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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Desperate End-Stage Monomaniac Cape Cod Fireplace Delirium

Yesterday, astoot reader and commenter Pastor Jeff remarked on our Cape Cod fireplace photos:

The third one from yesterday looks a lot like my in-laws’ den in Wisconsin.

You can feel the room from the photo — the squeak of the leather, probably a slightly musty, comfortable smell, the crackle of the fireplace, an odor of smoke, possibly the feel of a cool glass in one’s hand, the rustle of a newspaper or the turning of the page in a novel already read many times. Very nice — a room for quiet reading or pleasant conversation — a hobbity sort of room.

That’s a lovely picture he’s painted there. Makes you want to go to Wisconsin and go fishing and get a sunburn and so forth. But I’m not sure it’s very Cape Coddy.

Well, of course it can be Cape Cod recently, but it’s because we’re living in the shambles of an earlier civitas. The original fireside of the Cape Cod house has a spare, almost chaste quality to its appearance. There’s a sort of nobility to the plainness of it; a kind of luxurious asceticism. Grim, humorless bonhomie. They’d put out traps for hobbits.

The scene our internet friend has described reminds me more of the freshwater version of the fireside we’ve got around here; Lake Winnepesaukee. Egad, don’ t get me started about that. Let’s have Cape Cod one more day.

And out into the world, in our crooked way, we go:

0 Responses

  1. Thanks for the kind words.

    I picked out that third photo because it reminded me of my in-laws’ house, as I’ve said, and because it stood out for its warmth. You can feel the bonhomie in that room.

    Those others? You can feel the scowl of grim puritan ancestors looking down in disapproval. “When I was your age, we let the cold sea spray rip the flesh off our bodies — and we liked it!” If I recall correctly, public Christmas celebrations were illegal in Mass. until around 1700, and weren’t popular until the mid-19th C.

    Me? I’ll take a cozy hobbit hole any day. My heart yearns for a cherry-paneled room with leather chairs, exposed beams, a warm fireplace, and good friends. I must have belonged to a London gentlemen’s club in another life.

  2. Another spot-on description, PJ.

    The recent zeitgeist calls for an easy informality in furnishings and surroundings, and we applaud it.

    I’ve worked on a lot of really old houses, and built into the fireplace wall you’d often find a little door where those flinty old curmudgeons would keep the booze. Appearances were one thing. Hospitality was another. They never talked about sex but had fourteen children, and never talked about booze but used whiskey for money. Heh.

  3. “They never talked about sex but had fourteen children, and never talked about booze but used whiskey for money.”

    That’s as good a quote as any I’ve read in a long time.

    I find culture endlessly fascinating. That’s why I love the old house photos. Homes are great expressions of cultural beliefs and values (most of the time — sometimes it’s just a place to live).

    After years of exhaustive research, I’ve determined that in spite of the funny clothes and odd accents, the people who lived before us want pretty much what everyone wants — a safe, warm home, a decent living, someone to share life with, and happy kids.

    And a leather chair in a cherry-paneled den with exposed beams and a fireplace.

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