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If Thrift Is In The Shop & No One’s Around to ‘Fu It…

January 25, 2010

It’s been over two weeks since I posted on here, and I’m feeling very neglectful. This is in part because I’m still saving my shekels for the big unnecessary awesome purchase, which means that I’ve got to be careful about small unnecessary mildly impressive purchases. It’s unfortunate timing that I should be looking to make such an acquisition right after launching this blog, but there are lessons in Thrift Fu to be gained in its absence.

This evening I found myself in a fly-by-night discount DVD store that’s sprung up across the street from The Strand. While there were at least a few DVDs at reasonable prices I was interested in, those for which I have a BURNING DESIRE were absent (or, in a couple cases, in a format I didn’t want them in), and after sifting through just about the entire store’s stock I suddenly realized there was no good reason for me to drop over $20 on DVDs about which I was only somewhat chuffed. I put them back with not a little regret, but I realize now this was false Thrift Fu, and I successfully resisted it. The DVDs I want will find their way to me on their own path at their own pace, and I will appreciate them all the more when they do.

Observant readers may have noticed that my username on WordPress is “jerryabington.” Since I’ve been quite open that my name is in fact Ken Applebaum, who then is Jerry Abington? He is the narrator of Cory Doctorow‘s seminal sci-fi short story “Craphound.” Craphound is the nickname of Jerry’s alien partner, but it’s also a breed of person who scours yard sales, thrift stores, backwood auctions and the like, seeking items of unsuspected value that might be snaked for a song, be it for one’s own collection or an appreciable profit in resale to a more knowledgable buyer. At least, that’s the way Jerry views it. Craphound, on the other hand, comes from a race who puts ultimate value on stories, and they trade advanced technology to Earthlings for the physical totems of memories.

I chose Jerry’s name as my handle not because my interest in Thrift Fu is a purely materialistic one. If anything, I’d like to become less materialistic and more sensitive to the inherent stories in my practice thereof; why else write a blog about what in the end is random shopping? Jerry eventually reaches this consciousness in the story by Craphound’s example, though not before shunning Craphound for what he sees as a gross violation of The Craphound’s Code:

And then I explained to him all about how you never bid against a craphound at a yard-sale, how you get to know the other fellows’ tastes, and when you see something they might like, you haul it out for them, and they’ll do the same for you, and how you never buy something that another craphound might be looking for, if all you’re buying it for is to sell it back to him. Just good form and common sense, really, but you’d be surprised how many amateurs just fail to make the jump to pro because they can’t grasp it.

I don’t know yet if there’s a Thrift Fu Code, since up to now it’s been a mostly solitary pursuit (and I prefer it remain so to preserve the personal nature of whatever its message may be), but this seems a good starting point, as is the whole moral parable that is “Craphound.” If you’ve never read it, for the sake of the ‘Fu, it’s available for free online (as are almost all of Cory’s works); here is a .txt version, and it wouldn’t take much of a hunt to find it in almost any other format you like. There’s even several podcast readings of it online (of which I think the best is from Escape Pod) and a comic adaptation.

I should note I’ve not gone completely cold turkey on Thrift Fu lately. Some of the best scores from Goodwill from the past couple weeks have included:

There may be a couple items I’m forgetting. Obviously, you can take the boy out of Thrift Fu for a little while, but you can’t take the Thrift Fu out of the boy.

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