That Goodwill Feeling

I first entered a Goodwill at University when, like every other student, I wanted fun things but hadn’t the money to purchase them. At the time my budget for alcohol was almost twice that of my food, giving you an idea of my then priorities.

Before that time Goodwill and shops like it retained an ignominious reputation if not an entirely rebarbative one. Second hand items are rarely prized in wealthy capitalist societies and certainly not among their middle classes and beyond. There is the stigma of poverty, the irrational fear of lice, and the distrust of old and used things. Fortunately I think these ridiculous stereotypes have begun to wane of late but there are still those who will raise an eyebrow after being told where I’ve purchased some of my nicer acquisitions, even after having complimented me on them.

After University I stopped making regular runs to second-hand stores, primarily Goodwills. There had been a time when I scoured the landscape for them, hopping from depot to depot and collecting almost indiscriminately the many excruciatingly cheap wonders they had to offer.

On one of my first runs to Goodwill I found a black fitted YSL button-down for a dollar, mint condition. If you aren’t familiar with that brand, look it up. I also discovered a very cheap way to purchase wine glasses, about a dollar a pop, immediately setting me apart from my seemingly cheap friends who had been relegated to drinking their plonk out of plastic cups or mugs. Can you say ‘losers’?

During my tenure at my particular Uni I gained a reputation for having the chicest, if not classiest dorm room. Beset and bedazzled with ten dollar pieces of wooden furniture that looked anything but, most people assumed I had inherited these ‘heirloom’ pieces from relatives. And when it finally came time to say goodbye to college, it was just as easy to let go since I had scarcely paid a penny for the lot of it.

Having then left to teach English in South Korea I completely forgot about Goodwill and its kind, mostly because no such industry existed where I ended up. Korea didn’t ‘do’ second hand stores and neither did Russia where I lived soon after. Russia, of course, did consignment which they turned into a kind of boutique fad in Moscow, but consignment is typically much more expensive for the simple reason that they pay their sources of goods and further, take only the pieces they can sell for top dollar.

When I finally returned to the United States, newly accoutered with a husband the necessity for furniture, I found myself in a quandary until I landed in an apartment in California that was situated directly across from a Goodwill. At first, stupid me, I didn’t realize how lucky I had gotten, but soon after I realized we had struck gold. Or rather, the ability to get what we wanted and keep our money.

With a living room, bedroom, and balcony that needed furnishing, we went straight to IKEA where we found most of life’s essentials without a stitch, but we certainly paid for it. As far as brands go, IKEA is not a bad place to get new things for reasonable prices but our wallets only stretched so far. For everything else we turned to Goodwill and I have to say, Pottery Barn and Bed&Bath, eat your hearts out.

Below are some of the concepts my husband and I put together, almost entirely from Goodwill acquisitions, including a thousand dollar Corvin mango-wood desk which we purchased for the humble price of one hundred.

In the below photo just about every single item you see was bought at our local Goodwill, from that bizarre green vase on the far left to the rope-seat stool on the far right next to the IKEA paper lamp (which, by the way, had I waited, I could have also gotten at Goodwill since one showed up for a quarter the price I paid for mine). The pictures are also second-hand, save the green one on the far left.

What was the grand total you ask? For the desk, the pottery, lamps, basket, figurines, dresser, mirror and yes, pictures…south of 250 dollars and mind you, the desk cost a hundred. That is basically a room for less than 250 dollars, all of it by the way might as well be brand new.

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Now for the balcony. Obviously the plants I acquired elsewhere, but all the rattan furniture you see, the center table, glass-top table and two chairs, wicker stand, as well as the round wooden table and painted wrought-iron stand are all Goodwill gotten. That includes the candles, the beautiful bowl they’re in, and several of the pots for the plants. How much was all this? Less than 150, all told. And mind you, it wasn’t a set. I purchased all these goods at two or three different Goodwill stories in the area. But it looks like one doesn’t it?

I dare say we are the envy of are modest apartment complex, passersby regularly gaze with unvarnished envy at our elegantly decorated hanging garden.

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These next two smaller concepts are mixed. In the first one we see a wrought iron giraffe, red pottery, and a marble statue centered on a malachite platform. All these figures, save the desk they are on, were Goodwill gotten and cost collectively less than 50 dollars, including the basket beneath them!

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I forgot to mention the Russian picture above is also, wait for it…GOODWILL GOTTEN!

In this next one we see a bronze rabbit and golden lamp on a stool. The rabbit I got elsewhere but the stool and lamp were Goodwill gotten. By the way, each came in a pair. So for 100 dollars I bought two wooden/iron bar stools with adjustable tops and two identical lamps, the other is in the bedroom.

