The strip is the tightly controlled stream of products offered to us under the guise of choice - the mothership of cloned box stores, food chains and movie theatres that suck the unsuspecting locals of their individuality.
By Darren Kaulback
Published May 15, 2009
My wife, Ruth, and I recently decided to go out to a local restaurant. It's a great spot with lots of a character.
As we enter, we're promptly greeted by an enthusiastic hostess who says, "I love my skirt. I wear it all the time."
I quickly process this information, trying to decipher the code. Living in a city's downtown core, I frequently have unusual conversations with people I don't know about personal issues. But this time, in this setting, something was different.
After a brief moment of silence, Ruth (losing her slightly perplexed expression) returns the seemingly odd comment with delight and affirmation. Then the picture comes into focus for me. The hostess is referring to clothing she recently purchased from the thrift store that my wife runs.
I say, "That's great," not knowing for certain if she's referring to the skirt she's actually wearing at the moment or not. Either way, I know it's not cool to stare.
Then I realize that I'm wearing "previous-loved" clothing as well: my shoes, my jeans, my shirt. So I contribute this information to the conversation. And that's what I love about where I live. In this world of high style and pretense, in my community, it's OK to declare openly that you shop at a thrift store without fear of judgment or ridicule.
I'm not much of a shopper. I guess this puts me in the stereotypical male category - minus any metrosexuals in the room. But somehow, now with Ruth's new reign as the "North End Queen of Thrift," a new window has opened for me into this world of eclectic treasure.
The thing that makes me hate the whole modern shopping experience, i.e. Wal-Mart and any number of soulless, sterile, degraded (I'll stop here because my list is quite long) stores is that nothing there is special. In big box stores, you can look down an aisle and see neatly conforming sections of the same mass-produced stuff organized in tight rows - not unlike the view of a suburban landscape.
For me, in my newfound frontier, there are surprises lurking around every corner. No one is making aesthetic judgments on what I might find beautiful or meaningful - even though someone else may think it the most hideous garment or trashy trinket ever conceived. Does that matter?
There's such a great freedom in escaping "the strip" (and I don't mean the gaudy pink and black gentlemen's club around the corner).
For me, the strip is the tightly controlled stream of products offered to us under the guise of choice. Go to any strip or shopping district, in any town, in Canada, in the US, and you'll find the same mothership of cloned box stores, food chains and movie theatres has landed to suck the unsuspecting locals of their individuality.
I'm not asking anyone to downgrade their appearance or standard of living. If you haven't darkened the door of a thrift store, you might be surprised at the quality of goods that people cast off.
It really supports the cliche of "one (wo)man's garbage is another (wo)man's treasure." (And no, this is not a paid endorsement by the Thrift Industry. Believe me, now that I have the freedom of my own blog, I don't say if if I don't live it.)
What I am saying is that we have options.
Not everyone's going to jump on the "green happy wagon." If we could encourage a culture of purging rather than hoarding, there'd be enough stuff for all of us - for those who need brand new and for those who don't. It's a great way of stimulating the local economy and curbing the production of more stuff.
(This was first published on Darren's blog Raise a Little Green.)
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