Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Xmas- My yard is bare....

Yard sales In Atlanta have ended. The 805 section of the AJC classifieds was absent today as people go about their holiday habits of crowding into big box stores to purchase clutter that will be sold at yard sales in the spring. Last year in this site I reported on my front yard and how it was festooned with illuminated magi and penguins. This year due to my travel plans I declined to haul out the plastic figures from my shed and lay out the grid of extension cords that supply power to these icons that brighten the season for all that walk or drive by. My neighbors were somewhat perplexed at my lack of holiday spirit but all d├ęcor needs a sabbatical. All that one sees now in my yard is a frozen fish pond and one bare dogwood tree with a single ornament hanging from it.
Overall in the neighborhood there seems to be a lessening of holiday spirit. Perhaps there is a war on Christmas as Fox news pundits are claiming. As in any wartime conditions the civilians hunker in bunkers and wait for peace. So perhaps this is where the plastic snowmen have gone.
Overall there has been an increase of the large plastic inflatables. These air blown affairs are best seen when their air blowers go into standby and the deflated figures look like victims of Christmas war crimes.
Overall my street seems to be in some sort of holiday time warp as at least two homes still have pumpkins in their yards.

Santa tells Blitzen that the neighbors are out of step with the holidays
Another home has a planter in the shape of Jimmy Carter’s head. Carter appears to have had his brain removed and potting soil placed in his empty cranium.

Ex-president with dirt filled head.
Another neighbor has affixed plaster bas-reliefs of Italian composers to his trees. The Puccini greets anyone who parks in front of his house but the Verdi appears to have had a mishaps and lies in broken shards on the grass. Perhaps an irate and drunken neighbor who hated Rigoletto picked a fight with Verdi.

Puccini still stands while Verdi in pieces.
One yard that is never out of season is at the home of the lady who always gets to the trash piles in the street before I do. Her persistent scavenging has led to the creation of a truly memorable yard environment. The yard is a discordant array of old toys, faux botanicals, shells and anything she finds in trash piles. The most notable part of the yards is a five-foot high pile of old once living Christmas trees mixed with aluminum Christmas trees. Attached to many of the dead and crispy branches are a multitude of discarded escargot shells. Peering out from the dead branches are countless plastic toy figurines. In the middle of the yard is a four-foot tall slightly deflated inflatable plastic palm tree. Along the edges of a driveway covered in oriental carpets is a long spray of bright plastic flowers. The saturated colors of the faux blooms serve to brighten the gloomy winter days.

Pile of dead and faux Christmas trees.

Plastic flowers in bloom.

Toys and escargo shells decking discarded trees.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sales on a frozen morning.

When I ventured out to pick up the paper this morning my fishpond was covered in a thin sheet of ice. Below the solid layer three goldfish sat very still in the water. I wondered what crazy person would have a sale in subfreezing weather but found to my delight that two stalwart households less than three blocks away were selling clutter from yards and driveways

Icy Birdbath
Harold Ave. “Lake Claire “Yard Sale”

Under the shadow of a POW-MIA flag an assortment of stuff was for sale in the driveway of this newer house just a block from my home. A fire blazed in a ceramic chimera in an attempt to keep the sellers or the buyers warm. Dominating the driveway was a complete silver Ludwig drum kit. Beside the drums was a bowling ball perched in a small pedestal. On a table further up the driveway was a Minolta 35mm SLR camera with a wide selection of lenses. Near the camera was a box filled with leis, a grass skirt, tiki heads and some objects made out of coconut shells. Other things scattered about included some old Nehi Soda bottles, some shoes, and a wizard’s hat, a large subwoofer a set of Mercedes hubcaps, a few old beer coasters, a pile of garden hoses and a few cordless phones.
Print media included “Goddesses in Every Woman”, “Maternity and Gynecological Care” and ”First Aid and Safety”. A box of Lps featured works by Aaron Copland, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Barry Manilow and Twisted Sister. A stack of VHS tapes included “Used People”, “Crime Spree” and “Spellbound”. A stack of Janet Evonovich novels was offered for free along with a Cd of classical music produced by the manufacturer of a drug for eye irritation.
Parked in front of the home was a pickup truck with a flatbed trailer filled with large ceramic planters and birdbaths. Some planters and birdbaths also lined the sidewalk in front of the home some filled with frozen water. One of the sellers told me he had had a gardening and greenhouse business in the neighborhood but the big box stores had caused him to close down. He was now selling his remaining stock.
I bought nothing. I later told Cindy about the closeout of the gardening business. She went to his shop and purchased two Japanese maple trees and several pairs of latex gloves.

