Amvets… again?

Sorry for the delay in posting… We now return you to your irregularly scheduled transmission.

Normally we here at the Secondhand Underground don’t repeat our tricks this quickly, but when your number one superfan from back in the day picks up the phone, you better answer that call.

That’s right, we rolled up into Amvets late in the day on a quiet Thursday evening in beautiful Memphis Tennessee with no one other than Miss Holly Woods herself, after a basically chance encounter led to an “oh hey you’re the guy who got that black velvet painting for me that one time” which led to “we should go to a thrift store sometime” which led to “why are you writing down everything I say, that’s really creepy.”

Nonetheless we persevered and were rewarded for our efforts by I have to say a flatly stellar outing to the Amvets store on Elvis Presley Blvd, far surpassing last month’s underwhelming trip. I don’t know if it was just luck or an example of keeping the right company. I prefer to think the latter. Case in point: the first thing spotted through the door (by Holly, who all credit due made most of the really choice discoveries this time out) was this pair of… cork shoes? The picture’s a little wobbly but take it from me, that’s either cork (which, no, that can’t be, right?) or a faux-cork finish, which can’t be a real thing either, can it? So is this a double paradox? Is it an impossible impossibility? Did reality just fold in on itself? Are YOU writing this now, and I’M reading it? …Where am I?

Since there was a fancy lady with me, I had an excuse to inspect the women’s shoe section without looking like a complete creep, so I thought I’d take advantage of it and I found these marginally hideous things, really only worth remarking on because there appears to be more sash attached to each shoe than there is shoe itself, which is probably a sign that something has gone wrong with your choice in footwear, when the sash (or whatever the fuck that thing is called, forgive me for not knowing the name of every component of articles of clothing I’ll never purchase or wear is called) to shoe ratio begins to tip in that direction. Just a word to the wise.

Guys’ shoes (and clothes in general) have pretty bland label names, your basic Docker and Stetson and Karl Kani (requisite dated reference) so it’s always fun to check out the chicks’ shoe section for brand names like “WHAT’SWHAT” which is so priceless, and looks so handmade, that I didn’t even mind the increasingly dirty looks I was starting to get from the people behind the counter as I continued to inspect the women’s shoe section of mind you, a very urban thrift store, late in the day on a weeknight. Just so you have a picture of that moment.

At the risk of sounding like I’m turning into Bruce Vilanch right in front of your eyes, this kind of sweet legitimately vintage Gucci wallet clutch thing popped up, back from before Gucci was all tacky and gross, and I was really impressed at how… smart? it was? I don’t know if that’s the right word because again, just to reaffirm my basically boring straight dude status, I know fuckall about “couture” and “fashion” and “style” in “general,” I’m more than happy going through life as the monochromatic weirdo I’ve become, but I’d like to think I can appreciate a well-made and/or well-designed thing, even if it IS an accessory for a lady who probably died a long time ago of some unpleasant disease. Sorry I guess that was probably an unnecessary detail to include

…okay I promise there are some pictures of power tools later. This is just the stuff I stumbled across in more or less the order in which I stumbled across it. I realize this isn’t exactly making me look like a lumberjack but then again who knows what they get up to, really. Anyway this is one of those video game things you can plug straight into your TV and play right with the built in buttons and joystick and whatnot, which is a kind of brilliant innovation just made in the last decade or so, they have versions of this for a lot of major old arcade games, your basic Galaga, Pac-And-Ms-Pac-Man, so on, but this one is for some custom designed game that apparently includes Cinderella, Barbie, Pocohontas, and the like, although I’m not gonna lie to you folks, to me, this more or less looks like a sex toy that fell out of Tinkerbell’s ass. Just a first impression.

Bear with me as we get marginally straighter with at least pictures of some basically utilitarian stuff, even if they are sewing tables. I only really took this picture as a counterpoint to our previous trip to Amvets, where all the furniture and things of that nature was either broken or so filthy as to be beyond the point of any use to anyone at all, even if you owned a professional “getting unbelievable amounts of filth off of things” business.

There has to be a better term for that. Moving on.

