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.
“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.
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