Janie’s Garage Sale
M.: (Chirpily, volunteering the information, though this is how I get myself into trouble)
―Janie‘s on the committee for a charity ball in October. And it‘s ball-gowns and tuxes!‖
C.: ―What‘s the charity for?‖
M.: ―Dunno – half is for charity, and half is for, um, the Democratic Party!‖ (Please
understand, dear reader, that somewhere, somehow, I hesitated before saying this…
somehow I must have Known…)
C.: ―That‘d be a strange jar of pickles, since I lean mostly towards the Republican! I pay
a lot of taxes! I don‘t vote straight party line, I like to make informed choices, but that‘s
M.: ―Then what‘re you doing with me? I‘m so far left I‘m not even political – I just think
meditation is the thing!‖
C.: ―I like liberals! They‘re interesting!‖
M.: ―I‘d never been to bed with a Republican before!‖
C.: (a trifle wry) ―Now you have!‖
We‘ve pulled up, in his shiny white VW sedan, in front of Janie‘s house. It‘s 4:30 a.m.;
Janie‘s out in her driveway, which is fully lit-up and piled with boxes and lined with
tables; the garage is open and more stuff is seen stacked, semi-orderly, in there. Janie
looks tired – she stands with her hands tops-up on her hips, surveying it all with a terse
expression. She welcomes us.
I‘ve come to help her with her garage sale. Chris has to be at work at 5 a.m. today for a
system upgrade – it‘s his job to say if it‘s been done okay or not.
We kiss goodbye and I get out into the weird hour with my donor box of garage-sale
crap, as it‘s locally known.
Janie and I are having fun. I‘m amazed to discover that I‘m not tired, though yesterday
also I‘d not gotten enough sleep. It‘s so agreeable to hang up clothes, price them with
little stickers pressed on collar or shoulder. Nearly everything costs 25 cents, the object
being, Janie says, to get rid of the stuff. All kinds of interesting corporate clothing of
good quality; plushy winter sweaters; sexy underwear still on pink padded polyester
hangers, still pricetagged from the store. A red Hermes dress from Paris, in a superfine
red wool; embroidered party clothes; a fabulous, capacious, deep-green trenchcoat, which
I snap up – for 25 cents!
Actually I snap up a lot of things (who is surprised?) – an entire wardrobe for Nisarg,
who took such care of me last year – a luscious, nubbly, short cream wool jacket; a green
silk nightie; all the sexy teddies, made for figures more curvaceous than mine; t-shirts in
her colors; sweaters. I find stuff for my mom, and my little niecelet, and a fair number of
warm cozy sweaters for myself – though just now winter‘s unimaginable.
And a bundt cake pan! I‘d just added that item to my comprehensive shopping list a few
days ago. And two sets of six dessert plates, $2 a set, in white and in a resonant navy!
And some baskets! And a huge swollen-bellied ceramic pot with a little lid, for one-
knows-not-what! An unopened package of garden shears, for my new pink rosebush; 25
cents! A package of bright-colored permanent markers! A pile of nice thick square
envelopes, mixed in with birth announcements for Janie‘s twenty-two-year-old daughter!
Two guy-shirts for Chris!
Janie‘s laughing. ―Thee-us is just lak in Texas! We used to have garage sales an‘ we
didn‘ need any sans! We jus‘ bought everything from each other!‖
Time is unnoticed and soon it‘s light. Tired Janie, who slept not at all last night, goes out
to put up signs on telephone poles on the nearby big streets, where there are plenty of
folks in their big SUV‘s just craning their necks for the telltale neon cardboard. And
soon the hordes descend.
