Monday, May 30, 2005

A Life, for $37.50

Over the past few days, I've had a few garage sales to prepare for my return back East. Despite the fact that I have moved almost 20 times, its never easy. When I moved out here in 1991, my employer paid for the move. You won't find many employers doing that for their employees now except if you are at the executive level. So, this time, I have to reduce my 30 year career to the size of a thimble.

When I moved into this house in 2003, I had about 30 boxes, plus furniture. As far as moving goes, any mover would tell you that isn't much. But, nevertheless, trying to reduce one's life to fit in an envelope is never easy. I am moving by mail. The movers want too much money to move my minimum amount way across country, so I have to decide what is valuable and what is not.

Measuring 'value' is a very personal thing. Consider this. I have a pencil sharpener in the shape of a coffee grinder. Now, really, who uses pencils these days, much less sharpens them by hand? Who even bothers, when pencils go for about a penny apiece?

But here's the thing: That pencil sharpener was given to me as a Christmas gift, from an old woman friend and neighbor, Charlotte Furze, who lived downstairs from me when I grew up. I lived in a 4 apartment house when I was growing up and Charlotte and the rest of us would play blackjack for pennies. Charlotte was a sun worshipper who could always be found on a lounge chair in the backyard on any sunny summer's day.

Well, Charlotte has been dead for many years now, but when I look at that coffee grinder pencil sharpener, I think of her. Thus, a pencil sharpener, worth nothing on the 'open market' becomes a priceless object for me, since I'll never get another Christmas present from Charlotte again. That pencil sharpener has followed me wherever I went.

A couple of other 'useless' items included two bookcases that I had for my collection of books that I had from college. Some of the books I never read, but meant to, and other books I read but wanted to keep. One bookcase has been in my family for decades. Its nothing to look at per se, just a square bookcase with a shelf. My mother varnished it and I remember it being in my bedroom since I was a kid. I remember having an Opuntia cactus that I grew and it sprouted new growth every year from May till the middle of August. I even had a name for it, Oscar since it was an Opuntia Microdaisys. That bookcase is available practically for the taking.

Another bookcase was a simple one made from a few pine planks made from my friend Steve, with whom I worked early in my career. Steve wasn't a carpenter, but he'd like to tinker around and he just threw some boards together with nails and glue. I've had that bookcase for over 20 years. Steve and I were the best of friends back then and we stayed in touch via Christmas cards, but I have since lost track of him, so the bookcase will probably end up at curbside.

I am also giving up furniture that was in my mother's house but that's life. My mother was an artist of sorts, who could have painted professionally but didn't. But she did make me an embroidery of a tree (she loved trees and so do I) and when she gave it to me, I asked her to initial it and she did, in pencil, so it is labeled 'G.M., 1976'. So that is almost 30 years old.

But the first things that went out was the various pictures I had. One was made by my sister Elaine, who dabbled in painting for awhile and surprised the hell out of me when she gave it to me for Christmas one year. She asked me to look through a picture book and told me to pick one out. The one I picked out, she said it would be too difficult, so I moved on to a second choice, so you can imagine my suprise when she gave me the one I wanted for Christmas. It too is a nature scene with weeping willows that evoke a hot steamy, Southern plantation. You can almost taste the mint julep while swing on the porceh swing.

Other pictures included embroderies made for me by my sister June, who knew of my love for cacti as she did a four picture embroidery of four different kinds of cacti as well as one she made of an old time sailing ship. Pictures in frames, like photographs, are the irreplacable things that you'd want to get out of the house if it was on fire.

Two treasures that I must give up break my heart. I love cherry wood and I have a cherry wood entertainment center and a cherry wood writing desk with inlaid leather that I use as my computer desk. Both of these things were the first things I ever bought using my American Express card, back in the day when credit wasn't easy to come by and AMEX was the first company to break down and give me a credit card. I sold the entertainment center to Don, who watched over my house and dog when I was working back East, but I haven't found any takers for the desk. On June 17th, Opportunity Village, a charity, will come by to take any furniture I cannot unload.

