11/4/2008 - Mid South Outlet

hello kiddies, back again with another week's worth of sloppy minded commentary about dilapidated nonsense, we are bitter/books, sifting through other people's forgotten garbage so you don't have to

before we get started this week i'd like to dedicate this entry to two of the sweetest dearest kids that i know, karen and colin. karen is, despite what she might claim under pains of torture, my sister in law and one of the dearest people to me in the world. she was kind enough to pack up and move down here to memphis with us for a good six months before she started college, and holds the third place world record for putting up with my shit day in and day out for the longest amount of time (behind my wife and my mom, respectively). colin is her boyfriend. don't hold the afro against him, please.

anyway they came along with me on this visit, to the mid-south outlet in the bloody beating heart of summer ave and i'll be honest i was grateful for the backup because i got all kinds of hornswoggled. looking at these pictures now i just cannot even make head or tail of what i was looking at or thinking, and i think that's actually a fairly accurate communication of what it's like to try and shop in this damn place...just stuff all every which where and who knows what it is or what you're looking at or whether you like it or not but you'd better grab it because there are nine mexicans trying to shoulder past you to go look at the tupperware and jesu christe you pinche guero you're in the way!

this is an insanely large sport coat. i am 6ft roughly 175 lb and i wear a loose 42 most of the time. this damn thing must be for shaquille o'neal. GIVE IT UP FOR THE BROTHER!

thermoses. thermii? thermeliums? ther.....ahh forget it

i recently got my hands on a (mostly) working vcr, as recent readers will recall i was struggling to find one in my price range that actually looked like it might work for longer than nine seconds, and i happened to stumble across a yard sale where these folks were unloading a five dollar vcr - problem solved, sorry salvation army. you lose. anyway so now i've been looking for vhs tapes again, after a solid five year hiatus from the medium, and let me tell you, it has been enlightening to say the least. i forgot about so many movies. "going bananas?" forgot all about it. dom deluise, jimmie walker, and the kid from "over the top?" sold. if i thought i could watch this all the way through without at least one of the lobes of my brain exploding and shunting bloody guts and brain based organ matter all over the walls of my apartment i would have snagged it but that would be a real drag for my wife to have to clean up so i passed. plus if she got caught in the explosion she might be injured by pieces of my skull fragments or at least covered in gore, and no one wants that. come on.

as much of a crowded inconvenient pain in the ass as the mid south outlet can be at times, i really do love it, more for the little idiosyncratic touches than anything else, although isn't that what makes all these stores so great when you get down to it? remotes. a whole shelf of remotes, just tossed in there with everything else. i don't know what i love more, the fact that they took the time to separate out all the remote controls and shelve them off away from everything else, or the thought that someone up there in the mid south outlet organization thought that there would be some small but somehow philosophically important cross section of the shopping public that was out on the prowl for remote controls on any kind of semi-regular basis, and that they would effectively be cornering the market if they just took a little time and care to organize their stock the right way. well, you know what? they were right. next time i need a remote control i know where i'm going.

these are the tapes i got. all hilarious, all stuff i wouldn't care to buy on dvd probably, and all under $2.

what are these? any thoughts? they don't stand up on the other end so they're not vases. what the hell are they? i was stumped.

and then smoothly segued from being stumped by two basically simple shaped glass object to sherlock holmesing my way through this giant collection of buttons and switches...do you know what this thing is? it took me a minute. it's a sound effects box for a miniature train set. there were two speakers attached and i think the thing ran off of AA batteries or something. look again, at the picture. those are all train noises. this is a tiny box with speakers that just makes train noises. why did i not buy this again?

good luggage. no idea why i took this picture. this is also what happens when i take 2 weeks off between entries. my bad.

by and large the books here are usually kind of overpriced and the selection's not that great (although this visit there were a CRAPLOAD of beatles-related tomes that were marginally tempting, although all over my $5 cutoff) but this was over with the random mechanical junk, i guess to appeal to the gearheads, and i thought it was pretty sick. some of these car manuals aren't in production any more so it would kind of be a find, if you happened to have one of these...cars...or something. jesus i'm tired.

