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Don’t buy used underwear and other thrift shop tips

Tucson’s yard sales may often be mediocre and its garbage picking slim, but we have tons of fun stuff hanging out at thrift shops.

BeautyBoy was a glorious find at Desert Dust on South Alvernon Way/Ryn Gargulinski
BeautyBoy was a glorious find at Desert Dust on South Alvernon Way/Ryn Gargulinski

Cheap prices are just one of the thrills of frequenting these places. Others include unique items, vintage finds and a lamp we now call BeautyBoy.

This ornate and garishly delightful gold cupid lamp stands about 5 feet tall atop a heavy gold stand and features a 2-foot gold lampshade.

It has become the centerpiece of my living room and I can no longer imagine the room without it. BeautyBoy was also a special gift from a special person, making it even more enchanting.

Thrift store tips:

Don’t buy:

* Used underwear, used socks or dentures
* Things that have non-working zippers – c’mon, no matter how well meaning you are, you know you’re never going to get it fixed.
* Stuff that doesn’t fit – a case in point was a pair of size 4 antique buckle shoes, which were technically purchased at a mondo garage sale in Michigan, that I tried to wear on my size 8 feet. Never again.

Look for:

* Daily deals many shops offer where a certain color tag will be discounted 50 percent
* Really cheap sheets, pillowcases and tablecloths for fabric crafts, outdoor furniture and creating Lucky Voodoo Dolls
* Items no one else would dare wear
* Jeans and leather jackets that come already broken in
* Underarm stains

My fave Tucson thrift shops:

Savers – various locations around town
Why it rocks: One of the biggest and constantly updated selection of clothes you can find – beats out any department store by a gazillion.
Any warnings:
So much stuff you are going to spend, spend, spend.
Best buy: So many – this is my favorite clothing shop, for sure.

Goodwill – various locations around town
Why it rocks: Biggest variety of items, from clothing to shelves, belts to a brand-new sheepskin rug I nabbed for a mere $60.
Any warnings: Employees get to put dibs on items as soon as they come in, but have to wait a day or two until they are allowed to purchase them. If you pick an item everyone wants, like the sheepskin rug, you’re going to piss off a lot of employees. Sorry!
Best buy: Toss up between embellished hippie-type blouse I wore to Woodstock tribute concert and molded dinosaur head I painted pink and stuck in the gravel of my backyard, as if he’s emerging from the depths of hell to feast on someone.

Desert Dust – 1475 S. Alvernon Way
Why it rocks: That’s where BeautyBoy came from. Best tchotchke shop in the West for those seeking kitschy, creepy and very unusual décor.
Any warnings: Not your clothing shop, although I did score a pair of low-waist, flare bottom suede pants that appear they were worn by someone in the Manson Family.
Best buy: In addition to BeautyBoy, this place always has an expansive owl collection to fuel my own menagerie of them.

Buffalo Exchange – various locations around town
Why it rocks: This place can be a bit pricey, but it’s also a goldmine for vintage and crazy finds. Good shopping on the clearance racks.
Any warnings:
They buy back clothing but rarely pick anything I bring them, making me feel like I have a closet full of very unfashionable clothing (which I probably do).
Best buy: Velvet vampire shirt with bell sleeves as wide as Alaska; awesome find for less than $10 on the Halloween clearance rack although I intend to wear it for daily use.


Goodwill dinosaur head/Ryn Gargulinski
Goodwill dinosaur head/Ryn Gargulinski

What’s your favorite Tucson thrift shop and why?

Do you ever think you’ll get lice from the hats?

Does it freak you out that the clothing could have come from dead people?

What’s your best and worst thrift store find?

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Were you scammed by this Tucson man?

Tucsonan Theodore Leombroni said he had a great idea – an automobile safety device for which he had a patent pending, authorities said. But Leonbroni, 47, needed some investors to move the project along.

Leombroni/SPD photo
Leombroni/SPD photo

To add to the allure, he also said he was investing in coal mines outside of the United States. He stopped short, however, of claiming to have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

Even without the bridge, his ruse worked.

Over the last four years, Leombroni managed to talk various women out of more than $1.5 million for his fraudulent project, with $1 million coming from a single source, the Scottsdale Police Department said.


So far six of the women have come forward, but Scottsdale police, who arrested Leombroni last week, believe there are still more out there.

Leombroni, who admitted to having a gambling problem – is being held in the Maricopa County Jail on $200,000 bond. Scottsdale police also said the man had already spent two years in prison for a Cochise County fraud scheme conviction in 1994.

Police urge anyone with information about this man, or those whom have been scammed by this man, to call SPD at (480) 312-5000.

What makes some scammers so effective?

