It was laying on the bus seat. Empty. People scoffed at the idea of legalizing marijuana. “How can you sell pot in a store?” It’s pretty easy. Get over it America, and make it happen.
February 28, 2011
Look at it! Not the dead man’s dirty vhs tape, but the photo itself! The technology that is working correctly! Ryan came over and reset all my permissions and did other things he couldn’t explain to me and once again the internet as I know it has images. So all of us who like looking at pictures should thank Ry. Thanks Ry! (I’ll pay you too)
February 27, 2011
This flea market is like a lost lover. We both love going through piles of old stuff, sneezing over the same moldy books, laughing at the same ugly children in school pictures – I blame myself for waiting so long to commit. Those aspirations of wealth and society that was the promise of junk mail catalogs where I once worked kept me from admitting it out loud. I want to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and drive to the market and spread crap out on a blanket. I want to argue over two dollars with people from China, I want to sell 1970′s Pyrex bowls to Japanese women who take them home on a plane and resell them in Tokyo. I want to know the buying habits of all these cultures, watch the micro economies of shoe fashion, kitchen trivets and lamp shades rise and wane.
Meanwhile, across town it was Oscar Party at Doug’s. Quarter bets on who wins each category. Cliff was providing commentary.
“Oprah is strapped into that dress. Her girdle’s gonna snap and slices of pizza will come flying out.”
Toy Story 3 is the only movie I’ve seen this year. I lost a lot of money betting on Woody.
February 23, 2011
Throwing concrete rubble in a bucket so the guys could spread sand around the new pipe laid out for a bar going in an old building downtown. Gonna be a Cajun restaurant with a beautiful curving bar but the old floor was rotten. Everything got torn out, right down to the subfloor poured in 1906 when it was the Standard Shirt manufacturing company. These odd chunks of iron were in among the jackhammered scraps. Makes you think treasure is just really old garbage. Then again, treasure isn’t gonna be thrown away again when it’s discovered, like this rusty jetsam will be. For a minute it is wonderful to hold, to imagine what it could have been used for, what guys were eating for lunch a hundred years ago, what it smelled like outside in the afternoon, what they said to each other when a woman walked by. Then the reality kicks in that no one will pay for this old twisted metal except the scrapyard, so it gets thrown in that corner of the truck and tomorrow it’ll be on its way to a new life.
Three old bricks turned up, Jeff was notified.
We haven’t had a Pilipino minute for a long time, so let’s take a minute to learn about the influence of this culture on the bay area today.
There’s a tradesman out there driving around a white van with “Rooter Bong” painted on the side. He’s a plumber, offering to clear the clogs in your pipes. Who would imagine Mr. Rooter Bong isn’t a pot head?
My expert source told me “bong” is a common nickname for guys in this lush island studded land. Using the future phone she gave him a call and confirmed the man on the answering machine was speaking in a very provincial Tagalog (Filipino) accent. Case closed.
It might be interesting to have an interview with Rooter Bong and find out how this double entendre has helped or hurt his business. Anyone care?
February 21, 2011
Set up next to a ghetto talking black dude Sunday. Seemed to have mild left side paralysis in his face.
“Plug it in over there. It don’t work I’ll give your money back,” he says to a guy holding an electric hot plate.
“3,” the customer says.
“5. Go plug it in,” Gary counters.
“I said 5. Give it to me or put the muthafucker down.”
All day long it was infield chatter, “gotta spend to save”, “who’s ready, who’s next?”. Over and over. Spend to save. Spend to save. It’s gotta go.
Any Asian who picked up an item, Gary would say, “4 dollaaaaaa.”
Totally affecting a Chinese accent right to their face. But it wasn’t racism. He’d tell every young woman, Asian or not, his phone number then demand they repeat it back. Gary likes people. He just doesn’t know how much of an asshole he is.
I have pictures, but now my computer converts them to text files so they won’t upload. Ryan is coming by to look into it tomorrow.
Anybody see any bricks for Jeff?
February 17, 2011
The following question is for men to answer quietly in their own hearts.
If you find a dead man’s porn stash, should you masturbate to it?
