5/31/2008 - Mid South Outlet (Summer of Summer) / MFM

hello all and welcome again to the traveling freakshow known as bitter/books, finally after months of misleading entendres and vaguely threatening comments getting down to business and tackling the thrift monolith that is summer ave...can you feel the electricity in the air? i can, but then again i've been sliding around on the carpet in my stocking feet for about 20 minutes while rubbing balloons on my head, so i'm probably not the best person to ask.

before we get down to the nitty and/or gritty, i wanted to mention another place we visited today that's fast becoming a local institution in its own right: the memphis farmers market, located off the south main arts district, adjacent to the power house art space, another one of my favorite things about this town, at the corner of front street and g.e. patterson. a couple quick pics and we'll be off into thrifty goodness, i promise.

the wife to end all wives (center frame) and lil' sis, sizing up the scope of things. it was pretty much an ideal day for an outdoor market to be running - calm but gusty wind off the river, nice middling temperature (this was at about 9:30 so it hadn't really started heating up yet) and only moderate humidity. i couldn't promise this kind of a day every week but everything's pretty well covered up so even if there's a little bit of rain you can still stay dry while you shop.

on their website faq there's a little section about how "health regulations" don't allow you to bring your dog, but the "courtesy pet sitting" tent seems to allow intrepid pet owners to circumvent that particular piece of city code, as long as you don't mind leaving your beloved canine with a total stranger while you examine organic turnips. it also allows envious future dog owners like the missus and i to gawk vicariously at other people's pets, if that doesn't sound too creepy. i guess it probably does huh

a quick shot from the inside...i toyed with the idea of going around to each table and getting shots of all the outstanding produce, crafts, food and drink available but that would entail its own entry to do it justice and let's be honest, this isn't going to turn into bitter/books/freshfruitsandvegetables any time soon.

okay enough about the food! BRING ON THE THRIFT!!!

for my first foray into the deep dark amazonian jungle that is the morass of thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets and just flat out junk shops that is the 3400 block of summer avenue in memphis tennessee, i picked the Mid-South Outlet store, situated pretty much smack dab in the middle of all the chaos. i've always had good experiences here, the prices are pretty reasonable across the board and i consistently come up with my weirdest, most off the wall finds at this particular location, for reasons i cannot exactly pin down to my satisfaction.

a few initial notes: this place is PACKED. always. all the time. every time i go there. i know saturday late morning/early afternoon is a particularly high traffic little window of time, but i get the sense there's a crowd in here from about 5 minutes after they unlock the door until about 5 minutes before they close. definitely not a place for agoraphobes, or claustrophobes for that matter. i'm a m.f.in' solider, so i stuck it out for you, dear readers, but i have definitely driven right past this place on other occasions if i didn't feel like i had the energy to deal with the traffic/parking/winding your way in and out of tightly packed crowds of people who are not even remotely paying attention to you thing.

it's a good sized store, i mean it's not on the level of the giant airplane hanger sized goodwills out in bartlett or anything, but it's got a fair amount of floor space, they just PACK the stuff in on every available surface or spare six inches of floor space until it really feels like the store has just swallowed you, if that's not a little gross sounding. let me put it this way: in about six or seven visits before today, i had never once made it to the "unique boutique" counter (jewelry, whatever knickknacks they think they can sell for a few bucks extra) all the way at the back of the store, and it wasn't for lack of trying. if i hadn't had my blinders on a little bit, even focusing enough on getting the pictures taken for this blog would have been impossible. there is literally that much going on around you at all times.

let me try to describe it like this: there's so much stuff, just coming and going and stacked up and piled everywhere that the organization of the place suffers a little at certain points, but the sheer volume of sh*t available and the fact that the prices are fairly reasonable across the board (books, i'll get to in a minute, but as a generalization it holds true) totally compensates for the relatively meager amount of sifting through things you have to do to get to the gold mines. there's your basic sectional organization...from furniture (above)

to sporting goods (all the usual suspects, golf clubs, tennis rackets, hockey sticks, but i don't know, it all just seems somehow more...buyable here? does that make any sense?)

to light fixtures and glass globes and whatnot

to housewares and various kitchen and food related items - unfortunately not in one self-contained area, it definitely took a little bit of legwork to stumble across these two awesome soda spritzers. the left one came home with me and stands ready and waiting for the next time i want some carbonated (or i guess nitrogenated) water for my mixed cocktails, powered by the N20 cartridges which the wife and i use for perfectly legitimate reasons (savory whipped cream, mixed and stored in our specially designed Whip-It™ brand metal pitcher, for example) and not for flagrant self-abuse with the aid of specially constructed balloons. how one could even dream up such a ludicrous concept is completely beyond my ability to grasp. the thought.

