Tag Archives: thrift

The Slack is Back: Why Hipsters Are the New Slackers

It’s said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and this is true not only in our culture, but in our countercultures and subcultures as well. Your Chop is 31 this year, which makes us just barely old enough to remember the best of the early Nineties. It also means we’re young enough to still be going out pretty often, and the more time we spend in bars and DIY spaces, the more we notice how much today’s Hipsters have in common with the Slackers of yore.

Today’s bright young things of 21-25 are definitely too young to remember most of the 90’s, especially the early part. Sure, they’re happy to ‘curate’ some of the indie touchstones of that period into their own lives; Nirvana bootlegs, Trainspotting, cassettes, eclectic fashion, The Basketball Diaries and organic coffee, but most fail to realize exactly how much they’ve got in common with the grunge rockers who were living in those same shitty apartments and loft spaces 20 years ago.

One of these photos is from a story on Lollapalooza 1991. The other is from a 2010 story on a Brooklyn loft space. You are free to guess which is which.

The ties that bind today’s Hipsters to their Slacker brethren run deeper than their pasty, tattooed skin. Beyond the PBR and the Chuck Taylors- and of course the blatant denials- it’s the things you can’t see with the eye that mark the Hipster as the new Slacker.

>>> An inflated sense of self-worth. Lots of people create art. A ton of people have read Chomsky and Nietzche the poems of Pablo Neruda. Building a bicycle or growing a vegetable garden or knitting a scarf are skills that many people have. They don’t make you special, Hipster. They put you on the level of basic human competence.

>>> A giant sense of entitlement. A job that you love and enjoy is not your due, Hipster. A job in your chosen field is not your due. A job is not your due. Doing something rewarding about which you’re passionate is what you get after you pay your dues. How do you pay your dues? You grind on in an ordinary job until you’ve learned all the things they didn’t teach you in college. If you’re lucky, it’ll take 20 years. Until that happens get off the fucking dole and go to work.

>>> A refusal of sacrifice. Is that iPhone’s unlimited data plan a want or a need? Is that out-of-town reunion show really a one-off must-see event? Is it actually so imperative that you treat Record Store Day as a national holiday? It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve heard anyone say “I can’t. I don’t have the money.” but we’re still often hearing stories of bar tabs and boasts of new purchases, along with complaints about credit card debt.

>>> Political martyrdom. The rise of grunge and Slacker culture in the early 1990’s had a lot to do with the first President Bush and his recession. The prominence of Hipster culture was directly proportional to the G. W. Bush economy of the late 2000’s, the effects of which we’re still feeling today. Combining your part-time service gig with an Etsy shop might seem like an ideal solution, but it fits a sixty-something better than a twentysomething. Believe it or not, cheap rent doesn’t last forever.

>>> Send in the Salvation Army. We will give some credit where it’s due. Slack-sters have always been masters of thrift. An underemployed twentysomething can cut expenses just about anywhere. We’re a great admirer of thrift, but there’s more to it than scoring an advantageous rental agreement, cutting out transport costs with a bicycle and using sales and coupons for groceries. The idea is to do something more productive with the money you’re saving than buying a nice bag of weed. Making ends meet is important, but until you’ve figured out how to make cash flow positive at the end of every month, there will always be a question of whether you own a lifestyle, or a lifestyle owns you.


Filed under Chop Rants!

The Chop at the Pawn Shop

Baltimore, more than most cities, has always embraced thrift in all its forms. Whether it’s the local Goodwill, the flea market, church basement sale, consignment shops or just finding things on the street, Charm City natives are always keen to save a buck. As anyone who’s saved more than a couple of bucks will tell you, the key to scoring great finds on non-new goods is to keep a constant eye out. Something like the perfect cocktail shaker isn’t going to just sit on the shelf and wait for you to buy it. You’ve got to wait for it, and be ready to snatch it up when it appears.

Of course Joe is honest. It says so right on the building.

This is why we’re surprised that more of our friends aren’t in the habit of making regular visits to the pawn shop.