Janie‘s fifty-five (?); retired from Microsoft, now being courted by IBM. She‘s a
software-contracts lawyer, has red-gold hair (which used to be long and black – she‘s half
Puerto-Rican), a very pretty square face, stocky build, dowager‘s hump, long legs. A
poet. My best friend in Springfield. Only friend in Springfield. Her house was built in the
30‘s or so, stone, tree-shaded, on a street of similar (and Sears-Roebuck mail-order)
bungalows. Much shade; as many U.S. flags as anywhere else around; which means, a
lot. There‘s one flanking the sale – I hang a long lux sweater and a Purdah-like black long
dress and a pretty country embroidered denim long dress on its slanted pole, set in the
stone house-wall. The only other place for the really long garments is hanging from the
I‘ve told Janie that Chris has just been revealed to be a Republican. I‘m laughing (what
else to do after the Hunter thing?) and making jokes.
―Janie,‖ I say, ―is there anything good about Republicans?‖
―Way-ll‖, she says, ―ah guess yew‘d rather have got a rad in a car at 4:00 o‘clock this
mornin‘ instead of walkin‘ all the way from Nixa?‖
I‘m not exactly sure of the point but I laugh and say I would.
Folks drive up in their big vehicles and walk around looking at stuff. A young dark
Latina with a thin chinless white hubby tries to bargain down a set of thirty-one very nice
dishes, cream with blue trim, ridiculously priced at $2; to $1.50. I won‘t let her. She buys
it anyway and some toys and and other things. No less than four swollen-bellied young
women come by, wearing things which show the bulge nice and prominent. Two are
beautiful and look Samoan. A middle-aged couple with huge stomachs and backsides
arrive; after they leave I warn Janie that I‘m going to say very rude things, then proceed
to speculate on the impossibility of any marital bedroom activities between them. The
House (Un) Bedroom Activities Committee. A very sweet friendly black couple show up,
whom Janie tries to convince to buy her snow-skis – he says, ―Ah‘m afraid Ah‘d break
somethin‘!‖ Then he helps Janie lift down a fan in its pre-assembly box from a high shelf,
and refuses the gift of a power tool Janie tries to give him in return.
This Republican thing keeps returning to my mind, and I keep making jokes about it. I
see that part of my mind is determinedly holding a door ajar – ―this is what happens when
you love somebody, and it‘s all par for the course to have to be indulgent about these
things. It‘s all just mindfuck anyway.‖
Another part: ―But are poor people mindfuck? Ruinous policies? Could he have voted for
– choke – B –B-B-B---- No!!! Don‘t go there! You loved him tenderly yesterday. What
has really changed?‖ I keep remembering him telling me I‘m bigoted. Do I taste the taste
of bigot in my mouth?
I start to think, then stop myself from thinking, about all the Pakistanis, or Africans, or
whatever, who would benefit by the collassal throwawy luxury of this and a zillion other
Missouri garage sales. Not sure what if anything this has to do with the subject at hand.
Another part of my mind: ―But anyway, all politics is a load of crap! Crappier than
garage-sale crap! It‘s all mindfuck – the Priests and the Politicians! Meditation is beyond
all these games of the world!‖
With this conclusion I feel most comfortable; I relax. But there was a moment, after I saw
I was being sentimental about being indulgent, that the sentimentality slipped aside and
my third chakra powered out yellow and piercing – I JUST DON’T LIKE IT! NASTY
REPUBLICANS! FUCK HIM WITH THIS YELLOW CHAKRA SPEAR!!!” I
feel that dangerous sensation of a third chakra turned loose to judge and hate and blame.
Then I forget it all in the whimsicality of the garment-hung, colorful, tousled morning.
I‘m enjoying sitting down now, in a folded chair at the side of the drive. I feel at peace,
alert, and laughing. Janie‘s to my right. She‘s been telling the assembled company
(garage sales are excuses for neighbors to hang out and jaw, enjoying each other‘s
presence) how once she had three Irish children staying with her family for a season, and
they were very much shocked at the garage-sale thing—they thought it was too exposing,
too shaming, for a family to show all their used, discarded stuff.
