“I might never know who I am, but I will always know who I wasn’t. ” – Pete The Pipe
“You will never be alone in this city…If you are a nut, there’s a bolt out there for you. I am sure of this.” – Manny
“You don’t really have to pay the Junkies, they’ll steal enough for what they need.” – Manny
Sometimes, I wished I became a Junkie. I would have made a lot more money in this business. It comes with the territory…
How many Junkies in this business have I met who shot one million dollars into one arm, and then another million into another… Quite a few. More than you can imagine. The Millionaire Junkies all let you know when they have shot a million dollars of dope into their arm…I don’t even think they are exaggerating…
I get this call from my ad in The Ridgewood Times about doing a clean out that was way over my head. It was this candy store that needed to be cleaned out of the shelves, but it wasn’t just a candy store. It was a speak-easy during prohibition…One of the candy store shelves moves and opened up into a bar with a little stage. Not a big place, but too big a place for me to handle doing the clean out myself.
“Manny, I just want the cool bar stuff. You get the money from the clean out from the landlord and the tables and chairs, and whatever else you can salvage.”
Manny liked that I was dumb about money and stuff.
I can’t wait another sentence to tell you what happened. So I’m just gonna cut to the chase. By the cash register at the candy store was a tube. The tube led to a barrel in the basement which was filled with coins. Manny and I didn’t know about this barrel till later in the day, but the Millionaire Junkies found it early on.
Chucky, Johnny Boy and Pete The Pipe found this barrel and were loading their pockets with so much change, they couldn’t walk a straight line… The three of them were so heavily weighted down, they knocked into each other and ended up on the floor groaning in pain. They couldn’t even get up.
Manny helped them up,”Go ahead you bums. Get out of here with your nickle and dime shit. Come back after you unload the coins and you get loaded.”
He let them walk out with their pockets full.
“Why did you let them leave, with your money?”
” Two reasons, they weren’t going to be able to move anything. They were all weighed down…and whatever they got, they tipped us off that this place is more than meets the eye…We don’t need these Millionaire Junkies around to case the place out a little better…Where’s there’s coins, there’s dollars.I don’t want nobody here right now, except for us. And I don’t really want you here, but this is your job. “
Manny and I didn’t find any stash of cash. Maybe one of the Millionaire Junkies did. Johnny and Chucky disappeared for a couple of months. Maybe they found a stash of cash in that basement. When they came back, they told everybody they did time. Manny and I didn’t know if that meant Rikers or a little vacation doing dope in Florida.
“Manny, why did they have a tube of coins going down to the basement?”
“I don’t know, maybe it was the price of admission into the speak easy. He kept that money separate.
I spent a lot of time at Manny’s or buying collections. I think I liked the distraction from life.
I was working at Time Inc, not really digging it, but doing it never the less. When I talked to people at work, I didn’t really trust many people. At Manny’s, these old mob guys and Millionaire Junkies were more honest. They had to be. If anyone screwed someone over, there was the risk of getting a beating. At Time Inc. people got written up if they did something wrong.
Wrong was right at Time Inc.
I was trying to do some Stand-Up. I was too anxious to do well. Many of the other Comedians around town were wanna be Millionaire Junkies. I knew the real guys. Same in the music scene, though some of the guys downtown, were able to finally make the Millionaire Junkie club.
I probably needed to be on medication. Instead, I spent my time buying stuff and doing a little sorting. I rented out my basement from my landlord,and was rapidly filling it.
“Manny, why am I here? What am I doing?”
“You are finding out about life.”
“What am I finding out?”
“That if you do this business, you will never be lonely. You are going to meet all kinds of funny people, with all kinds of funny ways. If you stick to just that Corporation, all you gonna find is people who are sinking. Look at me, I’m always surrounded by broads and people. I like the popularity.
“The funny people, the people in this business aren’t sinking. We’re alive.From what I can see about you, you only have one problem .. .you can’t fall in love with the stuff and you love the stuff. ”
I had a double addiction; I loved the stuff for my own edification, I loved buying an estate of valuable records or whatever, and then being the”go to guy”, the “Top Dog,” for a Andy Warhol minute.
I loved going to Sothebys, and being treated like I knew something, even if I knew nothing about the painting I was bringing in to them to evaluate. I was rich for a day.
I loved how much time buying and selling stuff was taking out of my doldrum lifestyle. I was able to talk to real life Mob guys, Millionaire Junkies, garbage pickers, and cops who collected old pottery and on many occasions, I was willing to risk my life.
I wasn’t willing to do time in prison, I was too much of a pussy for that, but I was willing to risk my life for my addiction.
One day, early in my career as a Junkman, it was a normal day at Manny’s. Manny and the Millionaire Junkies were unloading a huge truck. I was buying lamps and furniture, Bald Headed Richie was shaking his head at Long Island John who just got a blow job from Cynthia in the back of his beat up town car, and his wig was on backwards. A normal day at Manny’s, when Richie the Cop pulled up and yelled at me from his van,”I got a great opportunity for you.”
I got a cleanout. I don’t want to touch the stuff. Its infected, but it is perfect for you. Old Jazz records from the fifties.
I hopped into his van, “Cockroaches never bothered you. What’s wrong.”
Richie the Cop laughed, “The cockroaches ain’t a problem. They all overdosed… The guy collected, old Jazz records, Kennedy conspiracy books, and every needle he ever shot dope with. The guy died from Aids…He booby trapped his entire apartment with needles in ever box. You get stuck, you can die…You want to take a look?”
We drove off,”You are going to need gloves. The family paid me to remove the stuff. I ain’t touching it. You can have everything for nothing.”
The needles did not freak me out even though they were jutting out everywhere. I put them all in one box and brought it to the hospital. It was the best Jazz records I’ve ever had; Riverside and Blue Notes. Everything good, some in rough shape, some just covers, some just the record. I knew I was going to be famous for a minute.
I called in big dealers who gave me 10 and 20 a record, some for just the sleeves… They were selling the stuff for 100 and 2 a piece. I didn’t care.
When the records were all gone, I felt deflated. I needed another collection. I sat there in my apartment and looked at 500 conspiracy books on the Kennedy assassination. The guy even had a “Who’s Who In The C.I.A.
I always wondered if he’d start to read these books, get freaked out, and shoot dope and then listen to Be-Bop, or shoot dope first to even crack open one of these books…
I wish I kept the “Who’s Who In The C.I.A.” or some of the papers which were classified. Who was this guy?
I loved speculating.
I was deeper in after this job.