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I could show more but it would take forever. The thing to remember about Goodwill is that most of their stuff really is crap. It is either old, useless, or really ugly – especially the clothes. But if you have the time and inclination, you can make some amazing finds at these stores and ones like them. My tips are to visit frequently (the best stuff goes fast), keep an open mind, and to do it with some friends. Trust me when I say that if you’re looking for artwork, pottery, or dining-ware and glasses, this is easily the best place to go for nice as well as cheap stuff. And remember, because much of what is left behind in these warehouses is old, you’ll never fail to find vintage pieces made unique by the time that has passed. Stop paying so much money for art decor at Pottery Barn. Just go to Goodwill.

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Take care of your fucking pet…A Guide

Recently I started working at a veterinary clinic as a technician in an attempt to bolster my chances of admittance to a proper vet-school. In the process I’ve had the opportunity to acquaint myself with all manner of pet-owners and the many standards, lack thereof, and views accompanying them.

[When I use the word pet I am referring largely to mammals and birds here, organisms of sufficient consciousness to warrant our deeper concerns for their wellbeing. Fish and reptiles, while also deserving of proper maintenance and care are not my primary subject in this article.]

Here in California, as one might expect, we are flush with antiscientific clientele who insist on refusing such guards against ticks and fleas as frontline and trifexis. Vaccines too are suspect and often refused entirely despite state laws demanding at least a rabies vaccination. Others still, despite the Louis Vuitton bag swinging from their elbow, are as miserly with their pet’s health as they might be donating to a random stranger. Worse yet, there are even those who, after one too many visits to the clinic decide rather to discard their animal companion than commit to the effort of reasonable life-saving alternatives.

I haven’t conducted a survey but I would say that for my clinic about one in six or seven appointments expresses a paranoid or even hysterical stance on the topic. But my contention is not only with the scientifically illiterate and conspiracy theorists but also with those individuals who, and unfortunately they are even more common place, treat their pets as though they were a plant or article of furniture.

As a result I’ve decided to create a guide for reasonable expectations of care and commitment for potential and current animal owners. I will also make it clear what I think of those people who fail to meet what I believe to be a minimum standard of care.

Standard 1 – Money

Pets are a financial commitment in the same way children are a financial commitment. Before acquiring a dog, cat or parrot you need to research the cost of their day to day needs and also the cost of their potential needs, such as emergent or exigent circumstances. I would even go so far as to say that if after purchasing the animal you don’t have another grand you could spontaneously drop on its care then you probably want to rethink whether or not you’re really ready for this very financial responsibility.

Some of you might have balked at that last line but consider this. I work at a standard veterinary practice and as a technician I not only perform the very routine tests we administer daily but I also run through cost estimates with all of our clientele. As a result I am intimately familiar with basic costs and can tell you with certainty that routine purchases like flea and tick medication and general diagnostic measures like blood tests and radiographs, all of which inevitably become a necessity at some point, could easily accumulate three digit expenses.

A dental on a dog or cat, especially if it requires extractions due to infection or decay, could range anywhere from 700 to 1200 dollars – assuming your doctors don’t cut you a break. All this being said, to mitigate these wallet crushing costs, I recommend pet insurance which, if purchased early, is both affordable and lifesaving.

Standard 2 – Time

If you don’t have time to walk dogs then don’t get one. If you don’t have time or aren’t inclined to change litter boxes, clean up the occasional mess, or run errands on behalf of your new found furry friend then again, don’t get one. Pets like dogs and cats are not like fish or plants where you can leave them unattended for days on end without concern for their physical or mental wellbeing. They require things of you. In the case of dogs this is simply the result of their breeding. Cats definitely don’t need you in order to survive but they do require your services in order to live well. In either case, the acquisition of something like a dog or cat requires that you invest a considerable amount of time in its care.

Standard 3 – Affection

It is easy to tell the difference between owners who show physical affection to their pets and those who don’t because of what they miss. People that clearly never touch their animals overlook the most obvious problems like cancerous masses while others notice lumps that even doctors will struggle to locate. This always indicates someone who loves on their pet versus someone who just leaves it in a corner to languish while they do whatever it is they are doing. If you’re someone who struggles to prioritize their time or exhibits narcissistic tendencies then pets aren’t for you. A couch is something you buy and then never deal with again, an animal is not. A T.V. is something one can spend time with when it is convenient, dogs and cats are not.

Animals like dogs and cats require physical affection, especially dogs. Without it they quickly become estranged from both their owners and people in general, making them hazards when in the general public. This, I feel, really should go without saying. After all, what’s the point of a fluffy cumquat creature if you’re not going to love on it?

This extends also to the medical sphere. Animals will develop issues that require medical attention, sometimes expensive medical attention. If you wouldn’t be willing to brook a scarring rash or a parasitical invasion, neither should your dog or cat. Remember that they can feel just as much as you can, and hoping their diseases resolve themselves for the benefit of your pocketbook is cruel, selfish and rebarbative. They depend entirely on the decisions you make and have absolutely no agency in curing themselves. In this sense, their life is literally in your hands.

Standard 4 – Research

Before you acquire your pet, research its needs. Research also the laws regarding it. Whether or not you’re a member of the anti-vaccine cult be aware that rabies vaccines are mandatory in most if not all states. It isn’t actually an option, nor should it be.

