This small, secret nature dump has been concealed in the midst of the Oceanfront for decades. Soon, it will only be a memory for those that stumbled upon it. All the surrounding buildings will be demolished in the near future. Go look for it and experience it for a handful of minutes before it's gone.
(As of March 2, 2011, this place is still there. I won't say exactly where it is, but it's about 500 feet away from the Kenny Rogers statue)
It's almost the end of the year, I'm tired, it's cold, I'm hungover...all qualified reasons to devote the next few blog entries to thrift stores in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. I may venture further, but it simply isn't advised to get out of your car in other parts of Hampton Roads.
First up - The Salvation Army Mega-Store at 5524 Virginia Beach Blvd., just a biscuit's throw from the Norfolk border. You can't miss it. It's the biggest building in Virginia.
One can't justly review an establishment on the information gathered in one visit, so I'm giving you my impressions of this place based on several years of going here. All different days of the week, times of the year/day, in various weather, with and without copious amounts of spending cash, etc. Most of the stores I'll be reviewing are old friends of mine. To me, thrift stores are like museums. Museums that let you touch and buy the items on display. I look through everything thoroughly - most notably, the books, audio/video tapes and records (if any), knick-knacks, electronics, furniture, framed art, and men's stuff. Please keep in mind that I'm not a woman. I'm sorry, but detailed information on the selection of woman's clothing, shoes, and accessories will not be provided. It's pretty much understood that 99% of all clothing in thrift stores is unwanted junk. If there's an obviously vintage piece of clothing, it will most likely be marked up to a ridiculous price. Once in a while, you'll find a little surprise. Something old, cool, cheap, and in good condition. That's the only reason I keep returning.
Things change. Layouts, prices, selection, staff members, etc. Remember - this review is an amalgamation of impressions and experiences at this store over many years. I'm not sure when this one opened. It's not old. But, I've been going at least once every 90 days since it opened. I can't hit the thrift store circuit every week or month like some diehards do. Too many people. Too much junk. Traffic sucks. You get the picture.
Okay. Let's commence.
This store is vast. Too huge. Mainly furniture and clothes. Most of the time, there's modern Christian broadcasting, some sort of Salvation Army radio station, on the store speakers. Yep. So, bring your iPod.
There's a book/record/tape room that is usually deserted. The books aren't in any exact order, kinda, but not really. The oversized art and photo books are too expensive. Waaaaaay too much crime and romance fiction. I mean, just recycle 'em. Nobody wants 'em.
The records are currently smushed in little wall hanging racks...
The only way to look through them easily is to place 10 of them on the floor and keep shifting 10 into successive, "already viewed" racks (tee-hee). I've rarely found anything worth listening to here. I'm not looking for sealed butcher covers, just good 50s-80s stuff I don't have. I've picked up all the basic, required rock records at local thrift stores since my hunting began twenty years ago. Now, I look for one-hit wonders, non-major label releases, promo/dj copies, classic country, and just plain weird music. Heck, if the album cover's hilarious, I'll buy it. Yes, I do hold the distant hope that one day I will find a butcher cover, but it will most definitely not be at this Salvation Army location. All you'll find here is the typical thrift store record stuff. You know...
Herb Alpert 101 Strings Jim Nabors Ray Coniff Lawrence Welk Kingston Trio Andy Williams Sing Along with Mitch The Lettermen Peter Nero Arthur Fieldler Johnny Mathis Henry Mancini Al Hirt Bread Nat King Cole Dean Martin Tennessee Ernie Ford Harry Belafonte Mills Brothers Pat Boone pipe organ harmonica religious polka ...and Christmas records
These no longer have any place or importance in the world. Recycle the sleeves and melt the vinyl. And here's the kicker...last time I checked, they all had $1.99 stickers on them. I'll say it again and again, but it's something that peeves me beyond compare in thrift stores - records should be a dollar. No more. Less is fine, of course. Flip through 'em if you must. If you find something you don't have, it'll be worth it. Just wash your hands after handling all that crap.
