Through the Tunnel

(re-run, pre-pandemic)

Today I ventured through the Caldecott Tunnel that connects the East Bay with Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco.  It was sunny on my side but foggy on the other side. Still, traffic wasn’t too bad, and my car almost drove itself to the warehouse sale off of Fruitvale Avenue (yes, that Fruitvale – think Oscar Grant.  If you haven’t seen the movie about the black man accidentally shot on New Year’s Eve by one of the BART police, just do it.

The Oakland Museum has a volunteer group that, for sixty years, has put on the best, biggest, most organized sale I have ever seen.

When I had my antique shop in town, a woman came in, said she worked at the White Elephant Sale and offered me two guest passes.  I was too busy running a shop to actually go to the sale. Once I closed my shop, I was able to go to the weekday work-day sale, from 10 to 2, open only to guests and those that know the secret that donating two bags gets you a day pass.

I found out what I had been missing all those years — 18 departments, all clean, organized and priced, with competent volunteers writing up the sales and taking the money.

Today I made it to seven departments: Furniture, Household, Sewing, Children’s, Accessories, Bric a Brac, and Tools/Pets.  The warehouse is cold with cement floors. I had my gloves on, but I still had cold hands.

My partner is crime is not shopping anymore (I am impressed), but for me, it’s a cheap way to get my shopaholic fix. I spent $226.00 today, but that includes a solid walnut cabinet for my bathroom, which is older than dirt with carved doors and funky shelving (maybe an old gun cabinet?). Anyway, it will hold stuff in my tiny bathroom once I get it mounted to the wall. It’s heavy, so I’ll get some help to do that.

The ladies in the children’s department know me and saved a bunch of vintage cotton dresses for me for my pioneer clothing business. I make Little-House-on–the-Prairie dresses out of old dresses, for girls to wear on their history field trips, like the one-room school house.  Nobody sews anymore, although the sewing department did have a bunch of women shopping, so maybe it’s just nobody sews in my affluent town.

I like to create the dresses, and the ladies only charged me $2.00 each. I bought eight of them. In the sewing section, I picked up a bunch of eyelet for trim. In Pet/Tools I got a puzzle food game for my dog and a cool cast iron door shaped like a horse.

In Household, I bought a bunch of vintage plastic clothespins, and in Bric a Brac, where a person could spend hours, I got two never-been-used photo albums for my Audubon bird prints and some book plates.

After paying at the window, I loaded the photo albums and dresses into the rolling suitcase, hung the bag with the cast iron horse on the suitcase, and carried the other two bags in my left hand. I negotiated the six steps down to the street. I walked the four blocks to my tight parking space and loaded my treasures.

Yes, I was tired. Yes, I am aging out of this sale, especially with no one to go fetch the car while the other one waits with the stuff. But a nice man loaded my cabinet when I drove my car to the loading door, and I gave him $2.00 for his help.

Then I headed back to my town, taking the southern route with no tunnel and enjoyed the green hills of Crow Canyon road. I ended up at Safeway for salads, paper lunch bags and bananas.

My New Year’s resolution is to eat salad every week day, so I am buying the individual ones that are pre-made.  The colonoscopy from hell back in December has taught me that everyone could use a little bit more fiber.

Then I visited my sis and helped her do her exercises, then headed home where two dogs were happy to see me and play ball in the park.

I will go to the sale once a week for the next three weeks, and then it will be over till next year. The volunteers are aging out of the sale, some of them in their 80’s now. The warehouse, which the museum owns outright, is worth a bundle since it borders the Oakland Estuary. At some point the White Elephant sale will be no more. But for now it’s a whole lot of fun, even if I did go alone.

I never even made it to Toys, Sporting Goods, Bicycles, Art, Music, Electric Appliances, Women’s, Men’s or Shoes, although I did stroll through Garden and Linens and miraculously didn’t buy anything.

If the hand-made quilt is still there next week, I might pick it up, even though it’s heavy and backed with purple fabric. Chances are it will be gone.

Couldda Wouldda Didda

I came, I saw. I got my shopping on.

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