Monday, March 31, 2008


“We have an old mimeograph machine, model 8250 from Standard.
It powers up, but hasn't been used in years.
Take it away.”

Argument in Favor of Free Mimeograph Machine:

Much like the smell of madeleines for Proust, the odor of the mimeograph will awaken my own mémoire involontaire, which will then become the basis of my epic autobiography. I will call it A Remembrance of Things Thermofaxed, or, In Search of Lost Aniline.

Rebuttal to Argument:

You’re thinking of a spirit duplicator (or ditto machine), whose alcohol-fueled pigment transfer process had a distinctive smell. The mimeograph’s wax-stencil–and–ink technology did not have a particularly distinguishable scent.

Argument in Favor:

I live in a developing nation, where electricity is not widely available, making mimeograph technology more practical than photocopying, as it does not rely on electricity.

Rebuttal to Argument:

This particular machine, which “powers up” (and has a power cord visible in the picture), will apparently do you no good.

Argument in Favor:

I believe obsolete duplication technology to be the next big thing in hipster accessorizing, much like vinyl records and fixed-gear bicycles. I plan to give this mimeograph a place of prominence between my dot-matrix printer and my steam-powered printing press.

Rebuttal to Argument:

Then, by all means, take it away.


Guest authored by J-Ben, who is sophisticated in ways I will never approach.

Men's Underwear

" . . . 32 Waist. Hi, I have Fruit of the Loom and Hanes, boxer briefs and briefs. I might even throw in some Calvin briefs of mine."

Yeah, "hi." I need to know a few things before I take your underwear off your hands. First, these are new, wrapped underwear you were given for a birthday or something but never got around to wearing, right?

No? They are underwear you wore for years, until the elastic 32" waist could no longer contain your expanding belly? Jesus H. Christ, you can't be serious. You think I want your used underwear? Aren't there laws against this kind of transaction, free or otherwise?

OK, you may be right, maybe I am overreacting. They would fit, and your offer to sweeten the deal with even more used underwear (Calvin! Sweet!) is tough to resist. I'll be right over.

The Vintage Microwave odds of success on this would-be donation - 2 in 750,000.

Why two? Well, there may be one person in San Francisco who fetishizes wearing used underwear.

There may also be one other who will take some sort of pleasure in satisfying the would-be donor's obvious fetish for knowing that someone, somewhere is wearing his old underwear. There's no other way to explain this degree of WTF-ness.

PriceWaterhouse Tech Forecast

"PricewaterhouseCoopers Technology Forecast. 2 volumes available, each about 2 inches thick: (1) 1999 (2) 2001-2003 Both new in plastic wrapper with CD-Rom."

I think my investment plans could gain much from a careful reading of an accounting firm's 5 to 9 year old prognostications about where the tech sector is headed. Excerpts:

Google will be devoured by an unstoppable Excite! will be scooter-delivering VHS tapes and healthy cigarettes to 7 of 10 Bay Area households.

Babelfish improved to state where it is slightly better than completely useless.

Segway craze slowed by shift to jetpack travel.


Actually, now that I've typed this, maybe it would be fun to look through these and see what sort of mistakes they contain. I guess I'll just have to settle for looking at the covers, one of which forecasts the Space Needle being destroyed by lightning. Nonetheless, Microsoft persists.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shop tool cabinet

You are in the presence of celebrity. Remember "Silence of the Lambs"? How about "Seven"? And their latter-day progeny, "Saw [1-10 or so]" and "Hostel"?

Meet a character actor who appeared in all of them - Mr. Shop Tool Cabinet. The stories he tells about Fincher would blow your mind. And Jodie Foster owes him big time.

Yours, free. Don't be afraid.

Cement fountain

"It needs a bit of cleanup, and doesn't include the pump, but is very solid"

A bit of cleanup? It looks to me as though it needs a shave.

I also like the "very solid" description. That's shorthand for "I tried very hard to smash this into pieces that would fit in the trash, but nothing doing."

In any event, this is yet another example of the free section as manifestation of boundless optimism. "I have a huge, broken eyesore in my backyard. Maybe someone will relieve me of the burden I brought upon myself, when, in a moment of utter non-lucidity, I paid money for this."

Sure, it wasn't always broken and hirsute, but it was always an ugly cement fountain. You should have known this day would come.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

couch & loveseat

"You pick up. Serious only. No, I will not help you load it on your truck/car."

