Observed this morning from the desk at which I sit

midd-ellen-harris-and-alison-mcghee.jpgTwo narrow photos of eyes, brown and hazel, belonging to two girls who live in this house.

A photo of two street signs, taken by my best friend, at the intersection of Joy St. and Mt. Vernon St. (points to those who can name the city)

A 2/3 eaten box of Oreos, hidden under a plastic grocery bag so no one else will find it.

A black stapler.

A poorly functioning Nokia cell phone.

A mostly-used tube of Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm.

A black curly-haired dog curled on the floor.

An ivory mesh bag bought at Value Village in Richfield.

A washed and ready-to-return empty Cedar Summit Farms heavy cream bottle, for which I will receive $2.50 if and when I actually return it to the store from whence it came.

A 2008 summer medical form for Camp Icaghowan.

A letter written on Batman and Robin stationery.

A “Swank Loves Retro” business card.

A nametag reading Lenny Faedo.

A Polaroid photo of a beach ball covered with stars.

A Polaroid photo of a doll’s head propped between the toes of a man’s foot.

A tiny plastic stake that reads “Cerastium, Snow in Summer.”

A large plastic bottle of Target brand Baby Lotion, the pump of which no longer works, a fact which necessitates complicated maneuvers in order to extract the lotion.

A check for $65 from Laptop Repair.

A black Precise Rolling Ball V5 Extra Fine pen.

Seen this morning at the Annunciation School's $2/Bag Rummage Sale

1.”Is everything really $2/bag?”

“Yes. It’s Bag Day. Except for the clothes from the Finer Boutique.”

“How much are the clothes from the Finer Boutique?”


2. An elderly man pulling one carefully folded men’s T-shirt after another from the bottom of a stack, shaking it out, staring at it, and tossing it to the side.

3. A large man stroking his chin as he gazed at box after box of brown plastic teacups, plates, and bowls – restaurant surplus – and a large woman wearing a Rummage Volunteer apron standing patiently next to him.

“How does $10 sound?” she said. “For the whole lot.”

The large man stood and stroked his whiskery chin.

“I’ll give you five,” he said.

4. A tan cowboy hat with a feather and a ribbon, hanging on top of a bank of spotlights.

5. A VHS copy of Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, shelved next to Favorite Bible Stories for Modern Children.

6. An enormous automatic bread baker, perhaps the first one ever made, marked $12, being muscled into a Kowalski’s grocery paper bag by a middle-aged woman.


“The bag tore,” the woman said to a Rummage Volunteer-apron wearing man. “Can I still get it for the $2/bag price?”

7. A table full of little potted perennials, marked down from $2/apiece to $1/apiece to $.50/apiece to 3/$.50.

8. A small girl dancing around a used Mickey Mouse high chair while her mother examined it.

“But a baby might have thrown up on it!” she said.

“A baby certainly threw up on it,” her mother said. “That’s what babies do. They throw up, they poop, they pee, they eat, they screech. If they weren’t so cute we’d kill them.”

Looking for a Home

I came out of my house yesterday with two dogs and a big “For Rent” sign. The dogs, knowing they were on their way to the dog park, streaked to the car and jumped and panted at the backseat door. I opened the door and they leaped in, wild to get going. (Is there anything an urban dog loves more than a dog park?) Then a large blue sedan, the kind that my grandmother would have driven, slanted up behind my car, its hind end jutting into the street, provoking a few quick beeps from other passing cars.

“Excuse me?” the driver called. “Excuse me?”

I was trying to muscle the For Rent sign, which is big, into the not-big trunk of my not-big car, so I turned to the driver and smiled politely and held up one finger.

“Excuse me?”

The sign made it into the trunk and I walked up to the driver’s window, which was rolled down. A blue handicapped sign dangled from her rearview mirror. She was an older woman with a nimbus of gray hair, peering up at me. One hand clutched the wheel and the other held the Classifieds section of the newspaper, carefully folded to the “Apartments for Rent” section, several of which were circled with pencil.

“Are you renting an apartment here?” the woman said, nodding toward my house.

“Not here exactly, but three blocks away. Are you looking for an apartment?”

She nodded vigorously. “Yes. Yes I am.”

“I’m not sure what sort of place you’re looking for,” I said, “but the one I’m renting is huge and pricey.”

“How much is it?”

I told her. She nodded again.

“Thank you,” she said.

I knew that thank you. I knew that nod. I’ve given that thank you and that nod myself, many a time. It’s the nod of someone who has immediately crossed something off her mental list because no matter how much she might want it – the apartment, a trip, the daily special at a fancy restaurant, a year’s tuition at a private college, the dress with the daisies on it – it’s too expensive. Far too expensive.

I looked at the woman. Her eyes betrayed her anxiety. The circled classifieds were smearing under her grip. She didn’t look like someone who would know about Craigslist or the online ads. In her clean sedate sedan she looked like a woman who should be living in a house with a long-paid-off mortgage, filled with belongings gathered over a lifetime. Family photos on the walls. Why was she roaming the streets of Uptown Minneapolis, looking for an apartment? I pictured the long flight of stairs to that big apartment three blocks away. I pictured the bed and couch and dining table and chairs being hauled up those stairs by movers much younger than she. The handicapped sign dangling from her mirror.

“Well, the good thing is that you’re looking at a good time of the year,” I said. “There are so many For Rent signs up all around the neighborhood.”

She nodded.

“I know you’ll find a place that’s just right for you,” I said.

She nodded. I nodded. The dogs behind me leaped and scrabbled at the partially-open window of the backseat of my car, which is trashed, filled with dog hair and food wrappers and cd covers and dust and the detritus of children and dogs and a thousand errands. The older woman put her car in gear and put her blinker on and peered behind her to see if it was safe to pull out. On down the street she went, the ads still clutched in one hand.