Thrift Shop stuff

Some times, when I look at the books that get donated to our charity used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island, I wonder why such a thing was ever published in the first place:

Well, color me stupid.

This is a first edition copy of a book that was re-issued in 2014 by NYRB Classics (that is, the hoity-toity New York Review Books). This book got a review on NPR (the same people who did a review of my first book in 2009 and saved my career) and here’s the last paragraph:

In many ways, On Being Blue is less a book to read than an experience to be had. It’s essentially a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that. But it isn’t apologetics. There’s no scientific argument, no clear-cut hypothesis to be found. It’s not a treatise on the nature of man and his place in the universe. Gass is more interested in getting across a passion for language, and the way the words look and sound on the page. Blue is life and love, it becomes quite easy to believe. But wait for it, because in the end, “everything is gray.”

Oh, sure, this is a book beloved by the intelligentsia, but lordy, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that in book form. This book sounds tedious, and I have enough problems of my own, thank you, to have time for deep thoughts about the color blue.

We also got this:

It’s a big, coffee table-sized book and inside were pages and pages of wonderful illustrations:

 

In my favorite book about being a used-book seller, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, Bythell noted that books about trains — even vintage train schedules — sell very well in his store. Well, sure, I thought to myself, But Shaun’s in Scotland where transpotting is a national sport, but will this sell here on the north shore of Long Island?

I priced it at $2.00 and it sold in an hour.

This looked like a dreary children’s book with a message about life, and I loathe “message” books . . .

. . . but it was redeemed by this on the inside free end paper:

I wish I knew who this nephew was, so I could call him and tell him to treasure this note from his aunt.

Moving on: The only thing worse than actually being IN the Peace Corps. . .

. . . would be reading a book ABOUT the Peace Corps.

I flipped through this book and a chapter describing the application process caught my eye. I remember my application process, back in 1980, and my hour-long interview, and how ernest I was about doing my part to bring about world peace. I cringe to think that I was ever that naive.

In the 1960s, an applicant needed EIGHT references to attest to their worthiness to being Peace Corps Volunteers. “Generally,” the author notes, “they [the references] tend to be candid and reliable evaluations.”

Here’s a sample of what people had to say about possible future Peace Corps Volunteers:

“About emotion, he can take it or leave it.”

“If dropped into an alien culture, he [the applicant] would be accepted by the culture rather than eaten.”

“I have seen her react favorably when her hand was mashed in a car door.”

“Even patrolmen that have arrested him in the past years stated they liked him.”

Note to RPCV Steve: Did you know that Morocco was in the region that the Peace Corps called NANSEA? It’s the most diverse PC region, covering Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Ceylon. What say you and me go back in time and volunteer for Afghanistan? Or Iran. Cool, huh?

Moving on. . .

I got complete bound copies of Gourmet Magazine for all of 1972, 1973, and 1974.

I thought they might have some interesting travel journalism in there along with icky recipes but they don’t, and there’s hardly any color photography (food magazines have come a loooong way since the ’70s). I don’t have any hopes that we have a customer for these, but I’ll give them a chance on our Odds and Ends shelf.

For the past two years, one of our most loyal customers buys coffee table art and photography books from us for his collage art, a hobby of his in retirement. Last Sunday he had an exhibit of his works at a library far up on the north shore of Long Island and I went to see it.

This one is called “Trinity”.

Each piece is a 12-inch x 12-inch square, the same size as an LP cover. That’s a shape that we Baby Boomers are very conversant with, and I think it’s a smart choice.

Title: “Once Upon a Time there Was a Hat”. I asked, but No, it wasn’t about Sondheim.

I was pleasantly surprised that his work (he had about 30 on view) were so formally composed because that’s not what I expect from collage but then, he has always struck me as a linear-thinking kind of guy. I think he might have been a math teacher, or an engineer.

Title: “Doubt”.

I do like his work, but I think they would benefit from better titles. Something a little enigmatic, or hintingly narrative, or in juxtaposition, if you know what I mean.

He called this one, “There Goes The Neighborhood”.

Take this one, above. I like it a lot. the use of that copper-colored sky is very effective, and I like the coyote looking over his shoulder, and I even don’t mind the old people (altho, for the record, I’d rather not look at old people in art).

