Thursday, March 30, 2017

T-tops and Zima

A few weeks ago, I was flipping channels, really just looking for something to leave on as background noise for the little blind boss dog, when I came across a series called The 90s: The Last Great Decade? on National Geographic, of all channels. I've seen it before, but even so, I had to stop, mesmerized. Rob Lowe was narrating clips of Vanilla Ice, Kurt Cobain, Roseanne Barr, Tupac and Biggie, and chairs and fists flying on the Jerry Springer Show. The next episode promised to cover Princess Diana, the dot com bubble, the Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco affair, Anna Nicole Smith, and the X-Files.

Then, last week, Nancy Kerrigan and Mr. T made their debut on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. Nancy was graceful as ever in her ballroom routine as we all would expect, but y'all: Mr. T came out of the back of a black van and did the cha cha to the A-Team theme song (yes, this is technically from the 80s, but we all know Mr T. goes beyond the constraints of time and place because he is a classic). His dancing wasn't great, but the entertainment factor was fabulous. I'm going to be self indulgent and just say it: I pity the fool that didn't watch. This week, former Chicago Cubs player David Ross thrilled the crowd dancing to Young MC's "Bust a Move." Oh yes, the 90s are back and I love them more than ever. And why not?

That glorious decade gave us the Budweiser frogs, the Spice Girls, the Macarena, and Wendy, the Snapple lady. There was Crystal Pepsi, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place, and Hammer pants that were too legit to quit. Beanie Babies and Furbees were all the rage, Marky Mark took a break from the Funky Bunch to model underwear for Calvin Klein, and Blockbuster wanted you to be a kinder, gentler video renter, urging us to "Be kind, rewind!" Seinfeld had us watching a show about nothing, the O.J. Simpson trial had us watching every second of courtroom drama we could find, and doomsday preppers were building underground bunkers to survive the inevitable fallout of Y2K. If you don't believe those were simpler times, take a look at Zack Morris's cell phone:

Saved by the (Alexander Graham) Bell

It was a time when I did my best to imitate "the Rachel" haircut, several of my friends had pagers, and my first car was a black 1990 Firebird with t-tops. My second car, later in the decade, was a black 1995 Firebird with t-tops. I know a good thing when I see it. Arsenio Hall was whooping it up late night (with Bill Clinton on the saxophone no less), and the Life Alert commercial had everyone joking, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Take out those t-tops and let's go for a ride.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Melissa told me several of her coworkers were participating in a 90s themed bar crawl. The problem? They were so young, they didn't know what people wore in the 90s. I might suggest a baby doll dress (perhaps with bike shorts underneath?), Doc Martens, anything crushed velvet, a plaid flannel shirt, a mini backpack, or a scrunchy? Butterfly clips, a stylish pair of overalls, or maybe a sweater vest would fit the bill quite fabulously, too. How about some spandex bootcut black pants, and a Steve Madden platform sandal?

You could never sneak up on anyone wearing these babies. Admit it, you wore them.

It's no wonder the TV show was so popular. The fashion was so on point.

Let's get personal: there's a lot of 1996 high fashion happening
in this picture of me and my college dorm friends. 

And again in this picture, taken before a sorority fall party.
It was outdoor and involved a hayride, so we were dressed for the occasion.

Ah, those were the days. And honestly, I still think of the 1990s like it was a few years ago, not nearly two decades ago. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one nostalgic, and I hope I catch the other episodes of the 90s documentary on National Geographic. Until then, maybe I'll drop a Jolly Rancher into my Zima, microwave some Bagel Bites, and watch a movie--Titanic, or Forrest Gump perchance? This time, I won't even have to worry about rewinding the cassette tape.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Yard Sale

I'm not sure of the true origin of the yard sale, but I suspect it just has to be Southern. I picture some house on a dirt road with all kinds of "valuables" and belongings strewn all over the front porch and yard, and a passerby deciding to stop in and make an offer on something that caught his eye. And voila! The yard sale was born.

The only real requirements for having a yard sale are 1) an accumulation of stuff you no longer need or want and 2) the desire to trade this accumulation for cash. After we renovated the house over the summer, we easily met both of these requirements and decided to have ourselves a sale. We planned to have it in early October, before the weather got too chilly and in time to get our garage back for the winter months. Then, I broke my ankle on October 1, and all that yard sale fodder sat, collecting dust and taunting us, while I healed. (I may have suggested on more than one occasion that we burn down the garage and collect the insurance money as a way to remedy the problem, but apparently that is both illegal and frowned upon.)