to books, which, sadly are probably this store's most glaring achilles' heel, as is often the case. i say that, acknowledging that of course i have higher and more prohibitive standards than your average member of the book-buying public is going to bring to bear, since i'm trying to get a LOT of VERY good books for VERY little money, for my ever approaching bookstore, and as time presses forward i get surer and surer that there probably isn't going to be a thrift store in town that will have that magical combination of price and selection that i need to really start accumulating quantity anyway, so maybe i'll have to start branching out and hitting up garage sales too, now that the weather's all summery and nice. we'll see.

anyway this is the only book i found that seemed worth the trouble, purchased more for the font on the cover than anything else. i guess when i finally break down and go buy some formidable piece of hardware i'll at least have a grossly out of date manual on how to clean and repair it. i don't know...whatever.

where were we? oh yeah, these bad boys. so being newly reintroduced to the vhs market (see "vcr dilemma" earlier in the week), i'm suddenly looking at a whole new section of the average thrift store that i have to restrain myself from making foolish, ill-advised purchases from. from. i guess there are worse things in the world. i actually had the whole monty python collection on vhs when it became readily apparent that dvd was not going away in roughly the mid-to late nineties (hey, no one's ever accused me of being AHEAD of the technological curve) so off they all went, courtesy of amazon.com, and the entire collection was RE-bought (you get the whole obsessive thing by now, right?) on dvd, only to be re-sold i'm sure at some distant point in the future when they finally develop the microchip brain implants that will digitally stream any recorded media ever directly into your cerebral cortex for permanent storage, wirelessly, for free. suck on that neal stephenson! anyway seeing these guys made me nostalgic, i guess was my point. who knows

clothes are definitely a strong suit at every store on summer ave, although the prices and selection and presence of changing facilities vary wildly from store to store. i very nearly got this shirt for my buddy chad, being a native of our beautiful 50th state, but it's a 3XL and there's a good chance he would have taken that as me calling him fat (which come on man, would i ever do that?) and probably either stepped on my sunglasses or attacked me with a guitar, as he's been known to do. just kidding, my good man. congrats again - i hope your honeymoon has been delightful and i miss you and the wife terribly. say hi to saber for me.

so okay. i'm working my way through the "unspecified junk/electrical components/stuff we couldn't think of where else to put" section, which is far and away my favorite part of any thrift store, ever, and is always where the real treasures are to be found, kind of marveling at the huge stack of 8mm film cases they had, not for any real use of mine or anything for anyone i could imagine, just sort of lost in the reverie of wondering where they came from, what lives they had lived and where they might end up, when BAM!

i look up and there it is! gordon shumway, b*tch! straight outta melmac! i know i'm showing my stripes here and if you don't happen to be a child of the eighties, and a very certain segment of said decade at that, then your excitement level is not even in the same ballpark as mine, but, you know, substitute whatever tv show you got off on as a little kid (Land of the Lost, H.R. Pufnstuf, Rainbow Brite, friggin, i don't know, Boy Meets World, Power Rangers...what the hell do kids even like any more?) and you can probably imagine how i felt when i stumbled on this little puppy, and oh did i forget to mention IT'S NEVER BEEN USED? the piece of paper for the warranty or three year guarantee (sadly, long elapsed) was still inside and the thermos still smelled like fresh plastic when you opened it up. oh. my. god. amusingly enough the original price tag from kmart (4.86) was still on there, noticeably visible on the outside, and the store's new price tag (4.98) was hidden on the inside of the top lid, this being the rare instance when something that's ended up in a thrift store has actually APPRECIATED in value, even if it is only, you know, 13 cents. hey, 5 bucks was a lot of money in 1988, especially for a kid! that'd be like three playstations and a month's worth of adderall for an eight year old kid nowadays! god i'm old.

anyway i freaked when i saw this, grabbed it and ran up to the counter, paid for my haul and scurried back to the car to stash my new possessions before the cool police caught me and detained me for having stuff that was far cooler than i deserve...that's a recurring fantasy of mine. all in all it was a great day, even if circumstances dictated that i break my usual rules about being conspicuous with the picture and note-taking and including customers and employees in my photos. i know it's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, it's just a potentially tricky situation and a little bit of an invasion of people's privacy so if i can, i try to keep it to a minimum, that just wasn't possible today. i did show an uncharacteristic bit of restraint though, when confronted with an 8 year old kid who had ""MONEY"" shaved into the back of his head. my quotes, in case you're curious, are surrounding the quotes that were actually there. it wasn't just that his large, mildly aggressive parents were standing right there...there was just something so perfect about it that i felt like a picture would somehow ruin things, i don't know, ruin the moment maybe, just ruin something i didn't want to run the risk of ruining. so if you're reading this Money (and i'd like to believe that you are), just know that i saw you and i think you're the man.