all right god dammit home stretch time. what, you may ask, does a collapsible straw hat look like? well...

i'd be happy to show you. bought this, no doubt. even tried it on, for a quick second, although my ingrained shame at the ridiculous size of my melon (8, in case you're counting...find THAT at "Lids") prevented me from taking a picture. but it looks dope on my wife, trust me. when spring comes we will rock the collapsible hat. god i have been waiting forever to say that sentence.

all right ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...time for another round of everyone's favorite game...




this is a macintosh performa 550. it was $3. it came out in i think 1994 if memory serves. i didn't have one (i was still rockin' the IIvx) but i wanted one. it was $3. it had no power cord. or keyboard. or mouse. or indication one way or another of whether or not it worked even in the most tangential way or if it was just a piece of sculpture. it was $3. i have $3. what i DON'T have, sadly, is the spare space in my apartment to store ancient technology that i am deeply and sincerely in love with while i look for the accessories that are necessary to determine whether or not it even works in the first place, let alone time to perform said searches, or the repairs that would inevitably become necessary along the line. but. i ask you, dear readers, once again...


answers in the form of a rebus this week plz i am tired of reading your long winded essays

this explains itself or if it does not then i can not explain it

things i saw on my way out. no idea

did you know you can get pulled over and arrested on one of these things if you're intoxicated? i just learned that.

okay well this haphazard mishmash of gobbledygook and mumbledypeg is going to grind to a halt for this week. would love to make a bunch of grandiose promises about returning to a regular schedule or something like that but that truth is i don't know when i'll be back at it. i've got another entry or two's worth of pictures and (as i hope you would just assume by now) no lack of things to say about them, i've just gotta find two spare hours to crank it all out. fear not though, gentle readers. bitter/books is here to take care of you, ever vigilant, semper fi and all of that. my advice for the moment though is

catch you on the flip




10/17/08 - Goodwill Highland St

hello everyone. welcome back to bitter/books. very lucky for you that you showed up just now.

congratulations, in a way.

this week we explored the usually barren wastelands of the goodwill on highland street here in beautiful [adjective] memphis tennessee and found some wonderful delights, much to my surprise. my prior visits to this place have all sort of blown a proverbial fat one in one way or another, but this time i don't know, a groove was just gotten into and a good time was had by all. i guess it doesn't hurt that i made two of my best all time snags, completely out of nowhere, apropos of not even less than nothing at all, for about six bucks total. i get ahead of myself, though.

your humble narrator, shall we say less than pleased at the prospect of slogging through this place again...if only i'd known. you know what, i'm still smarting from the removal of the meteor-sized pothole that used to dominate about 60% of this parking lot, the first time i came by. i know it was inconvenient, bordering on illegal, but i kind of fell in love with the thing (you remember the scene from the end of the blues brothers movie where the illinois nazis drive their car off a half-finished freeway into a gigantic hole in the middle of the street and die? that size) and am still a little disappointed whenever i drive up and it's not there. but, in the spirit of true adventure journalism, we press on.

one thing i've noticed is that all these stores have their own little specialty, whether it's wacky t-shirts, cheap cds, old appliances, or hilarious framed shit to go up on your walls, there's always one thing that stands out. undeniably it's the objects d'art here, starting with this bad boy, this "piece," if you will. i didn't know the country alphabet contained the letters "cow," "egg," "rooster," and "sunflower," although what do i know, i'm only from black earth wisconsin, after all. i only gestated in the freaking bowling alley. what would i know?

as much as i might bitch i really do enjoy this place. they basically live in the shadow of the college and manage to keep a cheap decent thrift store open that, every time i've been there, seems to cater to the nearby ghetto contingent (i'm sorry but i don't know what else you'd call the nearby stretch of southern ave) a lot more than it does to the overeducated, overmoneyed college kids right down the road. hats off for that if no other reason. also for this amazingly godawfully gigantic floor fan which has never been turned on in any of my visits but which looks like it could probably power a small cessna if it had to. bully.

