The Wolf of Cherrywood Street
When I woke up on Saturday morning I clutched my skull. I regretted my life, my decisions and my drunken defiling of that sacred period of time called “Friday night.” Yep, you guessed it, gentle reader: hangover. I rocked back and forth in my bed as I massaged my throbbing cranium and thought something along the lines of Ouch. Should not have drank those drinks last night. And then I thought Of course! I know how to fix this hangover! I’ll go sift through the crap that people put out in their yards on Saturday mornings!
And so, like a bleary eyed, alcoholic prospector headed for the hills to pan for gold/drink spoonfuls of rubbing alcohol in peace, I headed to my roommate’s car to complete my own mission: use his gas to go to garage sales and chronicle my adventure in this blog. And, also like a bleary eyed, alcoholic prospector, I would have to complete my mission rejected and alone. Gillian, Garage Sale Review photographer and veteran bargain hound, was asleep.
As I opened my phone’s trusty Yard Sale app – Yard Sale Treasure Map, for anyone who’s interested – I realized that this was the first time I’d gone garage selling in months. You see friends, winter is hard on both garage sale shoppers and garage sale proprietors alike. In the cold months these noble, musky creatures curl up and hibernate in a nest made of their old t-shirts, broken electronics and the sweaty dollar bills that people swap them for their crap. It’s an uncomfortable and dreamless sleep, but when the first spring birds start tweetin’… OK, yeah, you get it.
As it was the first Garage Sale Review of the new year I figured I had better ball hard. But then I barfed whiskey and blood in the gutter and realized that ballin’ hard was better saved for a day when I hadn’t poured whiskey shots directly into my frontal lobe the night before. So I stuck close to Central Austin and hit the two closest garage sales in hopes of finding a magic elixir for my hangover as well as some of that supple but confusing yard sale ass! Or, uh, you know, cool junk or whatever.
511 East 42nd Street
The first garage sale I stopped at was being run by a woman named Sarah and her husband, who, to the benefit of any customers that liked getting free things, had left Sarah in charge while he was out hanging garage sale signs.
“My thought on garage sales is make everything cheap and just get rid of it,” Sarah told me as she gave away a whole box of cleaning chemicals to an interested customer. “My husband likes to make a buck but I’m in charge today.”
Who was this maniac!? Who sells cleaning chemicals at a garage sale? And then doesn’t even sell them!? This isn’t fucking Craigslist (shudder). But then as I looked around I realized that, you know, maybe Sarah was right to give a lot of her garage sale items away for free. Mostly because the items were generally worthless. There was your typical assortment of furniture and cups and books, a small bell, and a big bucket of Lincoln Logs that Sarah said her son used to play with until he moved on to entertaining himself with “wadded up paper and tape.” And then I came across the laundry basket full of heavy, gaudy material.
“It’s extremely expensive,” Sarah explained, telling me that her friend had been in charge of reupholstering the interior of a private Learjet. “She had this material left over. It’s the only thing here that’s not really a bargain – thousands of dollars’ worth of material.”
After wondering what the hell a Learjet was and running my fingers across the fabric, which was golden and looked like it could have been used to decorate the interior of a private airplane, I could understand why it was so pricey. It was kind of outrageous, actually. I mean, those fat cats already have this Learjet! Do they really need their seats covered with material woven from the broken dreams of the 99%? How far my feelings had evolved from just five minutes before when I couldn’t believe Sarah was giving away all her freebie garage sale junk. Partly out of journalistic obligation and partly out of a discreet attempt to fish out what a Learjet was, I asked Sarah if she knew what exactly on this Learjet her friend had used the divine material to reupholster.
“The seats, the beds – who knows what’s going on a Learjet,” she answered mysteriously.
Who knows indeed? They’re certainly not giving away free boxes of cleaning supplies on there, I can tell you that. I pondered the true value of currency and generosity, as well as the definition of “Learjet,” and bid Sarah farewell. But – classic Sarah – she was too busy passing out freebies to hear.
“Oh you can just have that,” I heard her say to a lady who was ringing the small bell I had noticed before. “I don’t know where it came from.”
3315 Cherrywood Road
My last garage sale for the morning took me to Cherrywood Road, where a sale was being held that the proprietor advertised as having “nic-nacs, paddy-wacks and gee-gaws” available, and also included the brilliant marketer’s line: “this is a garage sale I would go to.” With a convincing promise like that, I figured I was about to meet a master garage salesman – The Wolf of Cherrywood Street! Move over Sarah Freebies, this guy clearly meant business.
