Greg, You Loser

It’s Saturday, so that means CLH and I have our own breakfasts. (He has a lumberjack’s plate of eggs and potatoes and bacon and toast and coffee and I had a cup of tea and some old M&M’s I find in the bottom of our snack drawer). I do what I do every Saturday morning after I make my tea: I sit with my laptop at the kitchen table scouring the Internet for estate sales in my neighborhood.

Estate sales, in my opinion, are very different from garage sales. I’ve spent lots of time rooting around in dilapidated produce boxes full of old Christmas decorations and doilies like a hungry raccoon in a garbage can, so I should know.

Garage sales are goldmines for people who want to refurnish their apartments with dated, well-worn couches or who have lost every cord to every electronic appliance they have ever owned and need replacements. If you ever need either of those two things (or several dozen novelty mugs or maybe a gajillion books on how to lose weight, find Jesus, or how to program in HTML), then garage sales are for you.

But if you want to find a framed painting of president Kennedy, 27 pristine vinyl albums of Scandinavian Folk Songs, and a decades old collection of Avon men’s cologne bottles shaped like ram’s horns, antique cars, and various sports equipment* in one house, then estate sales are your thing.

*real things I’ve found at estate sales.

I don’t usually “do” garage sales unless I’ve thoroughly investigated the estate sales in the area. I think it’s because the estate sale people are different than the garage sale people. The words are in their ads are spelled correctly, their lists of items for sale aren’t fifty unreadable miles long, and the ads are usually inviting, friendly even. They include phrases like “Lots of good stuff” and “Great deals to be had” (a nice departure from the usual non-grammatical run-ons for garage sales that include vague threats in all caps like “I WON’T HELP YOU CARRY THIS STUFF OUT SO YOU’D BETTER BRING YOUR FRIENDS. AND A TRUCK. I WON’T HELP YOU. SERIOUSLY. I’M PHYSICALLY INCAPABLE”.)

I think it’s because the estate sale people are type As. And borderline hoarders. And that’s cool with me. I like visiting with “my people” on the weekends.

Today, though, I skipped the usual estate sales and since the weather was getting nicer (you know, fifty-degrees-instead-of-forty-nicer. Nicer as in I’ll-wear-my-scarf-and-winter-coat-but skip-the-hat-today nicer) I decided to visit only the outside sales.

And, oh boy.

There was the lady who wove (is it even possible to weave going 11 miles an hour?) down the street clearly looking for the same garage sale we were. I parked almost half a block away, walked, and still beat her there. She was, meanwhile, using up half the street and all of her might to parallel park in a space about 75 feet long. ‘Cause, you know. She pays taxes. Why not use the whole road?

There was nothing good at this sale. Terrible Parking Job Lady, though, seemed VERY interested in an old-school compression powered paint gun. As part of her punishment for making me wait in the middle of the street for a totally not-worth-it garage sale, I was secretly hoping the thing would discharge in her face while she stared down the barrel. Garage saling makes me competitive. Forget sports. And academics. If you really want to unleash my inner tiger, put me in a starting gate alongside a half dozen middle aged women in mom jeans and appliqued sweaters and see who comes running out of there first. I am NOT afraid to shove when there’s cheap crap at stake.

The next to last garage sale featured a a garage sale classic: Mr. This Stuff Is Too Good For You Guy.

“Greg” was sitting in his garage wearing sunglasses and listening to his Walkman when we walked up (I know his name because he shook my hand after our deal and told me his name and that I should check out his “other stuff” tomorrow as well, at the Fremont Sunday Market). There were like maybe 20 things for sale, and they were all jumbled in boxes, stacked in no particular order, sprawled out over one quarter of the garage. The rest of the garage was full of boxes of… wood. I think. Something an urban garage shouldn’t be full of. Weird. Anywho, the whole time we were there, he kept talking about how awesome this “other” stuff was that he had somewhere else.

This guy was a pro. He must have been able to smell when we were about to direct our attention elsewhere, because as soon as we did, he launched into a oral history of the thing we were looking at, waxed poetic about how it was one of a kind, and did we need a replica of the Starship Enterprise? Because if we did, he had one. It was worth a lot but that he would be willing to let it go for less. And then, if he we even so much as opened our mouths to protest about the price, or the “need” for whatever he was offering, he vacillated between wanting to stroke the thing lovingly and letting it go for a bargain. And if there’s one thing I hate more than the people who write garage sale ads with bad punctuation, it’s people who try to convince me that the crap I’m rooting through like a hungry raccoon is worth hundreds of dollars and that I should feel bad for offering them less than that for their crap. You know what, Greg? If this record of Kabuki music I’m holding in my hand is so rare and expensive, why is it here, in this mildewy box, next to a car buffer and a golf ball puzzle? You don’t want to take my lousy dollar bill for your stupid record? Then why are you selling it? If you like it so much, why don’t you keep it? WHY DON’T YOU MARRY IT, GREG? Oh, you’ve got more stuff, Greg? Oh, I’m sorry. Your buddy has more? Well, where is your buddy and his “stuff”, Greg? See, this is the way capitalism** works: If you want me to give you money for something, you need have your goods in front of you, in real time, with a price tag on it. When I go to the supermarket, I usually make sure my bag of oranges is in my cart before I hand the cashier my credit card. And when I fill up my car with gas, I buy it from a gas station that has gas to offer, not one whose “buddy” has some more gas around here somewhere…

**Okay, this is not how capitalism actually works. This is how it should work. Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps? Yeah. They don’t count as capitalism. They’re just straight up gambling hall adrenaline junkie bullshit. Just sayin’.

Anywho, we managed to convince Greg to take our crumpled five dollar bill for the records we picked out, and I have to say, they’ve been worth every cent. Especially this one:

It’s worth two bucks just to stare in awe at this guy’s cigarette ash and wonder what Jedi mind tricks he was using at the time to stand so still. Or what in the hell they make cigarettes in Asia out of…