anyway back to the weird wall stuff. i read through this whole thing (about 17 paragraphs, it's as long as your leg, framed and everything) and it's not too painfully cliched or anything, although it might be a little on the hallmark card end of things, but it made me realize, moms invented emo. your mom was emo before emo was emo. this whole thing, by the way, totally homemade. no price tags, no trademarks, totally a labor of love. and now it's here. back story, anyone?

usual variety of weird games. we had one of these things when i was a kid, all the little carom rings and everything, but i don't think anyone ever played with it. eeeugh. you know, there's such a thing as "bringing back too many memories." gross.

more weird wall shit. this was the end part of a long plaque that apparently explains what it means to be hawaiian, by spelling out the word "aloha," letter by letter. i've had the good fortune to travel to hawaii twice in my life so far, i might go again next year, one of my oldest and dearest friends was born on kauai and grew up in honolulu and i will attempt to paraphrase what i think it means to be hawaiian by spelling out "aloha" letter by letter, since whoever wrote this plaque fucked it up so badly:

A stands for "A stupid fucking haole," which is what all the locals think you are, whether they ever say so or not.

L stands for "Lord i hate these stupid fucking haoles so god damned much with their cameras and money, please let them fuck off of my island so i can go back to living in my camper van on the beach in peace," which is what all the basically homeless locals think as you drive by them in your rented jeep

O stands for "Oh my dear god if one more fucking haole asks me if i know the words to "tiny bubbles" i swear to god i'm going to mow all these sons of bitches down with a fucking automatic rifle, i don't care how much they're paying me to play the ukulele at the marriott," which is what the guy who gets paid to play the ukulele at the marriott thinks

H stands for...well, you know.

and apparently A stands for something about how it's the hawaiians' fault that they basically got colonized. i don't know. to be fair it's a lot more complicated than i'm doing justice to here, but jesus. we basically treat these people like second class citizens, do nothing to offset the completely obscene cost of living out there while still taxing them out the eyeballs for everything you can imagine, and for what? for living on their own fucking land that we just decided was ours? for the fact that it's so beautiful? for wanting what every mainland american, black or white, has but not being in a position to be able to get it as easily as we can? i'll shut up here but just put yourself in their place for about nine seconds or so if you can spare the time and tell me how you feel




here it is. find number one. there are no words to describe how amazing i felt when i stumbled upon this, stashed away underneath a small pile of "hang in there!" posters and hummel figurines. 1981. this thing is older than my wife and almost as old as i am. still in good shape, just needed a little windex and it's good to go. 1.99. basically...

i'll leave it at that.

plenty of decent records here, i'm sure, and not too expensive, but jesus? have none of these people ever owned an lp before? i'm no obsessive case but damn, this is no way to store the things. just for simple browsing reasons if nothing else, let alone the fact that you're more or less annihilating the poor records that happen to be at the bottom of the stack. needless to say i bought nothing from this giant pile of disorganized nonsense. step it up, goodwill on highland.

still looking for a damn vcr. i am so resistant to the idea of buying a new one from a new vcr store at this point that i'd rather spend a month just trolling around until i find a decent, cheap, functional looking older one, even if i have to breeze by shelves of stuff like this because it all costs a dollar or two more than i feel like paying. that's the whole idea with thrifting, people. you set your price point and you stick to it. if i didn't do that i'd have an apartment full of amazing old crap and books and appliances while i sat back and ate my own boiled shoe leather for breakfast lunch and dinner every day because i couldn't afford groceries.

stick to your guns is what i'm saying i think. either that or i want to eat my own boiled shoe leather like it was food.

