8/14/08 - Nancy's (Summer of Eeeeuuugghhh), DAV Mendenhall

hello again and welcome back to bitter/books, proudly exploring the seedy underbelly of memphis for your edification and perusal, and it does get fairly seedy from time to time, folks. this week, case in point. we, finally, after several weeks of dithering around, prevaricating, and outright putting it off, finally bit the bullet and went to nancy's thrift store on wells station rd. seedy. seedy seedy seedy is the word i would use. covered in seeds, like the top of a big mac or something. but i'll let you decide.

a couple small pieces of business before we get started this week - want to apologize, although no one's exactly been clamoring for my head over it, for the lag time in between entries. i'm back in the throes of the job hunt after finally walking away from quetzal in utter disgust (the most common way in which people walk away from that place) and it's been taking up most of my spare time and energy. still don't have anything nailed down, though, so if any locals know of any steady-type employment opportunities for an enterprising young douchebag like myself, feel free to pipe up, and i'll be eternally grateful.

from the "shameless self promotion" department: my personal blog has sort of gotten off the ground a little, there's at least a couple things to look at, so if anyone's interested in a more intimate understanding of the inner workings of a man who Time Magazine has called "surely the pre-eminent secondhand scholar of the early part of the twenty first century, more specifically this week and parts of last week, but not tuesday" then there it is

also, from the "shameless wife promotion" department, my little buttercup has gotten into the game too. stop over and say hi. don't tell her i sent you, though, it won't do you any good.

okay on with the show!

full disclosure: i've been by nancy's once before, in the midst of a sweep through town looking for some furniture, shortly after we got here in january, and so am not really approaching this week's little travelogue with the kind of steely-eyed journalistic objectivity that i've come to be known for. the place is gross, i know it's gross, i knew it was going to be gross going into it and i was not disappointed. don't expect any surprises in that department, i assure you.

nancy's is on wells station road, tucked away on a back street in east memphis, in a neighborhood of no real distinction whatsoever, and unless you sought it out and made a specific trip, say, if you were some kind of borderline-obsessive weirdo who just HAD to go to all the places in town that claimed to be "thrift stores" (thanks, google maps!) then you could probably spend quite a lot of time in memphis without seeing it.

this, dear friends, would be a good thing. have i mentioned it's gross? this place is what pigpen from the peanuts gang would have opened up, once he grew up and got a small business loan. in fact the guy behind the counter kind of looked like that - cloud of dust all around his head, dancing with a dog and some kid who never wants to put down his blanket...weird.

i don't want to seem like a hater, and any regular reader can attest that i usually find at least a few good things to say about even the dingiest, most run down flea bitten excuse for a secondhand shop, but this place was just overwhelming. i always say this, but truthfully pictures do not do it justice. i can't so much "recommend" that anyone go out there and experience it for themselves, but if you ever find yourself with an hour or so to kill on a weekday afternoon (and don't mind showering immediately upon returning home, and possibly burning your clothes) then yeah, maybe you should head over, just for the experience. of course that line of thought has gotten yours truly in some serious trouble before, so maybe i'm not the best source of advice on the subject, either.

see and here's where i'm conflicted, because it's not as if there was NOTHING there to look at, in fact, as is always the case, the rattiest stores are going to have the craziest shit, tucked away in a little corner underneath a bunch of golf clubs and toboggans and crap like that. case in point. anyone want to take a guess at how much glue was huffed during the composition of this masterpiece? it seriously looks like someone snorted up like half a tube of marine epoxy and just went NUTS with a piggly wiggly advertising circular. i was kind of bowled over, even though i didn't have much time to stop and appreciate it, considering all my other senses were under assault at the same time. genius stroke, in my opinion?


what's missing, i can tell, from my visual and verbal account, is the smell. that's the first thing you notice when you set foot in the door at nancy's. before the screaming mexican kids, before the collapsing walls, before the haphazardly strewn about piles of junk all over the shelves. if you happen to be in possession of a functional olfactory system i would advise that you leave it at home when you come to nancy's because it will do you nothing but harm. the whole place is basically one big game of "find the smell," as dave attell puts it.

it's kind of a (morbidly) fascinating building, honestly, in sort of a david fincher-esque way. i kept expecting to find a huge fat guy sitting at a kitchen table with his asshole sewn shut who'd been fed to death...or that guy with all the air fresheners? oh god!