Search amidst the countless "Liar Liar" and "Jurassic Park" VHS tapes for something worthwhile if you like. If you don't have the internet, you might find something here that will alleviate the pain of boredom for 89 minutes.
I have found a few good audio tapes for my car here. Weird ones. Search hard. And always check if the right tape's in the case and the little soft cushion thing inside the tape is firmly attached. They should be 50 cents. Heck of a deal.
The knick-knacks are all mixed up. Prices range from "Hmmmmmm, that's fair" to "Good God, that's insane". I have no need for porcelain statues with the noses chipped off or mini African masks, so I don't linger in this area. I used to. Not anymore.
Don't buy kitchen stuff from thrift stores. Unless it's a gift for someone you hate.
Furniture selection seems good. You'll see at least one of those metal futon frames that they made 180 billion of in 1998. And there will be an unplugged organ somewhere. Expensive and dusty. Only plug it in if you can rock it like Billy Preston.
Of course, there's always a middle-aged man in a beige windbreaker finagling with some piece of stereo equipment at every thrift store in the world. Talking to himself and making a mess. At some point, a button will be pressed and you'll hear an extremely loud burst of radio static immediately followed by him saying something like "Oh, so that's what that does" and chuckling.
I have found a few good tour t-shirts here. Sting and Michael Bolton. 99 cents each. That's a fair price in my book. Search through the racks, but be warned, they're full of endless amounts of ugly, unneeded clothes. Clothes that will most likely be sent to Guatemala next month.
The thing that grabs my goat about this store is the special, glass-cased, rare and expensive item section near the middle. Here's where you can witness the dangerous, corrosive power of "Antiques Roadshow" upon the common thrift store treasure seeker. Here, you'll find stuff that has no reason being in a locked case with completely unwarranted, astronomical prices. Check out these record prices....The Sound of Music soundtrack, with water damaged sleeve - $30. A worn, faded Moody Blues album - $25. A Dan Fogelberg album - $20. I also spotted this...
Those are the pictures that were included in the Beatles' White Album. Not just the first pressing in 1968. I bought a new copy of the White Album in the late eighties at Lynnhaven Mall and the pictures came with it. Sure, for somebody that doesn't know, $25 for individual 8X10, glossy pictures of The Beatles might be a good deal, but this is just one example of the wacky pricing of "collectible material" that you'll witness at this store. As for the three price tags on the plastic bag...I'm stumped.
I'm convinced that all Salvation Army store managers were told by their regional managers to look up any donated item appearing "vintage" on ebay, see what the going price is, and go with it. Sure, lots of folks like me and you will probably scoff at the price, but it just takes one nutty fool to pay it. That's all that matters.
I know I may sound like old man penny pincher, but I have been behind people in line at this and other Salvation Army stores that complain and raise all hell about a dollar or two discrepancy in the price charged and the price listed on the tag. I don't do that. I can't. It's happened, but I dismiss it. It's a dollar. It's going to a good cause. Shut up. That's entirely different than the store asking a dumb amount for something. Why doesn't the Salvation Army actually set up an ebay store for these high-priced items? Somebody find out.
Old toys and ornamental items line these glass shelves with prices that would be out of place in any antique store. I asked an employee to unlock a case so I could see an acoustic guitar. After a heavy eye roll and audible sigh, she obliged - remaining just an arm's length away so I wouldn't grab everything and make a run for it. I picked it up and strummed it. Blllluuuuuuung. It sounded horrible. Yeah, it was a child's guitar from the 60s and looked cool, but it wasn't playable. There were dings all over it and the strings were about 2 inches above the neck. I flipped the price tag around. $200. Non-negotiable. Ridiculous.
If you're down that way, go in and browse. There's lots of junk, but you'll probably find something good. It's big and roomy, so you can easily escape any creepy person that seems to be following you. Not at all like the place across the street.
I caught up with Dena Phoop, Chairwoman of the "Elect John Uhrin to Virginia Beach City Council and Keep Re-Electing Him Until He Slides into the Mayor's Position"Committee while she was jogging in First Landing State Park and had a chance to ask her some quick questions about our man, Da' Uhrinator!
