People ask me all the time, if I ever made the score. The big one. The Jackpot…
The answer is simple,”If I made the score, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be in Tahiti drinking a cocktail, looking out on nice blue ocean. I’d be gone…
And people say back to me,”Oh yeah, I don’t buy it, you love what you do too much. You’d be the Millionaire, still wearing dirty clothes going to the next cleanout job.”
Give me the money and we’ll find out, cause I don’t really know myself.
How did I get here? How did a College Graduate with some writing awards, a musician with some Punk roots, and a young man working in Corporate America for nine years, turn his back on all of that in order to dress in dirty clothes and do the messy hard work job of cleaning out apartments and houses.
In other words, What the fuck was I thinking?
I have an answer. Yes, I was a Writing Major and won awards in College but I knew I was missing something. I was missing some life experience. Where was I going to get that experience?
I was a distraught musician. I wanted to make goofy music like Devo and B-52’s. I did. I wrote songs about “cracking coconuts,” and being a “Sci-Fi Kind Of Guy.”
I did not have the intestinal fortitude to stick it out in music. I met many of my punk heroes and was disappointed in them when I found them strunk out in the early eighties…
I tried to have a band called Squid Liquid and His Remains… I couldn’t find a drummer who wouldn’t end up drinking too much and ending up in his own vomit. It was too difficult to use people who were suffering. Sure, I suffer, but not with drink and drugs. Anyway, I couldn’t handle it.
So, I was working in Corporate America in a Blue Collar job in White Collar America. Jeez, that is impossible. I was working in a print shop in the basement of a major Corporation.
I didn’t fucking care what they did at this job, I just liked it because I had a lot of down time to write, even though I didn’t have anything to write about yet. I stayed at the job for nine years. I stayed till they closed the department down.
I stayed because they didn’t want me there. Every boss said,”You don’t belong here.”
And I said,”Fuck You!”
The last boss said,”You don’t belong here.”
And I got up and pointed at him,”Are we done, because you are the fifth boss to tell me that. You will be gone before me. Not a one of you is in the Company anymore. You are invisible.”
He turned beet red and did not give me a raise that year. He was gone in six months and I got my raise and nobody said anything to me anymore because the entire department was closing down. If the Department didn’t close, I would still be there today, maybe.
While I worked in Corporate America for the nine years, it was 3 days at twelve hour shifts… Four days off, gave me time to explore other ways to get experience in life.
I married, had girlfriends, sometimes at the same time. Sometimes not. I found this shitty little Junkstore with the most interesting of characters in it… oh and interesting items as well. The shop surrounded Manny.
Manny was my hero. When I met him, he should have been retiring. Instead, he was just getting started. He was 65 and had a few girlfriends. He was emptying out apartments and houses, of people who had died or deserted their stuff for one reason or another. He would bring me under his wing and teach me everything he knew from the time he began selling rags from a horse and buggy during the depression.
He always said,”This business is Recession Proof, It will keep you busy and your day will never be done. You will never want to leave it. It’s like being a Pirate. You will accumulate treasures and not know what to do with it all.”
Man was he telling the truth.
So, I had found this outsider community of people. There were Junkmen, Junkies, Flea Market Dealers, Hustlers, Fences for stolen items, Hookers, Ex-Cons, Confidence Men, Criminals, and people looking to make a big “Score” and retire, all surrounding Manny
There were people with names like, Spanish Eddie, Polish Eddie, and Special Ed. There was Bald headed Mitchie and Mitchie the Cop. There was Joel The Bear, Dino, Johnny The Juice, Iggy, and Cadillac Joe and my other mentor Sonny.
Jeez, I had found my Corporation. I found my Punk Rock show. I found my “Experience” that I was looking for. I was able to get lost in this business and find out about life from my mentors… They explained life like no one else had ever explained life to me before. Still, not sure if this was good or bad, but at least I have an explanation to life, whereas, other people flounder.
I was able to find out about how the City ran, about the Politics, about the Mob, about Cops and Robbers.
I learned about how people lived and died, about love and honor, about friendship and betrayal. The Junk business has had everything about experience that I was looking for and it was all in a very raw form of an underbelly of a “Missing America.”
