Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I love this time of year. Right after the weather breaks, I look forward to hitting flea markets and checking in with Goodwill. In the back of my head, I've always got a list of things I want --things I will not pay anything more than a pittance for: a decent sized stock pot, an electric mixer and a food processor, a tinkerer Swiss Army knife, a denim jacket.

The list is pretty long.

I've always been kind of a scavenger. My favorite places to shop are thrift shops, surplus stores and flea markets --Oddly, I am less enthusiastic about yard sales, which typically have better prices, but maybe seems a little too personal.

Flea markets are anything but personal. Emotional attachment is chucked out the window right after you have to haul your crap out to the car, set it up in a gravel pit and stand around like a boob waiting for someone to be enthralled by something you clearly don't believe is a treasure.

Treasure you take to the pawn shop. You can get more for it there.

A lot of the scavenging comes from my Dad. He was the guy who stopped at the bottoms of highway exits to look for lead wheel weights --the weights he would then melt down and recast as sinkers and other fishing bug parts, which he'd sell at flea markets.

He did a pretty good trade with the things and made a few bucks, though in hindsight he probably shouldn't have melted lead wheel weights on the kitchen stove. The early 1980s were not necessarily known for a lot of ecological kindness. We kidney punched mother nature whenever we got the chance and odds are the makers of those wheel weights squeezed in more lead into the lead just to make it that much more deadly.

That was the 1980s.

I started scavenging seriously after my divorce. I scavenged furniture that was put to the curb and took cookware from the open apartments of former neighbors who'd been evicted. I brought plastic containers to doomed company Christmas parties. I collected all the shrimp, cold cuts and beer the boss bought that would go to waste once she wished everybody a Merry Christmas and hustled out the door to go do carnal things to someone not her husband.

I looked for opportunities to scavenge and embraced them when they presented themselves. Once, while I was getting ready to head out for my morning paper route (God, that sucked), I watched a bread truck driver leave a Hardees across the street with his back door still open. He drove up a hill and bread poured out.

I waited all of two minutes for him to come back then I collected the assortment of bagged rolls and bread he'd left. I ate french toast, bread pudding and peanut butter sandwiches for nearly every meal for well over a month.

Scavenging was fun. It made me feel in control. When I really started, I felt so powerless. I was working three jobs and could still barely keep the telephone on, let alone keep up with car insurance or feed myself better than 49 cent a pound black beans and 80 cents a pound medium grain white rice drowned in gallons of salsa with Arabic writing on the labels.

I remember when my weekly grocery budget was twelve dollars.

Things are better now. I still scavenge, though it's not as rampant. Most of the daily struggle for sustenance and existence has gotten easier. I'm thrifty and not so picky about where things come from. The way I see it, everything, from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the things we buy, have all belonged to someone else at least temporarily.

Life, by nature, is secondhand. That's not such a bad thing. I think it's comforting.


eclectic guy said...

If you come across a smoking jacket, let me know where. I'm being serious here.

primalscreamx said...

I saw one of those, red with black trim, at the flea market in Milton about two years ago.

MountainLaurel said...

I also love scavenging and getting deals. Just last week I got a quilt rack from the alley, and i got a patio set last December. I'm convinced that if I live here long enough, I can completely furnish my house with rescued pieces.

Buzzardbilly said...

How I love a good yard sale, rummage sale, junk shop, or flea market! I remember the year that I only made $5,000 and somehow made it through. God, was I the queen of the Goodwill, Sally Army, and indoor flea market that had a kicking vintage clothes for cheaps boutique.