TL: Miss Phoop, how do you feel about John Uhrin's unchallenged bid for a city council seat this year?
DP: It's just as we expected. Why would anyone else bother running against him?
TL: According to a link I found, he raised $41,500 this year and he's got $25,113 left. What the heck did he use all that money for if there was no need to do any campaigning or anything?
DP: There were $16,393 in itemized expenses.
TL: For what?
TL: Will he be donating the rest to some worthy local charity on November 3rd?
TL: According to the same website, John's contact address is listed as 1000 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, VA, 23451. Is that his official campaign headquarters?
TL: Then, uh...why is it his official campaign headquarters?
DP: It clearly states on the city's website that Mr. Uhrin oversees the operation of 6 hotels at the beach. He's director of operations for Burlage Management.
TL: Yeah, I saw that. I looked all over for an official Burlage Management website and there isn't one.
DP: Right. There isn't one.
She runs far ahead of me while I lean up against a tree for a while to catch my breath. I cut through the woods, wade through some swamp water and, 23 minutes later, catch up with her.
TL: I thought a website, even a dinky one, was necessary and required in this modern digital age?
TL: And, come to think of it, there isn't an official John Uhrin website, either. You know, one for clearly stating his views and standpoints and affiliations and stuff. I mean, with all that money in his pot, couldn't he have one made - just to have some sort of place folks could go and learn more about their city councilman. Ask him questions, see what he looked like as a kid, you know, all the basic stuff.
TL: Has he had time to enjoy the 1,400 foot, $1.1 million dollar wooden bridge on Lake Holly?
TL: Does he always carry scissors around?
TL: Did he learn a valuable lesson after stuffing himself silly on steamed clams and oysters that had been sitting at room temperature for several hours in a banquet room at a fundraising event last April for Dave Redmond, Candidate for an At-Large seat on Virginia Beach City Council?
TL: Did any of the $8,500 he donated to Dave Redmond go towards taking this incredibly lame picture of him sitting in the off limit dune area on the coast of Virginia Beach?
We both stop so she can look at this picture.
I continue running and she catches up with me.
TL: Was this photograph AND sweatshirt Mr. Uhrin's idea to make Mr. Redmond appear "beachy" and or "casual"?
TL: Is it not the most hilarious thing you've seen in quite a while?
DP: Yes it is. Hilarious and sad.
TL: Did Mr. Uhrin take the photograph?
DP: (pause) Yes.
TL: Will he ever ride light rail when it's completed?
I start running backwards, out in front of her.
TL: Will he, together with the handful of like-minded city officials and developers that always seem to get exactly what they want around here, slowly, piece by piece, make the Virginia Beach oceanfront into a super, mega-resort town on horse steroids? Totally devoid of any aesthetic value or quaint, Southern beach town charm? Are his primary interests in the city summed up by the words "more", "big", "now", "money"?
TL: On page 2 of the election results from 2006, it shows that John won the election with 17,580 votes and 44,469 ballots were cast out of a possible 261,869 registered voters.
TL: I'm no statistician, but those are just pitiful numbers. Downright embarrassing for everyone. The people of Virginia Beach, the candidates...only a few people really give a hoot to vote.
DP: Yes. And it doesn't really matter who wins in the end. Virginia Beach isn't run by politicians. They're puppets. They dance on strings controlled by people with money in order to make more money so more people can hold more puppet strings...including most of the politicians themselves.
I turn around and slow down considerably. She passes me.
TL: (to myself) Oh my God. Puppets...controlling puppets.
DP: It's been like that since the beginning of time and it will always be the same
TL: One last thing, his name...is it really pronoun-
DP: Yes. "Yer-In". Like pee. Get over it and act like an adult.
I stop. She continues running.
TL: (yelling) And your name...is it really pr-
DP: (yelling) "Foop". It's Dena "Foop".
At that moment, a great wave of shock and sadness flowed through my entire body. I realized I'd been running this whole time with my fly down. How embarrassing!
