I was passing by the Irish Famine Memorial at the corner of School and Washington Streets in Boston yesterday, a spot favored by what used to be called “bums.”
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a turquoise sweater, apparently abandoned, lying on an otherwise-empty bench.
Irish Famine Memorial: “I’m getting hungry–you want to grab some lunch?”
I edged closer, looking to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear.
I picked up the sweater and examined the tag; Jantzen–not a prestige label anymore, but a respectable brand nonetheless. I looked around again; nobody was watching but the pigeons.
Douglas: “I sure as hell wouldn’t wear that thing.”
Still, I choked, and put it back down. I’d have to explain to my wife where I got it, and we disagree on the meaning of the old New England aphorism on thrift: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without. She says there’s nothing in that quatrain about bringing home clothes you find on the street; I say it can be found within the penumbras of the emanations, as the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas would put it.
It was a tough decision, and one I didn’t make lightly; you see, I’m a clothing re-cycler, or even tri-cycler, since I came thisclose to reusing a sweater that had been discarded by its previous owner.
“Did you see that god-awful turquoise number Butch was wearing?”
You can imagine what the fellow went through after some charitable soul gave it to him.
“Hey Butch!” one of the other regulars in the little park might have yelled. “You going to the Fletchers’ cocktail party tonight?”
“Naw,” another Gabby Hayes look-alike might say. “He’s got a charity gala tonight, so he won’t be drinking Thunderbird and Night Train anymore.”
Times are tough, but you can lower your total clothing bill with undiscards.
An undiscard is an article of clothing that someone else has thrown away–not given to Goodwill or the Salvation Army–which is free for the taking, and not subject to sales tax. No fussing around with inconvenient coupons, no waiting for after-Christmas sales. And you don’t have to listen to a temperance lecture to get it.
“Bad wine is the root of woe, drink cabernet and not merlot!”
Where are the best places to find undiscards? I hate to divulge my professional secrets, because it will only make competition for the choicest items tougher, but in the spirit of the after-Christmas sale season, I’ve decided to share them with you:
Public transportation: I don’t know what you people are doing in the back of the bus while the rest of us are up front drinking coffee and reading the paper, but as I make my way to the rear door at the end of the line, I often see unclaimed articles of clothing. I once found a nice Oxford cloth shirt on the 505 Watertown bus, which I still wear. The shirt, not the bus.
High-end clothing store wastebaskets: I once found a Gap tie in a wastebasket in a Brooks Brothers dressing room. I suppose what happened is that a callow youth with cheeks of tan decided at last to dress like a man, or something like that. Maybe the kid got a gift certificate from his parents, threw off the flimsy Gap item and upgraded to Brooks Brothers. Since Brooks Brothers ties on sale will set you back the price of a dinner in an upscale restaurant, I stuffed the Gap cravat in my pocket. I wore it just the other day.
Swimming Pool Lost-and-Found bins: For the best selection of sizes and styles, wait until Labor Day, right before the pool closes for the season.
Snow banks: Snow banks attract articles of clothing the way black holes indiscriminately suck in all forms of matter. You’ll find a wide variety of mittens, gloves and other items of winter clothing if only you’ll stop your car on a dangerously slippery highway and look. I slammed on my brakes and picked up a chic “California Pizza Kitchen” muffler just the other day. Wash it, dry it, and wear it tonight!
Warning: Do not use the above list of helpful hints when you shop for a Valentine’s Day gift for your wife. For some reason, women prefer new, unworn clothing, especially when choosing underwear and pajamas.
When it comes to fashion, there’s no accounting for tastes.