Ask me: white couch

>> Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Really, why do you have a white sofa?

Because I graduated from law school with good credit and no money.

After I finished law school, I moved back in with my mother for awhile, took the bar, was still at home for awhile, got my bar results back, was still living at home, sent resumes to every public defender in North Carolina, lived with my Mom, was hired by one of those public defenders, lived with my Mom, eventually got to where I could move out into a place on my own closer to work. At which point, having an assistant public defender's starting salary and needing furniture, I did what a lot of poor people with good credit do, and went to Rooms-To-Go and spent waaaaaaaay too much over the next five, six years (I think; I can't remember when I finally paid that fucking credit line off) for a living room and bedroom set. And this is why I have a white couch--because it was a part of the nicest living room set that was within the scope and bounds of what I could afford to borrow. I also have a white chair and white end-tables and white table lamps and a white coffee table to go along with that white couch.

The white couch is old now, and was never all that well-built to start with, and I should go get another couch sometime. When? No idea. One option is to buy a new couch and living room set in much the same way as I bought the one I have, only from a nicer retailer--by going out and putting it all on a credit card. Which, having actually paid off most of my credit debt now, is a pretty unappealing option and I don't think I'll be doing it. The other option is to scrimp and save, but in the meantime there are other expensive things I need or would like before I think about furniture: my television is now technically ancient technology, like an Archimedes's screw or the Wright Brothers' aeroplanimacon, for instance, and I'm considering doing something really geeky like getting an all-in-one computer, instead, because I don't watch TV shows but do watch DVDs and could use a media server for the big huge hard drive full of music files. Or a camera. I'd like a new camera.

When I was very young, my Dad built a very ugly couch out of some wooden boards and a green fabric with a texture resembling sandpaper, and by "resemble" I mean "identical to," so perhaps I should just use that phrase instead. Oh well. My Dad is an incredible woodworker, and I almost hesitate to mention this couch because it was not a pretty couch, and if there are pictures of this couch somewhere, my Dad would probably like to see them burned or Photoshopped or something to "un-couch" the couch in much the same way Stalinist Russia "un-personed" embarrassing people from photographs. This couch was, however, unlike my white couch, very sturdy, a several-ton monstrosity of wood that is possibly still out there in the world somewhere; if conditions are right for the wood to become mineralized, it would only be fitting if this beast turned to rough stone and were worshipped by spider-men or landsharkinoids or whatever survives World War III alongside the couch.

This couch was a marvel to a small child, which is something I did for a brief stint in the 1970s. A small child, of course, doesn't think about fashion or comfort, but rather about strategic value--just as a general is less interested in whether terrain is scenic than he is whether it can be held or taken. This couch, whatever its issues as a piece of furniture, was well designed to repel dragons, ghosts, and criminals, and the framework structure and rope backing had the mysterious property of imparting several of Spider-Man's more-famous powers to anyone under 4' in height. The overstuffed pillows, whose stuffing was rendered mostly irrelevant by the fact they were covered in the same scritchy green fabric as the rest of the couch, may not have been too useful from a conservative-or-traditional pillow-use perspective, but the ease with which they could be assembled into an impregnable stronghold cannot be understated.

Damn, I loved that couch.

The other major piece of furniture I recall from childhood was a brown vinyl-covered chair that began its history with the family in the living room but eventually found its way to my bedroom in our last apartment, if I remember correctly, and then the garage of our first house. The curious thing about this chair was its weird violation of physical laws, which should be studied if the chair still exists somewhere; you see, when I was very young, this chair was very heavy and a human being could lie across it with his head on one armrest and my feet propped up comfortably on the other. And yet, somehow, as time went on, the chair shrank so that I could no longer comfortably lie across it at all, and eventually became so small that I could only sprawl on it languidly when I was reading. I know that this was a loss of mass and not just volume from the incredible fact that, as the chair shrank, it became easier to push around--when I was young, I could jump back into the chair without disturbing its position, whereas I eventually had to just sit in it, lest a hop push it back flush to the wall or knock it to the side.


The chair was also held together almost entirely by duct tape. That seems worth mentioning, too.

When we moved into our first house, I got the smallest bedroom because my parents were going to convert the basement into an awesome bedroom and then I would move into the former-master. This never happened, and I lived in a windowed closet through high school and upon returns from college. The chair could not have lived in my room, even if my parents had been willing to allow it in the house.

Not long after we moved into the house, a cat found my sister. She (the cat, I mean) was a large white cat, tough as nails, and at least semi-feral, though she eventually sort of lodged with us. My Mom isn't a pet-inclined person, and Spirit, as the cat was dubbed, had to live in the garage when she wasn't outside on the porch; this arrangement seemed to suit the cat just fine, actually. I'm hesitant to try to read the inscrutable mind of a cat, but I suspect Spirit found that having a roof and walls was very nice when it was cold and rainy, and so was having food that you didn't have to hunt for brought in a bowl, but the presence of big pink bipedal pests was otherwise an annoyance. The chair, anyway--the big, brown, held-together-only-by-duct-tape chair--became the cat's by default, an ugly brown throne for the queen of a garage full of crap.

