Sold!

“Would anyone else like to speak?” the moderator asked as she peered around the room.
I raised my hand, she acknowledged me and I went to the podium.
“Hi I’m Bill.”
“Hi Bill!” the many members in attendance roared in unison.
I paused to collect myself. “I’m addicted to American Pickers.”

Of course, this hasn’t happened in real life, I just wanted to get your attention. But if such a group exists, I may have to grab a meeting someday. I am completely and utterly captivated by the show. Ok, addicted.

Mike and Frank are “the pickers”, antique enthusiasts that cross the country in their signature white van chasing the next great “pick” based on leads from Nicole, who holds the fort down at the shop and fields calls from people who want Mike and Frank to check out their collections of all things old, retro and vanishing from the American landscape.

There is so much for me to love about this show. I love old things, I am a history buff, a seasoned negotiator and I love a good story. I think I am a lot like Mike and Frank. Where most see junk, we see memories and a glimpse of days gone by. We live by the mantra “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. “

Mike and Steve go to houses, museums, warehouses, barns, storage containers and open fields in search of the next old/new thing. They get to know the owners, they get the backstory of why they collect or how they came across their forgotten treasures. Cars, toys, signs, shoes, juke boxes, photographs, truly anything can be found. When others open a barn door and retreat when greeted by the smell of mold and decay, Mike and Frank roll up their sleeves, put on gloves and climb over heaps of clutter in search of unique items that they can sell for a modest profit. As they do, I find myself captivated at what they may come up with.
pickerspickers4

I love the stuff. Seeing old Gas Station signs, board games, a rotting “Bob’s Big Boy” statue, a ’37 Harley Knucklehead with a sidecar, Flintstones lunchbox or a vintage Coca Cola sign really brings out the nostalgic side of me. And I get off on the enthusiasm, knowledge and respect Mike and Frank show the objects and owners alike.

It’s fun to find out who is a seller and who isn’t. Who is willing to let their stuff go and who will cling to it. The Pickers are wholesalers, they need to pay wholesale in order to sell for a profit. Some people are so sentimentally attached to their items they just won’t sell. The Pickers don’t get mad if they don’t get their item. They understand and respect it. They may leave just happy to have held that vintage GI Joe doll or Easy Bake oven. They love the process.

Maybe it’s the old auction guy in me but I so enjoy the negotiating process. They know what stuff is worth but never try to underbid and take advantage of the seller, and most know exactly what their stuff is worth. The Pickers offer a fair price and the real treat is when they tell someone that an item that they thought was worthless is actually worth serious money. And the Pickers pay it, if they agree to sell. You still have that guy, like on Pawn Stars, that wants 50 bucks for something, gets offered 10,000 and then counters at 11,000. You originally wanted 500! But, that’s human nature. Most items start at a fair bid, a chin scratch from the collector, a high counter offer and then a concession from the pickers. I’ve been around such transactions for decades in my career but I still watch in fascination. More often than not it ends up as a sale and the trademark handshake and verbal exclamation of “SOLD.” If they but 50 items, they shake on it each and every time. An old fashioned-gesture in a modern world.

All of the above are solid motivators to make me come back to the show week after week. But there is a much greater draw for me and that is the people behind the junk. It is the backstory behind the item and the tales of the collector. I have seen people that I would give anything to meet, to sit in their glorious, dusty personal museums and listen to their stories.

Oh, the stories. There is the man who finally agreed to open his late father’s garage to reveal a collection of all that is the motorcycle and talks fondly about his dad. There is the couple that once ran with Andy Warhol and have hundreds of pictures to prove it. There’s the elderly man selling rusty, abandoned pieces of his old amusement park who tells with a tear in his eye of the joys of seeing the smiles of the children as they rode in the Rocket Ship cars and miniature trains so many years ago.

