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“Rags, Bones, Gumshoes…”

IFI love recycling. I’m sure I was a rag picker in a former life. In a future life I’ll be CEO of Waste Management, Inc. For now I’ll just support anybody with a unique idea on reducing landfill.

Today’s Award for Imaginative Salvaging goes to Theresa Legler, of Pittsburgh, PA. She makes earrings out of old vinyl records and used shampoo bottles. I met her at a bar called “Pope’s Place” in the Polish Hill neighborhood. I had travelled to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago for no other reason than that I had a weekend free from the Reading Theater Project and I wanted to take a trip. Why not Pittsburgh?

I hopped the train at Lancaster and six hours later found myself on a bar stool at Pope’s Place, having dropped off my bag at the house where I was staying. A neighbor had recommended Pope’s Place as being close and friendly. It was.

Theresa was sitting next to me and soon we were engaged in conversation. She was impressed with my martini, I was impressed with her conversation. She gave me the rundown on Polish Hill and also Pittsburgh. Apparently Andy Warhol hated it. Hence, the move to NY. Too bad he didn’t stick around for the Rebirth. As has happened in many a rust belt metropolis, Pittsburgh has evolved to trendy. Theresa gave me a couple of recs for good restaurants for dinner the next day.

In the course of our talk, she mentioned her preferred medium for artistic expression being used vinyl. This interested me immensely because I had had a hard time dumping my LP collection in spite of the fact that everyone has been estimating the value of old albums, regardless of their condition, at hundreds if not thousands of dollars a piece. I’m here to tell you that that ain’t true. One purveyor of old music gave me fifty bucks for my 75-record set which included originals of Sinatra, Fitzgerald, and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Sure there were husks of dried up stinkbugs and other attic frass in the mix, but still, fifty bucks? For vintage K.C.?

The point is used vinyl is about as valuable as used rubber. There’s the same amount of it floating around, too. So Theresa’s work is important. I insisted she run home and get her collection. She obliged and came back with a shoebox of delight. I bought a couple of pair, as did the bartender and maybe a few others, I don’t remember. I’d knocked back a couple of martinis by then.

Soon after the earring transactions Theresa invited me over to the pad she shared with her boyfriend, Brent. We imbibed a little something from an odd contraption I won’t name but will describe as being round, ceramic, and capable of holding heat. Then we moved on to another Polish Hill bar by the name of Gooski’s where I was introduced to the “coolest philosopher in Pittsburgh” who proceeded to serve us shots of some foul liquid not unlike vodka.

I woke up the next morning with a cat sitting on my head. For a while it merely “made puddin’” on my ear while purring at the top of its lungs. When I didn’t respond it started demanding something to eat, this also at the top of its lungs. I took the harangue as long as I could and finally realized I was not getting back to sleep. I crawled out of bed and rummaged around until I found a half-gone can of something in the fridge. No idea what it was, but it shut the cat up.

Sadly, I never saw Theresa or Brent again. Despite that, the weekend was quite nice once I got rid of the hangover.

The following week I lost one of the recycled earrings, one from my favorite pair of course. I have no hope of getting a replacement since each is unique and there are just so many Okeh Records out there. I will probably swing by Theresa’s Etsy site at some point to get a consolation pair. Or two. Check them out yourself. Each one is made of 100% recycled materials. Even the beads come from old lampshades, tacky shawls, or somebody’s collection of souvenir gallstones. Which proves there is no need to throw anything away, ever.

Viva the Pitt!

Sue Lange

P.S. I found that fragment, “Rags, bones, gumshoes…” in a book about the lives of residents in Annville, PA. It was published in the 80s and the stories were about older folks who had been around during the depression. That fragment was part of a song the people who came to collect your old rags sang as they came down the street. Cool little factoid about life among the ragpickers. And you thought they would have said something like “Bring out your threads!”



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