I was at the health foods expo once at the Anaheim Convention center. If you linger around ‘til the closing hours of the event early Sunday evening, vendors start going from giving away samples of their products to just throwing bags of free food into the crowd. There’s a tax on eating healthy and one year I estimated I got about $1,200 worth of free supplements and Boujee hippie elixirs, alternative milks and various herbal placebos.
That year, when the olive bar started giving out free olives, all hell broke loose. I saw an old man, wide with a trash bag wingspan full of free samples trample four women to get jars of green olives.
If you ever want to see the true nature of human beings, give them surreal discounts in a confined space.
I was online looking through potential estate sales on a Thursday night. It was San Diego cold and my socks were off. I have to specify this level of frigidity because I can feel the incredulous fist shaking from the one reader in Minnesota. Suffice to say, I was in for the night. There it was, an estate sale too alluring to ignore. The listing was full promising photographs of antique gems, the remaining possessions of a hoarder with an eye reminding me you can’t take it with you, but might as well enjoy it while you can.
The first day of the estate sale involves a list that usually goes out at 5 a.m. and a sale that starts calling out numbers at 8. You gotta get a low number on the list to get in before the gems get picked. Every once in a while, they put the list out the night before, so I put the socks back on and drove over to the address and signed up, No. 3. I bought myself a couple extra hours in the morning, but when I landed at the sale at 7:45 there was already the stirrings of upset folks. Someone had stolen the list in the night. Yup, that’s how competitive it is out there. So, I went from No. 3 to No. 83, which was a demotion not felt since Sean Spicer went from White House Press secretary to being eliminated from “Dancing with the Stars.”
I found the guy running the estate sale and pleaded for entrance. I said I was scrawny and wouldn’t take up space. I wouldn’t clog up the jewelry room, I just wanted in to the record room. I even presented a photograph I had taken of the list and the promoted me to No. 21 in line. I had a chance. The line was mostly antique guys and the record guys slept in.
When I got into the house’s thin corridors, I knew it was trouble. It was a claustrophobic person’s worst nightmare—trample city. The record room was small enough to confine a misbehaving prisoner in contemplative and torturous solitary. It was also full of records. Fuller than I realized. I had gotten a good stack together before two more record piranhas sardined themselves into the room. (I had to double down on the fish metaphors.) It was tighter than a 1992 Pantera mosh pit. I felt like we were all digging into our most ancient survival instincts.
As I was checking the records I got for scratches, the third man noticed that underneath the table was a bathtub filled with more records. I totally blew it. I had position, but I didn’t scan the room thoroughly. I also recognized “the third man” as the guy who got a killer collection of records in front of me at an estate sale about a decade ago. I heard something crash and him make a noise. The table had collapsed beneath the weight of records, pinning his arm against the bathtub. I only thought for one second “if he loses his arm, I can probably get the bathtub gems he gathered while he’s carted off to the hospital” but once that slim second passed, I jumped over him and held up the heavy table and did my best to keep that table steady while he kept grabbing Beatles and Rancid records.
It was somewhat revealing to know that I’m only part piranha and mostly human. I’ll recall missing the bathtub full of records ‘til senility sets in and hopefully allows me to live in earlier moments of better judgment. But I did grab a killer stack of records and one one-of-a-kind gem. The gem was an audiodisc homemade record from April 18, 1953. The artist was an unknown artist named Benny Strange and the song was called “Pretend,” a popular song, written in 1952 by Dan Belloc, Lew Douglas, Cliff Parman and Frank Levere. The recording reminds me of a Daniel Johnston recording with its youthful endearing innocence. I literally cried as I listened (though the lone teardrop was probably more from missing the bathtub full of rare records than the feelings I got from a fragilely delivered antique melody over cracking bar room piano notes, probably.)
Those interested in selling collections of records, CDs or cassettes should contact Alfred Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.