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The Abandoned Street Couches of Los Angeles

Archaeologists have long known you can learn heaps about a culture from its trash, and the Los Angeles street couch is no exception. These artifacts say more about us than just laziness. They tell stories of butts and passion and bad television, maybe...
March 19, 2014, 12:00pm

Archaeologists have long known you can learn heaps about a culture from its trash, and the Los Angeles street couch is no exception. These artifacts say more about us than just laziness. They tell stories of butts and passion and bad television, maybe even birth and death.

Pay enough attention, and you’ll start to realize these couches fit into certain categories, even though they won’t fit into your compact car. Pay enough attention, and a taxonomy appears.

The Cushionless Couch

This is the most common species of Los Angeles street couch, and all sofas without attached cushions meet this fate within a few hours. Those cushions might as well be currency for the homeless, and once they’re stripped, the couch is guaranteed a long life on the curb without any takers.

The Whole Living Room on the Curb

Nothing quite says “forceful eviction” like an entire living room chucked onto the sidewalk. Unlike your regular street-couch sightings, which tend to happen toward the end of the month, the whole living room on the curb can be seen almost any time.

The Toilet

Sometimes people take shits on couches. These people are not nice people.

The See-Through Sofa

Western philosophy has the watchmaker analogy, which can be summarized in the following way: If you find something that looks intentional, someone probably did it on purpose. Charles Darwin blew that theory out of the Pacific, but some street couches seem arranged just so. This particular example was found on Beverly Boulevard, nowhere near an actual residence.

The Modernist Sculpture

A close cousin of the See-Through Sofa, the Modernist Sculpture is a particular breed of street couch whose parts someone took an extra second to arrange in an aesthetically pleasing way. Who are these anonymous artists? And why are they blocking the fire lane?

The Flipped Couch

Just as abstract expressionism is known for its emotive gestures, flipped couches bear the mark of aggressive discard. You can feel the frustration of the two people who lugged this couch out to the street. The pillows would have toppled off immediately.

The Lone Cushion

This anomaly cannot be explained by traditional archaeological analysis. Couches without cushions are everywhere, but cushions without couches are a much rarer sight. What happened here? As with the collapse of the Maya, we may never know the complete answer.

The Graffiti Canvas

Street art can last much longer on a curbside sofa than on a wall. No one buffs a couch. The city’s mural laws do not apply.

The Season's Greeting

Classic broken windows theory: Rubbish begets rubbish, and street couches are magnets for other lazy dumpers. You’ll find Christmas trees next to couches well into March, proving once again that Los Angeles really doesn’t understand seasons.

The Keeper

Welcome to El Dorado. Mint-condition couches are almost exclusively pleather with attached cushions. There’s no other way they could withstand the elements and still look this good. You’ll want to spray them down with all-purpose cleaner before bringing them inside, because you never know. You really never know.

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