Sunday, January 18, 2009

Linens n’ Things: Gone n’ stuff

The carcass of our local Linens n’ Things has been picked clean. All that’s left now are shopping carts from nearby stores blowing like tumbleweeds across the empty parking lot that sits in front of the big beige skeleton.

Fortunately for us, one of the early vultures was my wife Kara, who scavenged an extremely choice piece of carrion: one of those arcade-style mini-basketball shooting machines, with two hoops, a digital scorer, sound effects, and pictures of ten-year-olds, my apparent peers, on the box having a blast.

I probably could have built an actual basketball court in the time it took me to put the machine together, armed with a tiny Allen wrench and a page of instructions on which the only clear thing was that it had been written by someone who hated people.

As a thirty-one year-old with a newly built basketball-shooting machine in the basement, though, I’m worried that maybe I’ve peaked too soon. Bettering my existence from here seems a dim possibility without the addition of something much more meaningful to care for, like a ski ball machine. But really, a ski ball machine in a basement could never duplicate the experience of a ski ball machine in a real-life arcade. Without the ability to trade in 10,000 tickets for a plastic frog whose butt breaks off when you press down on it to try to make it hop, what would be the point?

Since I’ve been spending the majority of my recent free time standing on the cold concrete in the basement, throwing miniature basketballs into a miniature hoop for hours on end in the sort of mindless, near-drooling trance that makes this column possible every week, it has been difficult not to think about where this machine came from and to get a little wistful about the passing of Linen n’ Things as it moves out of our lives and into the Great Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Our parents did without Linens n’ Things, so I guess we’ll learn to adjust. But it makes me cringe to think about how our moms and dads suffered for all those years, barely scraping by with their non-ergonomic spatulas and their slippers that didn’t feature memory foam technology designed by NASA.

Also, isn’t it about time NASA gave us something else? I think NASA’s been coasting by on Velcro for a little too long, which, by the way, as I’ve learned from the internet since I started typing this sentence, it didn’t even invent. Some Swiss guy did. NASA just popularized it. Saying NASA invented Velcro is like saying Beverly Hills 90210 invented sideburns.

Anyway, I’ll miss all the times Kara dragged me to Linens n’ Things on missions to find things we didn’t need. She was like a raccoon in a shiny object museum.

“Oooh, look, cinnamon-scented pine cones,” she’d say, stopping in the aisle.

“Babe, if you really wanted pine cones, you should have told me. I’ll get you a nice big bag of fresh ones,” I’d say.

“But these ones smell so good,” she’d reply, inhaling deeply and smiling.

“Mine will be seven bucks cheaper. And they’ll be scented with pine,” I’d reply hopefully.

People also don’t realize the sort of educational opportunities that disappear forever when a store like Linens n’ Things goes oven-mitts-up. Just before our wedding, I remember Kara explaining to me how the world worked in terms I’d never heard before.

“You mean, people keep track of how many threads their sheets have?” I asked in amazement. What a strange and fantastic world we live in. But I bet the people who have to count the threads in the first place are even angrier than the instruction manual guy.

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  1. Isaac Perlson1/19/2009 5:47 PM

    Uncle Mike, just wait until you have kids one day. The toys my daddy has to put together makes your basketball game look like leggo fun sets. You have no idea all the new fun and crazy words I just recently learned from my daddy's screaming mouth as he put together my Excersaucer, which by the way came with 54 screws and approx 80 peices.

  2. Josh Perlson1/19/2009 5:51 PM

    Isaac, never repeat those words to anyone, especially your mom.

    They're friggin' kids toys for christ sake. They should just snap together or come assembled. Like parents don't have enough to do without spending three and half hours putting an overpriced F$&*^#G toy together.

    I'm getting a bottle of valium from Santa for next christmas.

  3. Our Santa already takes Valium and has for years. The first time he opened a toy to put together on Christmas Eve, it damn near sent him to the loony bin and he was taking all bystanders with him. Why does a $6 Barbie doll needs to be tie-wrapped, twist-tied and friggin' STITCHED to the box is beyond my understanding. When I was a kid, we opened the toy's box, the toy fell out and Voila! we played with it.

    Linen N Things.... I am ashamed to admit, I've never stepped foot in one. But, I will take your word that it s a sight I should've seen.

  4. Isaac -- You can count really high for someone who's younger than the milk I just put in my Rice Chex dinner.

    Perlson -- I hear you, man. And then Derek comes over and breaks it anyway. That's right, Derek broke my basketball machine. But I refuse to guilt trip him about it, except on the internet and in emails. And on the phone. And sometimes in person. It's cool though - they're sending me a replacement part for free. Rock on, Franklin Sports.

    Sheri -- Ha, nicely done. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you get bonus points for throwing some tags around the word STITCHED. You're like a double bonus winner now. Also, go to JCPenney's and stand by the section that has pillows. There, now you've been to Linens n' Things.

  5. ha ha. i like mike's blog today.
    good shit.