A Record Yard Sale Acquisition

The yard sale signs are ubiquitous all over Olde North, and will be as long as the weather is pleasant enough for people to sit outside and wait for customers.  In this neighborhood, yard sales and the Clintonville Farmers’ Market are Saturday traditions, as much as football will be in the fall.  This past Saturday, I woke up around 10:45 and headed outside on the trike.

The logistics of the beginning and end of a trike ride are a bit frustrating.  Since the theft of the red Meridian, I have kept the new one in my dining room, so getting it outside means rolling it through the living room, out the front door, and down the porch steps.  Nuisance, yes.  But much less of a pain than shelling out another $300 to replace a stolen bike.

(As of this moment, I will be writing against a deadline.  After typing the above paragraph, I took a melatonin tablet and washed it down with a cup of Sierra Mist.  In about a half hour, I will definitely begin winding down.  A friend suggested it as a way to combat my insomnia, so when I went to Kroger last night to plunk down another $.88 for a jug of distilled water, I bought a bottle.  And now back to our story.)

I pedaled to a yard sale in a half double on Olentangy St.  All of the wares were inside, except for some unwieldy things (such as a stationary bike and a rowing machine), and they were bringing out more and more stuff all the time.  Apparently, the occupant on the other side of the half double had died, and the owner wanted to sell the contents of both halves, and then sell the property.

At first I thought I was going to come away empty-handed.  There were plenty of tools, and a tall stack of hymnals and Bibles.  I was briefly tempted by a Burroughs Portable adding machine, one of the old mechanical desktops with 72 keys and a crank.  If it had been a typewriter, I would have bought it right away, but I am not proficient with numbers at all (I use the calculator on my cell phone to figure tips!), so I would have been spending $10 for a doorstop.  Even if I knew it worked, I was not sure where to find ribbons for it.  (I have an Internet source for typewriter ribbons; I have never needed to ask him whether he stocks adding machine ribbons.)

I bought two breast-pocket notebooks for $.50.  I can never have enough notebooks, but they were pretty nondescript, and nothing I would boast about on Notebook Stories.  They were wrapped together with rubber bands along with two or three scratch pads from Whetstone Gardens and Care Center, and with a paperback anthology of poetry called Poems to Cherish.

A woman in her late 60s was sitting inside, and she pointed out a box of dishes on sale for $2.  Susie and I have yet to host a big dinner party, but be that as it may, having extra dishes in the cupboard is probably a good idea.  As the woman was meticulously wrapping each piece in newspaper, I asked if there were any records for sale.

She gave me this Well, why didn’t you say so? look, and asked one of the men running the yard sale to take me down to the basement.  We went through the kitchen and passed the dining room, which I guess they were using as a staging and sorting area.  He pointed underneath a shelf of paint cans to a box that looked like it was starting to ripple from moisture and age, almost like he was going to levitate it.

I glanced inside and saw the box was full of 78 RPM records, the ones made of shellac and Bakelite.  “Two bucks, and they’re yours,” he said.  I said yes immediately, although I wasn’t sure if I had a 78 speed on my Crosley phonograph.  (The orange and white monaural phonograph I had as an elementary school kid featured 16 RPM as a speed.  As far as I know, only talking books for the blind were recorded that slowly.)

The woman called downstairs and said, “Your dishes are ready!”  The man who showed me the records brightened up, and pointed to another box.  “Ten dollars, and it’s all yours–the dishes, the records, and another box of dishes.”

I told them I would have to come back.  I had bought breakfast earlier that day, but I had used my debit card, so I had no cash on me.  I asked them to hold all this, I would go to an ATM and get some money, and then buy it.  I did this, and, however awkwardly, we loaded these three boxes into the basket of my trike.

I barely had the trike above walking speed the whole way home.  I had to use a little more energy to pedal, with such a heavy and unwieldy load in the back.  Each crack in the sidewalk, or bump, or heavy landing from a curb, made me shudder and wait for the sound of something shattering.  (This was similar to my return journey from San Francisco by Greyhound in 1987.  In Ciudad Juarez, I bought a fifth of Dos Gusanos tequila for about $.85.  Once back on the bus, I wrapped it in two or three shirts in my backpack, and then sweat blood each time the bus hit a bump.)

