21st century couch surfing


Inver Grove Heights resident CJ Bahan is known for his unique hobby: curb furniture poaching, which is taking a seat in coaches left on the curb, and taking a picture. His adventures recently gained him recognition on radio station 102.9 The Wolf. (courtesy CJ Bahan)

Bahan finds outdoor furniture during his bike rides, or from people dropping him suggestions online.

Having moved to the area from Illinois, Bahan says getting out for bike rides and furniture poaching helped him get to know his new community. (photos courtesy CJ Bahan)

Inver Grove Heights man’s hobby turns viral sensation

 

Everybody’s seen it: furniture sitting out on the curb. 

Sometimes it’s waiting for the garbage truck. Other times there’s a “free” sign on it — the current owner is hoping someone will just take it off their hands. Most of the time, folks drive by these temporary lawn fixtures without a second thought.

But in Inver Grove Heights and the surrounding communities, no curb furniture is safe from CJ Bahan — he’s more than likely to have seat on it, take a picture of the scene and “poach” it.

The 41-year-old Inver Grove Heights resident has been enjoying his self-described “weird” hobby for years, and shows no signs of slowing down.

 

Catching the bug

A Metro Transit  mechanic who works on the Blue Line, Bahan says his hobby started when he lived in Illinois.

“The whole story is it started with my ex-wife, who didn’t appreciate my humor,” he says, remembering a few years ago being on a walk with her and coming upon a couch someone had left out. He sat in it and she was mortified — he’d found his passion for poaching.

Bahan says it continued with his father.

“Dad was kind of an uptight guy, you know, likes everything a certain way, mowed his yard twice a week,” Bahan says.

Dad was annoyed because the neighbors had left a couch out for a week, so Bahan went out and sat in it. He took pictures, and his father thought it was hilarious. He posted the pictures online.

When Bahan moved to Inver Grove Heights, he kept up the curb-furniture poaching for friends back home. 

Early on, the self-described outdoorsman and cyclist found furniture to poach while out on bike rides. Then friends started sending him messages on social media, pointing out new street sofas to surf.

“I knew it kind of got popular when people I didn’t even know were reaching out to me saying, ‘Hey, there’s a couch or a chair or something like that sitting somewhere,’” Bahan says.

His girlfriend, Tracy Chartier, says it took a couple months for her to catch on to his hobby.

“He doesn’t talk about it,” she says. “He just kind of goes out and does it, then he posts online ... I finally caught on to it, and my initial reaction was like, ‘You do what now?’”

It was just a little funny at first, but Chartier says she can now see how Bahan gained a following and how people get a kick out of his “complete goofiness.”

 

Adventures in 

sofa-sitting

Bahan’s hobby has only followed him home a single time. Last year he had a friend in South St. Paul tell him about a couch near their place, so he went to do his thing. The woman who owned the sofa came out and was “very crazy and very angry,” he says, insisting that since he was taking pictures on her furniture that he needed to take it home.

Luckily, Bahan had his car and loaded the couch onto it, taking it with him. Chartier says she wasn’t thrilled with the new addition, but the couple found an agreeable end for the driftless davenport.

“I ended up giving that couch a good Viking funeral out back in the fire pit,” Bahan says.

There are certain concerns that come with his hobby. He says bed bugs are always in the back of his mind and while there have been a couple pieces of infested furniture he’s passed on sitting on, the grossest thing he ever saw was a chair that had evidence of tapeworm shedding.

“That was a no.”

While most of Bahan’s poachings are in his neighborhood, he’s had some further-flung adventures. He bicycled to Fergus Falls, which was a 300-mile round trip, and found a couch on the curb at the end of his destination like it was there just for him.

 

Weird but wonderful

“CJ always seeks adventure,” says Chartier. “He’s open, he’s positive, he’s well informed about his community, so he genuinely cares about the community and wants to be involved.”

His uploaded adventures have given him a platform to spotlight things he cares about — he’s raised money for charity and highlighted various social and environmental issues.

“It does create an audience for other things I care about,” Bahan says.

And then there’s just the simple silliness of it all and what that can mean to people. Bahan says a friend told him she showed his pictures to the elderly ladies she cares for in a group home. They all thought they were hysterical, the friend said, and the women looked forward to more of his posts.

Bahan’s had other people tell him similar things — another friend used his posts to brighten her day when her father was sick in the hospital.

“I’ve had people at counters and checkouts talk to me by name and I have no idea who they are,” he says. “I don’t know who they are but they know who I am.”

Such fame has brought imitation, Bahan says. On his way to chat about his hobby with the Review, he says he hit a couch he learned about because another cyclist had posted a picture of himself on the sofa earlier that week. He’s also had folks send him photos of poaching from Minneapolis, New Mexico and even Germany.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing,” Bahan says, “but people enjoy it.”

See more of Bahan’s poaching pictures by finding him on Facebook.

 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.8 (5 votes)
Comment Here