I tried to give away a futon and ended up on TV.

FREE is a word that makes things happen. It greenlights adrenaline and makes consumers uncontrollably flash the whites of their eyes. Even if what’s offered is unimpressive. Doesn’t matter–It’s FREE. A dumpy futon is a dumpy futon until you make it FREE. FREE elevates. FREE sparkles. FREE skews. I offered up a FREE dumpy futon and my INbox exploded. I WANT IT! I’ll TAKE IT! I’LL COME TONIGHT! I HAVE A TRUCK! WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE? I’M YELLING AND IT FEELS GREAT! ARE THERE BED BUGS INT THE MATTRESS?! EVEN IF YES, I STILL TOTALLY WANT THIS FUTON!

One email was different.

“Hi! My name is Derek Blazer (name change) and I’m producing a new show for Planet Green, a
Discovery Networks channel dedicated to environmental issues and the green
lifestyle, launching this June. We are doing segment called “Salvaged”
where we transform unwanted furniture into something beautiful and useful.
Would you ­ and your futon ­ be interested in participating on our show?

Best,
Derek Blazer

I talked it over with the futon. Initially hesitant, the futon came around and agreed to participate. Another email came from the producer:

1st day, pick up the piece, talk about the project, etc.; 2nd day, our designers rework the piece into something functional and fabulous, 3rd day, we return the refurbished piece to the owner. We’d only need you on the 1st & 3rd days – and for only about an hour or so. Also, if you could send a digital photo along with your phone number(s) and contact info, that’d be great. Thanks!

I didn’t have time to secure professional representation, so I represented myself. And the futon. A small crew arrived early one Brooklyn morning and launched our tv careers. They filmed me carrying the frame to the trash and being interrupted by an enthusiastic woman who absolutely had to have it. We did it 6 times from different angles. I started to repeat certain phrases (”yeah…I live RIGHT through those doors”) and became self conscious. I was feeling like a cliche of myself. The futon did better. Then it was over.

Until they returned, a week later. This time I was a bit more prepared. I had been rehearsing being surprised and talking smartly about the environment and my love for salvage. I took the morning off from work and waited. They buzzed my door and filmed me coming outside to be greeted by the enthusiastic woman from before who stood next to a thing shrouded in black cloth. I feigned surprise with a trace of suspicion.

“This is your futon!” the designer woman insisted. “We’ve turned it into something we hope you can use!”

“That’s not my futon!” I denied. My fake tone was: what do you take me for?

“YES! It is!” she insisted, pulling back, with flourish, the black cloth to reveal an item that scarcely resembled the futon: a blue/raw wood desk with removable shelves. “We used the wood from the frame and made you this and it’s all yours if you want it!”

We did this a bunch of times. But the first time really was a surprise and I really did like the piece, which surprised me. Later, 2 things bothered me about the whole process–nothing was done with the mattress and they used additional wood (finish-grade ply for the desktop and shelving). But I was satisfied with their answer–they have a gigantic warehouse with salvaged things (furniture, raw materials, etc) and they use all that’s available to construct something that can be put back into play. And they were up til 4am the morning of my shoot and the mattress could just not become the throw cushions with cool prints the designer intended it to be.

Overall a good, occasionally nerve-wracking experience. I asked them if I could keep them on speed dial for other things that I may come across and want transformed. Even better will be when I tell my friend M. to turn on the TV and check out her futon. She’d given it to me, FREE, about a year before. FREE!

before

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Show: G Word. Episode title: Pacific Trash Vortex. Airing late June. Planet Green. I don’t have cable. Can you tape it for me?

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv-schedules/series.html?paid=237.15641.124142.35726.x