ORONO, Minn. — I bought a bag of Skittles for the trip.
It only seemed appropriate, after all, to snack on Michael Beasley’s favorite delicacy as I drove further and further into the Minneapolis suburbs toward his former home, a 5,000-square-foot, $1.4 million colossus on top of a wooded hill. Working the sugary, vaguely fruity Skittle goo out from between my teeth, I began to imagine Beasley driving home after games along these very roads, traveling all this way to the most buttoned-up, white-collar, suburban landscape he could have chosen.
It didn’t seem to fit.
During the season, I’d always imagined Beasley living in a hip condo or apartment downtown, much like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio do. That assumption was based on little more than his age, 23, and that he had grown up in Washington, D.C., and this weekend it was shattered when word leaked that Beasley would be holding an estate sale at his suburban home.
The forward, who spent two seasons with the Timberwolves, signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Phoenix Suns in July, and in the cost-benefit analysis of his new deal, he must have decided that moving his possessions was just too huge of a hassle. Perhaps the décor wouldn’t fit with his new manse in Scottsdale, but most likely, Beasley just decided to cut ties altogether with the last vestiges of his Minnesota self. With apparently no girlfriend or wife or mother to give him the reasonable advice of “call a company and they’ll move it all for you,” Beasley decided on another option: an estate sale.
The sale began on Saturday in the house that Beasley rented while in Minnesota. About 90 percent of the items for sale were Beasley’s possessions, a security guard told me — once I’d revealed I knew the owner’s mysterious identity — and no sports memorabilia was available for purchase. The house itself isn’t on the market, and as soon as Beasley’s remnants are hastily sold off and the carpets are removed of their splotchy stains, a new renter will likely take over.
I missed out on the first day of the sale, and by the time I arrived Sunday morning, it had descended into the discount round. Every item had two prices listed: Saturday’s outdated one and Sunday’s bargain closeout. A table that once was $400, now discounted to $150! Anthropomorphic rabbit salt and pepper shakers, now for the bargain price of $5! Women’s handbags, now $150!
The further in I got, the creepier it became. It’s strange enough to see athletes in their homes on reality television, and this was in close-up, tactile reality, with all the possessions and no sign of the athlete himself. Start thinking about it, and it gets even weirder.
Twenty-three-year-olds don’t hold estate sales. They just move. The whole thing, the poking at tchotchkes and testing the bounce of couch cushions and flipping through books, gave the illusion that Beasley was dead, not simply playing for another team. Knowing otherwise made me feel almost guilty to even be looking in his mirrors and wondering why he owned so many coffee tables.
By Sunday, the house was full of the kind of couples in their mid-50s who make attending estate sales their weekend occupations. They were there to buy everything from candlesticks to bamboo poles, and they honest-to-goodness had no idea whose junk they were writing checks for. As the families pointed at the stained carpets in confusion and oohed and aahed over the display cases of jewelry, I wanted to shout. THIS IS MICHAEL BEASLEY’S STUFF. YES, THAT MICHAEL BEASLEY. AND YOU’RE PAYING $15 FOR IT.
But really, that would have destroyed the serene atmosphere that had been carefully cultivated by the throngs of workers in green Esquire Estate Sales aprons. As they shuttled chairs down the stairs and coffee tables out the door, swiping credit card after credit card, there was no mention of the owner or the odd circumstances of the sale. The day before, a security guard told me, people in on the secret had tried to purchase the basketball hoop out of the backyard, which was in no way for sale. The workers were there to prevent situations like that, to make sure that no idiot like me started ranting about Beasley and how weird this whole sale really is. Even the iPhone pictures I took were frowned upon, but no one had the gall to tell me not to.
That would have meant acknowledging whose house this was, after all.
So there was no yelling about Beasley, but there were whispers. Neighbors gossiped to workers about the time a sports car ended up wrapped around a tree last winter outside the house, and anyone who did know the identity of who had previously lived there couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow in nearly every room they entered. The entire thing posed so many questions: Why does Michael Beasley need a copy of the Physicians’ Desk Reference? Or a book of Ingmar Bergman screenplays? Or giant glass grapes? What use does Beasley have for a floral headboard? Why does he love tasseled pillows so much? Whose handbags are those?
There’s no way to answer those questions. There’s no way to guess what 10 percent of the items weren’t Beasley’s, because next to nothing in the house looked like anything you’d ever imagine the basketball player purchasing. The house is as generically suburban as they come, and despite my lingering sense that Beasley was haunting it, it was so easy to see how this could be just another estate sale.
And after two laps through each of the three stories, I’d had enough. As much as I wanted to purchase those salt-and-pepper shakers, it seemed like doing so would be crossing some sort of weird ethical line. But when I walked out the door empty-handed, an employee stopped me.
“Nothing?” he asked, gesturing at my lack of an armchair or coffee table or candlestick.
I explained to him that no, I was there more as a tourist, and told him that I cover the Timberwolves for a living. After trying to sell me a table in the basement that “looked very Timberwolves-esque,” he laughed and let me go.
As I walked down the hill to my car, a woman stopped me, guessing incorrectly that I was the kind of mature, well-dressed young adult who actually attends estate sales to purchase home accessories.
“Is there anything worth buying?” she asked.
I paused, about to let her in on the pseudo-secret before deciding instead not to ruin her experience.