Friday, September 4, 2009
PARROTS & TURKEYS & WARBLING BIRDS, FAR FROM HOME
It's always fun to go garaging in a new neighborhood. New streets, houses you’ve never seen before, landscaping to admire. While I often stick to my usual Saturday morning route (it’s been so fruitful!), sometimes I like to drive a bit further afield. Okay, quite a bit…800+ miles!
I took this week off, and we decided to drive up to Oregon to visit friends and family. My friend Diana had a Saturday morning commitment, and our husbands appreciate being able to sleep late. So I checked the ads and sketched a bit of a route and headed out by myself.
The first thing I noticed was the contrast between the scenery there and what I see at home. Here’s the view down my street—with most of the neighbors’ cars away for the day.
This was my view starting out Saturday morning.
Just a tad less populated! However, I soon felt right at home as I searched for advertised sales that did not exist, and followed signs that led nowhere! Finally succeeded in finding a sale, where I saw this cute toy.
I picked it up, and the lady said to push the face. I did so. A metallic laugh came out, not terribly appealing. “We got that for my little niece, but she hated it,” she told me as I laid it back down. “She’s afraid of toys that move or make noise. When we wanted to keep her out of a room, we’d put this in the middle of the floor and she wouldn’t go in there.”
Just about then a young guy, maybe late 20s, arrived and started looking around. In a moment he barked, “Are your prices firm or negotiable?” The two women minding the sale seemed startled; his tone was quite aggressive. He barked out the same sentence again, and one of the sellers asked if he was looking at something specific. He held up a tee shirt on a hangar and said, “Is that a five or a one? [I assumed he meant dollars.] I can't read it.” The seller walked over, looked at the tag, and said very gently, “It's ten cents.” He didn’t seem to want to negotiate any more on that price!
The next place I stopped had one of those vehicles you see on Saturday morning, parked whopperjawed in front of the driveway. However, this one wasn’t blocking too much of the road, and its passengers were waiting patiently.
Around the corner, a sale was being minded by a woman and her teenage daughter. Saying hello was all it took to get the mom to tell me that this was her daughter’s sale, she’s raising money for a trip to the Holy Land next year, she’s going with her dad, she’s done all kinds of jobs this summer to earn the money…Practically anyone will tell me their life story at the drop of a hat, I have that kind of face, but this nice lady would have confided in Attila the Hun. By the time I left I knew all about the daughter’s school, what sport she plays, her brother’s money troubles, and how he’s getting himself out of debt. I was saved by some other shoppers arriving. “Will you take five for this bookshelf?” one guy asked, looking at the sign on the piece that said $10. The lady said yes without blinking. “That was too easy,” his buddy said, but they had that five dollar bill out pretty fast.
The next sale was in an old part of town, where some of the houses date back to the 1890s. None of them have been gentrified, they’re just old houses. The sale was one of those really junky ones spread all over the porch, front yard, and driveway. I thought the prices were unrealistic on most of the items, like this ‘seasoned pizza pan.’
These just amused me…an outdated phone with a little flamingo appliqué stuck to it
and this handy item. There’s nothing that Americans won’t apply electricity to.
The best thing here was the story I overheard. The guy having the sale must be a handyman. He said he’d been out at the Glide Church to change the light bulb in the parking lot, which is way up high. He was out there all by himself with no extension ladder. He parked this truck
underneath and put his ladder on top of the truck to try to reach it. And when he started to climb the ladder he realized how unsafe this was and got really nervous. But he climbed up and changed the light bulb, and got back down to the ground. “I was just shaking, I was so scared,” he said. “I wanted down so bad it never occurred to me to wave my hand over the photoelectric eye to make sure the light would work.” Which, alas, it did not—and still doesn’t some months later, because there’s no way he’s going back on top of that truck!
I still hadn’t bought a thing, but I was more than happy with the stories I was getting. I checked my list and directions and took off for the next place. The road turned out to be more than a little shabby. “This does not look promising,” I said aloud (yes, I talk out loud to myself) but kept going. Around one curve, then another, then stop—a flock of wild turkeys has the right of way!
At the end of the road was a slightly better-kept house with a sale in the yard. I parked and went to check it out, and noticed at once the whiney little girl being teased by her brother. They were almost enough to make me leave, but I refrained from telling the child to stop whining and tuned them out. Most of the items for sale were children’s things, and on one table I spotted this little bird.
“Do you know what that is?” the mom of the whiney, teasing children asked me. I said I figured it was a whistle. “Yeah, but you put water in it, and it warbles like a bird.” The price turned out to be fifty cents and you know how dear that is to my heart. I decided to buy it. (It will be a nice door prize for a children’s librarian.) Then the older son, age about 13, came over. “Do you know how that works?” he asked me. “You put water in it and it sounds like a bird.” He went on to ask if I'd like to buy some water hyacinths. You must have a pond, I said. I too have a pond, which means I already have more water hyacinths than I can use. Then he wanted to sell me some baby koi, but I explained I was a long way from home and didn’t think the baby koi would want to travel that far. Both mother and son launched into the koi story. They own a rental house, and the tenant had koi in a pond there. When she moved to Arizona she left the fish, and the new family in the house had a five year old. They felt the koi pond was dangerous. So the husband/dad had to quickly build a pond for the koi on their own property. He must be an overachiever, because the pond he quickly built is something like 15 feet across and has a waterfall. Now the koi live there and keep having babies. The son had some in a bucket, which he showed me. All I saw were tiny little fish, but he was gazing at them with affection. “Look,” he said, cupping one of them in a little water in his palm, “this one is green with sparkles on its head.” Ooooh, I breathed. I didn’t see any sparkles, but I'm willing to believe they were there.
I paid the fifty cents for the bird whistle and started to leave. The younger brother stopped me (the one who’d been teasing the little whiner). “Did you know that’s a whistle?” he said. “You put water in it.”
I headed back toward our friends’ house. As soon as I hit the main road, I passed the local farmer’s market, and the car pulled in of its own accord. (I was driving my husband’s car, and he goes to the farmers market every week. That must explain it.)
I wanted to buy one of these fabbo glass sculptures but contented myself with taking pictures. Wasn't sure where I'd find room in the car to get it home.
I enjoyed talking to the lady who makes them. Turns out she grew up in California in a rather unusual setting: her dad worked in prisons, and the family lived in houses within the prison grounds! Seems to have made her a ‘lifer’ since she now works with juvenile offenders, helping them learn that their life’s path is not yet carved in stone.
The morning was gone. I remembered there was supposed to be one more sale not far from our friends’ house, and kept an eye peeled as I drove. Spotted the street and turned. All the homes on this street were old single-wide trailers that have probably been there for forty or more years. In front of one were tables with heaps of colorful cloth, and a couple of racks of garments. A woman a few years older than me lounged in a patio chair, talking to her parrot.
The parrot’s name is Cracker, and she was rescued from some people who didn’t like her because she was too noisy. We rolled our eyes over people who would get a parrot and expect to have a quiet pet. Cracker is a Quaker parrot, which I have never encountered before.
The reason for all the fabric was that this lady has been a seamstress, and costumed many of the local theater productions, and is retiring. “I'm just looking forward to not seeing fabric everywhere I look,” she said.
I know how she feels. I'm going to spend some time this weekend on a bit of decluttering—being away for several days lets you see your home afresh when you return. And while I won't stop going out on Saturday mornings to see what treasures can be found, my intention to be sure I'm only getting real treasures remains.
Though I think I did all right last Saturday. After all, I made an 800 mile garage sale journey—and only spent fifty cents!