a few quick (yeah right) closing thoughts, one mini-mission statement and then we'll wrap up. nearly everyone i've described this quixotic little project to has recommended, mentioned, or somehow referenced the stores on summer avenue. "summer ave" is synonymous with "thrift stores" in memphis tennessee, for better or worse. i think it's great and i make a point of taking everyone who visits from out of town at least PAST this strip, even if time or other constraints don't permit a proper visit. but when i started scouting locations to photograph and write up, i kept having the same thought - "why tell people about something that everyone already seems to know about?" anyone who isn't at least superficially familiar with these stores already probably isn't going to care about this blog at all, so what purpose would it serve? so i hit the road, hit the suburbs, hit up elvis presley blvd and winchester rd and everywhere else i could think of, so that when i finally got around to this concentrated little block (which i always knew i would - i never inteded to ignore it) it would have some context and seem to fit into a larger overall picture, instead of just portraying the whole thrift "scene" in this town as being as centralized as i think a lot of people see it to be. wow what a stupidly long and confusing sentence. you get my point. i hope

anyway so while i was giggling over my lunchbox (what a wonderfully euphemistic phrase that is) in the parking lot, i started thinking about what a relatively sizable task i was undertaking by finally getting around to tackling what is, in all honesty, the heart of thrift culture in memphis, and i realized that if i wanted to give each store its due (which pretty much entails tackling one per trip, just for sheer volume of words and thoughts and communication that i can produce in one week) and really bear down and get to the heart of exactly what the hell is going on on summer ave, that it would indeed take me probably the duration of said season, so it is with a mixture of pride and apprehension that i welcome you all to the newest leg of our journey:


that's right, i'll be spending the entire rest of the summer (defined loosely by the period in between the end of this past public school year and the beginning of the next) going up and down summer avenue, hitting up every place that calls itself thrift, discount, or bargain, until some larger picture of the whole place (hopefully) starts to emerge. it saddens me a little to ignore the rest of my beloved stores (i'll miss you most of all, Thrift Town) but god dammit it has to be done. i can't credibly claim to know what's up in this town vis a vis other people's junk unless i give the beast its due. so buckle up boys and girls, i can promise it will be a bumpy ride but i'd like to think we'll all emerge on the other side a little older and a little wiser and not too much worse for wear. someone might die, i should probably mention now, just to get it out in the open. but you know, omelets and eggs and such. anyway

Mid-South Outlet
3432 Summer Ave
Memphis, TN 38122
(901) 327-4321

9-7 m-sat
sun cl

specials: none to speak of, the D.A.V. next door is the really discount-crazy one of this bunch. i don't think the mid-south usually does much in the way of color coded sales or half-off days, although it's so damn disorienting in there, there might have been a giant sign explaining everything in single clause sentences with exclusively monosyllabic words and i wouldn't have been able to even see it, let alone make sense of it. oh well. the sh*t is cheap, what more do you want. just buy it already.

music: WRVR, 104.5 or some such thing like that. pop hits, some of which stuck in my brain like barbed wire bullets from hell, others bouncing harmlessly off like whatever the opposite of a barbed wire bullet from hell is

thanks for sticking it out, be back within the week with either the adjoining D.A.V. store or the Summer Outlet across the parking lot. looks like that newspaper thing is going to run on the 15th of June, which is a sunday, so it might be kind of a thing, compared to what i was expecting, which was not so much of a thing. we'll have to wait and find out together. take care



5/28/2008 - Amvets Presley Blvd

hi gang - back in the saddle again, ready to lead you all on another foray into the oft frightening, always beguiling world of the secondhand. happy to be back, hope you all missed me terribly in the pits of your cockles or wherever feelings like that come from. fair warning - any stragglers may be eaten.

before we get down to brass tacks (what the hell does that phrase even mean? anyone know? i could look it up but it falls under the category of "things that i kind of enjoy not knowing the full meaning of" so i can't make myself google it), a couple stray bits of business.
1. "count chocula" took the "if you had to bring one monster themed cereal with you to a desert island" poll, which wrapped up earlier in the month, to no one's great surprise. always the most popular, widely consumed and most beloved of the monster-themed cereals (well i guess that depends on if you consider captain crunch a monster, but that's neither here nor there), it was pretty much the count's show, although i was definitely impressed with boo berry's strong showing, being my secret dark horse favorite, only because he looks like a complete lush. i felt bad for old frankenberry however, receiving a whopping goose egg of zero votes for his trouble...i know he looks like a moron but he might be entertaining at parties. oh well, better luck next time. the new poll, available for your perusal on the right hand side of your screen, is favorite wine for under $5 a bottle. along with the old favorites of ripple, night train, and thunderbird, i've thrown in "two buck chuck" from trader joe's, and aldi's "owl brand", at a friend's suggestion. i know there are a kaleidoscope of other brands (boone's farm, etc) and flavors out there, but i didn't want it to take up TOO much space so if you don't see your favorite on the list, just pick the next best thing and if you don't have much experience in the world of depressingly cheap "wine" then just picture yourself with a fiver in your hand, wanting to tie one on and looking at a list of names...which do you choose? poll wraps up mid-june. i'd be lying if i said i wasn't excited to see what everyone thinks.
2. i was interviewed this past monday for a special section of the commercial appeal, memphis' last bastion of journalistic integrity (blatant lie), for a section that should be published sometime soon about local bloggers. i had a nice chat with a nice young lady and then someone took my picture a couple times. it'll probably be a disaster. i'll keep you posted.

