Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good will

My friends, it's a sad blow.  A shock.  How could a place so vibrant and useful just vanish?  But that is what is happening, step by painful step.  It is being dismantled, and today, when I went in and saw the decimation, the empty racks and empty spaces, I nearly cried.

My local Goodwill store is closing.

People who know me understand what this means.  I started shopping at Goodwill at university and then as a starving actress.  During my decade as a married matron, I didn't step inside a Goodwill, though I did buy my work clothes - the things I needed to be the "wife of" at fancy events - at a designer resale boutique. 

But after my divorce and when I embarked on an expensive course of therapy, I could not afford new clothes or much of anything else.  There was a large Goodwill store around the corner from my home.  One day I popped in and came out with a snazzy red Calvin Klein jacket.  It was $5.99, and it stank of mothballs.  Five days hanging on my clothesline, and it was perfect.  A junkie was born.  

I am a low income person with an enormous wardrobe of fantastic clothes.  Not to mention furniture, chachkas, interesting bits and pieces, and gifts for all my friends.  There is almost nothing that Goodwill has not provided.  I drew the line at underwear and shoes, the shoes only because that really was something that my truly low income neighbours needed more than I. Besides, I and my giant feet do very well at Winners.  But otherwise, practically everything I wear, and a great deal that surrounds me in my house including the art on the walls, the dishes on the table and the carpets underfoot, come from the Goodwill store around the corner from my home.

Once I was hooked, I started to go often, then more often, then daily, and occasionally, at a really bad time, more than once a day.  I called it huntin' and fishin'.  Swing in, check out the stuff that has just come out at the back; swing by the books, the coats, the baskets, the material, the purses, the stuff the staff thought was exclusive and should be priced higher.  Trolling. Checking.  Eyeballing.  The key was spending as little time as possible to come up with something great.  I called it my daily orgasm.  Oh my God, what's that gorgeous thing in maroon satin?  It's ... it's a Balenciaga ballgown.  Talk about an orgasm.  Oh my God!

Suits, pants, skirts, coats.  Vintage thingies, crazy things, toys, books.  Lots and lots and lots of books, from antique ones to the latest bestsellers.  It helps that I live in a neighbourhood with its share of wealthy folks, who drop off things like that.  One day I might find an entire rack of designer clothes, obviously brought in by some woman who had tired of or outgrown them. They probably didn't fit me, or had enormous shoulder pads, or were stained.  No matter - the orgasm prevailed.  I'd buy them and find someone who wanted them.

This went on for many years.  Wayson Choy raves about the British Rail pea jacket that got him through the winters, not to mention the Armani raincoat.  My other friends the same, all with stories of things I've found.  Last night I went out with Jane, who was wearing a pair of Ann Demeulemeister pants that fit her perfectly.  All I know about Ann Demeulemeister, and that does not include the spelling of her name, is that she's extremely avantgarde and exclusive, and that these pants are perfectly cut for a size 2 like Jane.  What is this bizarre skill that allows me to see a flash of beige, grab the pants from a giant rack and say, "Hmm, I think these are Jane." I don't know where it comes from - maybe my grandfather Kaplan, who was in the shmatta business - and maybe Sam Leadbeater, one of my English great-grandfathers, who was an early recycler, a "rags, bones and bottles" man. 

All I know is that for years, I have been providing myself and all my friends with clothing and other stuff from that wonderful cornucopia on Gerrard Street. And now it's closing.  My friends who work there, Stefania, Wanda, Linda, Donna, Aggie,  Aya - they're going on unemployment or have taken other jobs.  I went in today to say goodbye, and even though there's almost nothing left, I found a beautiful piece of Liberty fabric I'm using already as a tablecloth, and a Harris tweed jacket.  I've been looking for a Harris tweed jacket that fits for a decade.  A parting gift from this wonderful store.

At the door, I ran into my friend Leslie, who owns Eclectisaurus, a wonderful vintage store nearby.  She introduced me to her friend as "one of the great amateur pickers."  I felt so honoured. 

But now - a new hobby.  I need a new hobby.  

I need a place to wear my Balenciaga ballgown.  

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