By Vince Basehart
Yard Sale. Two words which turn
average, well-adjusted Santa Monicans
into scavenging zombies. We scour
the city for brightly colored signs
bearing this delicious, simple statement.
We set out early in search of hand-drawn
arrows that will deliver us to the
used, old, undervalued and still
One such Saturday morning in Ocean
Park, a tattooed hipster and his
zaftig wife are dragging the jetsam
of their lives out of a tiny garage.
We are already ransacking the
couple's neatly labeled wares before
they finish setting up wobbly tables
filled with their belongings.
Among their offerings: an office
chair; a pair of dumb bells; a mountain
bike; a Boogie board; a European
coffee maker for which no filters
exist; a juicer the size of a foot
locker; a wrought iron patio set;
stacks of books; women’s clothing;
a rocking chair; mountains of kitchen
They are leaving Santa Monica for
some place "back East,"
the hipster announces, to me and
everyone else he can. This is an
amateurish move, equivalent to a
shouting, “We’ll take
anything!” and the pack smells
blood in the water.
One woman demands information about
a Cuisinart. "Does it have
all the attachments?" Another,
vexed-seeming woman rifles through
a stack of clothes. “Is this
it?” she asks of no one in
People rush at the couple: bargaining,
questioning, waving items, pointing
out defects that should lower the
Not a quarter past 8 a.m. and the
wife seems ready to call Goodwill.
"Whatever's here. It's all
we’ve got," she says,
shamed and defeated.
I travel east towards the Santa
Monica Airport. My people are swarming
a white ranch style home surrounded
by rose bushes, with a hardware
store “Sale” sign displayed
on a parked VW.
It’s a tight operation. A
large man, running security detail,
gives a cop-like smile to me and
the others as we pour onto the driveway,
sizing each of us up. Two women
handle the merchandise. Both are
armed with calculators and fanny
packs bursting with change aplenty.
They do not haggle.
A lanky man places his hand on
an enormous console television/hi-fi
combo, circa the Camelot years.
The wood is faded, warped and covered
with martini glass sweat rings,
but this man has plans. He flips
his chin towards a woman with a
fanny pack: "How much?"
When she says "fifty bucks,"
he knits his brow, then nods.
Another, frenzied man pulls a dozen
action-thriller paperbacks out of
a box with barely a glance at the
titles. Their covers feature pistols
and titles like Point of Impact,
Death Card, Bait and Switch.
An elderly woman sifts through
a table bearing glassware, dented
mixing bowls, half-burnt Christmas
candles, ashtrays, flimsy kitchen
knives, a toaster oven, immersion
blenders, extension cords. She hefts
each item before placing it back
on the table.
Another sale, north of Wilshire,
has the air of a commune. There
are no prices listed anywhere. A
woman stands with a copy of I'm
OK, You're OK. "Ten cents?,”
she asks the seller, a blissed out-looking
dead ringer for the comedian Gallagher,
lounging in a beach chair. “Cool,”
Here are remnants of New Year's
resolutions gone unresolved: an
Ab Blaster; a library of diet books;
a packaged jump rope-and-Skip Your
Way to a Slimmer YOU video set.
There is a Hello Kitty wading pool,
kids’ jigsaw puzzles, a child-sized
wetsuit. There is the ubiquitous
Trivial Pursuit game, boxes of plastic
And there are the drive-bys, those
of us who ogle the merchandise from
the windows of minivans, cruising
at parade speed. This is the sure
sign the sale is a dud.