The Chop will take any chance we can get to browse around in a pawn shop, and with brass balls hanging all over the city, that’s no shortage of chances. After all, the pawn shop is just another form of thrift. It may even be the best form of thrift there is, because unlike a Salvation Army or an endless flea market, there’s not a lot of true junk to sift through in a pawn shop. Most everything on display is in the store because the pawnbroker judged it to have some objective value.

After a while, you get a good idea of the typical pawn shop inventory. If you’re in search of a watch (or any other sort of jewelry) a guitar, power tools, or an extra TV for that guest bedroom, you can realize some significant savings buying from a pawn.

We’re thinking of buying a sawzall right now, for instance. Of course, we’re no Bob Vila or anything, just a simple homeowner. We’re not going to use the thing more than twice a year, so saving half of the Home Depot price tag by scoring one used is a no brainer. While we’re there, we might even pick up a few DVD’s (3 for $10 is not unusual) and maybe even some choice CD’s from 1993.

The next time you’re in a neighborhood with a pawn shop, (which is probably right now) go ahead and pop in for a look around. Sure, it can be a little sketchy sometimes, with the buzzer on the door and the gun stashed just out of sight under the counter. It can even be morbid and depressing, seeing the rings of so many broken engagements and heirlooms hocked to make the rent, but you’re a Baltimorean… you should be used to all that by now.

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Free Stuff! Available on a Streetcorner Near You in Baltimore

A friend once told us of a conversation he was having with an acquaintance of his who was from Glasgow. The two of them were walking down the street chit-chatting when they passed a set of fireplace tools; a poker, tongs, etc.

“What in the fuck is that?” asked the Scot.

“It’s a fireplace set.” said our friend.

“Well, I can see that, but what the fuck is it doing in the street?!”
Sensing a disconnect, our friend explained “Whoever owned it is done with it, but it’s still perfectly good, so they put it out here for someone to take.”

“That’s fucking amazing!” said the Scotchman. “In Glasgow you’d never see that in a million years. People keep their things forever, and if you put something like that out on the street the hooligans would snatch it up and beat someone to death with it.”

Failing a visit from the rag and bone man, putting your junk in the street is the next best thing.

This story has always stuck with us, and it reminds us of one of the things we like best about living in Baltimore: people put free stuff on the corner all the time. You never know when you may turn a corner on any given street and find an old video game console, a floor lamp, a small appliance or anything else that may prove useful.

Of course, there’s been something of an increase in this sort of thing since the indefinite hiatus of bulk trash collections. In certain Baltimore neighborhoods the night before bulk trash collection was a veritable community swap meet. As a downtown renter, the Chop was never too proud to walk around the neighborhood seeking treasure among the trash, and we even came up with a few quality items that served us well. We really, really wish that city hall could find the funds to reinstate bulk trash night. not just for this reason, but because it was a valuable service for city residents.

Then there’s the seedy underbelly of Baltimore thrift: the eviction pile. It is a degrading and humiliating experience to have a landlord turn you out of your own home, but what’s worse is having to solve the logistical problems of moving everything you own at a moment’s notice (and being flat broke at that moment). Most people evicted in Baltimore city are savvy enough to have someone standing by at all times in front of their house to watch over their possessions. But in any case, after a truck is secured and packed, most people will leave behind a pile of goods of at least some size. you’ve got to travel light, and anything you leave behind is the landlord’s problem, and fuck him.

The Chop has been on both sides of this phenomenon. We’ve never suffered eviction, but when we moved from the city back to the far suburbs, we knew we were going to have to travel light. With the TV packed and moved, the only entertainment on that last day in our apartment was to watch people root through and carry off our stuff. (Yes, there was a tranny hooker. And yes, we watched out the window as she rooted through the nightstand and put the leftover condoms in her purse. That happened. Stay classy, Baltimore.)

But we say all this now because we’ve finally acquired enough junk that our basement needs a thorough cleaning. Some of it may go to Goodwill. If we’re feeling industrious, some of it may find it’s way to the Baltimore Free Store. Some of the furniture may get consigned, and some items might be reserved for the Remington Dump.

Undoubtedly though, a few items are just going to be cast out on the street. Perhaps with a little sign that says ‘Free.’


Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop