The stoop sale, that welcome rite of spring, is a Brooklyn institution. Of course variations exist across the country—garage sales and the like—but the distinct setting and a few essential details, the variety of merchandise especially, make the stoop sale unique to Brooklyn.
Underlying every stoop sale is a certain poignancy, born of the near-universal need to part with useful, even cherished items due to lack of space. Much of what’s offered at these makeshift bazaars could be dismissed as garbage, but a thing owned is a thing with a history, often invested with real emotions, like the thrill of discovery or the sadness of some personal association. That such things, freighted with intrinsic value, are sold to complete strangers for a song only intensifies the poignancy.
The avid consumer of culture is never fully sated; never is there a point when he has heard all the music or read all the books he wants to. And what a luxury it would be to have the bulk of all the books and CDs one has consumed in a lifetime within arm's reach, including the middling discs with one or two great songs or the books of short stories with only a few choice selections. But this is near impossible, which is among the most compelling arguments for the necessity of the stoop sale—as a vehicle for maintaining the churn of culture and passing along significant art and ideas (and for making one’s cluttered living room once again livable). It is axiomatic, however, that no more than three months after a stoop sale, the seller will yearn to hear songs on CDs or refer to passages in books that are absent.
The dizzying array of toys seen at stoop sales, from toddler diversions and pre-school learning games to elaborate adolescent amusements, provides a rare, concentrated look at the phases of youth. Eventually, though, the sale ends and all that remains are some unwanted objects and a few fleeting memories, not unlike youth itself.