Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer, Books, & Yard Sales

Summer time and the livin' is easy."
Time to slow down,  soak in the sun,  relax with a few good books,  refresh, re-inspire, have fun, and let your imagination run free.

Summer in Parts: Relaxing with a few good books.

I'm back... I didn't go anywhere except for where books have taken me. I've been reading... a lot lately.

I love books! I haven't invested in a Nook, Kindle or the latest Nexus 7 because, like some, I like paper and the physical sensation of holding a paperback, turning pages and sticking bits of scrap paper, magazine inserts, color chips, anything I can find, sometimes actual bookmarks, even tissue paper to denote pausing places and pages worth revisiting or worthy of note taking. These would work... Green Markers created by Yuruliku.

In college, I used to dog-ear pages and underline text with a pen, an unattractive habit thankfully replaced by handwritten notes in steno pads... volumes worth. For me, taking notes are a way of extracting the 'essential guts' of a book, recording brilliant ideas and poetic passages, condensing a book down to its core to be used later as reference or inspiration.

During our 'Stutz' days, in Jenkintown, my studio had a floor to ceiling shallow closet built by Michael to house my books. When the white fold-out doors were closed, it became a solid wall that no one would ever have guessed contained such a huge collection. The books were organized by subject content making it easy to find books at a glance. Even with the doors closed, and some of the books still unread, this 'closet of knowledge' had a powerful presence. It spoke to who I was, what I valued and where I was at any given point in my adult life.

Here's Stutz, a candy store on the first floor, and us on the second and third floors.

We had quite a few of these handmade floor to ceiling closets throughout our 3,500 sq ft loft space. A friend once commented on our monk-like existence, bare, empty, and void of any visible possessions. Visible was the key word because all our 'stuff', tons of it accumulated over many years, was hidden from sight behind these closet doors disguised as walls.

When we got word the building we rented for so many years was sold and we were forced to move, we faced many difficult decisions... the first being... where do we live next? The second... what do we do with all our stuff!?

Thanks to my copious note taking I was able to pare down my book collection to what I deemed essential and unable to part with, while boxing the rest for donation, giveaway, or sale... or something creative like Spanish artist Alicia Martin's use of books in her series 'Biografias'.

We decided on a yard sale.

While most people have yard sales to get rid of stuff they don't want, we didn't want to get rid of anything, but had no choice.

I spent several months looking over all our things deciding what to keep and take with us and which items to designate for our yard sale.

This truly was a stressful time for us. We hated leaving our home and town and I kept looking for a sign from the 'Universe' telling me that this move was going to be okay and that one day we'd be happy again.

That sign eventually appeared.

In the wee hours of the morning, the township had erected several signs on the corner where we lived at Greenwood Avenue and Cedar Streets. They read...DO NOT ENTER. It was apparent that from that day on maneuvering around the neighborhood was going to be a challenge. I took it as 'THE SIGN' that meant it was time to move on.

So Michael placed an ad in our local paper and posted signs everywhere announcing our yard sale. For the location, he listed 'On the corner of "DO NOT ENTER' and 'DO NOT ENTER'... along with an actual physical location...clever boy!

Our sale was set for 9:00 AM. At 7:30 AM, we were surprised to see people in parked cars, 'yard sale devotees' eager for a deal or precious find, as Michael, myself, and dear friend Denisee Pie (my nickname for her) began  setting up shop. Within minutes, those waiting in their cars were out and about and offering to help us get organized. We were amazed and grateful for the extra hands as we were still putting things out when 9:00 AM arrived.

We took over most of the parking lot that belonged to the 'Stutz' building. We had tables and tables and tables set up with items sorted, tagged, and categorized, selling anything and everything you can imagine... merchandise in mint condition, some items never used and an entire stone wall full of books... a zillion books all looking brand new.

This was the mother of all yard sales.

One woman approached me and wanted to know how to become a Barnes and Noble representative. Upon further questioning, it became apparent that she thought I was a small subsidiary of the giant bookseller. She was stunned when I told her all the books were mine.

Another, a teen passing by, spotted an expensive men's leather jacket that I had bought at a 'beyond belief bargain', but wore only twice because it was too heavy. He left, got mom, and $25 later was modeling it and I'm sure beaming all the way home. Another man bought a new pair of Levi Jeans, never worn, but purchased in slimmer times. After trying them on in the garage next door, he too, left a happy customer.

There were Polaroid cameras, kitchen items, vases, art objects, stationery, clothes, handmade crafts, knickknacks and these concrete containers sold without flowers.

You name it... we sold it! One friend, Carol, bought a crockpot. Another friend Lisa, bought a Coach  bag, a fan, shelving, and a magnetic game, continually questioning if I really wanted to sell them. One woman bought so many items I can only imagine she was stockpiling for Christmas, or opening up her own store. With each item she held, she bargained for a discount and we acquiesced. Her young daughter pleaded for a silver plastic tiara, the one D. Pie had given me years back to celebrate my birthday... I am the 'Queen of Birthdays'. This child, now with a crown on her head, fancifully paraded around like the 'Princess of Yard Sales'... sweet!

The stream of people never stopped. My friend Joey 'D' and his friend Phil came up from Center City to check out the event and to surprise us with lunch from Sarcone's Deli, the makers of the best hoagies in Philly. We took turns eating as the crowds just kept coming.

We met so many nice people. Some came looking for bargains. Some came out of curiosity, to see just where this place at the corner of Do Not Enter and Do Not Enter existed. We were so grateful to all who came and shared a bit of themselves.

