Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Dime A Dozen

Gray skies (known around here as a “marine layer”) are no deterrent to my Saturday morning sport. Only actual rain stops garage sales in Southern California, and sometimes not even that. (Yes, I have gone garaging in the rain, and found some great deals. In my defense, it wasn’t raining when I started out!)

Several neighborhoods had sales on Saturday, which often means a sort of party spirit as neighbors call back and forth to each other across the street, and make little shopping forays themselves to bring home some of their neighbors’ stuff. I saw a little girl, perhaps five years old, come racing down the sidewalk yesterday, calling happily to her mother about the neat thing she had just bought. It turned out she’d given the guy two doors down seventy five cents for a portable fire pit. Her mother (the spoilsport) nixed the deal, and the grownups were all laughing because the neighbor had thought the mom wanted the firepit. I feel bad for the child. How cool to be five and have your very own fire pit; just think of the fun you could have with it. It even had some charcoal briquettes in it.

My friend Marcia tells people that I can get anyone’s entire life story in five minutes at a garage sale. Had one of those encounters yesterday, a retired military guy who really wanted to talk. Mid-height, grayed blond hair, mild-mannered. You’d have to cast William H. Macy to play him in a film. He showed me some glassware from England and Germany, then launched into how he’s retired from the army now, and his wife, the love of his life, was killed by a crazed driver when their daughter (now a pediatric surgeon in Des Moines) was 16 months old. He had 11 AA degrees in subjects like astronomy and traffic control, then went to college in Iowa where they rolled all those credits into something called a distributive education degree. He got a master’s in psychology and did career counseling. But before the career counseling he was in several wars (we just seem to keep having them, don’t we?) and said he worked mostly in six to eight man teams doing insurgency work, mostly assassinations and kidnappings.

This is a first. No one has ever told me they’d been an assassin. Did I believe him? I'm not sure. He was so mild mannered, so proud of his daughter the doctor and still missing his wife after all these years. Not at all the steely-eyed hardened military type from the movies. Maybe he was trying out a Walter Mitty fantasy on a stranger he’d never see again. I'll never know. As I was easing away (I could have stood there for hours and he would have kept talking) he told me he has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he’s selling up here and moving “back home” to be near his daughter.

See, this is one of the reasons I prefer garage sales to thrift stores. It's not just about the deals; it's the stories. In a thrift store, all you’ll ever know is that an item was no longer wanted.

Another story was about a couple’s elderly cat that was killed by a coyote—in their front yard in Huntington Beach—a few days earlier. It was very early in the morning, the cat was in her usual spot, probably asleep. A large coyote loped down the street and grab the cat, and that was it. Apparently it happened very fast, and poor kitty didn’t have time to suffer. What gave the story extra impact was that until she launched into the coyote tale, the lady having the garage sale had been chatting cheerfully with me about palm trees.

This is what garaging in Surf City looks like: former palm tree turned tiki god does double duty with the clothesline.

All right, on to the deals. For $8.50, I came home with:

A metal rooster sculpture. I've been telling my husband that I want to keep a few chickens after I retire, so I'm hoping this will help him get used to the idea.

Crate & Barrel sugar bowl—I love the colors. It's going to replace the plastic yogurt container in my office in which I've been keeping sugar for my morning tea. Next to it is a little wooden toy with a face I couldn’t resist. Ten cents—No need to resist. Not sure what it is...a bear? In front are two cards of clips for the clothesline or to close chip bags or whatever—a dozen on each card, ten cents per card. A dime a dozen—it really exists!

This vintage candy tin from England (does anyone know what Benson’s candy was like?) to plant something in. Ooooh, I know—I'll look for a chocolate scented cosmos or some chocolate mint for it.

Here’s Edward modeling an Oscar de la Renta floral scarf—aren’t the colors wonderful against his basic black? And Noll agreed to wear (for three seconds) the scarf with elephants that look a lot like Babar.

Another stash of magazines…

And some things to sell—wonderful spring colors in this tablecloth, which has ties in the border so you can swag it if you like. And this jacket and skirt in mixed fabrics are adorable!

Last, a Liz Claiborne sweater that fits perfectly. Would I have bought a white zipped cardigan at Macy’s for the $80 or so that it originally cost? Heck no. Would I buy it for a buck on Saturday morning?

Heck yes!


  1. Hi - Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Glad I linked over to yours! I love your writing style, I feel like I was right there with you. And I've never thought about the difference between garage sales and thrift stores, good point!
    Cheers, Tracey

  2. Good Day Your Highness! ha ha I loved your post about garage sale stories. I agree 100% that it is more fun at garage sales because of the stories and the people you meet. Thanks for visiting and welcome to wonderful world of blogging. To quote your govinator, "I'll be back!"


  3. Thanks, paper dolls and roses, for leaving my very first comments on my blog!

  4. Good morning, Your Royal Highness! I enjoyed this post of yours tremendously especially the people stories! Will be back to read more!

  5. Okay.

    I'm reading through from the beginning.

    This post caused me to realize why I prefer thrift stores to garage sales.

    I'm unbelievably introverted. I shall have to take my husband along to garage sales. He can gather the stories while I gather the goods!

    (I always knew it was a match made in heaven.)


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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