[Note to readers. This is the continuation of an entry that was started over a year ago, based on a thrift store visit that was conducted over a year and a half ago. Our publishing schedule has been violently interrupted by life being kind of a jerk, and for that we apologize. But know that we persevere, and that it takes more than intervening circumstance to stop our work here at this thrifting blogging writing internetting blah blah you know the routine by now. Hopefully this publication will be the first step in returning to regular activity. No guarantees, but we can hope. We are allowed that.]
[Also, our thrift coordinator no longer has that stupid haircut. He specifically asked us to notify you.]
No one cares where we go. No one cares what we do. We are secondhand miscreants, cast adrift in the land of thrift, and no one has our back. If you’re still following along, hello and welcome again to another chronicle of the aimless wanderings of an organization devoted to exploring the fringes of the things that most people regard as disposable, and the thoughts they inspire, and the people who are brave enough to journey with us. Shall we see what we found? Shall we?
Okay well before I saw this sign I was full on prepared to steal from this charity. Not only was I prepared to steal in general (which this sign so bravely cautions against), but I was specifically inclined to steal (underline) “From This Charity!”. Thankfully someone took the time and expense to provide a beacon beckoning me towards the proper behavior, and with such creative and liberal use of capitalization that one’s attention couldn’t help but be kept throughout the duration of said sign. Pause for a moment and appreciate the subtle nuances of this onion we’re attempting to unwrap here, won’t you?
I know you don’t unwrap an onion, by the way. Thanks.
-Literally the only words that aren’t capitalized on the entire thing are “our donations will be.” If you had to bet every penny in your possession (and by that I mean all the money you had, not literally every physical penny you owned, seeing as that probably wouldn’t amount to all that much money in the grand scheme of things, assuming of course you’re not some sort of twisted penny hoarding freak – hell, even if you are, you’re encouraged to keep reading, we accept you as part of our community and we love you not DESPITE your blatantly offensive psychological foibles, but rather BECAUSE of them. Welcome, brother (or sister or person of indeterminate gender)) on whether or not that was a deliberate choice on the part of the fine folks in the advertising department of the EastArk Thrift Barn corporation or whether it was just a random fuckup at the sign shop, which would you choose, dear readers?
WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOOOOOOOSE
-Why does the combination of capitalizing AND underlining the word “Prosecuted” make it seem like a synonym for “Fucked In The Ass”? And what Extent would be the Fullest Extent to which that was allowable under The Law?
Remember, we’re through the looking glass. We’re in a foreign land, among foreign people, we don’t speak the language, we hold no currency. To them, West Memphis is East Arkansas. Up is down, left is right, and macaroni and cheese is a two course meal (first course macaroni, second, cheese) so the things that normally make sense don’t make sense any more. Liberating, isn’t it?
First off: distinct lack of Thrift Livestock in the Thrift Barn. (No thrift goats? Really?) But, we can forgive. As this was legitimately one of the more awesome stores we’ve visited in recent memory. Enough foreplay, let’s get our hands dirty.
So. While very barn-like in ceiling height and general smell, the EastArk Thrift Barn actually wasn’t all that massive. Of course thinking back on my somewhat limited but not entirely insubstantial past experiences in barns (growing up, I spent my summers in rural Wisconsin – good barn scene up there, lemme tell ya), they don’t actually tend to be all that massive, from a sheer floor space standpoint. I guess I thought it seemed small compared to some of the airplane hangar sized Goodwills they have out east in Bartlett, but now that I think about it, you could probably fit several barns (let’s say about nine) in the square footage that an average airplane hangar occupies. So by that standard I suppose it’s a reasonable comparison, the barn one. Did I digress? I apologize.
