Fine Persian Bonding

Between the syncopated machine gun pops of Silas stomping on bubble wrap, I heard a flyer slide under the front door. “What’s it say?” Lindsay asked. “Either a sale on snow tires or a high school cupcake drive,” I responded. My kids started dancing, “CUPCAKES!”

”No, no, I was kidding.” And then a silence fell over the room. Even my dad was disappointed. So I broke my “never entertain hand-delivered offers” policy, and read it aloud.

“Victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme have been forced to auction off their FINE PERSIAN RUGS at greatly reduced prices! Don’t miss this opportunity to get your very own FINE PERSIAN RUGS. July 17th 2010, Maplewood Women’s Club 9am-1pm.”

Predictably, my father tumbled into one of his rants; “Fucking Madoff. You know, this is exactly what Marx predicted when …” We shot him a glance. “Ah, shit. I’m really sorry about that, guys.” Arlo and Silas were in the room, and while uncorking expletives around a one year-old is fine, and, for the sake of sanity, often necessary, three year-olds are parrots bent on fostering social calamities. Being new to the neighborhood, we wanted to avoid accepting muffins from the accountant next door while the faint sounds of a child squawking, “Fucking Madoff.” drifted into the foyer.

We’d moved from a small Brooklyn apartment to a four bedroom colonial in New Jersey, and after a quick survey of our barren house, smattered with half broken-down boxes and scraps of deflated bubble wrap, my wife didn’t want to miss this rare opportunity snatch-up our very own FINE PERSIAN RUGS AT GREATLY REDUCED PRICES. According to her, we could also meet some other people in the community. And what a jolly group of rug enthusiasts that must be, I thought. My father was hesitant, but came around after Silas showed interest and I positioned it as a looting of the rich and greedy.

The Women’s Club is in an old mansion located near the small strip of diners, stationary stores and nail salons we came to know as “downtown.” Upon entering, I expected to see scads of broads airing out their bosoms; dresses piled in the corner; and stacks upon stacks of pillows, each topped with a bare-chested lady smoking a long cigarette. Clearly I have no idea what a Women’s Club is. And I didn’t learn–this hadn’t been a club for over fifty years. The scent of perfume had long since been replaced with that of mildew and leftover food from various fundraising events and artsy hoedowns.

Hundreds of rugs lay spread out on the wood floors of what was once The Grand Ballroom. The finer ones hung on the wall, each emblazoned with some variation on the bucking stallion/genie lamp motif. It appeared a Saudi Prince had offloaded his most hideous pieces to Aladdin who had in turn decided they were “a little too busy” for his tastes.

After a few minutes of browsing and dissuading Silas from making “rug angels,” a moist, overweight man of Eastern European decent swept into the room, and seconds thereafter came the eye-watering wake of his discount cologne. He carried himself effortlessly. How do so many men of such ample size and dubious health have such zest and energy? I thought.  I’m younger, and thinner, but struggle just to sit up straight. Maybe I’m in need of Prozac. Or maybe I’m the normal one and he’s manic. After returning to his trailer he’ll sleep for days, I’m sure of it.

He turned on the floodlights, positioned them just so, and unfurled the first rug. He stepped back and gazed at it. Then he gazed more. And still more. I took my eyeballs out of their sockets and rolled them around in my hand. Was he having a stroke? No, he was fighting off tears, as if perhaps he wasn’t worthy of being in the same room with such a striking piece of art.

In a thick accent he told us that this “specimen” was “seeeelk, veg-a-table dyed” and hand woven in “Tourrrkey by the country’s most finest weavers.” It boasted a perfectly trimmed pile and a KPI (knots per inch) “twice that that of the rug which your very own president has in his Office of Oval!” His passion, real or manufactured, was contagious, but I would rather have set that rug on fire than walk on it in my home. At it’s center was a large pink and orange flower surrounded by listless cherubs wearing crowns of roses. Also there were doves. So many doves—each one eating a fig. The correlation between one’s susceptibility to Ponzi Schemes and poor interior decorating had never been more clear.

I glanced over at my dad and Lindsay, hoping for a nonverbal commitment to flee before we were fleeced of our life’s savings, but they waved me off like we were at the ballet and I was trying to show them a balloon animal I’d made. Their eyeballs were spinning, mouths slightly agape. My dad’s baseball cap had shifted slightly to the side, and Lindsay was apparently unconcerned that she had a chunk of hair partially covering her eye. They had fallen under the auctioneer’s spell.

