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saving tara
material wealth v. spiritual wealth
by robert a. melos
8.12.08
writing

Scarlet O’Hara, in the novel Gone With The Wind, did everything she could to save her beloved Tara, the family plantation. She did whatever was necessary, meaning she sold off family heirlooms and married a string of wealthy men. I’m not really the marrying kind. I mean, marriage is nice in theory but I don’t believe that for me it would work in practice. Plus, real men are hardly ever of the quality of the fictionally hot Rhett Butler.

Perhaps I should explain. My recent life situation took a dark and ugly financial turn, one that is touching many Americans. I’m struggling to keep my home. My financial situation came about through my own decisions to mortgage my family home in order to care for my dying mother. I don’t regret any of my decisions to help make my mother’s last days even slightly happier, and of that I am not ashamed, but it left me in dire straits.

I’ve considered taking the short sale and losing everything, but the short sale isn’t appealing because the bank, Washington Mutual or WaMu for short (isn’t that so sickeningly cute you could vomit), caring as it may pretend to be, will gladly take a short sale and then 1099 me for the difference between what I owe and what they take. Now if I don’t have the money to pay my mortgage I’m not going to have the money to pay income taxes based on the $50K or $100K less the bank settles on. The lesson here: never trust anything that takes on a cute friendly sounding name like WaMu.

Anyway there are other options in order to save my home, and I’m exploring them all. Long term is the option of taking in roommates, but in the short term I’ve gotten a job outside of real estate, as a mild mannered reporter for a local newspaper (I’ll talk more about that in coming months, but only if there’s a hot Jimmy Olsen in my future), and also in the short term I explored the options of an auction and an estate sale.

I first researched the possibility of an auction, but after having antique dealer/auctioneers visit my house and offer to split everything 50/50 with me and they wanted to e-bay it, or having them tell me how e-bay destroyed the business and that’s why they wanted me to take a 50/50 split or they wanted to pick and choose which items they would sell leaving me to unload the rest at a garage sale or just toss it all, or finally having the last man who simple said he would take it all, bundle it in lots and sell them off, and I should be grateful if I got $2000 for the whole thing, I turned to concept of an estate sale.

The process of holding an estate sale, for me, was to hire an antique dealer who would run everything. I sought out advice from friends, relatives, strangers, and got a lot of it. I turned to a man from somewhere in time. Literally. His shop is named Somewhere In Time, located in New Brunswick, NJ. A bundle of energy and optimism, Lenny Paolillo whirled through my house like a dervish taking in every nuance, memorizing my family heirlooms like the inventory they would become and mentally pricing everything or making note to research them before the sale.

He warned me before the sale we might have some theft, and would do his best to perform stop loss, but couldn’t guarantee it. He would limit the number of people allowed in the house at any given time, and we would have people stationed in each room to monitor the event. He also confessed the amount of stuff I had, all from my parents and grandparents, was overwhelming.

We agreed on a split, and began the process of setting up for the sale. It was to take place at my home since there was just too much stuff to sell on consignment from his shop, and too much stuff to transport to another location. The process pushed forward to the day of the sale with sluggish moments when I was overwhelmed by emotions.

I vacillated on the sale of some truly treasured heirlooms like a grandfather clock, a Windsor chair and a gladiator library table, among several other smaller items, all of which I realized I could not bear to part with despite the amount of money I would lose by not selling them. I had moments when I had to get out of the house because it was taking on the look of an antique store. My house was no longer my home, but a place where material objects lined tables and took over my dining room, living room, kitchen, basement, bedrooms and garage.

The weekend of the sale arrived. Friday morning a man knocked on my door at 8:00 AM. I’m not a morning person. Had I really been Scarlet O’Hara the man would’ve been shot like the Yankee intruder I imagined him to be at that hour. Instead he was informed the sale didn’t start until Saturday. He insisted he wanted to get in before dealers and collectors. He waved money in my face. I slammed the door in his.

By the afternoon of Friday things were at an emotional high. It wasn’t even the day of the sale and people were stopping by trying to weasel their way in before anyone else. That night I slept fitfully, and was up at 6:00 AM the next morning. I’m not a morning person. People began lining up at 6:30 AM for the 9:30 AM opening time. They paced around my front yard, signed in on a sheet to assure the order of entry, and then at 8:45 AM two men had a fist fight because one allegedly cut in line. That was the point where the tone of the day was set.

The first woman in the door took off like a bat out of Hell and ran, literally, through my house tagging items with pre-marked stickers marked “hold” so she could be given first crack at pricing. She tagged many items, but after discovering Lenny was not pricing the items at garage sale prices but at actual estate sale and antique store prices she left with only three treasures.

The line outside my house began to grow and stretch. By 9:30 AM more than 65 people were lined up. By 10:15 AM the line was stretching down the block and we had to increase the number of people in the house at one time from 10 to 15 people. This was also the point where people began to show their true nature.

I stood in amusement watching people display their natural greed and desire to someday die with the most toys. I wasn’t really upset by selling many of the items, and was more upset by the lack of respect people had for the privilege of being invited into someone’s home to purchase the possessions within. I was shocked when a man pulled a dresser drawer from the dresser, dumped the contents on the floor and began pawing through it like an animal. He left empty handed.

I stood by as people talked about the “owners” and how they didn’t need to be asking such high prices because obvious they had money and should just give the stuff away and get on with their lives, only to be more amused whenever Lenny would introduce me as the owner to the same buyers later on. The looks on the faces of those who realized how insulting they were in front of me only minutes earlier when they didn’t know I were the owner were priceless.

We did have attempted shoplifting, and in one case, the case which annoyed me the most, someone smuggled a cast iron piggy bank in the shape of a Conestoga wagon into the bathroom and pried open the bottom for perhaps two or three dollars in change and then tossed the bank beneath my bathroom sink to be discovered by me the next morning. The reason for my annoyance was the bank is a collector’s item and worth $35. The fool was a petty thief who settled for the lesser value. Personally I’m an all or nothing kind of a guy, and never settle for less.

Much like Scarlet O’Hara I’ll do whatever it takes to save my home. I may not have witnessed the burning of Atlanta, but I learned a lot about the dark side of human nature. After watching the vultures pick over the material bones of my ancestors I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I did watch with disgust and amusement the array of greed and disrespect displayed by my fellow human beings, by many people whom I call neighbors who didn’t realize I would be there to witness their actions, and I learned to place value on things other than material objects.

I’ve learned to value the moments when I am feeling secure and at peace with the world. I’ve learned to value something that can make me laugh, or cry, or smile or sigh. I’ve learned to value sunrise and sunset, watching my dog roll in the grass, seeing a red fox on the hill behind my house, watching a deer wander down the street in front of my house looking for a way back to his forest. My values have shifted and changed for the better because of much of what I’ve been through these past few years that have led to the current financial disaster that is my life, and I’m sure there will be many more changes before this is all over. If things work out, much like Scarlet O’Hara I’ll save Tara, but if they work out in another way I may not need to save the plantation in order to be wealthy.


ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS

Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos

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COMMENTS

lucy lediaev
8.13.08 @ 11:54a

I was relieved to read the last paragraph. It's rather like I felt after the Northridge earthquake. I lost things--some of them with sentimental value and a few with some monetary value. At first it was distressing, then I realized they were just things. You seem to have come to a similar realization. I can tell you life will be easier now that you've had that insigt.

tracey kelley
8.29.08 @ 9:29a

Wow, Robert, your play-by-play is eerie and interesting at the same time. I could never have imagined such a scene.

I know it's been incredibly difficult, but it -will- get better.



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