field trip: Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2012

sidewalk chalk sign, Eastmoreland, Portland

This past weekend was the 27th Annual Eastmoreland Garage Sale, a huge, two-day neighborhood yard sale held each June. My friend Jeff and I went for the first time last year and decided to make it an annual outing. Some people sell hot dogs, burgers, and cookies to raise money for schools or charities. Kids have lemonade stands. Portable toilets can be found down at Duniway Elementary School. But most of all, it's just fun (for those of us who like used stuff) to walk around peeking at other people's discards. And deals can be had—better than at the thrift store.

Last year, I spent a whopping $1.25. At one house, I picked up an unused 25-cent Moleskine address book to replace my well used shabby one, only to have Jeff ask, "Do you really need that?" He keeps everything on his iPhone, but I'm old enough and contrary enough that I do at times prefer paper. The memory still makes me chuckle. Then later in the day at another house, Jeff heard me gasp because I'd just spotted a Heath Ceramics teapot, a white one with removable leather-wrapped copper handle, retailing new in different shades each year for $190. (Nope, that wasn't a typo.) This one has a small chip on the interior of the pot that can't be seen from the outside, but the sellers only wanted $1 for it, one whole dollar. It was a good day for thrift.

garage sale Heath teapot, $1

We learned last year, after wandering around more or less lost and directionless, that marked sale maps detailed with numbers, addresses, and descriptions can be picked up at the Eastmoreland Market. So that's where we met up this year on Sunday at 10 AM, aiming straight for the box of maps sitting outside the closed grocery store. Last year we went on Saturday, a sunny, warm day. However, this Saturday it was pouring much of the day, so because we didn't feel like getting drenched, we opted for Sunday, and the weather rewarded us for the wait. What we found out this year, though, is that only a quarter or third of the sales continue through Sunday, meaning we missed most of the sale, though many of the Sunday vendors were dropping prices. Seriously, Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association, why isn't that kind of information up on the Web site? Couldn't someone put up a PDF of the map, too, or at least indication of where to locate the official maps (because buyers and even some sellers kept asking us where we got ours)? Need I volunteer?  

sample yard sale, Eastmoreland Garage Sale 2012, Portland

Prior to starting, we circled all the numbers on our map of Sunday sales and took a more thorough, planned route than last year. Sellers were friendly and eager to complain about the rain the day before, how they got soaked through. One woman said she'd changed shoes three times. Several said by the time the rain stopped later in the day, they were worn out, their hearts no longer in it.

In any case, this year each of us spent just a dollar for almost five hours of fresh air, strolling conversation, and yard browsing. Jeff bought a large, poster-sized beveled mirror he's going to build a frame for, and I bought a pristine hardcover, which I'll resell after reading. In any case, though we didn't find much to buy, the stuff wasn't really the point. It was also good research for the individual garage sale Jeff's planning for July. We learned, for example, that the "fill a bag for a dollar" trick rapidly moves merchandise. The buyers at that house were grabbing and stuffing all around us. Maybe they planned to resell the items at their own garage sales this summer.

Little Free Library, Eastmoreland, Portland

While Jeff was storing his new, rather dusty mirror in my trunk, I happened to stick my hand down into the back seat pocket of the used car I bought months ago and fished up a bunch of Crayola markers, remnants of somebody's family life. So we added them to the pile of books in the Little Free Library box around the block (sorry, I don't remember the street or address, but such boxes appear to be a growing trend across town). And we saw free-roaming chickens in someone's front yard.

free-roaming chickens, Eastmoreland, Portland

putting-green lawn, Eastmoreland, Portland

And I stopped and marveled at one lawn that stood out from all the others (we watched an older woman pulling into the driveway, driving a champagne-colored Buick), smooth and trim as a putting green. It reminded me of a passage in a library book I finished recently, British naturalist Richard Mabey's Weeds, in which he remarks as a side note on the strange fascination Americans have (compared to Brits) with highly manicured, weedless lawns. I guess that's what all the June rain is for—green lawns and green pears.

green-and-red pear, Eastmoreland, Portland

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