Bring Back the Chairs!

If I am the first person to write of  following issue, then there is no hope for the future of humanity. The issue, of course, is the phasing out of the comfy chairs (or “soft chairs,” as I’m told they are termed by the industry) in Barnes & Nobles nationwide. I have kept my silence for too long now; it is time for action. Now unless you’ve lost a firstborn there is surely no way you could understand my despair when one Saturday afternoon I casually ascended the escalator with the chairs’ promise of comfort, warmth, and the chance to read a good book happily on my mind, only to have that naive longing met by a tragic expanse of empty floorspace. Mournful violins played in the background as I sank to my knees in horror. “What happened to the chairs?” I distraughtly asked a nearby customer. He didn’t know, nor did the staff. Were they stolen? Unlikely, but considering the supreme comfort they provided I wouldn’t blame the thief. Were they being cleaned? I couldn’t answer myself, couldn’t think.

In a haze of disbelief I staggered home, dumbfounded, desperate to confirm my hopes that the chairs were only being cleaned, or new ones being ordered, or–well anything, really. A search of the internet revealed this catastrophe was not a particularly satanic freak incident, but a nationwide cataclysm. With building consternation I read miserable account after miserable account of people–good people–deal with the shock of Barnes & Noble’s removal of the beloved chairs. This shared misfortune was dubbed “disturbing,” multiple times, and one fortunate person whose bookstore’s chairs were not removed proclaimed their  gratitude and jubilation with the intensity of an Israelite on the other side of the Red Sea, or like when a restaurant is all out of medium cups so you get a large for the medium price!

Yet even before the ink Sophocles used to write this tragic episode of my life had dried, in the memorial to the chairs that was the empty area where they once stood were put hard wooden replacements coupled with equally cold and forbidding tables. It was as if my father had married a twenty-year old girl, as if a step brother was brought into my family, as if someone gave me light mayonnaise instead of regular and called it just as good.

My research also revealed more logical reasons for the chairs’ disappearance than my speculation of a sadistic Barnes & Noble corporation or lifetimes of bad karma. The tendency of careless people to spill coffees on them and overt “friendliness” on the part of excessively libido-ed teenagers were among the more convincing.

Oh and lice. But comfort!

Oh and lice. But comfort!

Nevertheless, I feel us non-clumsy, more-privately-inclined-with-our-lovemaking bookstore goers have been unjustly punished. Due to potentially preventable actions by the less responsible, a significant part of our appreciation of Barnes & Noble for what it is and what it represents was diminished. In an age where television, the internet and smartphones are rocketing us down a slope towards short attention spans and virtual illiteracy (except for Ironic Poncho of course. We’re redeeming the internet), Barnes & Noble stood as a lone beacon, a refuge for the otherwise inclined amidst an increasingly anti-literary culture. Those chairs were a testament to that ideal, providing a place to sit and relax while that Steinbeck-spurning world rushed by outside. Now what are we left with? Barnes & Noble has replaced her symbol of oasis with inhospitable wooden chairs. They send the message that the reader is no longer welcome within formerly accommodating walls, that the last great bookstore is turning its back on its most ardent of supporters.

So bring back the chairs! Let that be the rallying call of all those who believe in literature, who believe in the crisp turns of the page as you read, who believe in not having a screw digging into your back while you sit. Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité! Bring back the chairs!

Your Life is a Lie (well, some of it.)

You’ve cemented yourself as a hipster within your community of friends and coworkers, and are contentedly lapping up their mixture of scorn, admiration and envy. But contentedness is mainstream. You don’t plateau — you always keep going up and up until your run out of sky and end up in space, and then you can’t stop even if you wanted to, doomed to spend the rest of your days floating in black void praying some passing meteor will hit you and put you out of your tortured existence. And they say I’m not good with analogies.

But anyway, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all potential areas in which to be hipster. Whether this makes you elated as being some kind of king hipster, or depressed that you can’t find new areas in which to pretentiously judge others, you’re wrong either way. There is one area, one sacred alcove to which no one but the most dedicated go. One place that lurks in the beautiful mysteries of the mind, an alternative sanctuary that can only be whispered lest its hidden wonders should vanish. A place of intense psychological revelation so severe many question its reality. It is an arena in which no one would play, an end to complacency and an end to plateaus. It is…pencils, of course.

We are taught that pencils pale in comparison to the might of the modern pen. We are taught the pain and labor of sharpening a pencil is all for only to have the pencil scratch across the page before breaking. In an age when mass produced ball point pens are preferred over pencils, when, on the rare occasion, pencils are used, Ticonderoga is considered “luxury,” and–screw the rest of these cinematic-trailer builds. Let’s face it: you use pens in your life. Most likely those cheap black pens that are already half chewed and you’re only using out of desperation. Even with the wretchedness of such a writing utensil, you still feel guilty about brutally using it and then routinely discarding it in the trash, like a one-night stand (which is a companionable atmosphere, kids, in which two people enjoy good conversation and then say goodnight with a hearty handshake) that leaves the pen emotionally torn-up and scarred. You don’t want to live like that.

Buy Blackwing. Save a pen's life.

Buy Blackwing. Save a pen from psychiatric care.

Thank God, there’s a solution: Palomino Blackwing pencils. Did you know pencils could be as, “smooth and sinuous as a saxophone solo?” These can. As any Amazon reviewer will tell you, these are not just your ordinary Ticonderoga Number 2 pencils (they’d probably add a derisive snort and a pretentious flip of the scarf). Seriously, reading the Amazon reviews, you’d never think they’d be talking about something as ordinary as pencils. Indeed, one reviewer suggests this pencil is not palpable for the masses, but is instead for those who are:

brave enough to think outside the box of all the zombies of the world, that is, all the followers who never think for themselves and simply believe what they were told and never question their cherished and most likely outdated beliefs.

Pictured: Ticonderoga pencil user.

Pictured: Ticonderoga pencil user.

Try replacing the word “pencil” in this one with Cuban cigars, whiskey, or absinth (if you’re into that):

This is my guilty pleasure. These pencils are beautiful, smooth and luxurious. If you want to spoil yourself, give these a try. Just don’t get addicted 😉

If random internet-goers aren’t enough to convince you, what about a man who invited strangers into his trailer to drink alcohol with him? I’m talking, of course, about John Steinbeck, known pencil aficionado. In writing East of Eden, he used over 3oo pencils. On Palomino Blackwings he had to say:

I have found a new kind of pencil—the best I have ever had. it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper. And brother, they have some gliding to do before I am finished.

While that last line sounds somewhat like a bizarre sexual innuendo, it still seems ridiculous for anyone to have such strong opinions on pencils. But I’ve used them (at first just out of pure curiosity. Who the hell spends $4 per pencil?), and now I understand. I could tell you about how they enhanced everyday, made my life a little better, helped me create beautiful things, formed an earthly paradise, but that would be a lie–they caused me to transcend the physical world and enter Nirvana (spoiler alert: it doesn’t smell like teen spirit). From a position of experience, I can assure you that the expensiveness, the look, and the firm belief in superiority of these pencils is plenty to expand your hipster realm into the area of writing utensils, and put you ahead of those obnoxious, narcissistic Ticonderago users.

The days of your egotistical lies are over.

The days of your egotistical lies are over.