The Couch

This is the first time in my life I’ve truly been on my own. For my entire life, I’ve always been sharing my living space – whether it’s with my parents, roommates, or about 50 Bay Area stoners with questionable hygiene practices during my freshman year in the dorms. Now that I’m in a one bedroom that’s all mine, I’m starting to realize the benefits and disadvantages of getting exactly what I’ve been fantasizing about for years.

The good news? Nobody else lives in my apartment. I know – I’ve made that clear already, but I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to not have to deal with anybody else’s bullshit, be it physical, emotional, or dog. Dealing with my own bullshit is pretty much a full-time job, and I’m glad that I finally have ample space and privacy to focus on it, in the nude if I so choose.

The bad news is that furnishing an apartment from the ground up turns out to be quite difficult. In all of my previous situations, each roommate simply brought what furnishings and decorations he already owned, and between the three or four of us we’d buy what we didn’t have to fill out the apartment, albeit with a decidedly mix-and-match décor.

It seemed like in every situation I moved into I was joining up with a guy who already owned a crapload of inherited furniture and also had access to a pickup truck to move it, and by the time I got to the apartment with my paltry Subaru load of belongings the place already would pretty much look like a home: A bright green, ramshackle hand-me-down couch that one of my roommates had no doubt been conceived on, mismatched pots and pans in the kitchen, the obligatory Boondock Saints poster… Most of my stuff just stayed in my bedroom, along with me, most of the time.

Since I never had a need to buy any of these things for myself, the past five days in my new apartment have been as close to camping as I’ve gotten in the past three years. I’m sleeping surrounded by cardboard boxes on an air mattress, which I’m keeping in the living room so I can sit on the edge of it to play video games on my PS3, perched with my television in a small Ikea entertainment center that is currently the only piece of furniture in the entire living room. Up until today there was no refrigerator, so I had to catch all my meals (normally by flagging down a waitress at Denny’s), and my shower drain remains so stubbornly clogged that every shower almost immediately has me ankle deep in dirty water, like I’m fording the Willamette at the end of the Oregon Trail.

This is a bit taxing for somebody as frugal as I am. I spent around $320 today on things that I had never even considered that I’d need to buy – a bathmat, a toilet scrubber, plates – plates! In every other apartment I’ve lived in, there’s been a five-foot tall stack of multicolored Formica plates in the cupboard, kept company by seven pint glasses from various breweries, 23 mildewy solo cups that my roommates for whatever reason held onto, and the obligatory Portland Trailblazers commemorative glass from the mid 1990s.

I haven’t even bought furniture yet – today was all about necessities and groceries. I’m holding off on buying the ungodly amount of shelving and tables I’ll need to hold all my stuff until next week because of work, but the upcoming furniture purchase that’s weighing heaviest on my mind is the couch.

We’ve been over and over the fact that I hate spending money, which is why the couch is such a big thing for me. I know there’s no way I’m getting out of this cheap: Couches are expensive if you’re buying them new, and I’ve seen enough shit happen on couches in college to know that I don’t want to buy a used one – especially now that I live in the San Fernando Valley, the porn capital of the United States.

I’ve fallen in love with a couch at a nearby mid-century boutique furniture shop run by a couple of aggressively gay dudes. The model in the shop is a shade of green that doesn’t quite suit my apartment, but the owners can get me one in charcoal that, like The Dude’s rug, would really bring the room together.

On three, let's all sing the Mad Men theme.

This couch doesn’t fuck around with cupholders or extending footrests. It doesn’t need that shit, because it’s classy and comfortable as the dickens. Edward R. Murrow probably had a couch like this in his house. This couch drives a 1965 Ford Galaxie to work and drinks rye whiskey at lunch. This couch will set the tone and style for my apartment, and will determine the look of the other furnishings I buy for the rest of the place.

The price of this couch is pretty reasonable, I guess, given that I consider it to be Nirvana with cushions, and my parents have told me that a couch of a similar design would cost a lot more at a store in a mall. However, this couch is still expensive enough that I will probably vomit after I pay for it, because it will be probably the biggest single purchase I’ve made in my life so far.

I’m kind of surprised that I’ve even gotten this close to the purchase without backing out. The thing is, now that I have an apartment to myself, I want to stay true to the philosophy of Jurassic Park and spare no expense in making it my own. A couch, after all, is an investment – it’s something you’ll use virtually every day, and it’s all but essential if you ever want to have friends over.

It means even more to me, though, because as somebody who’s moved a number of couches, both on the clock as a PA and off the clock as a dutiful friend helping somebody move, I know that once you get one of those motherfuckers in your house you’re pretty much staying. You can’t move a couch without a van, and it guarantees that when you do move you’re going to need somebody else to help. For a lazy person like me, that’s a pretty binding commitment to make to a piece of rental property.

But I feel like I’m ready for a commitment. With no roommates to get under my skin, the only person who could fuck up my living situation right now is me. (And that’s not entirely unlikely.)

Truman Capps has been fantasizing about getting a liquor cabinet, but that’s probably asking for trouble.