Within, that world of raw savagery, there was also a beauty and a poetry to it. I met people who were killers, who loved and collected Art. I have met artists who needed the raw materials from me to make their art. I have introduced myself to recorded music, and books that I would never have known about, if I hadn’t gotten involved in this business, but there was something else…
I want to make the big score. I have hit baby jackpots, but that’s not what I’m looking for, I’m looking for that thing, that gets me a nice home and whatever else I want. It can be done. I have seen other Junkmen win big and watch it change their life.
I have seen the slob who goes to the Carribean for a vacation and find a million dollars of tin robots in a basement of a toy store. He was never the same.
I have seen the book dealer who bought the books for a nickel a piece, score a five dollar bill in each book. He was never the same
I have heard about the man who bought an old frame in a flea market for ten bucks, only to discover that it had a copy of The Declaration of Independence in it. I know the guy who sold the frame. He will never be the same.
There is a Junkman Code that I am not breaking by writing about it. I have always been clear with people that I was writing their stories down, and they opened up to me more than if I wasn’t writing it down. I was their confessor. They needed someone to tell the truth to and I told them I was going to tell the world their story, and they said,”It’s about time!”
I find myself in an interesting position in life. I am fifty years old with a wife and two kids. I have not been able to give them the middle class life I had hoped to give them. The kids are five and three and we are waiting to see if we can get them into any of the Charter Schools that we have deemed will give them a quality education. I still have the same vehicle for 15 years. It is a Dodge Ram, 1990. It is both the vehicle that picks up shit, as well as the family vehicle. We wear second hand clothing and I do all the cooking at home, I am a Chef.
The Recession has kicked my ass. I was always in a struggling business but I never sweated the bills. Now, I sweat the bills. I feel my wife sneaking up behind me. She is breathing hard and heavy at the end of every month. It is not for sex. It is to rip my head off, if we don’t have all the money for bills
I always need more money to even maintain what shit I have. I needed more money, so I started an Amazon business… The bills doubled.
So, I started an Ebay business that is successful, my bills doubled…
I needed more money so I started working Flea Markets on the weekends. Do I make more money? Yes. But you know what… My bills doubled.
I’m not sure what I can do next if the bills double again. I guess I would have to close the store and just do the flea markets. That would suck because I really like talking to people and showing off how much of a smart-ass I am.
So, I find that I have had to start selling off my retirement suitcases of good stuff. This was supposed to last me from the age of 65 till I dropped dead a few years later. Of course, I don’t even know if these suitcases are really worth what they really are worth.
I have these suitcases filled with watches or baseball cards, stamps and coins that I have never gotten around to evaluate. Now, is the time to find out if something can get me out of this rut I find myself in.
Who knows. Maybe I have had my winning lottery ticket for twenty years and never knew it. Of course, there are a few things that I wonder if it was the winning ticket, and I dumped it because I thought it was shit.
Maybe I had the real Maltese Falcon and just thought it was a hunk of junk. (By the way, I keep a Maltese Falcon on my kitchen stove, and since I do my biggest meditation on business as I’m cooking, you can understand why it resides there.)
In the mean time, this is what I’m hopinf for: Occassionally, I will get a job that takes a couple of weeks. It is a large job in a beautiful neighborhood. I am hoping to get the keys like I have in the past and move my family into it. For a month we will live in a good neighborhood with nice furniture, till I have to remove it and turn in the keys…
This happens on occassion, too bad it doesn’t happen every month. I wouldn’t have to pay any rent.
Check it out. This happened to me once when I was cleaning out an apartment on the Upper West Side. I got the keys to the place and moved in as I packed. It just so happened that another apartment in the building also needed a cleanout. So, I cleaned out the one apartment and moved it into the other apartment. Now, the jammed apartment was packed with a second apartment. The people who hired me to clean out the one apartment came to see how I was doing. When they saw that there was even more junk in the apartment, they flipped out. I told them not to worry but they worried.
In two days I moved everything back into the other apartment and now worked out of that one. Jeez, what they think was gonna happen.