Burb's Eye View: Swimming with yard-sale sharks

The sharks were circling. I spread the chum as neat and symmetrical as I could.

Beaded necklaces were laid in tight lines toward the sidewalk, waiting to be gobbled by the first of the deal-seekers.

Next came the stacks of video games — two piles, seven boxes total, promising high adventure in Renaissance-era Italy and in other lands charted on imaginary maps.

A shark swam too close and nipped.

I yelped at it to get back. The safe area I created for myself was invaded and I must defend my territory. It was almost a full hour before the yard sale was set to begin and here were two grown men sniffing over my shoulder for a peek at what they might snap up.

I was not alone swimming among the sharks. My neighbors constructed their own little commerce islands with stacks of music, toys, collectibles, artwork and clothing. My wife and I displayed a paltry collection in comparison — mostly clothing, bedding and some drapes.

We are a small archipelago in the sea of sales.

Yard sale season has its peak from now through August. In 2013 the city of Burbank issued 2,112 permits for them, and they draw lookers from far and wide hoping to cash in on some castaways.

For six hours my neighbors and I stood at the sidewalk, swapping stories and laughs during the lulls. Even if we hadn’t earned a dime, that time was well spent.

Two families cleared a few hundred dollars apiece. The sharks were more interested in their autographed sports memorabilia and sophisticated sewing equipment.

I stood next to the rack of clothes I hastily assembled Sunday morning and wondered if they didn’t sell, would I wear them again? There’s the sweater I fought to fit in when I first came to California in 2010, hopelessly misshapen. I sold the green sparkly skirt my wife hardly ever wore — I didn’t even realize I’d missed seeing her in it.

Not much there for a shark.

I met others who were happy to share their plans for their newly acquired items. A man with a penchant for plaid bought two new shirts — one joined me at a Veterans Day service two years ago, the other was never even worn. That was an easy parting.

“Not another plaid,” the man’s wife said after the money exchanged.

“Yes — another plaid!” he cackled.

Yard sales remind me that I become too attached to things. What should be a cathartic exodus of closet-crammers becomes a degrading evaluation of worth. A worn garment takes on its own life, filled with memories because it experiences what you experience. A tie can know the defeat of a failed job interview or the thrill of new employment.

The sharks come early to feed. They expect to buy from people who don’t know the value of what they’ve got, then turn a profit at a swap meet or EBay.

They came away with a few things but were overall disappointed. The neighbor with the collectibles has teeth of his own, and knew the value of what he sold.

More neighbors came by, and the conversations whipped up about everything we were selling. Memories flooded the talk and we learned about the time so-and-so met a certain celebrity, and how the blender on the blanket hasn’t cut a vegetable in 20 or 30 years.

We paddled along as peddler isles watching the sharks swim away.


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. He can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.

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