I don’t do anything illegal, at least I don’t think I do. Sometimes, I want to, but the pussy Jewboy in me always chickens out.
For example, a guy walks into the shop the other day and starts talking to me about the expensive wine store he works in. “They have bottles of wine for forty grand, and champagne for 14 thousand and blah, blah,blah, they pay a million dollars in rent on Park Avenue…”
Then the guy tells me where the warehouse is in Brooklyn… Are you fucking kidding me. Thank God my Puerto Rican friends weren’t around. Oh lord, people would have been drowning in a rich man’s elixir…
So, what am I trying to say here? First, of all, I’m gonna get calls tomorrow from my Puerto Rican friends, not insulted but wanting the address. I ate the address o.k.
What I’m trying to say is something my first wife picked up about me. She said, “If you hang out with those guys at the junkstore all day, you will become them.”
Yes, that is what I wanted.
Here’s what I didn’t know… When I was dating Lynne who became my second wife, for her birthday I got her a couch and a t.v. and some other stuff that was in storage. We drove there with Papa John and his son Chucky and maybe Johnny Juice.
Now, Papa John invented breaking into cars and stealing luggage during the Depression and his son Chucky had such a long rap sheet, that when cops arrested him, they always needed a new cartridge when they were done printing.
Now, to me, when Papa John ran over the garbage can that was in the road to help people avoid the huge pothole, it was all part of the fun of the day. I was trying to give Lynne a birthday present she would not forget
To Lynne, she was terrified by these guys. There was talk of guns and killing and Corrections Officers and prostitutes,but to me, it was exciting debates with knuckleheads about urban politics.
I’m sure Lynne remembers this day…
And this is how I really developed a different street sensibility.
First of all, I grew up on Townsend and Jerome on 170th street in the Bronx. I saw some crazy shit on those streets. When I struck out in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, they took my Mickey Mantle bat and set it on fire and chased me home as if I were Frankenstein’s monster…
They took a mannequin of a kid and brought it to the roof of his building.When his mother came home, they pointed to the roof and said,”Isn’t that Johnny, I think he’s going to jump?” Then they threw the mannequin down… An ambulance came for Johnny’s mother.
13 year olds were shooting dope because it didn’t reek like marijuana. Ah, the Bronx.
Girl gangs roamed and stole my friends sneakers… not for it’s value but to see him walk home in socks.
As a Jewish kid, in a changing demographic, I was in a fight everyday. I held my own. But it was everyday. When we moved to Flushing when I was 12 and I walked around the neighborhood and nobody messed with me. I didn’t know where I was, but I liked it.
Shit happened in Flushing too, but nobody ever pulled a zip gun on me in Queens. Maybe it was my lucky borough. In the Bronx, they must have been giving out shop classes on making home made weapons. People took their “West Side Story” more serious in the Bronx. It is the place where I learned to wear all black with a black leather jacket. I still dress like this.
What’s my point? What am I after? Oh yeah, so I was drawn to criminals. For years, I listened to their crimes. I know who killed who and where they are buried. I heard about Mob guys and saw Mobsters come and pay their respects to Manny.
Manny was my main mentor into this business. He taught me how to negotiate and how to do this business… I never listened to him and the way he wanted me to do business, but still he was my mentor.
He’d want me to get people to pay me to remove stuff, and then he wanted me to give most of the items I got away for free. He believed the way to make money was to get the client to pay for the removal, and then give it to the poor people, (all except the gold, the jewelry, and the obvious apples that Eve bit.) He thought I was a fool to sell stuff and make money off of poor people.
He’d say,”They’re poor. Just give it to them. Then when they die, you’ll get it back.”
“Yeah, but I’ll be giving it away.”
“Yeah, you’ll be giving the shit away and keeping the gold, the jewelry and the Maltese falcon.”
So, Manny gave his shit away, and by giving it away, I mean selling it for dirt cheap. He was a genuine kind of Robin Hood of the neighborhood (except people paid him to remove their contents).
People cherished him and where ever we went in this city, people knew him. He loved his star status. He loved running into people in all the five boroughs who ran over to him and thanked him for the dining room set they still had forty years later. He was connected and rooted throughout this city,both on a high ground with Politicians and Cops as well as Crackheads and Criminals.
The best was when someone would come running over to him and say,”Manny, my mother just died and she said,’That Manny should get everthing when I go.’ ”
Manny winked at me.
I also liked watching him with the young women, of which there were always a bunch around him. Sure, they were mostly crackheads and prostitutes, but for an old guy, he was popular with these ladies. I mean they didn’t just fuck him an blow him. They were always hanging out with him and cracking jokes or cracking crack.
Once, he thought a lady wanted him to eat her pussy because, he felt something warm on his chest in bed one morning, but he was wrong, it was just a cat giving birth on his face.
I’ve written extensively about Manny’s criminal background. My favorite story is about him selling sewing machines to the Japanese during World War II.
In court, the Judge said,”How can a man sell sewing machines to the enemy?”
Manny said,”Even the enemy shouldn’t walk around naked.”
He went to jail, but the judge gave him time off for stupidity. He realized Manny didn’t know they wanted the sewing machines to make parachutes.
Sonny was my other Mentor and he was exactly the opposite of Manny. Sonny, looked like a cross between Joe Pesci and Danny De Vito.
Sonny believed in turnover. He didn’t care who bought it, as long as he doubled his money and got out of whatever he was selling. He had a selfish way of doing business but he had just as big a following as Manny…
Let me try another way of explaining the difference between them. Manny was always polite to people until they showed him an ugly face.
Sonny was always kind of crabby and could be a dick on a more regular basis. He didn’t want to be visible. He always tried to be under the radar. He didn’t want people to stop him and tell them how great their dining room set was that they bought from him. He’d say,”I probably sold it too cheap, if you still got it. How about you throw me another fifty bucks?”
Yeah, I became a combination of both these guys. I became a character. I became one of them because they were the only ones in my life who were willing to explain and show me a philosophy of survival in a tough time, while having fun and using my wits. Had they been Politicians, I would be a Senator, if they were Real Estate Brokers, I’d be Trump (well not Trump, but Trumpish. I don’t know my Real Estate tycoons.)
I think I’m a good person but I also understand why people are scared of me. Gotta tell you. I always liked that.
I have alot of friends who have the poetic exterior of being tough. Lots of tattoos and a stylish haircut, but if you take off my clothes, I’ll show you some great scars.
And though I never have done anything illegal, I have a bunch of stories about mobsters and know who really runs this city. Also, I like looking down any block and can read it well…
I don’t play poker often. I’m too busy reading people’s faces and figuring out what they are really about. My mentors both taught me that real good
You’d be surprised what a Junkman knows.