maybe i'm overstating my case a little here...the word "hyperbolic" has been tossed around before, and i'd be a fool to disagree...nancy's wasn't THAT bad. i've been to thrift stores all around the country and there are worse, to be sure. they had clothes, they had books, they had housewares, electronics, all the usual stuff. the prices didn't look TOO insane (how could they be?) and the smell wasn't THAT awful. it was all just a little...offputting, i guess? there's a baseline comfort level that you kind of establish in your head whenever you walk into secondhand stores, whether it's a goodwill (where you basically know what to expect every time) or some obviously independently run little out of the way hole in the wall place like nancy's (where clearly you would have no idea what to expect). and i was just really skeeved out, that's all. partially because it felt sort of cramped, it had low ceilings, it was obviously stitched together from three old abandoned store fronts, the walls were seriously falling apart...this stuff all adds up, is what i'm saying. perhaps stouter souls than i can venture in and find the bargain to end all bargains, i'm not saying there's no way it could happen. i just probably won't be back any time soon. thrifting in a cave is one thing, but this was like thrifting in the movie "SE7EN" and it made me uncomfortable. that's all i'm saying.

found the smell, by the way.

SO after that little walk on the wild side we decided to head for safer territory, taking mendenhall road down to the disabled american veterans store just past winchester. we've stopped in here a few times before and it's always been a good time, even if it is pretty out of the way.

started finding funny stuff even before we got in the door today, like this fake white rose, complete with what i imagine must be fake fresh morning dew all up and down the sides of it, gently coming to rest among the petals. to me it just looked like someone sneezed all over it.

they're running all sorts of weird ass specials at the DAV as of late - i took a picture of the piece of paper that they're written on but it seems like a waste of space to reproduce it so i'll just give you the rundown:

• Half price clothes on mondays
• Senior discount on tuesdays (30%)
• "Discount Lottery" wednesdays, which apparently involves drawing a card of some type at the register
• Half price (everything) 1st and 3rd thursday of every month
• 50 cent fridays - this one has something to do with the color tag specials...i honestly couldn't figure it out

i appreciate all the effort from the marketing department but this is seriously a little confusing. anyway

they always have a mountain of books on hand here and today was no exception, but i noticed for the first time just how mercenary their pricing scheme was...let me see if i can explain this. they use what i've taken to calling an "and up" pricing system, which allows for anything that they think looks like it might be worth more than ten cents to be marked up through the ceiling. whereas most places would set their paperback books at say, 50¢ and their hardbacks at a dollar (more or less fair), DAV has paperbacks for 50¢ "and up," which is to say anywhere up to four bucks, and hardbacks at a dollar "and up," which means basically "whatever we feel like charging," up to and exceeding ten bucks for some of the coffee table books. different stores will do this for clothes (goodwill most notoriously), dishes, albums, electronics...you name it, and you get used to it after a while, it just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth on this trip. don't get me wrong, i want these places to make money, and i took economics 101, i understand that in a free market economy you have to be able to set your own pricing schemes...i suppose my main complaint is just that it's kind of exhausting, when you're sorting through four enormous racks of clothes, for example, to have to check every single one because the same (literally identical) pair of dress pants could be a five dollar difference in price. obviously a little bit of a pet peeve here, but it was enough to keep me from diving in and digging through the shelves today.

although who wouldn't be tempted to take home 12 or 13 of these "EXECUTIONER" novels, just as an opening salvo against the apparently 300 (!) or so that have been published so far. good god.

mercenary pricing qualms aside, it was business as usual at the DAV, lots of furniture and housewares, dishes, etc

wow what a horrible photograph

weird electronics...i would complain that this was overpriced but i honestly have no clue what it even does (i know, it's a voltmeter, it measures volts...i can read thank you) let alone what it's supposed to cost

and not one not two but three pogo sticks! if there wasn't a serious, serious potential for self-injury and/or property destruction i would have given one of these bad boys a test run, i promise

and of course, what trip to the thrift store would be complete without multiple copies of stupid board games based on horrible television shows? it's so great...vapid, soulless media "personality" (donald trump) produces vapid, entertainment-free "reality" television program (the apprentice) which in turn serves as the inspiration (i use that word lightly) for this idiotic board game, seven untouched copies of which then turn up at the local thrift store for our edification and derisive laughter. the circle of life, my friends, the circle of life. it's like watching the leaves change in the fall, i swear to god it is.

