by Ron Babcock
Original Piece: 2006
Updated Intro: 2020

It only took me six issues, but this was the first humor piece I personally wrote for the magazine and actually liked. It was 2006 and I had just discovered IKEA.

For a kid whose family‘s only magazine subscription was to Better Homes & Gardens, IKEA was my Disneyland. Everything was so clean, shiny, and affordable, even though I personally couldn’t afford it. Up until this point, I did all my furniture shopping in the alley behind our house in Tempe, AZ. Bookcases, chairs, a mid-century record holder — I scored all sorts of stuff to upgrade my room from ‘kinda shitty’ to ‘slightly less shitty’. Once there was this ginormous steel corner desk that weighed well over 300 lbs. It felt like it belonged in a NASA control room. My neighbor Cal helped me move it in. Scratch that. My insane coked-up neighbor Cal ran out and demanded that I let him help, which consisted of him shoulder barging the desk through my house leaving a path of deep scratches, chipped paint, and a broken screen door in his wake.

IKEA was mesmerizing, but I preferred the frictionless flow of the alley. Wants and needs fulfilled themselves like a ying yang symbol made of garbage.

One day in the alley, Cal invited Ryan and me into his apartment. He wanted to show us his business cards for his new business, “White Glove Electronics.” His angle was to end every job with a white glove inspection. We did not want to go in. My affections for our kooky neighbor had waned ever since I watched him chop the branches off the community lemon tree while drugged out of his mind. I wanted to tell him to stop, but I have a rule to avoid speedfreaks who carry an axe. Cal was adamant though and we figured a happy Cal is better than an unhappy Cal.

We opened the door and walked into a Hoarders episode. It was chaotic in the sheer scope of stuff, but it was meticulously organized. Every place had its thing and every thing had its place. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but everything felt so familiar. Then I spotted a blue bookcase, then a set of black chairs, a chipped coffee cup that I swear I used to…


Kaiser Sose thud to the head. Every single thing we had ever put in the alley was in Cal’s place. He gave us two business cards that said “White Glove Electronics.”

“Cool right?!

“Super cool Cal. Hey did you get this stuff from the alley?”

“I get everything from the alley. It’s like magic or something.”

After that I started taking stuff to Goodwill.