Monday, February 2, 2015

What's Wrong with Porch Furniture?

I'm guessing that this image of porch furniture wouldn't upset the current mayor of Gate City so much, because it's color-matched. (Thanks, Jade from Morguefile.)



There is, however, a house on Park Street with about this amount of furniture on its porch, only it's not all matchy-matchy, and it's more wood than wicker. This house belongs to an antique dealer who uses the porch to store furniture that won't fit into the dealer's Jackson Street business. It's a huge old Victorian house, with a lot of porchage and a lot of furniture, but I've walked around the porch and found a nice, clear walkway in between the furniture, which...well, most people could find some pieces we'd call garbage, but somebody likes it. That's why this furniture is on the porch. It is waiting for its "forever homes." It is there to attract that somebody to whom it seems beautiful.

I have seen boxes and sacks of things being moved in or out piled up on top of this furniture. In fact, because this family deal in books too, I've set boxes and sacks on this porch, usually for less than thirty minutes, but once, due to missed connections, for three days. Did that do anyone any harm?

There is another house on Park Street that displays a sign identifying it as the studio of a "Frugal Artist" who does creative things with antiques and junk. I can't afford any of the Frugal Artist's stuff so I've not contributed to the display of curios on that porch, but I've seen it. Again, it's a display, not a mess; these people set things out in a way that invites people to browse through the merchandise.

There is a house on Jackson Street that has a porch that looks, well, lived-in. I've never seen it look conspicuously cluttered. It's a porch where people may hang out, and may set things down, or move things in or out. I don't know these people. They're not maintaining a display of merchandise; sometimes when I've passed by their porch has looked pretty bare.

However, all of these people have received letters of complaint from the mayor, threatening them with fines if they don't "declutter" their (attractive-looking) porches.

I think the real question is what's wrong with the mayor. Porch furniture does nobody any harm.

I think every country, state, city, town, and neighborhood needs laws that limit the extent to which people can use government to give their neighbors a hard time. The criterion should be that material, measurable harm is being done to someone else. If a neighbor's noise is stampeding cattle or keeping people awake at night, that is doing harm. If a neighbor's septic tank is flooding the street, that is doing harm. If a neighbor's house, furniture, or garden don't appeal to somebody's aesthetic taste, that person needs to be told to go home and shut up, or maybe pay a fine.

For the information of Gate City's town council, this kind of stupidity occurred before, a generation ago, when people complained about the Friday Market being messy. Well, actually the Friday Market is messy, because it's our number one tourist attraction. The Frugal Artist and the antique dealer certainly don't attract the kind of traffic the Friday Market generates, thank goodness, but why do you imagine they bother to set their merchandise out on their front porches? Ask them what percentage of their sales come from neighbors and from tourists. They are attracting tourists in small manageable numbers. Some of those tourists may not be conspicuous because they may be old friends who fit into the local crowd, but they still bring in money, and they still eat and buy gas while they're here, and some of them even spend money in Jackson Street stores or Kane Street restaurants.

So, is the mayor really so a'compulsive she's trying to deprive the town of badly needed tourist revenue, just to satisfy some personal need for control? Or just shortsighted enough to hope that the Frugal Artist and the antique dealer will pay the fines this year, so she can claim to have put a little money into the town treasury before being voted out in the next election? What is the matter with this mayor?

What is the matter with anybody who thinks he or she has any business telling other people how they should look? Do we even need to know? In this crowded world, with this overloaded economy, maybe nobody even needs to spare the time to try to analyze these people's problems. Maybe what we need is Duct Tape Therapy. One piece across each eye, with a little space at the bottom so these people can see where they are stepping and what they are doing with their hands, might solve a lot of their problems.