Take a minute and consider how you react when you see pictures of naked women.
No one is coming to visit, the man is dead.
I was on 6th Street in San Francisco today. A notorious off ramp of Highway 280, the street that is strung up with flop houses and liquor stores because no one else wants to live on the exit into a major city.
It’s not a pretty street. Not tough, so much. Simply depressing. If you see a man in a wheel chair with one leg gone from the knee up using his good leg to run in circles and scream at the wind, spinning backwards in the self locomotive way of single leg amputees, you’ll be on 6th. If you see a long line in front of a locked door, that’s the Christian mission that opens in an hour and serves a hot lunch and a prayer service. There are four or five on the strip. There’s always a line in front of a door on this block.
Today’s job was to clean out a dead man’s one bedroom apartment. He died slow, in a hospital, and he told his case worker’s, “I don’t have anybody. No family. Nothing.”
So everything was to be thrown out. Everything being needles for diabetes, off brand Depends diapers, hip hop clothes, a small collection of porn magazines catering to older white women with large breast fetishist’s, three trays of cassettes including Richard Pryor’s “That Nigger’s Crazy”, Sir Mixalot, and Beethoven…what else…hmmm…the refrigerator was full of food but it took two months to clear the courts before I got an okay to haul it out so things were pretty rotten at that point…so clothes, diabetes medicine, tapes, and old food. That really seemed to be all.
Much of it I put on the street. I sorted everything so no personal information was out there. Personal information like the court papers that showed a woman had a daughter by him. The daughter was born in a toilet in city homeless shelter. An aunt took the baby girl that somehow survived that because the mother had cocaine in her system and had left the baby for dead.
The step uncle was caught molesting the child and taken away from them. Basically unwanted, save for molestation, from the start. That’s his girl.
Imagine reading that report as a father…knowing you left a child to that world…and you are living in a flop house, dead mice decaying in a sticky trap under sink, roaches in your silverware drawer, government potato flakes in your cupboard, and you are dying. Your daughter is dead before you. You pee in your bed.
As I sorted through things I brought small salvageable things out to the street corner. A folding table. a pair of sneakers. A coffee maker. There were lots of plastic milk crates he had used for shelves. I set those on the street knowing others like him would put them to use.
The man’s apartment was on the second floor. I went through everything, coat pockets, crumpled bags, behind the stove. Nothing of value. The man had nothing of value. An old Planters peanut jar was full of pennies. He’d hid that in his closet. It wasn’t actually Planters, but the local supermarket off brand. Six bucks at most, hidden from the thieves.
I got a load of garbage bags into the cart and wheeled down the hall into the old elevator with it’s accordion gate. Outside, across the street, as I’m wheeling to my truck, I see a crazy woman standing on a milk crate I’d left and pantomiming like a despotic political leader. By raising herself a foot off the ground she had found power.
I wondered how a woman ends up on the street, crazy like that. Then I remembered the report I’d read, about a little girl thrown away from the start. Raped by 2. Put into foster care from there. The wonderful system of protection we have. A homeless shelter or Christian outreach program to prop her along when she’s 18. A milk crate from the corner when she’s 28 and blazed out on crack.
So as you dig through a man’s life, you find the notices from government agencies he couldn’t throw out yet, and you find old lighters and a pipe, there are trial size shampoos, pills from the doctor, pictures on the wall of people he loved, and a notebook of pages torn from dirty magazines.
February 16, 2011
This looks like a success! Had Ryan, the guy we all encouraged to quit his job a while back, fix up my computer and lo and behold, I’m able to post photos! Word on the street is Ryan is working on a line of homemade dog biscuits. When he’s ready to take orders, we’ll let you know.
I may have already posted this photo, but I have about three months of backlog, so bear with me.
The old Jeff Stewart graduated himself from college and is looking for work. Adrift in an ocean of foreclosed homes and stay at home moms out looking for any work they can, the man asked me if he should apply at a coffee shop.
We both agreed it would lead to a total loss of faith in higher education. I personally would not be able to look a teacher in the eye knowing they kept Jeff in a classroom for four years, spending thousands of dollars,and then released him into the world with no idea how to make money. Not even confident enough to be sure he’d get hired to pour coffee.
