I concluded my last post, Seven Days in Augusta: My Book Review, Sans Expectations professing what I believe is true. We find books, but quite often—books find us. On the very same day I hit "publish" for that blog, I was reminded this claim extends far beyond books. What a great way to live a life. See Mary Oliver's poem "Sometimes" for more on that.
A trend has taken storm throughout San Francisco. Its reach extends beyond COVID but shelter-in-place magnified this fad. I don't know if it has come to a city or town near you, but in both New York and San Francisco "Stooping" is a way of life. If you're not sure what that might mean, in January 2020, Vogue Magazine featured a story, replete with fantastic images that will help you connect the dots. In An Inside Look at the Instagram That Highlights New York’s Best Stoop Finds, the author Arden Fanning Andrews writes
Now, in the face of climate crisis, reuse has become aspirational. The upcycling movement is poised to transform traditional production in nearly every design genre, from fashion (Lou Dallas’s embellished Goodwill tees) to home furnishings (Harry Nuriev’s vinyl couch filled with Balenciaga pieces). And the longtime New York tradition of salvaging sidewalk castaways has come to social media: Since summer 2019, the Instagram account @stoopingnyc has shared borough dwellers’ best discoveries. Scrolling through the feed, heart-shaped ottomans and bubblegum armchairs share space with pearlescent mannequins, sunburst mirrors, and collections of tiger paintings or Mariah Carey vinyls, all available for zero dollars plus the price of transport. Each post is accompanied by a description of what to expect and the specific cross streets where it can be rescued.
“There is something wonderful about the concept that, whether it is conscious or not, people are putting these items out to give them a chance to be reused...in turn giving people a chance to decorate their homes and make new memories with the finds,” says the team.
I think Stooping also gives people an opportunity to tell a great story. One might find an object with history. It is fun to uncover its origin and potential past. This sense of discovery is often coupled with a bit of intrigue. More than once, I have asked myself, "Why would someone give that away?!" One answer lies in the eye of the beholder. We have all heard "one person's trash is another person's treasure." Such is the story I have to share.
During COVID, my friend and former colleague Sean and I have taken to going for walks in our respective neighborhoods. We love the architecture, gardens and colors of San Francisco homes. This beauty is often interrupted by city life—walking next to broken window glass on the street, a new tent pitched for housing on a neighborhood sidewalk and funky furniture that is often oversized, questionable or grand but broken. Some are all three. After we encountered a mid-century modern bookshelf that looked to have been homemade—Sean told me about @StoopingNYC. I wish Karl the Fog would create an SF version.... Later that night, Sean shared the Vogue piece with me and I decided to go get that bookcase.
On my way to retrieve it, I saw a green folding chair next to two other items left for a local stooper. I don't know why I decided to take it. The chair is faded. I hoped at best it was clean. I put it in my car and headed home. The next day, I removed the chair from my Jeep and as I began to unfold it, I realized this is no ordinary chair. It is the one the official ones that can only be purchased on site at Augusta National during The Masters. Though this is not like finding a member's jacket, I could hardly believe my good fortune.
Just one day prior, I read about the role these folding chairs play in the tourney. Mark Cannizzaro writes
The chair culture at Augusta National for the Masters is unique. When patrons—that's the required name for what the rest of us call "fans" or "spectators"—place their chairs down, the unspoken Masters etiquette is that no one can move them. It's like kids saving a place in line at school and that place actually is saved.
The chairs are purchased at Augusta National. Patrons cannot bring their own chair onto the grounds. So there are thousands of those green folding chair with a Masters logo all over the golf course, ringing greens and tee box.
"The etiquette is if the person isn't there, you're allowed to sit in the chair," Katcher said. "If the person who owns the chair comes, you simply get out of the chair. If you're smart, you have your name on the back of your chair so you can always find it."
And that is precisely what I found. One of those thousands of chairs that litters the golf course but doesn't often make its way back to San Francisco. The name tag was even left blank. I know the name that should go in there...
Reading "Seven Days in Augusta" reminded me of the chair culture at the Masters—just one of many ritualized traditions that make the tourney so special.
When I saw the Masters logo on that chair I picked up—thanks to participation in the stoop culture—I was reminded again, sometimes we find things, but they find us, too. It's the simplest thing to consider but probably more true than I realize—and I think that's important. I may have to take a seat, relax and consider this further in my new/old chair, that now has my name on the back.