The temperature dipped into the 50s on Friday. I slept with the windows open, the breeze billowing my long curtains into white parachutes, streetlights from the alley casting long orange ribbons onto the floor. I fell asleep alone, inhaling the cool air.
But Saturday morning, I woke up wrapped in fall's arms. I smiled, shivering, pulled the covers around my goosebumped shoulders, before I even opened my eyes. Loving autumn's crisp embrace but not ready to commit just yet. Fall has always been about new beginnings. Freshness trumps everything: The leaves change color and fall off the trees to make a new soundtrack for my footsteps and room for new growth in the spring.
Even the light streaming into the apartment through the open blinds that morning was different, had an apple-cider shimmer to it. The kind of morning that demands smoky, lilting jazz or careening bluegrass music. Depending on which way the breeze blows.
I gave in to the chill and climbed out of bed, dressed quickly: I pulled on jeans and a T-shirt, swept my hair into a ponytail and ripped the tag out of a new navy-blue chunky sweater. I stuffed the sweater into my oversized purse, slipped into a pair of plaid flannel flats and rushed out into the morning air to meet a friend for coffee.
I haven't made it out of the apartment so early on a weekend in quite a while; the line at Starbucks was nearly out the door, everyone eager for their caffeine fix. I ordered a soy chai and closed my eyes to relish the first sweet, spicy, creamy sip.
Coffee in hand, we cruised down the side streets of the Ukrainian Village with the windows down. We found a parking spot on Wolcott Street and made our way, laden with floor lamps, folding tray tables, bags of stuff — and things — and a crate full of markers, books and snacks down the street to the Indie Rock Yard Sale.
And that's where we stayed. All afternoon.
I never meant to spend my whole day there, but fall's inevitability of new beginnings makes it hard to refuse the opportunity for laughter with strangers-turned-friends, a solid stoop to sit on and a little extra money in your pocket after a few hours.
The sale raged on for the first hour, with a steady stream of bargain hunters browsing the wares and handing over a quarter, 50 cents, a couple of dollars at a time for things worth far more. The money didn't matter as much as making room for more life: Everything must go.
I sold a pair of shoes to a girl in cut-off jeans and bright blue socks; she loved them so much that she wore them out of the sale. I'd worn them twice.
For most of the day, we were six sellers tied to the tiny yard — with no customers. We spun tops, told jokes and got to know each other. We foraged in the "free box" for trinkets to keep us amused.
We sent obnoxious tweets with photos of all the fantastic goods on offer at the sale; we cheered every time an item sold that we thought might never go: a varnished plywood sculpture of the moon with a staircase, an red knife block in the shape of a man, stabbed through, voodoo-style, five times. The complete set of Ren & Stimpy comic books is still available, if you're interested. (They're even slipcovered.)
I reclined against the cement stoop, finished the weekend crossword, snacked on peanut-butter M&Ms. We talked about Burning Man and Yo! MTV Raps. The postman came, and I burst giddily into the mail song from Blue's Clues — to my delight, it ended up a duet. We tossed gumball-machine bouncy balls against the sidewalk and ducked in panic as they ricocheted every which way.
I spent the day realizing, over and over again — tongue firmly in cheek — that hipsters are people, too: character development for the girl from Lincoln Square. I made peace with the upper-arm cassette tape tattoo, the Captain and Tennille album on vinyl, passersby in plaid flannel shirts and skinny jeans, a ramshackle entry staircase with a bad faux finish, winding hallways in a narrow old apartment in Wicker Park. Slow sales and plenty of time to talk helped; bottles of IPA from a visiting friend's backpack certainly didn't hurt.
I wore my off-white headband with pride, comfortable in my Gap-clad skin.
In the end, we were just a bunch of people trying to sell a bunch of random shit. By 5 p.m., we were yelling at every bike rider and dog walker to stop in. Practically thrusting our belongings at them, begging them to grab some cassettes as they passed. I felt I belonged — attached to no one but linked to my neighborhood and everyone who lived there — for the first time.