Sunday, May 18, 2014

Estate Sales: I see dead people and wine glasses

I hold small dinner parties on my patio. And so long as I stick to my signature dish (ie, the only dish I can make, reliably), things move along pretty smoothly. Except for the crystal. When one fills and refills guests' glasses with wine and spirits, at some point, said glasses will hit the concrete. That's a given. A death and taxes kind of given, if your friends are any sort of fun at all.

Which is why, once or twice a year, I take in an estate sale -- a high-end estate sale -- and restock my shelves. You can easily get a set of 12 to 20 really really nice crystal glasses at a ridiculously reasonable price, usually two or three sets to choose from.

Still, if it weren't for my crystal needs, I'd avoid estate sales. They're such a wicked reminder of what you can take with you when you join the choir celestial, and that would be exactly nothing.

It's bad enough I have to join scavengers, scavengers like me, in pawing through some dead stranger's stuff. We all sort of look like the cleaning lady in the 1950's version of Scrooge. You know that scene? Where he's dead, and his cleaning lady stripped him of his best PJ's and says, "Ow gov'na, Oi 'ave 'is bed curtains too, an' you won't foind a 'ole in 'em."

But worse still is seeing the long line of people with stacks of plunder. You can't help thinking some day their plunder will be plundered, with fresh anxious grabby fingers sorting through their personal belongings, criticizing and coveting.

So I don't want stuff, and never stray from my estate sale-mission, never get sucked into collections of ceramic toads or 18-century picnic baskets. Actually, I'd be happy enough to decorate my table with IKEA glasses, were it not for my friends. What can I say -- my friends are high maintenance, but worth every farthing.


  1. This is why we are not the target demographic. We see stuff and think, who will be pawing through my things one day.

  2. I guess I was always a poor target, demographically speaking. Except for saddles -- I was a total patsy when it came to saddles. And bits -- O-rings, D-rings, kimberwicks, grazing bits, and high-port rollers. Ashamed to say, I've still got them.

  3. Shoot. I was hoping you'd take my mother's custom-made mahogany tables.

  4. To think about the latter part of your musing will take a moment or more, but immediately, there are the glasses. Glass is magic, a hard clear bubble in which we can see whatever elixir we are drinking. A rigid bubble which rings, so you want the good stuff. You do what you need to do to restock, just don't walk barefoot on the patio the morning after.

  5. What a coincidink that u write about this.. Last month there was an 'estate' sale in my neighborhood.. turns out, the lady who passed was someone I talked to every now and ten.. she had two labs- one yellow and the other chocolate... from 2003-2009 she walked and trained those dogs... she gave up a few years back because of her health.. She degenerated physically within these years.. makes me wonder if her two labs were included in the estate sale... hope not... would be nice to know that a relative took them in...Eleanor was a sweet lady...

  6. One of my favorite songs about Estate Sales.


    Estate Sale
    Words And Music By:
    Cheryl Wheeler

    Estate sale today, from 1 o'clock to 4
    You go and get ready, I'll go start the car
    Better to be early, then we'll be the first in line
    And you know how I love this, it's amazing what you'll find

    Going through dead people's houses
    Wonderful things they have collected
    Open the drawers and trunks and closets
    Don't leave a corner uninspected

    I'll head for the kitchen you check out upstairs
    Old post cards and pens and blue Fiesta Ware
    Shaving mugs and winged eyeglasses, giant plastic pins
    Linen suits and flowered dresses, I'm so glad we got in

    They just don't make 'em like this
    It's an incredible prize
    We can hang it in the kitchen
    She was just your size
    It's a beautiful frame
    And the picture's all right
    Salt and pepper airplanes
    And that deco light

    Tonight we'll go home and sort through our array
    We'll find the best spots to put things on display
    You can't get this great stuff anymore, I don't know why
    But I bet we'll make some young strangers happy when we die

  7. My mother's estate sale was at Goodwill. I just took carloads of stuff down there. But I kept the glassware. You can eat plain old yogurt out of a wine glass, and it becomes wonderful. Orange juice from a brandy snifter? Splendid. And when you have just the odds and ends of 6 different sets, alternate them on the table, and everyone will think the unique glassware was a deliberate design.

  8. Don't take my wife, but take my sideboard please.

  9. I consider you a friend. Unfortunately you'd get champagne in plastic at my parties.

  10. Petrea, may I get in line for that mahogany table. It was love at first sight!

  11. Maybe it's because I'm not into resale like those bottom feeders from Lancaster - but I take great pleasure from the objects of others. As long as there are people like myself to appreciate their objects, then they're not quite lost to time.

  12. We're not big on lots of stuff, but there is something to be said for having things with some history. Your estate sale glasses, for instance.

