Sometimes, what starts as innocent curiosity can turn into manic obsession. It was around my second day in Portland that I initially laid eyes on a parking lot full of depressed-looking furniture. It was dark outside and we drove by it quickly, but I could have sworn I saw an Eames shell chair out of the corner of my eye. I quickly looked around for street signs so I could privately catalog the location of what looked like a club meeting for neglected chairs. That’s a club I would readily join.
We passed this parking lot a few times before I was able to actually remember the general location, and a few more times before I realized that the lot belonged to a dumpy-looking thrift store not much bigger than a trailer. The promising parking lot, I realized, wasn’t really the store at all, but the store’s vomit. Its overflow. I know some people like slam dunks or field goals or holes in one, but for me, such a scene is essentially the most exciting thing in the world.
On the morning of Day 11, I woke up a few hours earlier than our normal regimen called for (wake up at noon, work n’ stuff, go to bed around 2, repeat), feeling restless. That thrift store was calling my name. So I threw on some clothes, stole Chandler’s keys and drove there myself, cackling maniacally on the way as the wind lashed through the car, wafting in the sweet aroma of going rogue.
I got there around 9:30. The sign sporting the name “Grandma’s Funky Furniture,” featuring a buck-toothed painting of an elderly woman, said they opened at 10. There were two shell chairs sitting in the fenced-off parking lot, both looking pretty rough but it was hard to tell from my distance. I parked the car across the street and walked the perimeter of the lot, scoping the place out a bit. Then I sat in the car and waited. And waited. And waited. 10 came and went. Then 10:30. Then I looked up the store on my phone, promptly called, and got connected to a super whacked-out answering machine. Around 11 my stakeout was getting boring and my bladder was about to burst, so I drove to Starbucks. Then I came back. Still no signs of life.
Some might say you know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re practically holding vigil outside a thrift store, slurping coffee while your bloodshot eyes remain fixated on the door lest somebody should spontaneously appear, but I would urge them to consider that they should shut the fuck up and leave me alone. Which is essentially what I told Chandler, in gentler language, when she called wondering where the hell I’d gone and when I was coming back so we could go get some breakfast.
“But they have to open sometime,” I reasoned. “Sure their sign says 10, but loads of people are late to work everyday. That doesn’t mean they never come. They just struggle with punctuality.”
Eventually, the store owner’s father drove by, wondering if I wanted any help. After his calls also went unanswered, I convinced him to let me have the guy’s cell number, trying to look as sane and rational as possible as I programmed it into my phone with all too much excitement. A lead. After leaving a message and heading back to Chandler’s place, the owner called me back. We agreed to meet two hours later.
As Chandler drove me back to Grandma’s Funky Furniture later on that afternoon after we ran a few errands, I began to wonder if I was wrong all along. There I was, perched in the front seat like a spoiled child, so excited about the possibility of getting my grubby paws on things I undoubtably don’t need that I’d hardly considered that this thrift store might be terrible. Maybe my radar was off, and it would actually be as junky as it looked, like some glorified yard sale that had gone on for a few too many weekends.
Luckily, I am almost never wrong when it comes to thrifting. Put another way, I am nearly always right.
Chandler found this great little two-tone dresser for her bedroom for $45. It was filthy but is in pretty good shape under all the gunk.
We also found this cool woven shade that will make a perfect light fixture in the hall (we have other plans for the current light, don’t worry!) for $10.
And I found some treasures of my own. These babies are coming back to New York with me, even though they have to be shipped. I don’t care. I love me some shell chairs. Also, I’ve never had an armed one before and always wanted one, so I deserve it.
The kicker? I talked down the prices so we got it all for $100. Which puts my chairs at around $25 each. Sure they’re completely filthy and nasty now, but I’m so excited to clean them up and make them all sparkly and wonderful.
On the night of Day 11, with my two new shells sitting in Chandler’s second bedroom awaiting their trip to the opposite coast, suddenly painting miles of wood trim didn’t seem so bad after all.
Thank you, Grandma. Whoever you are.