Archive for September, 2011

The winners: notes from a garage sale

Everyone at a garage sale is a winner. Of course there are those that disagree, that contemptuous bunch on the outside looking in who joke amongst their pate-sniffing sorts that every garage sale is missing the same thing: the letter ‘B.’

Garbage it is not. To the seller, who has seen these objects every day doing nothing more than collecting dust, it is more a problem than garbage because it has  some value. Who better to determine that value than random strangers? And by finally making that decision to move it out of the closet, basement or crawl space, the seller has taken the winning side in the battle of futility versus utility.

A satisfied garage salee, all up in his grill

To the peruser, the hunter, the early morning hawk, this discovered object could be the lynchpin that keeps the grandchildren from coming undone, that prop gag for the theme party, that rug that ties the room together. Surely all of these victories are worth a dollar and a half morning.

The garage sale transaction is symbiotic, a rare case of win-win capitalism where no one is getting screwed in the appropriation of scarce resources. It marks an even greater philosophic victory because there is no third party, there are no taxes.

Thus for the small cost of curiosity comes the potentially big reward of discovery. This theory applies on both ends of the non-transaction, as well.  To the seller, you have earned space and the relief that comes with it. You have learned, after a day or a weekend of well-heeled rummaging, that which is truly worthless to a marketplace. If that light-up rocking horse princess pony still has value, perhaps you should hold it on until your therapist or shaman declares you healed.

Personally, I employed the kids, another time-honored American family tradition. They made change, practiced the hard sell on littler kids, and nearly barreled over a lady with a walker. That kind of life training escapes economic rationale.

To the peruser, or the passive buttinski, what better insight into your neighbor or stranger than by the objects to be discarded that were once useful. You get a whole profile of a person or a family over a wide swath of time, seasons, years, life changes. But if you’re going to garage sales to check out people and not their things it may help to ask yourself what you are really looking for.

I am not going to argue that most garage sale stuff is crap. I’m also not going to argue that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold.


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Of birthdays, Bears, and 9/11

We’re having my daughter’s birthday party today. It was a tough call, with schedules of friends, family, and work conflicting with any other weekend dates that bookend her birthday on the 13th (which, in this moment of anniversary’s, is the 5th year anniversary of our marriage: Wood, Jerry, wood.) Ultimately, we sided with the theory that this historic day of rememberence can also be a day of celebration. And it’s opening day for the Chicago Bears.

To give an idea of my priorities, we’ve been prepping for the party all week, I’m wearing my Bears jersey, and this morning on the way to the hardware store to get a flag holder, I tried to explain to my five-year old the difference between July 4th and 9/11.

“So the British are on our side?” He asked, with a chocolate long john hanging from his chin. (The hardware store wasn’t open yet; the bakery was.) Two months ago I explained Independence Day and, since then, when he lines up his Lego men, or when his cars surround his superheroes, he has been heard to say, “Die British, die.”

I tried to explain what happened on 9/11: buildings, airplanes, civilians not soldiers. Terrorists. “Did you fight?” he asked. “How old were you? Where were you?” These I could answer. But he stumped me at, “Why?”

It reminded me of Jason’s column from last week, though in a much less personal, more objective way. Explaining it was like starting a small project in an old house: the more you dig in, the more there is to do. “To scare us,” I settled on. “They don’t like our way of life…(now I’m peeling back the wallpaper to find rotted drywall ooh and a cracked foundation…)”

“They’re like bullies, but bigger.”

He was OK with that. And he wanted to finish his donut.

Looking this over now, I want to go back and sit him down and explain everything. Not as easy as July 4th because we’re still in the midst of the present history. Ten years on, two wars in, I don’t feel like we’re on the clear side of hindsight. This is the world you’ve inherited, kids, and while 9/11 was not the beginning it is the watershed. Unfortunately, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to explain this in years to come.

For today, eat cake, open gifts, enjoy your party. Go Bears.

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God, death, and love: guest essay by Jason Fisk

This month’s guest writer Jason Fisk, author of Salt Creek Anthology,  grapples with one of the biggest challenges of parenting: how to explain to your child what you don’t understand. 

Abby Fisk

“My teacher told me about a man who missed his dead daughter so much that Jesus brought her back to life for him.”

I grew up in a very religious household. My father was an ordained minister in a Christian fundamentalist church, as well as a pretty serious disciplinarian. It was fertile ground for a rebellious spirit, and boy did I rebel. A number of times, my parents threatened to send me to military school if my unchristian like behavior didn’t change. In a moment of Christian guilt, I came clean to them about how far I had gone with the neighbor girl: bad idea. I was also responsible for five auto accidents within the first three years of having my license, totaled three of those cars, not to mention getting a helicopter ride to the trauma center, where I spent four days unconscious. I also had poor grades and hung out with the wrong crowd (which also got me in trouble here and there). My behavior scared my sisters, Abby and Sara, shitless. They didn’t dare rebel after seeing what I went through. Fortunately, I survived without having to attend a military school. Since then I haven’t had much to do with religion.

When my daughter was of age, my wife and I began that earnest quest for a good preschool. The conditions: It had to be affordable, with a good reputation, and we didn’t want her to be shipped from one place to the other throughout her day. We found the perfect combination, with one catch: It was a religious pre-school. A small sacrifice to make, I thought, after all, there are good values found in religion, right? And it was sooo affordable. We enrolled her and were happy with our decision.

Two years later, I was sitting next to my sister, Abby, in the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester Minnesota. She had Ulcerative Colitis, and was doing her best to recover from a surgery related to the disease. She complained of a headache. Believing it was a migraine, which she frequently got, the nurse gave her Atavan and Morphine. That seemed to take care of it; she fell asleep. I remained bed side and read my book for a good two hours. The nurse came back in and asked if she had been awake during that time, to which I replied, “No.” As a matter of fact, during that time, she had had a stroke, not a headache, and never did wake up.

About a month later, I was sitting in the back yard, drinking a beer and watching my son and daughter play. My daughter said, “Daddy, I miss Abby.”

“I miss her too,” I said, and gave her a hug. She continued to play, running from her brother, trying to avoid the cheese touch. After about ten minutes of this, she returned, “Daddy, I really miss Abby.”

“I know baby, I miss her too,” I said, this time setting my beer down and pulling her onto my lap.

“Dad?” she started to ask.

“What’s up?”

“My teacher told me about a man who missed his dead daughter so much that Jesus brought her back to life for him.”


“Well, I miss Abby. I miss her a lot,” she said burrowing her head into my chest to hide the tears. It was at that moment that I realized my daughter was really asking me if God would bring Abby back to life for her, because she missed her. It was at that point that I realized I couldn’t discuss my complex personal stance on religion with a five year old. It was at that point that I just held her, and we cried.

My daughter and I ended up going to Jewel, buying a helium balloon, and attaching a note that she had written to Abby. We released the balloon and watched it float up to Abby, in heaven.


Jason Fisk is a husband, a teacher, and a father of two: Delia and Jonas (his little anagram). He is the author of Salt Creek Anthology, a collection of micro-fiction published by Chicago Center for Literature and Photography; the fierce crackle of fragile wings, a collection of poetry published by Six Gallery Press; as well as two poetry chapbooks, The Sagging: Spirits and Skin, and Decay, both published by Propaganda Press. For more information, feel free to check out:



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