yard sales, sept. 26.

It was supposed to be a nasty, rainy day all day yesterday, which is not a great thing for yard sales.  But I am devoted.  You want to know how devoted?  Well, I’ll tell you.

When I lived in Boone, the Methodist church there had a really awesome yard sale every September.  I worked early shift at the restaurant every weekend, so I did not do a lot of yard saling while I lived there.  But I always made sure to get off work so I could go to this sale.  They held the sale on Friday and Saturday.  The last year that I lived there, I was going to go on Friday before my first class in the morning.  But there was some hurricane or something and Boone flooded.  They cancelled classes, which is a rarity at ASU, a college that could have been founded by mailmen, what with the through-wind-hail-sleet-snow mentality there.  So I braved the rain and went to the yard sale.  There were about five other people there, but it was open, and it was awesome.  Usually that sale is packed with people, like Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve.  I could peruse at my leisure without worrying that someone else was snapping up all the good stuff.  And all because I braved a flood.

So I set out yesterday morning with that mentality.  I had marked down a few church sales, because big events like that are unlikely to be postponed due to weather.  People who put their crap in the front yard can just keep their junk in their house for another week, but there’s quite a bit of planning involved in a church sale, so they have to just take the weather as it comes.

The church sales were a little disappointing to be honest.  I can never tell if all the good stuff is gone or if there just never was any good stuff to begin with.  Or maybe I’ve been yard saling so long that I don’t want anything anymore.  No, that’s not it, and I’ll give you proof.

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We’ll start with these shelves.  Now, they're pretty nice, and I'm sure the lady paid a decent amount for them.  They seem to be solid wood except for the back panel.  There were two, marked $8 apiece, and I was considering whether I could get her down to $10 for both.  Sometimes I am wary of negotiating when it seems like the people are just going to get mad.  I was trying to gauge her mood, when she just offered that price.  It's so nice when people are desperate to get rid of their stuff.  As you can see, the back is plain white.  I'm considering getting rid of the back piece altogether, or maybe covering it with some pretty paper, as seen here

A short digression:  If you go to that link, you'll see that the lady makes book covers for her books so that they match.  Or something, I'm not sure why.  I like that woman's blog, because she does a lot of neat things with thrift store finds, but I suspect that she does not understand about how books work.  Books are not decorations, they do not have to match anything.  And if you cover up your favorite book, how exactly are you supposed to find it again so that you can press it into the hands of your dear friend who really would love it?  What really breaks my heart is she demonstrates the process of making book covers using A Confederacy of Dunces, an amazing book.  Lady, you obviously have some good literature, so why are you covering it up?  Okay, sorry, rant is done.

As you can see from the picture of the shelf, I bought books.  Nice ones.  They were a little pricey for a yard sale, to be honest.  The Little House set was $5, and they look like they've never even been cracked open.  I read all these books when I was little, when my sister-in-law loaned me her old set.  I confess that I'm not even sure that I gave her books back to her, in which case, she can have these.  Or I'll keep them.  Josh did not even know that "Little House" came from a series of books, which just goes to show that he was never a little girl.

I also got the newest David Sedaris book, a pop History book, and some more Lemony Snicket. I got all these books for $10.  If I had gone by the prices the lady marked, it would have cost me twice that.  But I just ignored the marked prices and took advantage of the fact that most people out there in this country have never negotiated for anything in their lives.  I offered her $10 for the lot, she looked confused and a little scared, then agreed. Picture 073

It was a big day for storage.  I found this cart for a buck.  It's pretty cheapy, but the wheels roll very well.  I am considering putting crafty supplies inside.  I’m not particularly crafty, but I do have supplies.  It would be nice if they were organized, even if they’re never used.

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Also picked up this old peach crate, which will be used to store Josh's records.  See, it's classier than the plastic crates he's using now, because it's vintage.  Also, it reminds me of my nephew Lincoln.  He tells blonde jokes, except that the butt of his jokes are always people from South Carolina.  He's eight, and when he tells the joke, he wants to make sure that you get the crux of it, which is that everyone is in agreement that people from South Carolina are just not that intelligent, for all their other good qualities.  So he'll interrupt himself in the middle of the joke to say, "And we think that South Carolinans aren't that smart."  This crate reminds me of those poor, stupid South Carolinans, bless their hearts.  It was fifty cents.

Picture 076 This table was another fifty cents, which is a pretty good buy, even though I didn't initially realize that the top is not glass, but thick plastic.  However, the base is iron, so I still think it was worth it.  I do not yet have plans for this little table.

I picked up some used purses, which I do an awful lot.  I have a lot of purses.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that, since I used to make fun of my friend Amy for having a lot of purses.  I used to tell her that she switched purses as often as she switched boyfriends.  Amy must have had low self-esteem or she would have started hanging out with nicer people.  But I guess Amy won in the end, because she's happily married now and probably only has a couple of purses, while I have a lot of purses and am considering how many cats I could possibly live with in this house of mine.

Anyway, purses.  I buy them frequently at yard sales and thrift stores, and I get rid of half of them after one use.  I find that purses are the kind of thing you have to use for a while to know if they're for you.  Or maybe I’ve only determined that because I buy them on a whim, because they’re so cheap.  It’s like an experiment.  Can I pull this off this look?  Sometimes the answer is no, but I’m only out a dollar or so, and now I know that I do not look good with a knitted old lady purse.  You can buy knowledge at yard sales.

Picture 087 I bought this one yesterday for $.50.  It may or may not be leather.  If it is leather, it could use some TLC.  If it's not leather, it's not worth the TLC.  In terms of practicality, it's big enough and has pockets.  I carried it yesterday, and I think it might be a winner.  The shape is slightly reminiscent of a giant pair of lips, which I find distracting.  The zipper does not help.