Confusing nomenclature aside, what was lacking in the perceived expanse of terrain was more than compensated for by concentration of quality product per square inch. Take, for example, the “COOL BLAST™ by Misty Mate®”. We here at Secondhand Underground Underhand Secondground live and breathe for the discovery of just such an item as this. While we wouldn’t necessarily advocate it for personal use since all it does is blow wet air on your face which on a sweltering humid southern day is more of an insult than a reprieve (and doesn’t the dude in the picture on package front look more blindsided and annoyed than potentially refreshed or relieved? In our mind that photo was snapped about a half second before he punched that poor woman in the face) we still have to stand up out of our research pods and audibly cheer at the audacity that it must have taken to pitch the idea of reconfiguring a spray bottle into something that looks like a cross between a weaponized Thermos and the most frightening dildo ever conceived, and JUST when we were about to launch into a reverie about the lost age of late night infomercials that sold products exactly like this (AS SEEN ON TV!) that you couldn’t avoid because there were literally only thirty six cable channels (younger readers please bear with us, this project started in the dark ages), almost all of which went off the air around 1 or 2 AM, so insomniacs like the backbone of our research staff were forced to endure endless asinine advertisements for quote endquote AMAZING DISCOVERIES
we performed a cursory search and discovered that the Misty Mate® corporation is still in business, alive and well, and although the particular product in question is apparently discontinued, well…
Here’s where we attempt to pull back the curtain. We here at Secondhand etc etc feel that we have a sacred mission to expose and explore the underexposed and underexplored in the world in general, and the best way we’ve discovered to pursue that goal is through rooting through other people’s garbage, NOT just because it’s funny and interesting and weird and it makes us look sexy and great, BUT… because there’s perhaps a larger truth hinted at there, somewhere. Occasionally we come across bits of information, facts, coincidences that can’t quite be explained away… anomalies. Allow us to share one such thing with you now. Do us (and by “us” we mean you and all of our staff) a favor and check out the Amazon listing for said discontinued product.
Give it a once over. Look it up and down. Examine the details. Notice anything amiss? No? Look closer:
“No.” We’ll refrain from asking any direct questions here, but instead encourage each individual reader to perhaps consider what potential implications that two letter aberration could have. Trust us, we’re in no rush to encourage anyone to charge down any kind of Alex Jones based rabbit holes which is exactly what led my ex-neighbor to get busted for making meth because his brother was barbecuing a raccoon in the back parking lot…
we just enjoy examining the cryptic, wherever it’s found. So draw your own conclusions.
Or just accept that you’re going to sweat when it gets warm. Try drinking water
I don’t think there could be a more West Memphis moment than this. Someone’s shop class project, in the shape of a t shirt (or as they call it in Eastern Arkansas, “fancy clothes”). The near-inscrutable handwriting (seriously, what’s up with the diagonal lines in the “t”s?). The completely inscrutable, sub-fortune cookie inscription with massive spelling and punctuation errors (more on that later). Held up in a thrift store (which means someone didn’t give enough of a shit about it to hang on to it even though it was obviously made by a developmentally challenged 12 year old) by a single Mama with two kids by two different dads. If I could blow this picture up to banner size, I would post it next to the “Welcome to West Memphis” sign just like the Memphis Police Association posted giant billboards saying “This city does NOT support PUBLIC SAFETY” all over town. Yes, that’s a real thing.
But. More on this motto. Or rather, moron, this motto… before I begin, a real quick primer on a term I’m about to use a lot. From the Wikipedia on “sic“:
“The usual purpose is to inform the reader that any errors or apparent errors in the transcribed material do not arise from transcription errors, and the errors have been repeated intentionally, i.e., that they are reproduced exactly as set down by the original writer or printer.”
“WhEn [sic] you fEEL [sic] ALL [sic] StEamEd [sic] up REmbEr [sic] thE [sic] tEa [sic] KEttlE [sic]. It is Always [sic] up to It’s [sic] NEck [sic] in hot watEr [sic] and It [sic] stiLL [sic] sings”
Please notice there were almost more “sic”s in there than actual words. Jesus, transcribing that broke my brain. I forgot what the written English language was supposed to look like. That was exhausting. But. We cannot rest at the simple transcription of a linguistic train wreck and all the italicizing it requires, no. Dear readers, we have to understand the mindset of a person who could create such a philosophically offensive aphorism as this. A rudimentary search couldn’t attribute an author to this “nugget” of “wisdom,” so instead we turn to google to try to put it in context and here’s one of the things we get.
Please follow that link, just for a moment. The quote in question is at the very very bottom. But while you’re there, please peruse the rest of the homespun country nonsense that it offers. This shit is legitimately brilliant. A few of my favorites:
“One had better have no dealings with girls with fat legs.”
“Naked men never lose anything.”
“He who has no enemy has no friend.”
“Better weak beer than lemonade.”
Okay we’ve officially gone down the rabbit hole here. I now LOVE this page, and I think it’s going to contain all the life advice anyone could possibly need from here on out. The higher ups in the Secondhand Underground organization have commissioned this Thrift Coordinator and his research staff to come up with a few new additions to the canon of nonsensical utterances that apparently constitutes the bulk of what we refer to as “American Folk Sayings”. Here is the input that was received:
“You can launch a missile, but you can’t actually LAUNCH a missile, silly man.”
“Life never gave me anything I couldn’t murder.”
“A fat friend doesn’t have any legs who are friends with a potato.”
“Your drunk uncle never made you eat ginger.”
“Do you remember walking into this bathroom? Because it feels like we’ve always lived here.”