But wouldn’t it be a better piece if it had a different title? Like, for a random example, “A Slow Walk in the Forever Fields”?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

I happened to see the artist again at the bookstore today when he came in to look at the books I’ve been putting aside form all Summer. He sold two pieces on opening day of the exhibit, and he’s gotten calls about several others. (He bought 4 of the 5 books I’d set aside for him.)

I didn’t buy one of his work because they are outside my collecting parameters. I collect thrift shop art, and I’ve got some beauts.

This hangs above our fireplace in the living room. I got it 15 years ago. It’s large, 32 inches x 44 inches, and I think it’s the most wonderful painting in the world:

This was the first piece of thrift shop art that I ever bought, about 20 years ago, before I got married:

This is 16 x 20 inches.

My heart pounded with joy when I came across these two, together, waiting for ME to give them a good home:

Each is also 16 x 20 inches.

I love it that the person who did these paint-by-numbers pictures signed them.

Last week I was in our local Salvation Army thrift shop and I came across a canvas (16 x 20 inches) that I tried not to buy, because, well, look at it, but in the end I couldn’t leave the store without it:

And now I love it, and spend about fifteen minutes a day looking at it, happy that its weird exuberance and hauntingly inept draftsmanship are MINE. I have half a mind to call this one, On Being Blue.

And that brings us full circle, Dear Readers, for this week.

Have a splendid weekend, everyone. October is the Coyote Month, and this year the trickster has impeachment on his mind!

 

 

A college professor put this sign up on his office door as a warning to his students:

It made me think of this guy:

 

But let’s not let that be the last word, not when there’s this:

 

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Things around here were getting so boring. So I had to go thrift shopping.

I do loves me a good Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Especially when there are so many thought-provoking objects on display.

Are these chairs supposed to be faux-pony or faux-Holstein?

Better yet, they swivel, too. Oh, dear faux-pony/Holstein chairs, why were you forsaken unto the Salvation Army thrift Shop? Did the lady of the house change the decor from hipster-faux-hipster to wretchedly-sincere? And wouldn’t you have made the transition just fine if given half a chance? Oh, dear faux-pony/Holstein chairs, the world was not meant for ones as beautiful as youse.

And if ever there was a couch whose upholstry referenced Paul Klee, it’s this one:

Get it, Get it, Get it, the hamsters in my brain are shouting at me. Not to sit on. It doesn’t look as if providing a comfy seat is one of the priorities of this piece of furniture. Just for looking at, and admiring my taste for acquiring it.

This was hard for me to pass up this…

…given my love of vintage Paint by Number art. But the mountains did not hint enough of Scotland, and there wasn’t a horse behind the fence, and the season wasn’t Fall. So I talked myself out of buying it.

It was also hard to not grab these immediately:

The season is right (Fall)…

…and the landmarks are iconic (Sacre Coeur)…

…and the weird geography is wondrously dreamlike (The Arc de Triomphe does not have a sidewalk full of cafes running anywhere near it).

But the set was over priced at $23.00 and I can not, can not, can not start collecting ironic French stuff becauseI’m trying to live a de-cluttered life . So I paid no attention to the hamsters in my brain, paid no attention to the hamsters in my brain, etc.

Except when the hamsters went go crazy for this:

Somebody loved this little dog statue very, very much. It’s  eight inches tall, and made of ceramic from a company called Tilso (the label on the base also says “Handpainted – Japan”).

I know that this little object was beloved because for one, it was spotlessly clean. Usuallywhen a piece as old as this turns up at a thrift shop it’s coated in a film of grease and grime from having been overlooked in an old person’s house for decades. But no, this little dog had been cleaned regularly, so someone loved it very much.

Also, there was nary a chip of the most vulnerable bits — the flower petal and the ear tips were in tact, another indication that someone cared deeply about this object and protected it. Probably gave it the place of honor somewhere in the living room, or boudoir.

I don’t find this dog particularly cute but I could not bear to see it languish in the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, where it might get brushed off its perch by a passer-by or shoved against the old lamp next to it, shipped or cracked or smashed, an ignoble end after all those years it spent as an object of desire.

So for $6.00 I rescued this little dog, and until I can find an obsessive collector of Tilso knick-knackery, it will have a good home with Top Cat and me.

I also brought home another piece de resistance.

No, not the groovy vintage floor-length Summer frock:

I found a hand-sewn fully reversible jacket, made of a pomegranate-toned batik material on one side:

And a very 1980s patchwork purple corduroy on the other:

 

You can’t tell from these photos, but this jacket is beautifully made. Someone went to a lot of trouble to sew this.

