Thursday, August 30, 2007


Thrift Store Adventures, French Style

Or something to that respect, after all it's in my best I-just-cut-and-pasted-it-from-some-internet-translation-website-French.

First a disclaimer: whilst vacationing on the continent (a-hem), I did not actually set foot in any les brocantes or les dépôt-ventes or magasins privés de seconde main or whatever the French call their thrift stores. As any one with a village-idiot's grasp of French can tell, I cannot speak the language, and this makes it hard to search through the yellow pages, let alone use a computer. What's up with French keyboards, anyhow?

Also, the fact that the Euro is stomping the tar out of the dollar meant that what little money I had would be spent on important stuff like this:

And this:

What's more, it's no secret that I'm a huge history nerd, and well, France has a lot of really old, really historical, really cool stuff that makes history nerds like me drool all over themselves.

In Paris, history is everywhere. Like this sign near the corner pharmacist, that near as I could tell, relates that the building was once used for guillotine executions. Then again, most of Paris was once used for guillotine executions just pick a revolution. Kid's Fun Fact: Developed in the 1780s, as a humane execution device, the guillotine's last public use in France was in 1939. It's actual last use was in 1977, and it remained the official method of execution until 1981.

Not too far from that sign is the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, final resting place of many famous personages, like the magician Robertson, the "Spielberg of the phantom-show" or phantasmagoria, whose cool-as-all-hell tombstone is above.

Oh, yeah, and Jim Morrison's buried there too. That one's for Jake, who owes me a Hamilton now.

Speaking of dead guys in France, I even got to see Napoleon Bonaparte tomb, whom I suspect the French still have huge crush on. Kid's Fun Fact: Napoleon was not short. By the standards of his day, he was actually taller than average. The English started the rumor as a kind of psychological warfare. Heck, just look at the size of his huge sarcophagus.

For instance. I did get about 25 feet from the Mona Lisa. As you can see, about 112 luckier people in front of me, mainly Americans and Germans, managed to get within 15 feet of her.

I got a little closer to Géricault's The Raft of the Medusa, but Lenny Bopubertine here wouldn't move out of the way (I don't know his real name, but he looks like a Lenny Bopubertine to me).

Kid's Fun Fact: Géricault achieved such detailed realism in his works because he kept real human body parts in his studio, culled from the Parisian hospitals and prison morgues.

Géricault is almost impressive as this painting of a monkey painting (a monkey?):

I assume this is the French equivalent of dogs playing poker.

The French have some really old stuff. Like the Code of Hammurabi stela above, one of the first written collections of laws, which is only about 3,760 years old. Kid's Fun Fact: Law #132 requires any married woman who is accused of adultery but not caught in the act, to "jump in the river for the sake of her husband."

Not that the French don't have a taste for modern day masterpieces...

Kid's Fun Fact: If you say "D'oh!" in France they'll bring you a pitcher of water. It's true.

Sometimes the old and new collide in strange ways. I visited a medieval town on a hill, with a beautiful scenic view of ...

Nuclear power plant cooling towers! Kid's Fun Fact: With 59 working nuclear power plants, generating nearly 80% of the nation's power, France is the world's leading nuclear power-reliant power.

Along with their unabashed embrace of our friend the atom, the French are also not shame-faced when it comes to sex. Duh, I know, said the blog reader. Ah, but this does lead to some disturbing juxtapositions. I'll never look at Dora the Explorer the same way again, that is when I'm not looking at Julia. Ooh-la-la!

So... As I was saying, while I didn't go into the French Goodwill, but craphound that I am, in Lyon I did find my way to the Broadacres, an indoor swap meet. Which is as good a place as any to see some French flotsam.

Now, if an American offered you a love burger you probably call the cops or bash him over the head with your purse. But in France, where anything goes, they're served up on roller skates and with a smile.

I've seen a lot of strange things at American thrift stores, like, say a human size cage:

...But I've never seen a spiral staircase. Somewhere in France there's a lighthouse that's really hard to get to the top of.

And speaking of head turners:

You also don't see a lot of daggers or hand guns or weapons in general inside thrift stores in the states. However, I did spend an extra half hour in a crappy Salvation Army because some joker was waving a gun around the parking lot. Did I tell that story already? How about the one about the loose tiger at the Bargin Town?

And the myriad of 8mm projectors I've seen just don't compare with this awesome 35mm movie theater projector. I wonder how many Jerry Lewis films it showed. Kid's Fun Fact: motion pictures were invented and perfected in France. Here's a copy of the first movie poster, with no mention of the movie itself!

Bonus Kid's Fun Fact: The Lumière Brothers as well as helping to invent modern cinema, also invented an early mechanical hand intended for use by the hundreds of thousands of injured French soldiers following the First World War:

The Broadacre also had some smaller technology...

Not a great picture, but you can make out the basics of this cute little pygmophone record player. 1920s version of an Ipod?

Just like a good thrift store, there was plenty of great bizarre stuff:

The old family pet or pest perhaps. Ever heard of the story of Gef the mongoose?

Your typical thrift store wall of sound...

A slot machine for crappy digital watches...

1960s atomic molecule ceiling lamp. Magnification!

I wonder if this is still a popular brand. Or did it suffer the same fate as Rumsfield potato chips and Cheney nuggets.

The French even have their bowling trophies. Lawn bowling trophies, that is. Why does this remind me of the dream sequence from The Big Lebowski?

Here's one way to keep people from stealing your bike.

Apparently, the swap meet even has it's own landing strip. Someday Snoopy will get that Red Baron.

Ooh-la-la! I'm not staring at your chest, lady, I'm reading it!

Ooh-la-la, Part dieux! I'm here to tell you that those playground rumors you heard in grade school about naked ladies dancing in France are all true! Except rumorers forgot to mention the armless-ness. Guess it just didn't rhyme.

Ooh-la -- wait, who the heck are these guys? From the French version of Miami Vice? Starsky and Hutch (and Huggy Bear)? Barney Miller?

While looking at this chemistry set, please take quiet moment to remember all the French ants that were killed by it.

And finally (yes, for all three of you who've made it this far), a visual medley I will call The Coolest Chairs in all of France:

That last pair is so Barbarella. Unfortunately, none of these chairs would fit in the over-head compartment on the airplane, so I left them in France.

All in all, an interesting experience. But, you know, after two weeks in Europe I couldn't wait to:

1. Eat a decent hamburger
2. Be able to actually read the signs
3. Get back to the American thrift stores

I feel a Chuck Berry/ Beach Boys song coming on. Peace out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Well, it was a close shave but I am back in the USA and no longer in France, home of the guillotine. And I just wanted to let you all know that I will be-headed back to blog-land soon (heh-heh). I'll even stick my neck out and say you'll love the new pictures I've got. So don't flip your lid and sever this page from your links, this blog's not on the chopping block yet.

Disembodied mannequin heads are such fun. And it ain't even Halloween yet. I hope there's a few EC comics fans out there. See you soon.