During the summer of 2012, I stumbled across a certain north Minneapolis Facebook page. Geared for airing complaints about our neighborhood, sometimes long threads grew from small grievances and turned deliciously funny. The rules of The Gripe Page stated the admin would delete a post if it encouraged anyone to get to know his or her neighbors or told someone to “Move if you don’t like it here!” It was structured for grumbling, and there would be no deviating from that focus.
Like a craving I knew I shouldn’t often indulge, I tried to ration my Gripe Page reading. But after one of those days, I’d jump into yoga pants and a sweatshirt and devour the whole thing. Eventually, though, the sugary, guilty pleasure turned saccharine and set my teeth on edge. Discontent twisted within me. Had we made a mistake moving to the neighborhood? Were we crazy for raising our girls there? Tired of the artificial fun, I broke up with The Gripe Page and set out to focus on more positive things. And there was a Facebook page for that too.
On the positive page, the admin permitted only glowing stories, pretty photos, and uplifting comments about north Minneapolis. The Lovely Page was a peaceful place, coaxing a contented sigh from me each time I’d visit. But was there a page that landed somewhere between the negative and the blissful? Somewhere balanced I could claim as my go-to Facebook page for navigating life on the Northside?
I discovered a new page—one tailored to those who wished to share the good, the somewhat bad, and the slightly ugly. The Handy Page was a neutral place. The occasional “I just heard shots on such and such a block” was tempered by “Here are some photos of the new Webber Pool’s progress.” The contributors to The Handy Page were a neighborly, helpful sort—eager to give or take an extra hosta, willing to share local recommendations for anything from car repairs to pizza delivery, quick to praise a neighbor for reporting a crime without delay, and faithful to relay recycling or snow removal updates. The page was my favorite Yellow Pages, brought to life by people living somewhere near me. These friends I hadn’t met yet had been around the block a time or two and lived to share about it online.
Then one day, I stumbled on the delight of all delights: the north Minneapolis garage sale page. Northsiders posted photos of their once-beloved stuff, listed prices, and arranged meeting times to get the winners their things. The admin were efficient on The Cool Junk Page and reiterated the crisp rules when amateurs transgressed. There would be no I’m-interested-but-have-to-get-the-measurements kind of holding of goods. If someone didn’t “Dibs!” the item first, it just wasn’t theirs. The sellers peddled their discards with passion, and at times the dibsing rose to a fevered pitch. Some vendors appeared to be advertising professionals; they staged their cast-offs in expert lighting, and suddenly, maybe I did need an owl cookie jar.
The entertainment value was high, and I learned the page offered other services too.
“I’ll pay an extra ten dollars for someone to run to the Dairy Queen, buy me a Blizzard, and drive it over here,” a woman said one night. “I’m already in my pajamas and don’t want to go out.”
“I’ll do it,” another woman said. And she made the house call that night, delivering the frozen treat in the pouring rain.
Another time, a seller posted a photo of a ceramic latté mug. I decided I should probably buy it; I could envision it filled with coffee and inspiration—the kind of cup that could spur my writing to the next level. Mine was the first dibs, and I drove out into the night with my two dollars.
“I love your blog,” the seller told me when I introduced myself at her door. “I read it every week on the bus on my way to work.”
And just like that, we were friends.
One day, Meg, an artist in the garage sale family, showcased her work online. She had bought her paints—Holbein Artists’ Gouache—from another member and put them to good use, painting pictures from photos people had posted of their piles of garage sale wares. While her baby napped each day, she created colorful memorials to the garage sale’s old treasures. The members spotted their own departed possessions in her subject matter. And behind the paints Meg used, I detected something else: a warmth for her online friends.
“Maybe it’s corny,” she told me. “But the garage sale page has made me fall in love with the Northside like nothing else has in the six years we’ve lived here. I’m connecting with neighbors beyond my block and finding real friendships too.”
Behind the old bikes, the secondhand jewelry, and the tired-but-useful appliances were people with a fierce love for stuff, the neighborhood, and each other. And as I sifted through their junk online, I smiled. Meg and I were on the same page in more ways than one.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.