WED12:37PM25MAY2011

Wooden Armrest On Bench Outside of Athom Cafe, Brooklyn.

The armrest is attached to the chair by two bolts on either side of the cut 2×4, causing it to swivel on this axis. It doesn’t work. No arms rest here. Effectively it’s more of an arm labor. The wood is stained unevenly. In parts, it’s a deep brass; in others, the color of fresh scab. The bench itself toes the line between functionality and mere decoration. As a piece seen from the distance of even a few feet, it appears to have been constructed with care, by a creator with a vision. Materials were chosen. Not just wood, the frame is metal tubing, curled and designed with aesthetics in mind.

The wood is obviously hand cut and the asymmetrical stain isn’t apparent until one takes the time to look at it, which nobody would do until they chose to use the bench functionally. At which point they might realize that the metal frame lacks supporting bars and so bends forward uncomfortably, and refuses to sit back even under the weight of a body. If one were to try and pin it back, the other side of the bench would twist forward, acting as a counter force, and one would find a tube of metal–attached to the other side and not secured to theirs–would stick into their back. The trick might be to share the bench, but as an object it has an innately forward momentum and the couple in question would find themselves always on the brink of dismounting.

As with any thing, there’s so much to say about the armrest as a thing that it seems ridiculous: That once it was a living thing, carried miles after slaughter and dispersed in sections to be useless until used. That it serves as the home for countless bacterial colonies, warring for supremacy in a microscopic world of particular dimensions, filling the canyons in the grain only to be blighted by the micro-seasonal bleach floods which come without warning and render once hospitable splinter fields uninhabitable for bacterial generations. That the stories of arms that have labored to rest against it are numerous: Flirting and falling in love with attractive others in the summer, or counting the objects in servility as just another pain in the ass a smoker must reconcile through the bitter winters.

In the end, this is the bench we have. Sure, somebody could attach some simple supports to the armrests, but do we care enough? We’re more concerned, it seems, with temporarily alleviating the strain on our legs.

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