The very definition of charming. Someone who is so irritated, in advance, at how unappreciative you are of the free couch and loveseat you are getting, that they must let you know - again, in advance - that there are limits to their extreme generosity.

I've got news for you, couch and loveseat giver. The only people on earth who want that matching nightmare live in the slums surrounding Calcutta, where your couch, admittedly, would be an improvement over sleeping on the dirt floor, but only by the smallest of increments.

If you find anyone willing to take those out of your living room, I suggest you not only help move them, but spot the taker a benjamin or two. Relieving you of those things is not far off from agreeing to donate a kidney to you, or volunteering to cover a shift at your job cleaning toilets at Candlestick Park during football season.

Pink Chairs

In the early 1980's, a design collective was born. It was based in Italy, but included participants from around the world. It is referred to as "Memphis," and it produced some of the most astonishingly ugly, impractical, and harshly-colored furniture ever imagineered. The man who really got it going was Ettore Sottsass. He was responsible for such crimes against humanity as this . . . I don't know what it is. Other than infuriating. The light bulb is a nice touch though, don't you think?

You may not believe me, but things like this go for tens of thousands of dollars at furniture auctions. They are considered "important." There are people whose job it is to call hideous things "important." They are paid for a very simple skill - keeping a straight face against all possible odds.

Imagine your delight, then, that you can find a pair of chairs like this, on Craigslist, for free:

They feature the unappealing shapes and embarrassing color schemes of "Memphis" furniture, but combine them with the designer's obvious fondness for the insect kingdom. A sort of Memphis Ant chair.

If you snap them up before I do, be sure to contact Sotheby's, tell them they were designed by Aldo Cibic (they'll know who that is), and wait for the money to roll right in.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cat Painting

"This is a large oil painting of a beautiful cat with big blue eyes."

No argument here. That is exactly what this is.

But what if I were to tell you its title is "Ceci n'est Pas Un Chat," which would mean you need to think while you gaze upon it? Are you willing to drive to Dublin, California to pick it up now? Or is it too challenging?

Yeah, I thought as much.


There is a bottleneck right now between my brain and my fingers. I am sweating - so many things to say about this dresser.

Its condition can't possibly be explained as standard wear-and-tear, can it? I mean, presuming it's under 800 years old. It would take at least 100 years of active beatings to make a piece of furniture look this way. Was it locked in a cell with an angry psychotic? Used by a fire department in drills at the academy? Dropped off a high school roof semester after semester by a physics teacher trying to drive home some point about gravity, while simultaneously working out his frustrations that his applications to the local community college keep suffering rejection?

In any event, this is not a dresser. It is, at this point, no more than kindling.

Finally, and don't be coy here - it's haunted, right?


Vintage Microwave Quiz - which is the free couch on Craigslist, and which is a thunderstorm?

Follow-up question: which would you rather have in your living room?

Striped Chair

"Generally good condition... needs some repair/needle work to 2" opening in fabric on front. Nice colors."

The second in a sequence of anthropomorphized chairs. Hey, maybe this will become a meme. For all I know, it may already be. In any event, this chair is clearly shrugging, suggesting, "yeah, I know, I'm hideous, but I'm OK with that. I've never known anything else. What are you gonna do? You play the hand you're dealt. Have a seat. And no, I didn't come with that smell, it was added later."

To the declaration of "nice colors," I say: Chances this chair will be taken? 1 in 20 million.* And even those odds presume that someone is preparing an art car for Black Rock City, and seeks the ugliest possible chair to mount on its structurally questionable crow's nest. If that someone does not exist, the chances are zero.

*Calculated with Vintage Microwave proprietary formula adapted (perhaps in violation of intellectual property laws, perhaps not) from Fair Isaac FICO algorithm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chair and shelves

Ha ha! Crappy shelves and . . . wait, there's nothing funny about this. What's funny about a chair that looks like it's about to die of loneliness?

Bridesmaid dress

"I have a bridesmaid dress that I would like to donate to either a Youth organization or someone in need. It is a size 14, spaghetti straps, lavender in color, has a wrap and worn once. I will send photos if interested. I would like to donate the dress to a good cause so please do not respond otherwise."