“Saying you can’t is like saying you falafel.”
“Have a sandwich, Ham. Jesus fuck no, stop eating yourself, your NAME is Ham, it’s short for Hamish, why do you resort to autocannibalism every time we invite you over for lunch?”
“Snot don’t spend.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t document and comment upon the preponderance of signs deployed throughout this particular thrift facility. Apparently whoever is responsible for the daily operations of the EastArk Thrift Barn has at some point in the past realized that the unwarshed masses that cruise through the doors on a daily basis may benefit from some CLEAR CUT, rainbow colored (in this instance anyway) instructions, and/or signage. Posted on basically every available surface. Here are a few choice selections (GOD did I want to knock on that door, by the way):
So wait. We can’t knock on that door AND we can’t mess up these book shelves? Why didn’t you just call it the EastArk Nazi Barn to begin with and save us all a lot of trouble parsing it out on our own? And yeah, thank god there isn’t a haphazard arrangement of books contained anywhere within the EastArk Thrift Barn. THAT would just be an unspeakable terror from the outer fringes of what we’re even able to perceive as reality…
I was gonna make a joke about how whoever’s in charge of the Handwritten Sign Department at the EATB (I’m tired of typing it out) obviously doesn’t have any grasp on how people traditionally interact with pianos, but then I realized that the average customer walking through the door on any given day probably stands about as much of a chance of playing ON the piano (as in physically climbing onto it, doing handstands, fuck, I don’t know… planking) as they do of just PLAYING it. They may not grasp what it’s for and try to treat it at some sort of obsolete mutated wooden jungle gym, which, hey, normally I’m all in favor of the whole “make your own fun” philosophy, but come on, people. This is a Thrift Barn. There are rules.
Enough sign chat. So, I’m all for having an exciting, vibrant marriage, and doing whatever you need to to stay engaged with your partner and experience a fulfilling life together, and if you’ve come to a point in your marriage where you or your partner feel like something’s lacking, whether it be physical or emotional intimacy, communication, passion, shared goals, responsibilities, whatever it is, then you should by all means renew and reestablish your connection and your commitment.
But imagine this dude boning someone in a kitchen. I mean really, just pushed over, sweating on the counter, apron all askew, pants around ankles, weird hair hanging in his face, she’s still holding a goddamn spatula… Someone knocks over the toaster, breakfast is ruined, and Dr. Kevin just doesn’t give a shit. He’s like BONE. BONE BONE BONE. No, Dr. Kevin. No. And, so sex BEGINS in the kitchen? Where does it end with you, Dr. Kevin, you insatiable lust monster? The laundry room? The basement? The little alcove where you leave your boots when they’re muddy? What kind of an architectural pervert ARE you, anyway? Why you gotta bone in every room of the house every single time? And how are we ever going to get any food made if you pull out your wang every time I open the oven? Starvation is a real risk at this point, Dr. Kevin. A very real one.
Watch yourself around this guy. If he can’t get it from you, he might just fuck that quiche you just spent a goddamn hour preparing. Then what are you going to bring to the potluck. Then what. Damn you Dr. Kevin. Damn you.
I have nothing to say about Richard Simmons.
On the other hand, I have a veritable Macy’s parade of things to say about this business right here. I LOVED Tremors when I was a kid. LOVED it. I was ten when it came out and Kevin Bacon in a movie about giant underground desert worms that try to eat a town? Come on. That’s basically like catnip for a ten year old boy. Who is also a cat. Or crack. It’s like catnip with crack in it for some sort of weird ten year old boy/cat/crackhead hybrid creature that now lives in my imagination. Thanks for that one, brain. Anyway, the original Tremors is amazing. If you’ve never seen it, seriously, it’s worth a watch. Just fun and goofy and gory and crazy. But also basically just fluff entertainment, which is why I was so shocked and surprised, years and years later, to discover that they had not only made one sequel to it, but several. The damn thing turned into a franchise, and if you’ve ever wanted to see an example of the law of diminishing returns, I humbly suggest you dig into this garbage. Kevin Bacon bailed after the first movie, then Fred Ward called it a day after number two (that’s right, even Remo Williams himself had enough), so by the third movie they were seriously counting on the dad from Family Ties to hold his own as a credible action lead. I don’t suggest you waste any of the precious seconds we’re given in this ever fleeting existence on actually viewing any of the subsequent films, but if you’re curious, let me give you a piece of information that should sum it up. The third film contains creatures known (in the film, this is an actual term used by the characters) as “Ass Blasters.”
