22 Apr Shopping in Baltimore

After a spate of heavy rain, the skies cleared, the temperature dropped to a crisp high of 50, and all of Baltimore came out to enjoy a brilliant sunny Saturday. Jill and I joined the crowd to do some major shopping. “Major” for us means driving from from one end of town to the other, looking for bargains. We started at Second Chance, a downtown architectural warehouse, where I got a big piece of vintage plywood for $5. Yes, that’s the kind of excitement we seek: material for our house and its many projects.

As we drove east, cutting through heavy traffic, I pointed out a guy crossing the street. I happen to know him. He’s an odd duck, I explained to Jill, but a super friendly guy, probably with a couple of screws loose. “Funny thing,” I added, “every time I see him, he’s got skidmarks in his underwear. And he doesn’t seem to notice.” Jill turned to me with a deadpan expression and asked, “And you know the status of his underwear because?” Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: he and I go to the same gym.

Jill and I pit stopped at Di Pasquale’s, Highland’s fabulous Italian deli, and tried their pizza. It wasn’t even noon but the place was on the way. And, amazingly, we’d never been there: it’s an upscale deli, with some killer dishes, in a converted rowhouse on a sidestreet in a neighborhood that doesn’t have any other retail. In other words, if you didn’t know where it was, you’d never find it. The place is wildly popular.

Not long after that, we got our best bargains at the Loading Dock, which sells recycled and discounted/donated building supplies. You have to buy a membership to shop there ($10 a year) but it’s for a good cause. Jill rooted around and found me a circa 1960s countertop for my camper van. I found some chrome trim for cabinet work and, as always, fistfuls of screws, fasterners, and other small items. Got to keep my workshop well provisioned.

One of Jill’s many required stops was Ryan’s Relics, an antique/used furniture store run by an enterprising thirty-something who’s been building his business for several years and now has a second store to show for his hard work. I overhead an old man saying to one of the young men who works there: “See this? It’s called a spittoon. They used these to spit in it all day long. Yeah, you may think it’s funny but that’s how it was back then. You spit all day long.” Ryan has some good stuff and at good prices, but nothing caught our eye. Which was a relief because Jlil and I are most dangerous as shoppers when we’re freewheeling and have nothing specific in mind — that means we’re wide open to any temptation.

Speaking of which: Jill insisted that we stop at Alex Cooper’s auction house, a suggestion I valiantly tried to resist but we were nearly passing right by the place and well . . . . We ended up leaving bids on some paintings and even a set of antique mahogany caryatids, which Jill said I could install in the library. These suggestions never sound reasonable until I’m in the auction house, looking at the treasures, and then I think, sure, why not?

Later, as we were pulling into Trader Joe’s parking lot (a shopping day wouldn’t be complete without stocking up at TJ’s), Jill said, “Holy cow, look at that hawk — it’s as big as a cat!” At first I didn’t see it — and apparently nobody else did either: the hawk was perched on the railing beside a sidewalk that looked down on the lower parking lot, some twenty feet below. Passersby were oblivious to this big bird getting an eyeful of the landscape. Before I could snap a photo with my phone, the hawk had glided away.

When we were done at another antiques store, I said to Jill: “Ain’t nothing cheap in that place!” She replied: “Oh, I don’t know — the women working at the counter looked pretty cheap.”
Funny girl, that Jill.

Although we had shopped for five hours by this time, we had to stop at the little herb and vitamin shop run by a Chinese family in a nondescript strip mall. This is where Jill gets pure shea butter to make a never-fail, all-natural moisturizer that nearly has healing properties and costs a fraction of any commercially made product. We love to gawk at the exotic oils, oinments, powders, and potions in this fragrant, packed little place. Neither of us had the nerve to ask about the “Rats Mice Begone” stuff.


Before we could call it a day, we had to check out a set of 30 vintage, metal ice cream chairs that Jill had located on Craig’s list. I didn’t know that we needed 30 vintage, metal icre cream chairs. But, then, once I was in the seller’s way-cool old garage and staring at these well-made icec ream chairs, it occurred to me that it’d be nice to have 30 vintage, metal ice cream chairs so that we could entertain appropriately — comfortably — in our big backyard patio. I had just cleared out space under our back porch, so there was roon to store 30 vintage, metal ice cream chairs. And these chairs even have metail seats, which means they won’t rot out. As often happens in these instances, I was the one who had to convince Jill to buy them ALL, in part because it was cheaper to buy them all (at $4 a piece) than to buy half of them (at $5 a piece). We could always sell those we didn’t need. Or donate them to the Loading Dock. Jill agreed, so now in our back yard we have 30 vintage, metal ice cream chairs that need scraping and painting. A shopping day success!



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