Saturday, December 27, 2008


This is a season of glass and light. I am walking through O’Hare and looking above me at large doves fashioned out of wicker and twinkling lights. Silvery red and gold balls on a tree layered with tinsel. Glass everywhere. The panes covering this airport walkway, open up the darkness outside. It is a darkness reflecting reddish city lights and thick beds of dirty snow on the ground.

Light and darkness; the contrasts seem even more obvious in this place filled with artificial light; the real darkness is waiting. I sense it as the 727 I am riding makes its way out of the night sky and down the runway. It is all around me; the interior lights of the plane flicker off, in anticipation.

The dark is disappearing. I recently read an article in National Geographic about disappearing night skies due to urban light pollution.

“Light Pollution: Our Vanishing Night”
By Verlyn Klinkenborg

I’ve struggled with this notion for a long time, this fear of darkness so many human beings seem to have, particularly after a century or more of electricity being wired into our homes. It may be more primitive than that; after all, early survival as a species likely depended on human ancestors harnessing of the light and heat from fire.

But the dark was still there, just outside the circle of fire. And the stars were distant lights, filled with all the elements in our bodies. Our ancestors perhaps understood these things. Western civilization doesn’t; though the human connection to the dark has never really gone away, though I might still find it if I dig enough. In this season of light, there is something also heartening, not fearful, about the darkness. It is mythological.

I celebrate Winter Solstice; the shortest day of the year, with the least sunlight and the most hours of dark. I sense my own need to slow down, to sleep more, but also to breathe more and to move more when I am outside. During December and January, as soon as the sun goes down in the desert, the night takes on an edge, a small pocket knife made of ice that could cut you up if it wanted to. It rarely does. I smell it in the burning wood of stoves and the still-wet pine needles dumped on the sidewalk outside the thrift store.

But I do not live in the night, on the streets. I have passed people who do, and I wonder how they manage. I see the dark from inside my trailer, my car, a store, an airport. Once I spent several nights in a cabin in northern New Mexico, taking in the night. She was kind to me; it was summer. Too many stars to orient myself. But I never felt threatened, despite the lack of city light. The eyes in the woods touched by my flashlight didn’t scare me; they welcomed me.

Just past the short fence around the property – not enough to hold out deer or any other wild animal that chose to be there – a river ran slow and sure of itself. During the day, you could sit beside it and drift to sleep. I would lie in a chair with a blanket over me and a book in my lap. At night, I sat on the porch and just listened. The low nickering of horses in a nearby pasture. Crickets everywhere. An occasional dog or human voice in the distance. Night holding me in her hands.

Human rhythms, out of whack. Commercials for sleep medications, the search in Western culture for the perfect mattress or perfect “sleep number,” indications. I know so many people with insomnia, including myself. Staying up late into the night; sometimes to find something there. A place to create poems, art. Sometimes. Sitting under a light, fashioning words on paper. Or worrying about money, about illness, about time. Trying to capture a phrase, a bit of light, something to cling to.

Maybe glass comes out of this most primitive need, too—the need to capture light. I love the light in glass, because it is both real and tentative, at the same time. It is not forced but channeled in a natural way, as a result of the material. At its most basic level, silica, soda ash, and lime. Bits of glass were used in Renaissance paintings, to add color and sheen. Think Titian. Where did I read this?

The night doesn’t scare me. There is a light that moves through it, which is natural. The moon and the stars. My body. The glass in the window of each room, even if it is manufactured. It will go back into the ground someday. Someone will find it, like the old Coca Cola bottles I found buried in the woods when I was a child. Shards of living.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Inventory, Day 2, Leftovers

