Today my obsession is old country-and-western music. Already this morning I’ve crawled butt-up in a skirt across the filthy floor to retrieve some records that had fallen beneath the bins. But the first two thrift stores bottomed out, and I can feel my early-morning ardor fading. And this Unique, so busy by noon, has such a tiny record section.

On a circuitous, halfhearted route to the records, I slow down to admire an old leather suitcase and a man walks smack into me. “Oh, excuse me,” I say. My fault, but as the man walks away I wonder if I felt him rub against me as he passed. Maybe it’s just the narrow aisles.

A shaggy-looking middle-aged man is spread out across the record bins. A collector? So many are shaggy, middle-aged, and male, but hurrah, he is muttering excitedly over six-packs of motivational tapes and lunges for them greedily when I move in. With practiced fingers I flip through the LPs, noting with satisfaction that they remain reasonably priced at 75 cents. Mr. Soon to Be Motivated leaves and is replaced by the Man Who Bumped Me in Suitcases. When he reaches for the records, I sense the competition, turn to give him a closer look, and–oh dear.

He’s got a problem all right. He’s staring intently at me, one hand on the records, the other deep down inside the front of his pants. I register this at the precise instant my still-flipping fingers uncover Webb Pierce! And behind it Christmas With Tammy! And Three Country Gentlemen!

I take less than a split second to decide I’m not moving. No jerk-off is gonna scare me off–not when I’m scoring this hard. I move on to the second and third racks of records and find still more goodies. The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers! Mr. Man, just a few inches away, is rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. I’m flipping, flipping, flipping through the LPs. There’s just one rack left and he’s right in front of it.

“Excuse me,” I say loudly, and though he’s rude enough to masturbate in public, he politely steps aside. The last rack bears no fruit, but fulfilled, I hop back to my cart and speed away. It’s not easy satisfying desires in thrifts, but we all have our lucky days.

Store quirk: This enormous L-shaped store has no intercom, but it does have a staff crier who occasionally makes the rounds hollering out sales information or warnings: “Ladies! Watch your pocketbooks. We got a pickpocket today.”

Unique Thrift Store

5040 S. Kedzie


Hours: Monday through Friday 9-9, Sunday 11-7.

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