American Pastime: Thrift Stores

When the Economy is Bad: Thrift Stores Do Well

Such A Deal, I’m Telling You

Well, we were in a thrift store when the wallet fiasco happened, not to dwell on a painful subject, and I had planned to blog on the phenomenon of thrift stores that evening, but just couldn’t, so I decided to broach the topic tonight. I’m not sure if thrift stores are mostly an American cultural pastime, but I do know that my German relatives claim not to be aware of any such stores where they live. Maybe my Australian friends can clarify this for me . . .

I remember when I was in college eons ago, I loved thrift stores for funky hats and jackets, and then when I taught college later, my office mate and I used tskinny-tieo scour thrift stores for men’s jackets and coats because I loved to teach in jeans and men’s jackets and wear white shirts and my father’s old ties from the fifties. I wasn’t going for affectation. It was just my look, a look that I had first adopted in college, continued with at the newspaper, and carried over into teaching. I loved my father’s old skinny ties; in fact I still have them and still wear them on occasion.

A New Generation of Thrift Store Buyers

I kept a few of the jackets and one favorite wool top coat, and it turns out to be propitious that I did. My youngest, Brett, has now adopted his own style, and it is very reminiscent of my thrift store days. My sister-in-law has been taking her daughters to thrift stores for a while, so they are already addicted, but I have a feeling that I have a new convert with Brett.

I swear that I never told him before he began to move into this new style what I used to wear, and I don’t think that any pictures exist of me in these clothes because I rarely let my own picture be taken (it’s just a thing with me; I don’t like to see my own image in print, but I love to shoot my own film). But about three months ago, he started asking if there were any suit jackets around that he could have to wear, or any old suits. I found one of his father’s old suits still in the closet from when he was much younger and thinner, and Brett immediately grabbed it and wore it to school the next day. Very posh, indeed.

Then I remembered my old sports jackets from the thrift store. He took those, too. I remembered the coat. That was a big hit. Corey had a couple of sports coats that he no longer wore. Those went into the collection. Then the search for hats began. He wanted a fedora. I didn’t even know that he knew what a fedora was. And a beret. Could I get him a beret?

Genuine Basque Beret

So, I decided that since we were tight on money this year, I would take him on his own search to one of the bigger thrift stores, and we would look for a few of the items that he still wanted. In one store, we found a Kenneth Cole solid black jacket for $3.49. Sold. We also found a genuine Basque wool beret for $5.49. Sold. A vintage 50’s tie reminiscent of my Dad’s old ties for $1.99. Sold.

Went to another store and looked around. Absolutely nothing in that one. It used to be a good store, but it has gone down hill since the last time I was in there. I decided to go into one other store that was nearby that I don’t really like because it’s usually pretty dirty, but I didn’t want to pass it up on the off-chance that it might hold something. We went in and within two minutes Brett found a long, off-black trench coat. I found a herringbone overcoat very similar to one that my Dad used to own, and we found another beret, this one a black knit one. I spent less than $15.

All of his finds will have to be cleaned, but for less than $26, I found him a trench coats, an overcoat, a black jacket, a tie, and two berets. I gave him the knit beret now, and he has already washed it and started wearing it. I have to say that with his long, straight hair, he looks really good in berets. That was one kind of hat that I could never pull off. I used to wear page boy caps and fedoras. I have found a fedora for him for Christmas. I hope that it fits. It’s not an old one. I do have an old one that I bought in an antique shop in Cape Cod; it’s a Stetson, but it’s too small for Brett.

I find his whole enthrallment with old clothes and hats very nostalgic. He still wants some boots, preferably some combat boots. Corey has a pair that are practically brand new from his last stint in the Coast Guard reserves. The bad news is that they are somewhere in the black hole that is our garage at the moment. I have told Brett that if he can find them, he can have them. I have told Corey that we might have a better chance if we go to a surplus store after Christmas and buy a pair.

Newer Stores, Better Stock

Old Record & Book Room in Thrift Store USA

I miss the days when Mari and I used to go Thrift Store mining. It was always a hunt for buried treasure, and we never knew what we would be coming home with because we never really had an idea as to what we were searching for. Brett and I didn’t make it to the store that used to be Mari’s favorite, which is in Virginia Beach. I’m not even sure if that one is still there. That’s where I found the over coat that I gave him.

The big store where we found Brett’s first big haul is really quite a nice store. They have the usual things: old dishes and glasses, out- of-date cameras, baking ware, purses, lots of out of date clothes for women, etc. But they also have some really nice things that you wouldn’t normally find in a thrift store: vintage furniture such as settees with carved wood backs in wonderful shape, drop leaf dining room tables, marble top side boards, Depression and Carnival Glass (which they are smart enough to keep in the display case and which is how I mislaid my wallet), old 45’s and LP’s, hobnail milk glass, and even an antique pedal organ. The prices on the nicer items are about what you would see in an antique store, and apparently, you can negotiate with the owners on the vintage/antique furniture and pricier items, which I’ve never heard of in a thrift store before.

Type of Settee I'd Love to Have in My Living Room

If my house were finished, as in all of the renovations complete, I saw a lovely, very comfortable vintage couch that I would love to put in the living room, which we are going to use as a sitting room with just a sound system after the garage is converted to a den. The den will house the big screen television and the DVDs and the gaming systems, which means the boys and their friends will be living out there, and I can reclaim my living room as a reading room, which means that it wouldn’t be insane to have a lovely sofa for sitting and reading on a quiet Sunday afternoon. Ah dreams . . . they are wonderful things to hold onto, aren’t they?