I saw this and got the proverbial wild hare up my ass (no offense Addison!) to try and do my taxes this year using nothing but my wits, wherewithal, and a 1.98 printing calculator that has a reasonable shot at actually being older than I am (which these days is kind of saying something), and so I gave it a go. Here’s what I came up with:

Earned Income: $44444443 (I hit the 4 key by mistake and it got stuck, apparently hitting 3 is the only way to fix that)
Tax Rate: /.01
_m###*00 (apparently pressing 1 makes it go crazy)

so according to my calculations the government owes me π≈√®®® dollars. I’ve already sent my request in to the IRS and they assured me someone would be coming by to deal with my claim personally in very short order. In unrelated news, every time I flush the toilet my nose starts bleeding, and I’m convinced there are tiny cameras implanted in my toenails that record everything I think. Does anyone have any extra tinfoil I can borrow? They won’t let me back into the supermarket

OH SHIT BUTTER GUN. Wait, let me be more specific. It’s not a shit butter gun. I don’t even know what that would be, that sounds disgusting. That should have read “Oh shit, Butter Gun.” I mean I know I could go back and change it but I’m kind of getting into this thing of preserving the purity of my words, you know what I mean? Kind of a first draft, Natalie Goldberg “Writing Down the Bones” kind of thing, so I just gotta roll with it, right? Because that whole concept of writing without simultaneously editing on some level isn’t ludicrous and more or less designed to make people who have no ability to connect with their thoughts churn out a bunch of poorly crafted nonsense, right? No, it’s totally valid, it’s a wonderfully valid way to encourage people to think, and is in no way responsible for the mostly piss-poor state of modern literature, in any way, right? Jesus what the fuck was I talking about. Oh right, Shit Butter Gun.

The basic idea I think (ignore how gross this looks please, it’s actually rather brilliant) is to take your basic entire stick of butter, just throw it right in that metal trough, plug this bad boy in, snap on the attached lid with dispenser, wait for it to heat up real good on the inside and melt the crap out of all that butter, and then just have at whatever food item is unfortunate enough to cross your path, be it popcorn, broccoli, ham, MORE butter (have you ever even IMAGINED buttering butter?!?), whatever it is you like, until the inside contents are spent, and then if you’re me you probably throw another stick in there and start the whole wicked carousel right back up again, damn the consequences. Because what’s the worst thing that could happen? Things will end up with butter all over them. Explain to me how that is a bad thing in any way.

Rather unremarkable picture, I wish I’d thought to find another object to place next to this massive, unbelievably giant crock pot just for point of comparison, because it was no shit, damn near 3 feet long and probably 2 feet wide, and looked like it could fit a whole horse in there. If it was dismantled in the appropriate way. Hell, at first glance I thought “I could probably fit in there, if someone detached my limbs and head and piled the whole thing in there like a bundle of firewood.”

Please no one actually do that

It’s been a long time since my adventures tending to the garden of busted electronics I used to run roughshod over at the MIFA Store with my partner in crime Ladyboss, but a tableau like this just makes all the memories come running back to me. I didn’t get to write about it very much at the time because I was too knee-deep in it to really be able to make head or tail of what I was seeing or doing but for a few months I was lucky enough to get to go in the back of a thrift store and sort and price and test electronics and all sorts of other shit and basically conduct things as I saw fit, and it was hands down the happiest, craziest, most stressful and most rewarding time of my life. I may never get an opportunity like that again but if you have any appreciation of what I do here and what I write about, then on some level you can understand how beautiful and amazing it was to just be able to walk behind the curtain and start pulling strings and pressing buttons myself, after spending years wondering “what’s it like back there?” Well now I know. Maybe I’ll get the chance again someday.

I would love to travel with this vintage Norelco shaver, something about it makes it seem so vintage and rugged, like something Don Draper from Mad Men would have taken around with him, but then I look at it closer and it’s also kind of wicked heavy and impractical, so maybe it’s something that Don Draper from Mad Men would have taken around with him if he had some kind of brain injury and forgotten that it was easier to travel with a plain razor and a brush and some soap (which is what I use at home anyway, Old Fashioned Man Brag).

Here is the aforepromised picture of power tools. This kind of hardware is sort of rare at secondhand stores, and especially all at once and especially all laid out in a row like that. I normally think most things are a trap but I especially thought there was something up with all of these. Come to find out, pull off the battery cases… they’re all full of maggots. Giant steaming piles of maggots.

Ok not really. But there had to be something wrong with them! Regardless, I don’t need a new drill at this point anyway (because I am a super butch dude with tons of power tools, bro) but I imagine this would have been a sweet find for anyone who does. Grab a power adapter and a couple of new bits from your local hardware store and bam, you’re in business. This is the definition of “a bargain” and also “why you should go to thrift stores” and also “if you need me to explain this to you why the fuck have you already been reading for this long because you should probably know this by now.”

