Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Upholstered Porch Furniture and Southern Individualism


Occasionally readers of the internet encounter doings of HOAs with restrictive rules as to what kind of lawns, what kinds of colors may be used for houses, or what kinds of property embellishments might be included. Occasionally HOAs discourage flagpoles for American flags, or seasonal or sports-themed banners as well. And whirly gigs or other eccentricities can be negatively sanctioned too. Bunch of meanies!

Just as well that I'm an apartment dweller, at least for now. However, apartments may have certain restrictions, either from the apartment owner, or from the larger community. For example, a local ordinance in many towns prohibits the placement of old upholstered furniture on porches, the practice being regarded as "tacky." Now this goes in the face of an old fashioned Southern collegiate tendency. Why Southern? Simply because they can there. I can't imagine Boston university students sitting on sofas on their porches in November!

But why sit there? Because the  guys and gals like to watch things pass, especially people and police cars. (It gets boring in late week day afternoons.) And, to be honest, television is no good, especially in the afternoon.

But there's an additional side to it, as John Shelton Reed observed years ago. The South is a hotbed of intense individualism. They have a distrust of the exercise of authority over their ability to go to heaven or hell or nowhere as they individually see fit. As he put it, "They can have my La-Z-Boy when they pry it out of my cold, dead fingers!" This intense individualism does tend to rear its head in surprising ways, like front porch furniture choices!

And that intense individualism is the reason why dry counties don't work. And, if we are going to be honest, that's why laws against gay marriage are also not going to go over very well in the long run. There are openly gay couples in the South, and they're part of the social fabric. There's no barrier to gays being individualistic too! The South is a remaining area of the lower 48 states that encourages tribalism (think of small town football games on Friday nights) and an individualism that permits doing whatever one pleases. (I don't have to invoke the purple prose of W. J. Cash to call it to mind!) This individualism sometimes can be anti-progressive, as in attempts to legislate proper land use; but, properly invoked, it can also be in accord with progressive values.

And it's a quintessential Southern tradition to accept when people 'do the right thing,' without inquiring too carefully how they got to be doing so. Even if it's the laziness of sitting on old sofas on porches.


Old rockers hanging out on a porch sofa.

14 comments:

Cherdo said...

I'm here first? Wow! Everything you said resonates with me. This is a great post and so true.

You forgot to mention cars on cinder blocks or multiple cars that don't run!

Duckbutt said...

I remember sitting on an old sofa that was on a porch back when I was in grad school. No one thought anything of it.

John Hill said...

Why not a sofa?
While a wooden slat porch swing might be nostalgic, face it--it's not that comfortable to kick back on for a restful time while watching the world go by.

Linda Kay said...

I love your photo, Angel. We are going through the HOA codes right now with our new home and the landscaping hubby wants...mostly zeroscape. There are codes about grass in the lawns, but apparently many have broken this from the looks of our neighbors' lawns.

TexWisGirl said...

better on the porch instead of the lawn.

Anemone said...

Some people just love making rules for others!

Mike said...

There is a subdivision in the St. Louis area where you can not park your car outside your house. It has to be in the garage. And the only time you can have your garage door open is to move your car in or out of the garage.

allenwoodhaven said...

I recently learned that this photo was taken in the hills near Hollywood. CSN named their band later that night so went back the next day to take another photo with them in the right order. That porch and couch were gone; the house had been demolished!

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

A porch sofa is also sublime to sleep on if there are no mosquitoes about.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

TexWisGirl - On a covered porch it's less likely to get wet,

Cherdo - Cars on cinder blocks should be considered collectors' items.

Duckbutt - Great memories, no?

John Hill - Exactly!

Linda Kay - Some HOAs can be really bossy. Maintaining grass can be a real problem in areas with little rainfall.

allenwoodhaven - Thanks for the background on the CSN CD cover.

Anemone, Rammer - You got it right!

Bilbo said...

Can you kill two birds with one stone by putting a sofa up on blocks in your front yard?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

You can -- and erect a tent over it!

carolina g. ticala said...

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Atomic Dog said...

Too many people in some neighborhoods are busybodies.