Wednesday, November 21, 2007


So, while some of you are mounting your 4 AM shopping mall offensives of Friday, I will be asserting the alternate shopping doctrine of re-consumerism, with military precision (Salvation Army tactics, you know) at my nearest thrift stores. Strike that, there's no way in L that I'm getting up before sunrise on a vacation day after having ingested mass quantities of turkey, et al. Rule #233: any time of the day is a good time for thrift store shopping.

Happy stuff your face day, y'all.

Monday, November 12, 2007


There have been a few good scores in my short thrift-going career. Some large pieces and some small. I haven't really had a score that combined both. That is, a big score that allowed me to display my little scores. Until last Friday.

Return with me now to those thrilling days of Friday, last week:

My first stop on thrift store Fridays, around 11:30 am. I was holed up in the cavernous Super Thrift Store which, oddly enough, lives up to its name. My arms were overflowing with soon-to-be-eBayed leather jackets, Hawaiian shirts, and 1970s ski sweaters (people buy anything) -- I must have been hauling around about 20 extra pounds (not including that graduate gut -- I'm working on it!)

I remembered that they had some over-priced mannequins in the back (200 bucks, last time I checked. Ha!), but I wanted to check if they came to their senses and slashed some prices.

I was stopped dead in my tracks when I spied a old-timey barrister bookshelf tucked away in the back. Dropping my armload in a beat-up armchair, I examined it more closely. Love these glass doors. I noticed it had that great water ripple waviness of antique glass. Then I pulled open one of doors. Cool, it slides back! Listen to that squeak! The ancient metal hinge mechanism inside, still doing it's job, and with style, another sign of age. Too cool.

But it seemed a bit wobbly. There's always a downside. Upon closer inspection, it was just because each cabinet separates for stacking, and whoever set it up out her didn't quite get groove A into slot B. Comes apart, huh? That means I could actually get this in my mid-size Japanese car. Hmmmm....

Then I sighted the old-school Hale labels inside shelf. What is that? 30s? 40s? Either this is an antique or a really nice repro.

How big is this thing, anyway? I grabbed one of the standard sized pieces of sheet paper that were scattered on of the tables -- stationary from an orphanage in Africa? (ahh, thrift stores). 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, right? Seems about 12 inches wide, 35 inches long, 50-something high...

Then I thought about the overpriced mannequins. Does that say $399? Nope, $39.99. $40? Forty bucks!!! No way!

F*ck the mannequins, right, I had to own this. Even though we just lost 200 square feet in our last move, I know I had to own this.

Now, just to find somebody who works here. Nobody remotely resembling an employee walks by for five minutes. Okay, more like two, but this bookshelf was burning a hole in my brain. So, intrepidly, with one eye on the bookcase and one searching for a worker, I set out to find someone, anyone, who might get this prize secured.

Thrift store rule #99: the minute you leave something cool to go look for an employee to help you load it up, someone else will swoop in and buy (or break it. I have seen that, too That's Thrift store rule #99-A. Thrift store rule #99-B is if someone slobbers, pees, or poops on it -- I've only heard or smelled rumors)

Anyway, rule #99. This has happened to me countless time. Oh, the forces of chance love to play their tricks. By the time I came back, literally 74 seconds later, Irma and Floyd Bickleson (not their real names, but you all know I like to make up names), both in their late 60s, were about to carry Mr. Cool-Ass-Hale Barrister Bookcase (yep, I named it) out of the store. Somehow in the minute and a half that I've been gone, they saw the bookcase, found Orlando, the guy with the dolly, and tried to make their escape.

Thrift store rule #101: if you want it, fight for it. Hey, I can take these septuagenarians, no problem. Greatest generation, my ass. Put up your dukes, seniors.

Okay, not really, but I saw it first. And I wasn't about to let this antique go home with the lady with a Kool-Aid fruit punch mustache (no joke) and the old guy in the totally-un-ironic lemon-yellow Member's-Only jacket. Not today.

"Hey, I'm getting this. I saw it first," I blurted as if I was twelve.

"Oh, you did? Oh you are? Well, we seen it before you even came in here. Right?" says Irma, sounding like she was thirteen. Floyd just nods. He hasn't seen his testicles in 40 years.

My bluff didn't work. What do I do now? Sucker punch Irma? Start a temper tantrum? Cry? "How about we flip for it?" I offer, with a smile that says I'm a magnanimous son-of-a bitch, ain't I.

Thrift store rule #2,038: take the high road. Maybe they did see it first. Okay. And if they are part of the greatest generation, then the whole fairness-of-the-flipped-coin thing should resonate with them, I figured Seemed like a Great Depression, New Deal-type of thing. And if I lost, I could just walk away.

Only thing, my generation doesn't really carry coins anymore. And you can't really flip a plastic Washington Mutual ATM Card. Floyd's got to have silver dollar, right? He just shrugged.

Oh, but lovable old Irma scrounged around in her old-lady purse and came up with a penny. So it came down to a dirty, tiny, copper-clad Mr. Lincoln to decide the fate of a much contested barrister's bookcase in the Super Thrift Store at nearly noon on Friday.

Floyd let me do the honors and I launched the coin into the rafters. Too high, because I have to arch myself backwards to keep from losing the darn thing. Too much adrenaline, dude!

"Call it," Floyd chirps as the tiny Great Emancipator flies through the air.

"Heads," I request. The coins falls end over end. I lean back over old sewing machine and just barely catch it, slapping it audibly to the back of my hand.

Irma, Floyd and I stare with rapt attention as I reveal the answer of fate, the universe, and the thrift store gods...

To Be Continued....


Let's just say before (above) and after (below):

Monday, November 05, 2007


...well, at least for grad students. I really used to like history and books. Now, I'm Ready For the River. Not actually but, after my head started exploding, I was reminded of this piece of 1920s sheet music, one of about 350 different pieces in a huge tub I bought at a Goodwill a while back, for $19.99.

It's about throwing yourself in the river when times get tough. On the cover you can see this forlorn little figure (obviously a political science or history major) contemplating taking the plunge. Should I finish reading that stupid book about constitutional law or should I sleep with the fishes? Hmmm... I guess your options were somewhat limited in the 20s.

I can't read or play music, but I think I'll resurrect this little lost tune. Follow the bouncing ball, kids: --I'm ready for the ri-ver, I want to drown my trou-ble... It's got a beat and you can harm yourself to it! Nice one for your upcoming Thanksgiving get-together, huh?

Anyhoo, back to the books, those damnable books. Stupid James Madison.