History Of Garbology -The Sonny Stories

Monday, February 11, 2008

History Of Garbology -The Sonny Stories

Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

Sonny could have been in any Scorsese film…

Come to think about it, many of my associates could be interchanged with mob dudes…

I’m probably the pussy of Junkmen. I’ve never done time and I was never a Junkie. I never killed anyone either.

Junkmen in New York… Keep reading you’ll get a better picture after a couple of thousand pages.

The Sonny story will take a couple of weeks, but like Sonny I could only handle him a little at a time, and I expect the same for your availability to deal with him as well.

He was a Joe Pesche Danny DeVito type of guy. Small, stocky, sadistic, self deprecating. He probably never saw a Joe Pesche or Danny DeVito type of movie.

Most Junkman don’t have time for movies. We’re too involved with action- adventure and tedium of auction houses and sorting through garbage to watch movies.

I was the smart guy who didn’t belong in the business. That may be why I stayed…

I actually stayed because I saw the metaphor and the characters involved and I wanted the story. I suffered a lot to stick with this business.

I’m kind of a dumb guy that way.

It never occured to me to use my intelligence and ability to write thirty years ago. I wanted to know something before I sat down and wrote…

Maybe I know too much now…

I don’t believe that last line but it sounds cool. Sometimes, being cool has gotten in my way to get the things I need from this life.

A quick story about Sonny and then you’ll have to wait till tomorrow for more.

Sonny called me up and told me he was going to pick me up in five minutes. There was no getting out of meeting him when he spoke like that. I just did whatever he said because I used to make a lot of money off of Sonny’s mistakes.

I make money off of other people’s mistakes.

I hop in his van and he throws a bag in my lap and says when I take off, start emptying out the bags out the window.

There would be no point of asking him what was in the bag. I was stuck doing this crazy thing.

The windows were open and I started to empty the bag out the window.

Mettalic taste in my mouth. Grit in my teeth,”What the fuck is this Sonny?”


“Gunpowder? What the fuck are we doing spreading gunpowder through Ridgewood.”

“Follow the yellow brick road,” he started singing like a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz.

I don’t think munchkins sang that song but Sonny did.

Of course there was the possibility that we were going to blow. There are sparks and we were leaving   a trail of gunpowder that leads back to the room filled with gunpowder.

I’m going to leave you hanging about this story. I’ll finish it tomorrow. We each had ten bags of gunpowder that we spread throughout the city.

Why? You ask Why did he even have gunpowder?

That’s why I’ll explain it next time. I have a dumb job that is very complicated.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

History Of Garbology – The Sonny Stories Part II

Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

So why would Sonny feel that the only way to get rid of  gun powder is to open the windows and let the stuff that could blow up the van fly through the streets of Queens?

Why would I co-conspire to help him?

I was young and didn’t know that Sonny was not someone who you let bully. Let me rephrase that. Sonny bullied people all the time. He was an ex-junkie, ex-criminal who despite the fact that he was a legitimate businessman now, didn’t feel like one.

So, why did he feel that he had to pollute the air with a breeze of gun powder?

We go to storage rooms and buy unpaid rooms. that’s one of the ways I acquire merchandise for the store.

I have many stories of finding cocaine, money, guns, bodies, and shit in jars, (lots of shit in jars).

You probably want to know why people shit in jars. There is a reason. Not now. Keep bugging me and I’ll make a special in the History of Garbology on body waste.

So, why didn’t Sonny bring back the gunpowder to the storage facility or why didn’t he bring it to the cops?

Where there is gun powder there are guns.

Sonny collected an arsenal of weapons from these storage lockers.

He was a hot headed Italian with an arsenal of weapons.

All Junkmen have an arsenal of weapons.

I went home that day looking like I was in black face about to sing “mammie.”

This was a subtle introduction to Sonny. You can expect to hear how we chased after a cab, how we dumped clothes on the side of railroad tracks and were chased by railroad cops,  how the same Mob club that burned me out of my apartment was the same mob club that blew up Sonny’s Van.

Which Story Do You Want To Hear About Next?

I will also take special requests if you knew Sonny, as some of you did.

There is a New York Times article on Junkman about ten years ago. They called Sonny Scotch Breath.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

History Of Garbology The Sonny Stories Part III

Sonny drank a case to a case and a half of beer a day.

