Sunday, July 17, 2005

Garage Saling in the West End

I had some odd experiences garage saling in the west end today. The first garage sale I came to had a bunch of books donated by a woman who read voraciously, but was going blind. I bought a copy of East of Eden for 25 cents; since it's been Oprahfied, it sells fairly well. The second one I came to had a sign in front of the building saying the sale for Saturday was cancelled, and that the Sunday sale would be happening "come rain or shine," but the sale itself was nowhere to be seen. I continued along, to discover the woman who was supposed to be having the sale struggling to affix a sign to a tree with a piece of string, as wind blew it about. I helped her, asked when the sale would be starting; she apologized that it was late, then explained, "My father died yesterday and I really don't feel like having the sale, but..." After formulaic expressions of sympathy and an offer of aid which she didn't take me up on, I continued on, wondering at these bits of information -- blind wives, dead fathers; what would come next? The weather was pleasant, though -- a nice combination of sun and breeze -- and the tree-lined, shadowy sidewalks of Harwood and Cordero and Nelson made for an enjoyable walk. I watched a bird trying to land on the side of a stone wall, which seemed odd; I inspected the wall to see if there were bugs on it that the bird might have been trying to eat, but there weren't any. I shook my fist at cawing crows, daring them to swoop me, as they seem inclined to do this time of year (I called at one, "I know your kind!" and made a threatening sound in response to its caws, looking around after to see if anyone had observed me). I acquired books by Gunter Grass, Jose Saramago, Louise Brooks, Northrop Frye, George Orwell, and others; I found an old LP, in VG+ shape, by Sarah Vaughan. Nearing English Bay, I ran into a seller who described himself as an "antiquarius book dealer," who took me up to his apartment and showed me a first edition of David Copperfield he's selling on eBay, letting me handle it without a blink, without knowing whether I knew the first thing about books; this despite his stated hope to get more than $2000 Canadian for it -- which seems, having done research, to be a fourfold overestimate of its worth, given the condition of the book. I know that sort of greedy, hopeful state, though, and the desire to show off such an item. (He showed off a nicer Kerouac, Satori in Paris, that I drooled over a little, and an Aldous Huxley that he mis-identified as having been published in 1828, long before Huxley was born; the copyright page stated 1928, quite clearly).

Crossing Davie, I eavesdropped on a deeply tanned gay man with dyed blonde hair telling his friend about how he'd visited someone at their house and "played board games." Adults play board games? Well, I guess I play Scrabble with my parents...

Walking up Nelson, reading one of the books I bought off the "antiquarius" guy, Die, Nigger, Die, by black political writer H. Rap Brown -- grateful that the cover clearly displayed that the author was black, but still feeling a little self-conscious about the title -- I felt a sudden, startling presence on my back, and a fluttering of wings; a bird was attempting to land between my shoulderblades! I reached back with one hand, brushing at it; the bird persisted for a minute, then fluttered to the sidewalk, sitting there, looking up at me. "Stupid fucking bird!," I told it. I stared at it for a second, and it stared at me. It wasn't a robin or a crow or a starling; I'm not sure what it was. It had a big dark eye and light brown feathers, similar to a bird that flew in my window last year. Why would a bird try to land on me?, I wondered; and, what could this be an omen of? I backed off, cautiously; the bird continued to sit there, until an approaching mother with toddler startled it and it flew off, apparently unharmed.

Walking back to my apartment, I heard a loud chirp in my ear, at one point, as of a bird close by. My whole body instinctively leapt into a ducking, protective posture, as if I were being shot at. I looked around a bit self-consciously after that, too. These birds, man. You gotta watch out for them.

At least I found a few good books.

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