Oh, dear wearable art project of unknown provenance, why were you forsaken unto the Salvation Army thrift Shop? Did someone not wear you to the big Duran Duran concert after all?  Did you get pushed to the back of the closet when grunge became all the rage? Or was your exuberant sense of style too embarrassing when your owner went goth?

If only corduroy could talk.

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Some of us think Summer is the time to slack off.

Some of us think it’s a great time to go to an air-conditioned thrift shop!

Today I took a trek into the village to check out the Junior League Thrift Shop. I live in a fancy town. IThere might be an unnoticed Dior or St. Laurent hanging here.

Or not.

But I can’t resist old LPs. I have a weakness for great album cover art of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

(Those records are a mobile hanging from the ceiling, made of one 45, one 75, and one 33 RPM piece of plastic. Cool, huh? )

And I think I discovered here the Most Boring Album Cover in the World:

Some Big Band recorded a live album in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. LPs cost 25 cents each…I actually debated about whether or not I should buy this. I don’t know what gets into me sometimes. I bought it.

I loved these chairs, though, but I didn’t buy them.

I almost didn’t go look at the books because  lordy, I Do Not Need More Books.

Especially a book that looks a dull as this one:

My first impression of this book, judging it by its cover, was that this was an old guide book from the early 1980s to some Eastern European country. It looks totally un-enticing and I would have let it remain in the Bargain Bin of 20 cent hardback books…but I noticed that there was a little Union Jack flag on the bottom corner , meaning that this had an English translation inside.

The title of this book is: A Dream Journey Through Sweden.

Dromresan. Means Dream Journey in Swedish.

Good to know.

So I picked up the book and flipped through it. And a card fell out.

BTW, that’s a European butterfly hovering over that weird green cake, called a Peacock, le Paon-du-jour (Peacock of the Day) in French. Now that you know it’s name, you’ll see it in a lot of it in European art.

It’s been a long time since something spiffy fell out of a book for me. And a Swedish Birthday Card is what I call a JACKPOT.

Thank you, Universe; Thank you.

 

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The elderly guy who lived two houses down (for the last 45 years) passed away two weeks ago.

His grown children have been emptying the old homestead for the past week. See that Santa? I saw that Santa on the old guy’s front lawn every December. I’m surprised that the kids don’t treat this Santa like an heirloom — it’s vintage! And your dad loved that damn Santa!!

Just goes to show you. Everybody you know secretly hates your stuff.

Which brings me to the philosophical question of the day: What makes an heirloom for chrissake? What makes the cut when you’re sorting out your treasures?

In my on-going quest to de-clutter my life, and beat my non-existent heirs to the punch, these are some of the heirloom-quality objects did not make the cut:

Let’s start with the Blue Jay:

From my shrine to my favorite bird: a Blue Jay planter that I got ten years ago — it’s a PARMA by AAI Made in Japan,  c. 1960 and the cool thing is that it’s life size.

OUT.

Now, to the horse:

In the late 1980s there used to be a shop off Fifth Ave in New York where Nelson Rockefeller sold reproductions of his prized porcelains. I remember the day I bought this horsey knick-knack. I don’t know why, but paying what was then (and still is) a significant chunk of money (if I remember right, it was $70) to buy this reproduction of a Chinese export horse from the Chien Lung Period (1736 – 1796) made in Portugal by the famous Mottahedeh factory made me feel like an heiress; as if merely by the act of buying this object I had acquired something that gave me class.

It’s always had pride of place on my bookshelf. I want to give it a good home before one of my cats finally knocks it off  and I have to see it smashed to bits.

OUT.

This Peace Corps souvenir:

I paid, maybe, $5.00 for it, in Niger, and since 1982 it’s mostly been stashed away in closets (when it wasn’t packed away in a box in my mother’s basement). It’s never hung on any wall in any place that I’ve ever lived in. I’m not the kind of person who has to display  tchochkahs acquired in foreign lands.

OUT.

Now, this interesting objet:

This is one of the neatest things I’ve ever found in a thrift shop. It’s a hand-made wooden box that I found in the mid-1990s at my local Salvation Army Thrift Shop. It’s about the size of a shoe box, and it has ten little doors on it, each one fastened with a different kind of brass latch, hook, snap, or clasp. I call it The Buckle Box. I have no idea what it was meant to do.

