Second Yard Sale Day of the Season Report

Saturday was the second beautiful day in a row here in the Great North West. Although it’s still very early in the yard sale season, the 2nd day of a 2 day run of nice weather is usually a pretty good bet. I mean, when the weather is nasty and the grass is wet, people don’t want to contemplate putting together a yard sale and let’s face it, trying to get it together the morning of a sale is a recipe for misery. The weather has been cold and wet the past couple of weeks with a soggy load of heavy snow laying all the bamboo in my backyard flat down as if it were being crushed by a big hand.

Last week, I didn’t even consider going out yard sailing, just stayed in and did a little writing and some knife sharpening, but like I said, even though it’s still early, the weather drew me out today like a Robin looking for early yard sale worms.

I should expect this by now. I plotted a course that took me to the far side of Portland for my first sale and then back across town towards home. This is always something of a risk this early in the season. You do a lot of driving before your first sale and if they are late or decide not to have the sale after all, it can be frustrating. That’s what happened this morning. The first 3 sales simply weren’t there, with no signs or explanations and I had driven all the way down from Vancouver. I try and repeat the mantra, “I’m in no hurry.” But time starts to slip away and it’s hard to miss those opening bargain moments because you were off chasing sales that didn’t materialize.

1/3 scale Skeleton… Day of the Dead, here I come.

So maybe I started to rush a little bit which might be the reason why, when I did find the first sale of the day, I was not paying too much attention to the signs, which probably explains why I burst into these nice folk’s dining room while they were having breakfast. I mean, there was stuff on the porch and I saw someone else walking away from the front door, so I just busted on in. I immediately saw stuff I wanted. I also immediately saw the, very nice, but not very happy homeowners sitting at the dining room table with their mouths full of scrambled eggs.

The lady informs me that they are not open yet and are still eating their breakfast, and can I come back in a half hour, and I explain to her it’s like the poem by Robert Frost, Where way leads on to way and I doubt that I shall ever be back. So by this time (ahem) I already have three things in my hot little hands and as I start to regretfully put them back and I feel their resolve falter a little. I don’t even bargain, I pay full first asking price, which although is against my religion, I feel I have to, since I am already at a disadvantage by trespassing.

Right about that time, another person barges in the door… It turns out they had already been turned away and when they saw me come in, they thought the race was on. I’m apologizing profusely, they’re trying to back me out the door and just as I start to leave, they relent and I buy a plastic skeleton for $2, which I think will make a fun day of the dead project, a box fan for making beef jerky for $1, and a nice little flexible neck lamp for my knife sharpening, also for $1. I pay with exact change and as I go across the lawn, I run into the other shopper who is still waiting and I tell her I’m the neighbor, so it’s all right. Honestly, I hate arriving early at yard sales, I think it’s rude and it goes against one of the cardinal rules… But, score!

 The next yard sale has way nice people, but there’s not really much that I need. I’ve finally come to the place where I’ve been to so many yard sales and bought so much junk, that I’ve already bought almost everything you can think of and already let it go or stored it in the garage, so I have to really justify stuff regarding what I will do with it and where it will go…

They do have this absolutely wonderful series of life size iron stick men welded together to make a kind of wall that would have been brilliant in the back yard, but it’s already been sold (If I’d just skipped the first few sales!).They also have an interesting torch lamp with 3 uprights. The lady there tells me her neighbor dropped it off and asked her to sell it for $40. I ask her if she will take $20 and she says if it was up to her, she’d say yes… But she’s worried what the neighbor will say. Anyway, she points me towards his house and I go over to do a little bargaining and as I arrive, I can see why she’s a little worried about what he might think…

Torch Lamp for Bedroom

He’s this big tough looking black guy who looks like someone who you might not want to cross, but he invites me in and we get right to it… He says he wants $40, I offer $20. He counters with $35 and I consider it for a bit. In the mean time, his Chihuahua is yapping at my heels and I’m explaining that I have to make my yard sale fund last all day and maybe I’m going to pass, and just then, his mother arrives on the scene in a leopard print bathrobe and a do rag on her head and she says, “Make it $32.50!” and I say to the big dude, “Boss says $32.50!” and then I say to her, “Love the leopard bath robe!” and we both laugh.