That’s 24 to 36 beers a day. The New York Times wrote about guys who buy storage rooms. They referred to Sonny as Scotch Breath.

I was with Sonny when he got his test results back.

The Doctors told him to stop drinking immediately.

He did.

He never picked up another drink to the day he died.

Sonny Economics

Sonny did not give a shit what something is worth. He didn’t care if he had ten thousand dollars worth of stuff.

He cared what he paid for something and that at the end of the week he sold it and made a profit out of it.

Here’s the formula:

He went to an auction and spent a thousand dollars on defaulted rooms. He loaded up his van and brought the stuff to his garage.

He removed the weapons and jewelry.

He called people up like me about the books and records or whatever he thought was special and the rest he brought to his flea market. The next day he had a yard sale. Here’s the breakdown for a week

1000 dollars for storage

100 for flea market

50  garage

300 all other expenses including rent and beer(till  he cut beer) then it was less

O.K. so for twenty five years his expenses were roughly 1450 every week

This is what he made

300 for books and records that I bought or someone else

2,000 at flea market

200 at garage sale

Untold financial treasures in gold and weapons

He put away after his expenses $1000 a week for twenty five years in his mattress or where ever he hid his cash.

That’s a million and a half dollars in twenty five years.

He never did anything with the money. For Sonny it was the idea of what he could do with the money. He liked the power and the game.

Sonny was a Junkie who did hard time in the 70’s.

His economic plan was too frugal. I wish he got to do something with the money. He just didn’t really want anything but the action. He loved the action and the challenge by buying all this crap and getting rid of it all in a week.

Next time I will tell the story of why the local mob kids blew up his van. They are also the local mob that set fire to my apartment. I will not be telling that story right now. I want to focus on Sonny

Friday, February 15, 2008

History Of Garbology The Sonny Years Part IV

Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

Sonny lived as if he were still a criminal. As I mentioned before, a lot of Junkmen started as criminals.

I was merely a victim of circumstance. In the early eighties, I moved to Ridgewood Queens. A mecca of Junkmen.

What is the relationship between criminals and junkmen?

What do most junkies do for money?

They steal.

What do they steal?

If they can get their hands on money, they are set.

Chucky’s dad invented the concept of breaking into a car and stealing the luggage in the twenties. Then what? If you need clothes you’re set, if you need dope,you better hope that your dealer needs that pink sweater with the rhinestone buttons.

So, you see where this is going?

You have to sell the stuff you sell.

All the old timers except for my mentor Manny started by stealing.

Manny started on a horse and buggy as a ragman assistant during the depression.

Sonny started as a junkie.

So, he did time and he comes out of jail, and he gets a job on a truck, loading and unloading. He starts stealing a couple of boxes a week from the job. He worked in a bike store on 8th Avenue, He did dope with Keith Richards in the back of the store.

So, he’s stealing again

Now he has to sell the stuff he’s stealing again.

Eventually he goes to jail and then when he comes out he says,”Im never doing that again.”

He starts drinking 24-36 beers a day to stay straight.

His brother in law Jo-Jo(another character I will get too eventually) has the brainstorm of going to the Police Auctions.

Jo-Jo had stuff confiscated by the cops for selling stolen merchandise and now wanted to buy it back at the Police Auctions. You can do that.

So, Sonny and Jo-Jo go to the auction and buy one thousand bicycles for 500 dollars. Shit broken bikes. They fix them up and sell them at The Bingo Hall in Richmond Hill. On Sundays they had a flea market

That’s where I meet them.

They were yelling and screaming at each other and

they only had room for ten bikes but brought 50 with them to the tight spot.

Bikes were crashing all day long.

In just a couple of weeks they sold it all and made 5 grand each.

They were hooked on their new drug – junk.

They only remained partners for a couple of months and then split once Sonny hands went around Jo-Jo’s neck…

Jo-Jo sold me stuff he stole from Sonny, Sonny sold me stuff he stole from Jo-Jo. I wanted to tell them that they were both selling the same amount of stuff but I didn’t want to make it complicated.

So, do you have any questions?

A lot of junkies become junkmen after they do time because they can buy stuff cheap and they already have the experience of trying to sell stuff because of their habits.

They buy storage rooms because it has an element of gambling involved. You don’t get to see what’s in the boxes you buy. They open a storage room and you bid based on the condition of what the boxes look like.

