It’s difficult to explain the lure of a garage sale, other than it is an intoxicating, multi-faceted journey to Nirvana for someone like me.
I can’t remember when I first became obsessed with buying other people’s stuff. Maybe it was the trips to the junkyard with my father, who shopped there for auto parts; or, my mother’s obsession for repurposing wealthier relatives’ castoffs; or maybe I was simply born to be a bag lady.
Like a five-star general, leading the troops into battle, my weekly invasions into assorted neighborhoods, searching for the Holy Grail of refuse, are strategically planned.
First, I compile a list. Then, I rule out sales with farm equipment or baby things. Next, I draw a map and mark with red dots that show the locations of the best prospects. Exceptionally promising addresses are additionally annotated with stars. Last, I pencil in the hour each sale begins next to its respective red dot.
The perfect scenario is when the garage sales open consecutively along my planned route. If that doesn’t happen, or my plan of attack turns out to have too many problems, I simply ambush the sellers before the sun rises and hope I don’t get shot.
I recently decided to only patronize those crap-a-thons in Ocean Beach (OB). A few bad experiences, like the one I had in Hillcrest, where I got into a huge fight with two gentlemen over a painting of a flamenco dancer, convinced me it might be better if I stayed closer to home.
I’ve come to accept the fact that, most of the time, I’m not going to find anything worth the trip. The biggest catch I ever made was a heavyweight boxing championship belt signed by Muhammad Ali. I stumbled upon this gem hanging on a clothesline, somewhere in Florida, with a sticker on it marked $1.
“This is one dollar?” I asked the attractive, blonde woman behind the table.
“Yup,” she replied, “It belonged to my husband, who left me for another woman. I know he paid a fortune for it, but, today, I’m selling all his possessions for a buck apiece.”
I later sold the belt in Texas to a guy from New York for $1,000.
A few weeks ago, I was making my way to an OB alley sale when I nearly ran over a little old lady, who darted in front of my truck. She had tightly permed, blue hair with a pink scalp showing through the curls. She wore a polyester, pink and blue floral-print track suit. Her frail body resembled a question mark, as she balanced herself between a cane and a shopping cart, which contained, among other things, a bong.
After not buying anything, I continued down the alley and on to the street. At the next stop, the seller told me she recently moved to OB from Michigan. Transplants from the Midwest usually have things like those weird plaid hats with the ear flaps attached; but, this woman actually had some cool stuff.
I was extremely annoyed that dealers in the resale business arrived before the advertised opening time. They moved quickly, eyes darting about, snatching the best deals before the competition could beat them to it.
Just then I spotted a real prize – a blouse by the fashion designer, Betsey Johnson. I dove into the pile to retrieve it, and surfaced with both the top and the blue-haired lady (I almost ran over earlier), attached to the other end.
“I believe I had this first,” I politely said. She tugged on the top and said something I didn’t understand. I pulled harder gently repeating, “Please release the blouse.” But, she wasn’t giving it up. Then, with the all strength of a longshoreman, she gave a yank, ripped the blouse out of my hands, and flung it into her cart with the bong.
Seething, I got into my truck and drove down the street.
The next vendor was selling some very expensive lingerie. As we all perused the wares, a dog fetched a bunch of panties, and ran away with them. He darted across the street, shaking his head and the panties as cars screeched to avoid him. A huge, disheveled man, who must have had a financial interest in the panties, lumbered after him, successfully retrieving the goods.
I decided not to buy anything there, and left.
Porn videos are usually found at the yard sales closer to the Point Loma border of OB. I don’t buy them; but, I do enjoy hiding behind something and watching the enthusiasts who do.
At the last sale of the day, there was a box of these adult videos being fondled by the usual group of fans. As I glanced to the side, I caught a glimpse of the blue-haired lady charging up the sidewalk towards the box.
By now, I believed she was either stalking me, or had hacked into my computer and got my map. Making her way through the shoppers, she scattered the few people scrutinizing the movies by pushing her cart into them. Poking around inside the box with her cane, she pulled out three videos, and tossed them in her basket along with the bong and the Betsey Johnson blouse (that should have been mine).
I decided to call it a day. I went home exhausted and frustrated, and swore I would never go to another yard sale again.
But, like any other rummage-sale junkie, when the next Saturday morning rolled around, there I was again, heading out the door at 6 a.m.–hoping that the blue-haired lady would be staying home–kicking back in my blouse, smoking a bong, and watching porn movies.