Yard Sale Report for 5/30/12 plus a few other weeks…
I have always believed that life is full of extraordinary coincidences and small miracles. They surround us in a series of bright moments that mostly pass by unseen and un-noticed, it’s like walking through a forest filled with magic and wonder, while most of the time we only watch the path and the foot prints of those that went before. I had a friend once who told me excitedly that he was going off to Findhorn to see fairies sitting on the cabbages. I wanted to tell him that if he paid more attention to the cabbages, there was no telling what he might see, but if he got lost in looking for fairies, he probably wouldn’t see anything.
It’s the chop wood, carry water thing. The magic is in simple acts and basic observations. I was talking to a student at the University of California Santa Cruz years ago and I asked what she was studying, She breathlessly told me that she was an “Artist!” When I asked her what medium she worked in, she said she hadn’t decided yet… Who knows, maybe she’s rich and famous now, but I kind of doubt it. It seemed to me that the art should come first and the desire to be an artist come second.
So the finding of magic is mostly the act of noticing what is already around you, the making of art something that leaks out of your pores while you are trying to get the wood chopped and the water carried. It’s one of the reasons that I love going to yard sales, like rolling along through a wild city maze that is studded with interesting people, amazing artifacts, beautiful gardens, and sublime coincidences. Back when I first met my wife, we were walking through the Santa Cruz Flea Market, a veritable city of junk, treasures, and unlikely people. Between the fruit sellers, the blaring Mexican music, and the hippie pilgrims selling their belongings so they can move to where ever it is they’re going, there were a host of stories and incidents. I was telling her about, how many years before I had made a sword cane and someone had stolen it from my front porch. As we walked along the jumbled tilted aisles I described how I had come out to the flea market and found someone selling it. When I confronted the man, he tried to say it wasn’t mine, but I had drawn the sword and he had given it back.
At that point in the story, I looked over at a beat up old Chevy Rambler covered in a profusion of tattered and used junk and I said to my wife, “In fact, there it is right there.” and there it was, a little more beat up than it had been 17 years before, but still the same sword cane. This time, I couldn’t get it back, I think I might have given it away all those years ago and who knows how the current seller had come into ownership, but there it was, not just the stick itself, but a reminder of how close we all are to amazing moments, if we just pay attention and let it happen.
I haven’t done a Yard Sale Report for quite awhile, I got distracted by other stories, memories of my childhood and a yearning for my parents, but that does not mean we haven’t been out hitting the weekend sales. Along with great deals, there have been artful chicken coops, friendly dogs, wise felines, and extraordinary people. There have been beautiful tattoos, interesting garden art, new knife sharpening clients, and above all, a wonderful sense of friendliness and community.
Of course, there was the lady who saw me coming and didn’t seem too happy about it… As I walked up the driveway she said, “I remember you!” in a slightly accusatory way.
Oh, that’s right, I remembered her from a yard sale last year. That happens a lot, people have sales every year and often I am greeted like an old friend. My memory is pretty bad for most things, but I remember people and I remember yard sales. So it all started to fall into place… I was there last year, and we made a deal, we traded a folding wood room divider for my sharpening her knives and I remember she drove a hard bargain… So I say, “We made a trade.” And she says, “Within 6 days I had cut the tip of my finger off.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to that, so I replied that it was probably about time to get her knives sharpened again and she said, “I’m never going to have another sharp knife in my house again.” Ouch!
Yesterday, we went further south than usual. The Irvington area was having a huge 90 house community yard sale and I usually avoid those kinds of events. They are swarmed with shoppers and not only is the traffic horrible, but the competition is crushing and pickings meager. The first year of an event like that can be incredible, 6 or 7 yard sales on every block, you can hit a hundred sales in a few hours, but what happens is, the word gets out and the sale sucks all the yard sale shoppers out of the rest of the city. Sellers who might have had wonderful treasures tucked away in the attic sell everything worth having the first year and then they just go through the motions from then on.
The thing to do is go further out and hit the sales that aren’t on the master list. You’ll get to a sale and the people will tell you there have hardly been any buyers, which might be sad for them, but is music to my ears.
So we went down into South East, an area that I don’t know as well and usually avoid. The houses there are elegant and beautiful and the streets are lined with ancient reaching trees that cry out with history and spirit. The problem is, that most of the yard sales there seem to be small pseudo antique businesses with high prices and higher pretensions. An item that might bring $2 in North East will often be priced at $10 or $20 in the South. The first 5 or 6 places we stopped were all leftovers from antique shops and on-line stores. Pretty soon I started to regret having come so far out of my favorite zone and then, just as I was getting ready to leave one yard sale I noticed that one of the people at the sale was an interesting gentleman that I corresponded with for awhile several months ago regarding some community activities.
I had seen his picture, but we had never met in person. He is a talented artist and deeply involved in his local community. I thought, Wow, what an interesting coincidence, although I did not stop and introduce myself. He seemed busy and I was content just to enjoy the moment and keep moving.
A little while later we stopped at a sale that was being held at a cute little Portland bungalow with immaculate landscaping and a friendly feel. My wife was looking at a pair of bright yellow Banana Slug bedroom slippers and I mentioned to the lady of the house that I used to find Banana slugs in the forest when I was a boy in Santa Cruz. It turns out; she had worked at the University where I grew up. She knew my parents. Her sister had dated my brother. It was one of those amazing moments where everything seems to fit just perfectly. We had friends in common, remembered the same places and the same events… and her and her husband were so nice and made us feel so welcome and there it was, the reason we had come to the south. The coincidence and the connection that had been waiting for us.
