Zounds! It’s so hot even the trees seem to want shade, and it’s so humid that you can swim from Partition to Main. Saturday, July 23rd proved to be one of hottest, most unbearable Saturdays in a very long time – and a big chunk of the town spent it outside, during the Great Saugerties Town-Wide Yard Sale of 2011.
On a side street, I meet John. He’s selling the less valuable parts of his sports memorabilia collection. The spread is impressive, and at least a little bit entertaining. A foot-long Mike Piazza bobblehead, from his Mets days. More Gary Carter action figures than I knew existed. A pre-cracked out Ricky Williams bobblehead. John’s table is set up in a place with no shade, splayed on the unforgiving, rebounding heat of an asphalt drive way. I feel like the soles of my shoes could melt. He grabs a trinket, a miniature faux-copper plaque with Andy Pettitte’s face, and cradles it in his hand with a piece of cloth. “A guy who came earlier picked this up and burned himself on it.”
From John’s table, I pick up a miniature Green Bay Packers helmet and a faded stand up of my boyhood hero, Mike Piazza. At this point I’m sweating through my flannel (flannel is a bad choice on 100+ degree days, I learned), and in an attempt to spare me from the price gouging eight-year-old with a surprisingly well put together lemonade stand, Peggy Cavallero offers me a drink. “Juice,” she says “or juice and water. I drink my juice with water. We also have milk.” I decline because I’m an idiot and I’m polite.
I shuffle like the undead down the street parched and dripping, looking for the next sale. Adjacent to a galactically admirable viper-red Dodge Ram with a 5.7 hemi ,I find the yard sale of Bob and Amy Allen. This is no one table affair- the Allens are selling every ill-purchase from 1980 until now. By the time I arrive, the spread’s been picked clean by keen-as-eagles yard sale pros. Slim pickings are left for me. Some Beanie Babies and a thankfully unopened copy of American Psycho 2. Old novels in a box, and one of those bizarre, mid-nineties TV order relics that everyone seems to have; I can only see a photo on the box, and it strikes me as some kind of refrigerator for your pants. Bob and Amy, from their porch, are watching over the sale. “We’re hot, but happy,” says Amy.
It’s not just junk that gets sold at yard sales, though. Sometimes it’s a necessity to split with things that you’ve grown attached to, and that it pains your heart to see leave your home. After trying to haggle down the price of a fly old tennis racket, I had a seat with two Saugertiesian sisters on their mercifully shady lawn. Sally and Carolyn Halpert were selling several of their mother’s old paintings, typically portrait studies on flowers. Their mother, says Sally, worked hard all of her life and did her best to keep business in town, and when she painted she liked to see her works given away. In that spirit, the paintings are being sold for low prices. Though they know it’s what she would have wanted, they’ve grown fond of the old paintings, and claim that it’s hard to see them go.
The Halperts have big hearts; earlier in the day, a man who saw a fire in his home destroy many of his belongings came by. “He lost all of his beautiful books,” says Sally “and my sister practically gave him a whole box of ours.” Carolyn Halpert brings me a bowl of cut watermelon and I can say, unequivocally and without a doubt in my mind, under the east coast sun and the self wrought misery of dark green flannel, that first cube of watermelon was the single most refreshing thing I’d ever eaten.