Almost all of the collectors have one thing in common, they are middle aged to elderly and are connected to their treasures in a way that most in our throw-away society cannot relate. They come from or have a deep respect for the generation that knew how to build things that lasted. The generation that fixed things instead of discarding them. These collectors, as well as Mike and Frank, recognize that their belongings serve as a time capsule and a representation of a generation gone by. They hold onto their belongings until the right guy comes by, and it feels like the right time to let it go. Not to a junkyard or a landfill, but instead to someone who loves it as much as they and will promise to share it with the world so that the magical memories will live on. That someone is The Pickers. They are the Archeologists of Antiques, the enthusiasts of other’s crap, the curators of curiosities, and they are dedicated to preserving yesterday for the sake of tomorrow.

The show stirs up a wonderful memory of my Grandfather’s garage. It was a converted barn and I spent hours fishing through it when I was a child. He had so many old coffee and oil cans, tools, posters and auto parts to fit cars that weren’t made anymore. He never threw any of it away. I still have a license plate of his from 1929 on my wall. It was on his first car. I wish he was still around, so that we could drive the back roads of NH and Maine. We would drive by barn after barn and nod at each other, because we would be thinking the same thought…what treasures are behind those doors?

hipster

I see you there
with the skinny jeans
your Che Guevera shirt
surplus military jacket
and silly wool hat
In the summer heat
You’re so delightfully ironic
Take another selfie
The world is waiting
Holding its breath
To LIKE your pic

You reject all that is
the status quo
Just one thing?
Do you know
what it is that you don’t?
You talk the talk
You’ve learned your lines
Your indoctrination complete
but can you speak for yourself?
You challenge
Rebel and dispel
Then expel
the lies you are fed
As easily as you reject
Those that know the world
Yet it would be odd
If the young had wisdom

Free thought is still free
But you join the sheep
grazing on the grass
that was planted for you
yonder meadow calls
if you have the goddamn balls
to put down the phone
and try some of its own
different
controversial
unpleasant
real grass

Youth is wasted on the young

Someday

It’s a tired bit from movies and sitcoms.

Someone, when faced with losing a friend to marriage, or moving, or some other life-changing event says something to try to make them change their mind.
“But what about our plans to hike the Appalachian Trail?”
“Who will I travel Europe with?”
“We were going to make that movie.”
The response would be, to great audience applause, “Dude, we have literally never done any of those things.”

I always got a warm and fuzzy out of those gags because there is some truth to them. We do often envision ourselves doing something different, something exciting, something completely out of our comfort zone. Some are goals, others pure fantasy and others are doable, if one is able to overcome the logistic or emotional challenges that hold us back. Logistical challenges such as being employed, married with children could make hiking the Appalachian a challenge. Emotional challenges such as fear of flying make traveling Europe unlikely. Then there is the fear of change, a likely crippling yet common emotional challenge.

I have indulged in such yearnings myself but I failed to capitalize on the opportunities provided by youth of being free and unencumbered and able to go and do anything anywhere. Elements of my life always forced me to push those yearnings to the back burner. I worked and made money but I didn’t save any. I lived on what I made and before I knew it I was living to work and not working to live. Unfortunately, that never changed. Still, I had things that I wanted to do someday.

“Someday” is a wonderful notion. It is the carrot at the end of the stick. The mechanical rabbit at the dog track. It is the want of future “stuff” and “experiences” at a time when we have all of our shit together, are financially secure, and emotionally and physically able to do the “want-to’s” that call to us through open windows as we toil through the “have-to’s” of life. As we age, or sink further into the harsh requirements of survival they seem farther from our reach. Many, through planning, good decisions or good fortune reach that point. They successfully raise their kids, manage their careers and finances and eventually buy the boat, RV or Beach House, travel to Europe or spend the winter in Florida. I applaud them. They recognized, worked towards and then achieved their someday.

That’s not me. Still, the “somedays” call to me. They beckon to me to drop everything and just go. To shake it up. To jump out of that plane, run with the bulls, to get the adrenaline pounding through my tired veins again. My reality rejects them.
“Sorry, I’m just too tired.”

