It’s Spring—Garage Sale Savings Time

Not everyone loves spring, but I do. It heralds the end of winter. Winter is okay for some; it’s the librarian’s friend. More books are taken out over heavy snow periods than any other time of the year. Maybe moms need something to take their minds off the kiddies running through the house at full-bored speed. 

On the other hand, when it’s still dark out at 8 o’clock in the morning, seniors feel no necessity to rise early and often read until the middle of the night—nobody gets up till noon, anyway. I’m not suggesting seniors lay in till lunch; it’s just that the start of sleep time, plus 8 hours, equals noon. But then spring hits, all the darkness of long winter nights is forgiven and folks concentrate the newness of Spring— the bright yellows blossoms of the daffodils and the brilliant purple of the—the purple flowers. More importantly, it’s sunny at 7 o’clock in the morning. Some are up so early, they can wave at their morning newspaper person.

Unfortunately, many see it as the start of long hours of lawn care and property maintenance. But, I see springs as it really is—endless hours of happily drifting with wind, on a sea of asphalt—garage sailing. Technically, it’s not garage sale time until the first sign goes up. Then everybody says it’s too early to start that, but once that first sign goes up, everybody follows the lead.

I admit, I may have jumped the gun a year or two ago when I posted a garage sale sign, along a main thoroughfare, pointing to some rich guy’s house. I watched from a distance and counted cars, on a purely scientific basis—I might write a paper someday about how many come out for the first day of garage sale season. I know, I know, it wasn’t the right thing to do. But, on the good side, after nine doorbell rings that Saturday morning, the owners garage door went up, and two people came away with some nice things.

Not sure about other parts of the country, but here in Ohio signs don’t go up until Thursday. It’s rare that they last past Saturday. It’s not wasted time though; Sunday through Wednesday is preparation time. It’s time to scour over maps to determine the best areas and then redline them. Find books of all the street names. Determine the best times to start. Watch the weather; save your gas for cruising when it’s sunny. Chat with locals at McDonalds to see if they know of any whole-neighborhood garage sales. These can be the best one’s.

That’s how I used to do it, too. Now I use an app on my IPad that takes me directly to any garage sale in the area—isn’t technology grand. It lets me zone in on the rich neighborhoods first—that’s where the good junk is. I crosscheck it against the recently sold houses. These are the best, as they are lame duck owners. They have broken their ties to the area, are ready to move on, and generally are desperate to move everything, at any price. I sometimes drive by houses on Wednesday night, after they put out their signs, to see what’s going on in their garages. If it looks like they are readying themselves for a garage sale, I park, way up the street, and casually walk by.

“Are you having a garage sale?”

“Tomorrow, why you asking? No early sales.”

“No, I understand. I’m going to have one, too. But, too soon for us anyway; it will have to wait until next week.” I like to look sad and pitiful here. “We may be moving in with our—kids—you know.” This one really gets them. I shuffle my feet a little and look down, too. “Not sure how to price things?” If he’s hesitant, I drag one leg a little and rub the knee in front of his wife. They are always more sympathetic.

“Hum, you don’t say. You got it ready to go?” He knows more stuff brings more people. There is a pause, and then comes the offer. “Well, look around in here a little. Maybe you can bring some of your stuff down. Add to the sale. If nothing else, you can see how we priced our stuff.”

It’s only a matter of time before I mention how my grandson, granddaughter, or niece would really like a couple of things they have for sale. Grandkids can be of any age, so you can make this work for almost anything you want.

When I drag the stuff to my car, I realize I have broken out in a sweat. The thrill of the hunt and the double thrill of an invite to an early sale has me giddy. I drive away confident I have done them a great service—less stuff for them to sell, tomorrow.

If some of you are upset by seniors getting there first, all I can say is that it will be your time, soon enough. Learn the technics now while you are young. A good fall down the basement stairs, now, can create a real limp later—you’ll have a leg up on your competitors. Meanwhile, enjoy your springtime!