In the bedroom:

green star, candle holder, from an English friend, five-pointed, a witch, what of it, not a conversation to have with just anyone, solstice coming, winter’s throes of passion, wind and rain beat the door down

heavy glass, how I like it, on the shelf behind my bed, leaden weight, a small sip of jasmine green tea, expensive kind, four dollars a bottle, or less savvy, Diet Dr. Pepper, swig of orange juice left behind

bottle on a bright orange string, dragonflies painted on the face, can’t miss or lose it, hanging on the wall, inside amethyst beads, means protection, means haven, magic’s a state of the mind, in the body

wrought iron mirror, creamy face, like you thought you might have, Victorian, oh you were that kind of girl, don’t deny, rankles but your body still is Venus, not dancing with stars on Hollywood Boulevard

plates, carnival glass, thrift finds, round raised markings spaced along the edge, pale green, blue, gold, hold my keys, watch, paperclip, copy card, nothing at all, were sitting in a cabinet, now put to practice

body of a woman, any woman, green and pink and white swirled down the stomach, oval, a small ritual, like Hebrew women baking bread, beside them a doll, queen of heaven, protects, kind clay

perfume bottle, hummingbird top, blitz of white and cobalt, translucent bird, on a shelf with others, lazy sky over my house, the light that could be brought by a color, turned inward on a container, light itself

watch face, box with a mirror on top, beads on a brass necklace, energy saver bulb, under water, going under, something in the way she moves, just a face, nothing else, daughter, sister, do not forget her

closet doors are mirrors, not ideal, do not like to look inside, not while the body moves in that direction, not while I am underneath, not while everything in this small room inside a small trailer listens

Friday, December 19, 2008

Inventory, Day 1

Quietly taking this all down. Wondering what I have and why. Committing to sight and smooth touch and short term memory.

In the bedroom -

blue bottle, a.k.a. incense burner, moon on the face of it, smells slightly of cedar

swirled blue and white oil burner, no wick or oil, hollow ball, simple form with panache, snowstorm in my cold bedroom

blue-green candle holder, smoky swirls, reminds me of getting high, something I never did with pot; drank way too much a few times, but I was so young and thought it mattered. . .

turquoise candle holder, angled sides, not smooth but box-like, thrift store find like most things, but can’t remember where or when, reminds me the breadth, and breath, of memory are short

glass plate, holds a constellation of Venus, stones, a deer hoof, and a purple mother with seeds of lavender, center of my altar

mirror with brass moon on the face, a magic piece, yes, I believe, no not losing it, a psychology one day, science will find its shape, no regrets in dragging me into the possibilities

cobalt blue pyramid, pentacle on the front door, opens to emptiness, find myself thinking of Isis, used to house amethyst, now empty again, filling up and emptying, how it is used

glass ball on silver stand, a crystal ball, rarely used for divination, more a cat toy, disappears for days, yet cats have no answers until one day, around the kitchen, put my foot out, stops rolling

melted glass necklace, hanging on the wall, around my neck a jungle and an ocean, Madagascar, Fiji, somewhere in the Pacific I’ve never landed, swimming in my throat, fifth chakra, afloat

bracelets in a drawer, hard candy, black and blue, broken from use, want to wear them again, must put them back together, glass and silver, frayed and unknotted clasp and body

two Carnival glass plates, pale green and blue, oily surfaces smooth to touch, raised knots along the edges, something lovely becomes practical, for my keys

glass goddess, new and blue, by hand, look of old Coke bottles, earliest image in the world, what holds us up, Mother Earth

the window, the face of prints and paintings, the mirror in the hall with candles on a spiral, what is balance, what is fragment

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bits and Pieces

A flash of color in the sand . . . I bend down to pick up a fleck of yellow poking up through the pathway. A small shard of glass. Later, I realize where it came from. Flower and tree beds, covered with broken bits of glass in pure shades of cobalt, emerald green, traffic light yellow, ruby red, tangy orange, probably recycled from a bottle plant or someone’s art project.

A waterway, man-made lined with glass and, beneath it, turquoise and pearlescent marbles. A walkway between floors of two buildings, its sides plastered with plexiglass or plastic (unclear which) panels in luminescent shades of fuchsia, blue and yellow. A window full of apothecary jars and blown glass irises and veined vases.

Hand blown glass balls, hanging from a brass tree. One takes on the shape and appearance of the planet earth, in cobalt and lime green. I choose it for a Christmas present. I’d like to think I can have some bit of the world in my window.