He is so bored. He looks on Craigslist for work. Which is like going to Ace Hardware for breakfast. If you really look around, like in the break room, you might get lucky. But it’s not the right place for decent honest food. Or work, as the case may be.
The thing to do is to go out and make some work. He was so depressed this morning I brought him along, telling him we’d go look for bricks. Secretly I was thinking we’d land a hauling gig.
I lured him out of his house with the promise of free bricks because he wants to cover an area in his back yard with them, but he’s got no money. He rides his bicycle around and when he spies a loose one, he stops and grabs it.
Lot’s of time, no money. I figured, he can look for bricks, I’ll look for scrap metal. Maybe we can drum something up. Maybe get enough scrap to buy a hamburger or Vietnamese. We park the truck and head out on foot in the Mission.
About a block from my truck we see guys in a warehouse.
“Any scrap metal?” I ask.
“Maybe some in that pile of junk,” one says, hollering up from the basement. Jeff and I were crouched down looking into the shaft of an industrial elevator to the basement where guys were working.
“Want us to get rid of the junk? We’re haulers. We’ll haul it away.”
I looked at it from my crouching position, ten feet above the garbage.
“A hundred bucks.”
“Okay,” the guy says. “The lift is broken though.”
Well I was showing old Jeff how to go out in this world and create wealth. Create a job. Will work to happen. You just gotta talk to people. Let them know you can help.
The two of us climbed down a ladder into the basement and started hauling wood up. Big chunks of press board, particle board, MDF, chip board, every iteration of heavy ass glue and sawdust crap you can imagine. Some of the hardest stuff to get rid of.
Clean wood I can leave at the beach for the bonfire people. Painted solid wood over 6 feet long and plywood I can donate to Builder’s Resources. But no one wants press board. And it’s heavy, which means it costs a lot to dump.
Jeff and I spent about thirty minutes pushing this crap up the open maw of the lift to the street. We climbed up for a break.
“I’m not gonna make any money,” I tell Jeff.
“You were crazy to say $100. This pile is huge.”
Jeff was right. A huge pile was on the sidewalk. And it was all heavy. No balsa. No pine. No redwood.
“Let’s just walk away,” I say to Jeff.
Normally Jeff is the one who quits early. Take words with friends, the iPhone app sensation. It’s basically Scrabble. If you get more than 30 points ahead of Jeff, he’ll resign the game. This is indicative of his world philosophy. It’s beginning to rub off on me.
The two of us just stood looking at the junk sprawled across the sidewalk. Still needed to be loaded on the truck. Still more to haul up from below.
“They don’t know our names. Haven’t even seen the truck,” Jeff says.
“Grab the little bit of metal we found,” I say to Jeff, as I pick up some short length of old gas line with a brass shutoff valve attached and walked back to the truck.
“Let’s stick to bricks today,” he told me. Some days you should.
February 15, 2011
February 10, 2011
I’ve probably had ten bad thoughts a day since I turned twenty one. Six young girls have probably run away from home because of me. I should start thinking about boys. Oh my god. I destroyed a village. I’m back to girls. No. I won’t think about anything but the next couch I want. I’ll be normal. God forgive me. You never told me about outer space. Somewhere this is ok. Right god?
February 8, 2011
Pops called the other day to tell me he broke his leg not his ankle. He hadn’t realized. At least the doctors knew. He’s got a Homeland Security buzzer in the form of a metal plate permanently installed on the fibula. If he comes out to California we’ll have to retro fit him to local earthquake standards. Hope the wheels dont lock on that walker!
Enough with the tough love, let’s talk about money. Like everything, Flea Markets have a hierarchy. Let me give you a brief tour of them. In the Bay area, Ashby Flea market in Berkely is known as a good place to find your stolen bike. Not really kidding, but it’s also home to a crazy drum circle and has the feel of an African market with incense and sound systems playing reggae and food vendors you won’t find in all of Ohio. Jerk, Ginger beer, and goat.