Fortunately I am a simple man that has never assumed or envied wealth. If you were to ask anyone who has talked with me over drinks about this and they will tell you that if I had a Billion dollars, I wouldn’t be much different than I am now. I wish for enough of basic things. Enough money. Enough food. Enough enjoyment and satiation. Rich enough to not worry when my oil light comes on. If I were to indulge in extravagance, I would want a small house on the lake, a new truck every 2 years, a snowmobile and 2 spaces in the garage for a rotating stock of American muscle cars. I would still wear jeans and flannel shirts.

I am now single and no longer working. My children are grown. All of the logistical challenges with the exception of financial have been removed. I may have only enough in the bank to travel to the end of my driveway but I am able to attempt some modest adventures. This should be a very encouraging time for me to chase a few “somedays”. Unfortunately, in the place of the aforementioned removed obstacles, the specter of illness has clouded my horizons. It has rendered me weak and requires me to be close to home. My somedays, despite their simplicity in scope and cost are very far out of reach. In short, my simple dreams went from Goal, to Unlikely, to the morbid status of Bucket list, the status that implicitly denotes an urgency to do certain things before you die.
Fortunately, I do not fear death. I have faced it several times and have handily beaten the bastard each time. What I fear is a life unlived. If given the gift of clarity when I take my final breath, I hope to look back at the film reel (gag reel?) of my life and see that I left it all on the table. Then I will die happy. I will hopefully be remembered as someone who left an impact on those that that I met.

I have accepted the fact that I am not going to live a long life. Reconciling with my mortality has been liberating and I am thankful for the lessons it has taught me. I learned to tell people how I feel about them today, I don’t want to talk to an unresponsive slab of granite later on. I try to be honest, grateful and kind to my fellow man because all of these traits are vanishing from society at an alarming rate. Finally, I learned to live for today.

Yesterday is gone, today is almost over, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. My “someday” is not as far off as it is for others. Each day is a gift, that’s why it’s called the Present.

Little things

Sometimes it takes the littlest things in life to make your day. All it takes is the right attitude, a pleasant look on your face and the awareness to look for inspiration in every aspect of your life as you walk the world doing your thing.

Today, it was a friendly cashier at the market. I had a problem with my card and she happily and patiently fixed it for me.

As a bonus, as I was walking out of the store I smiled at a lovely woman as we crossed paths. It flashed through my mind that she was way out of my league. But as we passed we made extended eye contact and she gave me a smile that will tickle my loins for the rest of the day.

Look around you people, the good stuff is out there.

Peace and love to all

the quest for open-mindedness

I have faced many obstacles in my life as I have gotten older. Health issues, financial issues and a turbulent marriage both scarred me as well as taught me many lessons. I have largely let go of anger and bitterness over things from my past and have learned to pick and choose what I allow to bother me. I can almost say that I have conquered all of my demons. Except one. I struggle with open-mindedness.

To be clear, I am not closed-minded by any means. I am largely receptive to opposing viewpoints and I am civil and tolerant of those who disagree with me. But that’s a learned behavior not a mindset. In my heart of hearts I still get annoyed, even angered by things that go against my grain. And it bothers me.

I’m sure that I am not alone in this, especially among my age group. I was raised in a wonderful time period. I was exposed to the influence of my Grandparents, people who lived through the Great Depression and a World War. They knew frugality, community and practiced old-fashioned values of honesty, integrity, civility and the unspoken bond of a handshake. I then had my parents, who had the luxury of the same influence but also of the societal shifts in the 50’s and 60’s that saw great turmoil but also resulted in an expanded view of the world and society in general. Yet, they both were largely black and white on a lot of things. Unfortunately, I have been accused of that very thing. I was very bothered by that accusation. I didn’t agree and resented it. I had a black and white reaction to being called black and white. Isn’t that irony?

Being black and white is a defense mechanism. We take between 18 and 30 years to form our identity and belief system. Our identity can either be our aura that casts light on the world or a suit of armor that shields us from that which threatens us. I feel it safe to say that as we get older it is almost inevitable that our identity becomes a shield. Unless of course we make the effort to recognize and change the pattern.

