(Written in 2011. Image by Zoya Cherkassky)
There’s a Russian woman living in my building.
Technically, she’s moving out, as evidenced by a “Furniture for Sale” sign taped downstairs by the elevator, a sign with her name, Tatyana. And though I’ve never met her, having recently moved here myself, I’m becoming acquainted with her stuff, which she’s been depositing on the “free for all” bench in the lobby.
Not that I need anything. Still, every day on my way out, I now anticipate the thrill of noticing something new on the bench, rummaging through the books, exploring the textures of the domestic accessories left behind – and piecing together the personality of their former owner.
I woke up to the stench of particle board. IKEA has delivered my new life, compactly packaged and priced, to my new studio apartment rental in Washington, D.C., the day before.
Because some items worked out and some didn’t, I decided to visit the Swedish superstore again, all the way out in the Maryland suburbs. While leafing through the New Yorker on the train, I stumbled on an article about this very retailer, serendipitously titled “House Perfect: Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy?” Continue reading
Two suitcases is all I brought to Washington, DC. I congratulated myself for filling them with mostly practical stuff: clothes. Practical for teaching English in an art school in San Francisco. For frolicking in 80’s dance clubs and singing in piano bars. For grabbing beers with friends on weekends and then biking home, wind streaming through my helmeted hair. I come from the Mission District, the hipsterville. I was rather looking forward to carrying my style over, with a bang.
And lo and behold, I find myself on the set of modern-day Mad Men. People in the metro, on the streets, even in class all have this austere, tortured look to their wardrobe as if their personal and professional lives are spent on the defendant’s bench.
Some people are natural nomads. Ask them how long they’ve lived in one place, and they might say dismissively, “Oh, I’ve been renting here for a year now! I’m SO boring.” They have no problem packing up their livelihood and taking off without a job or a loved one waiting on the other end. These nomads don’t like to invest in furniture – or are industrious in scouting out the best deals on storage. They’re great at forging friendships and remembering them across distance. They see opportunity where others find nothing but cold, lonely terrain, whether in a dessert or a metropolis. Continue reading