okay, here we go. time to make the donuts. despite my loud proclamations of intent to tackle summer ave first thing upon my return to m-town (that's my new term of endearment for memphis from now on...feel free to ignore it and never use it. everyone else will too), some scheduling conflicts and a friend in from out of town led to a rare sunday outing, limiting our choices to the few scattered stores that keep sunday hours, mainly goodwills, park ave and a couple others BUT FEAR NOT! one of our favorite stores is open on sunday, so we took this opportunity to hit up the amvets on elvis presley boulevard and drive past graceland, scoffing, with my old friend (and bandmate) from college, mr. david riposo!

here we are rolling three deep (i'm obviously not pictured, that would take some sort of wacky 180 degree camera lens...that, or just holding the damn thing at arm's length, which i never think to do) in the parking lot. wifetimus prime (god i missed that woman) on the left, riposo on the right. just so no one's confused.

they had, to put it mildly, a sh*tting f*ckton of exercise equipment. there was, for starters, this obviously broken weight machine, which i cannot for the life of me fathom why anyone would bother dragging all the way down to donate when it's clearly never going to work again. i mean it's not like they repair the f*cking things in the back! you'd think the huge "ALL ITEMS SOLD AS-IS" sign would be a pretty clear indicator that if you bring something broken in it's going to stay that way. i'm not unfamiliar with the concept of people buying things on the cheap and then fixing them up themselves or anything, but do you really see that happening with a gigantic pec fly machine that's missing numerous pieces of equipment, because i seriously don't.

also had this stairmaster. didn't try it out though, so i can't say conclusively exactly how broken it is. for argument's sake let's just say it's a "little" broken. i've always had this odd phobia about seriously injuring myself on one of these damn things (don't ask why, i have no idea) even in prime working order, so i was not about to climb on top of this presumably malfunctioning deathtrap and go for a ride. i'll leave the "climbing on top of presumably malfunctioning deathtraps and going for a ride" to my wife BAZING wait what?

this fairly busted looking exercise bike, seen in the background of the preceding photo, really got my attention though, for some odd reason. it had that je ne sais quoi, as the dirty stinking french like to say, that busted up stuff in thrift stores has to me, at times, that almost irresistible pull, like it seems to be saying "i know i'm pretty beat up looking, but don't i look like i'd be fun to take home and play with for a while? come on, i'm cheap, just pick me up and we can go" which is a line of thought that used to get me in a fair amount of trouble at bars back in my single days, so i've gotten pretty good at resisting it, but still. maybe it's the broken speedometer, or the crud stuck in between the little rubber ridges of the handgrips but i kind of wanted this thing. i thought i could get in shape with it. i could see a whole little scenario playing out in my head for how it would work and everything...i think i've come up with a name for this particular delusion: when you see something in a thrift store and even though it's broken or obviously doesn't fit or is just stupid and not worth what they're charging or whatever but you still irrationally want it and think about it and try to justify buying it? that sensation? thrift goggles. that's what i'm calling it from now on. copyright me 2008

none of this stuff had prices on it, by the way, which i think is more of a function of the inability of the back room guys to even begin to guess how much to charge for a chewed up old exercise bike than anything else. here's the requisite bag of old golf clubs. two bags, actually. make that three. to be honest there were about two more on the floor off to the right but i gave up trying to frame the whole thing so i could get them all in there and just settled for this. yeah yeah yeah, diane arbus i'm not. my old photography professors would be so proud. also not pictured: pile of unusably warped wooden tennis rackets, the stray hockey stick here and there, various other busted junk that always occupies this part of the floor space, inexplicably. oh also sorry for the blurriness of some of these pictures. technical snafu on my part, your vision's not going, i promise. anyway gimme a break i've been off for the better part of this last month, i'm not going to get EVERYTHING right on the first trip back out...jesus what do you people want from me, blood? actually i might be able to do that.