Leombroni preyed on women. Whether we like it or not, women can be easier targets than men. Instead of getting mad, we should become more wary of any person who wants our cash (unless, of course, it’s for buying a bridge in Brooklyn).

He also found many of his victims at bars and casinos, where people are more relaxed and perhaps not walking around expecting to be scammed.

Based on his success, we can also probably bet he’s a smooth talker. Those are dangerous, manipulative and can usually get what they want after years of perfecting their craft.

Property tax notice warning

Another scam kicking around town comes in the form of an official-looking letter that looks like a tax bill. It’s blue and white with the heading “2009 Property Tax Reduction Form.” The notice outlines how this company, if you send them some money, can file to lower your property taxes.

I received one about two weeks ago here in Pima County, with the promise that I could get back nearly $1,000. It sounded delicious and the letter did look official. But I didn’t bite.

A couple of things have raised the radar of Cochise County assessor Phil Leiendecker, according to a story in the Sierra Vista Herald.

For one, Leiendecker said the assessed values listed on the notice he reviewed are incorrect.

For another, the letter says 2009 assessments will be appealed – even though he noted that deadline has merrily come and gone.

“This is a complete scam,” he is quoted as saying. “Do not send money to this company.”

Don’t give any to Leombroni, either.


Have you fallen for any scams? What happened?

Have you ever scammed anyone? Are you reading this in jail?

What’s the craziest scam you’ve ever heard of, in Tucson or otherwise?

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Cat prompts Tucson man to bicycle across the nation

Ever since Tucsonan Kyle Lyons adopted a cat, he’s gone through some massive changes.

Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo
Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo

The 27-year-old Geico insurance adjuster is taking unpaid leave from work and has already gotten rid of his car and his apartment, living with friends and in a Tucson hostel.

He’s spent the last 11 months riding his bicycle up, down and around Tucson, building up calf muscles the size of Texas.

No, this is not part of some torture of the gods or a man’s stab at martyrdom – it’s all preparation for his goal: a bicycle trek across the country to raise money for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

His 4,018-mile journey kicks off Aug. 23 in San Diego and ends Oct. 15 in Boston.

To make it work, he needs to ride at least 75 miles per day. His route includes back roads, side roads and a trek through the Rocky Mountains where temperatures easily dip below freezing at any time of the year.

Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/Ryn Gargulinski
Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/submitted photo

“I just had the vague idea that I wanted to do it,” the animal lover said of biking across the nation. “I knew I wanted to do it for some kind of charity, but I wasn’t sure which one. Then I adopted a cat from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. I saw what was going on in there. They were clearly hard-working people who could use some assistance.”

Once he had the charity in mind, he said, the rest was easy. Kind of.

Getting time off work was a piece of cake once Geico heard of his noble cause. Giving up his car was part of the bicycle training plan.

Getting rid of the apartment – well, that was a tougher one.

“So I’m homeless,” he wrote in his online journal at His lease expired at the end of July and he had to choose between renting an apartment he wouldn’t see for more than two months or sponging off friends. He chose the latter. His friend is watching his new cat, since named Lieutenant Whiskers.

“Do you have any idea how many gummy bears I can buy with the two months rent I’m not gonna have to spend now?,” he asked in his journal. “You can’t even fathom it.”

Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo
Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo

The trip itself, however, is no cheap undertaking. In addition to stocking up on all the necessities, Lyons said he needs about $4,000 to finance his way.

Food is the major cost, especially when he needs to consume between 8,000 to 10,000 calories per day.

He also needs at least three changes of clothes, special shoes, a tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, a bicycle pump and other biking equipment, his laptop to update his online journal along the way and random freeze dried treats when he needs a quick energy boost.

He expects the necessities to add about 50 pounds when saddle-bagged to the new bike he bought in May.

“My biggest trepidation is not being able to finish,” he said when asked. “But I don’t think that will be a concern. Then there’s always the vague fear of getting hit by a car or eaten by a bear. There’s nothing I’m really terrified of happening to me.”

His mom, however, sees it a bit differently. “She’s kind of freaking out,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell my parents, but somebody spilled the beans. Dad is taking it OK but mom is kind of panicking a bit.”

Lyons most looks forward to the finale in his native town of Boston, where friends and family, including a very relieved mom, will be waiting for him.

He has also already raised $360 of his $1,000 goal for the Humane Society. Folks can donate online through the Society. Even if Lyons doesn’t hit his goal, he said none of his efforts will be wasted.

“It’s one of those once in a lifetime things,” he said.


NOTE: Two questions came up after this column aired on the radio Thursday. Here are the questions, along with Lyons’ answers:

1. Why is his goal so low at $1,000?

“The $1,000 goal is just that, a goal. If I get to $1,000, I’m certainly not going to stop accepting donations. $1,000 is kind of the minimum I’d like to put together for this thing.”

