I never find anything good amid the leavings at the smallish Salvation Army in Wicker Park. But each time I pass it, I drop in. Why not? This may be the day that some supercalifragilistic item gets put out just for me instead of one of the hundreds of latte-charged browsers that prowl Milwaukee Avenue.

Without hope, why go at all? Hope is the critical emotional artillery against the completely random nature of thrifting. Once embraced, it is the great motivator (“I’ll just take a quick look”) and the supreme solace (“That sucked, but maybe another day, another store”).

To bypass this dumpy Salvation Army is to abandon hope and to disrespect the marvelous winds of chance that will one day blow fantastic crap against my feet. As usual this Sally is less than fruitful. I try to salvage the trip with some modest purchases: a Lawrence Sanders paperback, a barely used bingo inker, a T-shirt from a Christian day camp. Any transaction will help rotate the stock, sustain the thrift, and let the thrift gods know I’m still in the game, ever faithful even through the leanest times. On my last visit I bought a fork. Keep hope alive.

Salvation Army

1515 N. Milwaukee


Hours: 10 to 6 Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Dorothy Perry.