You Can't Have Everything.... Where Would You Put It?
But this does not deter me. I try to follow the "one thing in, one thing out" rule of clutter management, but it kind of goes like this: One giant box of unsorted linens in, one broken coffee cup out. So from the perspective of mass alone, I fail. But if you've been reading along, I am no stranger to failure. I embrace it.
Okay, so what did we find on our tour yesterday? I know you're wondering.
The great thing is finding a real yard sale. By my definition, a real yard sale is one where you can get a Picasso for a quarter. Everything should cost a quarter. "How much is that?" A quarter. Now that's a yard sale. It's where the hosts are nothing but willing to make that deal. And negotiating the price is important. If they tell you the price is five dollars, and you don't ask if they'll take three, you're just not trying very hard.
The Find: For about 30 years I've been looking for a certain print. It is of a three-masted ship in a storm at night. You know the one. It's famous. And I've never found one for sale.
We drive by this yard sale in Sellwood, and there is cool shit strung from curb to porch: old shit. And I wonder if this is a yard sale or an antique sale. There is a big difference. In an antique sale they have the same stuff, but know its resale value. These guys had no idea. I always wonder why yard sales are held. There are, in my time-tested opinion, three valid reasons to have a yard sale: clutter, moving and death. This one seemed like death. A woman died, I'm betting. She, if alive, would never have sold this stuff.
So there at curbside is my painting. Now, it is not in mint condition, but I don't care. There it is. I love it. I must have it. It is in a cheesy gold frame that is held tenuously together with pink ribbon. We coast to the curb and I jump out of the truck as quickly as I can, before someone else will scoop up my treasure. Finally, I have it in my hands. My painting. My ship on a stormy sea. You can just see the moon through the clouds. One light on deck. I think they are coming home.
So I ask the guy how much for the painting. He considers my question, says, "Eight dollars." I would pay eighty, but he doesn't know this. "How 'bout five," I counter. "It's pretty trashed." He agrees. I hand him five bucks, squealing with internal joy.
I have so much shit that it is tough to make me this happy with material stuff. I have everything I want. Except this painting. And now I have it. My world is complete.
There was other great stuff, but not in the same category. And the painting is trashed. I'll have to reframe it. Clean it up a bit. No problem. I am inspired.
So off we went to Lake Oswego. Downtown Lake Oswego is the Rodeo Drive of the metro area. All of the well-tended people, just out of therapy, crowd street cafes, the lakefront. All too posh. We wanted to buy from the rich and, well, that's it. That's what we wanted to do. But it is such a protected community that they don't allow garage sale signs unless you use their own: a nicely designed, circular sign with print so small you'd have to slow down to find out where to go. We concluded that these guys don't sell, they donate.
So we left.
On the way out of town was a huge sale. They are identifed as such: Big Sale, Huge Sale, Gigantic Sale. I wonder what kind of turn out we'd get if I posted something like: "Smallish Sale, Okay Stuff That We Don't Want But Will Sell To You For As Much As We Can Get." I just wonder.
So there we were, picking amongst the ruins of someone else's life, going through the Christmas decorations and tupperware. We began to negotiate for a convection oven, the one designed by the Galloping Gourmet. It was only ten bucks. There were three women who seemed to be hosting the sale, one very old with Beverly Hills makeup: heavy too-tan base, false eyelashes and heavy liner. Her hair a Marilyn style platinum wig, her breasts high and firm. And very big. Looking great for an eighty year old woman. I don't know how we got on the subject, but she began telling us that she used to be the girl who held the curtain back for the Jackie Gleason Show. Turns out she was an old Hollywood actress, had hung out with Sinatra, had doubled for Marilyn Monroe. You could tell at a glance that she was once a stunning woman and had defied gravity to stall time. Her name was Lisa Hall. She need us, strangers, to know who she had been. And it made me think of all the people I have been, and how important they all are to me. I listened to her, and thanked her for her stories. I do love a story.
That is one of the great things about yard saling: The human beings. Like the guy who quoted the prices like this. "Two bits." I asked him what that meant. It is a quarter. I knew that, somewhere in my distant childhood memory. I could almost hear my father and my uncle, both long gone, who described value in the same way. Like the woman who sold us her radiant orange TREK while telling us about her back injury and subsequent use of Methadone. Or the old woman and her daughter Janice ("a little slow but not retarded") who sold her 6 speed bike because it made her nervous.
Anyway, there is so much to tell, but I'm tired of typing and the grandkids are up. It is Sunday morning on Clinton Street and there must be a sale somewhere.