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"J" is for "Junk"

J is for “Junk”

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I frequently see large piles of discarded furniture set out on the curb along my routes to and from work. It amazes me the volumes of busted-up furniture my fellow citizens seem capable of producing during the course of normal daily operations. Our city does periodic bulky-item pickups once a month, and if you are being a responsible citizen, you put out your piss-stained sofa, your smashed television, your old toilet, and your enormous, soggy pile of putrescent shag carpeting at the start of the week of Bulky Item pickup. Unfortunately, the folks who produce most of these prodigious heaps of discarded, degraded furnishings don’t seem to adhere to the Responsible Citizen Coda of not turning the city, as a whole, into a large landfill, so I am blessed with a vista of pimpin’ 1970s carpet, sleazy 1980s sofas, and televisions of vintages from the 1960s to the present, as well as other types of appliances, household fixtures, and general large detritus. From time to time, I see something good and make plans to go back and retrieve it for my own use. I got the bureau in my sewing room that way. Perfectly good short-ish, wide 6-drawer chest, ideal for storing a zillion-and-two sewing patterns. Sure it had been painted black and doodled upon with model paint, but I re-painted it to my own liking, and it serves. I missed out scamming a set of stair risers, due to not having any means with which to haul them home, so my back step is still dangerously weathered.

What I have to wonder is how and why people tear their shit up so bad. I mean, half the stuff I see out on the curb is newer than most of the stuff Todd and I own, and always just torn to all hell. Sofas that look like somebody slashed them with katana, TVs that have obviously been purposefully smashed, vacuum cleaners that have had their handles snapped and their housings splintered. What gives? Do people not value the consumer durables they spend their hard-earned money on? Apparently not.

We have the kind of sofa that pretty much every college-student and young-adult is familiar with. It is rust-brown and slightly scratchy, with deeply button-tufted upholstery and broken castors, so we replaced the castors with small wooden legs fabricated from cut-up lengths of 2×4. It is butt-ugly, but terribly comfortable, indeed the ideal napping couch. I keep making plans to make a slipcover to conceal its aggressive unsightliness, but I have yet to actually get around to it. This sofa came to us third-hand and is, at best guess, probably 24 years old. And it is perfectly sound and functional, with no egregious rips, stains, or structural faults. If an ordinary sofa can withstand normal family use, plus the depredations of two different sets of college students, you’d think the average sofa is a pretty sturdy affair. So why is it that I see so many beaten and defeated sofas lining the street-sides every day. Are people really that rough on their stuff? And why? I’m wanting to get a secondary sofa and a couple of lounge chairs, and the set I want is from probably the late 1940s in “French Provincial” style and is about $500. Last I checked $500 doesn’t grow on trees. If a re-upholstered secondhand lounge suite runs $500, then a new set is probably something on the order of twice that, so if you go and bust up your living room furniture, you’re probably going to be out $500-$1000 to get something nice-ish, and even if you just get some crap from goodwill, you will probably be out $20/chair $35/sofa, which while not so expensive, still racks up.

I guess it is the “throwaway” approach to furniture that is getting on my ass here. I have a co-worker who plans on getting entirely new furniture when she moves house next. I simply can’t imagine having such an expensive and temporary attitude toward my surroundings. I mean, at least in my house, the furniture is part of my household history–stuff has provenance beyond “I bought this at Nebraska Furniture Mart last April when we bought the house.” Our neat old iron bedstead is a hand-me-down from my folks, who bought it at a flea-market when they were newlyweds in California. The nifty 1950s chromed tubular-steel and formica dinette set was what I bought with my 1999 tax refund, from the Retro Inferno, which is my favorite furnishings-type store in the world. It is like half museum, half junk-shop, and entirely cool all the way through. If you are local, give them some business, if you’re passing through, check this place out–it is too much fun! Don’t be spooked by the prices on their webpage…that’s just their poshest stuff…they have things us regular folks can afford, too. Plus their new shop building is so Space Age! Love it, love it, love it!!! The brass floor lamp in the living-room was an impulse buy from an estate sale, and was toted home a dozen blocks on foot, with the lampshade balanced on my head, since it wouldn’t stay on the lamp-top when the lamp was being carried musket-style over my shoulder. You just don’t get stories like that when you go down to the Broyhill Showcase and order a matching set of something, then discard it in a decade when it has ceased to be fashionable and you are sick of it. I think it is so much more fun and sensible to slowly accumulate good, or at least interesting pieces, then take care of them and hold on to them, and make them a part of your interior decorating expression that says that you, personally, live here.

Excuse me as I dodge past this dead oatmeal-colored sofa on the curb on my way to Frank’s Upholstery to ogle that 1940s “French Provencial” sofa and wing-chair once again.

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