This is a common free section conceit – the “to a good cause” model. People who not only want to unload their crap, but want to someone to say “thank you” for it, preferably on official letterhead. Whenever I see these, I think of one of the DSM's criteria for narcissistic personality disorder - "requires excessive admiration." I get the feeling some of them imagine that a wing of the organization’s headquarters might one day be named after them, in honor of their generous donations.

Let’s take a moment to understand the worldview of the poster of this listing. She believes that “good causes” are scouring the free section of Craigslist looking for bridesmaid dresses. She also believes that once they find her listing, they will do whatever it takes to take possession of the dress: e-mail her, perhaps trade a photo or two, arrange for a meeting, drive there (bringing along, of course, notarized copies of their non-profit articles of incorporation and tax ID number). All for the prize of her used bridesmaid dress. Maybe that's delusional rather than narcissistic. But no one says you can't have both!

Mohair chair

I am moving and sadly cannot take these chairs.

You say you are sad, but you are moving because you want to get away from these chairs. These chairs are destroying you. They have held you hostage for years, threatening your family with their aggressive, visceral ugliness. Your entire post suggests Stockhom Syndrome, but don’t worry, we’ll get you through this.

There are 4 of them.

This is worse than I thought. I’ve contacted the authorities. Your neighborhood is being evacuated right now. Take your birth certificate and passport, leave everything else behind. Leave the back door unlocked.

They are grey mohair.

That almost sounds respectable, doesn’t it? Mohair. Get out of the house, now.

They roll.

We appreciate the warning. This is an ugly that may be difficult to contain. Homeland Security is cordoning off all of San Francisco.

The catch. They are very dirty.

This calls for Plan D-sub-4. CENTCOM has already decided. We are nuking San Francisco, from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Remember when I said we'd get you through this? I'm sorry, I was wrong. You will die, with a majority of the rest of the Bay Area. But the greater good will be served.

These are very high quality chairs.

We've called in principals of the intelligence community. Your sentence confirms their findings. They located the bill of lading from the arms dealer who first brokered the sale of the chairs. They are weapons-grade chairs of the deadliest order.

But I used them in my work space with dogs. So they have a lot of sand and dog hair on them. But nothing a good steam cleaning wouldn't cure.

We asked the NSA about the steam cleaning option. After consultations with the White House, it was rejected in favor of a bomb.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

AM/FM Cassette JVC Boom Box

" dirty with broken antanae but works."

My radio, believe me, I like it loud
I'm the man with a box that can rock the crowd
Walkin' down the street, to the hardcore beat
While my JVC vibrates the concrete

Wait, this is what LL Cool J was talking about? It sounded a little more impressive at the time. Maybe it was a different, more majestic model.

This post provides yet another definitional problem - what does "works" mean? If its "antanae" is broken, this radio gets no reception, so the AM/FM is out. That leaves the cassette player. Putting aside obsolescence, this is what, 15-25 years old? Does it look like its heads have ever been cleaned? Is it conceivable that the dust it's coated with isn't also in the mechanism?

Which leads to the ultimate question. Do you have a tape you'd be willing to put in there? All the cassettes I have I keep around because they're unique, containing songs available no where else in my collection, maybe on earth. Free JVC boombox, you will feast on my priceless cassettes when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

Retro Sofa

"Giving away this couch to the first taker. Our cat loved this couch and marked his territory on both ends of the couch."

Why do I go to the CL free section? The same reason as anyone with at least a little disposable income - I go out of unwarranted optimism. Out of a childlike hope that one day, someone will be giving away the very piece of furniture I was about to pay $500 for (plus shipping) on eBay. It hasn't happened yet, but one day, oh yes, there it will be. So I click on things that say "retro," because "retro" just might mean "something lovely and austere made between 1945 to 1962."

To this poster, "retro" apparently means "extremely ugly," "shapeless," or perhaps "in gruesome earthtones." I suppose I cannot police people's use of terms to make them match my own, and if "retro" just means pre-1990, this poster may be correct.

I think s/he is incorrect, however, if s/he believes that anyone, ever, is coming by to pick up this piss-soaked abomination. Retro Sofa poster, your piece of furniture is why god gave man fire.

Food in a bag

"Free bag of various canned and dry goods in a paper Andronico's bag by the street on west st. near Bancroft. Out by a light post, halfway down the block. A few things are opened/slightly used, but I promise it's not contaminated! Just drive or walk by and pick it up."

