Postcards from Home

K.B. Dixon develops an itinerary for his pandemic travels. He finds himself voyaging into the rediscovered territories of his own home.


PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY K.B. DIXON


The first stop on this pandemically restricted voyage is my office—a place I think of as both sanctuary and cell. “All of humanity’s problems,” writes Blaise Pascal, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” This office is where I do most of my sitting quietly alone—but not all of it.

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That is “Brian.” He is a frequent portrait subject. I test eccentric lighting ideas on him. He is easy to work with. He never complains, doesn’t ask for prints, and has two good sides. He is, however, preternaturally aloof. Some may find that off-putting.

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This old teacher’s desk was purchased from a second-hand store more than thirty years ago. It shows some wear and tear, but remains in remarkably good condition considering its history of abuse by hormonal hooligans and jaded janitors.

The coffee mug, like the desk, is vintage. A heavy piece of imported pottery, it is likely leaching lead. I have been drinking out of it for more than a decade and suspect it has had something to do with my getting progressively stupider over time. I consider bringing it to my lips to be part of a regular exercise routine.  

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From the desk it is a short trip to what is known locally as “the brown room” (a reference to the color of a small couch and area rug). To borrow an inspired unit of measurement from David Foster Wallace, it is 10 Size 9 Keds north and 3 Size 9 Keds east of the office. The Etruscan bust (a cheap plaster knockoff) is topped with a genuine French beret—one purchased by me as a souvenir from La Samaritaine in Paris. I have never worn it and do not expect to. Berets are best worn, I think, by Frenchmen, just as Greek Fishermen’s Caps are best worn by Greek Fishermen, Cowboy hats by Cowboys, and Native American Headdresses by Native Americans.

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This bookcase is just a few Keds west of the “brown room.” It indicates an intransigent reverence for books quite accurately—printed books, books with pages that turn. It suggests that even in a pandemic man cannot live by YouTube videos alone.

 If you credit the soothsayers of Silicon Valley, this piece of furniture is destined to go the way of the butter churn. I am not so sure.

            This particular bookcase is an atypical example of those scattered throughout the house. It shelters a higher percentage of hardbacked volumes than the others, and is considerably neater.

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If music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, so too does this perfectly conceived easy chair. It is contoured and consoling—comfortable like a well-worn catcher’s mitt. I have joked about being buried in it—at least I think I was joking. I know people are being buried in their cars all the time—there was, for instance, a man in Pennsylvania who was buried in his Corvette; another, a South African politician, who was buried in his Mercedes; an Indiana woman was buried in her Cadillac; a Beverly Hills socialite was buried in her Ferrari. (I did a quick Google search—it doesn’t look like anyone has been intentionally buried in a Toyota Corolla.)

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This concrete carving by sculptor Ken Patecky is known to us as “Our Lady of the Buffet.” It may have had another name, but if I ever knew it, I don’t know it now. It has been located on this same corner of the buffet for more than 20 years. It feels right, synchronous with the surroundings, which is fortunate because as a large chunk of solid concrete it would be a misery to move. The guiding principle here is a variation on feng shui, something you might call feng weigh—where the colliding forces of harmony and gravity together reach a static state of equilibrium.

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This large, elaborately carved candle brings to mind a song my parents seemed fond of, one made popular in the Pleistocene by Perry Como: “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.” Even at eight I could recognize this lyric as hopelessly maudlin. The candle is from Germany. What does that mean to you—”Germany?” Bright world or not so bright?

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Henry David Thoreau had three chairs in his cabin on Walden Pond—”one for solitude,” he said, “two for friendship, three for society.” At our dinner table we have four chairs—a fact that is as much about symmetry as it is about sociability.

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