Oh crap my electric wind organ from last time has found a buddy! I missed a golden opportunity by not firing up both of these at once and making some sort of bizarre video wherein I tried to play the same song on both of them at once and had my brain melted out my ears by the subtle differences in tuning and intonation that have naturally evolved between the two instruments, like playing two slightly out of tune pianos against each other at once. Why didn’t I do that? Oh right, because I was sober. Relatively so, anyway.

There was actually some rather baller furniture this time out, and somewhat clean as well, like this loveseat that looks like Big Bird and Snuffleupagus had a threeway with your grandmother’s divan (consensual).

Or this sweet pleather couch with a bunch of cushions from a completely different couch on top of it, ignore those cushions, pay no attention to the cushions on the couch, they belong to a completely different couch, what you see underneath them is a rather sexy well designed pleather couch, even if the color’s not perfect it’s still a wonderful couch, just dispose of the cushions unceremoniously and keep the couch couch.

One of my favorite parts of Amvets, and most thrift stores in general, is the toy/puzzle/stuffed animal section. I rarely ever buy anything from it for reasons that I hope would be startlingly obvious, but it’s always a lot of fun to peek through, more for nostalgia’s sake than anything else. Case in point – did anyone NOT have one of these things as a kid? If you didn’t then I’m sorry to inform you that you didn’t have a fucking childhood and you’re officially being granted a free pass by the good people here at Secondhand Underground Enterprises to go back in time and do it all over again, except with the inclusion of this hilarious adorable xylophone on wheels BUT, I feel compelled to point out, this “LITTLE TIKES” version is a sad knockoff of the original Playskool hotness, in that it’s made out of plastic and not wood AND is missing the most awesome component of the 80’s model, and I’ll never forget this sound for as long as I live: the old fashioned Playskool one with actual functioning wheels would hit the tone bars AS YOU PULLED IT AROUND, so you could make noise with the thing just getting it from place to place, even if you had no idea how to play it, even if you lost the little plastic beater that came with it, even if you just pushed it down a hill, it would still raise a racket. God, being a kid was sort of cool.

Another underexamined (if you ask me) part of our wonderful thrift emporium down on Presley is the bedsheet/linen/tablecloth/what the hell else ever section, which can be kind of a pain in the ass to sort through, considering Amvets and most other stores don’t really make any distinction between pillowcases and drapes and fitted sheets and just kind of throw them all together into a big mishmash, but in addition to the six racks pictured here, there were at least 3 more big circular racks all full of placemats, bathmats, duvet covers and the like. It’s sort of the epitome of the whole “you have to get your hands dirty to find anything interesting” philosophy I bring to thrifting (and life in general), but it’s usually totally worth it. I wish I’d had the wherewithal to take a few pictures of the interesting random bits of fabric we came across, but I’ll confess that my dear friend Holly was rather tough to keep up with. My approach is usually more akin to drifting from one end of the store to the other like a poorly dressed jellyfish with a camera, but she was straight up tearing through the racks like a secondhand Tasmanian Devil with cute shoes, so it was my onus to try and keep up, which was assuredly a delightful change of pace, in the most literal sense of the word.

Things can get kind of abstract at the good old Amvets, here’s the best case in point I could ever imagine: I promise this tableau was stumbled across more or less undisturbled in the form it appears here. I call it “Still Life With Heart Shaped Tree Trunk, Swim Fins, and Tahitian Treat.” Full size prints are available from my Etsy store for 14.95 plus shipping, allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

You know, I was completely kidding when I wrote that, but that’s actually not a terrible idea. Perhaps I should consult one of my dear friends who’s already all over that Etsy business. Hmmmm….

You know you’ve been in this thrift game for way too long when the phrase “I was borderline captivated by these trivets” just flows freely from your brain without any questioning or self-censorship, but just like the racist, wooden-toothed, pot-growing sociopath who served as the first president of this great nation once apocryphally proclaimed (although it’s never actually been proven that he said this or anything even like it): “I cannot tell a lie,” I was borderline captivated by these trivets when I first saw them, even though they were in these silly metal frame things and the paint was kind of flaking on one of them, I found them fascinating, they look like 3d snapshots from some weird Mexican knockoff of Oregon Trail (not to be confused with Organ Trail, which if you’ve never played this game you need to stop reading this digressive bullshit and go play it now) and on some level, I loved them and still do. Please don’t judge, I refrain from judging you based upon what you love so try to extend me the same courtesy if you can manage.

