It's not about the house.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Curtains For The Governor

I don’t begrudge him the Cadillac.

When newly-inaugurated, first-black-governor-of-Massachusetts Deval Patrick was taken to task last weekend for having leased himself a brand-new Caddy on the government’s dime, my only thoughts were: “So?” and, “Nice ride, guv.”

I drove a Cadillac myself until six months ago (and if you’ll bear with me I’d like to take a moment here for my dear departed friend Francine …). They’re nice cars. Comfortable, American-made, classy – if not quite the legendary status symbols that they used to be – and a lot less expensive, less vulgar, slightly less fossil-fuely (if you’re into those sorts of things) than your other, modern-day rolling bank accounts. The lease on the Governor’s Caddy was said to cost just under $1200 a month, which is almost as much as I pay on my mortgage – but, then again, I pay my mortgage, whereas DePat here is gettin’ it on the d-l. So more power to him, I say. What do we expect him to drive, a freakin’ hybrid?

But I couldn’t cotton to the curtains.

Just when Caddygate was showing signs of blowing over, it was reported that DePat had spent twelve thousand dollars on curtains for his State House office. Now, I understand the impetus to redecorate when you move into a new house. Erase all traces of cats and kids, old people and Republicans that were there before. And, though I’ve never been inside the State House, I have walked by it a thousand times, and I imagine that the golden dome is daunting. Hell, the name “State House” itself would be enough to make most decorators want to go lie down. So you’d want to make your mark, declare your presence. Piss in the corners, if you will.

But $12K for some lousy curtains? Didn’t he have any old playclothes lying around he could have stitched them from?

I used to work for a woman who called herself a decorator. Basically what she did was walk around warehouses with rich people and order the expensive fabric they picked out, then commission the seamstresses and upholsterers to put it all to use. One client in particular I remember (whose husband is also in politics, or wants to be) covered everything in her monstrous living room – a sofa, two love seats, four easy chairs, a couple ottomans, drapes, valences, roman shades, pillows, the works – in the same periwinkle toile at $269/yard. We must have ordered a couple hundred yards of the hideola crap. Do that math, plus my boss’s “decorator” markup of 15%, plus of course the cost of putting it together – plus markup on that – and the aesthetic effect, I’m pleased to say, was equally as nauseating.

Now, I don’t imagine for a minute that the Governor was actually in the warehouse picking out the fabric, or in the meeting room interviewing seamstresses. If he even approved the design I’d be surprised, but he must have approved the budget – and if there’s one thing (and it kills me to have to say this) that his shellac-headed, when-in-Romney predecessor had going for him, it was that he could trim a budget. He could trim a budget within an inch of its natural life.

DePat, on the other hand, ran on a very Evita platform: “I am one of you, one of you!” He made political hay of the fact that his mother managed to put him through Milton Academy (a very tony boarding school, for those of you from out of state) on a special inner-city, tuition-forgiving program. He wanted us all to know, when he was running, that but for the grace of his dear mother’s prodding and his own hardscrabble bootstraps, he would still be one of us, out here, paying three dollars a yard and getting our curtains made for us as Christmas presents from our sisters.

So where did he develop a taste for the $12,000 version? (Oh yeah, that’s right, Milton Academy. He wasn’t on the hockey team so he had to find some other way to occupy his time.)

We bought this house, as I’ve said before, on a lottery ticket and a rotten foundation. It is, now that I’m thinking about it, furnished entirely with hand-me-downs and gifts. A futon from Kris, a chair salvaged off of one of Johnny’s jobs and reupholstered as a Christmas gift from Mom and Dad, a beautiful cherry bed from one of my ladies who decided it was too big for her when her husband passed away. It’s all not just passable but lovely, and none of it cost anywhere near $12,000 – even for the original owners, when it was new.

And so I’m flummoxed as to how DePat signs off on $12K for window treatments. Is it the nouveau concept? "Now that I’m here I get to do this even though I’ve preached against it all along?" That’s so white trash…

But still, the Cadillac I can forgive. There are worse things. This morning, for example, driving down Quincy Shore Drive, I passed a red Ford F350 with a big pink rubber scrotum dangling down between its two back tires.

I don’t care if they gave them out for free, that’s just not a thing I’d want my governor sporting, no matter how white trash he is.

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