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This, friends, is called a bermuda bag.  I know that because the internet told me so.  This one that I picked up yesterday has a thick plastic handle.  I already own one, with a wooden handle.  I got this purse at a huge church yard sale that was winding down.  It was marked $5, because it was considered a "boutique" item, and you know how the French language makes normal things expensive.  The best thing about Bermuda bags is that you can switch out the bag part, so that you really have several different purses for the price of one.  This one came with seven different bag parts, and only one of them was ugly.  A few of them were reversible, which meant that you get two patterns in one.  Two of them were corduroy, and I have a weakness for corduroy, ever since my mom read me that book about the bear with the lost button (or since seventh grade when all the cool kids had corduroy pants except for me).  I thought long and hard about paying $2.50 for a purse.  Yard saling will do that to you.  It will make you think long and hard about $2.50.

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I also picked up a wine rack for my mom, and I already gave it to her, so I can tell you about it without spoiling any surprises.  I have several wine racks myself, all of them completely empty right now.  See, since I bought the house, I've been cutting back, which includes wine.  Apparently, it does not included purses.  When I first saw the wine rack at the yard sale, I was torn, because I did want it, and yet I really had no good reason to buy it.  Then I realized that my mom would find it adorable.  So I got to find a good deal, which is one kind of rush, and then I got to give someone a present they would love for no reason at all, which is another rush.  It was a heady day.


The woman wanted $2, but I got it for $1.  I can't find an exact copy online, though there are several versions out there, ranging from $40 - $140.  The picture on the left will help you get the idea, although the one I got holds more bottles.  My mom loved it and thinks I'm a great daughter.  She doesn't know how I used to her to make myself feel good.

So clearly, I still have no trouble finding stuff I don’t need yet want to buy.  I guess that’s comforting.



Okay, I get it now. Crop Mob is where a bunch of people get together and work on a farm. That's really all. It's like a book club or YMCA volleyball team. People with a similar interest in some activity get together and do that activity. That activity happens to be similar to slave labor. What a carefree life we all lead!

We mobbed again this past week and I enjoyed it much more. For one thing, we only stayed two hours instead of four, because Josh had to go to work. For another thing, we were mostly wrapping heavy-duty masking tape around rebar in a greenhouse, which is much less back-breaking than tilling soil without the use of petroleum-powered machinery.

But mostly? It was so much better this time because there was structure. There was a clear foreman, and he told us what we needed to do. He gave us instructions and supplies and put us to work. He answered questions patiently and explained why we were doings things a specific way. He periodically came by again to give further instruction or encouragement. Occasionally our little group would have to make independent decisions about how best to accomplish something, and then we talked it out, made a plan, and then worked on that plan. I mean, it was all much more casual than I'm making it sound - nobody formed any committees or used parliamentary procedure. But there it was: we had a leader, and he led.

I don't think of myself as particularly type-A. Clearly, I am, and I know that, but I have met so many type-A-plus-plus people that I seem very easy-going in comparison. But I was sort of surprised at how much happier I was when there was some organization to the crop mob. The first time, everyone just grabbed a tool and picked something to do based on what other people were doing. We were all watching each other out of the corners of our eyes to see what we should be doing. Some garden beds got twice as much manure as the others, and all the beds received a bunch of extra tilling. Had there been someone there to keep an eye on the overall progress, we could have gotten more done. Most people probably did not care or mind that lack of direction; they were just enjoying the moment. But I felt like I was flying blind. Some of us like to feel like we're accomplishing something. Then we can enjoy the moment.


yard sales, sept. 19.

I only had three sales on my yard sale plan yesterday, which foreshadowed a crappy day for secondhand items. Usually, I go through the newspaper and CraigsList ads, plotting the interesting sales on Google maps and deciding on a route. Then we follow that route and stop at interesting stuff along the way. However, in a city like Raleigh, there are enough interesting sales in the paper that I often drive right past neon signs. I'm afraid of dallying too long at crappy small sale after another and therefore missing an excellent church sale. I feel bad for the little sales, for while most of them are selling a bunch of baby clothes that I don't need, some of them are probably selling weird stuff that I would very much be interested in. In fact, when I first started yard saling back in Lenoir, I never looked at the paper at all. I just drove down roads that had a lot of residential areas branching off and followed the signs. Driving past those signs all the time makes me feel like I'm not being true to my roots somehow. Which is totally idiotic.

But today, I got back to my roots, I guess. Since there only were three sales on the plan, I did not take the Google recommended route between them, which would have put me on the interstate. Instead I drove down some main suburban streets and kept my eyes peeled for pieces of cardboard or poster paper tied to road signs. In fact, the three sales on my plan turned out to be total busts. My whole haul today came from small sales. It wasn't a spectacular day, but a solid one.

Josh was out of town this morning, so there was a noticeable lack of book-buying. I did bring home a couple of cookbooks. I try not to buy a lot of cookbooks, mostly because there are more recipes online than I will ever be able to make. But sometimes you run across a really interesting-looking one. I have a couple of older books, which I like mostly for their vintage illustrations. This one I bought for the pictures, excellent condition, and, oh yes, because it was by Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Price.

Basically, the Prices did what I would do if I were super-rich: travel all over the world and ate. They wrote blurbs about restaurants, included a copy of the menu, and then provided recipes for some of the dishes. There are "72 pages of superb full-color photographs," including one of the couple at home in the kitchen. One wonders if Mr. Price speaks in spooky tones to his food. Maybe that is the secret to some dishes.

There was an estate sale in a house hidden up a long driveway in a deceptively new-looking neighborhood. Whoever lived in that house and then died sure was rich. One of the things I love about estate sales is getting to walk around in really beautiful houses. Most of the stuff was pretty expensive, but I came away with some big jars, which apparently used to hold fruit salad. They remind me of my nephew, who used to tell jokes about fruit salad. These jokes all started out with a guy in a restaurant flagging down the waiter and saying, "Waiter, waiter! There's a fly in my fruit salad!" I don't remember any of the punchlines, so you'll just have to make up your own.