A man stands in front of an oven with a long metal pole. He shapes a glass flower from the hot material he produces after a moment in the fiery interior. The artist, most likely, who created the irises and trumpet flowers in the museum shop’s window. He turns around and smiles at me for a moment. Did he feel himself being watched? How many people actually get to see him at work? I’d guess not many.

He has a whole window full of his work. Translucent trumpet flowers, a citron vase with short, wave-like handles, which vaguely reminds me of rococo mantelpieces, a vase full of glass knobs with long, lean stems, like giant tear drops frozen in time. A little dancing figure, perhaps a clown, clutching his knees. How did he get the face on him?

I could take classes, to learn how to do what this artist is doing. That would require many years, of course, and no guarantee of success. I’m not sure if that is what I want, though. I like to look. Aaron likes to look, too; he takes pictures of the buildings. He doesn’t think he can be a professional photographer or videographer, though. He is going back to school to be a respiratory therapist, calls this life of photographs and video work a hobby.

I see what he does differently. Maybe through the eyes of love or another artist, working in a different medium, but nonetheless unearthing the true value in the work. It takes a special eye to penetrate beyond the surface of things, into the personality of places, objects, people, animals. I wonder if he really knows what he is capable of.

I cannot imagine being anything other than a writer, even if I lived the rest of my life in poverty. I currently reside in a trailer park, in the trailer which belongs to my friend’s dying grandmother. It is cheap rent. It allows me to have things around me I like, without breaking my bank.

Still, I live as people probably imagine writers live, in a kind of isolation broken by Aaron’s visits, my many car drives to work and thrifts and wherever else, phone calls from friends and family. I am not much of a homebody. I used to think that would affect my writing, but it hasn’t. I take it with me.

I get paid to teach, but never really feel like a teacher. There are moments, of course, sparkling and tiny. Students tell me about them sometimes. Aha moments. But they are loose and easily lost, like those bits of glass.

I pick up an acacia pod in a tree bed. Dried into a lovely cream and purple vessel; when you shake it, the beads inside run like rain. Musical instrument. The little moments like this are important. They may be all anyone has, when it comes down to it. Memory is fragile and built of these. Textures in a pod; broken, frayed colors; the wind moving up the side of a building, rippling the netting.

My throat closes up when I see a bowl of parchment, pressed from organic materials—navel orange peels, purple potato skins, the tough threads of a mango. A writer would give her last swipe of the pen to be able to embody such wonders. As a poet, I am constantly trying and constantly failing. But that is the work. To really see into things and people and places. I don’t know if I can do it, but I keep trying.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Saturday Aaron and I take a stroll around downtown Mesa. If you know anything about Mesa, you might be laughing, but there are a few points of interest there. Not including the plethora of statues commissioned by the City of Mesa, some interesting, others a little too sentimental. I like the “dripping horses.” Called “Two Horses,” I think.

If you enjoy antiques and just a bit of craft, you might pass an hour or two on some weekend. I’m not terribly impressed with the crafts. Bought a melted glass necklace a couple of weeks ago, but it was the only thing that intrigued me enough to make a purchase. Tooled leather Bible covers and woodcuttings of pine trees, skip. Photographs blend together—all the lone cacti and red canyons and sagebrush start to feel like a mirage at some point.

What I really have come down here to look at are the antiques in stores which happen to be still open. The economy is hitting everyone in the pocketbook. I saw it there too—shops closed or moved. No surprise.

But I am of the mind that there is beauty in emptiness, and emptiness in beauty. Even the buildings, with still rooms and shadows swept across the bare wood floors. We walk past the windows of a large boutique, still open, with Christmas ornaments and home décor on sale. Oh, the glass, all air and light in the center of the delicate, silvered skin—I am reminded of what it is like to be a child, in the middle of winter, standing on a street outside a shop and looking in on sugary, frothy confections in a bakery. Only these are tree ornaments, not cookies I can sink my teeth into. Yow—painful, all those shards!

