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Showing posts from June, 2009

Withdrawal Symptoms

I haven't been to the thrift stores in a while. I reached a saturation point, perhaps, with the pilled sweaters and the dull black shirts and tangled piles of crap. Some of that stuff didn't deserve a first chance--it was bought carelessly, thoughtlessly, and chucked out with as much care and thought--ugly dresses, grotesque knickknacks, vapid wooden signs that say "Love isn't the destination, it's what makes the journey worthwhile." I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that people cast off; the mass of things that they simply couldn't stand to have around another minute.

I don't miss it, particularly. Once the habit of it all wanes, I'm kind of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind school of thought when it comes to missing things. But remind me of something and all the missing comes right back

costume process-cut and paste

I learned to sew the way some boys used to learn how to build car engines or repair bikes--by taking junk apart to see how it was made. Or, more accurately, hacking it to pieces and then nipping and tucking it into something else.

This dress was one of those Franken-costumes: a turtleneck maxi dress re-cut and trimmed with marabou salvaged from a dejected negligee in a Salvation Army reject pile--a little office number for Li'l Abner's Appassionata von Climax. I'd attached a bustle train with rooster tail feathers on the back and then loaned it to a broad-shouldered boyfriend for a drag gag and the bustle came back looking as though had been in a cockfight.

Finally, I retrofitted the backside with this saucy little peplum flounce made of unopened bills for a Hell-themed costume party. This was its last appearance. One shift of dancing in a go-go cage and the whole envelope went to hell. Student loan statements, old telephone bills, and insurance invoices fluttered down on t…

The Seven Suits of St. Vincent

My younger son's teachers have all taken me aside at one point and another to tell me that I need to encourage his precocious artistic talent. My deadpan reply to them is to say that we, as professional educators and parents need to work together to nip that precocious talent in the bud! They would consign a child to a lifetime of squatting in grotty apartments, weeks of Ramen noodle rations, and telemarketing to pay for it? What kind of monsters are they??? (Monsters with dental, that's what kind!)

It doesn't necessarily get me upset when they lament cutbacks in the arts in schools. I say we take a few moments of science and consider letting the arts fall where they may. I say why not wheedle in a little lesson in scientific illustration while dissecting that frog or talk about the mathematics of the golden mean? But people say that's just me, which is to say, a heretic, worthy of burning.

Well, anyway, I caved and signed the kid up for Art Camp. I would have anyway. I …

Magic Carpet

This is about a rug I bought at the Goodwill. It was 12 bucks. Very clean. But the story is worth way more.

In 1988, Susan Begley and I traveled to Greece the way most college students travel abroad: that is to say, very scruffily. We'd boarded the train in Budapest with an apple struedel under each arm and a bottle each of something dreadful that we picked up at the local Cheerless-Eastern European-Booze Booth. We rationed the alcohol by getting on already buzzed and slept with our heads resting on the struedels.

"Wake up, Americans! Wake up, Canada!" the train conductor slapped our heads with his billets. He cheerfully hustled us onto the platforms with 12 or 13 other staggering passengers: Australians, Canadians, two really pissed off-looking German girls and us. They took our passports and disappeared into the warm station house while we stood there, lined up execution style, bleary-eyed, scuzzy mouthed, and shivering without the presence of mind to think there was an…
I guess I can get a little tetchy about the second hand thing. On the one hand, there's a peculiar pride in being able to spot a Stella McCartney cashmere coat at 20 paces or an authentic Dooney and Bourke purse hanging with the pile of Clinique gift bags and Chinese knockoffs. And on the other, there's a sort of nervous embarrassment about stopping the car near a curb to toss some intriguing lawn furniture into the trunk and discovering that there are people still using it.

But a lifetime of being the butt of family jokes from the aunts and cousins...yes...ho. ho...hmmm. Gets a little old and tired--and that goes for the cracks about hand-me-downs, too--we're Catholics, for chrissakes! I think hand-me-downs are part of the catechism, aren't they? After all, all of my mother's sisters and brothers had a bent toward collecting--junk cars, old church statuary, canned foods, dusty stacks of cash--but our house: that was something of a showcase. Friends and relatives w…
Found about six or seven frilly hostess aprons at the Goodwill. Frilly organdy and whimsical printed cotton. Useless things. But there were so many of them! Were they owned by some now-dead, perfect hostess of the 50's with one for every outfit? Were they made by some ironic, pin-up wannabee with an apron fetish? Were they for a group? Or did each come individually and all wind up together in some incredible coincidence?

I couldn't justify buying the entire lot but I couldn't leave them, either. Now, I feel terrible about breaking up the collection. Should I go back and buy the rest?

This era of wash and wear precludes much need of apron wear. After all, it takes probably less energy and water to launder a tee shirt than to wash and iron one of these little numbers, but could there be a Renaissance of the Hostess Apron?
My friend and sometime boss, but mostly my friend now after all these years, Kathy Becker, editor of Naples Illustrated magazine, put me to an interesting test of my second hand, vintage clothes finding skills. She wants vintage Oscar de la Renta for a garden party, size 8 on top, size 14 on the bottom. I'm thinking I might just go for the full monty and find the hat and gloves.

I have often said, give me the Yellow Pages and some mild curiosity and I could find Osama bin Laden. AND he'd be wearing vintage de la Renta and LIKING it.

The easiest route would be vintage clothing dealers. It's funny, though about those because they tend to get all precious about them. But they're still just, you know, used clothes. I suppose there's someone out there who can really do crafty-decorate-y things with an old prom dress and a hot glue gun. I ain't that kind of girl. If the sweat stains and dry rotted seams won't let me wear it to the annual polo fundraiser, I don'…
Found a new pair of Donald J. Pliner red suede wedge pumps at the Goodwill. They were $15.99, which is a bit much for the GW, but they were new and surprisingly comfortable for having a 6-inch heel. And, you know, anything for the red shoes.

I put them in the red section of my shoe collection with my Coach patent leather red pumps, the red pebble grain Lauren slides, the red Keene maryjanes, a non-descript but utilitarian pair of ballet flats, and the red suede boots that I've only gotten to wear a handful of times. Women don't like to part with their red shoes. Red shoes don't age well, they fade, they scuff, they oxidize. The red needs to be pristine, uncreased, danced in once and put away. Like the perfect shade of red lipstick, they must be flawless in order to not look trashy or tired. Red gets tired fast. The color, not the idea of red.

And, really, what is it with the red shoes?

Second Hand Thoughts

I am now a middle-aged mother of two young boys, living on a suburban street in southwest Florida. I drive a Toyota SUV, which has been thrown up in so many times, I gag at the thought of it. I work as a fitness instructor, a Weight Watchers leader, and a presently under-employed freelance writer. I've had worse jobs. But Nature abhorrs a vacuum. I am now a blogger.

And I'm having second thoughts.

Oh, not about blogging. I've been thinking about that for a while since magazine work sort of dried up and I'm looking for a new literary agent and have eaten everything in the house.

Just second thoughts. You know: first impressions, second thoughts, third and fourth chances.

My mother was an antique dealer. Or a picker. Or a collector. Or just a hoarder, maybe. She used to go to garage sales, thrift stores and auctions and buy antiques for her antique store. Then, she went to garage sales, thrift stores and auctions to buy stuff that went to her friends' antique stores. The…