Get out and vote, folks. It doesn't matter for who or for what reason, but it's something fun to do before or after several beers.
This year's sand sculptures for the Neptune Festival are...quite different from other years. You've got to show proof that you're over 18 to see 'em and, quite honestly, some of them will make you question the morality of sand itself. I've covered some of the bits I could get in trouble for posting here, so please go see for yourself. I'm going back tonight so I can be alone with one in particular.
Lots and lots of stabbings have occured at the Beach this year. This guy from Maryland stabbed somebody this past Saturday after they got into a fight on a trolley. (Hello. I'm not sure why, but all links to stories on the Virginian Pilot's website aren't working on Tidewater Log. At least, they aren't working for me. Very mysterious. You having the same problem? If so, just copy:
Those were the ones that received attention from the local media, but there must be a bunch more. Possibly hundreds of millions. I'm guessing close to a billion.
Have you ever been at the Oceanfront after midnight? Not lickin' an ice cream cone on a bench in front of King Neptune or smootching your hand in a lifeguard stand - that doesn't count. I'm talking about walking or riding a bike on the numbered streets when nobody's around. It's scary as hell.
Even in bright, hot sunlight I've noticed creepy folks up to no good at the Beach. They live in the crappy hotels along Pacific and Arctic Avenue or further inland in crappy apartment complexes. They're looking for people to rob. They're addicted to some form of cocaine, meth, or pills. They're looking for people walking to or from work. People on vacation. People not paying attention.
Soooooo, pay attention. Travel in groups. If you're alone, be quick. Don't linger. If some fool jumps out and scares the crap out of you, yell "FIRE" and run towards activity.
The road's all covered with sand and dirt - so thick you can't ride a bike on it. I don't see any "No Trespassing" signs, so I'm goin' in...
Pumps and tubes and plastic poles and valves plopped all around...
There's a loud, chuggling pump sucking water from somewhere underground...
...and dumping it in down an open manhole. No. "Manhole" sounds gross. It's a sewer drain or some sort of drainage pipe. The gravel has been stained with rust...never seen that before...gross...
Should someone be around? Guarding it? Supervising? I mean, I could just puncture the tube and leave...
I could tip that portable toilet over. What if Bruce Thompson's in it right NOW? Nobody's around. Anywhere. If somebody saw something from one of those condos, and called the cops, I'd be long gone by the time they arrived. Hey, who am I kidding, those condos are half empty and people don't look out windows anymore...
Naw...I better not do anything. I'll just head down to the beach, buy a Big-Gulp and a beer, go around back of the 7-Eleven, dump out the Big-Gulp, tilt the cup, and pour the beer in. The sun's getting low and I want to watch the dolphins dance. Plus, all this water splashing noise made me have to pee.
(Well, it looks like all the mess is for this or this. You know, the whole Laskin Road area redevelopment chaos. Shoulda known.)
The Naval medical supply ship, USS Derbley, is pulling into port and Marga D. hopes to be pulling everything off soon sfterwards. She's been at every Navy ship's return to the Port of Hampton Roads since 1986 providing much needed relief for our servicemen (and, so far, 3 women) moments after they return from the sea - the nagging, familiar sea.
Continued deployments to the Middle East mean steady business for Marga. On average, 7 ships return to port from distant waters every week and local television news cameras only show up at about 1 a month. "They want the hugging and the kissing and tears," says Marga, "all for some short, 20 second clip to show in between car crash footage and gang shooting stuff to make people feel good. Cameras don't show up for the supply ships or the maintenience cruisers. Nobody cares about them. But I do." She winks. A slow wink.
A cackly laugh turns into a minute of violent, thick phlegm gurgling. She spits outta gray, clam-sized chunk into the water and lights another cigarette. "Sure, they feign and faw for the cameras, but a few hours later, they're at home changing a squishy diaper, looking at a stack of credit card bills, and miserable. We'll go to my van, take care of business, and they'll really open up to me - tell me all their fears and hopes. At some point I gotta hurry 'em up 'cause there's a fella or two waiting for me." A seagull lands nearby. Marga yells at it and laughs.
