the tragic beauty of yardsaling
Saturday, June 6 2009
Ray and Nancy had come upstate to look at real estate again. For my part, I'll be surprised if they ever get a house; it seems like their house hunting is all foreplay and no sex. They once went as far as paying for an inspection (that's like dry humping) but then they let the deal fall apart. So I had no real interest in going with them on their house hunt. But Gretchen wanted to go.
Meanwhile over at Penny and David's place, David had gone off to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to take a one day course and Penny called saying she was bored and invited herself over. As always, I was in charge of coffee, so I got two French presses going (the second one was from a yardsale a couple weeks ago).
In the end Penny and I went yardsaling together while the others went house hunting. Highlights of my yardsaling today included the attainment of four practical items of stemware, a large remote-controlled scale Mini Cooper (from a young lad at a yardsale at a Catholic church), and three CB-band walkie-talkies (from a nerdy middle-aged guy at a yardsale near the playhouse in Woodstock). While Penny was getting cash at the Bank of America machine in Woodstock, I decided to pull a trick on the guy pulling into the space next to me. I pulled out the largest of the walkie-talkies (a TRC-217), pulled out its huge antenna, and began having a fake conversation like one would with a normal cellphone. The guy didn't seem to notice, but when Penny came back and I was still having my fake conversation, she did a double take and burst out laughing. For a second there she'd thought I'd actually achieved some sort of connectivity with the thing.
We had our usual yardsaling bagel stop at Bread Alone and then followed 212 to Lake Hill and then a couple miles south on Wittenberg. Our biggest stop of all was on the way home, when we decided to take Zena Road. We stopped at a place that had lots of cheap little things I wanted (a snorkling kit, a blood pressure kit, and odd scraps of plumbing hardware) plus an entire box of fishing equipment, complete with a variety of rods, reels, and what not. Things had not been going well in the Penny and David household ever since Penny ordered David to haul a garish plastic primary-colored multisensory play cage to the dump (he'd found it at a yard sale and, thinking it perfect for the Korean baby they're adopting, spent hour cleaning off the residual boogers and E. coli with a Q-tip, though its inherent æsthetic horribleness could not be washed away). So Penny thought she could make amends by getting David a full fishing kit, the carefully-assembled product of years of someone's fishing hobby. For Penny, it was a simple one-time purchase of less than $100. That's the tragic beauty of yardsaling; it's possible to pay someone less than $100 for an entire museum (in some cases assembled over an entire lifetime).
While we'd been driving around, the driver's side door window had suddenly fallen off its tracks. This was the same window that, a couple weeks ago, had been smashed by a Greenwich Village burglar interested in the car's GPS system (an investment David had specifically made for his yardsaling hobby). Evidently the new window had been put in wrong. Back at my place, I took the door apart to see if I could fix the window, but clips designed to support the window had clearly broken, and there was nothing I could do. In the midst of all of this, Penny bragged about her big fishing equipment score to Gretchen, forgetting for the moment that Gretchen is a vegan[REDACTED]. It hadn't even occurred to me that the fishing equipment was a kit for torturing animals, but evidently that was the first thing that came to Gretchen's mind. And so a conflict erupted between Penny and Gretchen. The conflict was low-key at first, but Penny knew something was wrong and, after leaving, called Gretchen to apologize. But it's not easy to apologize to Gretchen, and so the conflict festered into the evening.
Meanwhile Gretchen had thrown together a delicious pesto-and-pasta platter for Ray, Nancy, me, and herself. At some point I noticed that the salad spinner had broken, and I fixed it by welding the crack in its high density polyethylene using sunlight concentrated by a magnifying glass. (I've found that broken HDPE cann't be fixed by any method other than welding.)
During a dead phase of the afternoon, when the houseguests were napping and Gretchen was out sunning herself with the cats and a crossword puzzle (wearing, I should add, a newly-favorite skort), I went down to the greenhouse path and continued work on the steps leading down the slope. I had one very large flat rock I'd hauled on the hand truck from some distance down the Stick Trail. Using that same hand truck, I managed to get that rock all the way to the top of the slope near the house, to the place where a step needed to be.
In the evening, Ray, Nancy, and I all went to Penny and David's place for a little dinner party. Gretchen stayed home, though it wasn't (she said) because of her ongoing conflict with Penny about the non-vegan fishing gear Penny had bought to settle a conflict with her husband. Gretchen claimed to be "socialed out," a condition resulting from having spent too much time socializing with people outside the immediate family.
It wasn't just Ray, Nancy and me who had come to Penny and David's place. There were two other couples when we arrived, and part of our function was to dilute one of the others (whom David hates). The meal itself was pasta-rich. It would have even been vegan were it not for the cheese sprinkled on top (evidently it had been planned with Gretchen in mind, but once she was out of the picture, out came the cheese).
During our yard saling earlier today, Penny had told me a hilarious story of something that had happened to her only a month before. I'd reacted so well to it that Penny had refined the story slightly and told it again to those assembled for dinner. Here it is, told from Penny's perspective:
We went to [name of a nice Greek restaurant in Manhattan]. It's fresh, it's gourmet, the waitstaff are attentive, and the place is meticulously clean. We sat down and the waitstaff brought out some pita and hummus, and as I was eating it, I suddenly felt something strange in my mouth. I spit the strange thing out and it was a large piece of metal, resembling the head of a nail. Oh my god, that was in the food? So we called over the waitstaff and they were, naturally, horrified. They took the piece of metal and went off with it. After awhile they returned saying that it looked like a filling. Oh my god! I suddenly felt nauseous. The thought of someone's nasty filling falling into the food and finding its way into my mouth made me want to yerk. One of the staff asked it if it was possible that the filling was mine. Was it possible that I had lost one? It seemed absurd, but I ran my tongue over my teeth, and they all seemed normal. I even went to the bathroom to check them out in a mirror, but I could find no irregularities. So the waitstaff and management (by now the matter had escalated up the chain of command) went back to the back, perhaps to inspect the mouths of their kitchen staff. By now I was taking massive sips of wine and swirling it around in my mouth in hopes of purging the awfulness of someone's mystery filling in my mouth. The others asked if we should stay and I said sure, let's stay, but I'd lost my appetite and I would just be drinking. At some point, though, I took a bite of pita and I felt a strange sensation in my mouth. So I put my finger back there and I said to myself, "Hmm, I'm pretty sure I used to have a tooth there!" So we called over the staff and I fessed up that it now appeared the filling was actually mine. I felt terrible, both because they'd been carrying around a filling that had been in my mouth for maybe 25 years and also because they might have gone to the kitchen, put on rubber gloves and checked the mouths of the poor Mexicans who make the Greek food. And of course I also felt terrible because I'd led them to believe that maybe they were responsible when in the end it was me.
At some point an expensive bottle of rum came out and when I tasted it, I recognized the funky "fecal" flavor I'd tasted once before in an expensive rum (Spring, 2006). Still, I drank it anyway, trying to figure out with every sip what exactly I was tasting. At some point we moved out to the metal fire pit and sat around a hastily-constructed fire that was soon raging. By this point I was loud and drunk and drinking directly from a party-sized bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz. Someone had scared up some hashish, which was making its way around the fire pit in a crude pipe made of tin foil. Two other people showed up late, including the woman we call "Orgy."
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