October 12th, 2009

The Diag King plucked his throne from a tree

In September of 1993, Sunil and I were returning from visiting Shannon and Tina on South Forest in Ann Arbor when we spotted something curious: there was a white plastic chair in the branches of a tree, slightly out-of-reach. It had probably been launched there by a roving pack of frat boys, which were native to that region. Sunil and I were both 6-footers, but I was built more like a twig, whereas he was more solid, so he boosted me up and we retrieved the chair.

We carried the chair down along East University, where we paused so that Sunil could talk to a young woman sitting outside Rendezvous Cafe. She probably had on an attractive pair of boots. We met a lot of young women thanks to Sunil's appreciation of exotic footwear (including, if I am not mistaken, Mary Biddinger and Mrrranda). We chatted for a few minutes, probably lamenting the dearth of interesting people like ourselves (a common topic in our conversations), and then left.

Sunil was never shy about complimenting a lady. Perhaps he wasn't shy about anything. Come to think of it, we were both pretty cocksure and full of ourselves.

We were 19 years old. We were, looking back, probably incredibly annoying. Cut us some slack already.

At this point, an employee from the store ran out and yelled at us to return his chair.

"This isn't your chair," we told him. "We found this chair in a tree."

This was unconvincing, we realized, not only because of how ridiculous it sounded on the face of it, but also because it made the cafe employee more angry than before.

"Look, this white plastic chair is a different model than your white plastic chairs." We walked back so the chairs could be compared side-by-side. The differences were subtle, but apparent. The young woman we had been talking to also chimed in: "They were carrying that chair from down the block when I first saw them."

OK, OK, fine, it isn't our chair, the cafe employee agreed. We didn't get an apology, but at least a begrudging admission of innocence.

We carried the chair to the Diag, where Sunil set the chair on top of a concrete bench--the westernmost bench on the north side of the Diag. He sat in the chair like it was a throne, his long shaggy hair and his long ratty black cloak. I stood below, a court jester in a black felt mad-hatter hat, a secondhand black blazer from The Cat's Meow, and ratty patched blue jeans. We looked like extras from a Terry Gilliam film, only taller. We gave out dire warnings about what would happen if passersby stepped on the M. We booed and cursed if our warnings were not heeded, and cheered when people took our wise advice.

We were 19 years old. We were, looking back, probably incredibly annoying. Cut us some slack already.

This became somewhat of a habit--for an hour or so on most weeknights, we would drag the chair out to the Diag and regale people with the tales of woe that would befall them if they did not veer to the sides of the M. Many people ignored us, a few people laughed, and every so often someone would stop to chat. We saw people we knew, who would ask us what the heck we were doing.

I don't recall why this stopped. Sunil often ran the soundboard for bands at Rick's, so perhaps he needed to work. Or perhaps when I started dating Tina, I suddenly had better things to do than warn random strangers about the dangers of the M. I do recall that the chair stayed--I think was often piled high with clothes and a backpack in Sunil's room. I'm not positive, but I think that chair stuck as a fixture in Sunil's room for the next 3 years.