Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Price of Goodwill

On a quest to redecorate, my husband and I headed to the young and poor shopper’s Mecca: Goodwill.  Browsing the secondhand furniture and bedding we became aggravated over the price of the items.  Six dollars for a used 12 by 12 inch throw pillow and $164 for a corner stand dropped off in the parking lot?  Are you kidding me?!  So we grit our teeth and fork out our hard earned cash for someone else’s old junk.  These days we’re all trying to save a dollar, and my husband and I can’t help but reminisce a time when Goodwill was, well, affordable.

When I was just a young Californian lass my family took frequent outings to Goodwill.  Most enthused was my mother and grandmother.  Hour after hour went by and I was convinced that we wouldn’t leave until Mom looked over every single item in the store.  I was frustrated; my five year old patience level was similar to what it is now (nonexistent) and I just didn’t understand why everything wasn’t sorted out on pretty racks with one hanging in front so you could see what the rest looked like.  And everything smelled funny.  When I got older I depressingly realized why we shopped at the smelly store; the clothes were cheap and we didn’t have a ton of money.

Ask my grandmother about my “Goodwill phases” and she’ll gladly tell you the saga of my pubescent years and my abhorrence for showing my face in one.  Sure, there were times when Harriet the Spy bell bottoms could only be found second hand and I read through Babysitter’s Club novels faster than they were being written, but for no other reason would I be caught dead 13 and shopping at Salvation Army.  It was a seventh grade status thing and Airwalks didn’t hit Goodwill shelves until about 2001, and Grandma just couldn’t ever ever ever understand!

Fast forward to twenty ten and here I am watching John the ponytailed forty-something scan my soon to be new-to-me crap and double checking his work because yellow tags are half-off today.  Things have changed since junior high, that change being I’m on my own now (by choice, I swear).  But with these prices we may as well buy new!  My husband and I agree, a shirt used to cost one dollar at Goodwill when we were growing up, maybe two if it were long-sleeved.  A month ago we scavenged for hideous Christmas-wear and I beamed when I discovered an old dance costume gem that completed my elf garb.  But my glow quickly faded when I saw that this sequined and fishnet top was a whopping $5.99.  I bought it, of course, but I fumed thinking to myself, who decided to charge an arm and a leg for things that they never paid for in the first place?!

Who? is a gentleman by the name of Michael Miller, the President of the Columbia Willamette region of Goodwill locations, who in 2005 the Oregon attorney general’s office determined made too much money compared to other “non-profit” up and ups.  How much is too much? you ask: almost a million a year.  From our free, donated junk.  Goodwill still claims to be employing millions of Americans who would be without work if it weren’t for them, and they very well may be.  But it’s a tough pill to swallow when one of the many Goodwill regional presidents is making a salary tripled my own with a couple zeros tacked onto the end of that.  I think of how much less fortunate families and individuals struggle with paying these prices, and I stick my foot in my mouth (well maybe just a big toe).  What if you really weren’t able to afford thrift store prices? 

So I ask Mr. Miller to remember what Goodwill used to be about, and invite you to visit my garage sale I will be having this spring, sometime around say April?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Celebrity Death Match

The latest casualty of Hollywood B-listers is Brittany Murphy.  Dare I go to hell in a handbasket?  Yes!  Ok, here I go: the only surprise that Brittany Murphy died of cardiac arrest came from the fact that the American public had long forgotten about her since 8 Mile resurrected her career for 2.5 seconds eight years ago and surprise! I forgot she was even alive...
Now that I may have offended some, let’s keep going.  2009 seemed to be a big year for celebrity deaths: Murphy, Natasha Richardson, DJ AM, David Carradine, and the more legendary losses of Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, and Farrah Fawcett.  For fans like myself, knowing that the King of Pop would never perform again was upsetting and unbelievable.  And knowing that DJ AM would only be spinning on turntables in the sky made me wonder if he was actually a DJ or if he thought the name was rad.  So why does the fact that these people are remotely famous make their deaths seem more tragic? 

In 2009 the American Cancer Society predicted that 1,500 Americans would die each day of cancer and according to 85,000 died from alcohol related causes and 17,000 from illicit drug use.  People are dying every day but we don’t hear their stories.  Most of the celebrities that died last year I was unfamiliar with or could care less about, but their mug shot was on every channel I surfed to.  And there are a lot of other celebrities I could really live without (coughkanyewestcough). 

True celebrity is reached when you can make people feel that they personally know you when they have never met you, which makes mourning the loss of them understandable.  But when esteemed news stations and reporters redirect all their focus on these celebrity deaths I get annoyed.  We get so caught up in Joe Jackson’s deranged actions post-Michael that we forget there’s a real world going on around us and prescription drug abuse and overdose are real issues in America.  I say enough about a gal whose claim to fame was a box office flop with Dakota Fanning!
And while my handbasket is riding a river of fiery rapids I ask you, do celebrities bring death upon themselves?  In a grim reaper way I think so.  Brittany Murphy was the charming and chubby guest star of my favorite movie of all time, Clueless.  And if it weren’t for the success of Scrubs and (giggle) Law and Order 2007 and beyond, she would be the most successful actor from the 1995 piece of Oscar-worthy gold.  But there just aren’t enough charming and chubby roles in Hollywood anymore so, by the looks of things, Murphy took an unhealthy route to achieve her barely-alive figure and voila! Just Married.  To say that I’m surprised that her body shut down would be a lie. 

The lifestyles that celebrities are pressured into are often destructive ones, and the fact that Perez Hilton and exist means that we will hear about their deaths more and more.  Our obsession with celebrity deaths will remain, but let’s try making an effort to run/walk in a Race for the Cure or donate our time to a local nursing home.  Because there are a lot of unknown celebrities that we lose every day.