Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

When do kids stop trick-or-treating nowadays? Yesterday a mom I was chatting with at choir pickup made reference to the idea that this could be her daughter's last year of hitting the streets in pursuit of a sugar high. Her daughter is 10, like mine, but mine doesn't show any sign of giving up Halloween, though she has shown some discomfort with the whole dressing-up-in-costume thing. Granted, she was never a kid who liked to disappear into her disguise, with full makeup or rubber masks or odd, uncomfortable clothing, but now more than ever, she likes a costume that's basically still her—but better. For example, this year she is Katniss Everdeen, which is basically being herself but with a braid and a mockingjay pin and more boyish clothes and a bow slung across her back. And most important: a really excellent jacket.

I guess I was pretty much the same way. Somehow, a costume violated my dignity. I think this photo of me as a leopard (or really, a half leopard, half 1980s East Village chick, given the tights, cutoffs and boots) was taken when I was 9 years old. I remember getting those cowboy boots for my first horseback riding lessons, which I started taking at that age. You might think my mother made that costume, but I'm reasonably certain it was thrifted—my mom was always very vocally opposed to store-bought costumes back in the day, but I don't really remember her hand-crafting my brother and I costumes either. But then again, the Superboy and Supergirl costumes below have a touch of the DIY about them, don't they? Because the store-bought costumes I remember from the ’70s were the kind that just consisted of a cheap mask and a plastic apron/smock-type thingie that basically had a picture of what you were supposed to be on the front (the Hulk or Raggedy Ann or whatever). My mom didn't like those and hence we were pretty snooty about them too.

The only costume I remember wearing after the leopard was a "beatnik" outfit I assembled from my actual 9th-grade wardrobe, much of which came from a thrift store or head shop. I wore it to march with the high school marching band in our town Halloween parade, and that's the last time I remember wearing a costume as a kid (that was also my first and last year in marching band).

Anyway, the real reason I'm posting those photos—especially the leopard photo—is to marvel over our full-on 1970s kitchen, with the avocado green linoleum, the faux brick wall covering (I don't know what to call it—I mean, it wasn't wallpaper) and that crazy rice-paper lampshade, which I imagine was totally flammable and inappropriate for the kitchen. And eek, those cabinets, all of it long gone as that room has undergone many transformations over the years, but at this point it was newly expanded: the area where I'm standing used to be a pantry and a mud room and we were all very pleased with our official eat-in-kitchen.

Just a few snapshots of that 70s childhood of mine, which I've posted about here, and I think about often, as I peruse the vintage decorating books I collect and sell in the etsy shoppe.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More things I didn't buy: special self-helpful edition

I didn't buy this copy of L. Ron Hubbard's Self Analysis though I picked it up, put it down, picked it up, put it down, more times than you'd expect from an unself-helpful atheist like myself. The fox terrier just really threw me—I'm a big fan of The Thin Man's Asta—and in all the exposés I've read over the years about Scientology, I don't recall any references to those clever wirehairs. Obviously this was a vintage book yet there was no date—confounding! I didn't buy it; perhaps that was a mistake. Three dollars just seemed like a lot to pay for something that I remember being passed out for free in Times Square.

Holy crap. This guy. Right? How is it possible that anyone would buy a self-help book with this gleefully leering cover image? Even if it were about something as innocuous as gardening—and didn't have the icky pun for a title—I'd run away. But Your Erroneous Zones was apparently a massive best-seller; more evidence that the ’70s were different times indeed. Yes, this was at the same estate sale as the L. Ron Hubbard book. Obviously the departed was a bit of a seeker; here's hoping he/she found what he/she was looking for.

The seeker was also something of a hoarder. Who else would save an unopened pack of Carter's girls' ruffled leg briefs long after they could've possibly fit anyone in the house? Why weren't they donated to Goodwill decades ago? And yeah, my rule of never buying undergarments at an estate sale applies even to undergarments that are "new in package."

Friday, October 25, 2013

A page from my book: the beer can table

Theoretically, I'm going to do this every Friday—feature a page from one of the books currently on the virtual shelves at my etsy shoppe (and in the literal bankers boxes in my guest room). Thanks to my days as a magazine editor, I tend to come up with all these ideas for recurring bloggy featurettes and departments that I never really follow through on because unlike during my days in magazine-land, I don't have a managing editor to prod me.

So for what it's worth, here's the first, and possibly last, installment, from a book I've previously touted on this blog as the best craft book of all time! Which is saying something, because back in the 1970s in particular, crazy-awesome craft books were de rigueur. If you want to bring that artsy-frathouse vibe to your home, I suggest you check out page 27 of Better Homes and Gardens Treasures From Throwaways and start stockpiling those empties (and definitely heed step one—rinse those cans of Miller High Life thoroughly before you commence construction).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What your book collection says about you: posthumous edition

If you google some variation of the phrase "what does your book shelf say about you," you will find a ton of goofy articles on dating websites about the meaning you can read into your prospective love interest's choice in reading material. You will also find a lot of articles ruing the ascendancy of e-books—how can we judge a book reader by his/her book covers when all we have to go on is their choice in Kindle or iPad case? Whenever I ponder this subject, like when I'm flipping through a shelter magazine and taking note of what weighty tomes the prop stylists selected for a photo shoot, I always think of that great scene in Play It Again, Sam when Woody Allen is arranging the books and LPs in his apartment in a studied-casual way contrived to impress his blind date. Everyone has been guilty of doing that at some point, right?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff because I spend a lot of time digging through the book collections of the recently deceased, imagining what their lives were like based on what they read (or didn't read—like all those bibles and Readers Digest Condensed collections with spines uncracked). I've written about it here and here and, well, all over this here blog. Sometimes the books line the shelves exactly as their owner left them. Sometimes the books have been picked through by family members, dealers, estate sale company staff et al., and only the rejects remain, spread across a table or two. Such was the case with this melancholy assortment that I instagrammed at a sale a few weeks ago. Thereby hangs a tale of housewiferly frustration and fantasy, no? Sheesh. I wonder how many Amazon cloud libraries look just like this, but will never be pawed through and judged at a future estate sale.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Christmas is coming (and there's nothing we can do about it)

Last week, someone on my Facebook feed posted an awful statistic: There are only 10 Saturdays left till Christmas. After I recovered from an anxiety attack, I had to stop myself from immediately unfriending her since she is otherwise a perfectly nice person and it's not her fault that there's only 10 Saturdays till Christmas (wait, it must be 9 now!) nor is it her problem that at least least half of those Saturdays are already thoroughly booked. 

How does it always come to this? Every year, I vow that I will be one of those people who has all their planning and shopping done by October and every year, I'm paying exorbitant shipping for not only all the last-minute gifts but for the Christmas cards that always end up being rebranded as New Year's cards. Maybe this will be the year we just go with Martin Luther King Day cards. 

The only holiday-related task I've managed to accomplish before Halloween (note: we still don't have Halloween costumes and our first party is this Sunday) is to toss some holiday books up on the shelves of my etsy shoppe. Check 'em out, if you like lots of fun, inspiring photos of old-school Christmas crafting, cooking and all-round merrymaking, midcentury style. It might just take your mind off our dwindling supply of Saturdays...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More things I didn't get: obsolete technology redux

You all know I have a weakness for obsolete technology, for the dinosaurs of the pre-digital age, and it often takes all the self-discipline I can muster to resist buying stuff that tends not to work and serves no purpose (unless dust magnet counts as a purpose). The cute Smith-Corona Coronet, above, was fairly easy to pass up given the $75 price tag (hello? what?). And I've been pretty good about limiting myself to just one vintage typewriter, my super-rad Smith Corona Super G, unless you count that powder blue Smith-Corona Galaxie 12 in my garage (anyone want it? They are a bitch to ship). 