and this, while technically NOT a piece of "athletic equipment" per se, is traditionally used to spectate athletic events from a stationary, seated position, and bears the imprint of world's second best selling beer of the 1960's, so how could you not love it? i know i did, and if i were the type to spend too much money on a ticket to watch overpaid jocks do some regimented physical procedure repeatedly in an outdoor arena, i would have snatched it up and brought it with me to my next major sporting event of choice, and sat my skinny white ass on it, in between trips to buy another seven dollar beer and/or wait 20 minutes in line for the f*cking bathroom. oh, and something about peanuts and cracker jack too. moving on

these things

were AMAZING! i think they were like two bucks, and i would have snatched them up in a heartbeat but for a couple reasons, outlined here.
1. i think the fairly dangerous alcohol quotient of any drink i would put one of these little puppies in would probably strip off the gold plating almost immediately, leaving it to float in my drink and potentially be consumed by me, which i'm just not into the whole "chemistry experiment" aspect of. i mean i love goldschlager as much as the next guy, actually probably about as much as the next three guys put together, but there are some chances i just don't really want to take if i don't have to...knamean?
2. also speaking of things ending up in my drink, i'm not entirely sure that "that Old West flavor" is something i want to taste on a semi-regular basis. i lived in texas for three years of my life and did everything i could to keep it from ending up in my drinks...why would i deliberately start putting it in there now? on the list of "states that i think i would like the taste of," it's way towards the bottom, right near west virginia and new jersey. topping the list? vermont, hawaii, and oregon. i'll publish the whole list at some point in the future, just for everyone's perusal, i promise.

don't know what to say about these, just that they're awesome. the viking and the kaiser, side by side. erik the red and freaking otto von bismarck, right there together for your amusement. a little unwieldy for coffee cups, a little on the small side for beer steins, maybe you could put your spare pencils in them or something, i don't know. just, they're awesome and someone with more space in their cabinets and disposable income than me should buy them. full disclosure, my family background (what little of it i know for certain) is primarily norwegian and german so i'm a little biased, but come on! who wouldn't love to be able to show these off to any unsuspecting person who stumbles by your kitchen/cubicle/panel van with all the windows blacked out at 3:30 in the morning in a darkened alleyway? lords knows i have, i mean i would.

can someone tell me when these caught on? as a recent transplant to memphis i don't want to assume i know anything about what was going on here before i arrived but have these been around for a while? when did perry ellis start making sneakers anyway? what's with the color scheme? i've met and/or seen quite a few people wearing these exact shoes or ones much like them all over town even since i showed up and it kind of baffles and confuses me, although as i've mentioned in this space before i'm hardly a fashion plate so maybe it's just another one of those "color/style/basic fashion sense" things that i just seem to genetically lack, somehow. maybe my wife can explain. if these were my size i probably would have bought them though, just to blend in around here. and by "blend in" i of course mean "get my ass kicked up and down the street all over town any time i wore them."

back to housewares for just a second, just to point out that although this is neither a wolf nor a bald eagle, i'm going to just go ahead and lump it in with the category of "things that indisputably prove the validity of a thrift store," for reasons i can't entirely explain...it just feels right. this is a snow leopard, by the way.

okay tangent time, speaking of leopards, here's wifeapalooza holding a skirt that combines two things that, in my relatively underdeveloped eye, need never meet: leopard print and big flowers. anyone else getting cataracts just looking at this abomination, or am i completely off base here? she was thinking about buying it so it must hold a certain type of appeal, and like i keep saying i'm no authority on fashion, so i'm asking here instead of stating i suppose: is this as much of a mess as it looks like to me? ?

okay focus man, let's get back on track here. lots of cool and potentially useful electronics here, like these two bread makers for 1.50 a piece, one of which we ended up taking home. i broke one of my cardinal rules and came here specifically looking for something, which usually means that there is no chance you'll find it, but they had so much stuff out on the floor (gearing up for their 1/2 off sale on memorial day, which must have been a complete bloodbath) that it actually worked out. we ended up taking home a bread maker, and a nice little vcr. more on that later.

anyone else remember this guy? i had to explain to my buddy david (who, unlike me, apparently didn't grow up with a nintendo controller glued to his hand - i guess his parents wanted him to be a useful, productive member of society instead of a socially warped miscreant whose whole system of references revolves around video games and obscure british sitcoms. love ya mom and dad!) that there was a pretty substantial backlash in the mid/late eighties against nintendo for not being "educational" enough (i know, as if you can't learn everything important that there is to know about life from "river city ransom" - pah! i know, thanks to that game, that if i run up to a total stranger and jump kick him in the face, he'll loudly exclaim "BARF!" and a pile of loose change will fall to the ground. so do these guys, apparently) and a number of smaller companies cranked out ill-conceived "educational" gaming systems that of course totally crashed and burned, leaving behind a delightful pile of cultural wreckage for all of us to play around in, including this particular beauty - the "socrates" console. boy, nothing's gonna hold a kid's attention more than a gaming console named after the father of western philosophy! god, i miss the eighties sometimes. if only someone would make a monotonous, endlessly repetitive series of television shows examining the minor cultural detritus of past decades and show it on a television network that ostensibly claims to be about music, all my problems would be solved. if only.