OUT.

This is the difference between Junk and Clutter.

Junk is stuff that nobodyhas any use for (a broken Walkman, very old ice skates,  rusty metal filing cabinets, Hartmann luggage from the ’80s).

Clutter is stuff that has immense, abiding sentimental significance to a person you no longer want to be.

Just thought you’d like to know.

This is what has made the cut:

A set of stainless steel cocktail forks from the ’50s that has Niagara Falls printed on each little bitty plastic handle.

Now, who doesn’t have room in their h ouse, or heart, for these???

 

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Big score at the thrift shop this week:

A matching set of vintage paint-by-number landscapes! They are beautifully done — each and every cell is painted with love, I can tell. Each is signed “Palme” in the lower right hand corner and they are so perfectly (professionally) framed that I haven’t had the heart to pull them out to check to see if there’s a full name and/or date on the back of the picture.

These paintings are meticulously done, with nice wooden frames to show how (justifiably) proud the painter was with his/her finished work, and they are big: each one is 16″ x 20″. And the scene is gorgeous — Fall in New England. In a word, or several, this is the gold standard, the jackpot, the n’est plus ultra of paint-by-number paintings.

They didn’t have a price on them so I had to take show them to the manager to get her expert opinion. She frowned, tapped one with her fingernail, determined that it was cardboard (not canvas), and told me “$9.99. each.”

Bargain. Which, again, is hard to find in a thrift shop these days. The Antiques Road Show and eBay have seriously lessened the quality and raised the prices of thrift shop goods these days, and a real bargain is hard to find. I would have paid twice the price for these paintings and thrown in the title to my SUV to sweeten the deal, so when the manager said $9.99 I couldnt get to the cash register fast enough. We’ve been thinking about getting rid of the SUV any way.

So here they are:

These two Fall paintings have filled in a sad and painful gap in my collection of thrift shop paintings of the four seasons. I had Winter already:

(44″‘ x 32″, canvas, signed “Kate Q.” on the back; it’s hanging over the fireplace in my livingroom.)

And I already had Spring:

(16″ x 20″, canvas, signed “JK ’67” in lower right corner; I’ve almost cleaned all the decades-worth of filthy cigarette-smoke-tar off it.)

Now all I need is Summer. If you see a good Summer thrift shop painting, let me know.

 

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Yesterday I drove across the Whitestone Bridge today to go to my favorite thrift shop In. The. World. It’s in Westchester, my old hometown.

Here are some of the things that I considered buying, but didn’t: 1950s novels with their original dust jackets:

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I already have too many books. But oh, how I love love love those 1950s Authors Photos:

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I don’t know if I did the right thing, leaving those books to fend for themselves…if I don’t rescue those books, who will??  And, will the right people (not me) rescue  these jackets?:

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The swirly-black print one was a beautifully made heavy silk with front zipper ($6.99)  and the one on the right was a brand new patchwork of buff-colored suede stitched loosely together with some kind of matching crochet thread with covered buttons up the front ($29.99) that looked like something that Sheryl Crow would wear on a first date. I couldn’t imagine where you’d wear the balck swirly-print silk jacket, but it’s sooooo me.

Unlike this Nolan Miller number with the spangles on the sleeve which I got a strange, soooo not me crush on:

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This photo gives you no idea how much those sleeves glittered, even in the low light of the going-downhill Secret Thrift Shop that I love. Some days, I really miss the ’80s.

THIS is the kind of thing you only find in a really fine thrift shop:

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A Betsy Johnson tuxedo-cut denim jacket for $6.99. If I wasn’t sure that wearing such a jacket made someone my age look totally idiotic, I would have bought this immediately.

I’d already been browsing the messy aisles of this thrift shop for half an hour and I hadn’t found anything to rescue, and I was beginning to fear that I’d have to go home empty handed.

Never fear, however: FATE always leads me to the right stuff in the nick of time:

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This, my dear readers, is a Jackie Gleason LP to add to my excellent collection of Jackie Gleason LPs from the late ’50s – early ’60s.

This one is called: The Torch With the Blue Flame.

A delicate spindrift of marimba tones, the glow of a solo trombone  and whispering strings, blending in a mist of sound…soft, dream-provoking Gleason sounds that sing with a flickering, haunting light…The Torch With The Blue Flame.

Sooo 1959, so Grown up, sooooo….corny.

Oh man, some days I really miss what I never had.

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