Next sale is a funny old guy who is moving out of his house and onto a boat. At first I don’t see anything I need and then I notice a large pot with a tall stalk coming out of it. It looks a little like a sumac start and I ask him what it is. He tells he doesn’t know what it is, but it gets huge leaves every year. He asks $5 for it, I offer him $3 and the deal is done… I love mystery plants from yard sales. Last year I got a substantial mass of Dracunculus vulgaris, also known as the Voodoo Lily, at a sale and it’s just starting to come up now for the first time.

Mystery Plant

There are a few other sales where I don’t buy anything, although I did see a few things that other people had beat me to, that I would have loved to have. When I pull up to one of the last sales of my day, I see this fun looking lady with the back of her hair dyed purple. As I start to look around, she admires the dragon tattoo on my arm, which is an opportunity I can rarely pass up. I approach her and tell her that if she touches the nose of the Dragon, the eyes will cross… Then there’s that moment. I’m standing there with my arm out and she’s looking at the tattoo and slowly her hand starts to rise. I move my wrist a little bit and you can see from her face that she knows she shouldn’t do it. I say… “Go ahead… touch the nose.” All of her focus is on that dragon. Inside, her better sense is saying no, no, no, but still her hand gets closer and closer. She’s about to touch the nose of the dragon, which sounds like a double entendre, but is not. She even says, “I shouldn’t be doing this.”

Go ahead... Touch the nose...

And then just as her finger is about to plant one on the dragon’s proboscis, I bark like a dog and she almost pees in her pants… Then she says, “Do it to my roommate!” Which of course I do, with similar results and we get down to bargaining. I ask about a brand new magnetic knife rack and they ask for $5. I counter with $2, which they agree to because they liked the dragon trick so much. Then I ask about a beaded purse for my wife and they ask for $2 and I counter with $1. The lady with the purple hair says that I don’t deserve a bargain since I almost scared her to death and I say, “But you loved it.” She says okay to the $1 offer and we all walk away happy, which is really what it is all about.

Iron Stick Figures

A great bunch of people, I also run into an old neighbor from Portland who I haven’t seen in 6 or 7 years, and I have a nice talk with a random big dude about doing things that you love in life… He fixes computers and I sharpen knives… and of course go to yard sales. All in all, I didn’t get that much today. The lamp will go well in our bedroom, I picked up a Crate and Barrel cutting board with a built in colander. The mystery plant will reveal itself during the Spring. I suspect it is a Catalpa, but we shall see. I also picked up a fun copper door arch for the front door.

Magnetic Knife rack

Mostly though, it was about the people and the conversations. The neighborhoods were fun and you could see Spring trying valiantly to win out over the long winter and there were joggers and dog walkers everywhere. I got to do my dragon trick twice at 1 yard sale and I gave away a ton of business cards for my knife sharpening. Here we go! It’s going to be a fun year for yard sales!

Crate & Barrel Cutting board
Copper Door Arch

Beaded Purse

3 Responses to “Second Yard Sale Day of the Season Report”
  1. I Elliot- i believe our parents were friends back in Santa Cruz, my dad taught at UCSC also, Max Levin, we lived up in Bonny Doone, i think we might even have been at Santa Cruz High at the same time for awhile… then we moved to England where i finished high school at an alternative boarding school and stayed on for a few years after traveling and working- Deanna Jay Chu Nim sent me this blog link- anyway just wanted to say hi, we live in Portland Oregon, and sounds like you are a Santa Cruz transplant as well? Where do you live up here? Sounds like you’re a writer- nice. I’m illustrating children’s books these days and painting.


    Deborah Eve (Levin) Alastra

    • Hi Deborah,
      Yes, We immigrated to the great North West about 15 years ago, first to Portland and then on to Vancouver. I don’t know that I would call myself a writer, but I do enjoy the process. I hit the yard sales in Portland pretty hard when the weather is nice, maybe we should meet for a late lunch someday? I looked at your illustrations, they’re totally sweet!

      • hi Elliot,
        i just came across your message… i’m not understanding this blog stuff, just trying it out- email me too:, and then i’ll have your home email- yes we should meet for lunch or tea or something- i’m really swamped right now with a book project, actually three… but maybe early in June or something-

        do you miss California at all? We’re still not positive we’re staying permanent here… waiting for two kids to finish college, my husband retires in a few years, then we’ll decide- how do you like Vancouver? I’ve noticed you can get a lot more there for your $- so email me and lets stay in touch! thanks for writing-


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