Tuesday, October 10, 2006


So I sell stuff on eBay. Stuff I find in thrift stores. It’s not like it’s a dirty secret, or anything. I have no qualms about making a buck or two (hopefully more) off of the these temples of disposable consumerism. If there’s someone out there who truly wants a Stoker Ace t-shirt or a vintage Radio Shack 9 volt battery, why can’t I be the one who culls these precious gems from the heaps of effluvium? I guess that kind of sounds like a crack dealer justifying his trade as a public service, but it’s not really that bad if I feed someone’s eBay addiction. Hell, I have my own ebay-related problems (ask me about safety posters sometime). It also gives me a reason to visit as many thrift stores as I can during the week.

I spend and inordinate amount of time in the clothing aisles of the Goodwills, Amvets, and myriad other incarnations of the secondhand shops. What I’m usually looking for is the unusual color, the funky cut, the thin and soft texture of vintage t-shirt, jacket, sweater, what have you that find there way from peoples closets and attics and boxes in the garage to the clothing racks of the Salvation Army. Unfortunately for us craphounds there is a work-related hazard nowadays: fake vintage clothes. There’s literally two tons of this stuff in every thrift store from here to Mexico City, stuff from Old Navy and other pop culture huckster leeches. Fakey “Eat at Joes,” “Dicks Auto Repair,” and “Kentucky is For Lovers” tees. Counterfeit vintage Adidas running jackets. Bogus “Led Zepplin 1977 Tour” concert duds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled a piece of clothing from one of the overstuffed racks believing it to be a true archaeological pop culture treasure only to discover it’s true carbon dating was Target, circa last month. I will tell you it’s the tags that give them away every time. Craphounds, go to the tags for your vintage verification. You can fake the Pac Man logo, you can fake the faded and cracking silk-screened graphic, you can fake the butterfly collars, you might even fake that 1960s shade of puke green, but you can’t fake the vintage tag, which is often a work of art all on its own.

And that’s what this post is about. Some tags are tiny Picassos, Van Goghs, ant its instant love a first sight. The stitching is sometimes simple, sometimes wonderfully complex. The designs can be intricate, or sparse and striking. Even if the garment has a limited eBay appeal, I’m often tempted to buy it just for that tag (of course, those inappropriate cravings are supposed to be alleviated by a quick application of digital camera snapshot). And doesn’t say something about the olden days that garment makers put so much effort, and attention to detail into 2 inch by one inch swath of fabric that was hidden on the inside.

So, some of these tags I sold (along with the garments around them). Some were momentary acquaintances. And some are hanging in my closet. I’ll let you try to guess which is which.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

STUFF I COULDN'T BUY (But really wanted to)

I've said it before, I’m out of space. I have no room for thrift store rescues of any significant size. Besides, buying more junk completely goes against my professed love a mid-century minimalist aesthetic. That's the nature of the thrift store adventurist's dilemma: we go to thrift stores to rescue the flotsam of the past from obscurity, ill-treatment, and (god forbid) the landfill, yet if we rescue too many items, they will still remain obscure, ill-treated, and if we're really in a bad mood, sitting in front of the giant green trash container on garbage day. It's bad enough that somebody got 47 years of use out of a coffee table before sending it along to Goodwill, but when I purchase that same table, work out the quantum mechanics of fitting it into the back of my compact Japanese car, hopefully without scratching it, hoist in slowly up the stairs to my apartment, and shove into a corner beneath of pile of other thrift store refugees for six months before realizing I just don't have room for another coffee table is, well, a double travesty. I should just go to thrift stores, admire, take a few pictures and wish the items will go to a happy home, one other than mine. But the obsessive collector within has already been awakened, tempted, taunted. It pains me to my core to leave this beautiful junk behind. Maybe I would feel better if I didn’t go and gaze upon all the cool crap in thrift store-ville. Stay home and read, and –dare I think it— clean house. That would probably be healthy. But this wouldn’t be a proper obsession without self-destructive behavior. So here’s the stuff I couldn’t buy. I'll just stare at the pictures from time to time and suffer. Hey, maybe you could buy it for me, and I’ll pick it up when I’ve got more room. Thanks in advance.

I poked, prodded, lifted, sniffed, and stalked around this mid-century school seating module("Church Educational Systems" on the underside nameplate) before convincing myself on ten different levels that I couldn't afford it. It was gone the next day. Aaarggh!

I know. I'd have to be 22 years-old, living in a dorm, and without a single stitch of furniture (besides an IKEA futon) to truly jusitfy this barber chair. In fact, I remember thinking it went really nice where it was, what with this thrift store's nifty linoleum floor. It was gone the week I went back. Sob.

An OSCILLOSCOPE! What self-respecting 1950s monster movie buff could pass up the opportunity to own a 50s-era oscilloscope?! Who cares if it weigh 500 lbs. and doesn't work? Then I thought of the real horror show my apartment clutter has become. Good lord, (choke)!

By now, I've pretty much chosen the 1950s and 1960s as my favorite design era. But c'mon, these mid-70's orange thrones... just think of the instant respect one would command. I justified not buying them because you had to buy a whole dining room set as well. Not in my mix and match world. Ha!

You have no idea how many 1930s and 1940s lady's make-up desks I run across. They're usually beat to hell, and missing a few pieces, but they always catch my eye and they always look a thousand time more stylish than anything you can by new. I think they wanted 95 bucks for this set. Plusses: Mirrored tile inlays. Bakelite shell drawer pulls. Cute as a button. Minuses: 95 bucks and 50 miles from home. Oh, and no more f---ing room. Oh well.

There are many more tales of "the one that got away" but I leave you with this. Something in terms of size and price ($35) that I could almsot justify stashing under the bed. Any self-respecting thrift store adventurist can not resist the "thing in the class case." It's amazing how just a 1/4 of an inch of glass can make the most useless object take on an air importance and awe. Like a museum piece that's spotlighted, enshrined on a pedestal, and just beyond your reach, it awakens the inner jewel thief, I suppose. I never really wanted an accordion, I don't plan on learning how to play one, but this blue marbled bowling-ball-esque "Accordilini" (!) beckoned like the Lorelei... "Buy me, and I will drown you finally in the pools of crap you have stuffed in every nook and cranny of your filthy home." Or something to that effect. Like I said, this is an unhealthy mental obsession, and this blog is my little dose of medicine.