I’m not sure what generates my biggest attraction to estate sales: the possibility of finding odd, antique treasures or snooping through the basements and bedrooms of an old house.
Last week, I scored on both counts.
An advertisement in the Saturday morning Duluth News Tribune showed a sale at the London Road home of a “former musician, hippie/beatnik, poet.”
Now London Road is a busy thoroughfare that hugs the Lake Superior shoreline with many wonderful and expensive homes. It was hard to imagine Ken Kesey parking his psychedelic bus just down the street from the Glensheen Mansion. And what could a true hippie have in their estate beyond sandals, reel-to-reel Grateful Dead tapes and a few hand-made ash trays?
I had to check it out. Twice.
The two-story, 111-year-old house was a dilapidated wreck. It looked like its last paint job happened sometime shortly after Woodstock. Rooms were small, carpets dirty and a bedroom ceiling featured a hole the size of San Francisco.
But after pushing through a tiny, first floor dining room packed with old record albums, speakers, amplifiers, posters and an antique cupboard, I walked through a side door advertizing exercise equipment.
It was the actually a passageway to the porch of paradise.
The rundown side porch sat above an idyllic lake stream. Water rushed over rocks and around boulders, sliced through a forest of small trees and disappeared into a mysterious concrete tunnel under London Road. Lake Superior was somewhere on the other side.
“Holy mackerel,” said a guy who walked out on the porch. He stopped, leaned over a banister, looked into the stream and listened. “I love that sound of trickling water…oh yeah.”
The guy was not alone. Dozens of people stepped onto porch and gazed into a scene that looked like it belonged on a Boundary Waters hiking trail. Only without a standing collection of abandon treadmills and stationary bikes.
The house also featured an original stained glass window installation above a living room book shelf. The art work featured a Henry Longfellow portrait and lines from his poem “The Song of Hiawatha.”
“From the forest and the prairies, from the great lakes of the Northland,” it read in gold, black and green colors.
While digging through a pile of old jean jackets and patchwork quilt vests, I over heard a woman rave to her teenage daughter about the porch and the home’s potential.
“We could buy this place, fix it up and a have a house in Duluth,” she said.
The teenager seemed nonplussed but she had an armful of stuff she wanted to bring home.
Me? I found an Allen Ginsburg book of poetry, an Elmore Leonard novel, a Spider John Koerner album and an old Spin magazine with the British rock band Duran Duran on the cover (for Jen, of course). Total purchase amount $9.
I dragged Jen back for the Sunday half price sale. The old hippie had some neat hand-made rag rugs that looked like good candidates for our dining room. Jen was unimpressed. Instead, I settled for a vintage pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses for $1.
After I get the prescription lenses removed, I’ll put them on, sit out on our own porch and imagine a stream rushing down our alley on the way to Lake Superior.