A Visit to IKEA with Travis

So Travis took my and Keaton’s advice and he’s moving into the apartment next door to Keaton’s. Juan Diego wanted to paint and change the carpet and shit like that, so the apartment wasn’t going to be ready on the 1st like we thought. That worked out, since Travis still has a few days left in his program, and his ‘discharge date’ isn’t until the 13th anyway. He didn’t want to have to go spend even a few nights at his parents’ (Travis: “I’m afraid that bedroom is going to be a trigger”), so we need to make sure that the apartment will be ready for him when he’s ready to move next week.

Juan Diego doing his thing is only a piece of what needs to be done, since Travis doesn’t have any furniture, and he’s got a one bedroom apartment to fill up. His parents gave him some money for decorating, and Travis decided that he’d get the most bang for his buck at IKEA.

“IKEA is pretty cool. The only thing is,” he told me and Keaton when we were hanging out at the Norm’s in El Monte, “IKEA furniture needs to be put together…and I suck when it comes to using tools.”

Me and Keaton looked at each other and smiled. Travis’ dad may have been useless when it comes to tools, but Wesson Block and Rebel Penner made sure that their sons knew their way around a tool box.

“You’re in luck, hoss,” Keaton said. “me and bubba could probably build you your furniture from scratch.”

“Dad and me built a desk that way,” I said. “It’s still in my room back home.”

“Good. I’ll admit it: I was kinda planning on you guys’ help. I already went to IKEA and picked out some things I really like…but I wasn’t sure that there’d be anyone to put them together. Plus you need a buddy or two at IKEA, since you have got to physically pick up the flat pack furniture from the warehouse area and bring it to the checkout. They don’t have people to help you…”

“Stop being so fuckin gayass,” Keaton said. “You don’t need a porter when you’ve got me and bubba on the job.”

So we made a date to head to the IKEA in Covina this past Tuesday. I was still gonna have to have breakfast with the boys, take them to school, and pick them up at the end of their day, but that left me plenty of time to help Travis out. We decided to get to IKEA early, so I reckoned there’d be plenty of time to drive the furniture back to the apartment and get started putting it together before I’d need to go get the boys.

I drove over to Keaton’s as soon as I dropped the boys off in the morning.

“Is it cool if you take that thing to IKEA with us?,” Keaton asked, indicating Robert and Maya’s Maybach SUV, which I was driving but planned to leave at Keaton’s. “I don’t know how much Travis is planning to buy, but it could be more than the truck holds. Or is driving flat-pack furniture around too big a come-down for a Mercedes like that?

“I think it’s ok,” I said. “They didn’t say I shouldn’t…and they’ve been trusting me with it for a while now. I mean, we took it to Dodger Stadium and everything.”

Keaton laughed. “Must be real tough being a kid and having a Mercedes Maybach SUV to be driven around in. The back seats fold down like in a normal car, don’t they?”

“I don’t rightly know,” I said, “but I think there’s a button on the dashboard that controls them.” Sure enough there was, and the back looked surprisingly roomy once I pushed it.

“Who’s picking up Travis?,” I asked, since now we were going in two cars.

“You’re the one with the plush passenger seat. He might as well be all gayass and comfortable.”

“Hey, man, don’t give me shit for this thing being gayass. I only drive it. And, hey, it’s more car than I’m ever gonna be able to afford in this lifetime.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Keaton said. “If I were you I’d be parlaying my TV fame for something more permanent.”

“Working on it, man,” I said. Keaton wasn’t totally up to date on the development of a whole segment on At Home with Maya that would star me.

So Keaton got in the truck, I got in the SUV, and we headed to El Monte, where Travis was waiting for us. He was going to be playing hooky from his program, but I reckon they thought it was more important that he start getting ready to move than that he attend his daily groups. Then we got on the 10 and headed to IKEA. I gotta admit I didn’t know where the heck I was going – I’ve heard of West Covina, but that’s about it, and this was Covina Covina, which I didn’t even know existed. I’m pretty clear on where El Monte is relative to everything, since I’ve been there a few times since Travis started living there, but, once you go past El Monte, I might as well be driving in a foreign country.

Still, the store is visible from the freeway, and Travis knew which exit to take, so we found the place with no trouble. Given how huge it is, it would take someone pretty lameass not to find it. We got a parking space pretty close to the entrance (which I reckoned was gonna be close to the exit), and Keaton was already waiting for us inside at the foot of the escalator.

“Ready, hoss?”

“Ready,” Travis said as we got on the escalator and headed up.

Ok, I’ve never been to an IKEA before. Man, it’s a whole fuckin world! There are two huge floors, and there’s no way out unless you take the winding route that covers every part of the floor with the furniture and then every part of the floor with all the other shit like housewares…and only then do you get to where they keep the packed-up furniture…although it makes sense that that’d be the area closest to the registers. Anyway, I wasn’t complaining, since I’d never seen the place, and it’s always interesting to see something new. Plus it’s cool looking at furniture and thinking how you might decorate your own space. The pool house came ready-decorated for me, of course, but I did find a thing that I kinda liked…a little laptop stand…that Travis bought for me as a thank you for helping. That was cool of him. (Keaton found a backpack off in a corner of the closet storage section. It looked pretty cool…and Keaton said he was looking for one, since he doesn’t want to have his cool messenger bag we got him for his birthday on his work truck with him. Travis made that a present, too.)

