Saturday, August 18, 2007


Yesterday proved to be a busy and successful day with our Canadian houseguests. We got off to a late start, but it was worth it: Pete's Steakhouse on Hudson St., beckoned us for lunch. It was good to see the place packed with happy lunchers. We ate too much, but we have no regrets. Afterward, we headed over to the Rescue Mission on Carroll St. -- it is full of good stuff, and provides valuable resources to Trenton by offering substance abuse counseling, and work therapy/life skills resources for those in need. They've begun a program that allows people to sell their items on eBay: it's a great way to make a bit of extra cash while helping out the Rescue Mission.

Because there are more thrift stores in the area, and because thrifting was one of the main goals of our visitors, we then combed nearly every street in the city, eventually working toward our goal: the stretch along Broad Street, which is peppered with second-hand stores. Our guests had unstoppable energy to see them all! After that, we made our way south and hit every other thrift store we could find from here to Camden. Crazy, but true!

The thing that gets me after spending 2-3 days thrifting with my in-laws is the sheer volume of stuff we, as a society, cast aside: furniture, housewares, clothing, tools, jewelry, books, photos, diaries, and more. I've certainly donated things to thrift stores, and I'm glad we have that option, but to see so many packed thrift stores in such a small geographic area makes me wonder a bit about our society: we just consume, consume, consume. And when we're done with it, we cast it aside. I do it too; I'm not pointing any fingers. It is shocking at times to consider if there's that much stuff in the thrift stores, how much stuff is just tossed out and is taking up space in the landfills? It's just good to stop for a bit and think about this: what valuable things and/or resources are we tossing aside?

I like to rediscover those things and resources periodically, and personally, I'm drawn to the little handmade works of art, and intimate gifts in thrift stores. I found a lovely hand-sewn shower curtain, a few beautiful handcrafted coffee mugs (not the junky clay rope student projects), a lantern made of hand-punched tin, and a lot of paintings. We found Thai temple rubbings, mounted and framed; a mixed-media/outsider art shadow box thing decorated with a clock, compass, and some wooden fish; a framed photo of a kind of attractive 40-something red-headed woman, with her hair done-up, and dressed to kill, in an outfit that shows off what we assume to be her enhanced breasts, with an issue of TV Guide (Angela Lansbury is on the cover) on the couch beside her, and a dirty ashtray on the table next to her; an inspirational plaque with a note on the back: "To Susie, with much love from Nana, Christmas 1986." I found a young girl's diary, "Property of Lindsey," scrawled on the inside front cover, filled with angst about boys, and betrayal from her friends.

I left some of this stuff, like the diary, and the inspirational plaque from Nana, but I did pick up a lot of the other items. I hate the idea of hand-crafted items languishing, to be picked over with the silverware and vases. These items are bursting at the seams with stories to tell, stories we'll likely never know. The red-headed woman is sitting (in her frame) on our dining room table, awaiting a new home (maybe on our attic wall when we get it refinished). Her eyes are soulful and we couldn't leave her behind. Maybe her relationship soured and her man got rid of the picture, or she became embarrassed by her big 80s-style hair and got rid of it herself, who knows? I also snagged the shower curtain, and imagine that maybe it was sewn by a crafty woman and given as a gift to someone who didn't appreciate it. I couldn't find anything wrong with it; the sewing was impeccable, and I love the colorful stripes. We have an eastern-theme going in our living room, so we were fast with the temple rubbings, and happy for that too -- the frame job is terrific, and the Thai government doesn't allow temple rubbings anymore. The hand-punched lantern will go out on the porch, with a candle. I picked up a gorgeous green coffee mug -- my new favorite. It's smooth, and full, fired and glazed, and waiting to be held close. I plan to do that this morning.

1 comment:

Brooklyn Bill said...

Mmmm. I love Pete's. I don't think you can get a steak sandwich with broccoli raab anywhere else but Pete's. Or at least, well, nowhere I've been. :)