Anyway, I was thinking of using them as canisters. They were a quarter apiece, but marked down half price. The lady even rounded down, meaning I totally saved half a penny. I am such the yard sale queen.

I picked up several decorative items, which I've become more interested in now that I have a house with so many naked walls. At some point, I was looking at a something or other at a yard sale and I asked Josh what he thought about it. He said that it didn't really match my house. I was all confused about that. You mean I have to match things? Like with a theme? Or a motif even? I really can't handle that kind of pressure. As far as I'm concerned, my decor does match, and it does have a very distinctive theme. The theme is "Stuff Sandra Likes."

But he seemed to think that my house was kinda rustic and stuff, so the stuff inside needed to be rustic and stuff. Stuff stuff stuff. So I've been keeping that in mind a little more lately. Here are some things to hang on the wall.

They're made of wood.

Wood is rustic. Also, since I like trees, it fits in with "Stuff Sandra Likes."

Do you like trees?

Next time he suggests that something I like does not "match," I will remind him that the gumball machine does not match. It's not rustic at all. You know what else isn't rustic? Electric guitars.

I got that little painting at sale that was advertised as "Totally Gnarly." I would not have described it as "Totally Gnarly," though maybe it was "Pretty Gnarly" or at least "Relatively Gnarly." The sale was being run by a girl my age who was apparently selling all her grandma's stuff. That increased the gnarly levels, because anytime someone is selling someone else's crap, they don't care what they get for it. I had halfway walked away from the sale when I came back and asked how much the lamp was, telling her that I didn't really need it and I didn't want to pay much for it. She said $2 and I said "Gnarly." She also gave me a free bookmark that talked about Jesus' love for me, which is also free.

Okay, here's my favorite thing today. What's that, Sandra? A nice little pic-a-nic basket? Hey, hey BooBoo?

Well, let's open it up.

Those are some small compartments. You couldn't fit very much lunch in there. Surely there is more, and...


This is so awesome. Right now, I keep my sewing stuff in a seventies green plastic thing with a tray that lifts out. It will be a pleasure to get rid of that thing and transfer everything into this lovely ingenius little box. There are a couple of missing screws, but those are easy to replace.

And that was my day.


charm and efficiency.

Josh started a new job waiting tables. He's never been a server before, and leading up to his first day, he was nervous. That's natural, of course, but I knew he'd be great at it. The boy is a charmer. It seems sometimes that either he was uniquely designed to charm me or I was uniquely designed to be charmed by him, but he seems to have a way with others, too. It must be the Southern accent. Or maybe the smile he flashes when he knows he's being charming, which is in itself charming. I'm such a sucker.

Which reminds me. We got a letter in the mail last week, addressed to both of us from his grandmother Sarah (pronounced Say-ruh). I was driving and asked him to read it, since it was addressed halfway to me after all. He read the whole thing aloud in an imitation of his grandmother's voice. My boyfriend is so cute.

Anyway, once he started working at the restaurant, he discovered that it was easy-peasy. Sure, he's already dropped a plate (empty) and spilled a drink on a customer, but these things happen. It's all about charm and efficiency. And when efficiency fails, just throw on some more charm. Some of you probably don't believe me, but you're just a sucker, too.

So there has been a sudden surge of restaurant talk between us. He's asked me general stuff about serving, and I've promised to teach him how to do wine service. He's picking up the lingo, too. And I've asked him a bunch of stuff about how this particular restaurant works, because they all have their quirks. In fact, I've been a little surprised at my own eagerness to hear about the place. Why do I care whether they use a Point-of-Sale system or not? I went in for lunch on Labor Day to check the place out and be a supportive girlfriend. From the moment I walked in the door to the moment I left, he had the goofiest smile on his face. I wondered if that was part of his waiter persona, in which case, he might be getting sympathy tips from customers who think that the restaurant owner must be getting a tax write-off for hiring the mentally handicapped.

I miss waiting tables sometimes, and I'm not really sure why. It's a great job to have in terms of unskilled labor. The potential for money is good and you meet a lot of interesting people. You learn things about food and wine and develop time management skills. Sometimes it's even fun. But I went into computers for a reason: I am not a people person. After a shift at the restaurant, I would come home and not want to talk to anyone at all for hours. I needed solitude.

Perhaps it's just nostalgia. If I had to put on dress pants and an apron again, I might find that waiting tables was only enjoyable in hindsight. Maybe the only thing that made it enjoyable then was the knowledge that it wasn't permanent.

Josh was asking me about making money last week. At one restaurant where I worked, a standard weekend night meant about $120 in a six hour shift. In the other restaurant, I made less money on average, though I did take $200 one day after a double shift during the peak fall leaf season. He was impressed. Yes, there is money to be made in serving. Then I told him that a friend of mine had made $300 in a single night shift on Valentine's Day at a nicer place down the street.

"Wow, that's like $60 an hour."

"Yup." I love it when he does math.

"That's almost as much as a programmer makes."

Okay, I don't make anywhere near $60 an hour. But I do consistently make more per hour than I made on my best days at the restaurant. And I might talk about $200 days, but there were some $15 days, too. I didn't have benefits, and I was on my feet all the time. There was cleaning and lemon-cutting and having people treat me like a servant. I had to pretend that the customer was always right, always being gracious, always deferential.

Maybe I don't miss waiting tables so much after all.


clint eastwood to ed sullivan.

Another musical round-up today. Some of you are already bored of it. Others are opening an extra tab in your browser so that you can add things to your Netflix queue.

Paint Your Wagon

I really, really liked this one. It's not about painting wagons, but it is a musical about the California gold rush, starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. They sing and dance. If that description alone does not make you want to watch it, then I don't see much of a future for our friendship. The dialogue is good - lots of witty quips. There's not necessarily a central storyline. It's mostly about the people and their adventures related to mining and pioneer living. It was all the fightin' and drinking and light-hearted sinnin' of a Western, but with songs.