Things to consider researching include what breeds work best for you and your household, like which breeds suffer from the most debilitating diseases, which are best around children or for small apartments and solitary lifestyles.

It isn’t wise to get an animal you know nothing about or purchase a breed that routinely suffers from a battery of congenital disorders. In fact, I would even argue it is unethical to support breeds that suffer even in the best of health, like English bulldogs.  And if you’re in a ‘rescue kind of mood’ keep in mind that you could be surprised with expensive unforeseen medical bills, so make sure you know who you’re buying from, where the pets have been, and what to expect.

Lastly, learn about the preventative medicine available like frontline or trifexis before dismissing it. It is hypocritical to say that you would never subject your pet to ‘chemicals’ while at the same time subjecting them to all manner of life threatening and debilitating parasites and viruses.

America and Her Priorities: Foie Gras and Saudia Arabia

So this about does it for me. Apparently the people of California have a lot of time on their hands and absolutely no sense of priority.

Foie gras is actually a hot-button issue. Apparently because it involves force-feeding the animals to acquire the desired fattened liver. Now don’t mistake me. I find this unnecessary even though I’ve tasted foie gras, and it is awesome, but I could live without it. But between America’s over-priced healthcare system, our broken educational system, and the fact that Syria and Iraq threaten to become stateless to a bunch of maniacal psychopaths, I have to ask, really?

That this came to court means people worked very hard to make it an ‘issue’. Money was raised and spent, time was devoted, and politicians, lawyers, and all manner of offices were conscripted into the service of safeguarding the rights of water fowl.

Human intelligence, and this really does prove it ladies, gentlemen and everyone else, is cosmically overrated. Human character, ethics, all that jazz: vastly overrated.

Barack Obama couldn’t go to that rally about ‘free speech’ or whatever in France but he could show up for King Abdullah’s funeral and claim he is a ‘great leader‘. A great leader that systemically oppressed women, supported corporal and capital punishment for adulterers and homosexuals, and was, above everything else, a fucking theocratic dictator. Did I mention they still amputate limbs for robbery in that country? But he was a great leader. How he was distinguishable from Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran I don’t know, but apparently they’re very different. How he was better than Putin with regard to gay rights I have no clue, but according to the White House, he was.

See what I mean about people and priorities? See what I mean about human intelligence? Where is the outrage regarding this recent trip by Obama? Why don’t people ask why Saudi Arabia is courted by the leader of the free world but Iran is consistently snubbed by it? Some of us know why. It is because America’s policies abroad have nothing to do with fostering democratic principles but everything to do with opening markets and forcing the arms of those who refuse to cooperate.

But let’s not worry about that. The ducks in California need saving.

Random Rant about Plants

Time for a random rant. I really love plants and for many reasons. Now for the pet-peeve.

I have some things to say about people who buy plants and then leave them in those hideous plastic planters/pots they bought them in.

What the fuck is wrong with you? When you buy a hamster do you leave it wrapped in the box it came in? What about your cutlery? Do you leave that in the garish plastic it was packaged in too or do you have the five seconds and minimum of class it requires to remove it and put it the-fuck-away?

And what the hell is the god-damn point of buying the plant – a decorative piece if ever there was one – if you are just going to leave it languishing in a pot too small and so ugly that even a gnat wouldn’t use it.

Its called terra-cotta, fiberglass, porcelain, plaster, and glass mutha-fucka! And yes, if you insist on plastic because you’re a cheap piece of shit you can even get that in something other than shit-home-depot-brown!

And no you cannot use only terra-cotta. Terra-cotta is reserved for the conservatory, green-house, or patio bitch! And generally for plants that require a shit-ton of moisture and good drainage. So take five god-damn seconds and choose something that looks like it wasn’t scavenged from the dumpster of a fucking Walmart or the shit-pile behind a hobo collective.

And don’t tell me, ‘I kill everything, plants hate me!’. Bullshit! Plants don’t hate you. You’re just an idiot! There are about a thousand species of plant that can thrive in the worst of human habitations with minimum light, care, and water once every two fucking weeks. You can care for a dog, a baby, and remember your fucking skin regimen but you can’t pick up a god-forsaken watering can once every 14 days? Fuck you retard, and kill yourself cause a chimpanzee can handle this crap.

Is that a homophobic/sexist remark I just heard? Did you just seem to imply that gardening is only for the meek, mild, and feminine? Then I guess living in a cave among noxious fumes and harmful chemicals and a dirth of oxygen and fresh air is for the strong and masculine. AND STUPID! you big toolbag!

Plants are about survival mutha-fucka! They remove chemicals like ammonia and provide you, you selfish bitch, with clean, fresh air and abundant oxygen so your useless ass can breath easy. Not to mention the calm, elegance, and beauty they add to any drab interior.

No get the fuck up, and buy a plant and re-pot it in something your grandmother wouldn’t want to take a shit in!

Examples of beautifully potted plants…

Now isn't that lovely?

Now isn’t that lovely?