Voice of the Mountain
by Shawn K. Inlow
Who needs a sofa that badly?
It's a Friday and I need to find a home for the sofa in the masthead. Nice, white sofa with this massive blood stain on the center cushion. What? No takers?
The pictured piece of furniture is one of a series of photographs I've become interested in of furniture left outside on the curb in hopes that someone will take it. I call the series of photos my "Lawn Furniture" series and I'm thinking how this could be the germ of a nice coffee table book. Any time I see a nice hassock or table and chairs set out in the weather with a cardboard sign with the inscription "Free!" I've gotta yank the car to the curb for a quick and dirty photo-shoot.
The sofa above is from Hammonton, New Jersey, just down 12th Street from a very good Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana. And we're driving along in the "Blueberry Capital of the World" - Hammonton, NJ, is the blueberry capital of the world - and the missus calls out "Lawn Furniture!" which causes me to nearly crash our good car. I yank the Toyota over into a little pizza shop parking lot right over the curb and the patrons inside are looking at me as I run down 12th Street brandishing my iPod Touch.
All for you, dear reader.
This all started when my neighbor put this blue recliner out on the curb. It sat there forever. Literally all winter long, it sat there and I never saw anyone come to pick it up. The chair looked decent. From a distance it didn't appear to have any obvious stains. I might have liked to see what might have fallen under the cushions but I couldn't bring myself to look. I mean, it's sitting out there for anyone to take yet I was conflicted about the prevailing etiquette of looking under the cushions.
If it was just one chair, nothing would have come of it. But it wasn't long that the neighbor on the other side of me put out this orange recliner on the curb. I mean, I was like the odd duck on our block now 'cause I didn't have any furniture to put out on the lawn. But this orange recliner was of a colour that would not match anything. And I'm wondering what the possibility is of someone coming along with a living room that is painted a color that would, after some prolonged exposure, cause you to kill your spouse.
Story about this particular chair. It looks just like the very chair that was in Rita's house that she rented us after we'd burned our house down on Easter of 1995. We escaped at 5 a.m. the morning after Easter by going out a window onto the roof, but that's another post altogether. We needed a place to stay and my new son was due any time now and Rita's house was our first child's first home.
And in the living room of this house was an identical recliner. Now, there's nothing that gets my goat more than a new mother who coos over her little angel and says, "Oh, he's such a good boy, he goes right to sleep every night and sleeps until morning." Whatta buncha bitches? My son never slept through the night for two freaking years. And there were times when the idea of throwing the child through the upstairs window at 3 a.m. was alarmingly plausible.
Enter the orange recliner.
I'd go to the orange recliner and put the baby's head on my shoulder where this charming - no, it was charming, really - patch of drool soaked into my shirt and I could comfort the child with gentle rocking and still get some sleep myself. There were two of these recliners and I knew them intimately. When we rebuilt our house, I'm told my neighbor, Lisa, and her brother, Brady, each took one. And there it was.
That recliner had a lot of my life in it. And there it sat, sad and unwanted. Broken down with the rest of the refuse. Brady is trying to sell the nice brick house next door but the market is awful right now. And Brady's a good neighbor and we'd hate to lose him from the neighborhood. But it might just be that nobody wants to buy a house in a neighborhood where everyone leaves their furniture on the curb. They have covenants against this kind of thing in better neighborhoods.
It got worse. It wasn't a week before a third chair - a nice, earth tone love seat - turned up across the street and down three houses. Now this place was a big house that one of our former neighbors turned into four or five units and was renting them out. So I have no idea who left it out there, but there it sat for months.
And I slowly started to realize that I lived in a white-trash neighborhood. Good Lord. I was probably white trash, myself. The horror. My wife. My son. The brother-in-law-in-the-basement. All white trash. The horror.
But this is how I got started and I think this is gonna make a great coffee table book when I get enough Lawn Furniture photos. It would kind of be a celebration of a certain kind of life-style. Of people generous enough to just give their belongings to others and not seek a penny of recompense.
Here's a chair from Pittsburgh just down the hill from the National Aviary - a really good place to go if you get the chance - I got shit on four times by exotic birds there... And you can see this brown love seat right there and there's a little brown card-board sign beside it (You probably can't see it, but it was there.) that says, "FREE!"
Here's another one from Garfield Avenue in DuBois, Pa. This appears to be one of those video gaming chairs that, if you're not careful when playing Halo you can go ass-over-tin-cups backward. That shit right there is FREE! That is a leather video chair. No charge.
Wayne from Flint, Michigan, tells me that people there just take their sofas out into the street and set them on fire. That's what they do there. They drag their sofas into the street like some weird upholstery death sentence and they set their sofas on fire.
I was driving through West Virginia and some people who knew the place well were telling me that, boy-howdy, I was going to see LOADS of Lawn Furniture. And I was ready. Took some side roads even. Never saw a one.
I don't know if you can put a photo in the chat-back box below. But if you have a good picture of some Lawn Furniture, please send it along. Maybe next Friday I'll turn you on to some other set of weird photos I have. I have this real joy of taking pictures of signs. And I have this real joy of taking pictures of just commonplace random stuff that you might find interesting.
Art. It is what you make of it.
Osceola Mills, Pa.