Ode to the Empty Chair

Oh, you.

Just a day ago, you were a mere piece of furniture. Something functional, with a purpose. Something that most of us – when we saw you – didn’t give much thought about.

You certainly weren’t an object associated with ridicule.

In a mere 11 minutes, that all changed, thanks to Clint Eastwood’s bizarre appearance this week at the Republican National Convention.

Now, everyone in America (and around the world, really) is looking at you in a whole different light.

Except for me.

I’ve always revered you. And I always will.

You see, I confess. I have a thing for you, Empty Chair. Just ask The Husband, who can provide testimony to my … well, he’d probably call it a bit of an obsession. (I’m okay with that.) I’ve been known to stop mid-beach town walk to take a picture of your kind just lingering on a total stranger’s porch or on their lawn. Drives The Husband batshit crazy.

We’ll pay upwards of $20 per person to visit the likes of the Phipps here in Pittsburgh or Longwood Gardens outside of Philadelphia and I take 300 pictures of the flowers and greenery – I do – but give me an empty chair in our midst and I practically swoon.

My name is Melissa and love photographing empty chairs.

My mom’s back porch, Christmas Day 2009

I’m partial to Adirondacks and benches, wrought irons and wickers. I have a framed series of photos of empty chairs on a Cape May, New Jersey porch somewhere in a still-packed box.

Hell, I have a BLOG HEADER of an empty chair … one that I’m clinging to fervently even though I know it doesn’t quite go with the blog name or any name that I’m contemplating changing to. It’s staying. So be it.

As with a lot of makes-no-damn-sense-whatsoever shit in my life, I can trace this one back to when my Dad died and thus, a psychologist would probably love this as therapy fodder. (I’ve just had too many other agenda items to cover in the sessions I’ve had; we never got to the Empty Chair Obsession.) But really, anyone with a few credits of a psychology degree as I have can tell you that my thang with the empty chair, yes, indeed, mmm-hmmm, makes perfect sense as a symbol for someone missing in your life, always seeking to fill a space.

(I’m so good. Here’s my card. That’ll be $125 not covered by your insurance, please.)

It’s unfortunate, I know, but for the next couple days, people will still be talking about you in mocking terms. (Although, if you want to know the truth, they’re really kind of mocking poor Dirty Harry instead of you. You just happened to be there, dragged into the wrong place at the wrong time.)

My advice? It’s the political season. Your five minutes of fame will be over soon and people will soon once again not give a single thought or a passing glance to an empty chair (except me, that is). Then, we can go back to the way we were and my quirky obsession with empty chairs can remain just that – something artistic, not something to be associated with invisible Presidents and political satire and 82-year-old actors/mayors/gunslingers hollering “make my day.”

Besides, the Democrats have their convention coming up and then the campaign will start getting good.

So pull up a seat. Sit back and enjoy the show. Because you and me? We’re just getting started, baby.

Bench at my alma mater, June 2010

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA
August 2011

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA
August 2011

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