Rescued Art

Richard Barrett

The parking lot of the Salvation Army was packed with Chevy Geos and non-descript Hyundais. Cars were parked along the side of the street after the parking lot was too full for more. Deep, grinding need makes people very sensitive to sale schedules at cheap thrift stores near home. Everything was 50% off . . . except for pink tags (the freshest abandoned merchandize). This was an old style store . . . in a former Kroger building that did business there before ‘super market’ meant a building bigger than Grand Central Station.

There was a book holding the door open. Feng Shui: Understanding the Ancient Art of Placement. Being wedged under an old aluminum door like this struck me as eerie, made me want to laugh in that scary way that movie villains do. Something was out of whack here and I felt I needed to be careful not to fall over from lack of placing my feet right.

There was no merchandizing per se like you find at the nouveau sites of Goodwills and Salvations Armies in modern strip malls. Here it was stuff everywhere. Furniture in the back amidst lawn mowers and kid’s car seats. Size small shirts in the XXL display rack.

And this Richard Barrett print was leaning against the wall at the front on top of a DVD rack. As I was pondering it, a lady peeked around me, then under my arms, then from around my other side. Finally, I said: “I can move this print.” She quietly replied: “Oh, you don’t have to” as if this wasn’t exactly what she wanted me to do all along with her intrusive peeking. This eye piercing print, titled “Southern Trees,” is all modern, shiny and balanced … and out of place at this Salvation Army. It called out to be saved.

The guy at the cash register was tall and elegant, probably educated . . . and generally aggravated at having this job. The long lines of customers buying cheap necessities perturbed him. He was perturbed at his staff partner at the second register: “No,” he hissed to her, “this is my pen.” And he rolled his eyes at each little glitch in a buying transaction. Like the lady who had a big bag of odds and ends clothing and knick knacks, as she turned to walk out: “You haven’t paid yet,” he announced, overly loud, as he rolled his eyes for us in line to see.

When I got to the front of the line, I showed him the red tag on my print. In a matter of fact voice, he said: “that piece is not 50% off today,” as I had expected it would be since the tag was not pink. Bowed sheepish, not wanting him to roll his eyes at the line because of me, I said “Oh, isn’t this tag red?” He pointed with a brusk finger at my side of the register where there was taped-on announcement which he read as he pointed along the text with his finger: “Red tags are the same as pink. Yellow tags are the same as green.” I sort of understood I had been had, wanting to say something like, “why not make all the tags the same as pink so nothing is on sale for 50% off?” But I was afraid of this out-of-place place, and commented with a smile: “Neat secret code!” He smiled back as he rolled his eyes for the bargain buyers in line behind me.