Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ice Ice Breakers

I had dinner with some new colleagues and their partners this evening. It’s funny how small social cues can change the feel of an evening. Our instructions: sit in small groups, eat wontons and drink punch, and then every 20 or 30 minutes move to a new table. Kind of like speed dating. Speed friending. And it was speedy—I had more meaningful chat with new folks tonight than I might have had in 3 months just left to my own devices. Tonight’s prescribed social shuffling was a relief to someone like me who has trouble mingling, especially when flying solo, especially without a splash of liquid courage to even my keel.

I think I have some genuine friends in the making, and certainly some mentors. I’m really grateful for the warm welcome here. Though it’s cold! OK, 50 degrees, but rainy, and cool enough to merit a second layer of clothes. Today I wore my cute permapleat summer dress that Esther gave me. I wore summer to spite the weather. Guess who won.

One new colleague and his wife offered to give me a (redundant, they discovered) microwave they moved all the way from the midwest. Very sweet! So now I can reheat that soup I made yesterday.

Also, I’m picking out checks for the first time in a long time. I think I’ve found my winner.

Feelin' Souper

Autumn bringeth forth her bounty in Spokane. Not the farmers market, which I have yet to investigate.
Rather I’m amazed that I’ve lived here less than two weeks, and I’ve already crossed paths with many intriguing and generous people:
The guy peddling his Rolling Cones ice cream bike on Riverside, adjusting his speakers for the tingting calliope music.
The new friend who names her houseplants after famous female gymnasts from former Communist countries.
The yoga teacher who asked me to think about my higher self and taught an energetic 90-minute class even though I was the only student who showed up.
My new neighbor who wasn’t sketched out when I approached him on the sidewalk and said “You’re a guy. Can you fix this?” because I couldn’t get the rusty gate closed on the back of a truck I borrowed. Tyler and Frances, if you’re out there, I owe you dinner!

Also I reaped some autumn harvest gold at yet another thrift store in town.
I scored five of these plates. The design is a perfect backdrop for Morningstar Buffalo Wings heated in a toaster oven: a detail from the Flemish tapestry, "The Hunt of the Unicorn Circa Late 15th Century." I'll keep my eyes peeled for the Narwhal Series!
And now I’ve made my first soup in this apartment. The recipe is a favorite, Red Lentil, from 101cookbooks.com
This Corningware bowl with a handle was another of today's finds. I'm pretty sure my Nana Sheets had a casserole dish or two with this same ca. 1975 pattern. 

I’m still short on counter space. And spoons and forks. Secondhand stores in this town have tons of knives, bins of knives, but little else in the cutlery way. Alanis Morissette might find Spokane thrifting downright ironic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Somebody Autoclave My Pants!!!

Paint, wayward infant formula, White-Out spill, French vanilla ice cream shooters, snot balloons, ecru paintball, weeping egg white, angry pigeon sticky—I’m not sure what all was blotched on that used chair, but I sat on it anyway. Once upon a time, the chair had been velvety periwinkle, with a light wood frame. Now it was a pattern I named Bad Dairy Calico.

I sat on this chair. I rocked it forward and back to test the chair’s sturdiness. Then I hoisted it back up to the high shelf and gave my butt a cootie-cleansing shimmy.

I wondered if there was some kind of five-second rule I could apply to my germy pants. I guess it would have to be a 25-second rule because I'd tried to be ok with really sitting on the mystery-spackle, not just hovering.

Remember that episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force when Master Shake sits on a dirty toilet seat and becomes infected with mind-controlling hypnogerms?
I was a little afraid. I longed for a paint roller soaked in hand-sanitizing gel that I could casually apply to my general buttock area in the store parking lot before I sat in my car.

Problem was that earlier that afternoon I’d spied the perfect dining table in a fancy furniture store’s clearance basement. Before I made my move, I needed to weigh the cost. I cruised a “gently used” furniture shop, which didn’t have the kind of round, white, retro-yet-futuro table I wanted.

One thrift store housed the sad, stained chair. The second one had Gospel praise music on full blast, and I knew one of the songs from my Evangelical heyday. The Gospel praise store did have a funky old dinette set. The manager observed my Giddyap Rollicking phase of chair testing, which advanced this time to Dreamy Repose. He offered to knock 10% off the price. One of the turquoise vinyl chairs wouldn’t have passed Giddyap. But the dealbreaker was the chair with split vinyl patched with a thick stripe of clear tape.

I’ve passed through a new threshold in my life. I can’t do clear tape as a furniture repair strategy anymore.

I’m a card-carrying Thrippie, so little hearts cascade from my eyes when I see “clearance” or “seconds,” “irregular,” or, lo, “thirds.”

But the Thrippie creed involves calculating an item’s real value. Will I use it? And, considering my few homemaking/husbandry skills, does this item work?  It was difficult to pare down my belongings before this move to Spokane; will this item just rebuild my Beloved Stores of Clutter?
And, newest criterion: Do I love it? Will this shirt/chair/dish/boondoggle keychain make me happy to see it in my apartment every day, especially those cold cloudy days that are my Pacific Northwest destiny?