A neighbor in his forties is sitting with us, a loose, friendly, wry guy; his seventeen-year-
old five-foot-eleven Amazon daughter, hair in a ponytail, pimply of cheek, wearing jeans
with carefully-placed round holes in them, bounces over and sits on his lap, dwarfing
―Dad-dy!‖ she wheedles. ―Come back home and put the password in the computer so I
can talk online!‖
―No,‖ he says, I‘m here right now, not going home yet.‖
―Come on,‖ she says, ―Then I‘ll get cleaned up and do whatever you want all day!‖
―You lie,‖ he says. Everybody‘s laughing.
She bounces on his knee, stands up, twists her wide-hipped body with its flat tummy. A
navel-stud winks in the humid sunlight. She gets her elbows in the bottom of her t-shirt
and moves them around and her tummy flashes here and there like a fish in water-weeds.
Her hips flex restlessly side to side. Her breasts are so round and out-thrust and high, they
seem to be suspended from her collarbones.
After I‘m introduced, the girl says, ―I just found out that I can get to Berkeley for $89!‖
Everybody‘s listening. ―On a Greyhound bus!‖ she adds.
―I wrote a book called Greyhound Dialogues,‖ I volunteer, ―about Greyhound rides I‘ve
known; it tells about the puke you smell and the puke you puke yourself!‖
She brightens visibly. ―You did?” she says. Her father is making exaggerated gestures to
me to try to shut me up. ―Sorry,‖ I tell him. ―Can‘t help it.‖
―You‘re not going anywhere on a Greyhound bus!‖ the father says.
―You-all don‘t know what it‘s like to be seventeen in 2005!‖ she complains.
―Nope,‖ I say, ―but I remember what it was like to be seventeen in 1969, and it was hot
Some bare skeleton of my adventures gets told, and the girl is entranced. Her father is
now gesturing at me like a comedian, making shut-up motions. I say sympathetically,
―I‘m sorry, but I can‘t shut up, I‘m proud of myself what happened, and I wouldn‘t
change a minute of it!‖
Then – ―Well, except for getting pawed by all those creepy old geezers – some of them
―Those are the worst!‖ he says. Turns out he works at the University.
―Sometimes two at a time!‖ I say. The girl has gone home now, her high hips
shyly/proudly flouncing across the lawn next door. ―I‘d been taught to be a good girl,
polite – I didn‘t know how to say no. I thought if someone was a grownup he knew what
he was doing!‖
I can see him taking this in, in horror. His daughter??
Meanwhile, I‘m thinking this is such a nice guy, with such a nice daughter – maybe he‘d
be good for Nisarg?? Matchmaking gears start to click in my brain.
Teenager has come back again, still pulling at Daddy for the password. ―We‘re going to
do something fun together this afternoon,‖ he says to her. ―All of us together.‖ (He‘s got
three teenaged daughters, no wife.)
―No, Daddy,‖ she says, ―You‘ve got it wrong. You’re going to do something fun this
afternoon… and I’m going to do something fun this afternoon… but in different places!!”
Her graceful hands describe two diverging arcs.
―Nope- same place!‖ he says.
―If she comes!‖ she cries, pointing at me. ―Then I‘ll come! That‘s the condition! If she
comes, I‘ll come with you!‖
―Oops,‖ I say, ―my guy‘s arriving any minute –― but I‘m flattered. A teenager thinks I‘m
I‘m trying to sell her the Hermes designer dress. She‘s deploring her figure, of course.
Janie and I are telling her she can wear anything. She isn‘t interested in designer dresses,
however. Her elbows are still doing the foldy things in her pink t-shirt. The grubbiness of
her jeans vies with the holes for fashionable flash. Then she rocks away again.
Chris drives up. He looks tired. He looks straight. His mouth is a level line. I can see the
short-shorn hair at the sides of his head through the window-glass. White scalp shows
―Oh, his hair‘s been cut so short he looks like a Republican!‖ I say. ―But it‘s kind of
sexy!‖ Everybody laughs.
