Waiting for Stuff, Man

I've got an IKEA!

NT: What are you going to do once you get inside?

Cesen:I'm basically just gonna walk around a little bit. It's gonna be a zoo in there. There are a few things I'm going to buy, but I just want to get out of here. I want to go home.

NT: Maybe you should head for the IKEA restaurant. I hear they make a good meatball. In the meantime, does it bother you that, no matter how long you live here or what you accomplish, people will always think of you as the guy who stood in line for a week at IKEA?

Cesen:Yeah. I'm a minor celebrity, and I'm doing it to win some stuff. I kind of feel bad. A lot of people I don't even know have been dropping off food and supplies. There are some single mothers out there working 60 hours a week just to keep their kids fed, or living in like a trailer park or a one-room apartment and not even eating, yet people are giving me food. I kind of feel bad about that.

NT: Don't feel bad. Maybe the people in the trailer park don't care about tasteful decor. Hey, listen: I hate IKEA. What's wrong with me?

Cesen:Why don't you like them?

NT: IKEA stuff all looks like dorm-room furniture to me.

Cesen:I can see that with some of it. But I just came out of a dorm-room setting, and to me -- my taste might be slightly askew, but I like the look of this stuff.

NT: I don't get it. People are acting like we didn't have furniture stores before. My neighbor said to me, "At last! I can buy an armoire!" I said, "Hey, what about Levitz?"

Cesen:The IKEA phenomenon is interesting. So many people have come down here to tell me about how they or their families have rented a U-Haul, driven to San Diego, bought a few thousand dollars' worth of stuff, and returned. It's just like a cult, like they're IKEA roadies.

NT: It kind of frightens me. I mean, it's a furniture store.

Cesen:I know. But it's a good one. One of the stores I really don't care for is the Wal-Mart Super Store. The way they treat their employees -- they're the original evil giant. I've been here for six days, and I have to tell you that [IKEA employees] make a beeline for the door when they get to work.

NT: They definitely have some interesting stuff. (Opening catalogue.) This here's a rocking chair, but it looks like the thing I scoop out my cat box with.

Cesen: You just really don't like IKEA, huh?

NT: I don't get why everyone is so excited. I mean, you have to assemble this stuff! It's ugly, and you have to put it together!

Cesen:But you don't have to own a truck. You can bring it home in any size vehicle. That's one thing I really like about IKEA. No need to rent a truck.

NT: Does it trouble you that your bedroom is going to look like the cover of an IKEA catalogue?

Cesen:I get some options on my color schemes and stuff like that. But this has all been great. I'm so shocked and amazed by everyone's generosity. Cookies, cheese. And someone's been leaving me a newspaper every day -- I just wake up and there it is.

NT: America's a beautiful place, isn't it?

Cesen:I couldn't ask for anything else. I really thought I was going to be roughing it by doing this, but it's been a total cakewalk. IKEA is cool.

E-mail robrt.pela@newtimes.com

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