Picking the Bones of a Desiccated Corpse: A Visit to New College's Blowout Sale
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens -- ALL MUST GO!
By Joe Eskenazi
After reading my colleague Lauren Smiley's article about New College's going-out-of-business blowout sale, I figured I had to attend. It's not every day one gets to wade through the detritus of other folks' shattered hopes and broken dreams. And I like to collect old phones.
The edifice of the Lilliputian liberal arts school -- which abruptly closed earlier this year amidst what can only be described as a metric shitload of problems -- still retained its stately faux-tudor dignity. But furniture in the sidewalk dispels any notion of elegance, and there was plenty of that here. Couches, love seats and enough chairs to seat the Boston Pops lined Valencia Street, and various skeezy folks were flopped down in them and engaged in loud cell phone chatter.
The hastily prepared materials hawking the sale promised "a maze of amazing rooms" -- but that was only half true. As one weaved in and out of portals piled high with both run-of-the-mill college office items (staplers, picture frames, large calculators ) and stuff that doesn't really qualify as educational equipment (1970s-vintage radio gear, tubs of LEGOs, a couple of Woody Herman LPs), the tour was often halted by an abrupt dead end. Indeed, this place lacked only a minotaur. But "amazing"? Well, that depends -- do molding Woody Herman vinyls sound amazing to you?
On a lighter note, the few books anyone could have a use for -- oversized, full-color compendiums of El Greco, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and others -- were still priced at $30 or more. Considering New College's financial implosion and the fact that, in the very same room as these costly books one could have literally bought the lighting fixtures, I considered that price a bit mind-boggling. Pretentious, really.
It would be a bit of an understatement to say the sale was disorganized. People didn't seem quite sure who to pay and, when they did, changing a $20 was something of an arduous task. Early in the afternoon, a man shouted that, instead of hardback books running $2 and paperbacks costing $1, now everything was a dollar. I did not notice anyone begin to grab more from the shelves. I did notice a couple of men -- both of whom seemed familiar with New College's labyrinthine halls -- shake their heads. "The way they're running this sale," said one, "is indicative of the reason they were forced to have it."