When I arrived I immediately ran into the Wolf himself, an unevenly bearded dude who said his name was Mig. He was running quite the eclectic operation and I was quickly drawn to the collection of phones he had set up on a table – probably the very phones he had used to scam hardworking blue collar heroes all over the country out of their money with.
“Yeah, I got a bunch of old rotary phones and animal phones,” Mig explained in a charming drawl that he must have spent as much time calculating as he had thinking up that marketer’s line in the ad. “I used to collect phones and I had ‘em all wired up to a landline. Same line, so you could answer any of the phones – the Kermit the Frog phone, the Winnie the Pooh phone, the spark plug phone, the apple phone. There’s six or seven of those novelty phones, and then the plain old black phones – eight of those. So yeah twelve or fifteen phones hooked up in all. It was pretty loud. It was nice though.”
Was it nice, “Mig”? I bet it was, listening to your Kermit the Frog phone ring and counting your Learjets – or eating them or reading them or whatever – while you laughed maniacally on a waterbed filled with the tears of thousands of your impoverished financial victims. Is it a coincidence that Kermit is green? THE COLOR OF GREED?!
“Have you ever used a rotary phone by any chance?” he asked me shrewdly while he demonstrated how to dial a number. “They’re a pleasure. Dialing is very fun, and then you can take the free ride back with your finger.”
I watched in disgust as his finger sailed effortlessly back to where it had started, courtesy of the phone’s rotary mechanics. “Free ride.” Yeah, free ride to the top! Just like you like it Mig!
“You know, the free ride back,” he explained. “When you dial, then it brings your finger back, no work involved.”
I get it, Mig. No work. Despicable. It’s people like this Mig, spraying their crazy Learjets everywhere on everyone, never worked a day of honest labor in their lives, who are bringing this country down. Where was Sarah – pure, honest “take these cleaning chemicals for free” Sarah – when I needed her?
And then right when Mig was about to sing the whole “I just love old phones” song one too many times, the true Wolf showed up. I would soon see that Mig was like a naïve, newborn kitten in the shadow of this lupine force of relentless bargaining. The sky grew dark as the new enemy – Andrew – approached. Their conversation is recorded below:
Andrew: You’re Mig right? I’m Andrew. Nice to meet you. Your wife told me your name was Mig.
Mig: [pointing to the four records that Andrew is holding] How bout 8 bucks for those?
Andrew: That’s a little high.
Mig: Well give me an offer.
Andrew: 2 bucks
Mig: 5 bucks. The Village People! The Jungle Book soundtrack!
Andrew: 4 bucks, that’s my final offer.
Mig: 4 bucks is your final offer?! The Village People! “Macho Man” is on this! “Just Jiggalo.” C‘mon.
Andrew: I hear ya, but I love to haggle.
Mig: You’ve haggled me down from 8 bucks to 4 bucks that’s half price. Now it’s 1 dollar an album!
Andrew: You’re right, I can’t argue with a dollar.
Mig: And I’ll even throw in a free yoga tape for beginners.
Andrew: Really? In VHS!
Holy shit. Mig, bested in a haggle joust at his own garage sale. How cold I have been so wrong about him?! He was fighting for the forces of good. I mean, Village People – c’mon! And then, right when I thought he couldn’t get any better, he propelled himself into The Garage Sale Review Hall of Legends with a short anecdote about a special junk-scavenging moment in his life, which I think perfectly sums up what The Garage Sale Review is all about. Play us out, Mig:
“I was looking at Craigslist one night at like one in the morning and I looked at the free list and saw someone had thrown out by the curb some furniture and a whole bunch of albums. I was like… it’s one in the morning… I’m going to try it. They just put it on 20 minutes ago, I figured I might as well go check it out. And there were all these cars with their headlights shining everywhere. There were all these records and this girl was sorting through them and I asked her if there was anything good and she said they were all empty, they were just the cases. And all those people had shown up! But it was great watching the scavenging, what certain people took. Some guy took a box of wire hangers he was really excited about. Another guy found some weights. Some guy had a broken table. When I was a kid there was a book called ‘Junk Day on Juniper Street,’ and that’s what its about – all these people had a yard sale on their street and everybody just traded with everyone else. Look up that book, ‘Junk Day on Juniper Street.’”