They changed the plot a bunch from the stage version. It's really not recognizable at all. There is some polyandry, which was a bit weird but admittedly very edgy.

Songs and Dance: Lots of good songs here. "They Call the Wind Mariah", "I'm On My Way", and "Wand'rin' Star" in particular. Lyrics were impressive, too, which makes me want to watch more Lerner and Loewe musicals. This clip is the last song, which was a notable hit in the UK. Lee Marvin kept The Beatles out of the top spot! The video is poor quality, but the song is worth it.

Moment of Recognition: "They Call the Wind Mariah." I'd heard of that song, and now I know where it's from. I am getting more cultured already.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Probably so.

The Pajama Game
This one was totally forgettable. Thin plot. I now like Doris Day less for having done it, whereas I had a pretty good opinion of her previously. Okay, there was really nothing wrong with it. But none of it really stuck with me at all.

Songs and Dance: "There Once Was a Man" is a fun song. There's a really goofy dance number at a company picnic - the kind of dancing where you think the choreographer might have been playing a joke on the performers.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Definitely not.

Bye Bye Birdie
I saw this before, back in the seventh grade, when I had a music teacher, Mrs. Waters, who apparently loved musical theatre, too. If I had to teach middle school, I think I would take sadistic pleasure in making thirteen-year-olds watch musicals. Because my classmates hated it. I pretended to hate it to be cool, but I was secretly enjoying myself. Looking back, Mrs. Waters was honestly trying to expose us to musicals and make us see that it's not all "The Sound of Music." Besides "Bye Bye Birdie," she showed us "Little Shop of Horrors" and "The Wiz." I never liked Mrs. Waters much, but I would like to take this opportunity to send her props back through time and space for making us watch that stuff. I dug it.

ANYWAY, this movie's really strong point is the casting, including Dick van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde, and Maureen Stapleton. It's pretty light-hearted and cheesy, but in a good way. I think this movie in general is representative of what a good musical should be. It's not deep, it's not trying to be anything else but entertaining. It pokes fun at middle America, but in a loving sort of way.

Songs and Dance: There are a lot of catchy tunes, including "Kids", "Telephone Hour", and "Hymn for a Sunday Evening". I could sing "We Love You, Conrad" for days, or at least, like, a couple of minutes. The clip is "Telephone Hour." It's so happy and silly.

Moment of Recognition: "Put on a Happy Face." You know, gray skies are gonna clear up and whatnot.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Maybe if it's on TV sometime and there's nothing else to do.


crop mob.

Love had led me to a lot of places that I would not have gone otherwise. Mostly, it's been bars. And that sounds pretty terrible and could be the opening to a much more sordid life story than mine. Love of bourbon, love of night life, love of sin, these are the things that might lead one to spend a lot of time in bars. Me, I just love musicians, and I don't know why. Many times, it has occurred to me that it would be easier to love an accountant. I'd get to bed at a reasonable hour, and I wouldn't have to deal with people who drink too much, all the while feeling guilty for judging them for drinking too much. But then I'd have to go to accountant parties, where people tell the same jokes about death and taxes. Love took my mother to lots of Ruritan meetings and fire department dinners, so maybe I shouldn't complain about the bars so much.

I'm in favor of wringing interesting experiences out of life, which is the silver lining I cling to when love takes me down paths I would have passed by otherwise. One recent Sunday afternoon, love took me to Orange, NC, handed me a shovel, and told me to dig. There were lots of other people there, but I think they were brought by love for gardening or Mother Earth or wheelbarrows. One of them asked me if I was interested in farming. It was hard not to tell him that I was just there with my boyfriend, but I thought that would sound shallow. I was supposed to be there for, uh, well, I'm not sure what, but probably something noble.

Here's what I know: there were a bunch of people working in someone's garden. They were mostly crunchy hippie types. Nobody was getting paid. The puppy's name was Sheila. The majority of the people had no idea what was going on and had to rely upon instruction. Everybody was friendly and accepting. It's hard to pull weeds with a puppy around.

Here's what I do not know: Whose garden was it? Who would eat the food that grew in the beds we prepared? Assuming these people were not here because of their boyfriends, why were they there? Why was my boyfriend there?

Crop Mob is where a bunch of people get together and work on a farm. That is seriously all I know. I read articles and websites about it, and they all stress different aspects of it. Some of them talk about the good ole days, when people all broke their backs together as a community because they didn't use machines. Some of them talk about food deserts, where all the food is trucked in from California or Florida. Some talk about decreased nutritional value and the use of chemicals in mass-produced food. And still more talk about how people don't even know how to grow food anymore. And I guess it was all those things, but I can't help but think that their movement would have a lot more traction if it weren't so vague.

Josh loved it. He felt like a man and he smelled like my dad: sweat and North Carolina clay soil. He wants to do it again. He told me that I didn't have to go, but I probably will. It made me tired, and my body ached, but I didn't mind it so much. I would mind it less if I knew what it was all for.


nom nom nom.

Josh has a cousin who used to be very vocal in her appreciation of food as a baby. Every time she ate, her chewing would be accompanied with her saying "nom nom nom nom nom nom." This cousin is a teenager now and has long since given up that habit. Man, I bet it was cute.

I never had the urge to nom-nom-nom while eating until he told me that story. But a few days later, I made shrimp cakes with voodoo sauce for the first time, and I was nom-nom-nomming the whole time. Even the next day, when I was eating the leftovers by myself, I started nom-nom-nomming. The flavors go together so well without losing their individuality, like an ensemble cast in a well-written sitcom. Shrimp cakes are just nommy or maybe I'm just a noisy person. Or both!