Trailer load of planters

Box of leis and tikis

Pile of hoses

Music for irritated eyes.

Drum kit in the cold.

Bowling ball on on a pedestal.
McLendon Ave. - Lake Claire “Garage Sale

This sale was in the back driveway and garage of a home at the corner of Ridgewood and McLendon. Among the clutter spread out on the pavement were three sets of golf clubs, one club was protected by a club cover shaped like a bird, a box of beer can cozies, a plush leprechaun, a candle shaped like a snowman, some luggage and a sofa. One unique item was a large shell casing cut diagonally with a carbine bullet mounted inside, the structure resembled a Cana lily created by a munitions maker. In the garage were boxes of books. Some titles included “The Simple Abundance Companion”, “So you want to be a lawyer”, “You were born rich”, “The road less traveled” and several guides to pregnancy. I also found some sets of motivational tapes by Zig Ziglar and Jack Davis.
I bought nothing.

Avian club cover.

Munitions Art

Motivational Media

Lincoln Logs or Mao Sticks the demise of America’s National Toy.

A few months ago I came across an old box of Lincoln Logs upon which the toy maker proclaimed “America’s National Toy”. Lincoln Logs were a truly great American toy as John Lloyd Wright son of the noted architect created them. (Oddly the toys do let one create Prairie Style structures). When I visited a big box retailer last week after I decided to see if any toys were made anywhere outside of China. Last year one of my students ask me why ALL of his toys said ‘made in China’. The third grader was somewhat puzzled as to why no Americans would want to spend 12 hours a day for low pay sticking Bratz’ heads on Bratz’ bodies.
As I perused the popular playthings I came across a box of Lincoln Logs and found that they no longer carry the claim of being America’s National Toy. This claim can no longer be made since they are no longer made in the USA. Like Bratz, and My Little Ponies and nearly everything else in the store, they were made in China. But when I examined the Legos I found that some portions of the product were still produced in Denmark. If the Danes have a national toy I’m sure it’s these colorful universally fitting plastic forms. While reading the fine print I found that they are actually made in Denmark, Switzerland and the Czech Republic with some components coming from the Asian giant. While other than cheese, Legos are a considered the main product identified with the Scandinavian nation. (Danish modern furniture is no longer modern and has been made in Asia for the last 30 years). This modular toy with Euro flair is the pride of the Danes. While some of the units are made by the Swiss and Czechs (and most American couldn’t tell you the difference between any of these people.) they still speak of proud modern design and craftsmanship. So why is it the Danes still make their trademark designer playthings (I’m not referring to the blue movies they produced in the 60’s) while the USA out sources its toy of national pride. Lincoln Logs represented so many things, from the pioneering spirit to the sense that great things can be rendered from the raw wood of our land or that the scion of a great architect can make a fortune in marketing toys. But that is no more, for now they are created on some assembly line in some Sino boomtown rendered by the same hands that creates imitation Harris Tweeds for canines. America please bring your toys home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cold and dark days and the sales begin to fade….

As we enter into the last month of the year once again only the true stalwarts are having yard sale. Today it appeared to be a determined man who underestimated the weather and a woman who just mush have desperately needed to get the junk out of here home.