If EVER there were a free post on CL that required commemoration, it's this one.

Free food is not that rare on CL. People give away baby formula, avocados growing in their yard, hell, I once even saw someone advertise, with a picture, a bag of frozen food that was due to expire that very day. That post made me laugh. I'm not sure how this one makes me feel.

The most obvious jaw-droppery comes from the "not only am I putting food on the street, but it is 'opened/slightly used'" portion. Um, WTF is slightly used food?! Never made it past the glottis? Please don't answer. I'll presume you mean "partially eaten." My WTF stands. You really think someone you might reach on Craigslist, i.e., who has access to a computer, wants your half-eaten box of Triscuits?

The more subtle brazenness of the post is found in the "I promise it's not contaminated," proclamation, coupled with the "I have anonymously placed it on a street corner" strategy to make it impossible to confirm its origins. If you want to give me your unfinished burrito, at least personally hand it to me so I know which house to burn down when I find out I have hepatitis.*

All this aside, what about the unopened stuff? Are the cans bloated with Clostridium botulinum? Are we years past the expiration date? Pardon my suspicion, but why have you decided this food is too dangerous for your pantry?

*Of course, I will eventually realize I have no one but myself to blame, but in those initial post-diagnosis moments, anything is possible.

Small Dresser

"3 drawers. Could use some work but is clean. Out on corner of Geneva Avenue and Prague St."

A search of the CL free section reveals 26 dressers being given away. All are flawed. This one alone is hilarious. In case the pictures don't tell the story, let me make it clear: this dresser has been through hell and back. It "could use some work"? Even a free dresser shouldn't need work. It certainly shouldn't need structural repair, which is what the picture of its back suggests. I'm pretty sure it was a stunt double for another dresser on the set of "Walker, Texas Ranger." Its first and last taste of showbiz. It never recovered.

"OK, so it's beat to hell," you say, "at least it's ugly!" Yes, it does have that going for it, it is very ugly. But some folks think of that as a bad thing. For those people, there are 25 other free dressers on Craigslist. And Ikea sells the Kullen three drawer dresser for only $39.99, with only a fraction of the ugly.

Odds of this dresser going from the street corner into someone's/anyone's home? I'm putting it at 1 in 20.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


"i have a free 4/3mm body glove wet suit with NO zipper. If you could get a zipper for it the suit would work great. It is relativly new (within a couple years) and is in very good condition with no rips or tears. Call me for location and you can come pick it up."

No picture for this one, because he thinks you may not be interested if you see the blood caked on the wetsuit. You know, from the grievous injury that resulted from hitting the rocks below the waves so hard that the zipper was ripped off. But no rips or tears besides that.

Sure, it may not be so dramatic. I do tend towards flights of fancy. But fancy this - the wetsuit was worn by this guy for "a couple years." Every time he wore it, he was naked, in the ocean, for hours. Is a picture forming in your mind? Taking the place of the one he left out of his post?

While you're picking it up, after making a deal with the seamstress down the street for some state of the art waterproof zipper sewing, ask him if he has any underwear lying around he needs to get rid of.

Cheese Grater

"Free cheese grater and slicer in working condition"

Hi, how are you! We've decided this futuristic trigon of a cheese grater is either (1) too unsanitary (2) too dangerous, or (3) too useless for its intended purpose to allow it to stay in our home for even a moment longer. Right now, we've got it in the garage. But that's not quite far enough away. Do you want it?

Floor mats

"We traded in our van 2000 Sienna forgetting that these were at home waiting to be shampooed some day. Yours for free but need to be cleaned. Some stains on the middle row mat. Back row and front ones in better shape. I don't need to be home for you to get them. If you are interested, I can leave them out front."

I don't want these. Neither do you. Not only do we not own Toyota Siennas,* we value cleanliness. That makes the stains bad. What makes the stains worse? They are someone ELSE'S stains. This is a minivan, remember, so there were probably children in this car regularly. Children spill things. They track things. More than occasionally, they ooze things. When I look at the stains, I think of the source. The children. After a few minutes staring at these floor mats, I have to say - they're not unspeakably repellent. I would say they are just repellent enough.

*In fact, I had never heard of the Sienna until my eyes fell upon this post.