Dead Wood

Several months ago I took advantage of the nosediving economy and bought a 50 inch plasma television on the cheap at a soon to be defunct Circuit City store. I had initially planned to get a 42 inch screen but techo-lust overwhelmed my better judgement and now I have my own personal 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith dominating my living room. It’s a huge, scary thing. As a result, large thigh bones are banned from my house.

What I hadn’t planned on, however, was buying a new television stand. My old “entertainment center” was strong enough to support weight of the new television, but, next to the smooth black lines of my new toy, the old stand I purchased in the mid-nineties looked dated, broke ass, and ugly. But the real reason the stand need to be replaced is embarrassing. It smelled bad.

You see, my joint custody dog Buster had a housebreaking problem when I first got him. For reasons I’ll never comprehend, he was fond of “marking his territory” on my entertainment center. As a result the cheap particle board soaked up the urine and, even though Buster eventually stopped peeing in the house, the damage was done. Over the years, despite my best efforts to fix it, the urine enzymes slowly decomposed the board back into particles and the TV stand began to slough off a foul smelling dust. Occasionally, on a hot day, you could catch the interesting bouquet of five year old dog urine floating on the wind. Since you couldn’t really see the damage, however, I never replaced the stand. Nice huh?

My roommate has hated that entertainment center ever since he moved in four years ago The moment I bought the plasma he began a psychological warfare campaign to make me replace it. Not content with leaving IKEA catalogs on my desk, he began nagging me every time we passed a furniture store on the highway to “at least look.” I successfully resisted my roommate’s efforts for months and kept my wallet shut tight. Why? I get cheap concerning the weirdest things.

“I refuse to buy a television stand that costs more than the actual television,” I say to my roommate as we browse though yet another Pier One store. “That just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Your TV stand is ugly,” my roommate counters. “And embarrassing. If you have a girl over, how are you going to explain that smell?”

“That only happens in the summer,” I reply. “And only when the A/C’s off.”

‘How old are you?” my roommate asks. “The poor chic thing only works when you’re twenty-five.”

“It’s not poor chic,” I say. “The stands I like cost a grand and the ones in my price range are ugly.”

“What’s your price range?”

“Two hundred bucks.”

“Are you kidding me?” my roommate exclaims, shaking his head. “You’ll never get anything nice for that. Remember, you get what you pay for.”

There’s some truth to what my roommate’s saying. He doesn’t have many material possessions, but what he does own is top notch quality. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe.

“Okay then,” I say. “I’ll spend three hundred bucks.”

“Better,” my roommate says. “But you’ll still be lucky to find something.”

Sure enough, as we stumble through Pier One, my roommate finds a television stand that’s the perfect size, shape, and color for our apartment and has been marked down to three hundred dollars. I’m screwed.

“When will it be delivered?” I ask the cute salesgirl as I reluctantly hand her my credit card.

“Delivery is extra,” the salesgirl replies. “You can pick it up at the store if you want.”

“My brother has a truck,” I say. “I’ll call him and pick it up here.”

“Great, sir,” the salesgirl says, handing me my receipt. “We’ll call you when it arrives.”


As my roommate and I walk out of the store I turn to him. “Are you happy now?”

“You have no idea.”

“Well,” I say. “After all the bickering she witnessed between us, that cute salesgirl probably thinks we’re a couple. Should we register our china patterns here?”

“Very funny.”

Two weeks later the television stand arrives and my brother meets me at Pier One with his truck. We load up, bring it to my house, and haul it up the stairs. My brother’s the mechanical one in the family so he unpacks the stand and sets it up. My roommate’s the technical one, so he rehooks up the miles of cabling modern television requires and gets the plasma working. What did I do? I drank a vodka and tonic and kept Buster from getting in the way. I guess that makes me the alcoholic one.

“Ugh,” my brother says, pointing to the putrefying old entertainment center sitting forlornly in a corner. “You’re on your own getting that thing out of here.”

“Oh c’mon,” I say. “I need your help.”