And so we spent most of last week dusting, pricing, sorting, and organizing all our wares, getting ready for the big sale on Saturday. We had a Queen size headboard and footboard set, light fixtures, a TV, DVD player, plus a whole convalescent aisle from my bone break (we thought it best to rid ourselves of the crutches, shower seat, and walking boot in the hopes that I never, ever need any of them again).

This is how Cotton "helps,' lounging on a stack of blankets and chewing a bone. 
The guy's clearly got management potential.

We had more furniture and home decor than a retail store, I'm sure of it.

Doesn't every yard sale feature a lead crystal champagne chiller? 
It was one of the very first things sold.

More of our items, which I'm thrilled to say sold and sold quickly.

We displayed our merchandise well, if I do say so myself. Welcome to the fashion corner.

I put a print ad in the classified section of the Charlotte Observer, the obligatory post on Craigslist, and made up several posters to advertise our sale. We spent an hour and a half Thursday night putting signs at the busiest intersections around the neighborhood.

We got the signs up Thursday night, and then thunderstorms brought a torrential downpour Friday morning. Luckily, our signs survived! 

With everything priced and raring to go, we set our alarm clocks for zero dark thirty Saturday morning, and prepared ourselves for a long day. How did it go? Let me give it to you by the yard sale numbers:

7 - sites other than the Charlotte Observer online and Craigslist where I posted about our sale. I had no idea there were so many websites solely for yard sales:,,, and so on. This is clearly a major hobby. The enthusiasm for being up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday for the chance at a $2 can of stale tennis balls mystifies me, but to each their own.

7:20 a.m. -  time when the first shoppers arrived, even though all our ads said no early birds. You yard salers are deal-seeking renegades. I get that. Personally, I feel that the use of an alarm clock on a Saturday morning is cruel and unusual punishment, but that just means more yard sale bargain for you.

4 - number of different visitors who joked they were looking to buy ice melt, snow shovels, snow sleds, snow get the idea. Snow was in the forecast for Charlotte, and sure enough, we wound up with over an inch by Sunday morning. Yard sale merchandise is cheap, witty banter is priceless.

2 1/2 - hours after our sale was over was when the Square credit/debit card reader I ordered was finally delivered. I had allowed eight full business days for delivery, which clearly wasn't quite enough time.

Thank you, U.S. Postal Service, for the timely delivery. Mercifully, all of our shoppers had cash in hand so not taking debit cards wasn't an issue. 

2 - different people who saw some merchandise with a Tiger paw and asked the year I graduated from Clemson, and when I replied, told me I was "just a baby." Bless you, wise and wonderful shoppers.

1 - number of toilets up for grabs at our sale. Shockingly, it did not sell.

This lovely item started out priced at $5, then we reduced it to free for anyone willing to haul it away, and still, no takers. It still made for a great conversation piece sitting out in our driveway. 

3 - people who stopped by after our sale was supposed to be over. Really, don't do this. Yard sales are long, hard work. I understand that you didn't get out and about until noon, but we had been out in our driveway since 7:00 a.m. and we were deliriously ready to be done.

$647 -  the total profit we made from our sale! It wasn't easy work, but it was worth it.

Full money bags at the end of the sale made me all smiles.

This was the second yard sale we've had since we've been married, and Clint has calculated that we average one a decade. With any luck, we won't work that hard selling extra clutter on a Saturday morning until at least 2027. Until then, if perusing yard sales is your hobby, I'll leave it with you. After all, one man's trash is another man's "will you take $3 for this?" 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Back in the (Walmart) Saddle Again

It had been over four months since I stepped into a Walmart. When I broke my ankle back in October, we discovered Harris Teeter's online ordering system and Clint would just drive up and pick up our groceries for the week. It spoiled us, and even as I got better and was more mobile, I found myself with plenty of excuses to shop at the Teeter rather than trek out to Walmart for value priced goods.

My neighborhood Harris Teeter is about one minute from our house, and it's a beautiful store filled with shiny, happy people. But there was no denying that my grocery bill was much higher, and even though I adored being able to buy an apple the size of my head while sipping on a 32-ounce Diet Coke (oh yes, there's a fountain drink machine in the store), it was time for me to get back into the swing of things. Harris Teeter happiness does not come cheap. After all, I'm a housewife, and since I don't make paychecks, I shop at Walmart. No matter what I say about it, it's a thousand percent better than my old gray cubicle where I used to spend my days attempting to write copy about fascinating topics such as investment banking and saving for retirement (I literally yawned as I typed that).