Chris isn‘t too happy to see all the stuff I bought (but it was my money, and he‘ll happily
eat the bundt cake and grope me in the plushy sweaters.) I try to understate it as we load
up, though without much success. I sort of try to, you know, make it look like less stuff.
Somehow. But it‘s broad daylight, and each box and bag is registered.
We‘re driving away. ―You look tired!‖ I say to my Republican lover. (Fiance?)
―It‘s been a long day,‖ he says, looking straight ahead.
Hmmmmm, I think, he‘s not much fun! Straight, dour….
I tell him what I said about his haircut.
―But you‘d already seen it short,‖ he says, puzzled.
―Yes, but I had to make a joke!‖
He says something about working too hard. ―I don‘t want you to work too hard!‖ I say,
and lean over and kiss his cheek several times. He likes this, I can tell. ―I want you to
only work just as much as you like, and then go to a beach and take all your clothes off,
at least once!‖
C.: ―I‘ve rented a chipper for the afternoon. I‘m chipping up all those logs. Gotta get back
to it – I only have it for the day.‖ Then – ―I like your hair like that.‖
M.: ―I thought Republicans weren‘t allowed to hang out with women with wild long hair.
You‘re always saying how you like it long and wild – ―
Tiny shake of his head.
M.: ―Don‘t I have to get a bubble cut?‖
―Tease it all up? I could go to a Republican Charity Ball with you,‖ (my craw contracts
slightly ) ― with my hair all teased up! That‘d be fun! I could dress up like a Republican
wife! I love costumery!‖ He‘d admired my garage-sale outfit – man‘s striped big shirt,
tight white pedal-pushers, white platform slide sandals. ―For example, this is what feels
right for a garage-sale costume. But hadn‘t I better gain 165 pounds?‖
Shakes head. Refusal; smile-let.
―Mind, there are things about my party I don‘t like,‖ he says. ―People I wish‘d just get
sick of the rest of us and go away. The Right-To-Lifers. Jerry Falwell.‖
―Don‘t know who that is,‖ I say. ―Don‘t know who anybody is. Osho just says The
Priests and the Politicians – he lumps them all together.‖
He doesn‘t say anything. There‘s Country music on the radio.
―But anyway you‘re a closet hippie,‖ I say. ―You‘re so fascinated with those hippies we
saw on Ibiza, living in that old boat in the hills – you‘re always talking about them!
‗Wonder what those hippies are doing this full moon night,‘ and so on! And you like me,
and my friend Beth – she‘s an old hippie!‖ I‘m feeling rather reckless conversationally.
I‘m bouncing now – it‘s a great song. Catchy beat. Naomi Judd singing throatily about
what women want – and it ain‘t tall and handsome; it‘s a little lovin‘… a squeeze, a kiss,
and I think I‘m gonna want some more of this… and a lot of tiiiiime… funkily, bluesily.
I‘m dancing wildly in my seat now – why hold back?
Fact is, the man is softening next to me.
I close my eyes and get lost in the music, swaying, shaking, bopping as best I can
strapped into a bucket seat.
M.: ―Shall we dance this week? On Wednesday? Like usual? ―
―And tantra on Tuesday?‖
Jerky little nod. A trifle peremptory? Or is that just my fear?
M.: ―I‘m sure Republicans aren‘t allowed to do tantra! …But don‘t worry – I won‘t tell
any of them that you do it! I don‘t know any anyway! At least not that I know of!‖
That little part-smile.
I can feel he‘s more relaxed now. He likes his hippie chick. He likes it when I dress
hippie, too. He likes laughter around him. He likes, that right now I just don‘t care. He‘s
unfastened now at the joints, where things were tight.
M.: ―I‘m so glad I could get all those clothes for Nisarg! She took such care of me last
C.: (Dubiously) ―How‘ll you get ‗em to her?‖
M.: ―I won‘t. She has to come here and get ‗em! That‘ll be a lure! And I‘m thinking of
that guy for her! He‘s nice! She needs somebody solid now!‖
C.: ―There‘re lots of solid men in Missouri.‖
―Not like those impossible idiots she‘s known. Not like – that last one!” (I sometimes
wonder at the great disparagement in his tone when he talks about Nisarg‘s ill-fated
loves. Is he sheltering an unconscious flake in himself somewhere, or what?)