fun, kitschy, retro "vertical broiler" (back from before conventional ovens came equipped with a horizontal one i assume?) for $5. one good question that riposo and mrs. nielsen both had, however, that i couldn't answer to anyone's satisfaction...where do all the bread crumbs and meat juices and other assorted debris go, exactly? there's no tray to pull out like a toaster, nothing we could see or discern to prevent, oh i don't know, let's say big puddles of fish-based oil and grease from just collecting inside the machine or, god forbid, flowing out all over the damn counter and floor and who even knows where? still, fun to look at.

also, you want to talk outdated technology? how about this first-gen microwave (which i think they actually talked about on an episode of "i love the 80s" once if i remember correctly) for an, in my opinion, overpriced $12. as my friend david said "i think i'm getting a tumor just looking at this thing."

okay so here we are at the vcr dilemma. that's what i wrote in my notebook at the time, so that's what i'm calling this section, "VCR DILEMMA." one of the things that i was the most tickled to discover in memphis was the mighty black lodge video store, which, if you've not been, is definitely one of the best things going in this town. said discovery led me to cancel my netflix membership in favor of renting from this fine local institution, whose collection incorporates a fairly high percentage of vhs tapes, a technology i left in the dust many years ago myself, as did nearly everyone else, in favor of dvd. so i resolved to go and get a cheap vcr from...you know where i'm going with this. anyway i found one that looked pretty recently manufactured and functional for, something like 6.98. sleek, small, black, made by a company whose name i at least recognized, it seemed to cover all the important bases, at least as far as i was concerned, vcr-wise. then i saw this baby. for a paltry TWO DOLLARS MORE, i could have taken home this sherman tank of a videocassette recorder, with its impressive array of dials

and switches and buttons, doing lord only knows what

aside from tickling my imagination and fancy, of course. but in the end i relented and went with the cheaper model that was literally half the size of this thing, and in my heart of hearts knew i was completely selling out, but couldn't make myself pay two dollars more for something twice the size of what i was holding that looked about as old as i am and probably had half the chance of working correctly, at least in the traditional "videotape playing" capacity. riposo made the point (valid, i think) that before they'd really streamlined and perfected the technology, they used to sort of over-engineer these kinds of things so they ran like tanks, literally, in the lumbering and unstoppable sense, the way that some older cars will run literally forever with the right kinds of maintenance, which gave me pause, to be sure, but i think i made the right decision. we'll have to see. anyway, there you go. my vcr dilemma.

which leads me to the (next to) last thing i wanted to cover - TONS of 45s here, i never really noticed how many, unfortunately all well-used and out of their sleeves, so finding anything in this mishmash of scratches and cracks is probably unlikely, but for 79 cents a piece might be worth a little digging. i didn't really have time this particular day, but maybe this image will inspire someone else - donny osmond nothwithstanding, of course:

with all this talk of the 80s and old video games and whatnot, i'd be remiss if i didn't mention the AWESOME playchoice 10 machine they have here, over in the "snack area" (which as i think i said in my first post about this place, is basically just two vending machines and a couple of tables) - this bad boy has some classics on it, anything from punch-out to super mario 2/3, to the original tecmo bowl, still one of my favorite sports games of all time. i can't honestly counsel anyone to drive all the way down here just to play this damn thing, but if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of graceland and like me, get all nostalgic at the thought of sending ol' Glass Joe to the canvas with a few well-placed uppercuts, you have a place to go.

and i guess that'll just about do it for this week. mi esposa (that's espanol) snagged her usual good-sized sack of clothes, mi riposo (that's not espanol) picked up like a t-shirt to commemorate his visit to our fair city, and i think i just left it at the bread maker and the vcr - seemed random enough to me. i wasn't kidding earlier - it is really great to be back here and back to the project at hand after three weeks of the twilight zone that is syracuse...i had fun but by the end all i could think of was getting back here to the missus, and of course the thrift stores. the newspaper thing was an unexpected surprise but sort of confirmed my suspicion that the blog scene (god i hate even calling it that) around here is bigger than many of us probably realize. i feel sort of proud (again, lame, i know) to be a part of that, on whatever level, not that a few inches of column space and a little headshot in the local paper is exactly the apex of fame and fortune that i (or anyone else) aspire(s) to...it's just neat, that's all.

