My wife and I went to an estate sale last weekend. We didn’t have to go far. It was held in the enormous old stone house across the street from our place, so we each wandered over a couple times on Saturday, and again on Sunday when all the stuff got marked down.
I’m not a big fan of estate sales. Too many dishes, too much weary furniture. I didn’t find much I liked, though I did buy the collected works of Richard Brautigan for a dollar. My wife bought a nice linen tablecloth and a small leather-bound edition of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
I hadn’t read any Brautigan in decades. I’d forgotten how quirky and singular his phrasing was. On a childhood memory: “I just kept getting smaller and smaller beside the pond, more and more unnoticed in the darkening summer grass until I disappeared into the 32 years that have passed since then.”
Or this: “One day time will die and love will bury it.”
Or, absurdly: “I have always wanted to write a book that ended with the word ‘mayonnaise.’”
Reading this stuff took me back to my twenties, when I lived in San Francisco.
Not being an old hippie like me, my wife had not read The Prophet. She was charmed, and began reading passages to me: “The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
And this: “You often say; I would give, but only to the deserving.
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. ...”
I fired back with a little Brautigan. “He looked as if he had been beaten to death with a wine bottle, but by doing it with the contents of the bottle.”
Gibran: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Brautigan: “Finding is losing something else. I think about, perhaps even mourn, what I lost to find this.”
It was like dueling literary banjos. Gibran’s relentless sincerity and spiritual wisdom versus Brautigan’s ninja cynicism and stoned ennui. No winners. No chicken dinners. Just a little food for thought before bed.
So, despite the bozos who blocked our driveway every 20 minutes for two days, I think the estate sale was a good thing. My wife and I both found something of value, something to share.
And I’ve always wanted to write a column that ended with the word “mayonnaise.”