Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sale-ing Along the Potomac
The godsons and I had an early Saturday morning yard sale-ing date. The previous weekend, we’d seen signs advertising several such events around Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market area. My youngest godson, “V”, shares my enthusiasm for trash digging, so it’s only natural that we would enjoy the innate thrills of searching for treasures among other people’s belongings (albeit while they watch!). And, older godson “D” is just as happy to join in the melee.
Once again, I set my alarm for 6 AM Saturday morning, just so we could be among the early birds (hey – I can always sleep-in during the off-season months). True to form, V was awake and dressed and met me at the door when I arrived at Sig-O’s Cap Hill home less than two hours later. (‘D’ was still basking in Dreamland, so V and I decided to do reconnaissance at our first scheduled stop of the day: the annual “Trash to Treasure” yard sale at 6th and I Streets SE; doesn’t it just sound divine?!?). Imagine our overwhelming disappointment when, after rushing to get to the Promisedland, we discover that the T2T sale had been postponed to NEXT Saturday, all because of the threat of rain! AMATEURS! V and I weren’t afraid of a few potential raindrops! Not about to let this turn of events derail us from our saling quest, we drove back to Sig-O’s house to regroup.
By this time, D was out of bed, but still draggin’. So, while he finished pulling himself together V and I walked the few blocks to Eastern Market to hunt for signs of other sales. With notebook in hand, the eight year-old V made a list of potential homes to visit; once they had been prioritized and mapped out for maximum logistical efficiency, we went back to pick up D in hope of finding a grand variety of must-haves.
The first stop on our newly prioritized list turned out to be most fortuitous (and costly!). The signs directing us this garage sale indicated there would be VINTAGE FURNITURE! Rushing the godsons down the now slightly wet brick sidewalks along North Carolina Avenue towards the Hill’s Lincoln Park, we spotted our destination a block away: there, sitting on the sidewalk, were several substantial pieces of furniture and home decor. Already this sale hinted at being the mother lode!
The closer we got to the home, the more shallow my breathing became….Two gentlemen were in the process of setting up for the sale, dragging more and more pieces of finery out of a garage that seemed built solely for the purpose of housing décor overflow. Although we were arriving a few minutes before the designated start time, the sale was already in full swing. A table sitting on the tiny lawn along the drive immediately caught my attention: a rectangular rattan base painted orangey yellow, with a cream laminate top. At first glance, it appeared that there was a folding laminate screen had been placed on top of the base. However, further investigation (and a query to one of the sale’s sponsors) uncovered that the laminate actually unfolded and slid across the bases, converting the piece from a sofa table to a dining table! Details included brass fittings along the top’s edges and the feet. Though not terribly vintage (late ‘80s?), the table’s vibe was quite chic and functional.
While D and V were searching through the detritus of a neighboring yard sale, many other pieces from the gentlemen’s collection struggled for my attention: an oak rolltop desk, a column rescued from a period Cap Hill home, and an Empire-style keyhole desk. However, a set of black painted dining chairs placed near the garage’s opening kept issuing the Siren’s Call. The six (five side- and one arm-chair) humbly sat along the yard’s edge, without seat bottoms. I noticed one of the gentlemen in the garage, armed with a staplegun and hastily covering a wooden seat with red twill; might this be for the chairs currently in my sight?
Twirling amongst the bounty of this locale, I recognized that I was beginning to get swept into the Vintage Vertigo vortex. Breathing deeply, I extracted myself enough to (1) locate D&V, who were negotiating the purchase of a cookbook next door, and (2) step back from the delicious décor lying before me in order to make some semblance of a calm and rational buying decision. The owner of all these treasures (who, as it turns out, had moved to the Hill two years ago from Savannah and felt the need to downsize his extensive décor collection) became keenly aware of my interest and strolled over, ready to strike a deal. We discussed several of the pieces, but my attention kept getting drawn to the unique slide-top table. However, I managed to tear myself away, with the intent of pondering all the possibilities before me while checking out other sales on our list (and heading back to the Passat to measure the wagon’s maximum cargo capacity!).
Along the way, D&V picked up several treasures of their own: a world globe sitting on a wooden stand, a pair of cut-glass votives, and – OMG! – a trio of disco ball keychains (for godson V, of course!). Knowing that Sig-O (whose parting words to me that morning were, “PLEASE don’t let the boys buy a lot of junk!”) would go into cardiac arrest once he saw the boys’ box of booty, I nonetheless accompanied D&V back to their house, globe in hand like the mighty Atlas. (To his credit, when Sig-O greeted us at the door, he simply sighed heavily and left for a dogwalk.) After unloading from Round 1, the boys assisted me with measuring the Passat’s interior, and we headed back to the garage sale; I was now armed with the knowledge of my transport limitations, and the resolve to purchase ONLY the chic table – and ONLY if its measurements proved to be Passat-compliant.
A block away from our destination, we saw Sig-O and pup walking towards us; they happened to be directly in front of the garage sale at that very moment! Commanding Sig-O to stay put, my cohorts and I crossed the street and began to engage him in examining our potential purchases. (While I was concerned with Sig-O’s thoughts on the folding-top table, D&V accosted their dad with the merits of a stuffed Flying Monkey being offered for $2. We all have our obsessions.) Sig-O, typically less enthusiastic about the object of my desire (I had low expectations going in!), asked the ridiculous “Where Are You Going to Put It” question, then continued on his dogwalk. However, before he had gotten very far, another guy strolled up and greeted us both. “Kevin” recognizing us from Results gym, engaged in friendly banter while I simultaneously began negotiating the garage sale’s host for the folding-top table. While I was bemoaning the fact that I had no way to transport (much less store!) all the pieces offered as part of his initial deal (the table, six dining chairs, AND the Empire desk), our rediscovered acquaintance Kevin graciously offered to assist with the transport dilemma – his pickup truck was parked only a few feet way! OK, now it was decision time: in an effort to compromise on my desires, I finally negotiated a fair price for the table and the dining chairs. It was arranged that Kevin would carry the chairs (and godson D) back to Sig-O’s house, and I would come back later in the day to claim the table.
Hoping beyond hope that Sig-O would have left for his gym workout before a truckload of chairs arrived at his doorstep, V and I hurried back to the house. But of course, Sig-O was there to greet us and my newfound treasures. He agreed to let me temporarily store them in his garage. However, sensing that the thought of having any of my finds cramping his space was enough to induce cardiac infarction, once he left I managed to fit the six chairs and the two godsons into the Passat, and off we went back to Arlington to unload (and have a well-earned Mickey D’s breakfast).
Within a couple of hours, the dining chairs were in the already cramped (I mean, ‘cozy’) Chateau d’ Howard, D&V were returned to Cap Hill, and the chicest-of-chic rattan table was loaded into the Passat/delivery truck (where, BTW, it still resides).
We didn’t make it to ALL the sales on V’s list, but I think we did a commendable job anyway. And, we still have the Trash-to-Treasures Yard Sale coming up!