Older is Better

So you may have heard the news. In response to a large internet petition and popular demand, Nickelodeon has begun their own version of Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” and begun playing their 90’s programming late at night. Catering to the kids of that era, now adults, shows like “Double Dare,” “Salute Your Shorts,” and “Doug” will now be playing re-runs until 4am.

A day after I heard that tidbit on the radio, a song from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack came on over the airwaves as I was driving home from work. For a lovely three minutes I distinctly remember the summer before I entered first grade, swimming with my then-friend Kelli in the pool while our mommies sunbathed. I could still taste the pb&j and the sour apple Jolly Ranchers mixed with chlorine. I remembered Kelli and I sneaking in the house, making a puddle on the carpet in our wet swimsuits, while we watched tidbits of Dirty Dancing, snickering to ourselves and feeling so naughty and scandalous and grown-up (because it’s dirty!!). I remembered Kelli’s little brother who followed me around trying to get his first kiss. I remembered the awesome model ship that was sitting on the sideboard in the living room. I remember my mom’s plastic, color-changing sunglasses with reflective shades (back when plastic was cool)… and I remembered what it felt like to be friends with whoever happened to be in the room with me. Not because we shared interests or similarities but just because we shared space, and were happy to exist next to each other. It took only three minutes to remember the true meaning of summer.

I don’t know if this is true for every generation, but the 20- and 30-somethings I know have made a huge industry off of nostalgia: Atari and old school Nintendo themes, GI Joe, Transformers, The Goonies, The list goes on and on, with changes to the list based on the targeted age group.

I am forever fascinated by the new stuff that is made out of old pop culture. While some of that stuff is really cool – I admit, some of it makes me drool a little – some of it is shoddy work. A lot of it takes the old things we remember and tries to “update” them by making them cooler and fresher, to appeal to today’s trends. The irony in this is… we are generally attracted to these things because of the vintage aesthetic in them… most of the time I find the “updated” versions merely annoying! I feel much of the time they took good quality old stuff, and turned it into brand new crap. But even when they take good old stuff and make good new stuff out of it, I ask myself… what is wrong with the old stuff?

Come on, they are re-making it because we already like it! I mean, SURE we could go to Hot Topic and get a brand new Journey or Metallica t-shirt, but we could also go to Goodwill and find an old one, with the original graphics, already broken in so that it is nice and soft, with the cool 70s baseball sleeves.  And YEAH we could go buy the “AWESOME 80s!!” or “PARTY 90s!” mixed albums from Best Buy… but we could also pull our dusty cassette collection out from under the bed, buy a $35 audio converter, and change all of our Cars and Michael Jackson albums to mp3s. (It’s cheaper than buying the albums all over again, anyway!)

 One of my favorite second-hand outfits...
better than a picture of our old SNES!

Vintage and kitsch is stylish this season anyway… So why not go green? Don’t buy the new crap – get the old stuff. That’s the stuff you miss and love! And the treasure hunting to find it is fun. Use Craigslist. Go thrifting. Try consignment stores and estate sales. Would you believe there is an antique store near my house that sells the original Transformer and Teddy Ruxpin toys? (That makes me feel old and sad, but also excited, because I see my childhood re-emerging in the rubble… like in Mad Max.)

Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s broken, stained or ruined – it may have been sitting pristinely on a shelf for twenty years. It doesn’t mean it’s expensive, or a collectors’ item.  But it does mean that an underpaid Chinese worker didn’t make it last month before it flew 10,000 miles to you on a freight airplane. I have my share of nifty Chinese-made items, don’t get me wrong… but no matter how you spin it, even if it was fairly and organically made in a Texas farm, it is better for the environment to buy used, which requires no extra resources at all (unless, of course, you have a used item shipped many miles to your house… I have met someone who thought they were being environmentally friendly because they were shipping vintage product from Europe instead of buying new. That might be spiffy, but I don’t think the benefits balance very well anymore!).

So, what are your favorite recycled things stores? Whether or not I buy anything, visiting thrift and antique shops is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’ll get you started…  I love Bohemian Spirit, Architectural Antiques (formerly Dead People’s Stuff), and Apple Orchard Antique Mall!

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