Once home, I checked to make sure nothing was damaged.  Dishes and records were, unlike my nerves, all intact.  It was then I noticed that the dishes from the basement were wrapped in newspapers from about 1947.  (The Columbus Dispatch looked Linotyped until the early 1990s, but the papers were so yellow and brittle, I knew these were nothing recent.)  I still haven’t removed them from the box, because my focus has been on the records.

I am still in the process of sorting them out and researching them.  It’s a mixed batch of popular music (of the 1920s and 1930s), country music (which was then called “hillbilly” music), hymns, Christmas music, and music combined with spoken word comedy.  There are titles such as “Cottonwood Reel,” “The Engineer’s Hand Was on the Throttle,” and “I Get the Blues When It Rains.”  I have found one with the title “A Rovin’ Little Darkey”, backed with “The Year of Jubilo.”  I haven’t thoroughly looked over every title.  I began entering them onto my Library DB database, but the project is not finished yet.  I am even considering trying to keep the records in the right sleeves.  Put Conqueror records in Conqueror sleeves, Vocalion in Vocalion, etc.  I am doing this with an eye for eBay, and I’ve know I either have some diamonds in the rough, or I spent $2 on a box of skeet-shooting targets.

Almost as soon as I was back from the yard sale, I took this picture so I could boast of my wares on Facebook.

I think I am going to concede victory to the melatonin.  It is close to midnight.  My insomnia was so bad Monday night that I was unable to go into work Tuesday morning, but after I hung up from calling my supervisor, I could not get back to sleep.  And yesterday, I made it in to work, but my head throbbed, I felt like I was detached from my body and everything around me, and there seemed to be a seven-second delay between my brain and limbs.  (I did not feel like I had left my body and was drifting above everything–a friend of mine said he experienced this when he was having heart surgery, actually looking down at his own operation–but I did not feel “real”.)

This Saturday, I am going to continue this trend by buying more new “old” stuff at PulpFest.
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Rummaging Around

For me, one of the indications that warm weather will be here awhile is when the yard sale and garage sale signs begin appearing on trees, telephone poles, and yard signs around the neighborhood.  The Olde North and Clintonville neighborhoods have begun sprouting them, and, now that it’s easier for me to bring home my purchases (my trike has a large basket in the back), I’ve begun noting when and where these sales are happening, and planning my weekends (especially payday weekends) around them.