  13. Story alert: Good crystal behaves like a princess, and cracks at a touch. And one day, my friend Elena and I were washing the glasses I'd inherited from my father. One broke. Not Elena's fault. But she came back a few weeks later with two antique crystal glasses -- the one you see in this photo. These two glasses never join a party on the patio, I pretty much keep them wrapped in tissue paper. They're very dear.

  14. Good song, Mr. Earl.
    Estate sales, and antique shops, where they have all these old family photos for sale. All these people with no names, and only imagined lives....

  15. John Updike's poem, "The Furniture," is darned near impossible to find online. Here's a copy of a tweet containing this remarkable poem:

    Just be glad I didn't send you the Conrad Aiken again.

  16. I love estate sales...and I love the idea that after I'm gone people who like my stuff will take it to their homes and enjoy it!!! Unfortunately...none of the next generation in the Murman/Watson family are particularly interested in my beautiful vintage stuff...sooo...I'd rather it go to someone who will love it and enjoy it!!!

    Love the song Mr. Earl!!!

  17. I'm concerned about my father's lunchbox and his collection of treasures from WWII, including a letter from his mother. Who will care for those things? I hold them so dear. I guess after I'm gone I won't know so it won't matter.

  18. I love your dad's lunchbox, P. I'm drawn to it every time I visit your house. Don't know why.

  19. My worst estate sale purchase was 10 bottles of red wine bought at the family home of a Pasadena personality. French wine bottled in 1970 must taste wonderful after aging all those years, surely? And $5 a bottle is such a bargain! Sadly, the vintage wine tasted like burnt treacle. Next time, I'll stick to wine glasses. Maybe see you there?

  20. Karin, this may be the first time I wished you were younger.

  21. Oh, you'll find the right kid for the lunchbox, so long as he or she stays away from Bellis's wine.

  22. For the last time. Are you that woman in 409?

  23. Now I'm curious: what IS your signature dish? And do you give out recipes?

  24. Replies
    1. Poppycock. She is too pop to be in 409. She's got to be that one in 305. Now drink your brandy and soda and shut- up until after the TOUR.

  25. The woman in 409?

    But on to the recipe: Mussels in wine sauce with garlic and Habanero peppers. Just heat garlic and peppers in olive oil for a bit, add a cup of wine, put in the cleaned mussels, shells intact, cover for about 3-5 minutes, shaking the pot. Shower with cilantro or flat-leaf parsley. Serve with baguettes. Before cooking: Throw out all mussels that are open, and after, those that are still closed.

  26. I'm more the paring down type than the gathering type. Probably because my mom is a hoarder and can't pass up a garage sale.

  27. My daughter Sofia loves crystals, china and another antiques from my mother and grandmother's house and I love to give her many pieces to decorate her home.

  28. Petrea - A museum would love your father's things - and they'd be shared.

  29. My friend Keri just posted this on her Facebook page, and it just seems so in keeping with the theme. Yes, there are two kinds of people in the world...

    "There is never a dull moment in the DeJulio household ... A night at the auction for Robert DeJulio can lead to a new goat, a couple moo cows, or was that a couple cows who turned into bulls? Something like that. Old cars to use as pool heaters ... Don't ask. Bull get the picture. So, whenever my husband comes home and says "hey look out the window and tell me if this is something you want!" I can pretty much guarantee it NOT something I want. I love you Robert, but that big, priceless thing with the big wheels and the flat bed, you can roll that away. But hey! Thanks for thinking of me."

  30. Oh, now I guess I have to get myself to an estate sale. I avoid garage sales and yard sales because while I can say "no" all day, my husband cannot. However, vintage crystal wine glasses? Now I have a mission and will go with just one goal. As for who gets them when I'm gone? Someone who wants them, I hope....

  31. We really can't use crystal glasses, because I tend to break them. Not by dropping them, but by washing them. They are much too fru-fru for me. I will admit going to the occasional estate sale, but I ONLY go there looking for things that are usually only found in the garage.

    I wonder if there will be an estate sale when I start my prolonged sleep? That would be interesting...
    A lot of camping stuff
    A crap load of tools-A collection of roach clips
    Authentic Haight-Ashberry memorabilia
    Complete Richard Brautigan collection
    About a ton of written (but unpublished) nonsense

  32. Looking forward to an opportunity to break bread and glasses

  33. Mussels in wine sauce with garlic and Habanero peppers . . .

    uh-HUH! :-)

  34. If breaking glasses was a career move I'd be a CEO by now.....In the big earthquake of '94 in LA I told my ex-husband all the wine glasses had gotten broken .....I lied!!

  35. Hahahahaha!
    "I see dead people". Love that movie quote... and it fits so many avenues I travel. Yes, one or twice I 'hit' the sales. Not looking for anything precise so I often walk away with my wallet intact.