Just before going on vacation this past week, I achieved a 15-year goal of installing a chandelier in my living room. It was a glorious moment made all the more sweet by its long time coming.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination with chandeliers and the status they seem to represent. Perhaps it was brought on by dining in the crystal room at Tavern on the Green before my pre-frontal cortex was fully formed or by watching too much “Dynasty” under the influence of too many cocktails back in the ’80s, but whatever the reason, I feel pretension is best expressed through bright lights and sparkling crystals swinging above one’s head.
This is not the first chandelier I have purchased for my living room. It is, in fact, the third, each more grand than the last. Just as I began toying with the idea of hanging them all, possibly in the same room to create my own personal Crystal Room, an electrician presented himself, and we hung the newest acquisition.
And this last one, the one now swinging overhead as one walks into the house, is a doozy. It has 21 lights and about 2,000 crystals, best I can estimate, and would be better suited to the embassy of one of the more prosperous Balkan states than the front room of my tawdry hovel.
But there it is glittering brightly overhead, after I removed every crystal, soaked them all in ammonia and then scrubbed each and every one with a toothbrush before re-assembling the whole shebang after it was re-wired.
Ammonia may be old-school as far as cleaning glass and crystal, but boy oh boy, it works. When I dragged the chandelier in from its previous home at Habitat, it appeared to be a sort of tawny gold color, which I at first suspected was some sort of faux antique smoky crystal circa 1973, but no, it appears that in its previous home, it hung directly over a Barcalounger where Betty Draper must have spent the past 50 years smoking non-filters while she got fat and old after dumping Don in 1965.
Which is to say, there was an inordinate amount of nicotine stuck to it. It was so brown and sticky, I didn’t even notice the crystals were strung together with golden wire.
As I acquired this glittering monstrosity from the Mount Airy Habitat ReStore, it is not totally unlikely that a reader is aware of its provenance. If you ever found yourself somewhere in town in a room so clouded with smoke you might well have been in an opium den inhabited by Anna Mae Wong in a silent picture, with a chandelier overhead that appeared to have been stolen from the East Room of the White House, you may know where my new treasure came from. If so, do tell.
When I spotted it at Habitat, it was in such disrepair they only wanted $25 for it. And I struggled to decide if it was worth even that. The bottom half was completely bedraggled, and there were quite a few crystals on the floor when the store clerk picked it up off the floor for me to look at it. But as they say in matters of style: no guts, no glory.
So I opened my wallet for the first, but certainly not the last time, in pursuit of glamour and status with that behemoth. I dragged it out to the car, closely followed by the Habitat clerk bearing a grocery bag full of extra crystals, picking up additional ones from the parking lot as I shed them along the way, scattered like shiny breadcrumbs in the forest.
Then, the adventure continued with $75 for bulbs ($3.50 apiece for 21 of those LED lights that are supposed to outlive your grandchildren and never draw more than the teeniest speck of electricity), another ten spot for wire and electrical gadgets to rewire the bloody thing, a bottle of ammonia, $100 to have it hung, and some 14-karat gold wire to put it back together which I happened to have on hand from a jewelry-making phase in the early aughts.
But now that it’s cleaned, re-assembled and functioning, I would love to say that it’s really gorgeous. And it is, but it really isn’t as kitschy and cool as I had hoped. It’s just bloody grand. Very grand indeed. There is way too much sparkle to leave any room for irony. Which is a real problem. My sense of kitsch as political statement has never before failed me, so I was a little confused by the results.
Until much later that night when I got up to go to the bathroom as age demands that I do a few times each night, and stumbling through the house in the wee hours, the chandelier, though turned off, was still glimmering slightly as it caught the occasional beam of moonlight slipping through the window blinds. The shimmering darkness made me think of the time when Lady Mary wound up with a dead Turk in her bed on “Downton Abbey” and had to enlist her mother and maid to dispose of the body.
The dimmed hallways of the Abbey with crystal sconces sparkling in the moonlight bore a faint resemblance to my own humble abode as it now appears under cover of darkness when I must deal with a call of nature. The effect is comforting and very satisfying.
Apparently, you don’t need irony when you have to pee.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.