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The Lion Enters & Sleeps Tonight

17lenox 101

IN THE JUNGLE, THE MIGHTY JUNGLE, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT…

IN THE JUNGLE, THE QUIET JUNGLE, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT.

It was playing in Banana Republic, back when it used to be all safari clothing and far more interesting stuff (about half the price, too). ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ was on the sound system, and a summer trip to Boston was suddenly and irrevocably bound to the tune. We were finishing a day of shopping at Faneuil Hall, and the last stop was Banana Republic. It was a very different store back then, and the safari motif that better-suited its name was echoed in the surroundings – all raw wood and netting, with trees winding from the ground to the ceiling, branches extending out into the retail space. It was that atmosphere that drew me in when I was not even a teenager. The clothes, in which I was only just starting to become interested, were earthen shades of khaki and olive green – drab and geared toward designer safari-wear, and a far cry from the sophisticated office-chic look they’ve successfully evolved into over the years. Back then I was more interested in how they managed to get a tree into the store, and the majestic and whimsical way in which it overtook the back corner of the store.

NEAR THE VILLAGE, THE PEACEFUL VILLAGE, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT…

NEAR THE VILLAGE, THE QUIET VILLAGE, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT.

In a simple store’s marketing scheme, I found inspiration. Summer was at its height, and when we returned home I set about to recreating that enchanting tree in my bedroom. I scoured the forest beyond our backyard and found a fallen tree branch, about five feet tall (which was higher than me at the time). It would do nicely, but it needed some work. I spent the rest of that summer scraping off the bark with a single straight razor. It was slow-going and dangerous work, and how I managed to retain all my digits is a wonder I could never replicate today.

As summer closed, I brought the tree branch in, but it was still a little too rustic for my bedroom. The cellar was a better fit, in the area that my brother and I had carved out as a play den, and I rested it against the cement wall. Far from recreating the look of the store, it merely looked like an out of place log propped up for no discernible reason. Undaunted, I decided to paint the thing in various bright colors, segmented as the branches thinned and elongated. It was only slightly better, and in the end I chalked it up to a creative experiment that didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. It was the first of many lessons in understanding that trying to recreate an atmosphere with just one or two pieces was almost impossible. The promise of a retail dream seldom comes true, but we keep buying in the hope that it will. In this case, the cost of paint and the waning hours of a summer was a small price to pay for exerting my creative muscles.

HUSH MY DARLING, DON’T FEAR MY DARLING, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT…

HUSH MY DARLING, DON’T FEAR MY DARLING, THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT.

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Personally, I prefer lions. I also like the way Banana Republic has changed. Until I stage an ‘Out of Africa’ moment, I have no need for safari gear or netting. Happy March! (And say hello to Lenox, the lion who was a gift during my birthday stay in the Judy Garland Suite of the Lenox Hotel two years ago. Who better to ring in the month of March?)

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