I stopped decorating a few years ago—combination of laziness and my conversion to another spiritual path that doesn’t include December 25 as a major holiday. Still, I enjoy looking at decorations, all the color and light thrown in my path. I particularly fancy glass ornaments, the old-fashioned kind, hand-blown and painted. Imagine glass Christmas pudding under glass, a crystal bowl filled with red and white glass ribbon candy, giant blown glass stars and elongated, space-age glass balls in red and pale snowy blue and silver glitter. Yummy! I don’t want to go inside the store, I just want to stare at the glass through the glass windows. Glass upon glass upon glass, as far as the eye can see . . .

The antique stores are another thing. I have a problem with these spaces sometimes. They are collections of memory, and collections of the energy created by memory, and sometimes these memories aren’t positive. Because I do energy work, sometimes places with so many old things in them bother me. I’ve had this happen in museums at times—been hit with waves of energy and impressions which have left me a little woozy.

This happened, as well. I am enjoying looking at a case of Fenton Glass—I went to their factory in West Virginia many years ago and watched men blow and shape fiery glass into vases and decorative pieces—possibly where my glass fetish started. Blown glass hummingbirds in oily cobalt blue, creamy white with delicate pink flowers painted over its body, shimmering green . . . a vase in grass green with violets on the face of it, a glass lawn of violets.

But suddenly I feel the overwhelming urge to walk outside . . . my head starts to feel funny, pulled in a number of directions all at one time. Still wander a bit, staring into cases of crystal bead necklaces and funky brass and glass bead earrings braided and knotted in intricate, labyrinth like patterns, that, at some other time, I would want to explore. Excesses of jewelry and excesses of energy? Exit, front door, for me.

Find myself outside again, after I tell Aaron what’s going on. Now we are looking into a jeweler’s window. These are not the norm. Green glass scarabs wrapped in gold on a chain. Maybe not glass, maybe something more glamorous and precious, like jade. I am thinking about my own excesses, what they lead me to desire. If I had all the money I wanted, would I be able to buy enough glass and baubles to keep around and dazzle me? Or would I continue to go out into the world again, looking for the next beautiful thing?

The sensual world IS the world . . . I am in this body, cannot separate myself from it, and do not want to. There is too much to be loved in what is temporary but wondrous. This is the mistake, the heresy of Western organized religion, to separate us from the bodies that house us and from the world that houses us, too. Do I want my body to be full or emptied? The paradox is, both. What do I want to be on the surface? In the center? Don’t know yet. Today, perhaps, a pink, blown glass pink rose with painted glass leaves on the branch of a tinseled tree. Tomorrow, the real thing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The guard in the thrift, who is a real cop, as opposed to the rent-a-cops you see most retail stores, is talking to the cashier. He’s telling her that he is making his girlfriend/fiancée wait three years before they get married.

In theory, I don’t have a problem with people waiting for periods of time to get married. But I wonder if this sometimes isn’t due to the fear of men and women who are afraid of changing their comfortable lives for the unknown. Commitment between couples comes in many forms; it doesn’t have to be legal/church marriage or a blood relationship, and there are good reasons for people to stave off marriage for awhile, or never to get married at all. Still, I wonder.

So many used wedding dresses in thrifts. I saw a woman in one the other night . . . it was one of those confections truly scary to behold. Yards of creamy satin and lace and crystals and beads, a long, poufy sleeved number with a scalloped neckline and never-ending petticoats of tulle. The kind you might see in a large Catholic wedding, paraded around like a relic. Now it is truly a relic of some past—and perhaps long ended—commitment, ready to be worn by this very young woman with a child in tow, who is again ready to make a commitment to someone who isn’t here in the store with her.

How long do commitments last? If thrifts have anything to say about this, often not very long. That seems to be the way our culture goes sometimes. Last year’s purchase is this year’s resale. I once found a chemise, which I had recently been eyeing in a new clothing store, in the racks of a thrift. When I went back to the new clothing store, I still found it there, at normal price, of course. Went back to the thrift and bought the like-new red satin piece with black lace inserts and red, crisscrossed satin ties in the back.

