A friend and I went yard sailing today. She was looking for materials for an ongoing art project. I’m always up for a good yard sale, it simultaneously satisfies my consumer and voyeuristic vices in one swoop. Visiting the various locations on our list was ripe for an art project in itself, or perhaps an essay on class, consumption and the real use value of objects.
Up in the highest reaches of Mt Washington was one of our first stops. A house straight out of Dwell magazine, all modern facade, edgy, a cool detached gray and with the proper xeriscape landscape to go with it. The items for sale, however didn’t quite match the value, wealth and taste this house projected. Old vinyl purses caked with dirt, books on subjects of no particular importance, business park like furniture soiled and unremarkable. Worse yet, was the lemonade stand manned by the young boy of the house. When I was a kid and my grandmother would have her yearly yard sales, the neighbor kids, my brother and I looked forward to making homemade lemonade. The process of squeezing lemons, adding sugar and stirring the concoction gave us a real sense of accomplishment and pride. This little Dwell kid skipped all the hard work and was selling Tropicana lemonade from a half gallon carton. How very sad.
At another yard sale in the neighborhood, I recognized this strange man who last year at a holiday sale in Eagle Rock pestered attendees with signatures for a political campaign. He attempted to gain voters by claiming there was no fine dining in Eagle Rock, “you know the kind of places they have in Montebello” (wha???) and whose platform included the fight for more jobs and more malls. The guy had a memorably insincere face, a little like a Mexican Grinch. Imagine my surprise when he was manning, along with about five other people, this very yard sale. The woman who was the apparent owner of the for sale items, gray haired and in a wheelchair, told a sad story of losing her house through a real estate scam. She was attempting to sell off most of her belongings before she moved into a senior home. She had a beautiful tattoo that covered her whole arm, done only a few years before, she said. We would have bought more from her but her prices were a bit high. It was obvious she didn’t want to part with her house or her bric-a-brac.
At another stop, I was surprised to find a number of tantalizing items at extremely good prices. The women selling them said she needed to get rid of stuff to bring more in things and had actually gone to another yard sale before beginning hers. While browsing around, I heard a voice say “Hey, I know you!” I turned to see an instantly recognizable face, a fixture of the long gone Chicano renaissance scene of the 90s. Highland Park had been the epicenter of this cultural happening, the location of short lived institutions like the Popular Resource Center and a bookstore whose name I can’t think of at the moment. The guy talked about his disappointment with the Chicano scene and we both shared a laugh at no longer being part of the club. Actually, I had never been accepted into the club in the first place. Chicano Anarchists who talked of the similarities between Irish and Mexicans, told people how to get on welfare and didn’t tow the line on the local pirate radio station, were considered a liability, I suppose.
One of the best sales of the day, ended up being right across the street from my house where we bought a glass cake stand and cover for $3. The items for sale here looked as if they came off the back of a truck or leftovers from a department stores. There were a number of cute dresses not in my size but probably within my price range.
In the end, it seemed the higher we went in the hills the crappier the merchandise and higher the price. The folks in the lowlands seemed to have lives in transition and priced their wares accordingly.
More yard sale tales to come…
Plays by El Teatro de la Tierra (four in total)-$2