Thriftin' in Memphis

In Depth

Greetings, devoted Thriftees! I’m back with another round of my Nobel Prize winning Thrift Diaries: Hip Hop edition! Just kidding, but I did go on the road with (my male companion) El-P (Jaime), and Killer Mike—aka Rap super-duo Run the Jewels—for one week and throughout five different cities. I hung out, ate a lot of good food, talked a lot of shit and thrifted. Join me, won’t you?


I wake up in time to get breakfast with some of the guys at a truck stop just outside of Memphis. When I try to deviate from the gnarly looking $12 buffet by asking the waitress for a bacon egg and cheese sandwich, I am given a a bunch of bacon on a roll, which probably serves me right for going rogue. Still, it was pretty good.

After breakfast I buy $5 worth of scratch off lottery tickets and win $10, the profit of which I use to buy a cheesy keychain for my friend. When I went to pay for it, I asked the woman ringing me up how she was doing, and she replied “Well I’m just so blessed I can’t even stand it!,” which is a response I’m not used to. Welcome to the daily minutiae of touring, and also the South!

We arrive at the club with an entire day to kill, so before scurrying off to the nearest thrift store, I walk a half mile to Shangri-La Records with Jaime and our friend Wilder Zoby, who had joined us in Nashville. This isn’t the blog for this but I will briefly say that if you are a record collector, Shangri-La has the best selection of soul, funk and blues 45’s I’ve ever seen. The best one I picked up was this classic by The Crystals

Jaime and Wilder departed the record store early and as I was walking back, I was startled by a man half hidden behind a bush in the parking lot of a gas station who exclaimed “Damn girl, you lookin finer than the devil tryna make me sin,” which is, of course, annoying but I do appreciate the southern twist on classic catcalling. After depositing my records on the bus I headed to the nearest Goodwill.

I guess I should have done better research because this store was tiny and had NOTHING good in it. However, I am a professional so against all odds I managed to pick out some things that might interest or at the very least entertain you. I am your clown!

And speaking of clowns, here is this tiny assortment of clown items which I nearly bought because I have a long history related to clowns that dates back to college when my best friend and roommate had a minor obsession with them. She was in film school and as her willing participant I was featured in nearly every one of her movies and one photo series in full clown makeup. There was one movie where my character was a beauty queen who then had her face dunked in a toilet by, you guessed it: A CLOWN, played by my ex boyfriend who I had broken up with a week prior. The ultimate poetic justice.

(right photo by Alex Miklowski, circa 2007)

Here are a couple of other things that I considered buying including this weird plaque with pheasants on it that I thought might be a fun decorative choice for the tour bus, this necklace because I have the exact same one already and it could be good to have a backup, and this little butterfly pin that has two tiny butterfly earrings in it because I think that is a novel concept:

Next there was this entire section of Velour track suits which was pretty incredible and in my mind every piece was donated by one Guidette woman who moved to Memphis from Jersey and truly valued comfort. I grew up in Jersey so I’m allowed to make fun of us.

Next are these two denim skirts. At this point it should be fairly obvious that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel to find things to show you in this thrift store so lets take some pleasure from the fact that I found this Coca Cola brand skirt with the tag on the outside, as if it is the kind of brand that you want people to know you’re wearing, and also from this Shirt brand Skirt which is confusing and hilarious.

Lastly, we have these two button down tops—pretty standard fare—and this neat thing I did with my dress to make it look like a shirt! Isn’t that neat??? All the fashion girls are going to be doing this with their dresses come winter. You heard it here first.

So this Goodwill was a bust and I didn’t get anything. Feeling somewhat dejected I got an Uber back to the club. My driver was named Brandi and when I told her about my thrift failure she told me you need to go much further outside the city to find the good stuff. As we chatted I told her that my boyfriend was performing that night, and that he’s in a group called Run the Jewels. She tells me she’s never heard of him or them. Fair enough. I then ask her if she’s heard of Gangsta Boo who will be guest performing that night, and she says “Of course, Boo’s a Memphis legend.” Damn straight.

Back at the tour bus I meet another Memphis legend who happens to be Wilder’s uncle, Prince Mongo. Mongo is currently running for Mayor of Memphis, as he has in nearly every election for the last two decades.

When I showed up, Mongo was in the middle of telling a story about how in the ‘80s he had won an insurance settlement and used some of the money to rent a hot air balloon, some to buy expensive radio equipment to broadcast from the balloon (obviously), and then changed the rest of the money into $1 bills which he planned give back to the city by dropping it from the hot air balloon. When the day finally came he was able to put his plan into action and it went swimmingly until he saw that the balloon was headed towards a power line, so in order to make the balloon lighter he was forced to throw over hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and he ended up crash landing on the green of a Jewish golf course. Though I can’t verify all of the details of his story, it is well documented that he did fly a hot air balloon over Memphis. From a local forum:

So, to conclude, I may not have had the best luck finding clothing on this particular occasion but I did have the privilege of being in the company of a couple of Memphis legends, locals and generally surrounded by really wonderful people which is something I am thankful for.


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