2. Why doesn’t he just give the $4,000 to the Society instead of using it for his journey?

“As for the cost of the trip itself, you have to understand a lot of that money is simply bills I need to pay while I’m not earning money at a job. The remaining could’ve theoretically just been sent to the Humane Society without me doing anything, but what if this really takes off and I end up raising $2,000 or $5,000? Even if I only make the $1,000, that’s still $1,000 dollars they didn’t have coming in before, and I get the experience of doing this cross-country ride. The same argument could be made about ANY fundraising activity: they all cost money that technically could simply go to the charity instead.”

Donate through by clicking here.

Read Lyons online journal by clicking here – WARNING: mature language not meant for kids

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who adopted both Phoebe, the barking wonder dog, and dearly departed Stanley, the hairless rat, from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail

What do you think?

Would you bike across the nation for your favorite charity? Would you even bike to the store?

What is your favorite charity?

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Don’t bulldoze Tucson’s charm

After dozens of detours, hordes of headaches and folks finding themselves stuck at a dead end, the Fourth Avenue underpass is reopening with hoopla, hype and a brand new look.

Kitschy stuff makes Tucson charming/Ryn Gargulinski
Kitschy stuff, even when misspelled on a Reid Park garbage can, makes Tucson charming/Ryn Gargulinski

Some may say hip-hip and hooray but I have another thing to say: I liked the old one.

I am in no way downing the renovation or the fact that the new underpass is safer, more practical and – yaay! – finally getting rid of that dead end.

Nor am I trying to throw a wet towel on the celebration, which sounds like a gas.

I am simply lamenting the passing of another chunk, albeit crumbling, of Tucson’s past.

I fell in love with Fourth Avenue’s creepy, cavernous underpass during one All Souls Procession, when the masked and bone-clad creatures frolicked out of its mouth like a throng of glorious souls from the depths of the Earth.

Our Logical Lizard blogger, Geoffrey Notkin, agrees. In fact, I think he’s the one who pointed out that phenomenon at the event.

Frolicking out of shiny new tile just won’t have the same effect.

Sure, the previous underpass may have been ready to crumble and was so low it may have possibly behead someone, but it was also quite charming.

Part of what drew me to Old Pueblo was its ancient buildings and dilapidated underpasses. Let’s call it Tucson charm.

Not that I’m against progress – some things need updating. But it would be wise to ensure we keep that primitive feel that makes Tucson so alluring.

"Progress" on the desert patch/Ryn Gargulinski
"Progress" in action on the desert patch/Ryn Gargulinski

Other “progress” around town includes new construction tall enough to block mountain views in Feldman’s Historic Neighborhood, as outlined in a letter by resident Kathleen Williamson.

A fine rambling patch of desert near the Rillito River along my daily dog walk was once haven to coyotes, lizards, rabbits and twisted debris that made for great art supplies.

Now it’s a parking lot.

While my dogs do enjoy the water fountain the parking lot came with, I’m still wondering if it will ever house more cars than the usual zero to three I see there.

I’m also still wondering why an open-topped, concrete garbage can that gets stuffed with dog doo was placed mere inches from the water fountain.

See, sometimes “progress” can really stink.

What do you think?

Should developers try to retain Tucson’s kitschy charm?

Should all the old stuff be razed to make way for newfangled buildings?

Should we all just move to Phoenix?

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Odd Pueblo: Snappy or Crappy?

This fun Odd Pueblo feature asks the audience to rate a trend, topic or sighting of something around town: is it snappy or crappy?

The last snappy or crappy, a happy mustard face on bread, generally got an all-around snappy. It also elicited fond memories of triangular pancakes and other foodstuff we make into funny faces or shapes.

The latest snappy or crappy is also smiling – but with a toothier grin. Meet the giant T-Rex (as if a T-Rex could be anything but giant).

Snappy or crappy?/Ryn Gargulinski
Snappy or crappy?/Ryn Gargulinski

This dude stands on the corner of East Tanque Verde and North Kolb roads in front of a McDonald’s.

Even though he’s not as funky as some other Tucson art, he is handsome and fun. He gets a snappy from me.

What do you think? Please respond:
a. Snappy. Dinosaurs bring back fond memories of visiting natural history museums.
b. Snappy. Dinosaurs bring back fond memories of being mauled by large-toothed dogs and other creatures.
c. Crappy. Just another hunk of junk marring our gorgeous landscape.
d. Crappy. Although I like the dinosaur, I don’t like that my kids insist on going to McDonald’s every time we pass it.