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Saturday, June 13, 2009

When It Looks Like One Thing But Is Really Another

Friday, free of work-like encumbrance, William Throckmorton the Third and I hit the streets with a vengeance.

Columbia Heights, a neighborhood with a definite working-class bent, was teeming with garage sales.

Friday afternoon’s take? One black leather jacket, which fit me perfectly: $1. One Depression-era curly-edged iridescent glass bowl for $11. One Celtics warm-up jacket for Willie: $1. One plum, velvet jacket for me: $3. A Bad Plus CD, and two albums (Herman’s Hermits and Peter Gabriel) for Brian: $2.

Generally speaking, garage sales are fun, even if they are selling paperbacks for three bucks apiece.

For the record, paperbacks are not $3 at a garage sale. They are 50 cents.

Please pass that along.

But I have been to sales that have been something other than fun.

I went to one last year in an apartment. The guy was selling everything he owned, from his ratty couch to rolls of toilet paper to the cans of soup in his kitchen cupboards (50 cents a can).

“A fresh start?” I asked, smiling.

“An end,” he said.

“An end?”

“I have pancreatic cancer. I’ve got, like, four months. I’m going back to California to die at my mom’s house.”

And suddenly, I could see how sick he was; and the smile melted off my face.

I bought all his soup, a hammer, and a stack of High Times magazines.

And I cried in the car.

Sometimes other people’s stuff is not the only thing you take home from garage sales. Sometimes you take home their stories as well.


KMcJoseph said...

Wow, that is a horrible story.

Jess said...

So sad when people have to leave us...at least you got a few important things from his life...and apparently High Times was one of those...good articles in those, huh? I don't even smoke the good stuff and I enjoy reading it...hummm, much like Playboy...but I do smoke THAT good stuff! Raarr!

Not The Rockefellers said...

Absolutely, Pearl.
And I would of bought every damn thing that wasn't nailed down.

I recently scored two unopened Shaun Cassidy albums for $2.oo. These will be presented to my sister at her 40th birthday party.

She is going to shit herself with glee.

Da Doo Ron Ron...Doo Doo

Peace - Rene

KMcJoseph said...

By the way when I wrote "horrible story" I meant "sad story".

I wasn't commenting on the quality of your story.


@eloh said...

Boy, that was a rough one. Good for you to make it to the car before losing it, that took some strength on your part. How sad.

mapstew said...

Sometimes I just want to give all my stuff away! I'm at that stage of life when I realise that all that stuff IS just STUFF!
This is usually when some form of 'beverage' has been enjoyed 'tho.
Happy weekend.

Douglas said...

I think I would have paid him double what he asked for an anything he wanted.

Don't be doing these heartbreakers... I have a friend with pancreatic cancer... I don't think I can handle it.

Amber Star said...

That is one sad story, but you shared it in a good way. You were a really good person to buy what you could.

I don't much care for garage sales, and I know I'm missing out on all the good deals and apparently stories, but it is getting really hot here and I don't like being hot.

Chris said...

Wow, that post took a hard left turn in a hurry.

Very touching, and sad.

Pearl said...

KMcJ, I agree – and I “got ya” the first time. Seeing some of these comments, now, I feel kind of bad, like I broke a contract with the audience or something…

Jess, :-D Raaarrrr indeed!

Rene, I do love a good sale! Unopened Shaun Cassidy. :-D

@eloh, it was such a sad little apartment, too. He really didn’t have much to sell…

Mapstew, I struggle with that on a regular basis, the urge to just get rid of everything…

Douglas, sorry to touch a sore spot. I think I only spent maybe five bucks there – unfortunately I had a limited amount of cash at the time.

Amber Star, you must live somewhere a lot warmer than I do, although MN gets downright hot in July and August. You ARE missing the deals, though!

Chris, yeah, I feel bad about that, too. Sorry. I write every day, and some days are a little more melancholy than others!

a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

yes...i've seen many a story at garage sales...including my own.

Fragrant Liar said...

OMG, that's a toughie to get hit in the face with. Good for you for buying his stuff.

giantspeckledchihuahua said...

Been there... it's more than just awkward!!! It didn't take place at a yard sale, but at the non profit where I volunteer. We sent a crew up to help the woman clean and we cooked meals for her until she left for home. Somebody made sure she had company and everything she/and her family needed while she prepared for her journey.

