My first memory, age 4, is of where I was when JFK was shot: in a thrift store (the still-extant Hamper Shop of Lankenau Hospital, to be precise). It was the perfect place for my budget-conscious mom to find clothes for her three girls, including fancy dresses and white church gloves. At the time of the shooting, I was probably hiding under a clothing rack, bothering other shoppers. The news came to us via a small transistor radio that sat on the checkout table near the front door. The shoppers and volunteer workers — all women then and maybe still — leaned in close around that radio. And then they were weeping.
You’ll see that the call to reuse, recycle, hunt, gather, and bargain shows up frequently in my work, from a National Public Radio feature on my favorite thrift store, to the sociology of a dumpster dive, an obsessive unwillingness to throw out garden seedlings, and the ethos of trashpicking. A great reward comes from showing off the best finds and curbside treasures, so when I come across them, I’ll post them here (and would love to see other people’s).