hello and welcome back to bitter/books, gleefully plowing along through our "Summer of Summer" project, wherein i attempt to tackle all the pulchritudinous pleasures that summer avenue possesses, over the course of one long sweaty season here in beautiful memphis tennessee. we're on week three, and i won't lie, i'm really getting sick of typing the word "summer" already. unfortunately it's only going to get worse this week as we're getting up close and personal with the summer outlet, perhaps the most eclectic (another word i'm getting sick as hell of typing - i really need to invest in a thesaurus) of all the stores i've visited in our fair city.
quick reminder before we get started - this sunday's commercial appeal will feature a special section devoted to local bloggers, with a short profile of yours truly, along with several other local internet luminaries. while i haven't seen it personally, a trusted source on the inside tells me it looks pretty snazzy, so do yourself a favor and pick up a copy - i'll be available for autographs at a future date.
okay on with the show
so, summer outlet, summer ave, summer summer summer summer. where to begin. this store shares a parking lot with the two previous weeks' entries, the mid-south outlet and the DAV store, but somehow seems to exist in its own separate universe. it's hard to put your finger on exactly what makes this place so unique, but one obvious thing that occurred to me is that it's one of the few "proprietary" thrift stores in town - that is to say, owned and operated by one person as opposed to a group of people or some sort of organization, charitable or otherwise. walking into this store is, i imagine, very much like stepping into the owner's head, which gives the place an irreproducible charm, to be sure, but is also kind of...offputting, i guess? i don't know if that's exactly the right word but i've definitely had the feeling before in this store that i was invading someone's privacy, just because it's all so...personal, i guess. overthinking as usual, i know.
the first thing you notice when you walk in, assuming you can keep your eyes focused on one thing for long enough to notice ANYTHING, is the truly amazing amount of framed photographs adorning nearly every wall. this is what i mean about proprietary stores really showcasing their owners' personal little proclivities and obsessions. off the top of my head i remember seeing pictures of elvis, david bowie, the kennedys (24 hours before the assassination no less) and pola negri, and i wasn't even looking all that hard. about 4 more boxes of photos that there just weren't any room for on the walls sit on a shelf right next to the door, all available for purchase (and fairly cheap too, considering the quality/range of subjects)
fairly decent selection of clothes, if a little disorganized. i'm starting to develop mild claustrophobia from hitting up so many stores that are just packed to critical capacity with sh*t. in passing conversation with the owner during my previous visits i learned that a large portion of his stock comes from estates, that he works with families who have to dispose of or deal with all the possessions of a relative who's just passed away and have no clue what to do with all of it, so he'll come in, take the whole thing off their hands, sell what he can (and presumably dispose of or donate the rest). so the claustrophobic aspect becomes a little more understandable in that sense, to me anyway. i'd have a hard time keeping my stock lean and tight too if i knew it all belonged to someone who'd kicked off within the last week or two. i have a hard enough time tossing out the random junk i find on the sidewalk and bring home for no good reason...if it belonged to some dead guy whose family i had just met and spent time with? forget it, you wouldn't even be able to get in the door, there'd be so much crap stacked up everywhere.
the book selection didn't exactly floor me, and as the depths of my brokeitude CONTINUE to know no bounds, i wasn't really dead set on bringing anything home anyway, so i gave it the once over and moved on. it's wasn't "bad" per se...you can just tell in some stores it's not really a priority. oh well, can't have everything, right?
the furniture, on the other hand, is always bonkers. junky, goofy, eclectic, it's always the first thing i make a beeline to when i come by this store. in fact i believe the chair my own personal ass is sitting in as i write this came from this very room, along with a really high percentage of the stuff in my apartment. it's not usually top-shelf in terms of wear and tear, but it's always cheap and the most eccentric pieces i see on my travels around town are usually here. a month or two ago i saw i kitchen table, fairly plain in design and construction and whatnot, that someone had hand-painted a mural of their favorite bible scenes on top of, with the concurrent passages written in underneath. it was from the 40's and it almost made me cry. how i made it out of there without buying that damn thing i honestly don't know. i think my wife probably conked me on the head with the blackjack she keeps in her purse (for just such an occasion) and dragged me out to the car. i kind of suspect she does that a lot...maybe i'm not really a narcoleptic after all. that would explain all the bruises.
so this place kind of walks the line between "thrift store" and "boutique" or "resale shop," which is an important distinction for yours truly to make, if only to keep the scale of this project from spiraling out beyond all control. basically the boundaries between each informal little category fall along the lines of price, general quality and arrangement of merchandise, whether or not there is something with a picture of a wolf on it, profit vs. non-profit...there are a lot of factors, but usually the decision's kind of intuitive. you can just "feel" whether or not it's a thrift store when you walk in the door. this place definitely qualifies, but by the same token the guy who runs it's not an idiot, and if he happens to stumble across a gem like this amazing framed monkey poster thing while he's sorting through someone's esate, he's not going to give it away for $20 just because he runs a (and i quote) quote unquote "thrift store" endquote. so...yeah. monkey poster, $425. still a steal if you ask me.
on to my personal favorite section of most thrift stores, the "shelves covered in random huge piles of junk" section. i love a good ironic t-shirt as much as the next guy, and i always endeavor to bring home a stack of books (when finances allow), but something about the "odds and ends" section just embodies the wide open, balls out, i have no idea what's about to happen sprit that makes thrifting so much fun in the first place more than any other part of the store, usually. this was no disappointment. lamps lamps lamps, black and white tvs, stereo components, alarm clocks...am i the only one who just wants to crawl into this pile of stuff and curl up into a little ball and just sleep for days?