Wait a minute - something slipped by real quick. She doesn't mean the MARRIED ones? Does she?
"Oh, I've had guys wear disguises off the ship - fake beards, glasses, and a cane or something - to sneak past their wife and kids to be with me," boasts Marga.
During the days of the first Gulf War in '91, Marga rented the top floor of a nearby hotel and employed several female associates (and one guy) to accomodate over 100 sailors a week. "You also gotta remember all the shipbuilders, plumbers, electricians, and so forth in the area during that time. Those were the glory days - the glory HOLE days," she adds as she flicks her cigarette straight up in the air and dodges it as it falls back down. The USS Derbley is approaching. "Showtime."
She's used to long, complicated docking process that a ship goes through. Ropes are thrown. Big bubbles explode underwater. There's lots of yelling and whistles. It's like some kind of nautical foreplay and Marga loves every minute of it. "You know, they call ships 'she' and 'her'. I like that." The gangplank is lowered and a few wives start quivering with excitement. They hold bags of fast food up in the air and wave them. The little kids yawn and stare at Marga as she applies a fresh coat of "Cherry Lick" lipstick and smacks her lips together loudly. "Schmmmmmmmop." She checks her teeth in the reflection of her Zippo, finally spotting that chunk of Dorito I noticed earlier, fluffs her crunchy bangs, and does a few slow motion squat thrusts for preparation.
The men disembark the ship with big, bulbous bags over their shoulders. One at a time, they all acknowledge Marga with a grin or a nod, but none stop. Cars leave the parking lot with contented shipmen and their families inside. Just when it seems like today is a bust, a sailor yells her name from the poopdeck. He looks like a young, bald Mexican Rick Moranis.
They embrace as he steps onto dry land for the first time since March. They kiss. He lifts her off her feet and spins her around. When their lips part, Marga lets out a long, wet burp and doesn't even say goodbye to me as he carries her, honeymoon style, to her van. A muffled "Anchors Away" blasts from the speakers as sporadic laughter slowly turns into angry groaning and slapping sounds. I back away slowly at first, then start sprinting.
Found the front page section of an old Virginian-Pilot from Sunday, July 4, 1976 at the very bottom of my elderly parakeet's cage today...
The great Guy Friddell asked some local folks to share their thoughts on the current state of the country. Here are some of my favorite excerpts.
"People today just don't give a damn about their fellow man," said Bob Moss, 31, a corrections officer and paramedic at St. Brides Correctional Unit. "That's from right here in Chesapeake on up to Capitol Hill." He reeled in his line, baited it with another cricket, and cast it out into the Northwest River again. "Too windy today to catch anything, but it passes the time of day. It's relaxing," he said, sitting back down on the railroad trestle.
"We're battling each other trying to keep up with the Joneses and how much money they make. We want too much. Too much comfort; machines to save us time. But then what do we do with the leisure time? How many sit on a riverbank like this and listen to the birds?"
I like to imagine Mr Friddell, dressed in slacks, white short-sleeved shirt, and tie getting back into his huge sedan, wiping the sweat from his brow, and waving to Mr. Moss as he pulls away. And just as the dust settles on the gravel road, Mr. Moss reels in a duffle bag full of soggy $100 bills.
"People don't take the time to understand one another, They're indifferent," said Lance Manning, 23, as he lay on the sofa in his Norfolk apartment. A deliveryman for a local bakery, he was home with an illness. He was in his pajamas and his legs were covered with a blanket.
His wife, Donna, 18, a recent high school graduate, sat on the floor. "The mood has been created by industry. When we moved back here after the Navy, the area had changed. It was more a mood of rush and hurry. Industry brought in the deadline. Lance has even changed. Now he has more deadlines to meet. And I can see a change in his personality.
"It's frustrating. You're getting chewed up in this. I just wish that sometimes people would stop and look at me, at everyone, as an individual: a different person."
