Thursday, February 21, 2008


It's been quite a good week for several reasons (including the previous post) though I'm fighting off a bit of a cold and it's sad to have to consider above-30-degrees-and-partly-sunny (predicted for this weekend) as "wonderful weather." You were, at some point, promised this blog would mention thrift shopping, so I'll say a few words here. This first photo isn't where Village Discount's castoffs go to die, it's a shot from my second visit to this abandoned factory in Gary, Indiana, last Sunday.

Sure, that's the kind of goofy photo an annoying quasi-hipster would put on Flickr with a title like Perhaps I've gotten a bit behind with the laundry, but it's actually a serious story; a scandal in Gary involving these clothes that were supposed to be donated to the needy, but are rotting here instead. People in poor countries would probably prefer nice new Patriots Super Bowl shirts...

Anyway, thrifting: I've been to every Village Discount Outlet in Chicago (I made a point of that the 2nd or 3rd year I was in Chicago) and I'll try to hit all their Chicagoland stores this year. I started last Friday with Store #12, 4635 N. Elston, as an excuse to visit a nearby 24-hour restaurant; I'll write about them when I've made it through all 12 of their daily specials (a $5.25 dinner everyday, $4.25 soup & sandwich every weekday).

Then, Saturday, after meeting up at the very nice bakery/cafe Flourish (spinach croissant wonderful, hot chocolate just okay), I headed out with Kate, who I hadn't thrifted with in ages, to a VDO she hadn't been to, Store #13, 4027 N. Kedzie. (The Christmas decoration above was spotted as we walked down from the Sheridan Red Line platform.) This store is IMMENSE, possibly the biggest Chicago VDO, but it doesn't seem to have a furniture department. I liked this Barbie doll with a homemade toilet-paper dress but opted to photograph it rather than buy.

My haul at Store #12 was sparse. I pretty much bought the usual at Store #13: a vintage men's cardigan, a flight training videotape, a vintage nightgown that still has its original salestags, a Sri Lankan cricket team polo shirt. I got all that and several actually practical items (pants and PJ tops) for about $20 total at both stores. I felt a little let down at finding so little; I'd once bought so much at the Kedzie store (my only $100+ thrift trip) that I had to take a cab home. But I meant to hit another VDO Monday for their half-off-everything Presidents' Day sale, then woke up Tuesday realizing I'd totally forgotten. I'm amused to see VDO allegedly has a Facebook page, but when I clicked on it from Google I got the message "Sorry, more people must join this network before a page can be created for it."

My cheap thrills for Saturday night were to be a hot drink and reading at Borders in Uptown, but I hadn't anticipated huge concerts at both the Aragon (something Mexican) and the Riviera (sold-out three-night Wilco shows). The Lawrence bus from Kimball to Broadway (22 blocks) took a little over an HOUR. It turned into one of those situations where I just decided to see how bad it'd get, rather than get out and walk. It's easy to do that when you're not in a hurry to be anywhere. I ended up with 10 minutes at Borders, and getting a shot of these dubiously parked cars in front of the Riviera.

The coffee/tea/caffeinated pop fast is going reasonably well. I've discovered that putting Pero coffee substitute, cinnamon, and cocoa in a cup, then adding the boiling water, creates something that's almost a beverage. And the "Mayan" hot chocolate at Moonstruck is my fave of theirs so far, I had to treat myself after two hours at the Apple Store Wednesday working on my photo library (which now seems even more messed up). And it's a thrill to learn that some diner/family restaurant/grill places give you a free second cup of hot chocolate (Cozy Corner in Logan Square, Michael's in Old Town).

In other cheap and chocolately news: I finally went to the Garfield Park Conservatory Chocolate Fest after years of meaning to check it out. It seems to always be held the Sat. and Sun. before Valentine's Day. That Sunday was the 0 degree/negative windchill killer day. I have a certain place that's getting demolished that I'm committed to documenting every single Sun. while it exists. And I'm committed enough to go in 0 degrees, though my exterior shots were cut short when I realized I could barely move my right hand (despite two pairs of gloves). I went into the building for "10 minutes" that wound up being an hour of sorting books that I was sure would be Dumpstered that week (actually they were still there last Sunday). I hid lots of them and took what I could reasonably carry. I'd probably have stayed a dangerously long time if I didn't need to get to the Fest at the Conservatory nearby.

It's only a dollar (suggested) to get into the Conservatory! Going directly from an hour-and-a-half in brutal cold to an overheated indoor garden was not good for me, or my camera (note foggy photo) but I endured, and was rewarded with plenty of free samples for my trouble. A few places were running out by then, and there were many sugar-saturated kids bouncing around, but I liked it. Some samples are wrapped, but at others, the gloved workers just drop a pile of chocolate pieces in your hand--so you have to eat them right away! Here's the link for the Garfield Park Conservatory; when I looked at it they note "The Conservatory Celebrates It's 100 Year Birthday!" and typo aside, it really is one of Chicago's treasures, a place I visit scadalously infrequently for how close I live to it.

The Conservatory/Central Park Green Line station, renovated a few years ago, is one of the cutest CTA stations, so I made sure to get a lot of shots of it. This one with the icicles might be my favorite winter Chicago photo this year (I thought people on Flickr would like it more, but the hand-with-chocolate ended up getting all the views). I went on, despite the horrific cold, to photograph a few other Green Line stations that day.

And that's a few cheap Chicago thrills. I've got to get out now and take care of some library business (I should have given up checking out library books for Lent; it's certainly a vice when I've got stacks of several hundred to-read books I own right here between the computer and the TV) and visit that restaurant for another daily special. (Note: this was written and posted Fri. 2/22 but says 2/21 because that's when I created the draft with the photos. I'm sure there's a way to reset the time and date and I'll learn it eventually.)

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