The Seeker | Essay | Chicago Reader

The Seeker 

A thrift-shopper's diary

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The first and second floors of this huge store are showcases for the usual selection of decent furniture, collectible tchotchkes, and shimmering prom dresses. But the basement, which smells like dirty auto parts, harbors a treasure trove of bizarre goods, most of which teeter on the useful-useless axis. Hospital beds. Dented, half-empty paint cans. Car seats. Gynecological exam tables. Boxes of envelopes from an accounting firm. I'm captivated by the ziggurats of putty-colored PC components shrink-wrapped together for $100. Instant art or just obsolete debris? Could I use 25 shiny metal cans? This basement is like the sheds and unkempt garages of a hundred mechanically inclined forever-puttering pack rat uncles. I was pondering how male this basement seemed when I noticed a man reclining inside one of the assembled pup tents, reading a book. The image seemed so right.

I chose to believe he had found comfort, away from the frills of the party dresses and the carefully arranged living room furniture of the upper floors, in this big subterranean toolshed.

Store quirk: This is a lovely art deco building, but the first-floor interior has been slathered in a most jarring shade of orange paint.

Salvation Army Thrift Store 509 N. Union, 312-738-4360

Hours: 10 to 6 every day except Sunday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dorothy Perry.

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