I plucked Arlo from Lindsay’s lap and took him with me to find Silas. What kid wants to be in an old musty mansion, sitting still in a folding chair while a stranger waxes on about textiles? After exploring a kitchen we clearly weren’t supposed to be in, we peed, thoroughly investigated the bathroom, and then found a small staircase adjacent to an old chair with a random doll and half-eaten spring roll on it. At the top of the stairs was a large balcony overlooking the auction area. From it, I could see there was a rug up for bid. My dad and Lindsay were busy whispering to each other and raising their little flags. I collected the children and hurried back downstairs.

“Babe, your dad and I just bought that rug for two thousand dollars.”

“It’s the most gorgeous rug I’ve ever seen in my life,” my dad added.

They both stared at me, panting like puppies seeking approval for killing a squirrel.

“Holy shit. Did you buy any other ones?”

“Yes, four,” She answered, confidently.  “But the other three weren’t as expensive. We definitely have five-thousand dollars in our account, right?”

We did, though it had been put aside for a much needed bathroom remodeling. My dad had a twinge of guilt and offered to pay for them himself, but Lindsay wouldn’t let him. For that money, we got something much more important than new shower tiles and a toilet. It wasn’t the rugs or even the laugh we shared later at their expense, but instead, it was the experience my wife and father shared. It’s not that they were adversaries; both of them are nearly impossible not to like. But there was something missing, and if that something was the experience of buying ugly rugs at exorbitant prices then so be it.  I don’t know whether my dad actually liked the rugs, or whether he was simply playing along. Maybe he was repenting for the “fucks” he spit out that morning. But whatever the reason, they’d had the kind of moment that, at the time seems insignificant, but is capable of recalibrating a relationship forever. They’d completely lost their minds—together.

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Kristi says:

Did the flyer really say 2010?? I don’t know why I noticed that, but now it’s bugging me…

TimmyDaddy says:

Jason-I own an Oriental Rug Business. Loved your piece. I feel like my best writing will be once I retire from the rug/design business and can freely shine a light on the ridiculous people that populate it. The Madoff connection? Bunk. The moist guy? Planted. Sadly, I probably know him… That being said, hand made rugs are pretty amazing things and now you have a great story to go along with the purchase. I hope the rugs your wife and father bought aren’t as hideous as the pink Touurrrkesh Seeeelk.

gary says:

I love the genius of the add. “Victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme have been forced to auction off their FINE PERSIAN RUGS at greatly reduced prices! Don’t miss this opportunity to get your very own FINE PERSIAN RUGS.” Nowhere does it say that they are selling the rugs that the rich were forced to auction. They just made a statement and then a second one that really is in no way explicit regarding what you are buying from them. Plus, why in God’s name would people that were victims of a ponzi scheme have a special rug auction? I’m sure they were auctioning other crap at a place that would auction their fine persian rugs. I bet they tricked a lot of people. Pretty funny. Good post though. “Fucking Madoff” lol.

Zozo's Mom says:

Wait . . . so really there’s no cupcakes?

BTW, just found your blog and am loving it!!! Thanks for writing!

sipnsnap says:

No therapy like retail therapy!

Carrie says:

“Moist and overweight?”…..So awesome!

Jen says:

I want to see the most gorgeous rug your dad has ever seen in his life. You can’t just throw a description like that in there without a photo. What if it’s the most gorgeous rug I’ll ever see in my life?

C says:

I second this!

Melissa says:

My only questions is this….What do the 3 rugs they bought looks like? After the extensive description of the first one, I’m dying to know what the ones in your house look like!

Victoria says:

Aw, Jason. I’m disappointed! Since when does “overweight” = “dubious health” ?? There are many fat people who are in better health than thinner people, especially thinner people who don’t exercise. That was a bummer to read; I usually love your stories so much!

Jason Good says:

It says “moist and overweight” and “dubious health” was my own interpretation of him, not a medical diagnosis.

Deyanira says:

Do not be concerned for over-sensitive people. A writer’s opinion is simply that; an opinion. I don’t think it needs to be FDA approved. In some people’s world “everyone is a ponny, and they all eat rainbows, and poop butterflies!” :)

jenn says:

awesome response! So sick of everyone picking a part blogs/articles based on their own egos – damn people, starting enjoying your moist, overweight life and this hilarious blog.

Bella says:

He’s a comedian, that’s what they do. Cut him some slack :) If you want a PC forum discussing the discrepancies between healthy overweight people and unhealthy underweight people, may I suggest http://www.mayoclinic.com...

gary says:

lol, well im fat and i thought it was a hilarious description. Of course i’m not trying to rationalize being fat by saying that some fat people are healthier than thin ones. Also, that was like a handful of words in one of his longer stories. Is it possible that you’d let 3 words and a little personal context dampen your enjoyment of the entire story? Interesting.

Kristen says:

Nothing connects people quite like “retail therapy”