Looking back, the one thing I remember regarding my third birthday was this huge party. It seemed like the entire island of Manhattan had shown up. The beatniks – Gloria and Solomon’s duplex was packed to the brim with celebrities and debutantes across all fields of the arts and entertainment. In one corner Andy Warhol was talking up John Oates, of the famous band Hall & Oates. On the patio outside William Shatner was holding court with a bevy of wannabe models and croquet players from Jamaica. You could barely hear yourself think over the rampaging conversations. There was much enjoyment and laughter and I remember wishing I could be more involved in my own birthday party.
Of course I couldn’t, because the beatniks – Gloria and Solomon had reminded me repeatedly in the days prior,
“Ottomans don’t talk!”
When I boarded their helicopter on that fateful day I truly believed that these two people wanted me because they had a hole in their heart. An open wound which couldn’t heal without the love of a young child. As Chippy and Splinter fell from my hands I thought maybe this wasn’t a bad thing. Perhaps I was now joining an exclusive class of people where I would be afforded nothing but the best. My potential lifetime of hardship and playing with wooden toys was history.
Instead, I BECAME history.
Upon arriving home in my new digs I looked around for my bedroom. After circling the apartment three or four times, I couldn’t hide my disappointment. There wasn’t a car-bed or toys or anything which would signify a little boy living here. As I walked into the living room I went to sit down on this fancy, embroidered chair which had caught my eye. But before I could plop down and get comfortable, Solomon reached over and pulled me down to the floor. I didn’t quite understand the words that came out of his mouth, but I soon learned what exactly they meant.
“Ottomans do not go on chairs!”
The beatniks – Gloria and Solomon had not purchased a son, they had purchased an accessory, more specifically – an ottoman. They considered themselves the leading players in avant-garde art and had come up with something they hoped would not only influence Soho, but would be seen all over the world.
Children as furniture.
The way they saw it, there were tons of kids all over the world who were unwanted and living in orphanages. At the same time, furniture was becoming more and more expensive. So what if you combined the two – children as furniture? One of the many benefits (as they saw it) was that children were way more durable than non living pieces. If you dropped a glass of wine on a child, all you had to do was change his clothes or throw him in the tub. If you dropped that same glass of wine on a fine chair, you were doomed. Besides, children were more durable, flexible and lasted longer! You could dress them up differently and change the entire motif of the house. And as they aged they changed in appearance, resulting in a non-static, emerging home.
It was in a word, genius.
Of course the word I normally associated this idea with was, painful!
During my third birthday party I was the ottoman, and had many a dirty shoe or heel on my back or digging into my side. Davie Bowie nearly broke his neck tripping over me, and was so angry he kicked me square in the bum! Of course all the guests howled with laughter when the ottoman began to cry.
For two and a half years I played the role of ottoman, lawn chair, love seat, coat rack, door stop, area rug and most painfully, ceiling fan. The beatniks – Gloria and Solomon were becoming more and more renown on my behalf and were receiving federal grants left and right to come up with the next great idea. As a reward for my spectacular performance as an accessory, I was given three meals a day and the opportunity to talk between 4 – 4:30pm every day during the week and an extra fifteen minutes on weekends. Of course they were never around to actually hear me talk, so I had to improvise. Just like I made wooden friends back home in the Oklahoma forests, this time I made friends with Dusty, the dust balls in the corner of the living room and Lighty, the light switch. They made a great audience and allowed me to talk as much and as fast as I wanted to without interruption.
For an almost five-year-old I had the vocabulary of nine words and the emotional state of a two year old. If things didn’t change I would have wound up like Jodie Foster in that movie, Nell – except she would have still been more masculine! What I needed was a miracle, for fate to step in and save me from a lifetime of back pain and talking to inanimate objects.
Fortunately for me fate did step in, in the form of a bizarre homeless guy, Mr. Beard