A few people have reminded me that Walmart now offers online shopping with free pickup, which would eliminate the adventure of actually navigating a store. As my luck would have it, my local Walmart is still "perfecting"--their words--this service and it's active but not 100% yet. We tried it once, to be told that there is no designated pickup lane, so to just pull into the fire lane out front and call the store from my cell phone. I did, and a very flustered man named Lamar ran around like a chicken with his head cut off fetching groceries and putting them in my car. It worked, but it was chaos. Until they get those kinks out, it's off to the store I go.

Let me preface this by saying that when I was in college, Walmart was my happy place. I would giddily drive to the super Walmart in Anderson, South Carolina and enthusiastically peruse the large, clean, well-lit store that seemingly had everything one's little heart could desire. I loved every minute of being in that store. Oh, how the times have changed.

As I pulled into a parking space at the super center, a lady walked by my car wearing a leopard print shower cap. At 2:30 in the afternoon. I don't know what exact circumstance prompts someone to leave their house while sporting a shower cap, but I imagine that if you do, leopard print is the stylish way to go. I must admit, I have never seen anyone shopping at Harris Teeter in a shower cap, leopard print or otherwise. People of Walmart, you do not disappoint.

Mercifully, I grabbed a shopping cart and found that--on the first try!--this one had three out of four wheels moving in the same direction. This is considered the platinum Ferrari brand of Walmart carts. Jackpot. I'm off to a good start.

Almost immediately upon entering the store, the slight headache I had been feeling earlier ratcheted up to a steady pounding sensation and I started feeling nauseated. I hate to say it was a physical response to Walmart, but it's awfully coincidental. I briefly considered opening and indulging in the Excedrin Migraine I was purchasing, except I will never, ever, put anything in my mouth without scrubbing like a surgeon entering the OR after I've touched a Walmart shopping cart. They say the bubonic plague is extinct, but if there's anyway to catch it, it's a Walmart cart. I pressed on towards my grocery goal.

In the months I had been away, the store had changed. Some genius had the idea to remove several checkout lines and add aisles of seasonal merchandise, because if there's one thing Walmart needs less of, it's checkout lines. Less cashiers, more plastic Easter eggs. I saw this meme recently and it is spot on:

Another "improvement" I noticed was that many of the aisles had been made more narrow and were now several shelves taller. This is a fabulous thing to do, because I'm sure we've all thought if the aisles could just be slightly more difficult to squeeze through and more merchandise could be located near the ceiling, it would really enhance the Walmart shopping experience. Moving through the kitchen wares section was like a chicken fight. I love what you've done here, Walmart.

It's not like I can expect Walmart to have exotic merchandise like yellow squash, or an avocado that will be ripe within the next two weeks; I realize this is the compromise you make when you enter this emporium of savings. I'm glad to know that while they do not have organic hummus, they do have escargots. This item has been one of mystery and amazement to me for quite some time now--has anyone ever bought canned escargots from Walmart, shoved them into the shells that come in this tennis ball-like canister, eaten them, and lived to tell? Nothing says throwing caution to the wind quite like bargain basement, prepackaged edible snails.

After I put down the escargots (and shook off the spine-tingling chill they gave me), I passed an elderly woman in the frozen foods wearing a beaded top suitable for the captain's dinner table on a cruise ship, paired with a pair of black sweatpants. Walmart was doing the athleisure fashion trend before it was cool. I did not see a single pair of pajama pants worn by a shopper on this trip, which is a fascinating departure from the Walmart reality that I know and enjoy. I'm sure that next week, the entire store will be a pajama party and the universe will right itself. Note: I do not photograph Walmart shoppers, as tempting as it may be. I have a fear of being caught doing so and being dragged into some type of Jerry Springer Show altercation, and thus I resist. You will just have to use your very best Walmart imagination to picture these fashion statements.

I not-so-patiently waited in one of the four lines that were open to check out, and then remembered my Walmart survival skills just in time. Rule of the 'mart #27 clearly states that you do not ask a Walmart employee how they are doing, because you simply don't want to know. They are hot, cold, tired, bored, overworked, underpaid, not being given their break, supposed to be off today, threatening to just do not want to get involved in all that these people are dealing with. I can imagine that if I had to spend eight hours inside Walmart multiple days a week, I would be vocally disgruntled, too.

I got our groceries at a low, low price and got the heck out of there. As I drove away, past all the check cashing stores and nail salons that surround my lovely Walmart store, it occurred to me:

Now that the circus is closing down, Walmart is the new greatest show on earth.