Garbage-picker!

Our Green Table!
Image 1 (Left): Our new table adorned with DP’s photos of Venice in October, 2007.
Image 2 (Centre): Green Table Update…here’s our table in February of 2008. It’s true! We are shape-shifting style gurus!

In William Gibson’s novel “Pattern Recognition” (a sci-fi pick from DP) the main character, Cayce, travels from her home in New York City to London, England which she refers to as the “mirror world”.

I totally get that concept… a place that seems the same as “home” but isn’t quite…

In Barcelona, people put perfectly good furniture out on the street when they are done with it. Really! Some people make a point of dragging the unwanted item all the way down to a spot right beside the garbage dumpster so that there will be no question, whatsoever, that this piece is officially up-for-grabs. Other (lazier, more practical, more efficient) Barcelonans simply prop the item up against the outside wall of their building knowing that it will disappear into someone else’s flat in nano-seconds. (This makes the actual act of moving extremely stressful as one must operate with the understanding that passers-by may mistake your stuff as fair-game and take it home with them. This leads to a hyper vigilant state of awareness on moving day and, in some Canadians, a deep sense of paranoia).

The array and quality of stuff that gets thrown out is fascinating! As many Barcelonans are living in flats that have been in the family for generations, there is a lot of old furniture floating around. Beautiful antiques polished with care by mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers. The city’s younger residents, however, are IN LOVE with Ikea and so it is out with the old and in with the new!

This is the mirror world part… what sane person replaces antiques with Ikea furniture? This illustrates that one person’s treasure is another person’s medium-density fibreboard. It also shows that not all developed nations have developed taste in the same way.

**This is DP, interrupting with supporting evidence…Last year, we bought a small red table from Ikea for our apartment and it was perfect there, but in the new apartment, there is no place for it, no corner where its bold redness seems quite right. With a value of a whole 10 euros, we decided we could let it go, so this afternoon, I went to buy some water at the grocery, three blocks away. On the way, I took out our little red table and left it on the street (lazily, nowhere near a dumpster) across from the door to our building. By the time I came back from the grocery with the water, the table was gone. It’s true. Life moves pretty fast. So do small red tables from Ikea. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program…**

You really could furnish an entire apartment with the goodies you find beside the dumpster; we have seen kitchen tables and chairs (not matching), couches in need of some stuffing, old mirrors with gilded frames, dressers, coffee tables, beds (I don’t think I would claim a bed from beside the dumpster but perhaps that’s just me)… and everything else INCLUDING the kitchen sink.

On our little street, there is a piso (apartment) that is being (loudly) gutted and restored and a lot of great stuff has been coming out of that apartment. About a week ago, we returned from school to find a gigantic heap of furniture right outside our building. At first we thought that someone must be moving. No… not a truck or a mover in sight! Perhaps this stuff belongs to the furniture store across the street. Nope… no price tags. Someone is throwing these jewels out? Incredible! As we moved closer to the pile, a neighbour was approaching from the opposite direction. It’s an intricate but civilized little dance, this sniffing around at the pile of cast-off furniture. We made eye contact but, as we had arrived first, the man waited for us to make our selections. Our eyes, at first, were bigger than our apartment; in the end, we selected just one item, an old table, and brought it up to the apartment.

The previously-loved table is old and beat-up and painted dark brown and dark green and light green as if the owner kept getting inspired to paint the table a new colour and lost momentum part-way through the job. It actually reminds me of a light green table that mom and dad have in their basement; I think it used to have a marble top on it and there is a story about the marble coming from the Chateau Laurier. (I don’t think I am making that up). This Barcelona table came sans marble but it has a whole lot of character and we love it. We placed it against the far wall of our living room and everything seemed perfect….

But, with time, we realized that it just doesn’t match our cheap blonde (almost) wood MDF Ikea coffee table and that the Ikea will just have to go! We are thinking about replacing it with a dark brown coffee table and maybe a dark brown furry rug to go under it.

Who knows… perhaps we will find something amazing at the dumpster.

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