i do this, like nearly everyone else, for free, and in my spare time, so getting any sort of return on that investment is a very pleasant surprise. i was asked a great question, that i'll endeavor to reproduce here just in case it doesn't end up in the final wash: the woman who was interviewing me asked "what's the most satisfying thing you get from doing all this?" and i was really tempted to say anything from "the feeling of a job well done" to "knowing that in some small way, i'm making a difference" to "pussy" (just to see the look on her face...glad i held my tongue there) but i told her "honestly, it's the attention and the positive feedback" which is, embarassingly, the truth. in my more delusionally grandiose moments i convince myself that the work i'm doing here (every great once in a while it feels like work...hate to say it) might actually make a little bit of difference in the world, and yeah it's nice to look over an entry and feel like i did a good job, but more than anything i do this to entertain people and get their attention and praise for doing so, and i don't necessarily feel like i need to apologize for that, even though it sounds really oddly immature to say it so plainly. i hope i crack you up, i hope you (whoever the hell you even are) find this entertaining and diverting and that if it does make you think at all at any moments, that's only AFTER (and secondary to, and largely because of how much) it makes you laugh. i wouldn't have it any other way.

okay enough blathering. be back next week with (hopefully) the first leg of my sojourn into the shangri-la of memphis' thrift scene (hell if we can have a "blog scene" i guess we can have a "thrift scene" too)...summer ave. thanks for reading and i hope you all sleep the pleasant dreamless sleep of the truly content.

take care



5/6/2008 - Salvation Army Erie Blvd, Syracuse

how to begin.

i had some lengthy, high-minded dissertation in mind about the nature of this place, what growing up here did to me, for good or ill, all the things that came of it and how they might have been different in other places. i even started brainstorming about it when i realized: isn't that every place? isn't that kind of the most universal experience that we all have - where we are being shaped by where we were? describing the minutiae of my old town and the subtle (and not so subtle) influences it had on me, rolling out all the years of love and bitterness and resentment and gradual peace and acceptance like some musty old carpet...who the hell wants to read about that? that picture above is the house i grew up in. this is my old street.

moving on.

this salvation army facility was constructed entirely from scratch about ten or so years ago, maybe a little less. i don't exactly remember. it absorbed a preexisting thrift store from another location and, although this picture doesn't do it justice, combines with a donation center and a hotel-sized adult rehabilitation center to form a truly massive complex of buildings. it takes up two entire corner lots on erie boulevard, the shopping/strip mall/grocery store/car dealership main drag that runs from downtown to the eastern suburbs. to me it'll always be the thrift store down the street.

to be fair, the place does cover quite a lot of square footage, with the usual racks and racks of clothes, shoes, kid's toys, furniture...all the things you'd expect, i've just spent so many hours wandering up and down the aisles, brushing my hands against the clothes, trying on shit i had no intention of buying, and sitting on the couches watching people shop that it seems like a tiny little place with nothing in it.

clearly that's not the case, though. at least that's what the pictures would suggest. there were two solid rows of respectably nice looking wooden furniture of all stripes, along with the usual deluge of beaten up la-z-boys that some old italian guy probably died in. never really had the burning urge to pick one of those up, don't know why.

quite an enormous selection of books, although at $1 a piece i had to be kind of picky - i only found two things worth picking up, neither of which merit a mention. not to disparage the literacy of the locals or anything but i never really had much luck finding books in places like this back in the day, not that i pored over them as obsessively as i do now, but still.

DID however find this little corker, a perennial fave of yours truly. already have a couple copies i think, either way i didn't want to snag this one but i wanted to showcase it because it inspired me to start working on my own twisted little manifesto in response - it's called "The Power of Negative Thinking" and i'm looking to get it finished...ah, hell, who am i kidding, i'll never finish the damn thing. fuck it.

also found this. does anyone remember this? i had this when i was a kid (actually there's an outside chance that this is actually MY OLD COPY that we donated when my parents moved out of town and cleaned out the basement) and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to play it. i'd like to know that there is at least one person out there on the entire planet who actually figured it out, sat down and successfully played a round of this damn game. you don't even have to have enjoyed it, i just want to know someone got through the instructions. otherwise i retroactively want my money back. OOOH i just got it! the object of the game was to figure out how to play the game! THAT'S SO DEEP! (not actually deep)

rounding out the knickknacks is one of these thermometer/barometer/something other that i didn't pay attention to things, which i literally see all over the place, and confuse me somewhat. a thermometer is one thing. a barometer, while a little silly and i would say grossly unnecessary, is still not totally beyond the pale. combining BOTH of them along with some other completely irrelevant gauge (so insignificant that i looked right at it and can't remember what the hell it is now) on a chintzy plaque that you hang on your wall, to...what? make your house look more nautical? clearly i do not get it. oh well.

i also got something nice and small for my wife, as i promised her i would, but i can't post a picture of it here! she actually reads this damn thing occasionally! she'll just have.....to.......wait..........and...............see. love you honey, miss you terribly.