What does this say about my own sense of commitment? I’ll try to not let the metaphor drift too far. Only that I find hidden value in the less-than-new but still beautiful. Even items with a few chips or a missing button. Even a missing tooth, like mine—a spot in my mouth where a baby tooth was lost and a permanent tooth never grew in its place.

I am in a committed relationship, too, an engagement, something at one time I didn't think I was capable of doing. But I have found that some of that is a result of a fear of what "commitment" means or looks like. I believe that each of us, for what it is worth, can create commitments that are meaningful and longlasting without being the stereotypical "ball and chain." We can even find real, long-term happiness in those relationships.

And I believe that even if something, or someone, has been around the block a few times, as I have, there is still a place for he/she/it, a usefulness and purpose. At least, I hope this to be the case.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I am interested in my own collection tendencies: glass, pottery, cats, witches, and poppies. The witches and poppies are a hold over from my love of The Wizard of Oz, I suppose, and my own reading and diving into witchcraft, past and present. Cats, particularly black cats, because I have three, one of which is black, and would have more if I had the space. Glass and pottery—it’s something about the textures of these materials. The light in and through the glass; the colors which change depend on the angle at which you are staring. The idea that pottery came from the earth, formed by clay and water and fire. Something magical in all of these processes and the resulting objects, at least for me.

I don’t know why other people collect. There is collecting and then there is hording, of course. Fine line. For myself, I like having beautiful and whimsical objects around me. Still have some perspective, though—if these things disappeared one day, I wouldn’t be lost. All of them are ephemeral—glass breaks, pottery shatters, poppies—at least the real ones—die back, even my cats, who I love fiercely, won’t be around forever, though some may live to twenty years or so. Beauty is a temporary state, and a changing one.

Even that which is dying can be beautiful. Sea glass had some practical use as bottles or other objects then went to rest in the water and became some other thing, frivolous but charming When I was Scotland, one day I visited an island out in the middle of the Firth of Forth, the location for a several hundred year old abbey. I tried to imagine a life in that lonely, cold, place, almost drowning in its bird population. I think it was possible to picture, however, because of all the sea glass and pottery I found on the shore there.

Green and brown mostly, some of it probably from bottles and windows. Earlier that week I saw original glass panes in a medieval house in Edinburgh—a translucent almost opaque green, similar to that in old Coke bottles, with a bulleted point or eye in the center of the glass. Possibly the source for some of the shards I collected?

Almost mistook a jellyfish washed up for a piece of glass, it was so translucent and delicate looking. Its stumpy, dangling tentacles got pushed around by the rivulets of water rushing up from the firth. Birds everywhere—gulls, herons, ducks and geese, and, if you were lucky, you might spy a puffin, rising and falling, a little knife cutting small paths through the water.

I couldn’t collect these things physically. Oh, I wanted to. I’m not a birder, but something in me wanted to take home the puffins and the abbey with its walls crumbling into the channel and the small stone house, shaped like a pup tent, for the brothers who lived there and the driftwood and glass and clay pot shards. I did take a few shards and shells with me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pit stop at Goodwill, Main Street and Recker, East Mesa. Mission: to see and see quickly. Okay, it's never quick to go into one of these places, but I managed about 30 minutes, somewhat of a record. Findings: cat nap salt and pepper shakers, violet colored prom dress in my size, tomato red, broccoli green and robin's egg blue speckled pottery. What I walked away with:

Set of 4 glass coasters, clear but speckled with what can only be described as eye-like, colorful glass inserts or a drug-tripped kaleidoscope of colorings - $2.99

Ikea blue glass vase, short and stout, to match 2 tall and thin Ikea glass vases, same color, sitting in my livingroom - $2.99

I wasn't in the mood for looking at clothes. Only wanted to stare at glass and pottery. I did go to the back of the store and look through some of their "plastic bag bargains"--bags of miscellaneous items thrown together--more like a crazy little treasure chest.