Nice to see that the ol' "Sudden Pre-Independence Day Weekend Bug" was going around way back in 1976. I thought I invented it.
I wonder how Mr. Friddell gained entry into their apartment. Was he driving around Norfolk looking for someone that appeared friendly enough to interview? How many people just flat out refused? "Who? About what? Naw, man, I don't wanna say anything. I don't even read the paper."
Maybe Donna was getting something from their car, Mr. Friddell approaches and flashes a Virginian-Pilot I.D. card of some kind, Donna inspects it closely, and says "Well, I guess so. C'mon in". Lance, lounging on the couch, watching "The Price is Right", is startled when she bursts back into the front room with a strange man in his 50s. "This man's from the paper and wants to talk to us. Sit up."
Wonder if they're still together or if they're still in Norfolk? at the same apartment, maybe? My exhaustive googling (3.2 minutes worth) was fruitless.
Mr. Friddell talked a bunch of other people, including Rabbi Lawrence A. Forman of Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk ("We sometimes tend to let the problems control us rather than we controlling the problems."), three insurance salesmen at a restaurant in Suffolk ("Taxes and everything else is going up," said the one in a green plaid suit.), Natalie O'Shea, a divorced mother of three and the manager of Bayside Kennels on Virginia Beach Boulevard ("If it came down to it, I wouldn't accept welfare."), Air Force pilot Bill Walker in Redwing Park (He stopped playing Frisbee with his 15-month-old son Tyson to talk), and L. B. Parsons -
"Yeah, what's the use of complaining," said L. B. Parsons, 60, as he sat on a milk crate in his store, Parson's Grocery on Ballahack Road in Chesapeake. Dust covered many of the items on the shelves. "They're (politicians) going to do what they want. You used to know that once a man got in, he'd vote one way, Now they change so often you don't know what's happening."
Allright, enough serious stuff...let's get on with the HILARIOUS OLD ADVERTISMENTS!
Sears Putter Suits will never go out of style. They're all I wear.
Just two of the super deals to be found at Moore's Building Supply - at 3224 Atlantic Avenue in Chesapeake or 100 South Lynn Shore Drive.
From Big Star Foods - with 16 locations all over Hampton Roads.
This is probably the strangest ad in the front page section. I wasn't aware that silhouettes were so immensely popular in the disco era that a silhouette artist's appearance at a Janaf department store had to be "HELD OVER 1 WEEK!". And not just for a quick little meet and greet - L. Pierre was there for about 8 hours each weekday and 6 hours on Saturday pumping out silhouettes at 88 cents a pop. This dude must have loved cutting people's profiles. Well, not everybody. At the bottom of the ad, it says "Bring your children (baby to 16 years) and Bottemer will cut delightful silhouettes in minutes". And in tiny writing at the very bottom, it says "Sorry, Mr. Bottemer cannot accept phone calls." Guess that was in his contract or something. "No, no - I can not accept 'zee telephon call. Tell 'zem to come here. I do 'zeir child's silhouettes only here." Actually, he might not have had a French accent. He could have had a Georgia drawl for all I know.
Check out some of his silhouette work here and one of his paintings here. After some random clicking, I discovered that Mr. Bottemer was the courtroom sketch artist at Richard Hauptman's trial New Jersey in 1935. You know, the guy that kidnapped Charles Lindbergh's 20-month-old son? Read all about it here.
Next to the silhouette artist ad, there's a funny review of a Harry Chapin concert at the Dome in Virginia Beach the previous Friday. The reviewer, Sean Brickell, and I aren't Harry Chapin fans. Read these two little snippets -
"For the first two hours of the second set, Chapin gave no more than 50% music. The remainder of the time was spent telling songs' histories, personal philosophies, or jokes as predictable as the sun's rising."
"Unfortunately, all too frequently, the band tried to play rock n' roll, which it isn't equipped to do. Chapin sadly tried to pass it off with concert cliches like 'boogie', 'rock n' roll', or 'can you dig it'?"
And finally, for no real reason, here's the tide chart. Enjoy.