the roof of your car.”
“You’ll hurt your back.”
“I’ll be fine.”
I take the initiative, put the fifty bucks in his hand. He looks at it briefly as if I’m giving him quarters for the laundry, but then accepts it. Yuri takes his sweat ass time finding the box. They were out of the tan so I settled for the burgundy.
The whole way home, which although wasn’t technically far but it was sure as hell awkward, I reminded myself that I had to put the desk together. And though my back ached, my knees and thighs were bruised from trying to prop the box upright, I had this sweat moment of triumph coming to me. I hadn’t put anything together in as long as I could remember. What better way to get a creative boost than to build my own writing desk.