He likes Nisarg. His smile curves. ―She could visit and hang out and talk, sitting back in
her chair and raising her eyebrow … but do you think she‘d ever come to Missouri?‖
―Of course! She‘s lived in the States! She‘d get lost into it, like she does everywhere.
She‘d be wearing cowboy boots the second day she was here.. . she‘d get into whatever
was under her nose in the moment. That‘s why she‘s so much fun!‖
He nods a little. My Republican. The term ‗strange bedfellows‘ keeps coming to mind. I
had told Janie, ―Ah well, I‘ve always been in favor of miscegenation!‖
We‘re at Dancing Leaves. Whenever we pull into the long curved drive I‘m always kind
of amazed it‘s still here – has not yet vanished like the ephemera life seems so much to be
made of. My life, anyway; my non-Republican, melting-dragonfly life so far.
He‘s rushing off to his rented chipper – proudly shows me the fine mulch he‘s making
out of any and every bit of tree-stuff he finds lying around. These oaks are great shedders.
He wants to make a forest path out of the white soft stuff. And oh, yes, I can have some
for my plants.
I‘m off to the house, to deal with the boxes. The chipper-motor is roaring – where there‘s
a motor, roaring and whacking, man is happy. At least this man.
I bounce all over the house sticking things in cellar, laundry basket, bedroom, etc. so he
won‘t feel inundated by Stuff. In fact the house feels very spacious. I feel stinky. I feel
happy. Can hardly wait to tell Nisarg about the clothes. I water my sagging tomato plant,
which grows more tree-like by the day. I‘m putting the bundt pan into the dishwasher
when he comes in the house for a moment.
C.: (muttering under his breath) ―Just what we needed!‖
M.: ―It‘s a bundt cake pan! Don‘t you like bundt cake?‖
C.: ―Of course I like bundt cake!‖
M.: ―It‘s Republican cake! And it‘s just for you – I won‘t even eat any!‖
His face averts as if he had a hat on. He goes out. There might have been the merest,
slightest, quirk of a smile at the side of his mouth. Or maybe I just heard an almost-silent
The sweet elfin smile is back. He is rested. He lifts the sheet, invites me to come press
my naked length against his.
I kiss his face all over.
At some point I say, ―isn‘t it strange for you to be with such a beyond-liberal woman?‖
He‘s told me before how as a child he felt like an outsider – an Irish child in a
predominately German community; smaller than the other kids at school because his
young Mama had thought him ready to go a year early. He said the experience of
‗differentness‘ led him to decide never to be prejudiced against anyone – no matter what
their persuasions. This is typical Chris – one logical conclusion, arrived at without
consultation with his fellows; simple, deeply felt, undramatic – a policy for life.
My friend Beth had observed to me he‘s not a ‘normal American guy‘ - he has an inner
silence. A stillness.
The Blackfoot in him? When I relayed this to him I added, ―In my world – stillness –
that‘s a very good thing.‖
A half-surprised acknowledging blink.
my Guides had recently surprised me by saying Chris is ‗Tibetan through-and-through‘; they mentioned
past incarnations. Snigger ye not – as I say, I was astonished.
Now, in bed, I say – ―How‘s my Tibetan*-Blackfoot-Middle-Aged-White-Guy this
morning?‖ (I just don‘t feel like saying ‗Republican.‘)
―Horny,‖ he says.
Man of few words.
I cry a little in joy, a bit later, that my vulnerability and stillness… my form of stillness…
so far inside… has been heard, at least a little bit, for this meeting, this morning.
―Don‘t cry,‖ he says.
―Just a little cry – not a big cry,‖ I say. He kisses my face.
