Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ikea Hangover

 It is 3:34 PM, and I have just returned from a trip to Ikea. Generally speaking, I am loathe to spend any part of my weekend in suburbia (uh—sorry to those of you reading this who live there; it’s nothing personal), but sometimes, the need to purchase goods in large quantities dictates that I must venture out of the hipster mecca (aka Lawrenceville). Today was one of those occasions. Having lived in this apartment since August, I had finally determined that it was time to purchase a couch, as sitting at my kitchen table all the time was getting kind of old. I also can’t stand staring at the bare walls any longer, and so I needed to locate frames for my already existing wall hangings.

Decorating is honestly the bane of my existence. I think this is because I am incredibly picky about everything I purchase. Typical purchase scenario: I am standing in the glassware section of Ikea, debating about buying a set of drinking glasses. I pick out tall, skinny ones and put them in the cart. I then think that Crate and Barrel might have ones I like more, and they might have the kind that are unevenly shaped and kind of modern looking, which I really enjoy. I take them out and put them back on the shelf. However, I am here now and I need them, so I put them back in. Before you know it, twenty minutes have passed, and I’m still standing there holding these perfectly good glasses that I don’t know if I want to buy, debating about whether it’s worth it to pay for shipping from Crate and Barrel. Who do I think is going to be drinking out of these? Jesus? Sadly, this phenomenon isn’t limited to purchasing household goods; the amount of time I spend in the cereal aisle at Whole Foods rivals the time it took the Feds to question Tony Hayward. Needless to say, it's best if I shop alone. 

When I do buy things, it always comes back to bite me in the ass anyway. Last summer, for example, I bought two photographs taken by a woman named Zim, at the Shadyside Art Festival, and they were totally worth it. One was taken in Vancouver, one was taken in Cambodia; all of her work prominently features light as the subject matter. They are beautiful. However, the caveat to this is that they came matted, and apparently these mattes are a size previously unknown to the framing community. I have not been able to find frames anywhere for these suckers, which is really a bummer because I’ve had them for over a year now. I am planning to just cave and take them to The Framery to have them framed, but this is more of an investment, I need to pick out the frames and probably spend about $200 bucks when we’re all said and done. Anyway.

Like every human being who has set foot in the store, I have a love/hate relationship with Ikea. A list format will best serve the explanation, so here goes:

1.      The Swedish names. Today I came home with a Ribba, two Sondrums, and a Viriserum. I really wanted a Honnefloss, but unfortunately they were sold out. This naming system rocks. It’s even better to go up to the salespeople and tell them that you are looking for these items by their proper names. The looks are priceless.
2.      Ikea literally has everything, including things you weren’t aware you needed. Oven mitts with cupcakes on them? A wine bottle opener? A potted ivy plant? A partridge in a pear tree? 
      3. They have an unprecedented number of accouterments and trinkets that can be used to add pizzazz to your home. I never thought a Horsnuffle would look so good sitting on my kitchen counter, but it is quite snazzy.
4.     . Lighting section. I am a big fan of incandescent lighting. I find overhead lighting to be hideously ugly, and therefore I have lamps all over my apartment. The paper types that Ikea offers produce a soft, yellow glow that makes me 80% more cheerful upon first encounter. 
5.      I can’t make a blanket statement just yet, but based on my experience, the salespeople don’t get terribly angry if you spill a cup of coffee in the frame aisle.

Things I Do Not Love:
1.     This place is a nightmare to navigate. I don’t know who designed the layout, but JC. I wish that when you arrived someone would give you a map as well as one of those lighted hardhats. Perhaps they could sprinkle Swedish fish throughout the aisles to lead you to the Market area, Hansel and Gretel style.
2.      Ikea literally has everything, including things you weren’t aware you needed. This is a big problem for me in particular because of the aforementioned Cereal Aisle phenomenon. I wind up seeing so many things that could be useful, I have no idea what to buy. I really could use a basket for my mail, and a table to put the basket on to fill this weird 2x2 space in my kitchen that is too small for much else. I could also use a filing cabinet. A wine rack would be great. Wall mounted or stand? Do I have extra screws? Do I own tools? How much of a pain in the ass will it be to install this shelving unit myself? Is it creepy that you can purchase Swedish meatballs and a mirror at the same store? Ahhhhh.
3.      They are always out of what I really want. This is a large problem. The Honnefluss would have looked great in my living room, but it was out of stock, and god knows I like to make these trips yearly events if I can help it.
4.      Just when you are ready to leave, you remember something you originally came for and forgot to get. This really could be a subsection of #2. At this point, you are forced to either navigate the store backwards or suck it up and just wait and see if the item in question could be found at Target.
5.      My final dislike is obviously the most pressing complaint Ikea receives, I am sure of it. You have to assemble all of the furniture yourself, and the directions are like a cruel game of Pictionary gone awry. Honestly, Sweden, can’t we include written freaking directions with this stuff? I’m tired of trying to figure out where the little man who looks like the guy from the Muzzy videos is putting the third screw.

