I have been struggling to come up with something coherent and funny to post these past few days, but every time I sit down at this computer, all I do is sigh dramatically and rake my hands through my hair and then promise myself I’ll write tomorrow and that, for now, I’ll just post the pictures I’ve taken of all the lost cat posters in my neighborhood and won’t that be hysterical? Hahahaha!!! *More sighing*. I knew I wanted to post something today, though, so I went digging through some unfinished pieces and I found this little ditty. I wrote it originally back in the beginning of July.
Every once in a great while, your future self shows up to a baby shower, or at the gas station, or in the produce aisle of the supermarket and strikes up a conversation with you and it hits you almost immediately: this is what I am going to be like in 40 years.
Today was an average day for garage-saleing. There was the aggressive soccer mom who all but accosted me as soon as I set foot near her driveway. Her greeting came tumbling out all at once, a command rather than a salutation: THIS IS TO RAISE MONEY FOR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS. Whoa, okay. And a good day to you, madam! I strolled around for a few minutes because Hey! I support causes! But her stuff was way overpriced. Clearly, she hadn’t read the manual about garage sale pricing. There was no way in hell anyone was going to pay $25 for a trench coat at a garage sale covered in cat hair and smelling of mold, even if it was for charity. Oh, and her aggressive daughter dressed head to toe in pink offering me cookies in her very loud outside voice? Seriously, kid. Take a hint from Dale Carnegie. At least tell me you like my hair or something before asking me shell out money for your almond bars. (I’m sure they’re dusting off the chair reserved for me in Hell right now.)
There was the lady who looked like she should have had that garage sale about twenty years ago. Seriously. That shit was sooooo dated. And ugly. Something happened in the late seventies and early eighties to home furnishings in this country that can only described as “tragic”. And this woman had made some SERIOUS investments in her home decor back then. I like that stuff tells a story. I like when it’s kitschy. I don’t like when it’s embarrassing for everyone. A DUSTBUSTER? SERIOUSLY? The last time I saw one of those was in 1987. Which was probably the last time I saw Richard Simmons on the cover of a cookbook. Which she was also selling. Which were laid out next to some framed posters of kittens playing piano. And monkeys dressed like businessmen.
There was the sale that promised “high end modern stuff” which mostly consisted of Ikea crap still in boxes. The real gem in the crown, though, was the woman who got into her Cutlass Supreme afterward visiting that sale and complained that everything was too pricey. Oh, really? You think so? Well, I’ve got a twenty-five dollar trench coat just a few blocks from here that will make your eyes pop out of your head on springs.
The real treat was the sale I wasn’t planning on going to at all (Tenet three of the Garage Sale Theory: It’s always the sale you just happen upon that yields the best stuff. The lesson here? Plans yield to crushed hopes.) Anywho, I stopped for bit. The first thing I noticed was that stuff was laid out wonderfully. Antique sheets and tablecloths underneath milk glass pieces and ornate serving bowls and stuff. Drinking glasses shaped like boots. Really well done. And reasonably priced. I saw a medium sized serving platter and fell in love. I picked it up for a mere $2. There were other pieces that I liked, but I thought I’d already broken the bank by spending a whole TWO dollars. I wandered next door where another sale was happening (and where I scored a sleeve for my iPod for twenty five cents). But I couldn’t get that second platter off my mind. It was a thing of simple beauty. And I wanted it. And this is when the OCD kicked in. My mind did somersaults trying to justify spending an additional $3.00 on a serving platter. Oh, the agony (and this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I can’t sleep at night. That, and because I am trying to figure out the evolutionary advantage to having one’s two front teeth spread really far apart and having that hangy-downy part of one’s gums between the teeth. You know. Science-y stuff).
I went back for the platter. I paid for it. I felt better about myself. I calmed down. And then the woman running the sale wanted to know where I lived. Huh? Oh, well, I said. Not too far. Closer to downtown. Well, we have these sales three times a year, she said. So check back. And as I was about to walk away, my twin showed up.
Now, she wasn’t my twin in the traditional sense. She looked nothing like me. But her skin, it glowed. And her eyes, they sparkled. They sparkled they way someone’s do when they have a basement of treasure they are just dying to show someone. And I’m a good audience. A very good audience.