Because I am grateful. Because, nose-to-nose, once more but always different, bright
colors came out of my secretest vessel and rippled about the room like breezed-on flags.
Like the colors festooned all over Janie‘s garage sale, but different – the essence of clean.
The essence. Funny that yesterday‘s colors can come wafting firmly in… in this context.
Life is a thing which passes in and out of itself, of each other.
But clean. So clean.
He kisses my nose now.
―It‘s time to start our day.‖
That night I said (rather smugly no doubt) in reference to something-or-other: ―‘The
closer you come to paradox the closer you come to truth.‘‖
His head tilts, eyes narrow. It‘s an expression of his which raises in me a shadow of
irritated apprehension.. ―I‘ve heard you say that before,‖ he says, ―but I don‘t know if I
Uh-oh, I think. Tougher nut than I thought. But woman is optimistic – I ploughed on,
dropping the subject. Sometimes that‘s the way to plough on.
Another time he said to me, ―Just because someone doesn‘t say much doesn‘t mean that
what they do say is necessarily a jewel!‖
―But it seems like it!‖ I‘d wailed remorsefully at the time.
The next night we are eating some excellent Italian food – he a steak with morello cherry
sauce, I sea bass with lobster sauce and shrimp – in a restaurant where he says he used to
hang out with his Economics professors in college. He butters a roll he‘s split apart. I‘m
saying mmmm, mmmm over the delicate sauce, the tender fish.
―Chris,‖ I say, ―when I refer to you as Tibetan – do you think I‘m projecting?‖
I‘m Sitting. I ask, ―Guides, do you have something to say about Democrats and
Guides: All stupid.
M.: ―What‘s not stupid?‖
M.: ―What‘s stupid about it?‖
A few mornings later I bounce happily out of bed to start all the fascinating doings of the
day. As I‘m brushing teeth and putting clean dishes away at the same time, something
occurs to me…
My Irish Republican Army has actually treated me better – more steadfastly, generously,
calmly, tenderly, receptively - supporting me in every way – than all the Democrats,
Anarchists, Sannyasins, etc. etc. I‘ve ever known!
As I walk the pretty ridge road for my morning constitutional, past the blue-eyed
wildflowers, the ardent black-eyed susans, the healthy zinnias, the huge bush all round
with white hibiscus – past smashed songbirds, the cow-pasture where reigns a black bull
with a black nose as big as a dinner-plate; past the calm, calm houses with their unlocked
doors and pudgy inhabitants and fears of no tsunami –
I think perhaps this man needs a sense of security to cradle his love in.
Perhaps – and it is not his thing to part the subtle twigs and branches of feeling, to gaze
more intimately at some leaf – so he cannot tell me; and I can only speculate –
Perhaps conservatism gives him an emotional structure in which to place the wild
butterfly of his love. Perhaps he needs a house to hide its shyness in. Perhaps he needs a
calm, straightforward pathway so that the transparent wings of his heart can take courage,
thinking they know the way to go.
Adventure: he longs for it, just like the teenager does. Longs for it painfully. I am his
adventure come real; my life is back-to-back to his. But the warring more-than-half of
him which needs the safe insists he stay here and Plan; and partake of the Daily
Friendliness of the Known Square Block of Substance and Love.
I reflect too with a certain astonishment that he has accepted in me what must be great
kookiness in his world! He‘s raised an eyebrow or two… but that‘s all.
What‘s abundantly normal for me must be flagrantly weird for him – but he‘s welcomed
me completely. He does not, of course, want me to tell his friends… I have to hide the
tantra books, roll up the tantra room when they come over.
M.: ―Are you afraid they might think you‘re a wuss?‖
But within the beating heart of the house he submits to the Goddess-edict. The practice of
Sacred Love. And he does not complain. This too was beyond the tolerance or
intelligence of men I‘ve known - including those supposedly mellowed in the ancient
liquors, the wide breezes of the meditative life.
Dancing Leaves, july ‗05