“I’ve got a sick baby at home,” my brother says. “You’re lucky I could even take out time for this.”

“Dude. It’s heavy.”

“That thing’s a HazMat site. I should call Homeland Security on you.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Later man,” my brother says, making his escape. “Call me when my son’s fifteen. Maybe I’ll have time to hang out then.”

“It can’t be that bad.”

“He threw up over both couches.”

“I take it back. It can be that bad.”

My brother leaves. Since my roommate has a bad ankle I have to haul the old entertainment center out to the curb myself. Since it’s trash and I don’t care about damaging it, I haphazardly slide it down the flight of stairs to the “lobby.” I should’ve cared. As the unit bounces down each step, it snorts out clouds of smelly decomposing dust – as if its angry that its going to the dump and is exacting its last bit of olfactory revenge. By the time I reach the street, an orange trail of dust can be traced from my living room to the curb. The stench in the stairwell in indescribable. After a couple of minutes spent sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and Lysoling, however, the foul odor finally goes away. Finished cleaning, my roommate and I flop down on the couch to observe our handiwork.

“Man,” my roommate says. “The living room looks much bigger.”

“It does,” I reply. “Doesn’t it?”

“You see? The right furniture can make or break a room.”

“When you’re right you’re right roomie,” I reply. “Thanks for picking it out. I have no eye for that sort of thing.”

“You’re welcome.”

As I look at the monolithic television on top of it’s new altar, I mentally kick myself in the head. The living room doesn’t look better – it looks more adult and sophisticated. I should’ve junked that juvenile eyesore of an entertainment center months ago. Then I realize something. I didn’t replace the unit because I was cheap, I didn’t replace the unit because I didn’t want to make another change. This may sound strange, but so many things have changed in my life over the past six months that I wanted to keep something constant – even if that constant was smelly and ugly. Hmmm. I wonder if I’m doing that in other parts of my life? Maybe it’s time to cut more dead wood – not less.

“Now we just have to get rid of that old bookshelf,” my roommate says, interrupting my armchair psychologizing.

“My bookshelf?” I say. “But I’ve had that since college.”

“My point exactly.”


Dead Wood — 49 Comments

  1. Good decision! I’ve been divorced for what, 8 – no, 9 – years now and still my living room looks like a typical 18 year old’s bachelor pad: big ass screen TV and miles of cable all hanging around like your Friday night buddies after a poker game, spilt beer and a major fight, followed by copious amounts of puking.

    Unlike your place, mine smells fresh though. Glade air freshener ROCKS, man.

    (Yeah, I need to grow up too)

  2. You guys totally sound like a couple. I would have surely thought you were – but, whatever, it’s all good. You’ll never see that chic again anyway right? Knock on wood!

  3. Purging is good for the soul, and good feng shui.
    You have relationships with your stuff, too. If they are all loving relationships, you make room in your life for more loving relationships.

  4. I’ve been engaging in what I call the Year of Cleaning Out My Closets as well. I only have one real closet, so the rest of them are metaphorical, metaphysical, psychological, spiritual and historical. It’s exhausting, but I expect that, when it’s done, my living/working/thinking/writing/loving space will look so much bigger.

    Hang in there.


  5. Loll…you sure know how to end your posts!

    I got reminded of the time just a few months back when I was staying with my roommate. She too used to nudge me about discarding old and worn out stuff. And yeah, for all practical purposes, we were a couple- I even used to leave my cupboard open* …and she would never remember directions..or know the latest news :-)

    (Now I shut mine and my husband’s who always leaves his open. Actually, there’s a quote which I came to know only after marriage..”Men have a habit of never closing their cupboards behind them” !! :-D)

    Excuse the advice-
    Cherish this time,such roommieships are hard to come by :-)

  6. I know what you’re going through.. I’m getting ready to move to ATL and its hell leaving some of my stuff behind for others or the trash.. my GF said my room looked like a college dorm.. guess its time to handle my business..