This is my job: I collect stories. I write them down. I have a face that says: Please, go ahead and tell me about that one time you knew that guy who piloted planes and then was killed in a freak accident but that you still keep in touch with his widow and her neighbor, who sure did make a mean margarita and that that dog you had as a kid, why that dog could balance a wiffle ball on its head for a full minute and it wouldn’t even move or nothin’. My face also says: I like stuff that other people call “junk”. I like to see whole rooms of it. If I could, I would lay down on that junk and do the butterfly stroke through it, letting antique teacups and gooseneck lamps and baseball cards and ashtrays glance off my skin like water while I dipped and came up for air.
So my twin, she says: what are you looking for today? And I am almost stunned silent because this is a serious question. It makes me wonder: what the hell AM I looking for? I mean, what do I do this for? Why do I get up early on the weekends and pay people my hard earned money to haul away stuff they were going to take the the dump anyway? What am I out here hoping to find? Dishes, mostly, I think. Yes, dishes. That is the most practical thing I can think of to say. Burdy and I are eating off of chipped earthenware because we got rid of our old clunky set and we haven’t found the perfect replacement set just yet… so we are eating off of an even older set, which is chipped, and we need new dishes. So I’m looking for dishes. But I’m also looking for wedding theme ideas. And perhaps for an apothecary/farmhouse themed armoire to put all my dry goods in. And OOOO!! I know! wine glasses! And also, something to put on the mantle! And a piggy bank in the shape of a donkey! And something to put my makeup in when I travel! And a record featuring a cigarette smoking Asian dude! Yeah! That stuff!
And then she does something completely unexpected. She invites me to her house. Somewhere, deep inside, my inner child bristles, and I can hear my mom’s voice telling me not to talk to strangers. But mom, this nice lady! She’s offering something better than candy! She has a whole room of STUFF!
Thank goodness child predators weren’t on to my proclivities back then. Fuck your candy, sir. You want me to get in your car? Tell me you want to show me your collection of velvet Elvis paintings and maybe your shed full of mason jars. Then I’ll do whatever you want.
I love to entertain. And so does my twin. So when I get to her house, she shows me shelves and shelves of plates. Nautical themed ones and silver ones and ones shaped like king crabs. I can’t believe how much stuff she has. Silk plants enough to reforest the Amazon. Wine glasses to entertain all of France. And it’s all packed very neatly onto shelves in her basement. She knows where everything is. The Fiesta collection? Behind this curtain, please. Watch your step by the stationary bike. Christmas wreaths organized by size? Right this way. Did you say you needed a glass punch bowl supported on a cast metal base in the shape of a flock of migratory birds mid-flight? Well, why didn’t ya say so? It’s right over here!
I spent the next hour pawing through her stuff, listening to her stories about the party she threw last Christmas for her something-something board and how everyone just loved the spread she brought. She showed me pictures of it, even. There is was: the green and red plaid tablecloth, the cookies on the Christmas tree shaped platter, the bean dip in the bowl with the pine cone motif. The glasses hand painted with snowflakes. And all of it picked from the shelves of Goodwill and magically put together with her expert eye.
She then did something extraordinary: she offered to lend me some pieces. I had a party coming up, I told her, a baby shower, that I needed to plan for, and I would need serving dishes. She had everything, right down to tiny ornamental forks to pull meat from crab legs. It was amazing. We shared a rare kind of trust, a trust between lovers of all things kitschy and beautiful. Her eyes asked: will you take my Precious and care for it? And my eyes said: I would never do anything to harm your Precious. I promise.
In the end, I never took her up on her offer to borrow her serving pieces. Burdy’s father passed away a few days after I met this woman, and we had to fly back east to make funeral arrangements. The next thing we knew, it was go-time, and we had to cater the party without the silver cast punch bowl.
There will be other parties, though. There will be need for tiny forks and platters in the shape of fat Santas. And when those parties happen, I will make a run to my own private warehouse of all things horribly beautiful, and I will visit my twin, and I will borrow that wonderfully overdesigned punch bowl.