One of my chores as a teen was to carry the kitchen garbage out; the cans were kept in the garage and dragged out to the curb on collection days. Here, for context, I have to allude again to the fact that I was not a happy teenager; anyway, I'd take the garbage down, and I'd stop to lift Spirit from her throne and sit in her place, and hold her on my lap and pet her. As far as I know, I was the only human she tolerated being held by. I don't know if my parents ever wondered why it took me such insane amounts of time to take a bag of garbage from the kitchen to the garage and to return. I think those evenings spent with that ghost-white cat were among the few times I knew real solace as a kid.

One afternoon, Spirit was mauled by a dog. This was actually the second time, I think, something like that had happened, but this was the time her injuries were mortal. We buried her in the back yard. I think I was the one who dug the grave. She was a good cat, or maybe I'm just writing that because I was the only human she seemed to like. Maybe she was mostly a horrible cat; but if so, she was a horrible cat who charitably consented to being held and stroked by and purred for a sad, awful kid who needed those kind moments of peace amidst all the sorrow he felt with such absurd profundity back then.

And that is why I have a white couch.


mattw Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 12:39:00 PM EST  

Wow, Eric, that's some story.

And I can totally understand the many play values of an ugly couch. My parents had a white couch with rough, scratchy fabric where the fabric was of an excellent type for taking Lion-O's Sword of Omens and burying it to the hilt in the fabric so that Lion-O would have to retrieve it before Mumm-Ra or Skeletor or some other villain did.

Dr. Phil (Physics) Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:49:00 PM EST  

When we wrecked the Suburban at Christmas '84, friends picked us up and took us to their house first. Mrs. Dr. Phil picked up their cat -- was warned that the cat hated everyone -- and began to pet it quite hard. The cat stayed there for quite a long time and submitted to being granged and mauled, apparently the only time it ever allowed such behavior. Cat's just know when someone needs a hug.

Dr. Phil

Eric Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:46:00 PM EST  

My first take, Michelle, was that you were sending me to a link for the word "surfeit," which, yeah, okay, this was a long post but I was happy with it, okay. Then I realized you were sending me to some couch-cover outfit.

The reasons I need to eventually replace this furniture are only minimally due to the covers. The items just aren't that well made and have other wear and tear. But thank you. Unless your deal is you just don't like white furniture, in which case, I dunno, what are you, some kind of couchist?

Nathan Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 11:58:00 PM EST  

I suppose I've been meaning to ask...

Why do these children appear to be going to school in a windowless Pullman Car?

Eric Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 12:37:00 AM EST  

I'll go ahead and answer that one here, Nathan: because they are! The description at Wikimedia Commons says, "Canadian School Train. Pupils of Indian, Finnish, Norwegian, French and British extraction attend classes at Nemigos near Chapleau, Ontario," and tells us the picture was taken in 1950. Nemigos, according to the Wikipedia stub, was (their word) a small town that seems to have been mostly abandoned or abandoned full-time; I'm assuming that using a converted train car was cheaper or faster than building a modern schoolhouse for so few students, and that the car was pulled off the tracks into the grass somewhere. Or, perhaps, the train car was used while a traditional school house was being repaired or the car was used as an annex.

That's what I'm assuming rationally; naturally, I'd prefer to imagine that the train car remained on the tracks, attached to an engine, and was transported all over Ontario, and that the children raising their hands have questions like, "Where are we going?" "Why are we attached to a train?" "Will I ever see my Mummy or Daddy again?"

You have to admit, train-school would be pretty awesome.

I really picked the picture, though, because I went to Wikimedia Commons looking for a good, '50s-style, public domain, class'o'kids raising their hands kind of picture to use as an icon for the series, and that one was almost exactly what I had in mind except for the fact it was on a train. But the train thing was kind of awesome for the reasons I mentioned above, so I decided to go with it.

Nathan Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:47:00 AM EST  


rbird Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 3:02:00 PM EST  

I was told that Spirit was poisoned (it was the day that my 5th grade teacher fell down the stairs and broke her arm at school). Either I was lied to because I'd already experienced enough violence for one day or you are wrong...

Eric Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 5:27:00 PM EST  

I believe I'm wrong, though I'm not sure she was poisoned--Dad called me the other evening to say he'd found her in the garage. But what he also said was that when he took her to the vet they asked if he wanted an autopsy and he'd decided not to. He didn't say anything about her being poisoned.

Speaking of Dad, the couch was the very first thing he built, and he estimates the materials cost him less than ten bucks.

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