They owned the stuff they bought, they didn’t have to steal anything ever again. It didn’t stop them from thinking like thieves and feeling bad about themselves but they got their stuff legally and with receipts.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The History Garbology – The Sonny Stories Part V

Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

They blew up Sonny’s van.

They were 19-26 years old. They wanted to be in the mob. They thought Sonny was in the mob or was a thief who should be giving them extortion money…


So were these kids.

How do you make a mark to get the guys sitting in the coffee shop to notice you?

Ridgewood Queens was once home to the greatest amount of Hitmen in this city. At the time in the forties it was Ridgewood Brooklyn. Now it’s Ridgewood Queens.

Anyway, how do you make your mark? It doesn’t matter who your dad is. It does in a way but you still have to prove yourself.

So these kids go to the club and say,”You got something for me to do?”

The Boss says,”Keep your eyes open. If there is someone doing something that I should know about let me know.

So they try extortion of the bakery, they beat blacks up that come to the neighborhood… They are trying to establish themselves as the gang of the neighborhood. They are pushing each other to bigger crimes and thinking about how to impress the boss.

They start fires for landlords. They create fake accidents in order to collect insurance claims… They did a bank job…

So, they watch little Sonny moving shit in and out of his window everyday. Sonny would buy at the auction and if he ran across an interesting load, he’d want to sort it in his apartment. He lived on the ground floor of a rent stabilized apartment

So, they think he’s doing illegal stuff. They don’t know how this guy is getting brand new electronics etc. They are trying to figure it out and Sonny is not talking to these kids other than saying “Hmm.”

He ain’t saying shit to them. Remember he’s already done heavy time. He used to play poker in the can with a guy who killed his whole family. He never played with the guy after he found out.

Sonny doesn’t want to do anything with anyone. He wants to be left alone and put his 1000 dollars a week in his matress and look at his weapons and drink his 24-36 beers a day.

He was always yelling with his wife. So, one day when they are in the middle of yelling at each other, the gang  are laughing at him and he says to them,” I got one for you too.”

That’s all he says. He doesn’t even know what it means himself.

They take it the wrong way. Sort of like when  in Mean Streets they call each other mook.

If you want to piss off mob type guys, just say something that doesn’t make sense and they will take it personally.

Anyway, things escalated from that and they blew up  Sonny’s van.

Next time The Feds  get involved and sonny asks me to take care of his arsenal.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

History Of Garbology The Sonny Years Part VI

Category: Jobs, Work, Careers

This might be the last Sonny story for a while. There are other dead junkman who want me to tell their stories. They have been swirling through my brain and complaining about all the time Sonny has been getting.

Still, how do I not tell you about the Sam Peckinpaw wild west story that happened with this gang of kids from Ridgewood.

These kids blew up Sonny’s van. That was just the beginning of the problems. The Federal Government got involved which really flipped Sonny out.

I was with him when he told the kids,”If I have to take a beating, we’ll take it now.”

“What do you mean, we’ll take it now,” I said.

Too late, now I was part of Sonny’s crew. They never noticed me before. Now I was like them only the enemy.

I was carrying a bag of guns of Sonny’s to hold onto for him because the FBI was asking him questions everyday. This is great

When I spoke to Sonny on the phone, I could hear clicking sounds.

I hid the bag of guns in my basement under a hundred boxes. If the Feds wanted to get me, they would have to work for it.

Morricone music plays. Set it up in your mind. An Italian spagehetti western. The Feds hung around and questioned Sonny and the kids for weeks.

The kids went so far to put wires in a box and wrapped the box in aluminum foil , under Sonny’s new van again.

They came with the robot and got out the new bogus bomb.

The kids thought they were  making points with the coffee house. I’m sure the boss did not like this kind of attention from the Feds.

Anyway, there is the western cowboy of the story that culminates with me and Sonny walking in the middle of the street with a dozen kids walking towards us with two attack pitbulls.

We had a third guy. An English guy who was a customer of ours. He was supposed to be standing behind us with a shotgun. He talked all tough till he saw how many kids there were in the middle of a busy street. I looked behind me and he was running in the opposite direction. He didn’t even leave the gun behind.

All of a sudden there were no more cars, there were no more people on the street. It was like all the stores closed down and the showdown was about to happen…

I stood next to Sonny with the dogs growling and let Sonny do the talking.