Our last customers left at 8:00 PM!!!... with a trunk full of stuff like all our planters, a humidifier, two sports jackets barely worn, a broiler still in its original box (bought for an art project I never tackled) among other things. She and her husband talked to us as they shopped. She was a nurse who nursed her husband back to health after a sudden illness. She came back the next day to give us some vitamins and information on the benefits of Pycnogenol. Beverly was her name. She wasn't a rep for the product, just a genuinely good person.

Also returning was a man who didn't have money with him the day of the sale. I just gave him the two books he wanted, but he insisted on paying me the very next day. I found out he delivered pizzas and was an avid reader, reading everything and anything he could get his hands on. He loved my varied collection. I had planned on donating the few bags of books I had left to the library, but gave them to him instead. I knew these books would be in good hands.

Our yard sale was a huge success. Not only did we sell out of everything with the exception of a handful of items and a few bags of books, but we found the whole experience to be somewhat cathartic... purging us of accumulated things, readying ourselves for a major lifetime move, being with friends, meeting new people while having a lot of fun and earning extra cash... close to $2,500!!!

Hmmm... more money for books?... a possibility.

Also possible is that, somewhere, someone, dressed in lightweight summer clothes or swimwear is reclining on a lounge chair, possibly purchased at a yard sale, sipping some freshly brewed iced tea, and enjoying a favorite book... once owned by me!

Hey!... as my brother would say with his New York accent..."Ya neva know."

I'd like to know...

About your yard sale experiences or flea market finds. Have you ever found a gem worthy of The Antiques Road Show?

Books... paper or digital?

What ways are you relaxing or dreaming of relaxing this summer?

Here are a few connections you might find interesting...

The first is a clever, little clip from the people at Hema. Turn on the volume and wait for it to load here. You might see something you like or be reminded of something you already own, stashed in some drawer, just waiting for that next yard sale.

Another short clip... on Alicia Martin's book installation where you can see the pages flapping in the wind here.

And coincidently, gifted to me while I was writing this post, is the newly released book written by Katie Haegele called "White Elephants... On Yard Sales, Relationships, & Finding What Was Missing". I just started reading it and she seems like my kind of writer, speaking in conversational tones. You can read a review of her book here.

Here's to summer
...a time when being idle and enjoying leisure moments
becomes not only acceptable but expected.

Enjoy yours!


  1. Yes!! The post on books, like one of the really important chapters in the "Dyan Book of Adventures" takes me back to so many old written friends, now sold, traded, discarded, lent out, kept on a shelf, but most of all soulfully inscribed within. Do you remember the first one you read?

    1. Hmmm... interesting question!

      Amazing that I can recall back that far with any detail. I must have been around seven or eight years old when I was given a children's book of poetry. It was a picture book of sorts, big, thin, and hardbound with an illustration of a large butterfly on the cover... no jacket. I remember the words..."Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink". Maybe I was just really, really, thirsty at the time or hungry for more books for it to have left such an impression.

      What was your first book?

  2. As one who made it into the blog for buying some wonderful things, I must say it was the best yard sale!
    Funny timing as we pack up and out the contents of my mother's house and young life home. There are lots of ways that objects work in our lives. Reading one on a beach sounds like a great idea.

    1. Hey Mill

      Re: "Reading one on a beach sounds like a great idea"...
      ... as in Sanibel? I think a vacation somewhere... almost anywhere, is just what you need right now. Go for it!

  3. As always,I really enjoyed your posting. I loved reading about your wonderful and very successful yard sale. M. was very clever with his directions in the newspaper. I had a garage sale once when we moved from our old house to our present house. It was a lot of work and I haven't had one since. I was amazed at the people who were there early waiting for the doors to open. It felt good to get rid of stuff (also in excellent condition)and have some extra cash for it. Now I just donate my stuff to either the Boy Scouts, who have a gigantic, annual sale or AmVets or Goodwill. I'm too lazy to do all the work required for a garage sale. As a kid I loved to go to the Methodist Church's annual "Rummage Sale". You could buy loads of stuff for just pennies. As an adult I am not interested in going to yard or garage sales. At this point in my life I'm trying to get rid of stuff, not accumulate it. However, last summer our next door neighbors had a huge garage sale because they were moving to Florida and were getting rid of nearly everything. (Even a Harley Davidson motorcycle!) I bought all kinds of stuff from them, the best being a prelight 7foot Christmas tree for $25. I had been wanting one for years but didn't want to spend the money on one.
    I wish I had more time to read in the summer but I find myself constantly doing chores in the yard and garden: watering, weeding, doing battle with the squirrels, keeping the birdfeeders full and clean etc.etc. When I do read it is the newspaper or magazine articles. Although I enjoy fiction, I prefer to read something that is factual and I can learn something from it. For that reason, I love reading "Readers Digest". It's full of interesting stories about real people and a variety of topics.

    My other problem with reading is that when I do it, it is at the end of the day and I find myself falling asleep even though I am interested in what I'm reading. It's very frustrating.

    Earlier this summer I decided to start reading in bed at night. Don't laugh when I tell you what I'm reading. It's the "Little House on the Prairie" series. I had bought the books long before I had children in the hopes of one day reading them to a future daughter. As a child I had read a few of the books and absolutely loved them. I did read maybe the first two to my daughter and hoped that she would read the rest on her own, but she never did. I thought it would be fun to go back and revisit those stories and read them in sequence and fill in with the ones I missed. I try to read a chapter a night but I've missed a lot lately.

    Great idea to take notes on what you are reading and putting it in notebooks to be used later for reference or inspiration. You are full of clever, creative ideas!

    1. Thanks for your great descriptive comment... much appreciated! Sounds like you too had a neat experience with a yard sale from a buyer's perspective. What finds to be had. I had to chuckle when you mentioned falling asleep while reading at night. It's no wonder... your outdoor chores between getting some sun, and all that yard work would have me asleep before I could even reach for a book.