I clipped this recipe from the News & Observer, from their column which features the recipe of a dish from a local restaurant. If you'll recall, that's also where I got the chocolate coma cookies recipe. I picked this one because it combines shrimp with spicy, and my man loves both. Also, I had eight pounds of shrimp in the freezer from the last buy two, get three sale at Harris Teeter. I made these again over the weekend, and he told me they were his favorite of all the things that I make. To which I said, "Nom nom nom nom nom nom" because I was already eating.

Shrimp Cakes with Voodoo Glaze

A couple of notes: I find that the recipe needs more bread crumbs than are called for, like at least six more bread crumbs. You'll have to play that by ear. I could tell you that it takes 3 of my homemade hamburger buns run through the food processor, but that wouldn't mean much to you, would it? Also, we rarely have roasted red peppers, so I leave those out. Also, the eight six pounds of shrimp in my freezer are not the tiny ones the recipe calls for. So after I peel them, I just chop them up a bit.

The voodoo sauce is ear-burning HOT. Josh usually adds hot sauce to spicy foods, but he does not do so with these. Voodoo sauce will kick your butt. That being said, it's not merely Hot Sauce. There are some other flavors going on that you might notice if you stop thinking about how much your eyes are watering. I like to mix it with some sour cream and put it on my shrimp cakes that way. Also, the recipe makes a lot. We just have a jar of it in the fridge from the first time we made the cakes. I'm trying to think of other things that I might voodoo up.

If you don't like shrimp or don't like spicy or don't like newspaper clippings, then this recipe might not be for you. Otherwise, you should give this one a try. You might find yourself saying "nom nom nom nom nom nom."


yard sales, sept. 12.

Yesterday was a great day for yard sales, the best I've had in a while. I think people are trying to squeeze in their sales before the season ends. We probably have another month or so before things really die down.

The first stop was an estate sale. I like estate sales because everything is for sale, not just the crap people are tired of having. The house was in a big development with lots of other similar looking houses. I normally don't like to go to sales in neighborhoods like these, for a few reasons. For one thing, the people usually haven't been in the house that long and they haven't accumulated much stuff. Also, the stuff they have usually is newish name-brand stuff, which is generally not the sort of stuff I'm looking for at sales. Finally, I get easily lost in those neighborhoods, and I will go on identical street after identical street, trying to find my way out and convinced that I will surely die here in Falcon Ridge or Lake Crest or some other such name that doesn't mean anything.

The person who died so that we could poke through his stuff apparently did a lot of travelling. There were lots of things from East Asia, especially. The stuff was interesting at first, because it was unexpected, but as you looked more closely at it, it all looked like stuff made for tourists. It's not that I haven't bought souvenirs from yard sales, but I do try to stay away from things like ashtrays that say Panmunjon on them. There was this wicker hat, which Josh picked up for fifty cents.

This may be a cheap touristy thing, too, but we thought it was interesting. It's shaped like a soldier's helmet, but it's wicker. Is wicker stronger than I think?

I alo bought two Pyrex pie plates for a dime apiece and also a Vegemite pillowcase.

Now, this pillowcase may very well be a souvenir, but it has a certain uniqueness about it, too. If nothing else, it took a special tourist to buy it. It was a nickel. The bottom corner says "KPAFT FOODS LIMITED," which makes me believe that this might not be an officially licensed Vegemite (TM)(c) product.

Josh poked around this sale, going back for a second round while I tried not to mention that we had several more sales on the list. It's a good thing he did, because he found this.

It's a paper mache Don Quixote and it was seventy-five cents. I found Sancho Panza nearby for the same price. These are fragile and likely made by children in Mexico to sell at roadside stands. But we both love them. Aside from the fact that it's Don Freaking Quixote and Sancho Freaking Panza, I really think the paper mache medium does a great job making the figures look wiry and downtrodden.

When we brought these up to the cashier, the woman seemed surprised that someone was actually buying them. I don't know how she was related to the deceased, but she obviously had no idea who the characters were. We could be sad about that, except that we would have had to pay more than $1.50 for the pair if she had known. That was Josh's score of the day. I wish I could get a better picture of Don and Sancho for you, but they were a bit shy about the camera. Or I just suck at photography.

We hit a church yard sale in Cary, where the prices were already low and the people were just begging to make deals. It's nice when the seller starts the negotiating process without you having to say a word. I did not try to haggle on this item, because it was marked $5 and that was perfectly reasonable to me.

I've seen dozens of those Taters and Onyuns wooden boxes at yard sales and thrift stores. I kinda liked them, because my mom had one and because I like the rusticity of keeping produce in an old wooden box. But the ones that you see (and indeed, the one my mom has) are a sort of fake rustic. You can tell just by the spelling: taters, onyuns. Look, we're so rustic we can't even spell! Let's celebrate our illiteracy!

Look how cute my onions look, all cozy in their cubby hole. This thing is still rustic, what with the chicken wire screens. But it looks like something your handy grandfather might make, rather than something a fat guy sells on the side of the highway going up to the mountains. And now I'll stop insulting my mother's belongings.

Finally, we stopped another estate sale, where I picked up these etched glasses, a set of six for a dollar. What am I going to do with them? Put them in my hutch, of course. I could serve ice cream or something in them, I suppose. I don't know what they are for, but they were just so pretty. I don't know anything about glassware, so it's possible these are a dime a dozen and so by paying a dollar for a half-dozen, I was gypped. But I think they're lovely.

I don't know if you can even tell much from these pictures. It's a bit impossible taking pictures of glassware, particularly if you're trying to capture etchings. Some people can do it, I'm sure, but I couldn't find any of those people in my house this afternoon.

And here is a shot of most everything else. I got a lot of clothes, too, but that stuff would be boring. This stuff is...less boring. We caught a couple of church sales that were wrapping up and so they told us to stuff a bag for a buck. And that's how I ended up with some tiny pictures, a few placemats and dish towels, some antique jar thing, and a box of round pegs (large), for square holes (larger). But not the Snoopy bank. I just bought that because sometimes there are Snoopy banks and they must be bought ($.50). Do I need any of this stuff? Of course not. And it may be that I get rid of it later. But a lot of times you find uses for things you had no idea you had any use for at all.