The southern neighbor and border town of Oakland features Laney, named after the college that turns their parking lot over on Sunday to the working class looking for tube socks and kitchen sponges. For the most part not a lot of vintage or antique items unless you walk to the back near the 880 overpass.
Some people get really upset when new items are sold at Flea markets. It usually divides along cultural lines. White Americans want old stuff, the vintage ironic Alf doll, old photos of people sitting on Model A bumpers in a field, door knobs made out of glass that don’t work right. This type of thing. Immigrant communities want new stuff, like the cheap socks and tools made in China. If you have some Dukes of Hazzard sheets the little Fillipina lady will offer you two dollars and not understand why you want $45. If you set out a selection of toilet paper still in the package and bars of unopened soap, no white people will stop at your booth. Strange world.
The Coliseum is a 7 day a week event held near the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Raiders, The A’s and the Warriors. 7 days a week people. The place looks like modern day Oakies escaping the barren fields of Indiana and the amphetamine manufacturing charges against them there pulled off Highway 101 in a giant caravan of dented vans and whatever fell out the door when they stepped out to piss is what we are calling “the shopping experience”. I took my Dad there right from the airport. It’s on the way back to SF.
Speaking of which, San Francisco has a decent little market, no pornography, guns or alcohol allowed. No dogs. No smoking. No bicycles or parts. No car stereos. They ask that at least 60% of your stock be vintage/antique or hand crafted. You must register a sellers permit at city hall and pay the 9.5 sales tax on your profit. It’s like living in Nazi Germany. Or East Germany. Perhaps Austria is still like this today.
At the other end of the Bay Area, San Jose’s flea was made famous in the novel The Kite Runner, the scene of an ex-pat Afghan community gathered to share news and memories and try to make a few extra dollars.
It feels like we covered a lot of ground, circling the old shoe horn shape of San Francisco Bay. But wait, something’s missing. We’ve forgotten the rich uncle of all these black sheep. You see, none of these flea markets I’ve described above can compare to Alameda Point Antiques Faire. The thoroughbred of the folding table crowd, it’s a Macy’s shopping spree vs dumpster diving a homeless shelter. Alameda charges early birds $15 to come in before 7 am. 15 bucks! Most of us wouldn’t pay that much to get in early to two piece Tuesday at Popeyes.
Okay, not a fitting example. Would you pay 15 bucks to get into the mall 30 minutes before it opened to the public? No. Who wants to pay to shop? People going to an Antiques Faire want to pay, that’s who.
Alameda is a small flat island thirty feet away from downtown Oakland, reached by a bridge or a tunnel, depending which end you access. Due to the heavy influence of the Navy, life on Alameda is much like it was in the conformist years of 1955. You leave the Chinese food and delirious beggars, the glitzy benzes of drug lords and the empty buildings of Oakland and pop up in a Happy Day’s scene with signs that point to an Antique’s Faire. First time I went, I didn’t put the two together. I was driving around looking for flea market signs.
But time flies and now I can say I have sold at Alameda. Yes, I paid 130 bucks for the privilege, I spent over 12 hours there, and I pee’d in a porta let and had no way to wash my hands, but I did it the same as thousands of others did before me. And I’m glad to be in their company.
A long time ago in a place not so far away there once lived a little bunny rabbit who hopped about the forest collecting bottle caps and lengths of wire from old hunting camps. The bunny, who all the other bunnies called George, used these small bits of human garbage to build a home at the top of a tree. Meanwhile all the other bunnies built homes in the ground called burrows. Every year the tree grew and George the bunny got closer to God. The end.
February 7, 2011
Songbirds roosting on the wire strung between houses were trying to guess the age of a cloud.
“I saw it this morning, it looked like a horse stretched out by its nose”
“It wasn’t here yesterday, I’ll tell you that much.”
February 5, 2011
With a tall bottle bound for glory and just the right hat to get remembered. Bought the pup from a breeder and would have liked to to have paid more rather than call her a bargain. Getting so mad. Mad to pick up a stapler and throw it at her. A book might miss, the hard covers brainless rudders in the air. The desktop stapler was heavy. Sailed straight. She was a damn fine dog he’d say.