Tag Archives: stories

Tales From the Thrift Store

ThriftyI can’t remember the last time I went shopping for clothes. I still wear most of the same things I had in high school and hoped that my minimal wardrobe would last forever when I moved to Lincoln. After losing forty-two buttons, an unfortunate mishap involving bleach, and then proceeding to lose a significant amount of weight in Lincoln by switching to a diet of mostly oxygen and hydrogen, I realized finally that I’m starting to look a little weird in my old clothes. So yesterday, I trekked through the aftermath of Nebraska’s most recent snowstorm to a row of thrift stores downtown, just to take a look around.

For environmental and humanitarian reasons, I will only ever purchase used clothes. The damage has already been done, slave labor already used, Jesus has already cried his usual tears of blood, and at least fourteen MORE elephants won’t be killed in order for me to possess a belt.

As I searched desperately for clothes to fit a short bony dude with a disproportionately big head (which is why I sometimes look like an extraterrestrial), I wondered about the donators. About the reasons for donating. There were stories behind every article of clothing I perused. Maybe a nasty divorce prompted a disappointed man to donate all the ties his ex-wife gave him; maybe a widow donated her husband’s shirts after he took a bullet in Afghanistan; maybe somebody decided he had too many jeans; maybe he gained weight or lost closet space. It’s easy to imprint little fictions onto these old items. It’s fun, even, to wonder about who owned this pair of pink sunglasses or that tacky gold and green parrot-covered sports jacket. I’m a part of the narrative too; everything I give and take changes the equation. I’m an actor in the saga of the exchange of used clothes, and therefore the exchange of unwritten mysteries.

Or so I’d like to think. There may be mysteries, but I’ll never solve them. I may never even figure out the premise. What really matters is that now I can read at a conference in a neon green sports jacket with gold leather sleeves and smiling parrots patterned across the whole thing.

-jk

Like a Writer in a Candy Store

Lincoln

My books are on my shelves, my violin is tuned, and my spice rack is full. I’ve finally settled into Lincoln, Nebraska, with a few weeks before I start my first semester of graduate school. I spent yesterday exploring the city on foot, and a few sunburns and several hours later I returned to my apartment exhausted but satisfied.

Wandering alone in a big city is a new experience for me. I knew my former home of Flagstaff was relatively small, but getting lost in Lincoln proved to me that I am only one brick in the world’s framework. In my exploration, every corner I turned showed me a new organ in Lincoln’s body. I flew through decades into the Midwest’s past, into rustic red brick buildings, some dating back to the 1870s. I perused this place’s history, its survival on the plains, and those strange intersections where the past meets the present in the connective tissue of reinvigorated neighborhoods and gentrification.

River

Although being in a big city should be overwhelming, for a writer it’s like being a kid in a candy store. I can use any one of a dozen metaphors to describe my place in the city, a cell in a body or a brick in a building, and all of them describe how I feel. They all express my belief that individuality is overrun by community, and I’m sure that Lincoln will organically change me as a person regardless of whether or not I want it to. But for a writer, a city is just one big candy store because it’s not made of bricks or cells, but of stories. There is street art, there is sewage, there are coffee shops, there are dimly lit bars, and right now all of it is new to me.

UNL

One day of exploration has already transformed me. Today, I’ll find a few good places to write on campus and around town, all of which are within walking distance of my apartment. But for the moment, I am still freefalling through Lincoln’s grid of stories, hardly able to contain my excitement.

-jk

P.S. A surprisingly fitting song to have stuck in one’s head while wandering around lost in a new city is H.S.K.T by Sylvan Esso. I also find it suitable for writing about cities.