Yard sale report for 5/12/12 plus a little on Death and Dying

Fountain bought at a yard sale about a
month ago, just set up!

People have Yard Sales for different reasons. Sometimes the news is good, people moving into together and combining households, people moving to someplace warm where their dreams will come true, or just letting go of old stuff… getting a fresh start.

Sometimes, of course, the news is not so good. In fact, if you are going to make a habit of going to yard sales, as I do, you need to prepare yourself to meet people who are going through some hard times. There will be estate sales, divorce sales, bankruptcy sales, and sales meant to defray medical costs.

When you enter into these folk’s lives for a few minutes, you will find that often, they want to talk, tell you about the ex-wife, the abusive boyfriend, the bank, the stomach bypass, the departed mate, or parent, or sibling. If you are willing, you represent the kindness of strangers; you are a confessor, a psychologist, a momentary friend.

One of my favorite Yard Sale memories came years ago when my wife and I were sailing through Portland and we stopped at a neat little house in NE where we met a little old lady in a close fitting cap and the biggest Harlequin Great Dane I have ever seen. As we looked around the sale, bantering with the old lady and admiring her magnificent dog, I noticed that under piles of clothes and linens, there appeared to be a beautiful black leather couch. I could really barely see it for all the stuff on top but I asked her how much she wanted for it.

She said $75 and before she could blink her eyes I said, “Done!” She told us how the couch was barely used and had been bought mostly for the Great Dane, who must have looked beyond regal on it, but was evidently moving soon. Then, after discussing dogs and couches and whatever else that was on the menu that day, she kind of sidled over next to me, looked up at me with her bright blue eyes and said in a conspiratorial manner, “I may not look it, but I’m terminal.” So I looked back down into her expectant upturned face and I said… “Well I’ll bet you’ve had an hell of a life!”

Then she laughed and said, “That was the right answer!”

Not an ounce of self-pity there, no fear and no remorse… and from there, the conversation ranged from cancer to assisted suicide, from exit strategies to family and estimates of time left.

After we had got all talked out and I was pushing the leather couch into the back of my beat up gray Astro Van, a man ran up to us and asked how much I had paid for that couch. When I told him $75, he said, “I’ll double your money, right now!” and I said to him, “This couch is not for sale at any price, cause every time we sit in it, we’re going to remember this great lady!” pointing at my diminutive new friend.

At that, she threw her arms around me and hugged me tight and it was true, for years as we sat in that couch, long past its proper life span, we would remember her with pleasure… “Remember that old lady? Wasn’t she great?” And Great Danes too, I’ve wanted a Harlequin Great Dane ever since.

That’s what yard sales are all about, that and of course the bargains. On Friday I went to a Yard Sale up here in Vancouver. There were tools and hunting stuff and a rack of shirts that actually seemed to be my size. The woman who was having the sale told me that her husband of 30 years had just recently passed away from a massive heart attack. She told me he was 57… “Damn!” I said, “I’m 57.” So I settled in to visit for a while.

There were other yard sales to be perused. The clock was ticking, but suddenly it was obvious that she was not just having a Yard Sale, she was in the process of letting go. She wasn’t selling junk, or left over stuff, she was selling memories. Now, I need a new shirt like I need a hole in the head. I mean, I’m a Yard Sale addict, I have enough shirts to open a resale store, but I carefully picked through his shirts and finally settled on a nice forest green long sleeve shirt that fit me like it had come out of my own closet and we started to bargain.

Realistically, the normal roles were reversed. I didn’t really want the shirt and she didn’t really want to sell it, but on a deeper level, I knew she wanted me to have it and I was willing to pay more than usual so she would know I appreciated it. She said $5, I paid $3. If I had offered her $1, she would have said yes, but her feelings would have been hurt. The important thing was, that we should enjoy each other’s company and that when I wear the shirt, I will think of them.

As we settled up, she showed me a picture of her late husband and I exclaimed, “Oh my God! He was a stud!” and she told me he was the love of her life. Right at that moment, a woman who had just arrived asked if a box of Lingerie on the table was hers. She said yes, her lingerie days were over, and I said, “Never say never!” Then I said to the newcomer, “Never say no to lingerie.” And everybody laughed.

