Richy Rich

Musings

I bought a seven speed bicycle the other day. It is a rust bucket of a Schwinn. The seat is torn and gaping open and it will only shift into two gears: six and seven, the two most challenging gears. Of course I didn’t know about the gears when I bought it. The bicycle also had two mostly flat tires, and yet I was willing to take my chances for the five dollar price tag and the pure wind-in-my-hair joy I knew it would bring me.

The thing is, I have been on a bit of a budget. Not that I don’t always thrill over a deal, or typically have wads of cash to throw around on fancy high-dollar peddlers, but a five dollar bicycle in a tourist town, in July, well, I consider that good fortune.

I have had a lot of other good fortune lately and it has mostly coincided with my mad attempts to horde the few dollars I have to my name. Exciting as it has been to start a new job as a reporter, find my own place and start the heady task of furnishing said place, it is no inexpensive feat. Also I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet.

Upon moving into my very cozy cabin-esque apartment a little over a week ago, I took stock of what I needed, which to make the list short was: everything. To be fair, the apartment was furnished with a queen-sized bed, vintage dresser, kitchen table complete with two cushioned yet stained chairs, an orange and brown scratchy/deeply hideous loveseat, one torn and tattered green rocking chair, and a ripped footstool. I am not exactly sure why so much of the furniture is torn and stained but I chalk it up to the last tenant being a bachelor and not a serial killer.

I slowly began the hunt for my long list of household items. I spent my lunch breaks from the paper poring over every shelf in every thrift store in town, checking things off my list: silverware caddy, utensils, baskets for storage, a single plate and single bowl. I was as vigilant for deals as a hunter is for the snap of a tree branch. I got my glassware half off one day. I found forks and knives five cents apiece, along with the baskets. I accidentally bought a space heater instead of a fan, so that was a loss, but lucky for me, Cody gets so cold and windy at night that I feel like I might be swept off to Oz. And I might one day need it, probably before July is through.

I bought a cooking pot for $2 at a consignment store and a vintage turquoise hamper for $6 although, that was a bit of a splurge, but I put back the fly fishing vest for $5 that I yearned for deeply even though it made me look like a husky pre-pubescent boy. I found an electric tea kettle with a sticker that said $4 but rang up $3. I passed on things like full dishware sets or drinking cups, and chose to stick with my one plate for now and drink out of my Nalgene bottle when I was thirsty.

Also I had a vast coffee mug collection to start with, so I’ve survived. A friend slept over one night and I heard her rustling around to get a drink in the middle of the night. When she crawled back into bed with me, I apologized for my lack of dishware and she said it was alright, that she’d found a mug that said Milk. It actually says Beast.

What was left over after I paid rent, bought absolute essentials like toilet paper, dish soap and a small starter set of grocery items like bread, blueberries, yogurt and almonds—things that could not be purchased thrifting—was a meager amount. This was of course after I bought a celebratory pizza and a six pack of Blue Moon as my one indulgence to life on my own. I proceeded to eat pizza for two meals a day, four days in a row. I rationed that pizza pie like you wouldn’t believe. I even rationed the beer. There is still one bottle left.

I felt a little grim about making a grocery budget out of five dollars, but that was what I could finagle for the week. I knew the bread and blueberries could only go so far, but I also knew my mama raised me very well when it came to being thrifty. I decided I wanted some sort of sliced turkey or chicken breast because I knew I could eat that for two meals a day like I had the pizza.

I went to the grocery store where I saw sliced chicken breast was on sale for $3.98 a pound and I was beside myself, thinking I had an extra dollar to work with and I could get a whole pound of chicken when I realistically expected only half a pound. There was some debate about the sale, however and a manager was called, then another manager. I grew a little frustrated as I had my heart set on the sale price and was not backing down, though I tried to come across as friendly, I insisted the sale sticker had no date and said clear as a bell the $3.98 price.

Finally the manager handed over my sliced chicken and apologized for my long wait and all of the confusion, saying the item indeed was on sale. I started to walk over to produce to find what I could get for $1 when I noticed the sticker on my chicken said $.48 not $3.98. I stared at it thinking there was some mistake and but then I thought perhaps God was giving me a break. I was downright jubilant and found some guacamole on sale and sweet potato chips and went home and ate that for days until the chicken ran out. When the chicken was gone, I spread guacamole on toast and sprinkled parmesan and red pepper packets on top that I had left over from the pizza and washed it down with a brew.

I panicked one day when I thought I had run out of shampoo but then I remembered my bath bag where I had stowed away half empty travel size bottles of shampoos that people left in their cabins, back when I was doing housekeeping in June. I put all of the travel size bottles in my shower and calculated that I had at least two weeks before I actually needed to buy a new bottle of shampoo.

I hung out with new friends who gave me an old blender and a stash of Mason jars they had in their garage. I signed up for text alerts to get free movie codes for Redbox rentals.

I had next to no money for groceries this week until I get paid and I had called my mom one day to excitedly ask her, “did you know you can buy a single carrot?”

My mom asked why I would buy just one carrot.

“Because it was seventeen cents!” I exclaimed. “I could get two side meals out of that carrot!”

And that’s when I found my bike. That money was strictly earmarked for groceries but I had to. Hence the single carrot. The tires were low and needed to be filled and there wasn’t a single gas station that I could find that had a free air pump, though I did find one that you could pay by the minute. Or so I thought.

I had exactly one quarter left to my name that I honestly didn’t want to give up, but I really wanted to ride my new bike, so I put it in the air machine. Nothing happened. I stared at the machine, not exactly feeling dismay but wondering vaguely if I could get my quarter back, when a man nearby hopped out of his beat-up truck and asked if I needed quarters. I swatted my hand, “no. I just thought you could pay for one minute. I didn’t know you had to commit to the four minutes for a dollar. I really don’t need four minutes.”

