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Wednesday
Oct102012

« In Which We Reassure Ourselves Of Something »

Philadelphia

by HANSON O'HAVER

Twice in my life, the second time only a few months after the first, I found myself standing before huge piles of chairs. In both cases the chairs were identical and black and resembled nothing so much as mass graves. They weren't folding chairs and they weren't arranged; they were just standard restaurant chairs, with a back and a rubber cushion in the middle of the seat. Some were upside down and some were right-side up and most were somewhat sideways. I took pictures of both piles. I'm not trying to imply that seeing them had any deeper meaning. I think I just thought that it was weird, and then even weirder to see the same thing again so soon and then never again after that. 

The second time (which, for whatever reason, feels more distant in my mind) was when I was living in Bed-Stuy. I wasn't really doing anything at the time. On Saturdays I would wake up late, after my girlfriend left for work, get an iced coffee, and walk to the Salvation Army. I never really bought anything there, but I had this idea in my mind that its proximity to an art school meant that it'd be filled with good clothes. On this day the door to the warehouse happened to be open and inside I saw a pile of chairs that seemed absurd and unexplainable, even though I'm sure some company had donated them. This was when I was still taking photos. I mostly forgot about the picture, besides probably posting it on my old website. I'm not even sure why I remembered it just now; I can't even find it anymore.

The first time was in Philadelphia. I'd lived with a group of Philly kids in Williamsburg, in a two bedroom loft that someone turned into a three bedroom before we built the fourth room (mine) out of particle board. It was kind of a bad place. Everyone who lived there (except me) had to rent out their room for part of the year because of reasons. There were birds in the apartment, that's the main thing visitors noticed. They had been in cages, of course, but then one of the Cooper kids let them out during a party and they returned to their cage. So we decided to keep the door open, but then we could never trap them back inside. Everyone wondered how we'd get them back when we gave up the lease on the apartment, but one of them flew away and then the other, the male, died shortly after, so it wasn't an issue. Everyone also asked about the shit, but they always shit in the same spot, onto an empty shelf that was above eye level and we just threw the shelf away when the birds died.

By the end of summer the roommates had all moved back home. Someone was throwing a birthday party for one, and another's band was going to play it, and so they told me and my girlfriend to come. We took the Chinatown bus, it was only $10 and three hours, and it let us off in Chinatown. No one was able to pick us up from the station so we walked the three miles to the house. On the walk we talked about how, on the East Coast, we couldn't tell good neighborhoods from bad neighborhoods because all the houses looked old and elegant (marble stairs, brick, columns, etc.) to people from newer parts of the country. It's like that in Bed-Stuy too, and in Baltimore and Connecticut, especially at night. We ate at a semi-upscale brunch place and I overheard the older couple next to us speculate that our waitress's "I Heart Bacon" shirt was aggressively anti-semitic. 

The party was fine and I remember drinking a lot of beer but not really being affected, in the way that sometimes happens when you start drinking early in the day. I think at one point I left the party to walk to a gas station to buy chips and an energy drink. I didn't talk to anyone I wouldn't have talked to at a New York party, though, and I felt like maybe I wasn't as good of friends with everyone as I had thought. The house was really big, with unfinished rooms cluttered with power tools and plastic buckets and art supplies and bikes and old furniture. At one point the bathroom line was too long so I walked to the side yard to pee. There was a shed (but really more like a standalone garage) and when I opened the door I could sort of see (it was dark) that it was filled with chairs. I took a picture with the flash on and forgot about it. When I got the film developed weeks later there was a picture of dozens of mangled chairs, legs bent and cushions ripped, all piled on top of each other. They looked totally ridiculous. There was actually a good explanation for all the chairs, but it's not important. 

When it came time to go to bed, every couch/bed/carpeted floor had been promised to someone else. My girlfriend and I shared a sleeping bag and slept on the flat roof, with our shirts as pillows. It wasn't romantic; other people slept on the roof too and anyway we'd been dating too long for that kind of thing to be romantic. The next day we walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was nice. Mostly I remember eyeing this cute girl I had seen at the party (and at parties in New York), even though she was with her boyfriend. Months later I read that she was hit by a truck on her bike and nearly died. I read that her boyfriend stayed with her at the hospital the whole time. I've tried to figure out if she ever recovered but her donation website hasn't been updated in a long time. 

We walked through Philadelphia and these two guys who didn't look like tourists asked us to take their picture with their camera. I thought they were going to do one of those scams where they drop the camera, blame it on us, and demand money, but they didn't. We saw a group of families riding Segways and the LOVE Park sign that I'd recognized from skate videos. We just missed the bus to New York, so we had to kill two hours in the mall before the next one came. We didn't buy anything. It was a disappointing weekend in a way that really stuck with me. Afterwards I was an embarrassing kind of sick for a long time.

Hanson O'Haver is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. He twitters here and tumbls here.  


"There's Money In New Wave" - A.C. Newman (mp3)

"Hostages" - A.C. Newman (mp3)

The new album from A.C. Newman is called Shut Down The Streets.

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Reader Comments (4)

What the hell was the point of this?
October 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHenry
Only the lonely
October 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
I really enjoyed this, and in response to the first comment, I would posit that this is how remembering works. Beautiful.
October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYoung
No I agree with the first person every remembrance is not worthy of wasting others time. There is no correlation between the chairs and the party and sleeping on a roof. Its just disjointed and non linear and no stand out. The words are not poetic or even stringed together interestingly. It is just a boring story.

How in the hell do you even choose who contributes to this site?

My grandfather use to ramble on with memories. "I wore a coat. Because a coat is what you wore when you were cold when I was young." Great grandpa!!
October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

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