Before I left, I gave her the advice I had been given after both of my parents passed away… I told her to do good things for herself, to get massages and sit in a hot tub. I told her not to make any decisions for a year after the death. “You’re not in your right mind for a solid year.” And she agreed. Then I said, “Come here momma.” And I gave her a good solid hug. I didn’t even mind the cigarette smoke.

Binocular Mircroscope
for Knife Sharpening

So, yard sales were good this past couple of weeks. Last weekend I was visiting in Santa Cruz for the funeral of a dear nephew… and took the opportunity to cruise around town going to sales and the flea market, but really just wallowing in nostalgia. I got 2 African masks for my tattooist, and a totally sweet binocular microscope for my knife sharpening. I paid more than I normally would have, but it was in perfect condition and I couldn’t resist. Asking price was $150; I paid $60, found them online for around $500. I had to take it on the plane as carry-on.

Yesterday was an excellent Yard Sailing day as well. Wind chimes for $1, a $2 folding projector table for my mobile knife sharpening. It has adjustable legs, is rock solid and comes apart for transport. I found a brass Chinese symbol for happiness, not the regular one you see around, but one in ancient Chinese script, destined for the garden.

The best deal of the day was an amazing 300-year-old mortar and pestle from a coffee plantation in Michoacan. The mortar weighed around 60 pounds and the pestle was about 4 feet long. It was carved out of solid mesquite and I doubt there are any mesquite trees that large left on the planet. I was extremely curious about where this treasure had come from and luckily the neighbor lady from down the street happened to be there and told me the story about how her and her husband had been traveling in Mexico 19 years ago and had admired one like it in front of a wealthy friend.

300 year old Mesquite Mortar & Pestle

He had sent her 50 of them, most of which she had sold over the years, usually to hotels and restaurants. This one she had sold to her neighbor years ago and they had finally decided they didn’t have enough room for it, so were letting it go. Asking price was $20, but I’m no fool and I said yes before one of my competition could snag it out from under me. I could feel the vultures circling as I made my deal. When we left, the neighbor and the last owner said they were glad I got it. Me too.

I also got a stainless steel meat flavor injector from the husband of the mortar owner for $2. He wouldn’t bargain, but I liked his wife and the neighbor lady so much I forgave him, besides, it still had the original $29.95 sticker on it and was unopened.

At the next yard sale, I got to talking knives with the owner and we cut a deal. I’m sharpening 18 knives for him and I got a post hole digger, a 1500 watt inverter for my mobile sharpening service, and a trickle charger for my ambulance (the Blade Runner) for those weeks when I don’t start her up regularly. I’ll make those knives spooky sharp and drop them off for him next week during my Saturday Yard Sale run.

We got a leopard print kitten tent for the new kittens, and an English boar stipple brush for $3 for art projects. I also found a beautiful classic Vita mix 3600… Asking price was $8 (I know, I know), I offered $5 and they accepted. These run around $260 on eBay and are totally the bomb for making Indian yogurt Lassis or smoothies.

Vita Mix 3600

I found a Whipped cream maker with 10 Nitrous Oxide chargers for $5, but didn’t realize until afterwards that it didn’t have the charger holder. The machine sells for around $100, but I can get the charger holder for $15 on eBay. I don’t know if we just missed it on the table or whether the woman selling it knew it was missing a part, but buyer beware, as they say. I’ll be more careful in the future.

Other finds included a sheepskin for $5. An electric kettle for $1 and a big pile of bottle caps from a free box for an upcoming art project. It was a good Yard Sailing day. The weather was perfect, the people nice and the bargains solid. I’m in love with the mortar and pestle and think they may live out on the front porch by the door. They exude a feeling of time and history like a window into another time.

Oh, and I almost forgot! As we headed for home, I noticed a man putting up a late sign for the last yard sale of the day. We were tired and ready to quit, but being one of the first ones to a sale is always worth checking out. The sale had a lot of guy stuff, a couple of silver fox skins, some archery equipment… tools, and then, just as I was getting back in the car I noticed a very large white glass bowl. Without thinking, I reached out and struck it with my knuckles. It gave out the most wonderful deep tone, like a gong in the Himalayas.

Quartz Singing Bowl

Turns out, it is a 20 inch quartz singing bowl, used for meditation… Asking price $35… I paid $20, market somewhere around $350. Every time we walk by it, we reach out and give it a whack.

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