i'll be honest i don't know what this is or why i took a picture of it. i tried looking it up on line and got nothing, and the fact of the matter is i honestly don't care enough to check back into it again now. i apologize to you and to myself for wasting all of our time in such a outrageous manner.



see also: nick hornby

i don't know what this thing is or was but it was full of plastic adhesive star stickers, which makes it double awesome, and i didn't buy it, which of course makes me double lame.

okay epilogue time...my second best find of the day (and possibly of all time) after the journey mirror was something that literally blew my head off the top of my shoulders and neck (which have more or less fused together by this point, from stress) but didn't bear photographing in the store, in the light. so, i give you, later on that evening, in the privacy and darkness of our dank weird apartment. the majesty, the glory, the singular mindbending wonder of the...


what is it? where did it come from? how the hell did it manage to stay in semi-functional shape all the way to my living room? these are questions i sadly cannot answer. all i know is it's AMAZING and it was like three bucks and you can replace the white bulbs with any colored ones from any string of christmas lights anywhere and i suppose it's a one way glass thing on the front and mirror plate on the back and it looks like it might be from the fifties or sixties or at least the seventies and it's a craaaaazy mixed up adventure into another dimension and i'm going to go look into it right now!




10/7/08 - Park Avenue Thrift Store

hi gang, welcome back to bitter/books. before we get started this week i have to share a self-portrait i took in homage of two of my favorite local bloggers:

now we is all shadows together.

moving on, this week we hit up the park avenue thrift store, on park avenue, of all places, and found some SWEET stuff and almost had some static but ended up making a new friend in the long run! i'll explain later. for now...

i'm pretty sure i posted a picture of this in our previous entry at this location but i wanted to remind everyone of a couple things:

1. this place is open on sunday, which automatically gives it a leg up over about 80% of the rest of the thrift stores in this town

2. on that day, all blue tags are discounted. good deal.

this store doesn't get enough love, partially i think because you have to drive through ORANGE MOUND SO SPOOKY to get there, and also because it's, well, a little on the dingy side. i love it, i really do - the size, the eclecticity (slappin' words together on the fly here people, STAY WITH ME) and the pricing, not to mention the convenient sunday hours make it one of my favorite destinations in town. if you don't have the time or the drive to go all the way out to austin peay or winchester then this is probably your next best bet.

it gets a little exhausting, at times, battling the mentality that the secondhand experience in this town begins with the salvation army on danny thomas and ends at the mid-south outlet on summer ave. those are great stores, to be sure, but you do yourself a disservice by not doing a little driving around and checking out what else is out there. the park ave thrift store shouldn't BELONG to orange mound, any more than overton park should belong to midtown or wolfchase mall should belong to freaking cordova or whatever. this is not denver or houston we're dealing with here, people. this town is not so freaking big that we have to get regional about it, it's all ours, if we want it. i sure do.

okay i'll stop yelling now. look at the cute little platelet! i assume that's what that is, anyway. the "smiling drop of piss holding an oreo cookie" is neither a logical or pleasing choice for a mascot, so i'm going with platelet for the moment. i flashed back to the nineties when i saw this, not just for the unbelievably lame and dated limp bizkit reference (so much so that it became extremely cute) but more for a time in my life when i would have grabbed this and bought it without a second thought. as is i think i'll appreciate the picture more in the long run.

when i was 13 i was a freshman in high school and the concert band (proud tubist, here) took a trip on spring break to daytona beach, florida. it was the first time i'd been south of the mason/dixon line and the first time i'd ever seen the ocean. amazing, unbelievable, memorable, certainly changed my life, yada yada. i mention it here because it was my first exposure to the crucial, undeniable, everpresent need for sunscreen. i managed to go out and get myself such a sunburn on my nose (thick hair and long bangs protected the rest of my face, thank GOD) that the skin actually cracked and freaking intercellular lymph fluid started leaking out of the damn thing. my nose looked like a fucking chicken wing, skin and all, i still have scars if you look close enough. anyway i mention all of this because (aside from the fact that it's hilarious and disgusting) i thought it was my platelets leaking out instead of relatively inconsequential lymph fluid and i had periodic panic attacks all the way back to new york every time i'd mop the damn thing off with a kleenex. bear in mind i was 13 and my lack of any substantive knowledge about human biology combined with a flair for the dramatic definitely made it all worse, but still. there is my platelet story. athankyou.