okay here we go again with the pricing thing, and then i won't mention it again, i promise. this ouija board is broken, even if only cosmetically - the box is clearly ripped and flattened. it's old, but not old enough to be vintage. it's funny, but is it SEVEN DOLLARS worth of funny? i concede that in a lot of ways i've lost all sense of objectivity or detachment from looking at this stuff so much for so long, haunting the same shelves week after week, but if anything i think that would give one an even broader baseline sense of how much something is worth to draw from in the first place, and make it all the more obvious when prices were just being jacked up for no reason. maybe i'm just being a cheap prick (that is a possibility), and assuredly my lack of gainful employment is making EVERYTHING seem fairly pointlessly expensive as of late, and i admit that it's not so egregiously overpriced that i like comically spat out my soda all over the place when i saw it - five bucks would have been perfectly acceptable, and also i was not drinking any soda. anyway i encourage you to draw your own conclusions, as always. ...seven bucks for a busted up old ouija board, though?

what do you expect, i suppose, from a store that thinks that useless old computer monitors are so priceless and irreplaceable that they have to go in a cage?

i did get this, however, for a few reasons.

1. it was a dollar
2. i felt guilty about raising such a stink about the ouija board
3. it's from 1964 (and still in decent shape)
4. the cover illustration is hilarious
5. it looks like it would be fun to play (turns out it is...kind of like "wheel of fortune," without the wheel...or vanna, sadly)
6. it is called "PROBE"
7. ...

okay time for "HEY REMEMBER THAT THING?!??" dedicated this week to our pal linds because she loves referential humor ever so much.

wow remember legos? those sure were a lot of fun to play with! i used to try to build stuff but because of my complete lack of imagination and visual intelligence i could never make anything that looked like anything other than a random jumble of colored blocks! then i used to accidentally poke myself with the sharp corners and cry!

(i actually had this exact lego container when i was a kid...it would make a hell of a lunchbox...if i had a job, that is)

hey, remember caboodles? you could carry a moderate amount of small objects around in them!

(like pencils)

wow, weren't furbies WAAAACKY? they were like little alive creatures that moved and looked at you! we personified the SHIT out of them, didn't we? i wish most people liked their kids that much!

(this was not actually a furby brand furby i don't think...i could not find any markings that said so. oddly anatomically correct, too, with the belly button and everything, huh. and before you ask, i checked...no asshole.)

okay i can't even pretend to not be genuinely excited about finding this (well, my wife finding it anyway). holy shit, it's a teddy ruxpin. say what you like about blatant nostalgia for nostalgia's sake, rose colored glasses, being too hung up on irrelevant cultural detritus from the past...this was pretty fucking cool. still worked, or seemed to, anyway, still had a tape in it and everything. ten bucks. why do i think this would scare the living hell out of your average kid nowadays if you gave it to him/her?

hey. HEY! what the hell do you think you're doing, ruxpin??!? get your god damned paws out of my woman's cleavage! what the hell is wrong with you? don't think just because you're a 20 year old animatronic bear, i won't kick your sleazy little ass all around this disconcertingly large thrift store and back again!

i never thought i'd have cause to say this, but...

get your hands off of my woman, teddy ruxpin

and on that note...sorry i was such a whiny douchebag this week. rereading everything it just sounds like "WAAH WAAH THRIFT STORES ARE DIRTY AND EXPENSIVE" but hey, being unemployed and hanging out in dirty junk shops will do that to a guy. next week all sunshine and rainbows i promise. until then


oh ps before i go allow me to encourage everyone to check out all the links in the right hand column, hand-selected as the cream of the local blogging crop by yours truly. a lot of cool people have been writing a lot of interesting sh*t lately, so if you're curious about memphis, art, public radio, life, love, guys named todd, or uhhh...breastfeeding? then do yourself a solid and check them out. ok bye


theogeo said...

First of all, I bow to you for referencing those Seven scenes. Classic.

And speaking of referential humor, you scamp, I too had that exact same Lego container when I was a kid.


Hey, remember that time Brian fell into the Lego container and Peter ended up working for the prime minister of Uruguay?

*cut to scene of Peter making a wacky faux pas in front of the prime minister*

Del Strange said...

My girlfriend and I were vacationing in Memphis a couple weeks ago. Attempted to visit the DAV on Mendenhall but alas they had closed for the day. We did manage to make several of the area thrift stores as mentioned in your blog but our stay was cut short due to an unfortunate circumstance.

The upside is we now have two things in common. We both love thrift stores and we've both had our vehicles broken into in Midtown.

sarah saint said...

This blog is fascinating.

The English Major Bookstore said...

What an awesome, awesome blog. I am impressed!! Not only do I need to get out to more than the one second hand place I go, but now I have a guide! Thanks for that and rock on!
The Engish Major