Maybe fifteen years ago, my friend R. took me to a place up in the Bronx that I believe was called Ropa 208. Like me, she grew up near Boston, but unlike me, she was close to 30 and had dropped out of high school to become a backup dancer for The New Kids on the Block. She’d since become a hairdresser and at the time was living in the West Village with her boyfriend where their apartment often held the overflow from their buddy’s animal rescue, which meant they sometimes had large reptiles in the bathtub. Either way, being from Boston, she knew about The Garment District, which is a used clothing store in Cambridge that had an excellent Dollar-A-Pound section, and being amazingly insane, she knew about this place in the Bronx, which was like dollar-a-pound times a million.
I had spent many a Saturday morning in high school at Dollar-A-Pound with my friends, digging through the piles looking for old rock T-shirts and anything with stripes while occasionally taking breaks to toss old men’s underpants at each other (if you think that’s gross, keep in mind that Dollar-A-Pound used to be so unruly that a friend digging through one of the barrels made the strangest find of all, an actual homeless man, who told her to fuck off). Nothing could prepare me for Ropa, which I remember as being the size of an airplane hanger with piles of clothes everywhere, many covered with entire families, although I worry I’m confusing my memory, not just with dreams, but images of the infamous garbage dumps of Rio.
Still, in my mind, it was that vast with that many pickers. I think I did end up getting something there one day—a blue ‘80s tanktop with a mostly-washed-out neon puffy off image of a skateboarder—but I might have gotten it elsewhere since I’m not 100% sure this place existed. At least I know R. really existed (and exists). And the underpants fights were real, although I wish they weren’t.