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Entries in childhood (2)


Garage Sale Memories

We're having a yard sale today. I'm even set up with our Square Reader in case someone says, "Well, I'd love to buy that quesadilla maker with a busted latch, but I only have my debit card." Heck, I can even take ApplePay!

I keep referring incorrectly to this activity we're engaged in today as a garage sale, even though we don't actually have a garage. Kathy reminds me that it's a yard sale. Of course, technically, we're not out in the yard either because (1) we live in a garden home/condo, and there's not much yard to speak of; and (2) it's raining, so we're under the awning.

In fact, it's downright cold. The rain and fairly strong breeze brought with it 57° temperatures. If yard sales are a Spring event, no one sent an invitation to the Spring weather. I'm sitting outside under our awning typing this on my MacBook and my fingers are starting to get numb. I should really stop, but I had two distinct memories of garage sales from when I was younger that I thought I'd share. 

When I was a kid growing up in Louisiana, we regularly had garage sales. Although, we didn't have a garage back then either. We had a carport. Everyone had carports instead of actual garages. If you don't know what a carport is, think of a garage with at least one side completely open and no door. Our garage sales were in the carport, straying out into the driveway a bit. All that to say, I'm going to use the term "garage sale" throughout this post, even if it's not technically correct then or now. 

Back then, we often had combined garage sales with the Jarrell family next door. When we did that, there wa a rule that they couldn't buy any of our stuff, and we couldn't buy any of theirs. If we were trying to get rid of stuff from our house (and make a little money on the side), buying anything from them--or vice versa--was supposedly counter-productive. However, as with all house rules in life, they're not always hard and fast in the moment. 

My first significant garage sale memory had to do with what got sold that wasn't supposed to be for sale. We kept stuff in the carport like lawn mowers and a cabinet for my dad's tools. We also kept my chalkboard set in the carport. Evidently, I had been a bit too messy with the chalk at some point and from then on, all my chalk work had to be done outdoors. As I think back to that garage sale when my chalkboard was sold without my consent, I have to admit that I can't remember whether I was right there when it happened or not. I have to think that I would have said, "Hey, that's not for sale!" However, I also have this complete memory of what transpired. Here's how I remember it whether or not the exact details are merely fictions of my imagination. 

Here's how it plays out when I think back to the events: There was this well-to-do looking woman looking at my mother's clothes hanging on a rack. Not seeing anything she wanted, she glances around our carport. Spotting my chalkboard set, she says, "Oh my! How much for that?!" My mother starts to say, "It's not..." but then catches herself. Always the shrewd businesswoman, she says, "It's $2." And then the woman calls her son over who is absolutely delighted to see his new chalkboard set. The woman pays my mother (out of a coin purse, the way I remember it), and her son proudly carries my chalkboard set with both arms wrapped tightly around it, beaming with joy.

Again, I don't know if the above is how the event actually transpired. However, I have this exact image of the woman who absconded with my chalkboard set clearly in my mind. I also remember what her son looked like. If I ever see either of them, I'm going to explain it was all a mix up and ask for my chalkboard set back. Who knows? Maybe this was a turning point in my life. Had it not been for my chalkboard set being sold without my consent, perhaps I would have kept drawing with chalk. Maybe I would have practiced every day and be a famous chalk artist now. People would spend great amounts of money to fly to the places where my newest masterpiece was displayed--before it could be washed away by the next rainstorm!

Truthfully, I'm not really resentful (anymore) over the chalkboard set. But it is something I occasionally use to tease my mother. And it's a good lesson to me to make certain I look through any items that we put out for garage sales these days. Who knows when Kathy will think that old desk lamp with the chipped shade would be better off out of our house? Then, how would I see anything on my desk?

I remember something else from my childhood about garage sales. I was in 9th grade at the time. At home, we had spent a good bit of the week getting things ready for the upcoming garage sale on Saturday. I had gone through my closet and the rest of the room debating whether I really needed various things like the sneakers that were my favorite but now no longer fit my growing feet. Garage sales could be pretty big productions. We didn't just throw it all together on Friday night like I tend to do now. And so, the garage sale was the most prominent event in my mind that week. On Friday morning at school, when we were in home room, our teacher asked if anyone else had any announcements that should be mentioned before the weekend. I raised my hand and said, "We're having a garage sale this weekend. Everyone come on out."

One of my classmates--who shall remain nameless--very quickly put me in my place: "Mansfield, nobody wants any of your old crap." I'm sure he was right, but it took me by surprise. It might be old crap, but I thought it was special because it was my old crap. 

We had a steady stream of shoppers this morning at our yard sale, but ever since it began raining, they have been few and far between. Surely, we would be sold out of everything by now if it hadn't rained. Or maybe it's simply still true that nobody wants my old crap. 


Ranking the Star Wars Hexalogy

Image swiped from Wikipedia, but the drop shadow is all me.This past Sunday, a buddy of mine asked me if I'd be willing to go with him and his son to see "the first Star Wars movie" because evidently it's being re-released at theaters, but this time in 3-D. I immediately said I'd go. I even said I'd wear my "Han shot first!" T-shirt, which I don't actually have, but would be willing to get for the occasion.