this kind of thing is almost enough to make a man want to change his wardrobe, just for the convenience of just being able to do it all at once if nothing else. six pairs of matching seersucker shorts, all my size too. i saw one of the guys from the barbaras at the liquor store rocking this look the other day and it gave me pause - of course he was about four inches taller than me and maybe 20 pounds lighter, not to mention like five years younger or so. you know what if we still lived in galveston i would have grabbed these, no questions asked, probably not even tried them on. it just doesn't make sense here the way that it would have there. over the course of three years in that town i managed to acquire the embarrassing habit of wearing deck shoes (slip-ons, you know what i mean) year round, because they're comfy and no one bats an eyelash at it in a place like that, but it makes me feel like kind of a stooge, doing it here. regional fashion conventions, transplanted to inappropriate locations. what a world.

on to something that wouldn't require any real shift in my wardrobe - periodically i get self-conscious about the fact that i rarely look at clothes, although i've outlined what i think are decent reasons for that approach in the past, every once in a while i feel a little guilty so i run through the t-shirts and suits and stuff, and i'm always pleasantly surprised by what i find. the realm of acceptable stuff that i can wear on my body is at a particularly narrow, monochromatic point right now but if closet space and fashion considerations weren't such a factor i'd be taking stuff home with me every week, without a doubt. you could too, anyone could. there are so many clothes at these places, it boggles the mind. more than you could look at in a day, even if you tried. there could be a whole other sister blog to this one, about nothing but the clothes, i assure you. as i've explained before it's not really my bent if you will, so it'd be a little disingenuous to spend THAT much time on it, but the stuff is there, i promise.

back to the weird old junk. i briefly considered trying to do a self-portrait with this thing by pressing my face into it (as we've all done at one point or another i assume) but then i looked around and considered the sheer chemical logistics of rubbing my face on anything that i found at the park avenue thrift store, especially something like this that seems to almost be asking for it, and i relented and just took this picture instead.

then it happened. i was meandering back into the stuffed animals/old toys/assorted junk area in the back corner when i heard one of the employees proclaim, loudly, "we've got someone taking pictures in here! hope he's not taking any pictures of me!" don't worry, lady. nothing personal but i think teddy ruxpin is a little more photogenic than you are. but, so, an issue, now. the last time that i got spotted taking pictures it basically ground the entire day to a halt and made me a little worried to go back to the store i was at in the first place because what if they don't like what they see?

this is sort of the elephant in the room about this whole project, i guess. i want to document these places as they are, not as they'd like to present themselves, and show people (both my readers and anyone who might work there and be associated with the place) how beautiful they are in their natural state, and if i go in and start introducing myself to the people behind the counter...it's the observer effect, just played out in a secondhand shop instead of a physics laboratory. i've made passing mention of stealth before and it's not like i'm a freaking ninja or anything - i don't shoot this blog on a spycam, fer crissakes - but i do try to keep a low profile and lately i've been getting a little lazy, especially in the larger stores where you can sort of fade into the aisles, but yeah so i was a little too conspicuous this time out and i got noticed. but nothing else was said, no one approached me or anything, for the moment anyway, so i just tried to blend in (yeah right) and get my work done without worrying about it (i freaked out).