Anyway, I bought a 20 pound box of screws from them for $10, more perhaps than I might have spent otherwise, but hey… I’ll never have to buy another screw as long as I live, and we drove away talking about how small the word is and what a nice surprise it all was and pretty soon, we came to another sale.
This time it’s a sale out of a garage in an old eclectic house with a venerable black lady trying to stay out of the rain. She had a strong open face with high cheekbones and a tight cap of wooly white hair that framed her face with light. She was also wearing these slightly spooky blue contacts that gave her a kind of surprised look. So we start talking and somehow we get on the subject of pie, which reminds me of the old lady I once bought a sweet potato pie from at a yard sale in North East Portland and how it was the best pie I had ever eaten. Then I tell her how that pie had been an epiphany and how I had gone to a black bakery in Portland to find out more on the subject.
I told her about the beautiful woman who ran the shop and how she told me about sweet potato pie and how her mother had baked and sold them to help them to build the community church and how deeply they were rooted in the black culture. (In fact that’s an earlier blog post) So this lady, she gives me a funny look with those wild blue eyes and she says, “That was Mother Dears and the woman you talked to was my sister.” Then she goes on to tell me that this is her sister’s house and that she is inside with a bad knee, but that she still bakes pies… The bakery closed down years ago, but the pies are still legendary and people are still coming around trying to get her back into production.
I bought a multi-colored set of drawers for $15, bargained down from $20. Again, more of a South East price, but just for the connection to Mother Dears, I would have paid more.
Then on the way home, we were talking about the Quartz Singing Bowl I had bought a couple of months ago at a yard sale for $20 and as we drove by the place, I stopped to ask if the man had any more and a man who was up on the roof with a hose, apparently watering the roof told me that the guy with the singing bowl had moved to Montana, although they said he had left one in his back yard and for $20 I could have that one too… All in all, it was a day of surprises, coincidences, and amazing moments.
So anyway… Here’s the report for the last several weeks.
- Folding Miter Table for $20. I was just pricing these for use with my mobile Knife Sharpening gig. Then found one at a yard sale the next day!
- Got a great set of numbered drawers for my knife sharpening studio for $3. They came from a lady who was retiring from teaching special education. She had a ton of teaching stuff.
- Got a brand new Delta band saw for $20 at the same sale where I found a beautiful pressed tea brick for .50 and a framed sequined Lady of Guadalupe for $1. Totally nice people.
- Beads for the wife for .50.
- Garmin GPS Unit $20
- Copper Candle holder to put in the Tea House for .50.
- A Capresso glass electric teapot for $10. I’ve been looking for one of these forever.
- Found a funny ceramic hand for a quarter. I collect hands.
- The multiple colored drawer set for $15… I already told you about that.
- A Dewalt radio battery charger for my work shop for $10.
- Found a complete set of green dishes that match our current and chipped set for $15 bargained down from $25.
- Display case for the wife’s bead work for $5.
- Two cutout coins in a green cloth bag that were a complete surprise for $1 (the bag was a dollar, the coins we found later).
- Wild funny erotic art piece for $20 that I would love to find the artist for.
- Flower pot shaped like a head for .50. It will look great with ivy hanging out of it.
- Funny little handmade glass bead for a dime.
- Ganesh painting for $1.
- Two pieces of Guardian wear for a friend’s mother that collects it.
- New Vacuum Cleaner for $15.
- Chinese Scroll for $1.
- Traded the Ruger Ranch Rifle that I got at a yard sale for $200 for a Yamaha Generator worth $2000.
- Hand made Burning Heart for $5. She was so proud, it was her first art sale! We may add some bottle caps and sequins and stuff…
- Gunera plant for $5. Also called Dinosaur Plant because it looks like something a dinosaur might eat. Can’t wait to put it in the ground.
- Set of Hindu gods for $1. Got a discount because my wife’s tattoo is the Hindu Goddess the seller’s daughter was named after.
- Rototiller for $20. It wasn’t really a yard sale, the guy was just moving and couldn’t fit it in the van.
- Zebra iPad case for .50 for the iPad I’m looking for.
- JBL speaker for our Ipods for $6.50.
- Panther head for $10 as a gift for my tattooist. Totally nice seller.
- Painted Torso… Was asking $20, would have taken $10… My wife wouldn’t let me buy it…
- Thai opium scale for .50.
- Fresh water pearls for .25.
- Nesting Pyrex bowls for $3.
- Red 100% wool blanket for $3.
- Thai picture for Shae for $1.
- Skeleton for Christine for $200.
- Two swords for $5.
- Two nice Thermos pitchers for $1.
- Tibetan bell, Ganesh Hands, and Double Thunder Bolts for $6 from a beautiful Yoga Studio.
- Old windows for garden projects for $10.
- Yixing tea set for $3.
- Halloween blow up arch $5.
- Chinese slicing knife .50.
- Jello Hand mold for .50.
- Cold air humidifier for $5.
So that’s the list more or less. I’ve included a Gallery of all the stuff below. If you see me at the yard sales, say hi!