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These are lean days in the thrift stores. To everything there is a season and that goes for the ebb and flow of crap, too.

In my old hometown, early summer was the time to reap, and May presented the richest pickings--when the exodus of university students cleaned out their dorm rooms and ratty rentals and the weather became agreeable to garage sales and estate auctions. Summer Thursday nights, my mother would start to plan her garage sale attack plans, marking the newspapers with esoteric symbols that ranked the sales according to location and prioritized them by time and the secret language of the classified ads. She and her best friend would head off at dawn, stocked up on smokes and stoked up on McDonald's coffee and sausage biscuits. Going with them was an all day commitment that required fortitude, stamina and a tolerance for air that resembled the dense fug of a BINGO parlor.

Here in this fantasy land of Florida, May is still high tide--an influx of castoffs from seasonal residents heading back to their northern homes: sorting, cleaning, packing, in the throes of a final cocktail binge. In the city proper, it's a hassle getting a permit for a garage sale and frankly, those with the best stuff probably can't be bothered with any of that. And, after all, most of us have come to realize that most of us would rather have an IRS tax audit than haggle with Haitians over a quarter. So it's a quick drive-by at the thriftstore that supports the charity or medical research of your choice: Alzheimers, Right To Life, Abused Women, Abused Pets, Drug Abuse, the hospital, the humane society, the good cause you never considered. It's a veritable glut of goodstuff! Slowly, it gets pawed over and picked through, til nothing remains but tired, glittery tee shirts and Estee Lauder gift bags into the dog days of August.

September-November, furniture and other large goods washing up in consignment stores mark the decorators' deadlines and model-homebuilders housecleaning: last, frantic touches and switches to seasonal renovations before the homeowners' return in January; put on your catchers' mitts, 'cause there's a lot of money being thrown around.

Through season, the supply is pretty steady, but the competition skews the prices. Bored snowbirds and "shabby chic" decorators, giddy at finding used crap at barely 50% off retail can barely contain themselves in the checkout lines. You can see the wheels turning behind the register--"we could have asked more!"


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