Today I got to wake up in my mother-in-law's cozy guest room and sleep in a little, since the first store of the day is just down the street.
I have to admit, I've been there every single time I visit her many times before. I love browsing at this store because it has such a sense of whimsy and humor about it. The manager Al decorates the checkout area with fun signage and clever things from the store that always make me smile. And their display window is always dressed up for the season with funny stuff-- a sure bet for a giggle every time I come.
I walk in and immediately start my research back in t-shirts, where I'm half expecting to find some pizzaria tees, and definitely expecting to find some Eagles jerseys. The Eagles don't let me down, including several bearing the proud stains of game day chili-dogs past, and surprisingly there's more New York souvenir shirts than I thought there would be.
Sometimes going through this section can be like seeing old ghosts, and this one stopped me in my tracks. A vintage souvenir tee from sometime pre-9/11, showing the Twin Towers in all their skyline glory along the Statue of Liberty.
I take a stroll through knick-knacks where there's a stack of photo frames with photos still in them. A yearbook photo, a prom picture of the same teenager holding hands with his date.
I never quite understand why people donate things like this, it seems so sad. But at the same time, it's an interesting way to meet the people that live around here.
That's right about the time I meet Ken and Becky, who have just found a fun Phillies t-shirt, playing off the Coke logo that reads "Choke" in reference to a game against the Mets. They say they love the "thrift store song" that a daughter introduced them to, tough she's not much of a thrifter herself. Ken says they once even played it on his cell phone as they walked into a thrift store.
I imagine customers in a store going wild (like in the video) in slow motion as Ken and Becky walk in wearing fur coats.
Ken says he wasn't a thrifter until his friend took him to a Goodwill to look around about two years ago. "I found a pair of new Wolverine boots," he said.
He was hooked.
They make a great thrifting team, I can tell, and talking with them only confirms my suspicions. They say they take photos of stuff on their cell phones and text them to each other when they're on opposite sides of the store and sometimes post them on Facebook.
And like me, they like visiting stores wherever they go.
"We went to visit family in Delaware and went thrift shopping," he says.
I also meet Sharon, who says she somes several times a week. "It's one of my hobbies," she says. Today's discount color is yellow, so she's looking to score some half-off goodies. "If I can use it it makes me really happy."
I leave with the Twin Towers tee and head back to my mother-in-law's for a bite of lunch before heading to Delaware.
About an hour later I'm crossing the Delaware River (for the second time this trip) and scouting out the store in Wilmington.
I know Joe Biden's a donor at the stores here, and I'm curious to see what may have come from his closet.
As usual, I head right to the tees, where I find some possibly-from-Uncle-Joe epic shirts.
One has a happy face and says "Happiness is a Republican Majority."
Another has a fist drawn on it and says, "Chuck Norris Approved."
A third, from the movie The Hangover 2, has a photo of Zach Galifianakis and says, "Please Address Me As Captain," which I can't help but picture Joe wearing while kicking back with a beer the White House.
The last one, I'm SURE had to have come from his donation bin-- one that shows a Trans Am and says, "Show 'Em The Bird" -- which immediately reminds me of one of the funniest Onion pieces ever done on my favorie gaffe-prone VP washing his T-bird in the White House driveway.
I'm glad to know we share a love of Goodwill!
I meet Lee, who the employees here tell me is a regular. And a jokester. Lee doesn't let me down.
I tell him about the project and he tells me he's a photographer, too. He's found lightstands(!) and camera bags(!) here for super cheap.
Between questions and answers he's doing magic tricks and telling me jokes. First a half-dollar coin appears from no where, then it's gone and discovered inside my coat sleeve.
I ask what he found today. He tells me "I found a henway."
A henway? What's a henway?
I feel dumb for not knowing.
He tells me, "I don't know-- about five pounds, I guess."
Then he makes my pen seemingly turn to jello in his hands-- then shrink-- only to be recovered fully and put back in my hands.
"I work with children, so I'm a kidder," he says.
He also buys and sells things online that he finds here. He recently found 1980's era Legos, still in the package that he says are worth an awful lot. And today he's found a Vitamix mixer, and when he tells me how much he paid, I'm incredibly jealous I didn't see it first.
"I like recycling and saving," he says. "It's a treasure hunt."
I get back on my research lap around the store when I hear his voice again. From across the tops of the racks he reappears.
"You know they say the memory is the second thing to go," he tells me.
Which begs the question-- what's first?
"I don't know-- I can't remember!" he retorts.
As I head to the checkout with a few cute things I found, I thank the employees for introducing me to Lee.
One of them recounts a time when she had a long line at the register that was making her a bit anxious, and Lee was there to save the day with jokes and tricks for his fellow customers with children-- who were getting a bit impatient with the wait.
This just proves my point that thrift stores are some of the friendliest places you'll ever go.
I get back in the car for the final leg of the day's drive-- and type in the GPS the address to my HOUSE!
I have to say, if you were driving alongside me today on I-95 you would've been witness to some of the most epic behind-the-wheel dancing I've ever done and felt that cuing up this song on my iPod was pretty apropos after a long three weeks on the road.
I have to say though, I did lean forward a bit when I pulled up to the house, although there was no finish line tape across the street. And instead of celebrating with an epic collapse, I instead went inside for an epic hug-out session with Quincy.
I still have a Goodwill store in Maryland to visit tomorrow, so I'll post that here tomorrow night, but as of now-- the lower 48 are COMPLETE!!
All I have left now are Alaska and Hawaii-- which-- I'd love to do ASAP. So perhaps tomorrow will include some lottery ticket-buying.
Once I parked, I unpacked the car into the living room--which currently looks like a thrift-hurricane has hit it. There was some epic tag-popping going on as I got things sorted.
I'm so glad to be in my own bed again with a little downtime to settle back into my regularly scheduled life before I go back to work on Monday.
If you've been calling or emailing while I was away and I haven't gotten back with you, I just want to say I REALLY appreciate your support and I'm sorry I just didn't have the brain space to spare for much other than the projet while I was away. Hopefully I can catch up this week.
Tonight I leave you from my favorite red chair with a stack of utility bills at my side and a sleeping, dreaming dog gently kicking at my feet in DC.