this GORGEOUS couch/chair set was $100. i was flabbergasted, seeing as this kind of set would probably push 150/200 at least, in most of the stores in memphis i've been to, but what can i say? these people are philistines! just kidding, it's just a consequence of the extremely low cost of living around here. mrs. wife and i had a pretty nicely decked out apartment while we lived here, for maybe half the cost of what's it's taken us just to find something to put our butts on in our apartment in memphis, but, that's the trade off for, you know, actually seeing the SUN occasionally, not to mention better barbeque (don't get me started on what they call "barbeque" around here)

saw this and had a question. it's a laundry hamper, in case that doesn't show, with a nice little silly emblem on the outside, and it was like five bucks or something. the kind of thing i'd probably snap up and take home if i didn't have one already, but i stopped to think about it for a second and i had this question: is this one of those things that's too personal to re-buy? there are some things (family photos, obscenely short bicycle shorts, etc) that for either reasons of hygiene or personal intrusion, i usually won't buy. i wonder if this qualifies, and on which argument? i mean it's obviously vintage and was undoubtedly in someone's house for DECADES, holding all their funky clothes on their way to the laundry room or whatever, which begs the question: do you think they bothered to febreze it out before they donated it? i mean i'm no howard hughes (famous for being germophobic, not everyone seems to know what) but there are lines, and i think this might be one, or is it rather that this thing was so personal and such an intimate part of someone's life for such a long time that i'd never really be able to consider it as mine? does that make any sense?

also spotted this totally sick old sturdy looking desk with a nice dark finish, which is almost EXACTLY the kind of thing i want to run the bookstore sitting behind someday, invoices in one drawer, bottle of scotch in the other. the heart shaped cutouts in the legs don't exactly send the butchest of messages but i still think it's nice.

some longtime readers may remember my previous ruling on exactly what it takes to constitute a proper thrift store, and i still firmly and adamantly stand by it, to the bitter end (little joke there), but i'm also feeling unusually expansive and generous today so am therefore officially expanding the qualifications to include anything with an eagle, preferably bald, on it. the single tear coming from its eye (i don't know if that shows in the picture or not) was kind of a little much though. why you gotta make the eagle cry? who does that help? what does that accomplish? the fuck?

before i get to the rest of the clothes, i just wanted to stop off for a second and bug anyone out who's been using the internet for longer than, say, ten years and show you THIS relic! i had one of these damn things back when 14K was just BLAZINGLY fast! it meant your AOL main screen would load in two minutes instead of ten! i love the technologically savvy younger generation with the iPhones and the twitter and the bluetooth and the earpieces and all, but i kind of have a hard time respecting anyone who doesn't STILL expect their modem to start making ungodly noises (if you've never heard an old dialup modem it's almost impossible to describe) every time they go to check their email. anyway, moving on

so every store has its unique strengths and weaknesses, and to make up for the general lack of any decent records or jewelry or electronics, this particular salvation army has the biggest, silliest selection of "ironic" t-shirts you could ever imagine. in case you were in a coma for a few years (and jesus, sorry, you know, if you were) in the mid-nineties, it seemed like there were about five straight years you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone wearing a t-shirt for an organization/event/band that they either had absolutely nothing to do with, or even outright loathed. i had an entire freaking closet full of them, and you still see them kicking around to this day, although nowhere near as prevalent as they were back then. ahh, the ironic nineties. anyway they had three solid racks of the damn things, running the gamut from the sublime

to the ridiculous

and everything in between.

that's my home girl jes in the top picture, looking bemused at what was i think a wal-mart blood drive shirt (like they haven't taken enough from us already, but whatever) and i guess it's time for me to come clean - i actually have a secret network of attractive women all around the country who are ready to bail on everything else and go to thrift stores with me at the drop of a hat. that's what it's got to look like at least if you go back through these entries. whenever i'm not with my wife (hot) i'm either by myself or with another at least marginally good-looking woman - some guys have all the luck, i know. that's actually the real reason i got in this thrift game in the first place, all those years ago: the chicks are just UNREAL. just kidding of course, jes is a good friend of mine from back when i haunted these streets who just happened to have the afternoon free.

here she is, trying on one of the requisite pair of cheaply made ruby slippers from target that are fast infesting every damn secondhand store in the universe. i guess next time i go i'll have to bring one of my lumpy, greasy male friends along with me or something because looking back at my usual shopping companions, it's making me look like WAY too much of a pimp for my own good.

and that's it, more or less. i'm glad i found something to say, i honestly walked out of the place with 1/4 of a page worth of notes because i'd seen it all before, SO many times, and i was a little worried that i wasn't going to have much to say about something that i'm so close to, but we still found some chuckles along the way, didn't we gang? maybe even learned a thing or two about little things like life, love, and 14K modems, huh?

okay, i won't push it. be back next week with another trip down memory lane. i hope no one gets hurt. y'all holding it down in memphis for me? i bet you is. i'll be back soon but until then, always remember:

....uhhhh, nope. nevermind. i got nothin. i guess you don't have to remember anything. good deal!

Salvation Army
2433 Erie Blvd E
Syracuse, NY 13224
(315) 445-0520

take care