some highlights - this fisher-price walkie talkie baby monitor thing, like so much other crap i see just nosing around, basically just strapped me to a rocket and shot me back into my childhood. my first tape player (i called it my "stereo" even though it only had one speaker) was a brown plastic fisher price job with big brown buttons on the top and a spring-loaded eject mechanism that could literally break your knuckles, it made the tape pop out so god damned fast. OH AND there was a little built in mic so you could record yourself walking around and talking...is it any great surprise that most of my generation seems to be so in love with the sound of their own voices?
finally spotted a commodore 64...i'm surprised it took me this long. although this was a couple years before my time i still really love looking at these things when i see them in thrift stores (which has been fairly often, over the years) and trying to piece together exactly how they worked, what it must have been like when that was the cutting edge of technology, what all the little hieroglyphics on the underside of the keys mean. then i stop and realize that younger people than i do the same thing nowadays when they see super nintendo consoles, and i weep a little, silently, to myself.
speaking of nostalgia, here's the requisite easy bake oven. although i never played with one of these as a kid (honestly...no, really) they still crack me up, mostly because...
THE SECRET INGREDIENT IS LOVE DAMMIT!
so this store is kind of awkwardly shoehorned into what used to be a residential building (read: a house), which as i've mentioned before, is one of the things i love about going to thrift stores, the way that they adapt to the space they're given, kind of like those crabs that take up residence in whatever random objects they find lying around (tin cans, old shoes, various other trash and detritus) and wear them around like shells...seriously, that actually happens. i'd tell you exactly what kind of crabs they were but my google search for "trash crabs" didn't turn up anything useful...imagine that. maybe i dreamed the whole thing up. anyway here's kitchenware
and THIS damn thing, which just looks like a god damned electric chair. i guess it's a training toilet? i can't imagine putting a child in one of those things, but then again my folks trained me the same way they housebroke the dogs - shove their nose in it and hit 'em with a rolled up newspaper
just another way that these little hole in the wall, labor of love stores showcase their owner's personality so amusingly well. this really tickled me, just that he didn't even think to put a sign up with the price of the glasses on it, his first impulse was to remind people who were just sort of casually browsing along that if they needed to replace any glasses at home that they'd broken that this would be the right place to get those glasses from...does that make any sense? hilarious in a way that i apparently cannot explain properly.
there were a few racks like this - "take your pick, 75 cents/45 cents/whatever" that are another thing i love about smaller stores that don't have a mandate on pricing coming down the pipeline from corporate. if the guy thinks it's only worth 75 cents, or he's just tired of looking at it, or whatever, boom. there you go. sale rack. with these smaller operations it almost starts to veer off into garage sale territory, although i would never advocate treating any of these places (or any thrift stores, or any stores in general for that matter) like a garage sale or a fucking flea market or something and trying to haggle or talk the owner/manager/person behind the cash register down on stuff, unless you really and truly believe that it's mistakenly overpriced. this kind of stuff drives me nuts, for reasons i can't exactly put my finger on. a yard sale is one thing, i'll cut prices left and right if i think it's workable, but coming into a retail store that someone's trying to earn a living running, or god forbid a store whose profits (ostensibly) go to charity and trying to shave off five bucks because the perfectly operational cd player you're trying to buy for 7.50 has a little scuff mark on one side? give me a break. sorry if i'm kind of going off here but it's always been a pet peeve of mine, after working in retail for a while (record store, video store...yeah, i was that guy) and seeing how greedy and opportunistic people get as soon as something has the indelible mark of "used" or "secondhand" on it. you're already saving so much money. it's cheap, just shut up and buy it already.
also quite a sizable amount of old sheet music, mainly just piano scores from pop tunes of the 20's, 30's, that era. i love this stuff and although my sight reading skills are for shite nowadays (i could only ever really "read" bass clef anyway) i'm always tempted to take a few home and freshen up the ol' chops a little. probably cheap too, and they're also really beautiful looking, all with the art deco and filigree and whatnot...i wonder how much it would cost to frame one of these up. probably not too much. hmm.
OH MY GOD THEY'RE EVERYWHERE MAKE IT STOP!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhey nice top hat! these mannequin head things just scared the living bejesus out of me, for some reason. they belong in a god damned marilyn manson video, not advertising hats in a thrift store, for god's sake. there's some kind of david lynch vibe going on here that just chills me and fascinates me at the same time. if i were still printing photographs i could probably put together a whole freaking gallery show on these bad boys alone...someday.
anyway that'll just about do it for this week. thanks for reading, thank you to my SALAD HAWG lindsey for dropping my name for that newspaper thing, thanks to the carlo rossi corporation for providing the cheap, delicious burgundy wine that fuels my creative fire, and a special thank you to frigidaire for making the air conditioner that's keeping me from drowning in my own back sweat right now. love ya lots!
3466 Summer Ave
Memphis, TN 38122
actually about three or four different music selections, playing on different stereo systems all throughout the store, which you'd think would make you nauseous, but it's all at such an unobtrusive volume that it kind of just shades the different rooms with a delightful sonic curtain of background noise. everything from billie holiday to abba. cool
specials: none really, i get the sense that ol' boy's got his hands pretty full just keeping the place in some relative kind of order and dealing with all the stuff coming in and going out on a daily basis so i wouldn't really look for price slashing sales here, especially when the second cheapest store in town is right next door.
before i go i should announce that "aldi's owl brand/other" took the proverbial cake in our "favorite wine for under $5 a bottle" poll, which didn't generate the kind of buzz i was hoping it would, so maybe we'll have better luck with our next one, "your moms is so fat..." which will be running until the end of the month. i've reduced the number of choices to keep the options from becoming too terribly overwhelming, but if nothing's clicking with you just feel free to post your favorite "momma so fat" snap in the comments. that's what they're there for, people. if you're having trouble with inspirato just watch this. it will teach you everything you need to know about crackin' on someone's moms:
until next time, me lovelies.