Outdoor Furniture, Hot Tubs, Pool tables and Barstools
It's springtime, or nearly so, so of course Girlygirl and I are thinking fine thoughts about outdoor furniture. We re-did our back porch with nice screens and stuff last summer (and added a deck), but by the time that was done, we just couldn't get it together to buy a nice table and chairs for it (the whole purpose of the screened part was dining, so we're really messing things up not having anyplace good to sit and, well, dine--to top it off, I upped the ante at Christmas by giving Girlygirl a lovely oil lamp to provide light for our as-yet-unseated alfresco comesting).
We came close, we really did. Well, we came close to coming close. Two or three times we looked at outdoor furniture stores when we were out doing something else. I noticed something mystifying about all the places we stopped in: Apparently, there's some sort of connection between the buyers of outdoor furniture and buyers of hot tubs, pool tables, and barstools. OK--hot tubs I get. They might even be justifiable as outdoor furniture. Barstools? Well, they're furniture, arguably even specialty furniture. Pool tables, though? You got me. The hot tub connection doesn't work--we're not talking about that kind of pool. They're only barely tables, in the furniture sense of the word. I don't know what it is about these items that puts them in the same class, but it seems to be an industry standard.* Maybe they're just all items that seem like must-haves in your big new starter-mansion (a plague upon the DC suburban areas), but later turn out to be pretty much ignored and kept under vinyl covers. Perhaps this is actually a plan by the Vinyl Cover Council to create a market for their products?
Anyhoo, we never did find a table that worked for us. We're in kind of a bind, see, because we need a 36-inch table--any bigger and we won't be able to sit at the table, which kind of ruins the dining vibe. Apparently, we are very out of fashion--huge and uselessly tiny are the only sizes on offer these days. Huge kind of makes sense, considering the size of the great outdoors**, but useless for us, as we'd like to limit our interaction with said outdoors a bit during meals. We've got a nice big deck to go out on for the blood feast of the yard bugs, if we so desire, but while eating, we're content to leave the mosquitos on the other side of the screen, clanking their tiny cups against the wires and screaming for another helping of our precious bodily fluids. This means we have to find a table that'll fit in a relatively, um, conservatively-sized space. Also, it turns out that choosing dining chairs is like choosing your flatware when registering for your wedding loot--you never thought you had an opinion about them, but now you realize you utterly loathe and despise most of what's on offer. Plus, everyone wants arms on their chairs apparently. We like dining chairs without arms--it's easier to deal with our cramped little space if you don't have to push your chair so far back to get out of it.
So we wandered gamely around the places, fending off advances from salesmen who either looked like George Hamilton*** or old Gil from the Simpsons--I can hardly imagine a worse sales job, unless you're also the owner of the joint and are reaping the massive tax write-off from the totally dead business. We found a table here and there that looked OK, but was a) too large, b) too small, or c) thousands of dollars, and chairs that fit pretty much the same criteria. In the only places we found both a table we liked and chairs we liked, they were each only available as parts of sets. No mix and match. Fuckers. Do they want to sell furniture or not? We eventually retired for the winter unfulfilled (outdoor furniture-wise).
We've already made a couple of half-assed attempts this year, but have pretty much decided that I'll just build us a table out of quality 2X4 wood (it actually looks pretty OK, if you plane it square), and we'll worry about chairs after that. It's a sub-standard option, mostly because I have a tendency to take quite a long time getting stuff like that finished, but it'll be less than $900. This is what we get driven to sometimes.
I just thought of a possible other theory on why these stores so often combine outdoor furniture, pool tables, hot tubs and barstools. When you go to one of these joints, you're pretty much guaranteed to wind up frustrated in your search for whatever you went there for, so you end up saying, "Fuck it. We'll never find what we want. Let's just sit out in the yard more/hang out in the basement more/soak away this frustration and rage/get drunk, instead of what we came in for." Obviously, in this scenario the barstools are only there for suggestion--you're not supposed to actually buy any.
*It's possible to find some of these items sold in concert with other things--hot tubs are often sold with other kinds of pools and/or heat-and-water-oriented devices like saunas. Barstools are often sold along with regular furniture and, amazingly enough, bars. Pool tables, though, I think are strictly sold in the company of barstools, don't ask me why, and outdoor furniture, if it's not being sold along with screws and fertilizer at a home center, is definitely the near-exclusive province of the Hot Aqua Billiards cabal.
**Little known fact: It's the great outdoors because of how big it is, not how truly great it is. Like the Grand Canyon--it's nice and all, but mostly it's grand in an old-fashionedy way, like big.
***Super Cool: I couldn't remember George Hamilton's last name, so I asked Google to find me george "amazing tan". Bingo!