I did not buy this Atari 400 "home computer" because it was part of a box lot that was going for a few hundred dollars, and I wasn't really sure what the market value would be. I also knew the value didn't matter, that it would end up in the garage because Lindsay, who became visibly emotional when I showed him this pic, would never let me resell it. 

Ah, the Kodak Carousel. As I've observed in the past, there really does seem to be one tucked away in the closet of every midcentury tract house in town. I can't even begin to fathom what kind of camera I would need to produce slides, and if it's possible to still make slides, or would I just have to buy someone's old vacation slides and view those? I do love a good slide show. Maybe I will break down and buy one next time...

I didn't buy any of these cameras. I see so many cameras and we have so many cameras, I can't see adding to our collection (the two Polaroid Land cameras, the two Lomos, the Lumix, the Nikon, the Olympus, the various underwater cameras belonging to the children, the two videocameras...I'm sure I'm leaving some out) when all I ever use is my iPhone.

I didn't buy this portable Zenith Solid-State turntable and radio—oh, wait a minute, yes, I did! I cannot resist a $5 turntable, no matter how filthy it is, and the radio works like a dream! Radio may be a fogey medium, but it's not obsolete (yet).

Friday, October 4, 2013

I just can't quit you, books.

Just when I vow to suspend all used-book-buying endeavors until all used books have been profitably sold, comfortably shelved or generously donated, two library sales and one tantalizing estate sale crop up on one weekend and so here I go, off to the races once again, hoping that I find some finds on par with these volumes, randomly pulled from my stacks. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What the kids scored: Polly Pocket, the Book of Lists, rainbow suspenders and so many cats

This is the face of my younger daughter when she learns that she has to accompany me on a thrifting expedition, but it's definitely not how she looks when she makes a great score—like those rainbow suspenders she's wearing, which are straight out of the Mork & Mindy era (I took this picture at art camp; her face is a reflection of the searing San Antonio summer temperature, not of her feelings about Robin Williams). She Morked out for a good two weeks after finding these suspenders at my favorite church-basement thrift shop in NJ; she even watched a few episodes on You Tube and mastered all the Ork lingo. Now I'm on the lookout for one of those puffy down vests.

I had to bring both of my recalcitrant daughters to a sale on a fancy old-school street around the corner from our house—thank god they had two vintage Bluebird Polly Pockets playsets of equal merit, perfect bribe fodder. One kid got the house set and the other got the vet's office. I'm too old to appreciate Polly Pocket, but these are cute, and sort of strange, and apparently collectible.

I am most definitely not too old to appreciate The Book of Lists, published in 1977, with which I bribed my elder daughter at a recent estate sale. She was absorbed by it for days. We'll see if she keeps returning to it the way I used to: I remember checking this book out at my local library so. many. times. My favorite list? "14 Preserved Anatomical Parts of Renowned People," because it notoriously features Napoleon's one-inch penis, alleged to have resembled a seahorse. Now I can't pick the book up without being sucked in by "Shoe Sizes of 20 Famous Men," "16 people Who Have Taken Opium," "10 Famous Librarians" and "9 Nations That Can Blow Us Up in 7-10 Years," including, improbably, Finland, Romania and Yugoslavia, but also Iran and Pakistan. Everyone should have a copy of this book in their bathroom, along with The Andy Warhol Diaries (but that's a post for another day).

My kids, particularly the younger one, are cray-cray-loco for cats. Ours died a year and a half ago, and while his robotic litter box and cat fountain remain in the garage, still I am unable to commit to a new cat. So I've been filling the void with cat books ever since. At this sale, my daughter scored not one but three excellent cat books. We just finished reading Socks. I have already celebrated Beverly Cleary on this blog, but I didn't realize that her remarkable powers of empathy somehow extended to the feline species as well. How does she do it? That woman is a national treasure. Reading Socks nudged me that much closer to admitting a new Socks into our lives. Don't tell my kids I said that.
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