Highland Terrace – Va. Highlands “Garage Sale”

This event was advertised in Craigslist. The sales was presided over by a man who seemed determined to get rid of his stuff regardless of the cold weather. His girlfriend probably told him the night before, “Its too cold to have a sale anyway most people are going to be out Christmas shopping” With his testosterone talking he might have stubbornly responded “hey I put an ad in Craigslist that’s sure to bring people out and the cold won’t bother me, I’ll just dress warm” When I arrived at the small circular turnaround at the end of the street I spotted a garage sale sign next to an ugly white leather sofa and matching chair. Near them was a CRT monitor. A cold wind was blowing when I got out of the car. Since this was the same street I locked my keys in the car on several weeks ago I made sure the leys were in my pocket when I left. In the driveway was a table with a large pile of very wrinkled clothing atop it. Some less wrinkled ties were laid out in an orderly manner near the pile but the seller was asking three dollars per tie (I have a large neck wear collection but I seldom pay over 50 cents per cravat). On top of a small cabinet were a box of pop Cds and an old inkjet printer. I headed past four dinning room chairs towards the garage hoping there would be more there, but a cold and agitated sellers clad in a North Face Parka told me there was nothing in the garage. On the way out I noticed three glass shelves lying in the yard.
I bought nothing.

A man's funiture.

A man's wrinkled clothing.
St. Charles Ave. – Midtown “Yard Sale”

This event had a bit more stuff than the other sale but it started raining shortly after I arrived and I did not have a chance to examine everything before they began pulling stuff out of the yard in front of this large two story Victorian home. Among the clutter I was able to peruse was a electric foot bath, several adult costumes including a glamour wig and a spider web hoop skirt, a small lap top for only $25, a box a plush toys with a large purple monkey holding a gun, a pair of dumb bells a microwave and a box of some unknown action figures. There were also some CDs by Melissa Ethridge and Missy Elliot as well as a stack of computer manuals. Leaning against the porch rail was a small painting of a dark cloud with a ray of sunlight shining down on a lone flower. Just As I photographed the work the wind blew down a hail of acorns followed by a light rain.
I bought a Photoshop manual for 50 cents.

Art work found before the rain.

Adult costumes.

An examination of Sino-Canine relations at a big box store.

The other night a friend (and dog lover) was telling me of the horror stories coming out China by anti-vivisectionists who have exposed China’s dog fur trade. I had never considered China to be a source of fine furs and leather as Italy, Spain and Argentina still come to mind when I’m in the market for a coat, belt or wallet. But my friend informed me that PETA on their website has a video on dogs being flayed alive to provide linings for gloves and other products being sold at big box stores in the USA. I was unable to determine from what she told me if the canine fur trade was simply a by-product of the canine meat trade, invoking the old “its okay to kill the dog we’re going to eat it” excuse. So on a visit today to a big box retailer in my now suburbanized neighborhood to buy a birthday gift for my goddaughter I tried to find the truth about dogs in China but found another sino- canine issue that was equally disturbing. If China is stripping the skins off dogs they are also providing second skins in the form of designer clothing for canine bon vivants. Most interesting among the selection was festive holiday wear. Today in some faraway sweatshop in Hunan a worker is sewing a canine Santa suit thinking how some day her own children might be able to attire themselves in such finery. But the workers dreams are crushed when a coworker informs her that these bright red ensembles are destined for American dogs. The same specie that on weekends that same worker is flaying. Examining the holiday as well as the everyday attire I looked closely to see if any dog fur was used in the making of the dog clothes. The labels indicate all polyester materials and there is no evidence of animal products used in these animal products. But other pet products were more suspect, some AKC label dog toys appeared to be made of some sort of fur but I doubt the AKC would ever approved of dogs being used in dog toys.
In the long run my only fear is a vast Maoist led conspiracy of striping dogs of their natural skin then cornering the world market on badly needed imitation canine Harris tweeds and Santa suits. Who ever thought the Chairman would lead us down this road.