I. Love. Garage sales.
I do not love garage sales because I have ever gotten anything useful out of them. In fact, the only garage sale item that I own and can specifically recall right now is a small tin full of a thousand random buttons. My life would probably have continued fairly peacefully without that.
Practicality is not why I love garage sales.
Nor do I love garage sales because I am cheap. Cheapness is a holistic force which loathes entropy, and it particularly cries out in the face of junk. Junk is almost all that one finds at garage sales. The Cheapness Force hates junk because junk must be repaired at the cost of time or money. Like dust or tooth decay, an accumulation of junk also says something unpleasant about its owner. It is to be avoided.
Stuff is not why I love garage sales.
Why do I love garage sales?
Let me count the ways.
1. Incentive to explore
Being new on the North Shore, nevermind the greater Boston area, I need an excuse to pull out the Honda and ride around the countryside. (I usually ride my motorcycle to garage sales because the lack of trunk space limits how much bric-a-brac I can accumulate at once. Also, garage sale days tend to be the prettiest.) On rambling missions to catch every garage sale on Craigslist, I have discovered everything from the National Archives to fresh eggs – honor system eggs, no less – and have fallen in love with Essex County.
2. The people
When hosting, otherwise reticent people will suddenly open the wells of their soul to you. I have theories as to why this happens. They’re probably all wrong. Anyway, while garage sale hopping has not made me any lifelong friends, I have had some very interesting conversations and met some unusual characters.
If they’re not selling on Ebay, they just want that stuff out of their lives. I love to haggle. At garage sales, I’ve gotten entire sets of things for a pittance. You too can haggle, and I encourage you. You must up your sale-fu. For in a hobby that’s all about luck, you want the gods to smile upon you. Because…
4. That rare, incredible gem that only you recognize
Once, I found a sealed, rare pressing of a Stone Temple Pilots album at a garage sale. The asking price was a dollar. Crushingly, I’d spent my last dime on food earlier that day. (This expense can always be counted on to do in my spare change at the very worst times.) Seeing my distress, the owner of the record waved me off. “Just take it,” he called, “My son never listened to that noise after all.”
I sold the record for forty dollars the next week.
Don’t you want to know how THEY live? What kind of stuff THEY have? Of course you do! You watch Reality TV. You look at car accidents and shrieking babies. You have a favorite actor or biography or someone you know everything about who isn’t you. Indulge. Live a little. Snoop into this garage sale stranger’s privacy. After all, what we really buy are stories, about ourselves and about the things we own and about what kind of people we think we are in relation to the kind of people who sold us our things. (Think about Apple fanatics. People who prefer Dos Equis. That’s what I mean.) All stuff has a tale, and in the case of garage sale stuff, you get a unique story.
And as one chapter ends for that rug or stool or DVD, so begins a new chapter. With you! You and the previous owner of your new thing become conspirators in the great secret mission to Waste Not. Congratulations on not filling that landfil. Congratulations on not buying a thing wrapped in fifty yards of packaging. Congratulations on your garage sale habit. Mother Nature approves.
So, three months ago, at the behest of forces real and imaginary (but mostly for a job,) I moved to Salem, Massachusetts.
I may as well have moved to Timbuktu. In my hometown of Nelson, New York, neighbors responded to my plans with chortles of disbelief. “Why,” they would ask, “would you want to leave all this?” And they’d sweep their arm wide, wide over the hilly upstate New York landscape to indicate the great and beloved treasure of Nelson: the dairy cow.
Where I come from, dairy cows alone outnumber humans roughly three to one. Why would I ever want to leave Nelson? How about the impending cow uprising for starters?
Also, Boston. It had been my dream since high school to run off to a Big City, get a job where I could use my brain, and be a Great Big Dyke in a house by the sea without molestation or grief. Freedom beckoned from the coast. Restaurants and public transportation beckoned. Provincetown Women’s Weekend beckoned very hard – I had pictures to prove it.
And, one day, while minding my own business, I got a job in a library on the North Shore.
The hopeful little lamp I carried for Boston turned into a full-fledged genie overnight. I got a sweet bachelor pad and a CSA and trucked my cat, my books, and my motorcycle out to Salem over a weekend.
Then, rent came due.
Then I had to see a doctor.
Then I got my first paycheck – and heard the word “Taxachussets” for the first time.
Life remains fairly rosy. I wouldn’t return to Nelson for the world. My job rocks, for one thing. My boss is legitimately great. Salem’s always got something going on, and anyway I’m not sure I could get my cat back into the carrier after the last six-hour car ride. But life’s different here. It’s expensive and full of strange twists. It’s the first real challenge I’ve ever had. Frankly, it’s exactly what I needed.
This blog will chronicle my take on living in Greater Boston, from the food to the fines to the freaky goings-on. Boston via country mouse: what could be better? I even like to think that maybe, just maybe, YOU are a pansy in a bed of petunias somewhere and are considering a Big Jump. Jump away, my friend. If I can do this, you’ve got proof that even the least civilized of hicks can make it anywhere.