One of these days, when life returns to normal . . . more later. Peace.


Lola’s Terrible, Horrible Bad Day

Christmas Shopping Isn’t For Wimps

It Started With the MRIbeware-pickpockets-and-loose_640480f61

When your day starts with 45 minutes in an MRI tunnel, you know that you probably should not attempt to make the rest of the day normal; however, I did not trust my better instincts, and that is how I lost my wallet with a big chunk of my Christmas shopping money, and how I ended up in tears in a thrift store late this afternoon. Essentially, this day needed a do-over button.

Okay, let’s begin chronologically. I made Corey get in the shower first because I woke up with my torn rotator cuff in so much pain early this morning that I had to put heat on it before I could actually move my arm. This meant that we were going to be behind before we even got out the door. Now the MRI was not for my torn rotator cuff; it’s for my lower back to see if I am going to have to have more surgery on that, which I probably am. The rotator cuff hasn’t even been looked at by an orthopedic surgeon yet because of the two problems, the back was, I repeat was, the more pressing problem in September. However, now, the rotator cuff has progressed so badly that I have pretty much lost my range of motion in my right arm. It’s one of those wonderful damned if you do situations, as in dammit, which do I do first?

So we make it to the MRI appointment only four minutes late because we don’t decide to go back to the house for Corey’s wallet which he has accidentally left at home. This is a significant point that will come into play later in the story. Remember it. I fill out the thousand page questionnaire in three minutes flat because I’ve filled it out at least four times before. I have been smart and not worn any jewelry. They put me into the chute, start the procedure, and I immediately need to cough. Not clear my throat, but really cough. So I begin to count—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and I keep messing up the numbers in my head, which only makes me frustrated, which makes me need to cough. To make matters worse, my right arm, the bad one, is in a really bad position and is beginning to go numb.

I finish the procedure without coughing, come off the table, and am immediately wobbly. They ask if I need my husband, to which I reply, “yes, please. Corey comes back and helps me get out of the three-armed robe because my right arm is limp. We get me dressed, and get out of there. We decide to go by the thrift store where my daughter has gotten a job to buy the lamp that she wants before someone else buys it. We have to pretend not to know her so that she doesn’t get in trouble. We both find this utterly inane, but agree to do so so that she doesn’t get fired from her thrift store job before Christmas.

On to the Thrift Store for a Lamp

1437320-pickpockets-brusselsWe find a few good bargains; I see a wonderful Depression Glass juicer that I really don’t need, and we get ready to check out. It’s at this point that I realize that my wallet is not in my hand. I went in the store with my wallet. I know this because I decided not to take my purse in because said purse is too heavy, and my arms hurt, so I just pulled out my wallet. I was very careful to hold my wallet. The only time I put it down was when—I believe—I handed it to Corey and asked him to hold it while I looked at some items in the showcase around the register.

However, and this is the big however, when I ask him if he has my wallet, he says “no,” as in why would he have my wallet? At first I think that he is kidding, but then I see the look on his face, and realize that he is not kidding. That’s when I feel the lead in my stomach as I realize how much cash was in my wallet, think about what else was in the wallet: health insurance cards for me, the boys, prescription card for me, contact/eye prescriptions for Eamonn and myself, list of all of my medications just recently updated this past Monday, pictures of Caitlin, a few miscellaneous discount cards. Luckily, my license and bank cards are all in a separate card wallet that is in my purse.

Now, there was also $130 in cash in my wallet, not because I planned to spend $130 in the thrift store but because I planned to put that money on my debit card so that I could finish my shopping by ordering something online today. That $130 was not something that I could afford to lose, but more importantly, my insurance cards have personal information on them. Even more importantly, the picture of Caitlin was a one-of-a-kind snapshot that I have carried in my wallet for the last 20 years. It’s laminated. It is irreplaceable. It cannot possibly mean anything to anyone except me.

Crazy Lady Crying in Thrift Store

So there I am in the thrift store in tears, retracing my steps, trying to find my beloved, black, well-worn Kenneth Cole wallet. My daughter is alerting all store personnel. My husband is walking around the building to see if anyone has tossed it. In the meantime, the floor manager tells me that they can look at the video tapes in the morning to see if they can identify who picked up my wallet, since I can pretty much identify where I lost it: at the counter where I was looking at things in the case for my daughter who is not my daughter who works at the store but we’re not telling anyone. I snuffle my nose, tell them “thamk you veby much” and leave my personal inforkenneth-cole-walletmation.

So tomorrow morning I’ll find out if one of the store’s regulars picked up my wallet. At this point, I just want my insurance cards and my picture of Caitlin. I just want the thief to do what a good thief should do and that’s to take the money and toss the wallet. I know that it’s too much to hope that I’ll get the wallet back with everything; although, that did happen to me once, when I left my purse on the roof of my car, and went into my apartment. I didn’t even miss the purse until the police department called me late that night to inform me that someone had turned in my purse. Everything was inside. The same thing happened to my ex-husband: his wallet fell out of his pocket at a movie theater. It was turned in with everything still inside, so I do have faith that good things can happen.

It’s just that right now, it’s hard to believe in the good part. I’m still full of self-pity and self-loathing at my own stupidity, which I know, will pass. But right now, I want to wallow, so I’m going to get under the covers with the Jack Russells and feel sorry for myself.

More later. Peace.