Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too Good to Pass Up

Morning traffic was orderly, as I headed south on Sonoma Mountain Parkway. My husband lounged in the passenger seat either asleep or sulking. I’d bribed him with a promise of a visit to Copperfields if kept me company shopping and dropping old clothes at COTS, an outing he generally avoids, and it wasn’t turning out to be such a bargain. In silence, we crossed onto Ely and I admired the clouds billowing above Sonoma Mountain like cream mounded on a yerba mate latte.
 “Pull over.” David, suddenly animated, waved his arms toward the curb. Had I blown a tire? Was the car on fire? I threw on the blinker, aimed the Prius into the right lane and skidded into a parking place. David jumped out. I stabbed the power-off button with my index finger and scrambled out before the Prius blew up, running to the sidewalk. Where the heck did my husband go? 
“They’ve got a good price on an entertainment center.” David’s voice filtered through a tall hedge separating two homes. “It’s just what you want. Bring your purse!”
A yard sale—I should have known. Sonoma County is great for secondhand, but Petaluma reigns queen of bargain hunting. On any Saturday, April through October, there are dozens of sales—moving sales, estate sales, even auctions; everybody opens for business, and the goods are all “collectible.”
 Later, I checked Petaluma360.com and found eighteen garage sale listings for the long weekend. But it’s early yet; more ads will show up on Friday. Along with the ads for the usual clothing, furniture, jewelry, toys, tools, I discovered scrubs, gumball machines, vintage clothing, 50 different models of vacuum cleaners, and parking meters offered at basement prices. Maybe I could buy a couple of the meters to encourage those guests who don’t know when to leave. (Is it even legal to sell these?)
David can sniff out the sales like a bear after honey, and he loves to browse the bargains. During yard sale season, he disappears for hours at a stretch.
 “I thought you were picking up a valve at OSH,” I might mention casually, glancing at the tools strewn about a still-leaking sprinkler in the lawn.
 “Come see the egg incubator I found over on Western. It was free!” He grins. “I’m going to make a coffee table for the living room.”
 I’ll believe it when I see it, but suppose there’s certain symmetry to his idea since the directions to our house include “across from the yellow chicken coop.” And I agree, “free” is unbeatable. 
 David’s attitude is, “If I buy it, I need it.” And often it’s true. The strange bits of architectural odds and ends wind up in the theatrical sets he builds. His office has the feel of a traveling minstrel show, decorated with old steamer trunks, collections of masks and theater posters—all terrific secondhand buys.

Now and then, I enjoy bargain hunting, too. My favorite find is a larger-than-life sculpture of The Who in concert created by Healdsburg artist Martin Kiff, that we recently picked up for a song (Teenage Wasteland). But I try not to spend on things I don’t need. How much of a bargain is it a couple of years later if I have to pay to haul it to the dump? Right now, the carport is filled with my damaged doll house no one is going to fix, the same yoghurt maker I sold in 1980, a set of hideous plastic chairs, David’s bike rack that doesn’t fit the car, the kids’ blood-dripping Halloween stuff from the ‘80s, and best of all: my mom’s complete Encyclopedia Britannica circa 1955, in it’s own case. Recycle Town, here I come—and I’m not taking David on this errand.
I’m putting my foot down—my feng shui practitioner accuses us of stagnating ch’i from too much stuff. So keep on the lookout for our ad in the paper now that it’s yard sale season—we’ll make you a great deal on an entertainment center.

PS: I never made it to Recycle Town but my complete set of  
Encyclopedia Britannica circa 1955
makes a great altar to 
Knowledge and a Successful Writing Career