MYSTERY ITEM. I still cannot make head or tail of this freaking thing. I’ve been mulling it over and the only solid conclusions I can draw about it (and this is based on a fairly lengthy examination, I assure you) are that your foot is probably supposed to go in it? and it’s red. That’s all I got. Any further suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I never realized how awesome God was until 5 discarded license plate frames I found in a dingy thrift store down the street from Graceland drilled the point home. Is this the one true gospel? It certainly cuts out most of the bs about the bible that turns a lot of people off. You listening, Vatican? Let’s think outside the box.

No price on this, because how can you put a price on a half-empty (or is it half-full? MIND = BLOWN) bottle of spray tan? Oh right you can’t because the very notion of charging money for it is patently ridiculous.

I still kind of wanted to buy it and use it though. What is wrong with me? I just thought there was some kind of ironic comedy potential there, but even I can’t make sense of what an “ironic spray tan” would even be or mean.

I love the warnings on the outside of this old VHS tape case. In case you can’t read it (I mean because of the picture quality of course, if you couldn’t actually read the words themselves then I don’t imagine you would have gotten this far into my blog, unless someone was actually reading this to you which would be amazing and unbelievable, and just on the off chance there’s someone out there actually doing that…

“I am a complete dildo.”

sorry, I couldn’t resist making you read that out loud. The notion just tickled me too much.) it says “Sammie Tapes Keep Out” on one side and on the other side in even bigger letters just “KEEP OUT” which amuses me to no end, that Sammie would be that fiercely protective of his Tapes. It reminds me (not to disappear into reverie here TOO awful much) of one of my best friends growing up who had his collection of weird stitched together scenes from various porns that he recorded off of his dad’s cable descrambler on a VHS tape labeled “HOCKEY FIGHTS” because he knew no one else would ever want to look at it. You see Sammie, that’s how you do it. Stealth, man. Stealth.

Words cannot express how badly I wanted to grab a golf club or a crutch or some such other large metal object from the pile of them that was immediately adjacent to this dilapidated santa claus piñata and just start whaling away on it, cackling like a madman the entire time. I resisted the urge. Is that a victory for me in the long run, or a failure? Who could say.

This floating dead fish fake snowglobe box thing fairly accurately sums up my feelings about florida. It was 50 cents so I bought it. How often do you get your feelings summed up so succinctly, you know?

Didn’t get this, although I like Hawaii a great deal more than florida. I guess because I just kept picturing trying to do shots out of it and having the fake wicker hula skirt create some sort of alcohol related face problem. Which is also coincidentally the name of my new punk band. Alcohol Related Face Problem. Come see us at Murphy’s next week, won’t you?

I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

I hope this picture could even begin to convey exactly how icky this weird extruded plastic pineapple thing was, but I fear it can’t. It was kind of… flexy? And spongy? But also firm enough that if you hit someone with it it would seriously hurt. And the outside surface of it felt like… god, I don’t know, like… hardened latex or something? (I want to type the words “like a dried out condom” here but even I have my limits as to how disgusting I want to get. Oops I guess I did it anyway) It just felt like someone had done something bad with it or to it in the past, or potentially was going to in the future. I don’t know, there was just a wrongness there that I’m afraid I can’t quite get at with words or a photograph. Just imagine something gross that makes you uncomfortable to even be next to in an already sort of ramshackle thrift store and then apply all of those feelings to this thing. I even picked it up. What is my DAMAGE

New visit, new box of fake hair. The same one was there from last time as well by the way. I thought the fake flower was a nice piece of fake icing on the fake cake that was this fake box of fake hair fake fake fake

Ok for those of you who aren’t hip yet, I’m starting a new fashion trend. This picture is just a placeholder to remind me to bring it up. You’ve heard of skinny ties and skinny jeans, yes? Well check this new hotness:

THE SKINNY SCARF. Look silly to you? Well just give it a couple months, I guarantee you’re going to see hipsters around midtown six deep at the Lamplighter practically choking each other to death wearing these god damned things around. With the help of my dear friend Courtney we are getting this movement off the GROUND you heard it here first: 2012 is the year of The Skinny Scarf. You have been warned.