So I bought the white round retro spaceship dining table and two decommissioned floor-model chairs from the fancy store’s clearance basement. They look great. And I did buy a white retro diner-ish chair from the Gospel store. The chair is discolored, but still cushy but svelte, and it fits right in with its fancier chair cohort.

I’ve detected no ill effects from sitting on the Throne of Filth. Maybe love is good for the immune system.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Love Going to Home Depot With Writers

By the way, Harmony (of Indie fame), keeps a killer blog, This Old Blarg, about the blood, sweat, tears, and paint chips of a newbie homeowner. Me, I’m renting, as always. I can neither commit to buying a new coffee pot nor bring myself to cart home a thrift-store one (more on this later).
But in her new abode, Harmony faces mold and snarly plumbing with wit, smarts, and high-octane Thrippie vim & vigor. Pen in one hand, caulking gun in the other—she’s a superhero! Read along!

But Really Now, What Is A Thrippie?

Let’s Start with the Galore! Part
If you google “galore,” you get bunches of hits (Pets Galore, Mullets Galore, Backgammon Galore, and I’m just skimming the surface here).
I like the sound of “galore,” so reason enough to cling to it (says the poet part of me). But the etymologist in me also grooves: “galore” stems from an Irish Gaelic word for “enough” or “plenty” (which are, in fact, really different words to me, but I like that “galore” has modest roots.)

What is a Thrippie?
My friend Harmony teaches middle and high school, and students once told her they’d labeled her style “indie.” We weren’t entirely sure what that meant, but the connotations were positive: independent, alternative, nonconformist, quirky.

Until I met my friend Harmony, I’d never had a friend who exulted like I do in Big Lots value-pack underwear or dented, discounted cans of diced tomatoes. One sunny afternoon in Utah, on the way to Thrift Town, we debated the proper term to describe the look we were going for with our recreational bargain-hunting:

Thrifty + Indie = Thrindie? Like an ancient Greek poetic form?
Thrifty + Yuppie= Thruppie? Slang for a particular kind of vomit, say the kind induced from the wares of a good food cart gone bad? And, what’s more, do yuppies even exist anymore unless preserved in the amber of the 1980s?
Thrifty+Teacher=Threacher? Sounds like 1. A Zombie’s nerdy, distant cousin with whom he’s required to exchange Christmas presents  even though he and Threacher haven’t seen each other in person for like three years and have approximately zero common interests. 2. Featured in venues like the Harriet Carter catalog, a plastic device with a grippy thing or a claw at the end that extends your reach, so you can adjust someone’s Snuggie from across the room, or nudge the Roomba when it gets stuck under the armchair.
I don’t think of myself as hippie, or rather only 1/3 hippie. I have owned more than one pair of Birkenstocks, and many bandanas, and not so long ago a corduroy sweepy spangled Earth mother skirt that I actually taught a real class in. I heart patchouli. I went to Burning Man once.

With this term, I’m banking on my hippie cred. Maybe hippie is like the masculine plural nouns of romance languages—as one chico can grammatically override 100 chicas, so a little bit of hippie cancels out the suit I bought at Nordstrom.

So Thrippie it is, until I think of a better label. If I’ve learned nothing else as an English major three times over, it’s that language is a flimsy tool, but it’s one of the best we’ve got. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Moving To A New City Reveals My Priorities

I’ve just moved to Spokane, Washington, after a few years in Utah, and I’m staring at boxes: a big box of SHOES, ditto BAGS, 10 cubic feet of BOOKS, a few boxes of KITCHEN, and (testament to my short attention span & general impatience with moving): BLANKETS AND STUFF, CDS AND STUFF, and the laconic and unhelpful STUFF.

I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff.

I’m starting a Big Girl Job, so I’ll have a little more cash to throw into my stuff. My default interior design concept has been “bus station,” and I’d like to up my game. Mostly I’m trying to trick myself into thinking that buying furniture can be as fun as buying shoes! It just costs a lot more (usually). And you can’t lift these big shoes yourself! Or put them together without crying a lot!

This blog is in part about being a Thrippie, and I know I need to define my terms, but suffice it for now to say that a Thrippie is thoughtful about her stuff. This thoughtfulness conforms to the Kenny Rogers wisdom of knowing when to hold and when to fold, when to scrimp and when to avert your eyes from the price tag. Yes, a Thrippie is thoughtful in the sense of “This only costs three dollars, but will I really wear it?” (a lesson I’ve only recently begun to take to heart). But Thrippies also think about what our stuff means and how we use it to shape our lives.

Roland Barthes (in Mythologies), and Guy Davenport (in The Geography of the Imagination), and other coolios have a lot to say about investigating and decoding our artifacts. But at the moment, those books are packed away, and it may take me a while to find them.