Thrift Store Monday #005: A Fine Specimen

This week, I cleared space on my deck. I took measurements for my hot tub. Not because I’m remotely anywhere close to buying it. It was a desperately sad little act I wanted to participate in, otherwise known as “dreaming.” I spent the better part of a day researching what would fit and what wouldn’t collapse the deck and make my wife very very very angry. She’s thinks there are better things to spend money on than putting hundreds of gallons of warm water on our deck. But I don’t see her digging through dirty, musty stuffed animals at Goodwill to buy a farmhouse copper sink for herself.

Besides, I want something concrete to work towards — not just an abstract, hazy image of a “Hot Tub.” I just want something real that I can buy and be happy forever, completely fullfilled and released from the vicious cycle of consumption and desire.

There are two kinds of hot tubs: ones that cost $2000 worth of electrical work to run new wiring and breaker boxes, and ones that you can just plug into a normal outlet. Since there isn’t anything sexy about working hard and saving up two-grand to pay an electrician, I’ve began leaning towards the kind that you can just plug in. They won’t provide hardcore hydrotherapy — and it’s not going to be my luxorious dream hot tub overlooking the mountains. It’s going to be in my backyard, overlooking the plastic Little Tikes playhouse and turtle sandbox. A small plug and play tub will do me fine.

It looks like I can get one for $3000. I’ve decided if I can hustle $1500 to pay up front, I can finance the rest in affordable monthy payments. I sold a few more small, unexciting items on eBay this week. I sold the Star Trek toys that I wrote about in Thrift Store Monday #001. The Catzilla mug I bought in that run still sits. I will have that thing until the day I die. Unless a mysterious benefactor here wants to buy it.

I’m at around…drum roll…. 7% of my goal.

At the thrift store this week, I found this Mario. My wife assumed I was going to keep it, complimenting it. “It’s a good Mario,” she said,

It’s a really good Mario. Just look at it. A good ‘un. A great Mario. A sizeable Mario. Like catching a good fish. A fine specimen of Mario. I’d be dead inside if I didn’t want to keep it. It would look great adorning my shelf with old Nintendo games and consoles. It would be the crown jewel of Marios. He’s big, twenty inches tall, a collectible World of Nintendo figure.

But he’s also a “worth $25 profit” Mario, so off he goes to the another forever home, where he will be a very good Mario to someone else.

Thrift Store Monday #004: The Dregs

I sold a couple small items throughout the week and now have fifty dollars in my account. Positivity. Hard work. Hustle. I could be a goddamn motivational speaker.

The dog had a $268 vet bill. She’s been having accidents in the house. She’s either anxious from not having a fenced-in yard at our new home, or I’m denying her the sweet relief of a simple antibiotic for an infection. Since dogs can’t talk, an expensive blood/urine panel will do just the trick. Could also be Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or a dark intertwining forest of possibilities that the veterinarian invites me to step into with her. Every square you land on is another expensive test. This isn’t a nightmare, it’s the real-life version of Candy Land.

Inspections on our old home came back. The buyers of our old house want the electric panel to be safe and not burn their new home down. It never threatened to burn down our house at any other point in the last decade, but it seemed like a fair request to bring it up to code. There was hair in the drains. They wanted a licensed plumber — and not me — to remove it for $125. I suppose all of this is better than the inspector discovering a structurally unsound foundation from that time the mouth of hell tried to swallow us, so I just need to find my Zen place as I hand my credit card over to every human being on planet earth.

Verizon double-charged my account and overdrew it. Fuck me for saving $10 a month by enrolling in autopay, right? When I call to try to get it corrected, the hold time is one hour. Everytime I think I’m going to commit, I crack at six minutes and hang up. I have so much bullshit to do.

It’s my son’s fifth birthday this week, and since a decoration-less, cake-less, gift-less party would make everyone feel like killing themselves, I’ll give Target a cut of the money of I’m handing out.

Wow, it looks like I have -$1043 towards my hot tub. Can’t wait for the next eBay buyer to complain that I didn’t leave positive feedback first, extorting me by leaving negative feedback. Who then writes me a long email lecturing on the finer points of “good business,” making me go through a formal process of requesting feedback change — only after I leave them feedback worshiping them at their altar. 1) It’s depressing this is your hobby, 2) you’re on my Arya Stark kill list, 3) GREAT BUYER A+++++ EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION.

All this so I can keep my account in good standing, my only source of side income and probably Christmas funds. By the way, if the dog is having depression, the fence installed is $2850. Since I wrote this earlier, I got the results back and it’s a UTI. The antibiotic is another $50! This is the dregs of life.

I found a plush Pterodactyl from the Jim Henson/PBS show Dinosaur Train. It was three bucks at Goodwill. Someone bought one on eBay for $49.99. I have no idea why, except they were probably having their own fit of the dregs, and maybe they needed the perfect gift for their kid’s birthday. I think I’ll cut the next person a break and list it for $35.00.