That leads me to the garage sales. Since I live in a 'Master Planned Community' I had to invest in a couple of HOA approved garage sale signs, which of course you have to buy from them. They are basically styrofoam signs with metal for poking in the ground with the Summerlin logo on them and when I stopped at the Trails Community Center to buy them, the buttheads don't take cash or credit cards. They don't take cash for fear of being robbed. Robbery? Here in Perfect Podland? This is a Desperate Housewives neighborhood, where well-to-do matrons make their macaroni and cheese casseroles and it is the most sought after neigborhood to be a pool boy. In fact, the zip code is 891 Oh Baby, Oh Baby.

So that leads me to my other stuff. I opened the garage door, plopped down the signs, one in front of the house and the other at the entrance of the complex and I was open for business.

I put out the rest of my 'junque' which included glassware, tupperware and my extensive CD collection, which runs the gamut from pop to classic rock, 60's, R&B, Jazz and Blues. The last CD I bought was when I was last in Boston when I went with my coffee klatch friend, Ray, on our usual jaunts through Newbury Comics, which is appropriately on Newbury Street. It was the Best of the Jefferson Airplane. At one time or another I was a member of Columbia House and BMG Music Service (13 CDs for 1 penny!). I've outlived at least two managers of member services who have tried repeatedly, albeit in vain, to get me to come back ("We've missed you").

The good thing about having an Ipod is I can upload my songs into Itunes, now that I have an external CD room and have re-partitioned by drive away from Linux and put into use for Itunes. So I have two piles of CDs - one out in the garage and ready to go and another pile in the living room, not yet available as some of the songs need to uploaded into Itunes. Once done, I'll be able to eliminate at least one box that I won't have to sent back East.

Everybody has a garage sales every weekend, which I am told is a good thing because that brings out the crowds, so I decided to get a head start by opening the garage door on a Wednesday. No takers. Come to find out that the wind blew down my sign at the entrance to the complex.

On Thursday, I got a few neighbors stop by and one guy in a cowbow hat (from New York) bought a few classic CDs that I am selling, priced to move. I close at 5.

On Saturday, I was up very early so the early bird could catch the worm. I was competing with two other garage sales. I went to Starbucks early and sure enough it was packed. Desert dwellers do everything the the early morning hours and during the cool of the evening, so when I got back, I was again back in business. I sold another CD (Aretha Franklin) to a woman from Sun City who complained about the heat as she had no AC in her car. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

I sold one book and had to explain why I had a 'Vampires for Dummies' book, etc. I had a few Mexicans with a truck come so I could show them the furniture I am getting rid of. No takers.
After having all those people traipsing through my house, I now know what its like to live in a genuine Nevada whorehouse. Next time, I'll wear a wig and a pushup bra.

Two items I placed out there was a small candle of a coffin that I got at Walgreens a couple of Halloweens ago and I had on my mantle as a piece of bric-a-brac and other was a set of brass candlesticks that I got at the Sun City community yard sale a few years ago, complete with candles. When the first guy came in, he asked what was the sticky stuff. The coffin candle liquefied in the 105 degree heat and one of the other candles drooped like grandpa's penis.

I have since taken the CDs back into the house since I ran into a Starbucks friend, Staci and I told her about my CD collection, since I've seen her with headphones on. I also been asking my friends what kind of music they are into and I'll set them aside. I've put aside some Jazz CDs for another friend, Andrea. I'd rather have friends get them then strangers. Maybe when they'll remember me when they listen to them after I'm gone.

So far, my life is worth but $37.50. That's what its worth after 30 years of work, travel, homeownership and home rental. They say you can't take it with you when you when you die. I can't even take it with me when I leave Vegas.

Well, its almost 5pm on Memorial Day and I'm ready to close up shop. I opened one box of a picture that was wrapped up by the movers that I bought in Harvard Square years ago and was never unwrapped because I had much better pictures. When I opened it, the glass was broken, so I hauled it to the curb. Tonight is trash night. Maybe I should just put myself out there with it.


At 1:12 PM, Blogger The Dreamer said...

Hey Paul

once again freat post.I forgot to mention that I restarted my old blog afresh. Not sure how far I'll go on with it.

Ahh yes our Saturday treks to Au Bon Pain and Newbury Comics


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