Beckie and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do this past Saturday. We’d spent a long day napping, poking around at the computer, and trying to discover some miraculous, new, not-too-far-away thing-to-do in the Hudson Valley, but once tag sale season is over, there’s very little in the way of keeping the late 20-somethings entertained out of the house that doesn’t involve some form of substance abuse. Feet get cold, people get cranky, and it’s a long wait until Craigslist starts to flower with all-caps ‘YARD SALE’ blossoms again.

By 4:30, hunger finally motivated us to move and find food. At 4:32, a bevy of sirens and firetrucks were occluding the only exit from the road and out into civilization. Since we were already walking out to the car when the ruckus began, we walked towards a smoking building at the end of her road, within sight of her apartment. Firefighters were dragging hoses around and smoke was pouring from some windows as they were being smashed out by firemen inside and using long poles on the outside. The sound of shattering glass continued for far longer than the limited number of windows in the building would sensibly permit, and the noise had summoned an elderly lady who called herself “Boop” from the far end of the road, where the nice houses live, who believed that things were exploding. This distracted her from her preparations for “Sunday Thanksgiving”. Her puffy billows of white hair doubled the size of her head and made her body look even tinier than it was. She told us about all of the neighbors she knew and kept on making the sign of the cross with skeletal, restlessly alive fingers.

By 6 PM, the swarm of police cars and firetrucks had barely abated, but we managed to slide past and get food. By morning, news revealed that the squat, concrete building attached to the burning house was actually a hydroponic marijuana lab. Which explained the prolonged sound of glass smashing to the floor as glass equipment was plowed over by the sprays of water, as well as the presence of drug enforcement agents in the morning.

In the daylight, the venetian blinds grinned stupidly like broken teeth, and yellow police tape spun around the building, ricocheted off of a barbecue grill in the back yard, and cordoned off all of the interesting from the grey expanses of Route 44 again.

On Sunday, we once again poked at Craigslist, and found something.

´╗┐ON SALE LARGE ESTATE OF ANTIQUE DEALER INCLUDING A LARGE AMOUNT OF ALL TYPES OF ANTIQUES, AN IMMENSE AMOUNT, 15 LARGE BOXES OF ANTIQUE COSTUME JEWELRY, NICE COLLECTIBLES AND LOVELY ANTIQUE DOLLS. ALL NEGOTIABLE. ALSO BIG BUILDING SETS, GI JOES, BIG WOOD SLEDS ALL VERY LOW PRICED FOR THE KIDS, AS WELL AS BIG OLD POWER TOOLS, QUALITY MEN’S SUITS, BIG WINTER JACKETS, AND A 1,000′S OF ALL KINDS OF NICE ITEMS. CHRISTMAS GIFTS REASONABLY PRICED AND NEGOTIABLE!!!!

ITS COME AND BROWSE AT YOUR LEISURE.

CALL 845 632 XXXX TO ARRANGE A TIME TO COME VIEW THESE ITEMS. EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE AND WE GIVE YOU NICE JUICE TO DRINK.

FIND SOMETHING WONDERFUL. WE HAVE TOO MUCH TO KEEP.

We called, and set up an appointment to sift through boxes at noon. We discovered that this house was only a few houses away from where I once purchased a Space Shuttle pinball machine from a guy who called himself “Jim Pinball”.

We were escorted up some wooden stairs as a man named Charlie watched football, brought box after box to his low coffee table, and cut the filters off his cigarettes with a pair of black-handled, steely scissors. His son is the top nanotechnology student in the world, and Charlie worked for GE for 18 years before retiring, “doubling accounts” every year and maintaining a “90% retention rate” and other business words. He gives “Mexicans” bonuses and takes them out to dinner when they help him paint and refinish floors – but also believes that they should be shot as they cross the border illegally after a certain, as-yet-undetermined date. He wore a knit cap the entire time he was inside, and when he followed us out to his car.

When we were lamenting the high cost of living in the Hudson Valley, I mentioned that I take graphic design jobs to make ends meet, and was subsequently accused of being the reason that his friend, who coincidentally came up with the idea for Fudgie the Whale, was canned from his job : young kids willing to work longer hours for less money. While I reassured him that the real problem with making a living as a graphic designer is competing with hiring people overseas with a lower cost of living and generally less concern about quality of work, I don’t think that he was convinced.

The dissonance between crates of costume jewelry (which he never gave us a clear answer about the origins of) and a case full of Hummels and rare china sets, left-wing politics and football was unsettling as we creaked on his leather couch and I began sweating through my jeans. I came away with a handful of free brass pieces which will eventually turn into rayguns, and Beckie with a few interesting odds and ends. Charlie knew what he had, even if we had no idea what we were looking at – the names of certain makers, types of metals, how to test them. No one was pulling one over on Charlie – especially those “Jews” who came last week and was very rude to him because he asked fair prices.

Dusty wooden floors and a bearded son who went to study at Starbucks as we sat there, and the tinny strains of opera playing somewhere, somewhere from the depths of the house. No mention of a wife during the two hours we spent on his couch, but words edgewise weren’t really to be had anyhow.

I guess we really didn’t need any. Charlie had us covered.