You never know what you will find . . . last time I was here, it was a bag of eighties era pins, including The Breakfast Club and Cyndi Lauper. Quite a steal for $.99. I've seen odd colored soaps, the kinds you might not want to put on your body for fear of breaking out in old soap rashes, greeting cards from bygone eras (think the 70's and Holly Hobby), nipples for baby bottles I would never put near a child's mouth for fear of poisoning them, paper mache fruits and veggies that my cats would truly enjoy picking apart. A cornucopia of odd and useless, but simply fantastic, stuff. Makes me want to go out and take notes . . . or buy a few surprises.

Article from The New York Times Magazine on Goodwill Industries:

"Goodwill Hunting" by Rob Walker
October 31, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Was taking inventory of my house last night, as I was feeling the onset of a head cold--my house could be a thrift, really. So many things I've bought or that have been given to me or that came from yard sales. Particularly in my closet. I have a friend, Marie, who is the queen of yard sales. I am the queen of thrift. Guess that's a cliche, but at least I am able to admit to it. I take sheer delight in having purchased a kelly green linen designer jacket from Macy's with the price tags still on it for $7, when the original price was $89. Or $2 for a brand new pair of Easy Spirit brown leather sandals.

It could be a sickness . . . thrifting. But I think about how much waste happens in this city, and that somehow I am recyling some small part of that waste. And then I think it might be okay . . . there was an article in the New York Times Magazine about three or four weeks ago about Goodwill's success financially and in attracting customers. Going to try and post a link to it soon . . . speaks to some of my own ideas. Don't think I am alone in this . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Had a brief rendevous with the Mesa Thrift Store this morning and walked away with nothing. Find myself having serious cell phone conversations in these places a little too often for my taste. Need to stop answering the phone when I'm inside . . . some other writer could sneak up behind me and get a little too much information.

Thought about buying a red glass bottle with roses in the side. Have a serious glass fetish. When I was in England and Scotland a couple of years ago, went through the British Museum and several other museums looking specifically for glass exhibits. In Bath, at the Roman Baths, had serious glass envy . . . tiny intaglios, possibly from Roman rings, were part of one of the exhibits. . . really wanted to talk away with some of those small glass etchings in my pocket. No, I've never taken antiquities . . . hey, after all, I'm on the Demanding the Return of the Parthenon Marbles to Their Rightful Place group on Facebook.

Seeing Venetian glass in jewelry stores quite a bit these days . . . haven't bought any yet, but there's a necklace and a glass ring I keep thinking about. Then there's the melted glass necklace bought downtown the other day . . . the woman who made it told me she was thinking of the jungle and the ocean when she made it . . . it's like wearing sea glass and driftwood around my neck. Oh wow, that would be too cool . . . wonder if anyone has tried that.

Looking for curtains for my bedroom and livingroom. Always looking for gifts in the thrifts, too--have done really well this Christmas. A fuschia Prada pocketbook for a friend who will just flip out over it. She is always looking for those "Sex and the City" moments . . .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Confession, though I don’t believe: I have an unremitting interest in thrifts. Not just as places to shop, although I am definitely into that, but also as a repository for a lot of angst and waste and wonder and memory. I try different ones in order to see what’s there and available, but sometimes I think I am looking for something more inside . . . my next poem, perhaps.

Really, I am more curious to find out what’s inside: a strange or beautiful piece of glass, and sometimes the people that work and shop in these places, such as the Goodwill cashier who ran through the store one day—she wore a huge Halloween witch hat and was bawling as a manager ran after her. I want to do this so I can dig a little deeper than the pile of used books on the knickknacks shelves, next to the small white porcelain statue of the Virgin Mary made in Japan twenty years ago. What was I doing in that year, 1988? My first year of high school . . .

There are a million little secrets in these stores. Right under the heels of that heavily used pair of pink lizard skin Liz Claiborne sandals with the kitten heels. I am always surprised by what people get rid of . . . clothing and items with the tags still on them, obviously unused or unworn. A plum chenille button-up collared sweater, tag still on it. I wonder how that happens.

