Sunday, July 02, 2006

Good People II

[Note: this post has nothing to do with sex-ed or anything else. Well, in a way it does, it has to do with honesty and good-heartedness.]

Today my wife and I went yard-saling. It's the perfect thing for a sunny summer morning just before the Fourth of July. We stopped at a place with a couple of kids, with their stupid dog barking inside the house and their mother peering out from behind the screen door. I found the grooviest John-Lennon-slash-Ozzy-Osbourne round sunglasses for twenty-five cents, and my wife found some blankets for two bucks. We hit several places, there really wasn't much in Rockville today. Maybe too soon after the rain and the flooding, yards are still wet, I don't know.

We ended up at a house on a little diagonal street I'd never seen before, off 28 not far from Lincoln Park, a forgotten patch of lower-middle-class families. They had stuff all over the yard and signs pointing inside, too. There was an 8-track player playing "Family Tradition," mainly to show that it worked, but it did sound pretty good. A guy was standing on the porch.

"Ya don't hear much Hank Junior any more, do you?" I said.

"Naw," he said, "Ain't much of that outlaw music at all."

"I don't like the new stuff too much," I said. "I don't know, it just mostly sounds all the same to me. There's no soul to it."

"Got that right," the guy said. "I don't hardly listen to it any more."

"So what ever happened to Bocephus?" I asked. "He's still alive, isn't he?"

"Yeah, I think he's still around."

"You don't hear much about him."

"Naw. How about Kris? He still alive?"

"Yeah he is," I said. "I heard a thing about him on the radio the other day, they were playing some of his old songs. He's still out there. Course Waylon's dead, and Johnny Cash."

"Yeah." The guy paused for a minute. "What about Willie? He still around?"

"Oh, yeah, he's still on the road, man, playing gigs. Willie's doing just like he always did."

That cheered him up. "All right," he said, "That's good."

Oh yeah, you have to remember that I'm wearing those ridiculous Lennon/Osbourne sunglasses this whole time.

My wife found a pair of sun and moon candle holders. She held them up. "What do you think?"

I didn't say anything for a few seconds. "How much are they?"

"Six dollars."

"Hmm, well, I guess they fit the theme, don't they?" She has a lot of wall hangings of suns and moons in the house. But really, she can read my mind. It's not my job to tell her she can't blow six bucks on some candle holders. She can if she wants.

"I don't know," she said, and wandered off to look at some other stuff. "I'll think about it."

Inside the house was a ton of stuff. The story was this. There was the guy and his four younger sisters, all there. I'd say they were mostly in their forties. They were all different. You had the funny one (him), the bleach-blonde wild-child, the school teacher, the blend-into-the-background one, the suspicious one. Their mother died five months ago, and it was time to empty out the house so they could sell it. We all went in together, avoiding the sadness of the situation. Some things, you just have to do. They had a million albums in boxes out in the yard, mostly country and soul music. There was all kinds of furniture, little plaques with cute sayings, dishes and silverware, a motorcycle: "Make Offer." Thirty years ago I would have definitely made an offer. I kid you not, there was a whole mountain of Elvis stuff in their mom's bedroom. And a Rock Hudson poster. Poor old gal, I guess she lived through all that.

There was an artificial fireplace in the living room, an electric heater with fake bricks. My wife was looking at it. But, man, it was big, it was like five feet wide, no way it would fit in our car. Our family room is an addition, it doesn't have central air, there's no heat in there. Something like this would be nice, but ... it was so big, and who knows how much it would cost.

"What do you think?" my wife asked. I just looked.

"How much do you want for it?" she asked the schoolteacher-sister.

"I don't know," the sister said. "I don't know if it even works."

The brother came in and dug around in the back for the power cord. Plugged it in. The "wood" glowed, the fan turned. The smell of burning dust filled the room. "Hey, it works," he said. "I didn't think it would."

My wife asked him how much they'd want for it.

"Hey, don't ask me," he said, being the funny one. "I'm just labor, they're management, you'll have to ask them."

The sister looked at it. "I don't know," she said. "How about twenty bucks?"

My wife looked at me. Of course, that was a steal. And it would be nice. "Twenty bucks?"

