Miss(ed) Manners

June 17, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Dave vs. The Mountain of Junk, Part I

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 4:14 pm

Silkworms are disgusting, filthy little creatures. Sure, silk is great, without it we’d all be wearing cotton underpants, but do you know where it comes from? Their ass, dude. Basically, these worms infest a tree, eat all the leaves, shit all over the place, and then when they’re done, they drop from the tree by a tether of butt-silk to the ground. This silk then gets caught in your mouth, hair and eyes and just gives you the cold ball sack heebie jeebies. Also, any time the wind blows, the wormshit falls out of the tree like chocolate rain.

Oh sweet Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, I hate these little fuckers. But last Friday I was pitted in an epic battle, wherein they were actually the lesser evil. A promise I had made over a year ago, to help my Grandmother produce a garage sale had come due.

If ever there was a living illustration of the phrase, “the things you own end up owning you,” it is my Grandmother, Bette Cole, the Tag Sale Maven of Vinyard Haven, Martha’s Vinyard. Her home on the island has been my summer retreat for 25 years and her full time residence for over thirty. She’s stuffed her split level house full of knicks, knacks and projects to the breaking point.

I had come to relieve my conscience that she might be crushed by a tumbling wall of junk, she was there to make a little cash, but that’s a story for Part II. I won’t get into what being a full time tag saler is all about either, but rest assured that Bette is among the highest ranks of this society of schwag, this cult of crap.

I started work at 9am in a cloud of dust and lack of direction. It was everywhere, lining the walls in ice cream cone boxes, stuffed into milk cartons and filled to the brim of a crawl space I would come to call “The Hole.”

As I moved the first of nearly sixty pieces of the most battered furniture you could possibly imagine, I first notice the silk worms. There were millions of them, dangling in the wind and covering the paint peeled dressers and tables in their feces faster than I could heft them out. My subtle instincts told me that this sale would have to stay in the garage.

I’ve spent the last three years of my life being, for lack of a better word, a peddler. I came with high hopes that my trade skills of moving vast amounts of non-neccessary and generally undesirable merchandise would come in handy. In the end, it would be my latent obsessive compulsive disorder that would win the day, because how do you take five hundred square feet full of junk and make it into five hundred square feet of selling space? By making sure everything is at right angles to each other, that’s how.

After five hours of milling around, just moving crap from one side of the garage to the other and battling the now ground-mobile armed detachment of silk worms trying to encroach on the garage, my Grandmother and I enacted the final solution, we called an exterminator.

I’m generally on the “nay” side of genocide, but this was a neccessary evil. All of her trees were almost completely de-leafed, the furniture ruined (that’s relatively speaking of course) and no one in their right mind would come to help me unload this junk if there were butt-silkworms hanging around. My Grandmother’s tag sale was about to become a Wormoshima.

After the bug killer had been sprayed, the bodies started dropping out of the trees, the pitter patter of careening worm is comforting at first and then eerily sad. Later that night I dreamt of the movie Dune.

Anyway, 9 hours in I had finally begun to form a little organization. I set up rows of tables and grouped things by material they were made from. I was becoming delirious with exhaustion. My inner copywriter had taken to making cutesy signs like, “Wicker Park,” “Stone and Bone,” and “The Looking Glass,” complete with pupils in the adjoined “O’s.”

In the morning I had come with my integrity. This was all junk that needed to go because no one needed it. It was only taking up space, it had no sentimental value and was only fueling my Grandmother’s addiction to consumption. But in the thirteenth hour of my servitude, I found myself attached to this trash, I loved every foot of it.

Around 10:30pm I suggested to my grandmother that we sell a water stained photo for $20. I oohed and aahed at a cigar box filled with napkins. We could make some real money! Then we’d use that money to buy more stuff, then we could sell that stuff and make more money!

At 11pm, my arms and clothes covered in worm shit and good intentions, I collapsed, hoping Saturday would be a success. Not because I wanted to be rid of the stuff, as was the case that morning. No, I was genuinely excited to sell, to be a part of the process. I set my alarm for 6am and turned out the light.

End Part I, more next week.


Bonus! Find of the Day!

Among all the crap I sorted through that day, one item, or rather, one box of one item, stood head and shoulders above the rest. In a box, discreetly marked, “The Middleman,” lay about forty copies of a book. Apparently my Aunt Susan’s old boyfriend, Craig, had fancied himself a writer and had taken it upon himself to use his own money to publish his own manuscript.

It was called the Middleman, an insipid piece about the cocaine trade written by, well, a cokehead in 1990, how brilliant is that? But even better, is the author’s picture, placed over the entire back cover above the quote, “This is a gripping international best seller!” by a fictional book review.

There he stood, leg raised in a half bend, his mullet flaccid in the wind, his light grey suit jacket rolled at the cuff. His Cobra style glasses accented the one diamond stud in his right ear, and in his right hand, gripped lovingly, was a pump action shot gun.

I cried it was so beautiful.


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