Speaking of cats, and crack, and movie silliness… didn’t they already know cats were from outer space? I feel as if this title contains a great redundancy. Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes around a cat and DOESN’T think they’ve just encountered an alien presence is either terminally oblivious or has fallen for their highly developed mind control. You laugh, but one day when we’re all working side by side in the Fancy Feast mines, you won’t be laughing any more. You’ll just be meowing. We will all be meowing.
Every once in a while I still just take a picture of something because I think it’s cool. I don’t have anything funny or interesting or snarky to say about it. Just… here’s a cool thing I found at a thrift store. You should go and find some cool stuff too.
NO KITTY! DON’T GO NEAR THE CLOWN! HE’S GOING TO TRY AND STUFF YOU IN HIS COMICALLY OVERSIZED PANTS! WE’LL NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN, IT’S A PORTAL TO HELL! I BET HE KNOWS PENNYWISE! DON’T FLOAT, KITTY! DON’T FLOAT! NOOOOOOO
Not to pull back the curtain too much here, but part of the fun for me in going back through pictures I’ve taken quite a while ago (weeks, months, over a year in this instance) is trying to figure out why I took some of them. Like, what was going through my head in that moment, what did I think was there that merited a photograph? This is a perfect example. It’s really just a small assemblage of tacky animal themed tchotchkes. What did I think I was going to write about them? Was there some brilliant insight, some pointed remark that I felt like I could make? Was I going to use this picture to illustrate some larger point about thrift stores, and culture, and the world, or did I just think the shit looked funny? In this instance I’m leaning towards the latter. Because this shit looks ridiculous. “FLORIDA” indeed.
GOTTA be careful where you put the price tags on some things, people. I had a more than brief moment where I honestly thought “What the fuck? A jar of cats? Who needs…” before I was like “OHHH OATS. RIGHT.” Also, because I know you’re wondering:
That’s what it would look like. Now you know. You’re welcome.
To wrap things up, let’s talk records. When the first larval vestiges of this explorational adventure into the trash heap were started, back in the positively medieval days of the mid nineties, thrift stores were a record lover’s paradise. Vinyl wasn’t in vogue and the only people paying attention to LPs at secondhand shops were dedicated crate diggers, hip hop DJs, and savvy resellers who knew there was still a market. So basically no one. Now, in this much more culturally aware and connected era, plastic discs that only make noise when you rub them in a specific way with a needle are all the rage, and it’s an open secret – scratch that – an open fact, that thrift stores are a good place to buy records. So I’m used to striking out over and over again when I go to thrift stores looking for records, either because any decent looking record that I find is going to be scratched to absolute garbage or just not be inside the sleeve at all. I’ve long since settled for taking pictures of ridiculous nonsense like “The Magic Flute of James Galway.” Which, not to knock classical music, or James Galway, but come on. I think even the Lady Galway is probably tired of James’s “Magic Flute” by this point if you catch my meaning and if you don’t you’re probably not that smart because I threw it slowly and underhand and I’m talking about his dick.
Then I found this. If you don’t know Dexter Gordon, he’s one of the giants of jazz saxophone in the 20th century. My dad loved Dexter Gordon and I grew up listening to Dexter Gordon and although this is one of his later, lesser works, it was still in pristine shape, inside and out. Dexter Gordon’s great talent was phrasing. Listen to this:
I know no one’s going to listen to all 17 minutes, but trust me, you should. It’s like listening to Sinatra sing. It’s all about the breath and the pace. Anyway, point being I found this amazing record. Then I found these
Then I found these
And my brain basically melted out of my head. This was my total haul
That’s adding in Sergio Mendes, Oscar Peterson, Stanley Turrentine (Salt Song is a stupid good record), and an unopened (still in plastic wrap) copy of my favorite Monty Python record, which contains the audio version of one of my favorite sketches they ever did
“Your majesty is like a stream of bat’s piss.”
All for about a dollar each. I plotzed. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we live this thrift game. This is why we’re in the life. You muddle through a marginally unremarkable store in a bizarre stretch of land that most people don’t know even exists, only to be rewarded at the end of your journey with a pile of pristine vinyl that costs less than your lunch. You may strike out, time after time, but if you can amuse yourself with the oddities that lie along the way, at the end… there be gold. Let this be a treasure map for you. Let us guide you, or at least point the way.
And with that, we take our leave. We will attempt to bridge the gap between our secondhand thoughts and your firsthand ears again sooner than later, but in this world of abandonment and uncertainty, nothing is guaranteed. But rest assured, dear, wonderful, kind sweet and beloved readers, that even if it is aeons between this transmission and the next:
we exist. We may be at your heels. Don’t turn around.
watch the skies