I kind of wanted to snatch all 4 of these tapes up and have a 90’s movie night, until I remembered

1. I don’t have a VCR any more
2. “Romeo Must Die” is actually pretty lousy, as much fun as it is to watch Jet Li whip indescribable amounts of ass (also Wikipedia is telling me it actually came out in 2000, as did “The Cell”) and “Stigmata” is just unwatchably bad and finally
3. I actually hated the 90s. So there you go


I don’t think this picture quite captures it but the cover illustration on this book was just delightful. The book’s called “How Things Work” (Volume 2 I believe) and it’s just a little picture of a guy sitting in a chair staring into the lens of this massive intricate machine that is ostensibly supposed to help him figure out How Things Work. Hang on, I’m going to put up a massive version of the above picture, just for detail’s sake. Bear with me.

Isn’t that cool? I guess I just see some weird analogue between that little guy on the cover of the book staring into the eye of this impossibly intricate machine that is supposed to explain how everything works, and me sitting here staring at the monitor of my laptop. I’ll refrain from beating the comparison to death, hopefully you get my point. OK home stretch time people, stay with me

This, as far as I can tell, is a phonetic transcription of “La Donna E Mobile” from “Rigoletto” which if I’m not mistaken, and any of my wonderful opera/singing friends feel free to correct me on this, people use when they’re singing opera in foreign languages so they don’t have to learn the entire language themselves, just the relevant portions for the performance. I may have just made that up, but Karen? Annabeth? Am I just imagining that that’s a thing?

Also I got to look up “Transliteration” as opposed to transcription or translation when I was trying to figure out which one this is. Short answer: it’s transcription. Transliteration isn’t phonetic. It just converts letters. And now you know! +1 knowledge upgrade

One of my favorite things, all time, about going to thrift stores, and this is honestly in the almost 20 years I’ve been rocking these damn places, is finding people’s donated mixtapes. I SO bought this and I’m gonna spare you the youtube bombing and just show you the track list and describe it:

“Life Goes On” is basically a breakup mix for someone who had apparently just been dumped, but it’s all hilarious early 80’s electro r&b, featuring “Shannon” pretty prominently, along with some latter-day Bar-Kays, etc. Just type in any of the song titles on youtube and hilarity will ensue. Did I rock this in the car on the way home? You bet your hiney I did.

AAAAH GOD PIRATE GOSPEL AGAIN! Recent readers will remember a trip to the Bibles for China store with my friend Mary where this exact record popped up – between this and discovering Eric Nies exercise videos on two consecutive trips out a few weeks ago, I’m starting to feel like the universe is trying to tell me something. Pull out one of my eyes and start aerobicising to En Vogue? Assuredly that can’t be God’s Plan for me. Maybe it is.

Almost there, hold tight. I don’t have a ton to say about this record except that Xavier Cugat was the MAN (his birth name? Francisco d’Asís Xavier Cugat Mingall de Bru i Deulofeu. That is a mouthful of name. That is a gallon of name.) and tuxedo guy just totally got cut in on and he’s just gonna have to stand there like a goon while old Xavier has this dance. SO money.

How do I know I’ve been living in Memphis too long? I read the words “Take Me To The Rock” and the first thing that flashed in my mind was not Gospel music, but rather the crackhead I had to shoo away one night who was scampering up the side of my building like a fucking squirrel to try to crash this party the kids who lived above me were having after they offered him five dollars to let them pour some beer on his head.

I went to college, did you know that?

The sleeves were toast but both records still played. Gotta love Tribe on 12 inch. Indulge a couple youtube clips

Jesus, Hip Hop used to be amazing. Busta Rhymes in this video just makes my head explode. And of course there’s Domino

I swore up and down to Holly that she’d heard this before, but I played it for her later and everything and she had no idea what the fuck it was. I just assumed this damn song was as ubiquitous for everyone else back in the day as it was for me? Maybe I just watched too much MTV growing up. I’m starting to think that’s a real possibility.

Puff n’ Toot!

Candy Corn.

Holly, walking up behind me as I was taking this picture:

“Why you taking pictures of kids toilets, perv”

And finally, this rabbit has its red wings. And if you don’t know what that means, I am not going to be the person to tell you.

Sincere and honest thanks to Holly Woods for helping me renew my faith in Amvets as one of the last true thrift spots in this city. You’re the best, sweetie. I’m glad you remembered I was the black velvet guy. And thanks to anyone who actually read through the entirety of what is easily the longest blog entry (and possibly the longest thing at all) I’ve ever written. Readers, whoever you are, you are dear to me, know that. Tune in next time, I promise I’ll try not to keep you waiting.



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  11. andy says:

    Stay out of my tapes or I will end you.

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