Treasure Hunt . . . or Deep, Dark Obsession?

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Does everyone have that sudden moment of revelation when they know, without a doubt, that they are hooked on something? I had one years ago, early on a Saturday morning, when I found myself scrounging through dirty ash trays looking for a decent cigarette butt. No getting around it. I was hooked.

I had that same thought recently on another early Saturday morning as I found myself out cruising the streets of L.A. looking desperately for the Holy Grail of Garage Sales.

You know the kind: The sellers are desperate and stupid. They almost apologize when they quote you ridiculously low prices. “A quarter?” they say, referring to something you know is worth twenty bucks. You can almost read their minds: “If I don’t sell it to this nut, I’ll have to haul it back in the house at the end of the day.”


And you? Well, you have found a prize. For practically nothing. You sneak off with it and no one calls you back to say a mistake has been made (not that you would relinquish your treasure at that point).

My blood races just thinking about it.

Up until the last several months, I engaged in what I can only describe as casual garage saling. Stopping at a sale or two on the way to Starbuck’s on Saturday morning. Walking away from most of them without anything. Never thinking about them from one weekend to the next.

Able, in other words, to live with or without them. Little did I know obsession was just around the corner--all I had to do was follow that next crude cardboard sign.

I realized I had crossed over the line into obsession when I found myself scrounging around for a sale at 8 o’clock one Sunday morning. I finally found one.

The homeowner wasn’t exactly stupid, or even desperate. But it was a real moving sale--the best kind because people want to get rid of practically everything. And some of the stuff was really good and really, really cheap.

Take, for instance, the two terra cotta pots I’d seen in the nursery for $50 or more apiece. This guy was getting rid of them for just $15 each. I plunked down my money in a flash, just before another customer could claim them.


There was just one catch: Each of the pots had a 10-foot, multi-trunk banana tree in it.

I really hate banana trees. Besides, there was no way I could fit them in my compact car.

So I did the next logical thing: I asked the homeowner for use of his hacksaw and starting cutting the trees down. This is not as easy as it sounds.

My sister, who had come along for the ride, could not believe her eyes. She kept up a litany that went something like this: “What are you doing? Are you crazy? You’re not going to cut those down! You are nuts. You can’t do that.” I knew she was right, but there was no turning back.

Eventually, I sawed, hacked and dug the banana trees out of the pots. Several of us lifted the pots into my trunk, which we were barely able to tie closed. I bumped my way home and rolled the pots onto the patio.

OK, so I haven’t planted them yet. Still, I feel victorious every time I look at them.

But I’ve noticed my garage sale cruising has taken on a new and weird edge since that morning. I just can’t go a weekend morning without hitting several of them. If I’m out of town or occupied with other things so I can’t make the rounds, I get cranky. It’s occurred to me it could be garage sale withdrawal.

All right, I know when I’m hooked. I need help. It’s time to start a Garage Sale Anonymous chapter.

But it can’t meet Saturday mornings; I’m busy.