There was a time, probably 20 years ago, when the coolest thing you could buy for your first apartment was a papasan chair.
You know the one: Big bowl of a thing with a wicker base and a tufted cushion.
Places like Pier One always had them -- still do -- papasan, with affordable price tags and bright colors.
That herby smell they pipe into those stores must cause 20-something shoppers to go all bohemian and the next thing you know, your tiny studio living room is dominated by a piece of furniture that looks like a wok.
Eventually you buy a house and the chair is demoted to the basement. After that, it's just a hop and a skip to the curb. Or, if the wicker hasn't completely unraveled, Craig's List. The site is littered with them.
I know because I typed "wicker furniture" into the search bar last week hoping to find a nice chaise for the back patio.
Instead I spent an hour wading through a papasan jungle. Judging from the old dates on the posts, you can't give these things away.
The site should have a special "papasan" category on the dropdown menu, to get the satellite dishes out of the real wicker stream.
Finally, I found something promising: a patio set of wrought iron and some wicker.
The photo showed a chaise, two chairs and a table with punchy green and yellow cushions, all classily arranged on a vast patio adorned with potted plants. "Hmm," I thought. "An affluent suburban housewife has grown tired of her patio furniture even though it is just five years old and in perfect shape since they don't sit out there much anyway. She's ready to trade up and is giving this stuff away for $200."
The town was a good 25 miles away, but worth the trip. And so I took a Sunday drive. Confident, I drove in a truck.
This was not an affluent suburban neighborhood, but a working-class street with modest homes.
On the phone, the seller had told me to walk around the back, and I did. I recognized the furniture, but only by the leafy pattern of the cushions.
This was not the well-tended furniture of a gracious hostess but, apparently, the castoffs of a college frat house.
The chaise sloped to the left as if a lopsided giant had lounged there. All the furniture looked like it had been left to shrivel in the rain.
The owner didn't know I was there. I crept away from the patio, ran up the side yard to the truck and drove away. I called and left this message: Thanks, but not interested.
If he'd answered, I would have told him that was one extremely flattering photograph he took of the furniture. I should hire him to take my portrait.
Either he photoshopped the living daylights back into that stuff, or he found the original newspaper ad from the furniture store.
Back on Craig's List the next day, I found a wicker chaise in my neighborhood, and they were asking just $25.
I drove over there and found the piece on the front porch. Dogs had chewed the arms and the bottom would need new bamboo struts. It was a mess, but a $25 mess, so I heaved it into the truck.
It's on the patio now, awaiting the $250 worth of fabric and padding it will take to make it loungeworthy.
For now, the dog enjoys lying on it and smelling the other dog smells. He has no idea what I went through to get it.
Beth Dolinar is a former Riverside resident and Pittsburgh television reporter who is staying at home to raise her two children. She can be reached at cootieJ@aol.com.