So all the furniture at IKEA is arranged by room on the second floor – I don’t remember the order exactly, but you get all the bedroom furniture at once, then you get the living room stuff, then the office stuff…y’all get the picture. Travis was shopping mostly for the bedroom stuff: he needs a bed, dresser and nightstand…and he wants a desk. His parents are giving him a couch and a few things for the living room, but he was also looking for a small dining table and chairs.

We spent the most time in the bedroom department, because, even though there’s all this furniture all over the place, IKEA has huge stock problems. Their stuff is apparently made all over the world and their supply chain has been fucked up by…wait for it…COVID. So the big challenge was finding pieces that went together and that were in stock, since you couldn’t put a whole bedroom suite together like you normally would be able to. (Keaton: “don’t sweat it all not matching exactly…if it all matches too much it’ll look gay.”) So there was a lot of back-and-forth between looking at furniture and talking to the person at the computer kiosk. Finally Travis got the numbers and locations of the stuff he wanted on printouts, which said exactly where to look in the ‘self-service furniture area’ to pick them up.

Travis brought us in on helping pick a mattress. (Keaton: “don’t even think of laying down next to me to test one of these things…they probably already think we’re a fuckin couple.”) We all eventually managed to agree on one: Travis was saying he’d started having a little back trouble with his soft funny farm mattress and wanted something firmer, so we picked a firm foam mattress that they had in stock. I’ve always liked firmer mattresses myself: if I wanted to bounce around, I’d buy a trampoline.

On our way out of the showroom floor, we passed through the kids’ department. They had a bunch of stuffed animals there, and Travis picked a couple up : “it’ll make a good gift for the mental health workers,” he said. “I gotta give them something when I leave: they’ve taken care of me for a year and a half. Do you like the koalas or the moose?,” he asked.

Y’all should have seen the look on Keaton’s face.

“The moose,” I said. “You can be pretty sure he’s a dude. The koala’s got a baby…so it’s probably a chick.”

“Good point,” said Travis, dropping the moose into one of the huge yellow shopping bags they have for people to put the shit they’re buying in. “You guys hungry?”

“I could eat,” I said. All the walking around had worked up an appetite. “How come?”

“Because there’s a restaurant right around the corner.”

“They got a restaurant in here?,” Keaton asked. “Fuck, is there anything they don’t have?”

“Probably not,” said Travis. “You guys game for IKEA food? I read online it’s pretty good. You’re supposed to get the Swedish meatballs.”

He kinda had me at meatballs. Y’all may remember how I get around the ones at Buca di Beppo lol.

So we headed into the restaurant, which has cafeteria service, got our trays, and ordered the meatballs like we were supposed to. We also all helped ourselves to this dang good-looking chocolate cake for dessert.

“You’re supposed to get the ligonberry drink to drink,” Travis said. “I’ve researched this.”

I didn’t know what a ligonberry was, but Keaton obviously did, since he corrected Travis and we learned the word was lingonberry. Turns out they’re tart little round berries, kinda like a cranberry in taste. That’s why they serve some lingonberry sauce alongside your meatballs in cream sauce. (You get freshly cooked broccoli and mashed potatoes as well.)

It was actually a pretty hearty and good lunch…which was good, since we figured we were gonna need our strength for the warehouse part of the ground floor when we finally got to it. The only scary thing, and it wasn’t all that scary, is that the meatballs were all exactly the same size lol. The cake, though, was bombass. And not just for something you get for three bucks in a furniture store.

Then it was time to face the downstairs floor, which started out with housewares and went on to include everything from rugs to lamps.

“Do you guys mind if I pick up some things here too?,” he asked us. “I know I’m going to have to come back for shit, but I’d like to get dishes and glasses and a coffee pot so I’m able to function when I get to the apartment. And there may be some other things that need assembly…”

“Go for it, hoss,” said Keaton.

“Take advantage of all the car space you’ve got,” I said.

“And the strong backs you’ve got to help carry. Although I got a feeling I’m gonna end up seriously regretting living on the second floor by the end of today,” Keaton added.

So Travis traded his yellow shopping bag in for a shopping cart, and practically filled it with shit for the kitchen…plus a couple lamps, and even a welcome mat.

“Just concentrate on the things we have to put together,” I finally told him. “You know you can get us to come again. It’s not like the store is closing tomorrow.”

“Good point,” said Travis, putting I don’t remember what in the cart.

Then we got to the area where they have the furniture and Travis led us around from aisle to aisle so we could help him with the heavy flat cardboard boxes. He carefully matched the numbers on his printouts to the numbers on the boxes, since it all looked the same and anything could have been anything. Y’all gotta see this place…it’s got shelves practically up to the sky that I don’t even know how people get to. We finally had two flatbed carts piled with the furniture Travis had picked out, and I started to wonder how long it was gonna take us to put it all together. I gotta admit I was also getting kinda tired after that big lunch, so me and Keaton kinda zoned out and just followed Travis around and picked up the cartons he pointed to. And some of them were fuckin heavy, except for the bed, which wasn’t that heavy but which was super long (other than that I didn’t understand how that narrow carton contained a bed…although the legs and the little skirt thing that goes around the frame were separate items we had to get from some other place.)

We got all our carts to the checkout, and, considering that I had the feeling we had half the store with us, Travis was still within the budget his parents had given him of a thousand dollars.

Turns out the hardest part was getting everything into the truck and the SUV. I took all the kitchen stuff and breakables while we hoisted all the furniture into the bed of Keaton’s truck. Eventually we had it all loaded and were driving back to Pasadena to put it all together.

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