Then, as we discussed plans, I realized that when referring to "the first Star Wars movie," my friend and I meant two very different things. He was referring to part one: that awful, awful Phantom Menace prequel. When I think of "the first Star Wars movie," I think of the first Star Wars movie—the one released in 1977, the one that originally did not have the subtitle "Part IV: A New Hope" when I saw it at the Ruston, Louisiana, Village Cinema (which had a total of two, count 'em, two screens!). 

Yes, my friend and I are not the same age. I was born in 1967, and he was born in 1978. Normally, that's not an issue with us, but here it mattered. You see, he didn't see Star Wars (no subtitle needed) in its initial run because he wasn't born yet. How could he possibly appreciate the real first movie as much as I do? He was only 21 when The Phantom Menace was released in 1999. Me—I was 32. He was young and impressionable, probably still very idealistic and naive. I was old enough to recognize [insert expletive here] when I saw it. 

So in the end, I told him I'd think about it. I mean, I hate to think of sitting through Phantom Menace again. It's the worst of the bunch. And to see it in 3-D means I'd have to pay above the price of a regular movie ticket. Not to mention the fact that a "Han shot first!" t-shirt would be meaningless at a showing of The Phantom Menace.

Nevertheless, I started thinking about the six movies, which overall, aren't that great (confession: I've always been more of a Star Trek fan). And that led me to rank them, which I'll list for you here from best to worst.

  1. Star Wars: Part IV, A New Hope. I'm begrudgingly adding the subtitle, which, again, was not present in 1977. Later on, George Lucas would claim that when he produced the first Star Wars movie, he actually had nine parts in mind, and he was purposefully starting in the middle. He's such a liar. The first Star Wars movie is a complete package from beginning to end. It can be watched by itself without the need for anything else. Here are all the character archetypes with a complete "space opera" contained merely in the one movie. The novelization by Lucas was admittedly pretty good, too, as was the original dramatized audio production that came out not too long afterwards (on cassettes!). 

  2. Star Wars: Part V, The Empire Strikes Back. I could almost rank this movie number one, but since it wouldn't exist without the first movie, I'm ranking it second. But this movie had everything. We realized that Han really was cooler than Luke, especially when Han said to Leia "I know" at the end of the movie. The scene between Darth Vader and Luke at the end is one of the greatest movie moments I've ever beheld, even if the big reveal was spoiled for me ahead of time because I'd read the Marvel Comics adaptation before I saw the movie. 

  3. Star Wars: Part VI: Return of the Jedi. This is where the series really began to go downhill, but it's still better than any of the prequels. This movie has its strengths, but the ewoks totally ruined it for me forever. Jub jub. 

  4. Star Wars: Part III: The Revenge of the Sith. This movie is clearly the best of the prequels, but that's not saying a whole lot. Nevertheless, because we expected a big finale to transform Anakin into Darth Vader, this movie had the action, momentum and spirit that I wished the other two prequels had possessed. I should note, however, that the scene where Anakin kills the Jedi children (implied, but not actually shown) makes him, in my eyes, unredeemable and pretty much ruins the ending of Return of the Jedi for me. It was simply too strong, too much.

  5. Star Wars: Part II, The Clone Wars. No joke, I fell asleep for about ten minutes during the movie. Really, it was that boring. One example: the scene where the main characters were in the coliseum held absolutely no suspense for me. This the problem with prequels: I knew the characters had to survive, so I was never concerned for any of them. And this is the movie where, if we had any doubts before, we learned once and for all that George Lucas cannot write romantic dialogue.

  6. Star Wars: Part I, The Phantom Menace. The worst of the worst, and definitely the worst of the six. Both the young Anakin and the Jar Jar Binks character were obnoxious to the point of absurdity. I had difficulty connecting to any of the characters because they were written so flat. When I saw the pod race (or whatever it was called) and realized that undoubtedly it was being included into the movie for a video game tie-in, I felt totally betrayed. It was as if someone tried to reproduce my entire childhood as a cheap, foreign-made, plastic knock-off. In addition to that, the entire plot about the trade route blockade and political intrigue was near-impossible to follow. I actually watched the movie again (I know, I know) just to pay attention to this part of it, to see if maybe I paid attention and understood this plotline better, I'd appreciate the movie more. No such luck. Oh, and that part where it's explained to Anakin that the Force is the result of midi-chlorians...unforgivable!

So there's my ranking. I don't know if I'll go to the movie or not, but I can tell you that I don't really want to. But there's one small part of me—the same part that was inspired in 1977 by what I saw on the screen—that wants to think that perhaps this time I'll appreciate Phantom Menace and all my hostility toward Lucas and the prequels will disappear like Obi Wan's physical form after his fight with Darth Vader. But something tells me that's just wishful thinking.  

What's Lucas going to do next? A 3-D version of American Graffiti? 

Feel free to leave your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals in the comments section, along with your own ranking of the movie.