"Is that okay?" the schoolteacher-sister asked.

"Yeah, that's great," my wife said. She gave the lady a twenty. We talked about it.

"Tell you what," the brother said. "We got a pickup truck, I'll deliver it if you don't live too far." We told him where we live, about five minutes away, and wrote down our address and phone number. That was a real relief.

Right then, two older ladies came into the room. A little too dressed for a weekend morning, you know what I mean? They saw us getting the fake-fireplace ready to carry outside.

"How much do you want for that?" one of the ladies asked.

"We just sold it for twenty dollars," the sister said.

"Oh." The one old lady, whose hair was dyed an absurd black shade, barely glanced at it. "Tell you what, I'll give you thirty dollars for it."

There was an awkward pause. The sister said, "Sorry, it's already sold."

The ladies went back into the kitchen. I'd keep an eye on them, if I was those people. You're gonna have a spoon missing.

The brother and I carried the fireplace out to the front porch and down the steps. He kept asking me if I wanted to set it down and rest, but of course I wouldn't do that unless my hand was falling off. Maybe if it was bleeding. We set it out by the street, at the end of the driveway.

After we set it down, he popped open a coke, and sang a line from "Pop-a-Top," you know, the title line. I said something about Dwight Yokum re-doing that one, of course I was wrong, it was Alan Jackson. I should know that, we have the CD. The sister mentioned that she had the record of Conway Twitty doing it, the original. I don't know, I remember it when it came out but don't remember who did it, but I didn't think it was Conway Twitty. I didn't say anything, though, since I had already been wrong once.

When we left, my wife said "God bless you" to the guy. He shook my hand for like the fifth time and said "God bless you" back to us.

You know, it didn't cross those people's mind to go back on their word and take that old lady's thirty dollars.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

You know, it didn't cross those people's mind to go back on their word and take that old lady's thirty dollars.

Well, of course, because the money had already changed hands. Now, if your wife had not handed over the $20 then you can bet that if those old ladies had offered more that they would have taken it in a heartbeat. Once money has changed hands though that is refund, no return, no exchanges...and no other party coming along and bidding up the sale price.

Another insight...I know it has been raining back there...ALOT. However, yard sales (they are called garage sales out here) are generally thin on weekends connected closely with holidays, and since the 4th is on a Tuesday, well... Memorial Day weekend here was pretty slim pickings, as was this weekend. Still, yesterday the wife found a rather cute piece of decorative glass bowl on a stem and base, light blue hue and about 8 inches high. The costs? 25 cents is all...that is what the wife loves best about garage sales...the bargains!

Too bad about those vinyl records...I have a coworker that sells them online as a side hobby; his website is,

Here is wishing everyone that posts here a relaxing and enjoyable 4th of July. May we continue to endure our differences with patience and charity.


July 02, 2006 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin says, you can bet that if those old ladies had offered more that they would have taken it in a heartbeat

Now you know that as fact about those people because.....?

Those people were honest. No need to go and say anything else. Thanks for sharing Jim K.


July 02, 2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...


I was reminded of your comments on Jon Stewart's set up and take down of Bill Bennett when I read this in today's Post.

If Ms. Alexander (or anyone else for that matter) desires anything "far more intelligent" she will need to turn her tv off and crack open a book. I could suggest a few...


A Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post,

Enlightenment From Jon Stewart

Monday, July 3, 2006; A20

Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" does not make young people cynical about politics and politicians ["Jon Stewart, Enemy of Democracy?" Unconventional Wisdom, June 23].

Politics and politicians make young people cynical. I find more interesting political discourse on "The Daily Show" than on any of the so-called hard-news channels that Mr. Stewart often spoofs. His recent debate with Bill Bennett on gay marriage, for example, was far more intelligent than anything I've seen on Fox News or MSNBC in years.

It's no wonder more and more young people are turning to non-traditional news outlets such as blogs for their daily news.

Were it not for Jon Stewart helping me to laugh about all the ridiculous and frustrating things coming out of our government, I might have given into cynicism and stopped voting years ago.



July 03, 2006 7:41 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 03, 2006 7:47 AM  

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