Gurney's Inn
October 10, 2007

Low Tidings

The Ins And Outs Of Yard Saling

We've been going yard saling for years. Karen loves it. Me? Not so much.

I go because it means we are sharing "quality time." For me, that means if I can endure a couple hours of sorting through someone else's junk on Saturday morning I can justify the 47 hours of sports programming I have scheduled for the upcoming week.

Karen is a very good yard-saler. Like most of the regulars on the local circuit, she displays her found treasures like trophies. There is the Hermes bag worth thousands of dollars. There is the Oriental rug that really was made in the Orient. There are crystal vases and antique picture frames. The junk I buy gets banished into my office or the basement.

For years I'd buy artwork created by local artists. Like a lot of naive yard-salers, I always hoped one of these artists would become really famous and I'd have one of his or her original works. Since artwork is always worth more after the artist dies, I figured if one of my possessions did become valuable I could mow down the local artist who created it with my truck and I'd be richer still.

For years my office was cluttered with this crap. The more I looked at them, the more I realized these were really ugly paintings made by people with no talent and that they were never going to be worth any money.

So I had a yard sale. I told everyone I didn't know the name of the artist but I thought it was Eric Fischl or something like that.

When one of my old girlfriends threw me out of her house, she found a few really ugly sports jackets of mine in the back of her closet, including a hideously green plaid thing that still makes me cringe when I think about it. Unable to move them at her yard sale, she took them to the thrift shop in Southampton.

I stumbled upon them, bought them, and paid her teenaged daughter 20 bucks to put them back in her mother's closet. About a year later (this is true) I saw the plaid jacket back in the thrift shop. I bought it once again and paid the daughter to hang it back in the closet once again.

My old girlfriend ended up having a nervous breakdown, and the daughter squandered her entire bank account on crack.

So at least there was a happy ending.

It used to be possible to find some real treasures at yard sales, but not anymore. About 10 years ago people figured out that if they put an ad in the paper and take every piece of junk in their house and place it outside, by the end of the day they'll have a wad of money and a lot less junk. Then they throw the rest of the stuff out.

My favorite was one of those rubber or plastic butter dishes that were all the rage for about six months in the fifties. They are shaped like a stick of butter, and you would take the wrapper off the butter and serve it in the plastic thing (which was pale green or pink). We were at a yard sale in Springs a while back when I saw one. "How much?" I asked, holding it up.

"How about four bucks?" the lady replied.

"Lady, it only cost about a quarter!" I said.

"Don't worry," she answered. "Some rich fool will buy it."

I had a very expensive navy blue linen blazer I bought at the Latham House in Sag Harbor after scoring a bunch of dough at the racetrack. It cost about $600. It got a little tight on me so I put it out at my yard sale. An hour or so later an older women in a huge, new Mercedes pulled over across the street, leaving her car half in the road, and checked out the sale. I saw her put the blazer on. She ambled over. "How much for this?" she asked.

"It was very expensive," I told her. "I'm asking $40."

"Will you take $15?" I told her no.

I was busy selling baseball cards, which are wildly overvalued and thus make them a perfect yard sale item.

She strolled around for a while, and when I was in the middle of a deal, I saw her dart across the street with the jacket still on. I ran after her.

"Hey lady!" I shouted.

"Oh my goodness," she lied. "I forgot I had the jacket on."

"You're very close to being buried in it," I said.

As all yard-salers know, the rich ones steal, don't ask me why.

Karen thinks big. "Isn't that a gorgeous secretary?" she'll ask, pointing to an old thing filled with spider webs.

"It's falling apart," I say.

"We can strip it, varnish it and refinish it!"

I just roll my eyes. First of all, I'd rather drink varnish than do anything else with it. Second of all, we both know deep in our hearts I will have to drag the thing down the basement, where it will continue rotting.

Our basement is filled with rotting pieces of furniture purportedly owned by one of the King Louis's or George's. They are all notable for two things: they are filled with spiders, and they will never see the light of day, ever again. They will rot for eternity. Every piece of junk we have ever bought at yard sales over the past 10 years ends up down there, never to be seen again.

Come to think about it, my Aunt Lorraine went down there to do the laundry about five years ago and was never seen again.

I think I'll spend her life savings on crack.

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