Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Grass Is Good as Carpet, Anyplace Is Fine

When I mentioned that the Festival of Trash saved my bacon, I wasn't kidding. It's my wife's birthday, and I gots no moneys. I don't even have a money. What was I going to do?

People used to say, "The Lord will provide," and mean it. That led morons with opinions to deduce that the Christian religions consist of pulling a lever and out pops the candy. If no candy showed up, you'd lose your faith, or Richard Dawkins would call you a rube. Simple faith doesn't work like that.

"The Lord will provide" really means that you're supposed to do everything in your power to help yourself, first and foremost, and then trust that the universe isn't entirely malignant, and maybe you'll catch a break. Assume the world is not entirely carpeted in banana peels. Don't expect every apple to have a fishing supply store in it. Don't mistake every pineapple for a hand grenade.

The operative part of this faith that the world isn't out to get you in particular, just in general, brings a duty, not a benefit. Saying, "The Lord will provide," means you have to be on the lookout for good fortune that might come your way. You have to recognize it as an opportunity. It might come in disguise. It might come dressed up as a battered dresser:

This is what the festival of trash offered up as my salvation. It might look light an old dresser to you, but it looked like redemption to me. One of my nearby neighbors, who is a hell of a guy, put this dresser out on the curb for the Festival of Trash. He also put out some easy chairs with a substantial mixture of duct tape in their DNA, a semi-lethal crib, some skis you could stand still on, and assorted other items jetsamic. My wife and I were standing in front of our house, unloading shipping pallets from my truck to leave as my offering for the Festival of Trash. My wife's nose went into the air like a wild animal on a scent. "Hey, lookit that."

She made a beeline across the street. She's wanted a dresser. She's wanted a dresser, bad. She's wanted a dresser, real bad. She's wanted a dresser, real bad, since her husband bought her a real bad dresser about a dozen years ago.

My wife had always done without stuff. Our life was always spent crawling upward and onward out of the primordial poverty ooze, and generally being pushed back in by people that can't be bothered to worry about every undercapitalized business in the country. We never really had any disposable income we could trust. I was self-employed, and worked day and night, but there was never any surety in it. We never bought much of anything, it seemed.

Then I got a job, a real job. It lasted four years. I went from the lowest man on a very big totem pole to a division manager in three years. Just like now, my income started with a 1, but it had an additional zero for a change. It was time, finally, to buy my wife something.

I bought her a dresser. It was a very expensive dresser, at least by my standards. I went to what I considered a fancy-pants furniture store, Ethan Allen, and bought a cherry Shaker dresser for my wife's birthday present. It was fool's gold furniture.

That dresser was never right. I paid for delivery. They scratched it, which I wouldn't have done if I did it myself. I always seem to be paying people to do what I wouldn't do, but not in a good way. This is the basis of government and furniture delivery. We were faced with sending it back and waiting for them to bring a new one to scratch again, or putting up with it. Oh, it's not so bad, we lied to ourselves.

I looked at it every day when I woke up, of course. I didn't make furniture then, but I knew what a Shaker chest of drawers should look like. I began to notice this one was stretched a bit. Too low, too long to be considered in proportion. It had the kind of drawer glides that you see in kitchen cabinets. They began to malfunction. The drawers got harder and harder to slide in and out. Unlike all our hand me down furniture, there was no way to wax the runners or anything. They were no-maintenance. That means "disposable" if you're telling the truth.

The dresser was heavy without being strong. It was made from particle board covered with a thin cherry veneer. The finish was sprayed on to make the exact same boring reddish tone all over. The grain was obscured. It wasn't pretty at all if it got a mark on it, and couldn't be effectively fixed. And it came with a mark, remember?

The top was very strong, but not stiff like solid wood would have been. The design was too long for the four legs, so it began to sag in the middle. I'd been to architectural school for ten minutes, so I knew all about "creep." The top became swaybacked, and the drawers began to have a lot of trouble going in and out.

My wife wrestled with that stupid, expensive dresser for a decade and more. It was her nemesis. She never complained to me about it, but I would hear the shriek of the drawers as she shoved them home, and the little grumble that followed. She would never say it, but I knew that I had gotten one chance to delight her, and I had fumbled it.

So here it was. The Lord, or my neighbor who had too much furniture, would provide. It's a testimony to my wife's good nature that she would have put that battered dresser in our bedroom, just as you see it, and used it. She just wanted to keep her clothes in something that didn't shriek at her.

My good fortune continued. My neighbor is minding two high school exchange students. One is from Denmark, and one is from Germany. You can tell they are foreigners because they are polite and speak perfect English. My neighbor directed the kids to carry  the dresser over to our house. This was beginning to look like luxury to my eye. I was standing there on my neighbor's lawn, socializing, when those two foreigners appeared from my front door, following my wife. They were carrying that shaky Shaker dresser, and they plunked it on my lawn.

My wife knew that sometimes the Lord provides a pretext, and that's as good as a reason.

[read the conclusion of the story of treasure among the trash here]


julie said...

Good dressers are a wonderful thing.

When we moved into this place, the previous owners had "helpfully" left a lot of stuff, including some obviously handmade storage and a "work bench" in the garage. Things that would fit right in on that forum about the landlord who built a shed without a permit or any plans. Most of it got ripped out and donated to our Festival (and tellingly, most of it was still on the lawn the morning the claw truck came by to pick it up).

One thing we kept, though, was a gigantic dresser with a couple wonky drawers tucked in the back closet. The paint is a tad ugly, but the drawers fixed up just fine. I expect we'll be using it a good long time.

Sam L. said...

I see bacon is not mentioned in Ep. 2, but I'm getting the sense that you ARE on the right track and will find that bacon saved somewhere down the line. What is absolutely clear is you married a mighty fine woman. You can tell her I said so if'n it won't go to her head, which I suspect it won't since she married you.

shoreacres said...

Real is the best. That's true for furniture, food, music, writing -- for people, too. There's a reason we consider people with a veneer of politeness (or anything else) a little dodgy.

Leslie said...

I love this story. You wouldn't know it, but I have rescued hand me down furniture forever. It is just now, in my 50's, I have the means to buy new. I bought Sippican Cottage furniture, of course!

Robert Toy said...

Recently I had the need to clear out some extra space so my son's old unused crib got the heave-ho. I disassembled it and placed it at the curb with the trash, as it was pretty beat up.

When I arrived back home from work, trash and crib were gone and I was happy.

Next day, back home and crib had reappeared.....

When I had disassembled it, I kept most of the hardware and the wooden dowels, as I am an inveterate pack rat. Whoever took it figured out that the hardware was missing and instead of putting it out on their curb, had decided to dump it back at mine...

Anonymous said...

Such a vicious attack of remembrance on Hitlary was not expected to be encountered on this compendium of practical living.

Thank you. And salute!

Sunnykm said...

lol Julie! How funny you would know about the Shed of Doom and post here at the Cottage! I still check in on the shed and it is still standing--how and why I have no idea but maybe just gravity pushing down on all that wood?

julie said...

I am amazed the Shed is still standing.