I tried petting the dogs from hell and talked to the guy holding them as the conversation went like this:

“This is faggotry. I didn’t tell the Feds about this bullshit but I will tell Vito… If we gotta take a beating to end this here, we will…”

“Again with ‘we'” I said, wishing I didn’t bury the guns. I wanted to shoot Sonny. I hate taking beatings. I’m the guy who always swings first and now I gotta take a beating.

Where were the feds. It was the middle of the day.

How is there not a single witness. We may as well have been in the desert.

The kids knew they were going to jail. They had to back off. They were trying to scare Sonny and it didn’t work.

They left him alone and always nodded to him. Within six months most were in jail. They made the papers. The Feds would have let them beat us up or kill us so they could put these kids away. I’m sure they were watching that day.

Two were arrested for submachine guns.

Some were arrested for shooting a pregnant girl in Coney Island, she was pregnant with one of the guys and they tried to make it like a botched  robbery.

Some were arrested for phoney claims on insurance fraud. Fake car accidents that they set up and make claims on.

There was a botched bank robbery a few blocks from where they lived…

The guys who stayed out of the can were the guys who burned out my apartment years later… But that’s a whole nother story… Soon.

After  a couple of months, Sonny wanted his bag of weapons back and I never worked so hard to get that bag to him as fast as I could.

Monday, February 18, 2008

History Of Garbology -The Ultimate Sonny Story Before We Move On To Other Junkman: This was Mys

Garbology: an informal history of boxed dirt and artifact

Sonny, Sonny, Sonny.

I loved Sonny. He was cheap. He wouldn’t even eat a chinese take out lunch special because, “they were over charging you.”

He understood the junk business better than anyone,”Get the shit, flip it, and get out.” He’s the reason I sell the stuff at the store so cheap. I’d even sell it cheaper if the rent wasn’t so damn high. Sonny is also the reason I do alot of my own chinese food cooking. I will eat a lunch special without thinking about it too much though.

Sonny worked the flea market for years. He kept a big wine barrel right smack in the middle of his railroad apartment. After every weekend, he threw all the change he made from selling junk for a quarter or fifty cents into this barrel. After 10 years, the barrel was full and he was ready for his payout.

He tried to move the barrel. He couldn’t. He called me. We tried to move it together. We couldn’t. He went to a toy store and bought 100 pails and shovels. The kind kids play with in a sandbox. We filled all the pails with coins and the barrel was still half full.

Somehow we got the booty to his van. The van was way loaded down. We went to a supermarket that had the coin exchange. Sonny covered up the counter which showed how much money he was exchanging. He was afraid of getting robbed of his coins.

It took us all day to shovel the coins into the machine. The machine would conk out from exhaustion every couple of hours too. Kids trying to exchange their piggy bank pennies were turned away by Sonny, “Come back tomorrow when we aren’t so busy,” he would say as if we worked at the joint. He did buy one kid’s change for ten bucks because he was sure that it was at least twenty five bucks, “Stupid kid doesn’t know the value of a penny.”

The grand total after ten hours of work was roughly twenty grand! Yes, twenty grand of coinage now being converted into greenbacks. They gave him two shopping bags filled with single dollars. Yes, two bags of singles. 10 grand in each bag filled with Washingtons.

The next day he bought a new used van and went to a travel agency and booked himself a trip to Disneyland. The Booking Agent refused the singles and treated him like a criminal, “Come back with Lincolns.” And he did.

For my reward of backbreaking work, Sonny gave me the shovels and pails. I would like to point out at this time that I have a select few of these pails and shovels available for the low price of 200 pennies.

After I wrote the Sonny Stories I figured some of you may have missed the first story I wrote here on myspace.

Sonny was special. He was a man who loved the action of buying stuff and then flipping it sometimes without lifting a finger.

He’d buy a defaulted storage room and sell it to me for double the money that he payed. He didn’t care if I made ten times the money. As far as he was concerned he made his money. He doubled out without lifting a finger,

One time, he sold me this shit room for five dollars. A hundred boxes of shit. I took a chance. Two trucks of garbage, I had to remove…

The last box…. The very last box. Had autographs in it. I’m still selling that box to this day.

I never told him. It would have killed him that he didn’t at least sell that room to me for 25 dollars.


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