The on-line writings of
Debora Weber-Wulff

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USA 2004 - the second trip

My parents were deteriorating fast, we had to get them into a home. Since I am too far away to help with finding a place and getting the financing straightened out, I get the job of cleaning out the house and getting it ready for sale. We hid the car at the church to get Dad off the road. No matter that he has lost his license for DUI, he keeps driving under the influence. So we took the car away. I went to church on Sunday and got the keys from the church office. I stayed for church to see what has happened since my essay "The Carneval some call Church" was written about this church

It has gotten worse.

Exhibit A: The altar has turned into a post-9/11 patriotic affirmation of all that is crazy about America - notice that the cross has been shoved off to the side. At least there was still room on the altar for it, and they didn't put any glitter on the cross. I sat in the first row and couldn't help thinking of the altar in the cathedral in Güstrow - they had an altar cloth with little golden swastikas sewn onto it and one big swastika on the front. [The picture was scanned in from historic literature belonging to the church by Manuela Weiniger as part of her Diplomatheis]. I get irritated at people using gratious analogies about the Third Reich, but this was quite unsettling.

Exhibit B: The larger picture of the front of the church reveals that the large wooden cross is now hidden behind a stationary projection screen. This was used in the service for a Powerpoint slideshow with advertising for a Men's Retreat (after the opening prayer!), more Powerpoint with the hymns to be sung so people don't have to crack a book and find that number (okay, our church does this for youth services too, saves buying new hymnals for everyone), and the sermon opens with the preacher showing a video clip from an old movie that was a good introduction to the topic of "The Lost Shepard". Wonder what the copyright implications of this is? The theological ones shake me to the core. I must be getting old.

Actually, I seem to have gotten old - I have noticed a lot more "Madam" and "Yes ma'am"'s directed my way this trip. Guess that I'm finally over the hill.

Had lunch at the Panera Cafe down near Books-a-Million (where I usually spend about a million cents every trip).They don't advertise it in the store, but are registered with a WLAN-Hotspot register as offering a free Internet connection. And it really does work! They use the WLAN for informing people when their order is finished - you get a little box to take back to your table with you, when your food is done the box is made to flash and beep, and you go exchange it for food (it is numbered). The connection was indeed free and good quality, the food was excellent too (except the Americans are now off their cholesterol-free fad and are now on a low-carb fad. I've been following a low-carb diet during my sabbatical (lost 12 kilos!), but this seems to be a different kind of low-carb. Whatever, the rosemary-walnut bread was delicious!

The junk at the parents place is indescribable. A picture will have to do. Every surface area (and floors count, too) is covered with junk. You can barely move, I don't understand how they managed to live in this mess and not go stark raving mad and step on everything. They have everything in multiples - if they needed two batteries, they bought a 4-pack, used 2 and put the rest in the drawer. When they needed new batteries, they bought a new package. Same thing with stamps, I must have 100$ worth of stamps in booklets of 20 where only 4-5 stamps are used from each booklet. The neighbor says she threw out 4 gallon cartons of milk, each with just a glass gone, and all way past their due date. No wonder they were always having stomach problems.

We got a big waste recepticle (so big that I have to climb a ladder to get up to put something in) to be putting the stuff in. What a job! I am giving a prize for the piece of food that is longest past its use-by date. The ketchup (turned a nasty color) didn't have a use-by date (let's see, when were these made mandatory?), so the current winner is the bisket mix that expired 1992. (Postnote: This was the winner).

I am sorting bills and past-due notices, had insurance paid and checked the state of the taxes This is so alarming. I will hold an estate sale this weekend to see if anyone will come and buy any of this mess. Maybe we can pay off the service charges with this money.

Just looked at the first 2004 entry - I entered the States at Atlanta, the luggage carts are free still this year there. But in Jacksonville you have to pay 3$ for a cart to take over the bridge, and have to take it back over the bridge to get your 25 cent refund.