Feeding Birds is Chasing Squirrels

Maybe it’s being over 65 that makes me want to protect the birds on my back deck. Or maybe it’s just the American Way of helping the underdog. My wife say I need to get off the Ipad and do something. I do. I exercise my rights to chase squirrels away, and any large bird, or flock of birds, that try to take over.

In the cold Dayton, Ohio winters, I feel a sympathy for the little Dayton Flyers, so I put out a mix of sunflower seed and small bird feed. The bright red cardinals really appreciate it. The little slate coloured junkos and the brown cowbirds hop about and feed with joy.

Everyone is happy until the squirrels come. The problem is that squirrels don’t just come and have a snack, they bring empty shopping bags and seem to think their cheeks also need to be filled to overflowing to return home triumphant. What’s worse; they eat with their mouth open—no manners. Like a teenager, they love to spit everywhere and the deck is becoming an empty-hull factory. When it rains the shells congeal into a toe stubbing mass just in the blind spot in my peripheral vision. Add some snow on top of this trip hazard, a pair of rubber soled slippers, an old guy trying to walk over it carefully, and you get an unplanned dump of bird food—all over the deck—to the squirrels delight.

Most of the time the birds share when they come to feed, and there is a kind of paradise banquet at Miller’s Backyard Birdery Bonanza. But, squirrels are not the only pests; there are bird pests, too, like the large boat tailed grackles. They seem to fly in from nowhere and bring their whole families including; cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, and even some birds that are mostly black but just want to fit in. In all, they are about a thousand strong. Well, according to my wife, it’s closer to 20, but give-or-take 50; they come, and come, and come. When they stop by, the deck changes from calm to a writhing sea of dark, shimmering blue tails, with endless squawking, and beak clicking maneuvers pirates would be proud of. Each one is torn between quickly eating or protecting their private seed stash. Unwanted selections get flicked everywhere.

Fortunately, a stern wrap on the window sends them skyward. However, I have learned that they are persistent and will quickly return. This forces the Protector to appear. He throws open the screen door and runs madly out hollering insane phrases. This gets them to the nearest tree or circling overhead, but only loud, vigorous, and extended clapping will send them winging off to someone else’s feedlot—the noisier the better.

Clapping doesn’t work on all pests, though. That’s why I have my trusty Red Rider BB gun at he ready, too. It’s not for the birds, but those pesky, eat-everything-in-site squirrels, they need a little nudge, from time to time. Reach out and touch someone has a new meaning from my back deck.

My wife thinks I need to quite antagonizing the squirrels. She may be right, too. I got a letter, recently, from our Neighborhood Snitch committee suggesting my behavior was very disturbing to several of the neighbors. My wife said she told me so, “They don’t like your BB gun.”

But I had the last laugh. They could care less about my squirrel control methods. They were tired of some crazy, old guy slamming doors and stomping about his back porch making noise, hollering,”Shoo, Shoo,” and clapping loudly. Apparently, it sets off every dog and cat in a six-block area—just like when a weather calamity is about to hit. Several people have complained they can’t get their wives out of their basements for weeks, because they can’t hear the All Clear signal when underground.

On the positive side, I did get a bottle of wine left on my front porch. The note said, “Thanks! Quietest two weeks of my life.”


Keurig — THE coffee Maker


I think most of us will agree that our mornings don’t start until after our first cup of coffee. For me, any kind of coffee is acceptable—as long as it is not burnt—and even that can be made acceptable by dunking a lowcal donut or cookie in it. 

Two years ago, I decided I was probably missing out on some new convenience I didn’t even know about, nor had ever missed, so I upgraded from a $19 automatic drip coffee maker to THE Keurig machine. 

I can’t even pronounce it, so it must be good. And it has turned out to be a boon for the  coffee bean industry, as it converts us from just plain java drinkers and into coffee Connoisseurs. Is it my imagination or do connoisseur and Keurig both have the very fancy “EU” in the middle of them? I wonder if that is because EU is the abbreviation for the European Union—the old world—where fancy-schmancy comes from.

I have to admit; I like this machine. The coffee, tea, and various latte formulas are all premixed in little, individual, disposable, plastic containers (K-cups). That’s all there is to it. Just drop a K-Cup into the unit with ease (no one refers to it as a coffee maker—it’s a machine or a unit). A minute later, you have coffee.