Hospice care, while i wouldn't call it enjoyable is definatly a remarkable experience.

If anyone ever questions their purpose in life, sign up to volunteer in hospice. The meaning of life becomes so clear.

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

What a terrible twist at the end of your post. I would have gone broke buying everything her had.

Joanie M said...


The Retired One said...

Gosh Pearl...what an encounter you had with the dying rummage sale man...makes you stop and think about grasping every moment of life, doesn't it?
I am addicted to yard sales. It is set up that way...like gambling. You go to 100 of them that are horrible and then hit the mother load at another sale...once they sold a gold necklace and watch to us for like $7.00 and when we got home and looked at it with a magnifying glass, it was 18 karat solid gold!!!! We had a jeweler look at it and he said it was an English watch worth a lot of money.
You just never know what you will find....

SweetPeaSurry said...

Wow ... how sad about the cancer sale. :(

Good haul from the happy sale though?

blessings on you!

♥ Braja said...

Ah, life...sad and sweet little tale, Pearl...very nice....

darsden said...

You should have drove just a lil further you would have found me in Virginia!

How sad...going home..the final trip!

Awesome of you to buy everything..but that's just you being you :-))

Joanna Jenkins said...

You totally scored at Friday's garage sales! Way to go.

When I got married and moved into my husbands house, we had a garage sale with my "stuff". I turned my back for five minutes and hubby dear sold everything anybody wanted for a whopping 25 cents! Talk about a score!

I love a good garage sale!!!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Oh - that broke my heart. Also a bit heart broken by the fact that I wrote a long comment and then accidentally deleted it. Maybe for the best - the long ones look kind of stalkerish, no?

But I will say that I always feel kind of dirty picking over used items. You never know what the value of something may have been in its previous life... Obviously I can't read the Velveteen Rabbit without losing it. I'm a sap.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, holy crap. Now that's the kind of poignancy that cuts me at the knees (don't tell Michael Landon--like you could--as he tried very hard to work my heartstrings each week as Pa all through the '70s...but this stuff you've written has got me).

Eskimo Bob said...

That was incredibly touching. . . a part of me is thinking though that you tried to talk him down on some prices.

Sick. Practical. But Sick.

Did you check out EBL Rock'n Roll Friday - it's a nod to you.

Pearl said...

Mouthy Irish Woman, it’s hard selling the past, isn’t it?

Fragrant Liar, it kind of WAS like getting it in the face, you’re right…

Giantspeckledchihuahua, I have great respect for people who do hospice work.

Ole Blue, meeting him certainly changed the tenor of the day, I can tell you that…

Joanie, yep!

Retired One, I do love the garage sales. The possibility of something – at a price you can afford! – will catch your eye and change a room is just intoxicating.

SweetPea, it was a sobering moment, that’s for sure!

Braja, thank you. :-)

Darsden, thinking back, I would’ve liked to have bought him a new shirt and a new pair of pants, honestly. He was scruffy, and kind of used-looking, if you know what I mean. Nice face, but worn. I’ll bet he would’ve liked to have had new clothes to go back to his mom in.

Joanna, ah, the selling of the stuff! Sounds like the people that hit your sale got a good deal!

Kate, re: the Velveteen Rabbit, I’m a bit sentimental myself! And for me, there’s something about a garage sale, about finding something I really like, and knowing that someone else had liked it, too, kept it around, well that makes me happy. Seems a lot of what I like is around the Depression era, and so there is a lot of stuff in my house that was originally someone else’s. Come to think of it, do you know that I’ve never bought something from a furniture store? :-D I never thought of that before…

Jocelyn, I understand about Pa. The little prairie girl in me is running down that hill, surrounded by yellow flowers, arms outstretched just like Laura. Just… like… Laura. Aaaaahahhhhhh! I’ll never get to be Laura!!!

Eskimo Bob, well of course I tried to talk him down a bit! Who knew how old those soups were?!! And it’s not like I can return anything!
Ewww. Talk about sick but practical…

powdergirl said...

I hate cancer, who doesn't ?
My friend TJ, a 26 year old athlete with a golden heart, got eaten up by pancreatic cancer. He never stood a chance.
I would like to kick cancer in the teeth.