In retrospect:

The estate sale was a nightmare. We had advertised from 9-15 on Saturday. Thursday the first lady showed up (one who would irritate the hell out of me on Saturday). I would not let her or any others in. She showed up on Saturday at 6.35 as I was on my way to get coffee. No way, lady, patience. John and Eileen came with the girls at 8.30, and the neighbors that were helping on the sale came too. We had to open up at 8.45, there were over 40 (fourty!) people standing in line on the yard! The entire street was blocked with pickup trucks and cars!

They stormed in, for the most part professional estate-sale-pickers, and had their "treasures" inside of 15 minutes. And they wanted them for free for the most part. I had taken over the porcelain and glasswares, as I do know the occasional worth of things. I bickered with two professional people over the English bone china for over an hour, off and on, and at least got 120$ (I was asking for 150, I am sure they sold the lot on E-bay for over 300$ the next week). The cut crystal (costs upwards of 20$ a glass) I was asking 2$ for, but had only takers for 25 cents. I refused to sell. We finally took three of them with us to the hotel in the evening, used them to drink champagne, and then left them for the maid. I nursed the other 4 back to Germany with me - wrapped in paper and in a cool box. It was my second piece of carry on and I bitched with every check-in person, I had to change planes twice, but I got them home.

Some people just left the estate sale without paying, others played silly tricks. The nasty woman would come up to one of us with a container with 3 items and say: how much for this? We'd say: 3$. She would go away and come back with one more thing in her hand and say: Okay, you said 3$ for this and one more makes 4$, right? But she now hat 6-7 pieces (many valuable ones!) in the container!! I finally screamed at the woman that this was not just a rummage sale, this was my family's things I was selling and she was to get the hell out. She gave me 2 more dollars and then went to pull the same stunt on all of the other sellers. She wanted to buy the car, my brother and I decided we would rather have the car rot than have her buy it.

Other people played a fun game of removing the tags that had "sold" on them. We ended up selling the teak wood bookcases and the glassware display case twice. Each buyer had gone to get a U-Haul. We split them up, each got just one of the pieces, and since the last couple came when it was over we invited them to pick around and take what ever they would like.

Another game was to ask me what something cost, and then go to someone else and say: she said a dollar for this (I had said 10!). I ran after one woman and gave her back her dollar, I was so mad at her. I gave the caraffe away to the neighbor who was so kind as to help us through all of this - she was there every day, sorting and pitching stuff. Thanks Etendra, thanks John!

There were some nice storys too, though. A neighbor bought my dressers and desk for going to college. I liked the idea of a woman student using them. An inner-city math teacher bought math books for 10$ - I gave him the lesson planning stuff from my mother, we would have just pitched it.

The hardest part was after the sale. We had to throw out everything that did not sell. It hurt to pitch the books. I could not throw out my father's records, and neither could my brother. Luckily, his wife was not so sentimental, so she got the job of pitching stuff that made us cry. We actually filled up the entire container - my brother knew the trick of how to open one side so that we didn't have to throw everything over the top - what a relief!.

The last stuff we threw out was the dog stuff. The dog had disappeared the second day my parents were at their new home. Just vanished. In the evening when we called to let them know that we had cleared enough to pay the bills they had not paid that year, they were excited: the dog had been found. As far as I could piece together the next day, the dog had not gotten off the elevator with them. She got off on the wrong floor, and then trotted to the right apartment, which is not rented. But since it is the nicest one with the most sun on the balcony, the residents had managed to open the door and were using it to sun themselves. One woman in a motorized wheelchair used it daily. I assume she opened the door and the dog ran in, unseen. Then she couldn't get out. The security people found her in the bathroom, undernourished. But she had been good and fat before, so they took her to the hospital and she actually survived. The animal hospital didn't want to give them the dog back when I took them Monday morning before my flight back, because they thought she had been neglected. It took many phone calls by many people to sort that out - and the lovely neighbors managed to get the dog back. My parents were so happy to have her back, and she was happy to see them. Then we had to purchase all the dog stuff again....

I kept a few things - sending them by air freight or slow boat to Germany. Nothing has arrived yet, the air freight stuff landed in Frankfurt. We shall see what happens. I seemed to cry all of the way back. I was so mad about the dog not being released, and so sad at having to throw away all these memory things, and worrying about how my parents will cope.

At home I am now thowing out stuff as much as possible, even if it hurts!

Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff
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