No bother or mess. No need to measure out coffee, dispose of grounds or fool with messy filters; just sit back and let that wonderful smell fill the air, while you enjoy your first cup in the morning. Simplicity and sophistication in one unit. And my status as a person gets upgraded, as well—to Connoisseur. 

With all this in mind, I must tell you of a devastating incident that started my morning.  In case things go badly, I am including a copy of the conversation for posterity, or the police, whichever comes first. This is all true—mostly.

There was a single loud knock the door. It shook the doorframe. I looked out the kitchen window and saw a plain, black Keurig delivery van in the driveway. A small K-Cup logo was discreetly etched into the glass on vehicle’s windscreen.

   “Morning sir, Keurig Special Agent Jethro Givbson here and this is Agent Anton DeSoto. May we come in? Take us to the machine.” He flashed some sort of official looking badge; a K-Cup was emblazoned in the middle.

   “Are you here to let me try some new special coffee or froo froo latte mix?” They pushed past and into the kitchen.

   “No, sir! We are here to check out the unit. It seems you have not registered it and there is an issue about abusing the machine.”

   “This is crazy! You can’t abuse a coffee maker.” I moved in front on my Keurig. 

   “Coffee maker? Is that how you refer to our unit, sir? Anton please write a chit fining this man $15 for derogatory coffee industry remarks? Normally, we just have you pop a fiver into our bad words can, but we’ve come a long way and couldn’t bring it with us on the plane.”

   “Long way— Where are you from?”

The tall one, in a pressed, grey jump suit, moved in close and whispered. “The EU, sir. I thought you could tell from our accent.”

With one large muscular arm, he moved me aside. “I’ll have to ask you to keep clear of the unit, sir. It knows we’re here and wants a check up.”

   “Are you kidding?”

   “We never kid, sir.” Givbson attached a set of long leads in the back of the unit and set up a miniature oscilloscope and recording device on the counter. Anton took pictures and asked lots of questions.

   “You always keep the machine on this messy counter? It’s pretty near your daily post. It could overheat the unit. Glue fumes from your mail could enter the brew cycle. You don’t expect us to be responsible for that do you, sir?”

   “Hey! This is my coffee mak— err, unit. I bought and paid for it, and I can do anything I want with it, and put it wherever.”

 From the bedroom my wife heard the commotion and wanted to know what was going on. “Nothing dear. Just a couple of guys from Keurig telling me where to put it.”

   “Best she doesn’t come out here, sir. We treat it like a crime scene.”

I groaned. “Crime scene? There is no such thing for a coffee pot.”

   “Coffee pot, really, sir? Apparently, you didn’t read all the Menu screens on your unit. Under terms and conditions screen eleven down and three over—”

   “Over? There are no “over” screens on that unit.”

   “If you hold your finger on the brew light and menu button simultaneously, then quickly push the small and large cup-size buttons at the same time, just once—the menu goes black. Then you can scroll it sideways. As described in the operating package that would have been sent to you, had you bothered to register, sir.”

   “Gee, I didn’t realize—”

   “They never do, eh Anton.”

   “My tests are done. It says you operate this unit often without a K-Cup in it. You just run hot water through it to make tea. Is that right, sir?” A disgusted look came over a weathered face. 

   “Well, I like tea sometimes, so I just throw a teaspoon in my cup—”

   “We sell tea K-Cups, you know! Are you like a cheapskate or something? Are you perverted?” He unplugged my machine and put it under his arm. Coffee spilled on the counter from the drip tray. “More…more violations. This unit is going back to the factory for a full check up.”

I followed him to the van. “What am I supposed to do for coffee? How will I get my unit back?”

As the van started, Anton snapped my picture one last time, rolled down the window, and handed me a plain, blank, white business card. “I’m sorry, sir.”

As they drove away, I turned it over. On the back was a big circle with a wide red line across it like a Ghost Busters logo. Inside was one single word, in beautiful gold and black raised lettering—Connoisseur.