The Kubler-Ross Stages of Moving

Stage 1: Denial

It’s not going to be that bad. I’ll just put it all in boxes, tape them shut, and move them in a neat fashion. It will be clean and pure, like sipping on Holy Water or watching an episode of Full House.

I will keep everything orderly by marking the moving boxes with color-coordinated numbers. It will be so simple — not at all a twisting, increasingly-constricting labrynith into the deepest recesses of my mind. The color red for the basement, the number one for the dining room, blue on the first floor, twos for the living room. Black is for the color of my heart, and three is I’m terrified this is all I have to show for my life: a ukulele I’m never going to learn to play, a coffee table book about UFOs, and a really bitchin’ Miller Lite bar mirror I found at the thrift store.

And these Ninja Turtles trolls! A plush Crash Test Dummy? Wow, weird. Remember those commercials? Ha Ha Ha! It’s mint in the box! Never played with! Longing to be loved or ejected through a windshield! Want a thingamabob? I GOT THREE HUNDRED. Stone Protectors! Animorphs Books! Spuds MacKenszie the Original Party Animal mug, bitches. Pee Wee Herman mask! Micro Machines Man¬†here to tell you about the genuine original marvelous majestic¬†Micro Machines! It’s-a-me, Mario!

Alright, whoa, I’ve pulled myself back together. I will stack these boxes so neatly, it will be ecstasy. Just so much order, just so much intent, just so much accomplishment, represented visually. Every day I will do a little bit of the overwhelming daunting task of packing my entire house while working a full-time job, caring for two small children, and scanning in these three thousand documents the loan company wants. I will do it all mindfully, chipping away a bit at a time, like I am sculpting a statue of Apollo, so much beauty, so much vigor.

Stage 2: Anger

Why do I have so much shit?

WHY THE FUCK DO I HAVE SO MUCH SHIT, but this time it’s spoken in an aggressive, deeper voice rumbling from the pits of my guts. What is that ragey, scary voice? Is that the voice of my intestines?

Stage 3: While Cleaning Out the Shed, I Discover Kittens! Jo hurried to the shed, where she discovered a litter of mossy newborn kittens. They padded and pounced queerly behind the lawnmower and grass seed, the remnants of a failed dream of having a verdant yard.

Christ, I’m cracking up, man. Why is my internal voice now speaking in the narrative form of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women?

Stage 4: Bargaining. I could save the kittens, adopt them all. Bring them into the house, move them all to our new one. The children would be gleeful, the dog would be totally cool with wild animals, how much do vaccinations cost for eight feral kittens anyway? Can’t be too bad. If I could just save these kittens, I could also save myself. I need to be saved from these thoughts, this moving process — mostly these thoughts, and this weird voice speaking like Alcott. Always getting my spirit in scraps again, just like Jo.

The next day, by the shed, a black snake appears.

Stage 5: The long dark tunnel of depression. What’s the point of anything? I should just give up. Nothing means anything to me. How deep is this void inside of me that I’ve spent so much money filling it in with all of this shit? Look at these boxes. I don’t even know what’s in them. I can live without it. Look at me, living, breathing, not giving a damn what’s in these boxes. I buy things just so the feelings exist outside of me in a phsyical manifestation. Is it just me or is Dr. Zasio from Hoarders kind of hot? I wish she would come smack me.

Everything is so truly gruesome in this world. Kids are starving. People are dying. Nukes are pointing at us. I should stop spending and start digging. Digging the fall-out shelter — for what though? My father always said you better pray you’re the first to die after it drops, because you wouldn’t want to live in the aftermath. To relax, after a long day of packing, I google Nuclear Winter. I feel great. Fucking great. Virile. My wife gently suggests I take my anti-depressants. She says she doesn’t think the snake ate the kittens. I nod. Mother Cat moved them under the shed, Jo, that’s all.

Stage 6. Acceptance. Trash bags. It’s the terminal end stage of moving. You’re no longer packing boxes and politely taping them up. The end stage is shoving your shit in contractor bags. Heaving, sweating, dragging the body bags of oddly shaped items that don’t fit anywhere else. Everything is trash. It’s acceptance. It’s peace. It’s a carnie humping it all to the next site, and unpacking the carnival elsewhere.

The physical labor of moving staves off the voices and rage and depression. Everything is equalized as it is unpacked.

New house. Happiness. House warming. Hang up the Live Laugh Love sign. Dance Like No One is Watching. Jo finally learned that hearts, like flowers, cannot be rudely handled, but must open naturally.

Thrift Store Monday #003

It’s Thrift Store Monday ya’ll, the series where I get rich off the thrift store. Backstory: we’ve moved into our new house, and there’s a space on the deck for the hot tub I’ve always dreamed of having. Except we’re not loaded. So in conjuction with “Thrift Store Monday,” I’ve decided I’m going to “Hustle A Hot Tub” and write about it.

