One sure sign of spring here in Keene, NH are the large trash piles left in the wake of departing college students. The house next to mine contains several rental units where countless students have moved in, out, and on during the half-dozen years I’ve lived here. When one batch of students moves in, they bring an assorted pile of stuff that largely stays within their overcrowded apartments…but when that same batch of students leaves, suddenly there’s a proliferation of stuff left over: some of it in dumpsters, some of it in yards, and some of it simply cast off into any available spot.
It is this latter category of cast-off furniture that runs the risk of becoming feral, inching into empty parking lots and hunkering down on the sides of roads, immovable for the long haul. What use does anyone (apart from one furniture-obsessed blogger) have for an abandoned couch? It’s not likely that a middle-aged married couple will happen upon a badly shredded sofa with several missing seat cushions and say, “Honey, that would look great in our den!” Dens of the middle-aged and married (i.e. dens of the parents of college kids) are where college apartment furniture comes from; it’s not where this furniture goes to die after it’s been spilled, puked, and made-out upon. Salvaging used furniture is one thing; salvaging really used (and abused) furniture is another. Who wants to claim a slightly soggy, seriously shredded sofa from a spot where it almost inevitably smells like trash? Perhaps you’d prefer to sit on the floor.
And yet, there always seems to be someone who claims even the most adventurous feral furniture, and not only when that furniture is in excellent condition like this sofa from last November. The Zen temple where I used to sit in Ann Arbor, MI had a locally famous annual rummage sale which consisted in large part of cast-off furniture from each year’s departing students. At the end of each month, semester, and school year, diligent Zennies would cruise student neighborhoods in a truck, retrieving and then storing in a garage all the wobbly desks, three-legged chairs, scuffed tables, and shredded sofas they could find.
Over the course of the summer, those diligent (and religiously frugal) Zennies would fix the furniture they found in time to hold a huge back-to-school yard sale where returning students would buy recycled, refurbished versions of the same goods they’d trashed months before. In a perfect illustration of the incessant cycle of samsara, the same Zennies would sometimes find themselves fixing, re-fixing, and re-fixing again the same desks, chairs, tables, and sofas, each time garnering a temple “donation” from the students (and students’ parents) who were willing to re-buy the same recycled furniture every year.
Given the recent abundance of abandoned furniture here in Keene, it’s curious to note that one downtown thrift shop is virtually begging folks to sell their old furniture on consignment, with used sofas being in particular demand. I guess Good Fortune isn’t in the market for the really ragged wares found on the sides of roads and abandoned in the middle of parking lots these days: if you’re choosy, a good sofa is much harder to find than the rough-around-the-edges feral kind.
As for me, my approximately ten-year-old, dog-fur-upholstered sofa is perfectly suitable for my somewhat post-college, somewhat pre-middled-aged lifestyle. So I suspect you won’t find any of my furniture At Large in the big, bad, outside world anytime soon.