I am currently enjoying a visit from my Chicago-based diminutive friend Dena. Dena is a world-class thrift shopper, a quality I greatly admire because I am thrifty and am known to shop. She is so good at it that she actually profits from it, re-selling books and things she finds on Ebay. She has a sharp eye for those valuable things that pass by the thrift-store employee vultures, and a Blackberry phone to help her confirm on the spot an item’s general worth prior to purchasing it. When she and I used to go thrifting in Chicago back in the ‘80s, I was impressed how quickly she could case a store, deeming it picked over or as having potential. She has a kind of radar that I too have, but not to her degree. I can find the good quality clothes, but she will find the ‘50s designer piece for $4.00 that I totally missed. For some people, going to a thrift store is akin to being thrown in a dump and asked to plow your way out. They are skeeved by touching other people’s used crap. For others, it is an opportunity to find something nice for cheap or something…else.

I hadn’t been to a thrift store since moving to Seattle-ish, so I was glad to go today to the local Value Village at Dena’s request. Thrift stores, chain or not, are all a little different from each other in terms of quantity and quality and strangeness. Oh, I promise you, this is half the fun of going – you see some pretty odd stuff that used to reside proudly in real homes or that people actually wore on their actual bodies. Here are just a few things I saw today:

-- a prismatic belt that would make a rainbow when light shone upon it and that I believe once belonged to me;
-- a little girl’s t-shirt with an elaborately-beaded peacock on it with the embroidered words “Shanghai Animal Wonder?”;
-- a clown clock/radio, which seemed whimsically evil to me;
-- a small ceramic kitten wearing a bowtie and top hat, with one paw up, which also seemed whimsically evil to me;
-- a bronze taffeta prom dress that looked like acid had been poured down the front, making me think of all kinds of delicious dramatic teenage scenarios;
-- a large wall of naked Barbies, bent in half, each in a clear baggie, looking like a doll serial killers’ display, more of a black-humored, artistic kind of evil;
-- a “Where’s Waldo”-type children's book entitled “Can You Find Jesus?” which I assume did not include a cartoon illustration of the Crucifixion.

While Dena made her way through the book section, I went over to the kids’ clothes section to look for some cheapy uniform clothes for MissSeven, finding two nice navy blue sweaters from Target. I also found a misplaced and mismarked juniors Juicy t-shirt that clearly had to be purchased for ME, "Caution -- Beware of Shopper":

The jeans section looked quite promising, so that’s where I went next. Do I need another pair of jeans? Survey says: GOOD GOD, NO. But as the need vs. want question was tossed aside to die quietly next to the rack of Grandma Nellie’s knitted fail-gift scarves, I looked and came up with what appeared to be an unworn pair of Zara jeans. I was unfamiliar with the brand, but just by the cut and the quality of the denim I guessed it was a premium brand. I paid 14 bucks; they retailed for around $80. Hoo HAH.

I save the best for last. Finishing my tour of Value Village, I walked past the furniture area with my cart and stopped dead cold to stare. There, sitting quietly on a large beige overstuffed chair, was this:

I had to purchase this hideous rubber pizza face because it horrified, confused, and amused me. An elderly woman in the checkout line in front of me recoiled at seeing it, which made me grin.

Elderly Woman: Can I ask you something? What IS that?

Me: I have no idea!

EW: Well, what is it for?

Me: I don’t know. I thought maybe I could scare my kids with it.

EW: Ohhhh…well, you know what they say…one man’s trash!

Me: Yes!

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is what Value Village is all about. That and being able to disturb an old lady.