Does anyone know what this thing is? Josh says it's a vintage SlapChop (TM), but I suspect that he's lying.


collective memory.

My mom used to tell me that everyone remembers where they were when they found out Kennedy had been shot. I thought that was sort of odd. You picture it happening all at the same time, as if it happened and everyone instantly knew, when actually people found out five minutes later in their cars, three hours after that at work, or a day or two later after coming back from a camping trip. But even as separated by time and distance, there was a sense of collective memory, as if everyone in the country suddenly stopped what they were doing, faced Dallas, and watched.

Of course I understood what she meant after September 11th. I remember where I was and who I was with. I also remember four years later, sitting in the Liberty Diner in Lewisville, North Carolina and listening to Josh complain about the tacky New York themed decor. There was a five foot tall Statue of Liberty outside, and the interior walls were covered with patriotic pop art, pictures of the city skyline with ghost-like towers, a flag or an eagle or both in the background. And he told me his part of the collective memory, his voice low and hard to hear over the sounds of dishes and silverware scraping, cash registers dinging, and waitresses howd'youdoing. He told me about watching it from the roof of a Manhattan building, hearing it, smelling it, and the way people in the city acted in the days and weeks following.

My memory is not interesting. Years from now, he will tell his story to our kids and then they will turn in awe and ask me where I was. I will shrug and say "In my dorm room in Boone," and they will be disappointed. When their teachers cover 9/11 in class, they will raise their hands and say their dad was there. Fifty years from now, his will be the kind of memory that is included in a long article in a news magazine. Mine will be the kind of memory that people think about after reading that article. It is their memory.

Like everyone else, I'm reliving it today. But I won't tell you about it, even though I can picture it in minute detail. I bet it's a lot like your memory. It was just a regular sort of day interrupted by something more terrible than any of us had ever imagined happening in our lifetimes. We all suddenly stopped what we were doing, faced New York, and watched.


from hunchbacks to sailor suits.

My love of musicals has already been documented. At some point recently, I realized that I hadn't even seen that many musicals. Sure, I was familiar enough with half a dozen of them that I could probably sing a song or two, but there are more than a half dozen musicals in the world. I decided that it was high time to continue my education. After all, what if people have been singing show tunes around me and I didn't know enough to recognize them? How embarrassing! I've been renting them through Netflix and watching them while Josh is gone. Because if I made him watch this many musicals, he might just leave for good.

In no particular order:

The DVD that I saw was a recorded stage production, because this one apparently never made it to the movies. Watching it, that makes sense, because it relies heavily on the idea of the stage. However, some smart person could adapt this to film, I reckon. Don't let the title fool you, as this seems to have nothing to do with the actual Pippin, Charlemagne's son, who was a hunchback and not a strapping young man with 70s hair.

It was interesting at first, because it's playing on the fact that they're presenting a play for you. So you have to get used to that idea, which is novel at first. The middle kinda drags. With about half an hour left to go, I really wasn't sure where the plot was headed. However, the ending is really wonderful. They really rip apart the traditional notion of what a play is to make their point. I know, that's vague and doesn't make any sense, but I don't know how else to explain it without just giving you a plot summary. So watch it if you care. This was written after people got tired of frothy singing and dancing and decided that singing and dancing could have a MESSAGE. It's all about finding yourself, whatever that means.

Here's a pretty good clip: full of messages.

Songs and Dance: I didn't care much for the songs in this one, which could be my issue more than a problem with the songs themselves. I was very distracted by the 70s-ness. It was like listening to a light-rock station. Even so, none of them were particularly memorable. The dancing was pretty fun, though. Ben Vereen was fantastic, which is probably why he's famous and stuff.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: No, but I did tell him about it and all its post-moderness.

The Gay Divorcee
I haven't seen a lot of Fred and Ginger movies. And so while watching this, I said the really obvious statement, "Hey, Fred and Ginger were really good!" I was most impressed by the dialogue. They're famous for the dancing, but they had great chemistry, too. I love good banter between a couple, and Fred and Ginger had it going on. Fred is also not particularly attractive: he's horsey-faced and going bald. Which gives you hope that sometimes talent wins.

I could easily post a clip of Fred and Ginger dancing, but that would be too easy!

Songs and Dance: I'm not sure if it's musicals of this era in general or just this movie, but the songs in here had even less to do with the plot than usual. I'm used to people bursting into song to let you know about their feelings. But maybe sometimes people just burst into song in general. Dancing was, of course, very good.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Probably not. Once I watch some more Fred and Ginger movies, I might pick my favorite and make him watch that one. Is this one it? I have no idea.

Anchors Aweigh
CHEESE-FEST. This movie relies heavily on the stereotype that sailors like to go ashore and hook up with strange women. It never says that the sailors are having sex, but they're definitely being crude when they have their locker room chats about whatever it is they do on shore leave. Of course, by the end, the main characters, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra (who looks fourteen), have found nice girls that they can marry. Everything works out so well for everyone by the end of the movie, you'd think it was an episode of Full House.

This was only the second movie I've seen featuring Kathryn Grayson. I'm pretty familiar with her through Kiss Me, Kate, and I've always liked her in that. But she was sort of bland here, and I suspect that she was more of a singer than an actress. It might have been the role. Gene Kelly was Gene Kelly, and I love Gene Kelly. When I was twelve, back in 1995, I had a crush on Gene Kelly. Because I was a weirdo, I guess.

Songs and Dance: You may have seen clips from this movie, particularly from a scene where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry Mouse. You might be wondering - how does Jerry Mouse fit into the plot? To which I would respond: You're new to musicals, right? There is a neat scene at the Hollywood Bowl where a bunch of people are playing Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 grand pianos. Also, Frank Sinatra can sing. Did you know that?