The major ones thus far have been the Righteous Rummage Sale last week and a friend’s book sale yesterday.  The first took place in The Awarehouse, the bike repair bay and party hall located in the alley behind the Sporeprint Infoshop and the Third-Hand Bicycle Co-Op on East Fifth Ave.  I have always been easy prey for any type of yard sale or rummage sale, but this rummage sale’s name was accurate.  It was a fundraiser for Jessica Walker, a bartender at Zeno’s who suffered massive injuries (third-degree burns and smoke inhalation) in an apartment fire.  She has no health insurance, and her medical bills are skyrocketing.  This story, which ran in The Other Paper on April 26, gives more details.  If you are interesting in contributing for her recovery, go to http://www.helpjessica.com.
My purchases at the Righteous Rummage Sale were both recreational and functional.  I bought a two-disk set of What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead, a cassette of Genesis’ Invisible Touch (which I used to own on vinyl–even after I had started buying CDs almost exclusively), and a new knapsack.  (I am brutal on knapsacks.  My most recent one went to the trash because the zipper no longer worked.  When I lived in Boston, in the early 1980s, I bought a canvas knapsack at Eastern Mountain Sports that lasted well into the 1990s.)  The book selection was not that alluring.  The only one I bought was the screenplay of Easy Rider, a movie which, even though I have seen it at least a dozen times, I do not own.
I went to another yard sale, closer to where I live, and went away from it empty-handed.  However, it did make a lasting impression on me, because I think the family running it was lacking in common sense.
Like other people having yard or garage sales, they hung signs on the telephone poles and lampposts for a several-block radius around the house.  The address was a big brick house on one of the many side streets between N. High St. and the Conrail tracks.  There were odds and ends in the yard, everything from VHS tapes to baby clothes to knickknacks that probably originally appeared on the Home Shopping Network.  I was only interested in a nightstand, which I thought Susie could use, but I learned that they had already promised it to someone.
The fact that there was nothing that interested me did not bother me.  I’ve become more choosy at yard sales than I used to (gone are the days when I triumphantly bought a set of left-handed golf clubs–even though I have never played golf and I am right-handed.  But they were only five bucks!!), and the pickings were slim at this one.
What did bother me (he gets around to, at long last) was that two girls, ages maybe nine and 10, were the only ones running the yard sale.  The parents were nowhere in sight, and the girls were sitting at a little bridge table in the front yard, and they had a cigar box full of bills and coins in front of them.  Without my asking, they volunteered there was more stuff for sale inside, and one of them followed me inside while I looked at what was for sale.  They really gave me the hard sell about items for sale–the older of the two said they were moving really soon from this big house to a little apartment on Route 161, so I suspected they were facing eviction.
I am the polar opposite of a helicopter parent.  Steph and I always gave Susie plenty of personal freedom, both in and out of the house.  We did it when we were together, and this has continued (and the freedoms have increased with Susie’s age and maturity) once we split.  Steph gives her plenty of freedom when she’s in Florida; I give her plenty of latitude here in Columbus.  Part of this is due to the fact that I do not drive, so I could not be a chauffeur for Susie and shuttle her everywhere, even if that was my desire, which it is not.  If she wants to get most places, that means either her own two feet or the bus.  And no, every tree, alley, and bush does not secrete a rapist.
I write that to preface my concern that these two girls were left alone, with a box full of cash, and were inviting people they had never seen before into their house.  The front rooms I saw were cluttered, but that didn’t faze me, since they were in the midst of moving.  Even when Susie was younger, and she and her friends would set up little yard sales when we lived in Franklinton, I was never any further than the living room, within yelling or running distance should any crisis arise.
Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation at the yard sale, I was still not going to be one of the alarmists who keep Job and Family Services on speed dial, ready to pillory any parent who allows a child outdoors two minutes after the streetlights come on.
The other yard sale I went to was a book sale conducted by a friend from church.  He’s a rather erudite man, and his interests vary widely.  This Saturday, Susie had an early lunch at McDonald’s and went to FedEx Office for her passport photograph (she is going to Costa Rica on a school trip next January), and once we came back home, I got on the trike and went over to the book sale.  Once I made the trip, I was very sweaty, so before looking at any of the books for sale, I downed two or three glasses of water in single gulps, and resisted (barely) the temptation to pour the glasses over my head.
All books were $1 apiece, and I came away with five.  Most of them were reference books, and one was The Good Years, by Walter Lord, a history book chronicling the years between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.  By the time I came home, I was sweaty and exhausted, and, as I was chaining the trike to the fence, I had to pull honeysuckle leaves and small branches out of the spokes of my wheels.  And I stretched out onto the love seat in my living room and dozed for two or three hours.  (This was not comfortable.  I am only 5’8¾” tall, and my legs hung over the end, but I still slept quite well.)
This blog entry has been my reward to myself for cleaning the kitchen and emptying the refrigerator, a task I delayed until well after sunset.  The house has central heating, but not central air, so I took the laptop out to the front porch, currently the coolest part of the house.  I’ve downed a bottle of Everfresh cranberry juice, and I’m currently playing Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” (very apropos) while I type this entry.  This is my third consecutive night of late nights.  On Friday, Susie and I went to Studio 35 to see Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price in The Bat, hosted by the inimitable Fritz the Nite Owl.  Last night, Susie went to The Other Prom, sponsored by the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.  She went with a girl she met at Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp.  The girl came up from Athens, and they went to the prom together.  When they came back around 11:15, I was waiting with my camera to immortalize the moment.  After Susie’s friend’s mother drove her daughter home, Susie said she was too exhausted to go to Studio 35 with me, so I locked the front door and walked up to the theater to see Nightmare Castle, a 1965 picture starring Barbara Steele and Paul Muller.
I took another nap when Susie and I came home from church and lunch, which means that now, at 1:07 a.m. (per my Casio wristwatch), I am wide awake.  This is Memorial Day, so I have the day off from work, but it will not be easy or simple to get my sleep schedule back to where it should be when I have to wake up for work Tuesday morning.  Susie will be going to Florida for the summer next Monday, after her Coming of Age presentation at church, and I will be missing her very much until she returns in August.  I won’t be entirely idle, since I will be returning to the bookstore job the same day she leaves–a week of 13-hour days can keep me from ruminating too much about how much I will miss her.  At the end of the summer, I plan to make my first trip to Florida to bring her back, although the dates and the logistics are nowhere near in place yet.