Because we have nothing better to do, Katherine and I drove to Santa Cruz on Friday to shop for vintage clothes. Lore has it, there's a magical place there called The Bargain Barn, where clothing is a mere $1 a pound. We planned to hit The BB, and then peruse the other shops in town. After an intensely boring drive, our only form of entertainment being a book entitled, "What's Your Favorite..." and then pages and pages of categories you could have a favorite in. I think we hit rock bottom with "What's your favorite witnessed act of Christian love. (I shit you not. Ask Katherine.)
We finally arrive, and as the BB doesn't open until 1, we go have lunch at a little bistro called 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, in which, if you drink all 99 beers available there over any amount of time, you get your name and a quote on a little plaque. Our favorite: William Kendall, August 16th, 1996, “I just came in to use the bathroom.”
Finally, we drive to the Bargain Barn, and after much query and walking, discover the mighty structure. Made of plastic siding and held together with luggies, the BB is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Skis, beds, stuffed animals, all strewn everywhere. It looked like the front lawn of a huge Appalachian family’s encampment. We paid a mighty $2.50 for the privilege of entering this sanctuary, obtained the coveted sticker of entry, and soon joined a group of about 20 others proudly wearing their stickers as well. The big room of crap smelled, as homeless punks, thrift store owners, and illegal immigrants rummaged through barrels of filth. Needless to say, I was not getting into this at all. Then, some “employee”, wearing a t-shirt with the hand-scrawled “favorite pet”, decided to blast The B52’s. It was deafening, but awesome. I started to sing along, and here I could sing at the top of my lungs. I began to rummage with fervor while harmonizing to “Deadbeat Club.”
Suddenly, I was finding great shit. And by great, I mean, worth well over a buck a pound. I started pulling sweaters and handbags and hats. People toss with abandon, clothes are everywhere, and it’s a madhouse with a soundtrack. You have to dig at the BB. Many items are appalling. Katherine found a cardigan with a used band-aid attached. But when you find a treasure, it’s a high like no other. My treasure was a huge straw hat, the brim at least 3 feet wide. It is fabulous and movie star-like and I immediately began to imagine myself wearing it in the South of France.
The next thing I know, there a woman with horrible gray roots screaming at Katherine and I. We’re apparently stolen from her “pile.” From our arms, she proceeds to grab “her” stuff, including my prized straw hat.
“I do this for a living. I wouldn’t be such a bitch, but this is my job. You can’t take from people’s piles. It’s just the way it works.”
I was livid. “Well, then. Anything else I can offer you? Do you like my handbag? Maybe this jacket? My grandmother’s earrings? Seriously, take all you want. Claim the earth as your pile…” I was really yelling, attempting to make a point over the B52’s. She tried to ignore me and walked away. All I could think of was my hat. My beautiful straw hat. Katherine tried to perk me up with used sequin jumpsuits, but I was still devastated over the theft of my accessory.
Then, the thief has the audacity to approach us again, and inquire as to her missing beads.
“I can’t hear you.” I say. “I’m too depressed about my hat.”
She looks up. “Oh, that big straw hat? Fine. You can have it.”
I violently shove her out of the way as I dive into her pile and retrieve the hat that was destined to be mine.
“Nope. We have no idea where your shitty beads are. Later, skank.”
And with that, we grabbed our wad of recovered garbage, me proudly wearing my hat all the way to the weigh station, and departed the Bargain Barn. My two armfuls of crap cost a mere 4 bucks. That hat is worth at least a million. Mission accomplished.