I've just had a revelation.
My junk is not that interesting.
Once a year, on a weekend in mid-July, my city hosts what is billed as the World’s Largest Indoor Garage Sale. Professional vendors and regular folks who want to cast their possessions out to the public come to a parking structure and take over three or four floors. Some come from out of state just for the opportunity.
I’ve made the trek almost every year, even when I didn’t live in Royal Oak. The first time out, my now-22-year-old was just a baby in a collapsible stroller. Back in the city’s heyday, when the economy was flush and downtown merchants didn’t have to be competitive, the Garage Sale was a big deal, drawing people from all over with its carnival atmosphere. It’s where I first saw Jack Kevorkian in one of his blue sweaters, but except for that stint in jail, he’s all over town all the time.
Parking is a pretty iffy proposition here, where the streets are mostly residential and narrow. I live four blocks away so I walked. Garage Sale traffic was light this year, even though most of the downtown merchants were holding a sidewalk sale in conjunction with the big event. There was no need for the funeral home next to the parking ramp to be offering premium spaces at $5 a pop. I doubt they made much this weekend.
Garage Sale weekend is normally one of the hottest of summer. Not so this year, 2009 – the year of the Bummer Summer. Global warming be damned, the skies have been gray, foggy, and cold as much as they have been warm, bright and sunny. I had to wear a hoodie and jeans.
I’m not a garage sale fanatic but I don’t mind hitting a few every once in a while. My mother-in-law was in antique sales and schooled me on the advanced science of looking for decent junk. We would delve into the trash cans first before approaching a real sale. Most people don’t know what they are doing and have no idea about value. She was once given a box full of “trash” and spent the next three months selling it in her store, netting over $90.
I despise hosting my own home garage sales. I’ve done it a couple of times with minimal success. It’s a lot of prep work, hard to do alone (what about potty and meal break?) and harder to do in the rain (it’s cold and no one comes). I hate to bargain so my prices are ridiculously low. I just want the junk out of my house. Once it makes it to the garage, anything left over can’t return home. It keeps on trucking until it hits the Goodwill.
I’ve often said I should gather up my junk and do the Royal Oak Garage Sale one of these years. After all, the Chamber of Commerce does all the advertising, cutting out one expense. For the price of a stall, I would have hundreds of people milling by, thus increasing foot traffic past my assortment of bric-a-brac.
Yesterday that dream came to a crashing stop.
As I strolled by the tables yesterday, I realized the items carried little appeal. There were some interesting pieces, but none with the panache of past years' offerings. Vinyl albums? Meh. I get my record fix when I go out to California and hit up Amoeba Records. Antique musical instruments? Hardly any. Anything that looked like it might be old or unique was grossly overpriced. Everything else was new and ho-hum and grossly overpriced. What with TV, internet, and warehouse shopping, one doesn’t need a personal demonstration of Sham-Wow.
Many onlookers were like me, not buying, just browsing. I spent less than $10 for a few pieces to use in my jewelry-making ventures. It was largely unsatisfying.
I came home and gave my closet and garage the once-over. I don’t have much stuff, and my junk is just not that interesting. In a recession, it’s even less so. The face value of my cast-offs has declined with the stock market, housing prices, and everything else.
Maybe I’ll save it for the grandkids.