The challenge: Make $5k off thrift flipping and other side hustles. I’ll find Picassos at Goodwill, respond to sketchy scientific studies in the back of the newspaper, secret shop your ass at yo retail job, draw the beauty contest community chest card, and sell handmade jewelry. Not that I make jewelry, but what if making stoneware jewelry is my secret hidden talent?

Maybe there’s an editor reading this, ready to give me a six figure publishing contract. Maybe I have a secret admirer who is independently wealthy. Maybe I’ll find treasure buried in my backyard with my metal detector. Maybe my dog will become a viral sensation.

But for now, I’ll stick to thrifting. As usual, I made it to my spot with about thirty minutes left to hunt, after getting the kids in bed. The employees had already turned off the music and were aggressively power-move vacuuming to signal that customers were no longer welcome.

No time to cruise. I power-walked the aisles looking for quick hits. The store had “Recently Deceased” vibes throughout. The knick-knacks and gewgaws aisle was on fire with a fresh assortment of ceramic dogs with sad eyes and Snow Babies.

Without a lot of time to research and dig, and coming up empty on quick hits, the framed pictures aisle was my last hope. I needed a Picasso, but finding Michaelangelo the Creation of Adam would do. Instead I found a framed Peanuts drawing.

I picked it up, full of iconic characters, vivid and colorful, eye-catching. It looked like an animation cel. But more interestingly, it had a seal on it that said “authenticated by the Peanuts Film Gallery.” I whipped out my phone searching for that phrase.

The first item to come up was on Amazon, listed for $3750. Holy shit. I imagined everything Authenticated by the Peanuts Film Gallery — whatever or where ever that is — was worth that much. Nevermind that I had never heard of it. The Gallery was an important Snoopy institution with gilded halls and professional Peanuts appraisers. I had hit the jackpot. In fact, I had I never known God’s plan for me until this very moment. God’s plan for me was to have that hot tub, immediately. I pictured myself lounging in it by August.

The employees announced a final GTFO over the intercom. At ten bucks, it was a no brainer. Of course, once I got home and did actual research on the computer, I discovered the item was not quite so rare or valuable. It was a “sericel,” sort of a Xerox of an actual animated cel, produced in a limited run in 1994. It’s like a budget collectable. One sold at an auction house for $60, which is not exactly August Hot Tub, but it’s a start.

I still don’t know God’s plan for me, except I guess he wants me to write these dumb things and maybe inspire people. What will you hustle for this summer? I also sold a $15 record on ebay yesterday, which is the official starting point. Only $4985 to go.

Home, Once We Were

I’m back. I always come back. We spent the last month buying a new, larger home, and moving. Hooray. That will be the only excitement you’ll get from me.

I revisited the writing I did when we bought our prior house, a decade ago, as first-time homeowners. I was young, excited, and chipper as fuck about it. Which was fine. I deserved my excitement and chipperness. I deserved my youth. As I’ve grown older, my excitement has become a feeling of relief. My chipperness has been replaced with weariness.

In our first home, I had wanted features like a basement for the arcade, and a big yard for the in-ground, heart-shaped swimming pool. I dreamed big. I dreamed hard. In our second home, we wanted good sight lines to make sure our children weren’t suffocating each other while we made dinner and paid bills on the computer.

The arcade never happened. Instead the heat pump broke in the middle of a frigid winter and needed a replacement. No one really, seriously wanted a heart-shaped pool, with LED lights and neon palm trees and music piping in from decorative rocks. Anyway, the old backyard had a grading problem, bowlegged and mangly with vines and roots, grumpy and stubborn. It didn’t want to be raked over and fussed with.

I tried to grow grass, and then moss. I researched paver patios and planted things that never grew. I strung rope lighting along the deck, which had an ambience about it, until the mosquitos came out to feed. Eventually I found a peaceful co-existence with the yard, the ugly thing, bare and naked, but it never flooded my basement, nor swallowed my home. It held us, our piece of the world, and I yanked up its weeds and shooed away its cobwebs. This turned out to be more spiritually fulfilling than my Las Vegas pool idea, but like I said, I deserved my youth.

We got a dog. We brought newborns home. We painted rooms. We fought. We replaced the roof. We planned vacations and pretended the condos were ours, and that we lived seaside, but it always felt so good to be back home, once we were.

Most of the neighbors turned over in the decade we lived there. We were the last ones left. It was fine, but it also felt sad — a sadness in the way old people seem to carry sadness, in a plain and neutral way, like a stick of gum in the handbag. The people that were there are gone — not that I knew them, not that I miss them, but only that things have changed. And now we have changed, too. We are gone, too.

But we are also still here. We bought a house in the same neighborhood. It has the same DNA and bones as our first home, just up the street. It has the sightlines and the spare rooms, an extra bathroom, a good roof. It also has a space for an arcade, and a hot tub, a tire swing, and a hammock. I still dream hard. I still flirt with backyards that will never have me.