Thursday, December 8, 2011

Easy Come, Easy Go. My Recycled Life

The find of the day on my last day at Secondhand Sam's.
Vintage. Terra cotta. Divine.
Tis the season to be jolly, but how jolly can I be as the glorious era of Secondhand Sam’s, Key West’s most grandiose thrift shop, dwindles down to its inevitable, lost-their-lease, demise?  What will our island's legion of thrifters do with those long, hot afternoons of summer we once spent in sweet and meditative joy examining each and every cast-aside object sadly outgrown its purpose for someone? For many years Sam’s has inhabited a cavernous warehouse, that previously housed a carpeting business, across the street from where the infamous Key West Dog Track once operated. Lots of “once was” and “used to be” places on the island these days . . . Now, the dog track is history and at Sam’s the ancient showrooms are busy with activity, as workers scurry about, shoving furniture and massive bins and boxes full of every imaginable thing, into better merchandising position for last chance bargain shoppers. Some items are destined for the warehouse’s loading platform, where they are lifted onto trucks headed for who knows where. And then it happens again; the stuff someone once wanted is no longer useful to its newest owners.  It’s doubly unwanted.
Elmira Leto, Executive Director of Samuel’s House.
Money raised at Secondhand Sam’s goes there.
Shopper Maggie told me she doesn’t read much. These
books are for her mom, Callie Morehouse, a private chef,
who reads anything non-fiction. “What will we do without
this place?” Callie said.

The fact that you are unlikely to find something sensational for the man in your life on the racks at a secondhand store had lead me to understand that men do not recycle their clothes. They wear them until they fall apart.  Or they forget them on the bus.  Or until the rats shred them. Or, like my husband, they store them in dusty drawers or closets for the remainder of the owner’s natural life, awaiting that one special event — a trip to Alaska perhaps? — when they will become useful again.
Ashleigh waitresses at Jack Flat’s and shops at Secondhand Sam’s.  Just look at the selection!!! She and her bud Jennifer were shopping for ugly sweaters. I didn’t ask why.
Hair design genius Jackie Gray, a devout Saturday morning yard sale maven, models her double-purposed, hand-stitched Christmas tree skirt. She wore it to host her Christmas party. After the party, it went back beneath the tree.

    The younger people in my life are far too impatient to dedicate long hours to treasure hunting in thrift shops. They have not lived long enough to appreciate that secondhand clothes are fully engaged, washed, dried, survivors of wear and tear. Sturdy. That’s one reason to love recycled clothes. They’ve stood the test of time. No more heartbreaking “it shrunk in the wash” moments for this recycler. My clothes are mature, seasoned. And if they take themselves too seriously, expect special treatment, they go into my ever-present recycling bin and back to the thrift shop. 
Recycling fan Mary Pfund re-purposed her family’s warehouse
in Key West as her home and studio. One of her customers
abandoned a storage unit full of awning material, canvas and
vinyl. On her trusty sewing machine, which she bought second-hand twenty five years ago, she makes these Key West boat bags, sturdy enough to outlive us all.
Musician Dan Simpson posted the following on Facebook Wednesday morning:

I'm doing sound for Fantazimo – A Jolly Ole Burlesque Odyssey @ TSKW (a great show BTW), and need a suit, at least a jacket and tie. Yes, I have never worn one in KW (since 1978), so I figger it's a good occasion to bust one out. I also don't want to spend a whole lot, so I'll look at the good old Salvation Army, maybe Ross... any other suggestions? Actually, I'm envisioning a Miami Vice style... HAR! Styling Gel?!Not much to work with :) Hopefully I'll remember the ol' tie knot...

Dan posted the picture above with this on Wednesday afternoon:

RE: Suit Quest. Second Hand Sam’s comes through.
    Many years ago my roommate Eileen bought a secondhand lamp to use in her room at my house. She left it here when she moved. And here it stayed, for several decades. About a year ago my super-organizer friend Tina and I did a massive purge of my house, making several hefty deliveries to Secondhand Sam’s. Among the give-aways was Eileen’s lamp. Several weeks later another friend, Jane, feathering her own temporary nest in Key West, told me about a great lamp she’d purchased at Sam’s. “I think I know that lamp,” I told her. Sure enough, it was Eileen’s lamp, which had lived with me here for the past 25 years. Jane moved up to Sebring, to her boyfriend’s house there, and took the lamp. Then she broke up with that boyfriend and returned to Key West. When she relocated to Colorado to care for her ailing mother, she stored a stash of items in my loft to await her return to the island. Among those things, yes, Eileen’s lamp.
    I paid my final visit to Secondhand Sam’s yesterday. I shopped for many hours. I spent $18. Among other treasures, I bought a vintage suede jacket for 50 cents. From the moment I laid eyes on it I knew we were destined to be together forever — or at least until it needs to be dry-cleaned.

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