A Personal Voyage to Filene's Basement

How a Writer Found Inner Peace through Bargains


To: JC and NHL

From: S/M

RE: Filene's Basement article...

Well folks, I fear we've lost all pretense of being a "news" magazine of any sort. Eleni just handed in this piece, and from the looks of it, she's into Filene's in a very serious way. And this seems to be such a personal trip I really didn't want to try and fuck with it...she's only five feet, it's true, but as tough and mean as a hungry tiger locked in a cage surrounded by the fat and the stupid. And even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to deal with something as big as this; I have enough heavy shit going down right now to last me till graduation.


Still, what the hell, I guess we should run it. The Salient will undoubtedly be on our asses for writing about ourselves again, but these are desperate, ugly times. Still, maybe we should warn our readers that what follows is a highly personal account, and is in no way representation of anything we actually think, or even the meantime, I'll work on getting Eleni a nice assignment, maybe out in Worcester or some other shithole...this type of craziness can't continue.

With love...Seth.]

There's no need to go to mysterious far-off lands this Spring Break in order to bond with strangers, test the limits of your tolerance, and find a core of inner strength. A short ride on the red line will bring you to that mecca of self-discovery known as Filene's Basement.

Filene's Basement, for the uninitiated, is literally in the basement of a Filene's. Filled with endless racks of cloths (ties, socks, underwear, suits, scarves, hats, shoes, pants...the list never ends), the Basement is a refuge for clothes that were overstocked in Filene's proper. All clothes in the Basement are marked down progressively according to how long they've been downstairs, and when Armani vests start going for seventy-five percent off, things really get cooking.

The Filene's Basement in Boston is the mother of all Filene's Basement stores (although some argue that the younger Worcester branch is far superior.) Like Mother Nature, she will always remain central in the lives of humans because she fills a vital role in the delicate realm of human experience, as necessary to survival as water, as pleasing as the sun. Filene's Basement allows to revert to our most basic condition: that of the hunter-gather.

In the beginning, we were all members of hunter-gatherer tribes. The desire to brave the competition in a quest to attain a desired object of prey is as old as humankind itself. But Primitive People had it easier. As civilization dawned there were no papers to write, no problem sets to do, tasks that make it difficult to set aside time to flex those ancient hunter-gatherer muscles.

It is these reasons and so much more that make it necessary to plan time for Filene's Basement into your schedule, for it is in The Basement where you are confronted with the best and worst of primordial self.

Yes, The Basement packs a powerful psychological punch. For this reason, it is best not to go alone. Bring a close friend, a significant other, or, if at all possible, your mom. Your mom will love you no matter what dark sides of your personality surface during your expedition. Your mom will recount tales of past triumphs (a pep talk is necessary before entering the arena, especially on crowded days). You mom may have tales of The Basement from a more innocent time. My own mother has a friend who ripped her wedding dress out of another women's arms at one of the Basement's One-Day Wedding Dress Sales. Last but not least, oftentimes, your mom will pay.

Not only will The Basement help you face your inner demons, it will also reform you, turning you from a vindictive competitor to a friendly, loving, benevolent stranger.

This transformation will occur after you've fought for your clothes, immediately proceeding your entrance into the communal dressing room. (A piece of advice--bureaucratic large stores like the Boston one will only allow six pieces in the dressing room and they will not let you go out for more stuff. If you only have a short time, wear leggings and a tank top under your clothes and change in the aisles. You won't be the only one.)