“I have a whole bunch of quarters here,” he insisted grabbing a bunch off his dashboard and placing some in the machine while I still argued that he didn’t need to do that. Suddenly air was whooshing out of the hose and he smiled. This was the epitome of people in Wyoming, just wanting to help.

I thanked him profusely and he was gone. I filled up the tires on my bike and checked to see if my car tires needed air once I was on someone else’s quarter. I then brought my new/old Schwinn home and took her for a wind-in-my-hair, joy-filled ride. A grin was perma-plastered on my face. Even when I went uphill. Even when I realized the shifter was broke. Even when the handlebars stained my hands black.

And you know what the funny part is? Used shampoo bottles and used spatulas and coffee mugs that say Beast and rickety bikes and guacamole sandwiches and single carrots, and free movie rentals, and tattered furniture and faux wood paneling in a studio apartment that looks like the scene where the Grinch steals everything and even the mice are aghast at the nail holes and crumbs aside… well all of this doesn’t make me feel poor at all. It makes me feel quite rich.

I think I’ve finally made it.

**My good friend Ryan and sweet sister Kia helped in the way of my grocery budget funds. Without them I wouldn’t have eaten guac sammies and carrots and blueberries and almonds and pizza and Blue Moon’s, but instead would’ve had to eat s’mores fixin’s and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I am also rich in family and friends.

Ugliness Attack

Musings

I have a real problemo with ugly. Ugly shoes make me scrunch up my mouth and nose in distaste. Ugly cars? I ask myself why? Why would you ride around in that, it’s clearly modeled after a hearse. Ugly dogs, no, I don’t want to pet you (but I will out of politeness), now go on, shoo shoo, you’re no husky and you and I are both sorry for that. Amendment—some dogs are so ugly they’e cute. That works for me. Ugly home decor. Oh my. Don’t even joke about that. In fact watch this commercial that perfectly sums up my thoughts on my low tolerance for ugly.

And this one for good measure because, it too, is hilarious and so true.

Before you go thinking I am vain and wretched, it is not so. Reference one of my earlier posts where I dressed like a long dead male poet, complete with moustache. I clearly am not Kate Winslet, nor do I pretend to be. I just have a real issue with aesthetics. I blame my mother.

She has really good taste and growing up had a way of taking anything—tree branches, a dresser she found on the side of the road, window panes— and turning them into pieces of beautiful art. Though our home was modest and our family size was abundant (12 of us in all) I have always felt Martha Stewart would tip her hat, or maybe her fashionable garden shears to our home— when it’s clean and ready for Thanksgiving or a graduation party that is.

Not only that, but I recently found out on a trip back home to Michigan to visit my family that I was having ugliness attacks even as a toddler. My boyfriend, mom, sister and I were driving home from Ann Arbor, after some thrifting and Zingermans sandwiches, yes and yes. My mom and I were regaling DC (my boyfriend) with car horror stories of yore while my sister laughed in the backseat.

The car horror stories came about because I casually mentioned to my family that DC didn’t know you could buy used tires. As in he literally hadn’t ever run into the problem of not being able to afford brand spanking new tires, should he need some. Ah, how the other half lives.

This is why I must tease him about being a Richie Rich. If you know anything about the movie Richie Rich, you will know that Macaulay Culkin had a lot of moola, enough to buy his own mountain if he wanted to. My boyfriend does not have that kind money. But he has always had enough where he did not know you could buy tires that have been pre-owned.

My family on the other hand grew up knowing how to stretch a dollar—because we had to—and the worth of a worn-out tire. Sure I have been warned on more than one occasion that my tires may blow out at any given moment, have no tread left and that I am actually a danger to myself and the road if I continue to drive with such shoddy tires. It’s quite shocking that all those years of crappy tires held out as long as they did, but I credit good mechanics with solid patching skills combined with reasonable used tire prices and the fine grace of God for why my car tires have never blown out to date.

So there we were, driving in DC’s posh car with Sirius radio, brakes that don’t grind, a steering wheel that doesn’t screech and a transmission smoothly doing whatever it is that transmissions do, while showing DC that our family is no stranger to used tires, in fact used tires were the least of our concerns when it came to cars.

My mom told a story of one car that was missing the ignition, or the ability to start the car normally with a key. You had to start the car with a screwdriver. I was very young and do not remember this car. My mom said one day we were getting ready to leave and she tried putting me in the car. I saw the interior, the faulty ignition and began to cry and refuse to get in.
I was having my first ugliness attack.

So see, it’s been ingrained in me even as a wee lass. It’s not my fault. I knew even at a very young age that I wanted to surround myself with pretty and I have strived for that ever since.

In all seriousness though, my version of pretty is probably very different from yours. Sure I cried over the car that had to be started with a screwdriver, but does that mean I covet Range Rovers? No. I want a 1986 Jeep Wagoneer. Are my flannels from Urban Outfitters? No, they’re my grandpa’s or they were purchased at Goodwill. And um, they’re flannels. Do I decorate with tree-branches and old books? Sure do. But these are all things that are beautiful to me. Old flannels, old cars, old soul. It’s just a matter of taste. To quote my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally:

“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”

Lucky for me, I not only have great taste but I am a hoot. I am just talking about the other people. The people who buy ugly dogs, shoes and cars. But alas, I suppose they too think they have good taste and a sense of humor. Alas, what can you do? Just know that if I walk into your doctor’s office and the paint is muted green, the chairs are a plastic magenta and I am suddenly shuddering, well I am having an ugliness attack and will question your credentials.