This is the road that I am on. I am annoyed at the extremes of society that gnaw at my sensibilities. While I have never lacked compassion or empathy, I have had a fairly narrow view of the world. I sometime feel that part of me fights to maintain that narrow view as another part of me struggles to escape the confines of my upbringing and take a broader view. It is a daily struggle.

The knee-jerk reaction is the thing that has to go. Life is not about what happens but instead how you react to it. The knee-jerk reaction happens when something that you don’t agree with results in a visceral and personal reaction. But it’s not personal and it only affects your life if you allow it. Very few things are actually a personal affront. Yet we act as if they are. I’m guilty of it. It took me a long time to admit and address it but I’ve made progress. I have come to the conclusion that in this day and age of bad behavior, short attention spans, poor education and general lack of civility people have taken sides. When one takes sides, it is not unlike war. Defend your position and attack when able. It’s going on everywhere but I refuse to add to the insanity anymore. I have chosen to take the “walk a mile in their shoes” mentality. Every hot-button issue exists because a percentage of the population is affected by it. It is not an attack on me and I need to remind myself of that. Constantly. It sometimes requires me to even count to 3.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There is a caveat of course, it must be an informed and properly communicated opinion. Just as in childhood, we responded positively to a even tone of voice laced with understanding, even love. When we were yelled at, we closed ourselves off and most importantly, fought to keep the words out. I am very open to an even voice, I am angered by being yelled at. In the whirlwind of the hundreds of issues debated constantly, the message is often drowned out by the noise and anger behind it. Thus, so is the reaction to it.

I have decided to count to 3 before I speak or type, I will then look at as many angles of the issue at hand as I can. I will do some research if necessary. Most importantly, I will try to not be offended. And then, once all that is completed, I will measure my response. If I even choose to offer one. I’ve been practicing this recently and I have to tell you it works. If more people adopt this mindset, imagine the difference in our current climate?

At an age where many are closed off, I want to open up. Many of my fellow bloggers are already on this path and I openly admire them for it. They are ahead of me. It’s up to me to catch up.

I want to end with a question? Would you call yourself open-minded?

a good week

I have to say, it’s been a good week. Other than a killer case of gout and dry-eye, which is essentially a bloody eyeball with a centralized headache behind it that makes focusing unbearable, things have been good.

Dialysis, I am happy to say, has made me feel a lot better. Some may complain about it and feel bad for themselves but I am here to say that I feel better than I have in months. So much so that I stepped forward to help out at the local Community Club meeting. I helped, alongside 7 other awesome people, prepare a meal for 86 people and then had enough energy to serve, clean tables and wash dishes after. While I admit that I was hurtin’ for certain by the end of it, I know that I could not have done half of that even a month ago.

My Social Security Disability came through this week. I have been waiting a long time and it has never been a guarantee. I was very disheartened when I was denied in December. I was very encouraged when I had my appeal this past August but still, I was not certain about being approved and even if I was, how far back would it go. It worked out perfectly for me, I will be getting a retroactive settlement from October of 2016. Over $30,000 to soften the blow. I will give my family half of it and that should set them up pretty good. I will pay back my mother and catch up on everything I have put off for the last 18 months. In the Spring I will buy a used motorcycle.

My friend Steve, who I wrote about last week must have been blessed by all of you that wished him well. After several years of waiting by the phone for MA General to call him, driving in to be tested against a cadaver because there was a fatality that may be a match for him, he got the call on Wednesday. This one was a match and he got a new liver. He is recovering nicely now. I am absolutely thrilled for him. As the saying goes, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He’s a good man and a great friend.

Well, that’s it. Superman is back to his old self (for the most part). My strength is coming back, my sense of humor has caused people to say “you’re like the old you!” and I’m even losing a couple of chins in the process of dialysis.

I’m going to enjoy the day because this is a good one. I’m going to run with it because, after all, who knows what tomorrow will bring right?