  7. Sure know wht you mean mate. I used to be a broke ass student for a long while and have been making quite a lot on poker recently.
    after upgrading a lot of my material possessions earlier on i realised i couldnt let go of some jsut cuz i wanted a reminder of wht my life had been and where i came from.

  8. Hilarious! I can completely relate. Change is challenging at times and we humans like to keep things constant by nature. Letting go is a good thing and when you do it…such a relief.


  9. When you buy a LCD or Plasma TV, wall mount is the way to go…not a sorry @$$ “entertainment center” !

    Just install shelves underneath for the dvd/pvr/wii/ps3/xbox..!

  10. Man, 300 bucks for the ETCenter? My roommate went to costco and got a super nice chocolate oak with glass stand for less than $200. And as far as mounting your tv, it may be the way to go for a house, but not for an apartment, as most people who rent out places will not want you installing one without leaving it when you leave, or paying for uninstallation (leaving marks on the wall) when you leave with it. I just hope you got a great deal on that plasma. Plasma will tend to set you back about 50% more than would an LCD of the same size on your electric bill. Luckily I found a 37″ LCD 1080P for just under $500 shipped, westinghouse (factory refurbed with 5 year warranty), so it’s just about waiting for the deals as you so put it. That LCD cost me less than the plasma and will generate much less power usage than if I were to have bought a plasma, and since I am always on my computer it’s nice to know I’m not paying that extra 10-20 bucks a month just on using a plasma for extended hours.

  11. This summer, I helped my sister move from Montreal to Ottawa. included in the moving process was throwing out alot of her old crap, including a couple of couches that she’d had for years. Aside from being ugly as sin, these couches had been serving as substitute litter boxes for her ancient and foul smelling cat. For years. And she had a narrow staircase…so we spent a few hours carting these decrepit, cat piss soaked couches.

    Brothers don’t get enough credit.

  12. My roomate/business partner and I get the couple thing all the time. Although he is male and I am female. We’re not a couple, but if you live together, even as friends, with anyone for any amount of time, you can’t help but get to know each other well enough to occasionally fall into those “couple” behaviors.

    As always, great post. I really enjoy your writing.

  13. We’re getting a new kitchen and I have no idea why, my wife just said so and that’s it. WTF? Why me?

    Great, enjoyable writing as usual, kid. Now where’s the photos?

  14. Pingback: Post of the Week » Blog Archive » Shortlist Week Ending Friday 6th February

  15. You know, sometime, it is good to sit down and really look into the things that we should get rid off and improve.

    Change doesn’t make things worse. At most of the times, the right change can make things better.

  16. hey…
    long time follower of your blog from India. Love your every post. I have a query related to dining etiquette, it would be really great if you could help me out. why is the reason that all cutlery, not just the plates( forks, knives, spoons)are changed after every course. Is it related to a specific cuisine? can you please help me out

    thank you

  17. Lucky you to have such a wise roommate! ; ) Do love your writing — glad to hear you coming out of your shell a little.
    I just wanted to comment because my new year’s theme for 2009 (I don’t do resolutions) is “no dead weight”. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  18. I agree with the eBay post. The sad thing is, you wouldn’t even have to try to spruce it up in the description. You’re a celebrity now.

    “Urine-soaked entertainment center previously owned by The Waiter”

  19. Hey Yogi,
    I think it has to due with sanitation,keeping the table linens clean (if there is one) or just not putting your used utensils on a table top.It can be messy and you also don’t know how clean the table may be…

  20. “…“Well,” I say. “After all the bickering she witnessed between us, that cute salesgirl probably thinks we’re a couple. Should we register our china patterns here?”…”

    Loved that. I used to have a room mate for years when I was young and single. We had been friends since high school. It worked out perfect as I worked days and he worked nights so it was like living alone for half the price. We only saw each other regularly on Sunday afternoons when we’d have over the gang and grill on the patio.

    In the six years we lived in the same apartment, before he got married and moved out and I moved to Texas, everytime we went to the office for some reason, this one gal would always ask, “Which one of you is the wife?”

    In the 70’s you could get away with saying something like that.

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