There’s a table on the sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue in Allston that looks like it would be perfect for my room. Not too big, not too small. High enough and seemingly in good condition.
As I set course for it, I see a girl coming from the the other side with the same idea. I quicken my pace, just enough to beat her to the table, but not be too conspicuous. She does the same.
I reach the table first and inspect it. The top looks all right.
“You like it?” she asks.
“I’m not sure,” I say while I kneel down to inspect the legs.
“Well if you’re not taking it, I might.”
She kneels down. One of the legs is wobbly.
“It’s not for me,” I decide.
“No, I’ll pass too.”
“It’s too bad, it had potential.”
“It sure did.” She laughs and I get ready to continue my way down Commonwealth. She does the same.
“Merry Allston Christmas!” she yells.
It’s moving day in Allston, one of the many neighborhoods of Boston with a significant student population. Most leases start on September 1st. The result? The sidewalks are full of abandoned tables, drawers and lamps, and those who aren’t lucky enough to have found the perfect sofa for their new house, or the perfect coffee table to go with the beautiful hardwood floor in their new apartment, are out on the streets, hoping for a golden catch.
I’m one of them. I have not a stick of furniture in this city, except for the mattress I brought in from the street opposite my house last night.
That evening I continue my quest for a table with my friend Andy, who lives one street over.
“See this,” he points at the glass coffee table in his living room. “Allston Christmas.” The comfy chair he sits in was last year’s catch. True Allston Christmas veterans like Andy, know you have to come early to find the best pieces. Unfortunately he has a busy weekend, so it’s already dark once we hit the streets.
“I think there’s still some decent stuff out there,” he says as we drive off.
This afternoon he texted me, “you like this?” With a picture of a lamp, with shade, on the side of the road.
“Not sure,” I texted back. It’s tempting to take everything you can find, but you have to be picky or you’ll end up with an overcrowded living room.
“I’m on the lookout for a table,” I tell him as we get into the car.
I look out the window as we turn from Commonwealth onto a side street.
Out on the sidewalk is a complete discarded living room set. We quickly park and jump out. On closer inspection there’s no table, but there is a drawer that looks acceptable.
Together we lug it to Andy’s car. We decide to continue our quest by foot. On the backlot of an apartment building there’s a container full of discarded bed bottoms, mattresses and sofas. Next to it there’s a desk chair. It’s in good shape.
“I never say no to a good desk chair, what do you think?” I’ll ask Andy as I’ll sit down.
“It’s positively you,” Andy answers.
I roll the desk chair to the car. On the way we find a lamp and a small cabinet in mint condition. There’s still no table in sight though.
It’s getting late and we decide to call it a day. We unload the furniture at my place then drive over to his for a traditional Allston Christmas dinner: pizza and beers.
The next day I go for a run. I turn the corner and there, not two hundred meters from my house, is a seemingly brand new table, with four chairs lined up next to it. I quickly assess the situation. I’ve left my phone at home, so there’s no calling in reinforcements. I’ll have to choose: either the table or two chairs. I decide to go for the table, get it home quickly, and then come back for the chairs. The table is heavier than it looks and when I’ve finally carried it up the stairs into my room and run back, the chairs are gone.
“Merry Allston Christmas,” I murmur to myself.