So, this experience led to what I call the Ikea Hangover, which is characterized by the feeling of mushiness in the cavity that formerly housed the gray matter of your brain. I obviously combatted this by eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, drinking a lovely Sumatra, and writing a blog.

As an aside, this visit led me to a realization. Lately I have been tossing around the idea of getting a dog, because I really would like the company and I could take her to the park. However, I realized that the last time I was at Ikea, I bought an ivy plant, and it was sitting quite nicely on my kitchen counter. About a month ago I put it outside to get some sun, and then forgot I had it, until today, when I saw its counterparts sitting in the plant section.  I think I’m holding off on the living creatures for now. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Inspiration for Awkward Happenings

As a collective whole, you may be wondering where the title of this blog came from. Now, if you have ever had more than one conversation with me, it should be obvious. However, this particular event really hit the nail on the head and inspired the name...

At some point in the recent present, I was in Lawrenceville, doing some afternoon browsing after enjoying a cup of coffee in Espresso a Mano. I love that place; Matt, if you ever read this blog, you have cornered the market on exposed brick and espresso. Good job. Anyway.

One of the things I love about living in Lawrenceville is the plethora of independent boutiques, although in truth, I apparently only like to browse. I rarely buy anything, which I feel kind of guilty about because I obviously want to support independent stores and small business owners, but at the same time, I don’t want to pay $80 for a one size fits all flower print tunic. However, the one thing that I am always looking to purchase in these stores is handmade soaps. I love handmade soaps; they make showering pleasant, and they come in a variety of scents, and they allow me to patronize local establishments in earnest. My preferred variety is herbal.

My desire to support these local establishments plus my love of handmade soap is how I found myself in the following scenario:

I was browsing the accoutrements in a boutique on Butler Street. I was the only person in the store aside from the saleswoman, and so of course she began talking to me to me. Our conversation followed:

Hipster Saleswoman: “May I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I’d like to buy one of the rosemary-mint soaps, please.”
Hipster Saleswoman: “Oh, I love that scent. Good choice.”
Me: “Yeah, me too, I love things that are rosemary scented.”
Saleswoman: “Yeah, they really add something extra. I just bought a candle and it is really fragrant.”
Me: “Oh, that must be nice.”
Saleswoman: “It is, I’ve really been enjoying it.”
Me: "I can imagine. Sometimes it's nice to burn them while you take showers."
Saleswoman: "Yes, I do that all the time." 

As you can tell, there is a point when you cannot keep having the same conversation with someone about soap. This was the point in the conversation when the saleswoman and I were trapped in the moment of, “I don’t know what else to say but I also don’t know how to end this conversation.” This moment is usually characterized by avoiding eye contact with the person you are talking to while hoping that another human being materializes to interrupt. Sometimes when this happens, I tend to babble. Thus, the next words out of my mouth:

Me: “You know, the only thing about this soap is, whenever I use it in the shower, I’ll think about roasting a chicken.”
Saleswoman: “…Right.”

At that point, she proceeded to look at me like I had escaped the state pen, although this comment did serve the purpose of ending our awkward conversation. However, I thought her confusion was somewhat less than justified: when I used to roast chickens, in my pre-veg days, using rosemary on them was the best part. It is one of my favorite herbs, to eat or wear, or drink, actually. I suppose, though, I can see why the image of me showering with this soap whilst daydreaming about roasted chicken caused this woman to look at me like I was a few eggs short of a gross. It was this exact scenario, in fact, that led to the name of this blog: awkward happenings, indeed.