We continued downtown, crisscrossing the East Village, where we saw a small bookshelf in a state of slight disrepair and an Ikea-style aluminum headboard for a full-size bed. Briefly holding up Alphabet City traffic, we shoved them in the truck, which was beginning to groan under the weight of our scavenging. A few blocks later, we passed a Dumpster brimming with promising-looking Ikea detritus. With little thought to my personal safety or hygiene, I dived in, swimming through boxes stamped with words like vagö and ringsjön. It quickly became apparent that the cardboard had fared better than the furniture, which was broken and rain-sodden.
We fruitlessly circled Nolita, Soho, and the Lower East Side until almost 3 P.M. Jake, recognizing we were in danger of coming up short, suggested we expand our search to Brooklyn—a wise choice, particularly since that was our ultimate destination.
As we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the sky began to brighten, making Park Slope look every inch a sunny urban Utopia. It also happened to be a free-for-all in terms of swag. Fourth and Fifth Avenues and almost every street between them were choked with all manner of well-maintained refuse. On Sackett Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, we came across a wicker hamper that contained a small framed black-and-white picture of a nondescript woman and a glass soap dish in the shape of a duck. Farther down the block, a group of wholesome Brooklynites helped us load our truck with the end table, coffee table, bookshelf, and synthesizer keyboard they’d planned to chuck. Unfortunately, a rug that might have been a great addition was rain-soaked.
Around 5 P.M., on Smith and Douglass, we found a beautiful olive-green leather chair and a large circular mirror, and a huge TV. Although it’s easy to appraise a table, desk, or set of folding chairs on the spot, electronics are a gamble. We were lucky: All seven of the pieces we picked up worked perfectly, which goes to show just how disposable appliances have become. We arrived at Boonmongkol’s at about 6 P.M., our truck overflowing. We hoisted the haul up a flight of stairs and into her 800-square-foot one-bedroom—giving everything a good wipe-down with disinfectant before it crossed the threshold. By 8 P.M., we’d arranged the décor to our satisfaction (which mostly means the heaviest stuff was closest to the door).
As a reward for our hard work, Boonmongkol ordered a sumptuous feast from her restaurant. With some fresh flowers and a few candles from the dollar store at the end of the block, our apartment had a very cozy, if slightly spare feel. And considering the entire venture, from the truck rental and gas to lunch to the disinfectant materials, cost $402, it was a day well spent. Boonmongkol liked the collected ensemble so much that she asked if she could have it all. Faced with the option of taking it all back to the source, we were happy to oblige.