I don't want to post Gene dancing with a cartoon mouse. Even when I was a kid, thoroughly smitten with Mr. Kelly, I knew that was pretty lame. So here's the piano scene, featuring Jose Iturbi. They were clearly trying to inject some culture in this otherwise standard silly musical. You can also see Gene and Frank in their sailor suits. I love sailor suits.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: No. He wouldn't stand for it. He would be more likely to consent to wearing a sailor suit, which is not at all a bad idea.


yard sales, sept. 5.

I always mean to create a post of my yard sale finds. But then I think about taking pictures and then making the pictures look pretty and then writing something about it and posting it and it all just makes me so tired just thinking about it. So I go take a nap instead. You parents are all shaking your heads right now.

Well, I've already had my nap today. I had kind of a wimpy yard sale day yesterday. Honestly, I've had a lot of those lately. I had one spectacular day back in the early summer and then it's all been sort of piddlin'. I'm trying not to think of the two weekends that I missed while I didn't have a car. I wouldn't have found anything good those days anyway. Right? RIGHT?

The excuse for yesterday is that it was a holiday weekend, which always means fewer yard sales. So there were not as many yesterday, and no big church or group events. Still, I had a couple of nice scores.

These lamps were $3 for the pair at an estate sale on a busy road. I had to park right in that busy road, which made me very nervous. I kept waiting to hear the crunch that meant that my new car had just gone down in value. On the plus side, I used the emergency flashers for the first time in the new car.

Anyway, the lamps. Do I need lamps? No. I have lots and lots of lamps. But I like the weird colored and patterned ceramic on these. I was just going to get one, but then couldn't decide which I liked. Since I don't need either of them, the sensible thing to do would have been walk away. Instead I offered to take both off the guy's hands for a $1 discount. They came with shades, but they looked like they had been shoved on there to make the lamps look more complete, rather than matching them at all.

I guess this little guy was the score of the day. It's a pewter tankard, made by Woodbury Pewterers (there's a seal on the bottom). I priced these online, and you can buy one new for $60. On eBay, they're more like $10. But this one was a quarter. I got it for Josh, who likes shiny things. He put it on the mantel, because he thinks everything should go on the mantel. I hope to find a bigger mantel at a yard sale.


free lunch.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

I forgot that fact this morning, when I decided not to pack a lunch for work. See, today is the first Friday of the month, which means that it's Company Lunch Day. Company Lunch Day at my old office meant Green Pepper Pizza Day. The office manager would order a mess of pizzas from Papa Johns. She would get a variety of types, but always one green pepper pizza, because that was the kind she liked. That is the small perk of providing food for others - you always get what you want. My coworkers knew that the green pepper pizza was for her, and so they decided to band together and all eat green pepper pizza. So the next time, she ordered two green pepper pizzas. They ate more, so she ordered more again. I think she was ordering five green pepper pizzas by the time they got sick of it and went back to eating whatever they wanted.

At this job, however, Company Lunch Day is so much more than Green Pepper Pizza Day. Sometimes it's Gourmet Pizza Day or Stuff Your Own Burrito Day or Chinese Food Day. But it is always pretty much awesome. I mean, I liked Green Pepper Pizza Day a lot, because I always love free food. But Company Lunch Day here takes awesome to new levels.

I was expecting a free lunch today, but was disappointed to find that the guy who organizes Company Lunch was not here. That means that it is postponed. Now, when I'm gone on the first Friday of a month, Company Lunch Day is not postponed. They just have it without me and probably don't miss me at all, because I eat all the crab rangoon or Hawaiian pizza. But when the guy in charge is going to be gone, he can just say we'll have it next week. Some people grumble about this, but I guess it's like ordering five green pepper pizzas.

My options:
1. Go hungry. That's a silly option, which was never seriously considered.
2. Drive home and eat what I would have packed, which was leftover enchilada lasagna and cornbread.
3. Drive to a restaurant near the office and pick up something to eat at my desk. After playing Mario Kart during my lunch hour.
4. Go eat wings with some of my coworkers who had been similarly forgotten that there is no such thing as a free lunch. No Mario Kart.

I went with option #4, mostly because I don't eat out with my coworkers very often. I'm not on the list of people who get invited to lunch. I wouldn't go out with them most of the time, because it's too expensive. But at my old job, everyone was always on the invite list. I don't think my coworkers are trying to exclude me. I'm just not someone they think of. Or maybe they want to tell dirty jokes and I would ruin it. That never stopped the people at my old office.

We went to Wings and Rings, a place that was selected mostly for its proximity to a Starbucks. We waited ten minutes to be seated. That's fine, it's a busy lunch hour and there were six of us. Then we waited another ten minutes to order. Well, that's less fine, but we weren't on a really tight schedule. As we waited, we made jokes about the fact that blue cheese and celery was an extra buck. I guess that's the recession for you, where you have to pay extra for blue cheese with your wings.

Ron's food came with a salad, which arrived before everyone's wings, but with no fork. We sat and waited for our food while Ron tried to flag down the waiter with increasing frustration. He finally caught him with a "Hey, BUDDY!" I don't think that was his name, but it worked. When the fork arrived, I also reminded him that I had asked for a Sprite. Actually, I had ordered a water, which I got. But then when I ordered my meal off the "Express Lunch" menu, Buddy pointed out that it came with a soft drink anyway. So I asked for a Sprite. Which I then did not get. Alright, so Buddy was busy. It's not like he was out back, smoking a joint with the cooks. He was apparently working the bar and several tables, too. Buddy was just in the weeds.

A few minutes after Ron finally got the necessary utensils to eat his salad, another server came with a big tray loaded with various wings and rings and things. He propped the tray on a nearby empty table and began serving us. As he lifted the third plate off the tray, the see-saw effect kicked in and the whole mess upended into the nearest chair. Rookie mistake. From where we sat, it looked like two or three trays could have been served as they were. But instead they whisked the whole thing away back to the kitchen, likely to be mailed to starving children in Africa. We made jokes about the "Express Lunch." We weren't joking as much this time.