I have the same interest in antiques and vintage items . . . something about the history of an object. In this society, throwing away is a common habit, yet there is this undercurrent of recycling . . . I see it in thrift stores, yard sales, and other places.

I belong to a user group called Freecycle—the principle is to give things in fairly good condition away for free. It’s beautiful in concept . . . I’ve only used it once, though, to get rid of some clothes two sizes two big. The woman who got dibs was ecstatic with her choices. I was happy to clean out my already overstuffed living room and bedroom in the process.

What does this mean—that objects might get a second chance . . . that new memories might be made through an older object. That everything I use need not end up in the landfill . . . I want to explore. Obsess over this for awhile.

Yesterday’s finds:

Went to the Indian School Thrift Store (?), Indian School and 29th Avenue. Sister store to the Mesa Thrift Store, located across the street from my parking lot. Never been there until tonight. Thought I was going to Goodwill—was told by my friend that a huge Goodwill was located there and that I should check it out. Turns it out to be another large thrift store, different ownership, but hey, I’m not complaining.

Wine colored velvet long sleeved shirt, crew neck, like new condition, $6.98
Silky knee length wrap robe, black and pink rose pattern, like new condition, $2.98
Ceramic witch girl with straw broom and purple velvet witch hat, wild red hair, small scratch on face, $0.75

I collect glass objects (vases, window pieces, etc.), wind chimes, witch stuff, and black cat paraphernalia, so one more thing to add to my collection.

A lot of things I didn’t buy . . . large bottle of Burt’s Bees hair conditioner . . . no shampoo or I would have walked away with it. How to Swim with the Sharks . . . advice for women in the workplace. I don’t know any sharks; how about snakes or mountain lions?

An orange rhinestone studded frame without the backing . . . how would you get the photo to stay inside? Maybe it doesn’t need one . . . I seem to remember seeing someone hang frames on a wall, sans pictures or photos. A lot of stuff on the floor . . . nothing stays on the hangers.

A woman tells another customer her legs are too big, she’s just woken up, and she doesn’t feel put together. It is seven o’clock in the evening. Her eyes are heavily caked with turquoise (or is it peacock) eyeshadow. Her white flats seem out of place with her dark dress and long coat . . . isn’t there a rule about not wearing white after Labor Day?

But she is determined to find the perfect pair of heels. Perhaps to make her legs look smaller? They look thin to me but, then, most women’s legs do. I don’t have leg envy . . . she is trying on a gold, bead-studded, open-toed pair. I don’t dare . . . they'd look like shit on my legs.

Stop by Last Chance. Not used exactly, but clothes and other items that have seen their better days in stores like Macy’s and Nordstroms. Sometimes returned or tried on a few too many times for picky customers tastes. I try on a Michael Kors dress . . . even top designers seem to have a problem making clothes for larger women. They don’t get it. We won’t want to walk around looking like we’re wearing a tent. I’m not a circus act . . .

I used to shop for shoes there, but since I’ve started frequenting thrift stores, Last Chance shoes seem too expensive for me. The purses are even more outrageous . . . 60 bucks or more. Lots of chains and snakeskin this year. Ooh, snakeskin . . . I do like that. For some reason, I have six purses in various colors . . . puce, plum, cherry red, copper, black, cofee; I'm a snakeskin devotee. Perhaps a worshipper in another life . . . a lot of cultures admire the snake . . .

But I find a major bargain . . . this beautiful designer wool coat, knee length, black and white houndstooth, for $20.00. Lovely condition, looks fabulous on me. It feels classic and solid, fashionable but dependable. Not sure why it’s so cheap, but I am game.

The likelihood is that I will wear it maybe twice this season, when I go home to Virginia and if I decide to take a trip somewhere else where a wool coat might be a practical choice . . . as I watch the man in front of me bend over in his navy Tommy Hillfiger jogging shorts. Am I the only one wearing a jacket in this place?