Friday, October 16, 2009

Streets Are For People (Who Drink Beer)

It's no secret that I find a lot of my most-cherished possessions the same way homeless people find some of their food: on the side of the road, or in someone else's garbage. Oh, don't make that face. I'm not rooting through a Dumpster behind a truck stop on Route 66. Student living equals a whole lot of turnover in the roommate situation, and students are fond of moulting their possessions rather than packing them. Hence, I get a lot of free shit.

For example, I scored most of my summer wardrobe from boxes people abandoned in our basement. Sweet little linen pants, hoodies from expensive-when-new stores, sparkly tank tops, hot pants, cardigans and more. Some of these things were disasters, including the deconstructed praire-girl dress that looked cute in theory but gave me an ass the size of Montana. No problem, since the price is right and the return policy is "I'll just put it back on the side of the road." I scored a totally on-point pair of boyfriend jeans about three weeks before that trend was all over Katie Holmes. Thanks a bunch, neighbour!

It's not just clothes. I've grabbed books. Former housemates once brought home a VHS copy of Tremors 3, courtesy of some short-sighted chump who ditched it. How many hours of glee did that provide us with? Many. Notably, I've also scored a ghetto blaster. This was awesome, since I still had mixed tapes from high school. The ghetto blaster was also used as seduction aid by an ex-boyfriend, who made me a mixed tape during our courtship. In the age of the burned CD, it was 100% charming and retro. (Are the 1980s retro? Am I old enough to remember an age which is now considered retro? Damn.)

My parents are mystified by this. They think it's weird that I would cart home a jacket that I had found in a snowbank. Their confusion is an sham, though, since it clearly runs in my blood. My mom is fond of bringing home every piece of furniture abandoned on the side of the road (usually due to irredeemable ugliness), to be recovered "later." My grandpa used to squirrel away everything: broken alarm clocks, costume jewelry, TV dinner tables. When it comes to side-of-the-road shopping, I am purebred bloodhound. (Not like this, though.)

Anyway, last night my taste for the free encountered my taste for beer, and the results weren't pretty. My pal, who is also an incorrigible street picker (she calls it curb-scoring, which always reminds of seediness in that world's-oldest-profession sort of way), found some Portuguese beer on the side of the road. Last night, we drank it.

In our defense: it was unopened. Glass bottles aren't permeable. It wasn't going to be poisoned. For the prosecution: so very, very expired. It tasted less like beer, and more like rum that had been brewed by blind pirates in 1876. It was not delicious. But, since we had already had a few at a bar, we decided to slug some down and hope for the best.

Gather round, children, and allow Auntie Kaitlyn to lay some good advice on you: don't drink expired beers you find on the street. Attend all the pancake keggers you get invited to. Drink the prairie fires your sadistic friends order you on your birthday. Hell, wear that unflattering dress you found in your best friend's aunt's attic. Plug in the toaster oven you found on the side of the road - I'm sure the electrical shock will be bracing! But stay away from Portuguese street beers, because while you will feel like the bang/buck ratio isn't great ("I feel sober...I must be sober"), the hangover is remarkably unpleasant. Like God himself has decided to give the contents of your brainpan a brisk stir.

I'll keep picking up the excellent clothing options that those fly-by-night students leave behind, and I'll keep chancing it with the electronics and (probably moldy) books. But I have a new rule: street beers are a no-go. From now on, only items that don't have an expiration date are coming home with me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Urban Outfitters

I have this unfortunate tendency to get, like, totally obsessed with things. If I buy a shirt that I'm particularly fond of, I'll wear it for a week and a half straight. If I get my hands on a copy of a magazine that I really like, I'll read the damned thing over and over. Same with books: I've read some books upwards of a dozen times. I'll re-watch episodes of television shows I've seen before.

You've done it, too: how many times did you listen to some album or another, especially in the midst of an emotional time? I think this is why teenagers get so into their music: since high school is basically just one gigantic white-water trip through Hormone Valley, emotions run high. Listening to The Roots thirty-five times a days can be soothing....yeah, even with that "!!!!!!!" song, which is basically noisy noise. Ending relationships is the worst for this kind of obsessive behaviour. I remember walking home from an ex-boyfriend's place in the middle of winter, listening to "Lodestar" by the incomparable Sarah Harmer and bawling like a lunatic. It was not, shall we say, one of my finest moments.

Regardless of whether or not it was a personal victory (nope), it was honest. It's amazing how sometimes people need music/books/poetry/whatever in order to organize their personal craziness into a manageable thought process. I still call bullshit on people who use the aforementioned cultural products as replacements for emotions, or who define themselves as certain types of people because they like certain things ("I like '60s garage bands from the Bronx, so I am esoteric and probably a little nerdy! In a good way! Ladies!"). That's a little too Seymour-from-Ghost World for my taste.

However, I totally see the value of having an emotional shorthand at your disposal, especially when it comes to clothing. Clothing is armor. For example, today I'm sporting a neon-tangerine workout top with a built in sports bra. I am notorious for eschewing colour in favour of shades of black, white and gray, but this top makes me feel lean and fit, and post-Thanksgiving, that is worth its weight in hypercolour. Yesterday, it was military jackets and a sleek hoodie (well, as sleek as hoodies get, really), because I was in the mood to kick some ass. Tomorrow, I bet I feel a little bit more femme, and put on a minidress to show some pre-snow bare leg. I bet I get dressed blasting "Jolene" and feeling very fuck-with-me.

Sometimes, on different days, I'll dress up as a Canadian, a farm girl, a 1920s French prostitute or the Iron Giant (easier than you'd think, by the way). Why? Because occasionally, I will be feeling saucy, and the easiest way to express that is through fabric. It's the reason the Oscars has a category for best costume design, and why little boys dress up like Batman for weeks on end. While musical obsessions let you tap into the unsayable parts of yourself, dressing up allows you to wish-fulfill something fierce. If I am usually boring old Kaitlyn Kochany, why shouldn't I be allowed to become Kaitlyn: Aerobics Warrior? Or incorporate some Kurt Russel into my look? I know I could shoehorn some Miss America in there (mostly because I like sashes and giant fake jewels). And could you blame me, if I chose to wear some of those outfits for a few days? Those outfits are killer.