I try to be understanding with servers. I was in those trenches. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. And sometimes you're just too busy, because the manager didn't schedule enough people to work. Sometimes you're having an off day. These things happen. I understand. My coworkers were less understanding. There was muttering and grumbling and glaring. One of them even appeared to be the type to complain loudly, so as to be noticed. I was pretty sure that Buddy knew things were not going well. Whether he cared or not, I couldn't tell. When a table starts off on the wrong foot and you know you're not going to get tipped anyway, it's hard to find the incentive to work hard. My incentive was always to get the unhappy people out the door as soon as possible. Buddy apparently did not have that mindset.

The second round of food came much more quickly than the first. No doubt, Buddy had told the kitchen he needed it "on the fly." It arrived and there was much confusion. Wings and Rings features nine different kinds of wing sauce, and they all looked the same to Buddy. Mine was the only plate with onion rings, so it was easy. I ordered medium Cajun wings with my rings. Is that what I got? I don't know, and neither did Buddy. As he attempted to pass out the other plates, it was obvious he was just guessing. "Teriyaki with chips?" No one at this table ordered that. "Uh, well, maybe it's Crazy sauce with chips?" Nope. "Well, sir, what did you order?" Larry ordered Original sauce with chips. "Well, that's this one." Sure it is, Buddy, sure it is.

Finally, the plates were all passed out. I ate my wings and wished I had some blue cheese or celery. Ah, the carefree days of 2007, when people bought houses they couldn't afford, everyone had a job, and wings came with blue cheese and celery, on the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

We finished eating without incident. Well. Ron ran out of Diet Coke and just held his empty glass straight up in the air, rather than resort to the "Hey, BUDDY" method again. I rationed my Sprite, sensing that I would not be receiving a timely refill. We all finished up and Buddy came around to clear the plates. He brought out the checks (which were properly split, good job, Buddy!). We quickly gave him our credit cards while we had his attention.

And then we waited some more. A couple of people optimistically stood up, sensing a quick exit, but they soon sat down again. There was much grumbling. I thought to myself that it takes a bit of time to run five credit cards, but I didn't bother trying to defend Buddy to anyone. The time stretched on, our Express Lunch becoming more and more lingering. Well, maybe there are a lot of people running credit cards right now and so the connection is slow. Finally Buddy reappeared and handed out our receipts and cards. He then left and we realized there was not a pen in sight. And I gave up on defending Buddy, even to myself, because you don't drop a credit card receipt without supplying a pen. Did we somehow manage to come to a restaurant where it was the whole staff's first day? I dug a pen out of my purse and passed it around. By the time Buddy came back to give us a writing utensil, we had all already finished signing.

I have never stiffed anyone in my life. I'm a solid twenty percenter, and I even round up. I left a dollar on a $7.33 check, which is a very paltry tip for me. I think that was the biggest tip that Buddy got out of our table. I'm not sure what someone would have to do for me to stiff them completely. Maybe throw a piece of food directly at me, insult my mother, and force me to eat cantaloupe. The meal had been a disaster. Not all of it had been Buddy's fault - he hadn't dropped the food, after all - but it seemed like he knew it wasn't going to be worth his effort to try at all. And yet, I gave him a dollar. Because I've been there, too, when everything went wrong and I probably deserved to get stiffed. I hate the idea of rewarding bad service, but...well, there it is.

We left laughing, because that was a freakin' fiasco. Then we drove through Starbucks, because what's another ten minutes when you're already half an hour late? There, they tried to charge us twice and the drive-thru window kept opening and closing for no reason. It seemed like a good day to just go home and go to bed. Except now we had a lot of caffeine, so we might as well go back and write some hopped-up code.

I had hoped, when I saw the tray full of food fall the first time, that maybe our meals would be comped. I hoped that Buddy would come around and apologize, telling us to get on outta here, your money's no good here! But I forgot. There's no such thing as a free lunch.


why can't you behave?

I put on "Kiss Me, Kate" last night because I wanted to hear Ann Miller sing "Why Can't You Behave?" She sings it to her boyfriend, Bill, who is charming and talented, but likes to gamble: on the ponies, in a back-alley dice game, whatever. As she sings to him, he tries various goofy gags to get her to smile, but she is not in the mood to be amused. She loves him and wants to settle down with him, but he just lost two grand in a craps game when he doesn't even have two dollars to pay for a cab.

Why can't you behave?
Oh, why can't you behave?
After all the things you told me
and all the promises you gave,
oh, why can't you behave?

There are a lot of great songs in this movie. Cole Porter liked to play with words and he was good at it. This song isn't the most clever, but there's a certain lovely and sad simplicity about it. She's just begging him to straighten up, because all she wants to do is be his woman.

Why can't you be good
and do just as you should?
Why don't you turn that new leaf over
so your baby can be your slave?
Oh, why can't you behave?

After she sings this song, they start dancing on the rooftop. She forgets about being mad at him, because he does know how to charm her. After the dance number, they forget there was ever a conflict about a craps game, and the audience is supposed to as well. The two grand becomes an integral part of the plot, but you sort of forget about the gambling problem. Maybe back then, gambling was seen in the same light as being a drunk. It was just sort of a light-hearted nuisance, provided, of course, that it wasn't your nuisance.

Ann Miller and her boyfriend are merely supporting characters. They're in the film to advance the plot and show off Ann's dancing (and legs). At the end of the movie, the two main characters get together, just like you knew they would. And everyone is happy, everyone is singing and dancing the last big number. But if you watch the movie in the right mood, maybe the kind of mood that makes you put it on just to hear "Why Can't You Behave?", you can't help but wonder whether Bill will ever stop playing the dice, or if Ann Miller will still be singing that song to him when she's old and her legs aren't so pretty anymore.