How To Helz

On Thrifting and The Black Bag

Posted in Kit, Thrifting by Jason Helzer on 2010/11/12

Several years ago I developed an interest in retro Polynesian Pop Culture (AKA "Tiki" Stuff), which soon lead to a love for the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic. Be it a Tiki mug from some long forgotten faux South Pacific wonderland, or a nice Danish modern chair, I was on the quest to populate my environs with objects that interested and inspired me.

Of course, since these glorious pieces of furniture or kitsch are not available just anywhere, that meant hitting estate sales, antique malls and, of course, the local thrift stores. 

As the truly fabulous finds (that’s for another post) are few and far between, you begin to broaden the scope of what you look at when visiting the thrifts. For me, it started with the clothes rack. At first, it was purely a quest for that perfect vintage barkcloth aloha shirt. That Reyn Spooner that somebody just thought was tacky and tossed away. But I began to occasionally come across some other fantastic pieces and soon found it an excellent way to supplement my wardrobe. From the dead on perfect Brooks Brother’s button-down, to my Saint Quentin municipal worker’s jacket (or the Burberry overcoat I got for my Dad for $10), it has become a source for the unique and interesting not just in my wardrobe, but for my life in general.

Not to mention, who doesn’t love getting a great deal while helping a worthy charity and the environment at the same time?

So, with that being said, I will from time to time be sharing the best of those finds. To get started, I present one of the better scores I’ve had in a while, with a unique twist.

The Kenneth Cole black leather briefbag:

Kenneth Cole Briefbag

I picked this one up a couple weeks ago for $4. Now, admittedly, I’m a bit of a messenger/brief/manbag/murse junkie, so I did hesitate for quite a bit on this, but then I looked inside it, and saw that it came with a zippered portfolio as well, and you just can’t pass up a deal like that.

Kenneth Cole Briefbag

Then when I got it home, the surprises kept on coming. First, there was also the accessories you see in the photo above tucked in the portfolio: a (albeit very outdated) cell phone case, a luggage tag and a money clip. Bonus! But then as I was cleaning it up a bit, I started going through the pockets and came across another little treasure trove…

Kenneth Cole Briefbag

Yep, that’s right. An 8Gb thumb drive and $8.96 in cash!

Which means that I got a bag that reasonably retails for $200+, a portfolio (with bonus legal pad!), luggage tag, money clip, cell phone case and an 8Gb thumb drive and made $4.96 doing it!


Throwing off Sparks

Posted in Maxims, Spark by Jason Helzer on 2010/11/02

When a fire burns, it can do so in several different ways. It can be low and smoldering, possibly without any visible flame, just waiting for some tinder and a bit of a breeze to iginite it. Other fires burn big, with a lot of smoke and heat, and a lot of popping an cracking. Those are the fires that throw off sparks.

Image: neilalderney123 licensed under CC2.0

Ideas work much the same way. The low and smoldering ones stay around, waiting for the right environment or conditions, and then they catch and take off. Or they just die out.

Alternately, the big ideas, the one’s we’re passionate about, the ones we stoke, the one’s we put out in the world…those throw off sparks. And those sparks go everywhere. Most of them just cool off before they land, but every once in a while, they catch the right tinder and create a whole new fire someplace else.

This is the essence of an idea that I came across some time ago, and one that has become one of the maxims that I live by:

"Throw off sparks"

Essentially what this means is to do a lot of stuff and put a lot of what you do out where it can be seen and inspire others.  It may be that it turns into a new business opportunity, the finding of a great restaurant or maybe just somebody smiling one more time that day than they would have.

Sparks aren’t about the person throwing them off, they’re about what happens after that. Which is why I decided to start this blog: How To Helz. It isn’t so that I can brag about anything, or even say that what I’m doing is the quintessential way to do anything. It’s just a spot for me to put out in the world the stuff that I’ve come across or came up with that works for me. Be that a new piece of kit, a great recipe, a productivity technique or a nice time sink.

So, this is the start, and hopefully some of these little sparks will catch in your life.