why have i not bought one of these things yet? crushed ice, ready, at your disposal, for all your old timey cocktail needs. you scoff, i can hear you, i can smell your thoughts, even through my tinfoil helmet. but have you ever tried a cocktail with crushed ice, as opposed to cubes, that is? think about it for a second. smoother, better, easier drinking, you don't have to deal with bumping your damn teeth on glacier sized blocks of ice that try to smash your incisors out and slide down your throat and make you choke and kill you and such? hm? i'm sayin. and they're everywhere (the ice crushers are), and they're always so freaking cheap...i guess it's just an issue of real estate in my kitchen, it's already overflowing with weird, single-function appliances and ancient beer mirrors on the walls, i am mildly reluctant to introduce yet another note into that particular symphony of clutter, but someday i will, i'm sure.

what is it? i am afraid. what does it do? don't know. neither do the people who work here, assuredly, but they slapped a $20 price tag on it and tossed it out there. the picture doesn't really do it justice but it's big, man, like old vcr big, and it has such a paucity of dials and sliders on the front that it makes me think it's designed to do like one thing but just do the living shit out of it. like, instantly, and very strongly, like the type of thing you need to put goggles on for or perhaps stand behind some type of curtain or shield. i don't know, it's probably nothing, but i kept imagining like some mad scientist or val kilmer from real genius just walking up with a shopping cart and throwing it in there and running out the door, cackling. i almost did.

also enormous, although again not really conveyed by the picture. in case it's not blisteringly clear by now i love old appliances and technology dearly and if i had my way i'd be posting this freaking blog off of an apple IIe with one of those ancient dot matrix printers that only used that perforated banner paper and sounded like a constipated robot when it printed. maybe someday.

on to saucier delights. i took an informal poll of my friends and coworkers, and only people who were a lot older than i am remembered champale, which makes me think it wasn't so much a memory from my own head as much as something that i just plucked from the ether through sheer dumb luck, but when i saw this, something clicked. if you have no idea what this stuff is read about it here. if you need to know why it's hilarious, just hang on a second, i'll scare up some pictures.

case in point.

any questions?

oh dear lord they even got nina. nina simone, ladies and gentlemen, high priestess of soul...for champale. lord.

okay home stretch time. just wanted to toss in a wide shot for those who aren't familiar with this store - it's huge, maybe not airplane hangar sized like some of the ones in bartlett but it's still big as hell

got some really neat books and stuff - that's north by northwest on vhs for a buck, and at the bottom of the stack, the complete 2 volume set of the entire shooting scripts for monty python's flying circus, like 2 bucks a piece. sure, why not

saw this on my way out...the seventies must have been amazing

same basic sentiment here, requisite muppet record (there's always at least one) but this one...looks strange. i don't know.

so. here's what happened, roughly. i took my little stack of books and my champale sign (you didn't think i left it there, did you?) and checked out. went outside, tossed my stuff in the car and started to head back in to get a picture of these sinfully hideous "ugg" boots (named so for the verbal reaction all decent people have upon seeing them) when a guy bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young george lucas calls over to me:

"i gotta ask, man...what's with the pictures?"

so we get to talking, about what a basically harmless and quixotic venture this all is, and i'm just thinking that he's curious about what a big white guy with a weird haircut in a beat up suit is doing buying all this shit in the first place, but then he tells me he's the general manager and i have a brief instant of "fuuuuuuuck" but it turns out the guy just wanted to know what i was up to, and he was totally friendly and we shot the shit about thrift stores and crap from the eighties (he looked roughly my age, maybe a little older, hard to tell) and all kinds of stuff for a while, i gave him my email so he'd let me know when they do their periodic book clearance sales (something i did not know about) and in the end it was all good, crisis averted. i think we both just had fun talking shop for a while, it's not exactly a topic of conversation that your average guy on the street can roll with for too long, soooo....yeah. good times.

and that'll do it for this week, i'm trying to adopt a routine where i shoot a week ahead so any time between now and the next weekday i have off look forward to an update detailing my trip to the goodwill on highland which will BLOW YOUR FREAKING MIND but i'm contractually obligated to leave it at that for the moment and thank you all for reading once again and invite all comments, salacious emails, saucy polaroids, and love poems to be directed to the usual outlets. talk to you all again very soon, dearies.