When my husband, Frank, and I lived in New York City, there wasn’t room in our apartment for a dining table. As a matter of fact, there was barely room for our 15-pound dog.
But moving to a bigger place here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, gave us an excuse to acquire more furniture to fill up the wide-open spaces. Among those purchases: a dining table and four mid-century modern–ish chairs to surround it. These items are stationed near the front window in our open-plan living room.
Two of the dining chairs are made of wood in a dark brown color; the other two are a blonder shade. Our order was for all four to be dark brown, but there must have been some sort of mix-up at the warehouse.
I convinced Frank that the mismatch works, mostly because I had little interest in researching Wayfair’s returns and exchanges policy. So we kept the setup as is.
This is our first dining table since our Chicago years. Back then, we had a rectangular cherry wood one that I had kept since my parents bought it for my first apartment during college. The thing survived several moves, numerous dinner parties, and the occasional ill-advised table runner for 15 years or so.
But Frank and I decided not to bring the table to New York on account of the space limitations mentioned earlier. We got rid of the chairs, too. They were covered in this rust-colored upholstery I never liked anyway.
Those chairs were replacements. The originals had fallen apart long ago. They were cheap and spindly, and the seat of one of them was prone to come apart from the back when you sat down, sending you and your self-esteem tumbling.
Have you ever heard Bobby Darin’s swinging and pretty mean-spirited version of “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” which turns the ballad into an extended fat joke? In that retelling, “chubby Clementine” falls into the ocean and transforms into a whale because she has attempted to cross an old bridge that “trembled and disassembled,” dumping her to her doom.
Sitting in that rickety dining chair felt a little like that.
Now that we have a table again I suppose Frank and I could reboot our series of occasional dinner parties. I called each of those events chez Zank. That’s a portmanteau of our first names: Zac + Frank. I don’t know why I have to give everything a title. Do you think that’s a writerly impulse?
My favorite part of any chez Zank get-together was making the Spotify playlist to accompany dinner. I’d throw in songs that reflected the guests’ interests and occupations—D12’s “Purple Pills” when we had over our friend who’s a pharmacist; Kitty Wells when we made dinner for my mother, who grew up to a soundtrack of old-school country; “Long Tall Sally” when we hosted a Sally. You get the picture.
There were other tunes as well, of course. I mixed the hits of yesterday and today in a manner that rivaled Delilah, the syndicated nocturnal adult-contemporary DJ. I once put “Love Hangover” after “Drunk in Love” and patted myself on the back for days afterward.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded if a significant portion of these dinners had been devoted to admiring my curatorial work vis-à-vis the playlist, but the invitees preferred to eat, drink, and chat. I would share some of the playlists here so that you yourselves could admire my curatorial work, but a few months ago I deleted Spotify at the insistence of Neil Young (whose music I don’t even like all that much, but I mean he seemed so passionate about the whole thing).
“Chez Zank” lives on today as the name of our Wi-Fi network.