This is not a picture of Ikea.

Everyone thinks that Dante said the lowest rung in hell is reserved for the neutrals. Actually, he said something much subtler than that. But we will continue with this idea. I am trying to figure out why Ikea is so awful, both going to, being there, and going from. I am trying to blame it on its Swedishness, and therefore its neutrality, but my theory doesn't quite work. I tried to blame it on the Swedes' propensity for suicide, but Kazakhstan and Belarus each has an incidence that's more than double the Swedish rate, but they at least had the sense (or lack of resources) not to go and spread their disassembled wares upon the globe.

Earlier this summer we made the mistake of going to Ikea. We went only because we were trying to find some cabinets to match the ones in the kitchen of the new house. The sellers of the house had committed the original sin of ordering from Ikea. On a Saturday we agreed to go on a Tuesday night, but then on Sunday L was gung-ho to make the trek. That in itself put me in a bad mood, but I was trying to be easy to get along with for a change, so I assented. After all, L insisted, there would be much less traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

He was wrong. Of course. There was mucho mucho traffic and in-car I-told-you-so tension all the way there. And inside there was just the Ikea maze. It's like the Guggenheim Museum, you go around and around, except there are beds and bedclothes and sofas and chairs and cabinets and tables instead of major works of art, and there are detailed confusing forms to fill out, like they used to give you at sushi restaurants--just like that, if the restaurants served you separate clumps of rice and fish and little eggs and pickled vegetables and nori (seaweed) with some confusing instructions in small type about how to assemble your sushi.

We found out that planned obsolescence had done in the cabinets so our trip was for naught. I made L promise that he would never ever ever make me go there again.

Yesterday we rode our bikes to Affordable Portables, which is very small and cramped but very friendly and relaxed and all on one floor. No elevators. No big parking lot. No Swedish meatballs. Lots of glass jars of candy (Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffy, Reeses, and more). We chose a sofa that's incidentally a futon, meaning that we found a Mission-style frame that we liked for itself, and decided on a mattress that was comfortable for sitting on, and we chose a cover, plus we got a holder for our stereo (audio center, people call it). Then we went to Cost Plus World Market and I goaded L into deciding to get a bench with three storage baskets underneath it, and a decorative trunk that we'll use to decoratively hold blankets under a window in our bedroom. We'd looked at the mud bench (it's called) and the trunk before. I am fast fast fast on big decisions (house and furniture) and slow slow slow on small decisions. I think that's true. We also need to get some more bookshelves so we can put up our encyclopedias. I also want to hang our pictures. L wants to wait. To see if we'll find furniture we like better, to see where we want the pictures to be. To mull over. I am a faster shopper. I want to do it now.

Then I mull it over afterward, after the damage has been done.

Or I feel relieved that decisions were good ones. Now I like our house and our furniture and L.