The Loh Life

The Heat, Part Two: Breaking a Bad Flea Market Bargain

Sandra Tsing Loh makes an unexpected stop at the local U-Haul dealer.

I envy my older sister.  She lives in San Francisco.  She and her husband walk 10 minutes to their hip video store.  They are watching the HBO miniseries John Adams.  On DVD.  Soon those DVDs will run out.  They will walk back to the video store, return them, then rent some more.  This is the natural circle of life.

By contrast, I dwell in Los Angeles - in that virtual Bermuda Triangle known as Netflix.  Aside from strange genres like gay and lesbian science fiction ACTION movies and peculiar titles like Bad Boys 2 - never Bad Boys 1 - you can watch TV shows like Breaking Bad, starting from Season One - No breaks.  You don't even have to get up to go to the bathroom.  In the seventh hour, you can put in a catheter.

Without any built-in breaks, I wake up late in the mornings face down on a pillow crusted with Kettle Chips, full of self-loathing.  No.  I had to break the cycle.  I had to start fresh and embrace my Labor Day weekend, filling it with fun, useful family projects.

But - of course - all plans crumble into slow, flaming pieces in the heat.

You cannot move when it's 100 degrees, and you'll be unaware of the fact that you shouldn't be moving because your brain will be shutting down, as well.

Which is to say, Sunday morning, I take my girls to the Pasadena City College flea market.  And hey, there is a lovely wooden desk and a chair and a sign that says: FREE!

My 11-year-old sits down, spins.  Oh, it's perfect!

An amiable middle-aged man in sunhat and Hawaiian shirt materializes.  "Why IS it free?" I ask.  He opens his arms.  "Sometimes you just have to give back to the universe!" he says.  "This desk was my daughter's and my granddaughter's - we just wanted to, you know, pay it forward."

"How wonderful!" I exclaim, waving my coffee mug.  "That reminds me of my own grandmother, who -"  And before I can finish my pleasant Sunday morning flea market rumination, I hear the squeaking of wheels of a dolly and with suddenly very flat eyes the man and his wife have loaded up the desk and chair and are trolleying it grimly towards the gate.

As if in a dream, I realize the desk is free is because it weighs 3000 pounds and doesn't fit into any standard vehicle, even my Volvo wagon - And suddenly, I am at U-Haul, soaked in sweat, renting a 20-foot cargo truck because - hey, it's a Sunday, that's all they had, everyone's moving - And now the free desk is costing 108 dollars, a hernia, and a shattered hip as I lie at the bottom of my stairs.

But soon, night will fall, it will be cooler, the kids will fall asleep, and my show will be on again.

Next week: Breaking a bad retirement portfolio.


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