THE ROARING 90s
Brooklyn — Back in New York after college, I had a place on Nevins Street in Boerum Hill. Still saddled with unwanted comics, I took some boxes out on a Saturday. My buddy Jake, in town for a visit, vividly remembers the local prostitutes walking by, going after our customers — though offering slightly different forms of escape. And then there was the gentleman with the 40-ounce bottle of Olde E who shambled out of the bodega across from us, vomited into the gutter, and calmly walked back into the bodega for another 40. Charming Brooklyn!
Manhattan — Once again, I shlepped my surplus comics to the East Village. It wasn’t quite as far a shlep this time, as I was living on Avenue B and set up “shop” on Avenue A. I met a pair of comics entrepreneurs who wanted my Todd McFarlane Spider-Mans. I thought they were underbidding me, though, and refused to sell. Boy did I regret that years later when I finally decided to unload the books and they were worth only a fraction of their early 90s price!
Manhattan — Sari joined me for this all-out sale as we were getting ready to fly East for our grand adventure. Not knowing when — or if — we’d return, we were selling everything: furniture, books, clothes, appliances, the works. I think we did okay, but we had stuff left over which became party favors at that night’s farewell bash. I distinctly recall that this one Mike Allred comic (Madman #1?) was a real hit with one of Sari’s friends. Of course, once I saw how happy he was to have the comic I instantly had second thoughts about getting rid of it. I’m so petty! Especially since I really don’t like Allred’s stuff. Never have.
Chicago — My first Second City sale was a low-key solo affair, devoted entirely to comics. I set up outside out Wicker Park apartment, once again attempting to unload a shitload of bad 80s and 90s mainstream comics. Mostly, they were books I realized I had no interest in after I came back from my grand travel adventure of 1992–1993. All comics were a quarter, and five for a dollar. I don’t remember making many individual sales, but one kid came along and bought a short box-full of miscellaneous books for something like ten bucks. It felt great to get rid of that many books in one shot, and the kid went home with tons of reading material for him and his friends.
Chicago — Being another moving sale, we got rid of a ton of stuff before we headed off to San Francisco. This was a group affair involving me and Sari and a bunch of other friends, including our later-to-be Brooklyn stoop buddies wjcohen & Alison. My pal Stinky, visiting from Virginia and attending his very first street sale, turned out to be a great salesman. In fact, because of ol’ Stink, the event became known as the “You Can’t Give This Stuff Away Sale.” One customer insisted on paying him a dollar for an old telephone we were trying to unload for fifty cents. Seems the guy couldn’t live with himself if he only had a two-bit phone. But a dollar phone — now that’s talking in style!
I was particularly proud to unload two pairs of old shorts — one each to Stinky and wjcohen — which are still being worn by them today. Right now, in fact. Sexy!
1999 (Sept. 4)
San Francisco — This “street sale” (in the local vernacular), which was in conjunction with us leaving the Bay Area to drive back East across the U.S., was notable for a number of reasons.
Late in the day, after most of the small things were gone, a jalopy pulled up in front of our Mission District location and unloaded a crew of strange individuals. The leader of the gang was a kindly middle-aged black prostitute who bought almost all our furniture. Now, most of the stuff we had was cheap and rundown, it having been taken from the street or the local thrift store, but she wanted it all: the dresser, the coffee table, the bookcase, and most of all, the “entertainment center.” This particle-board monstrosity was too big to fit in the car with the other items, so she came back the next day with a couple of stoned relatives to load it onto the roof. The item was so flimsy that it started to break as we were trying to get it out the door, and practically split in half by the time it had been lashed to the car, but she didn’t mind. She kept up a happy banter the whole time — much of which I didn’t understand — and drove off, giddy with happiness about all her new possessions. We loved her; she paid in cash.
At the conclusion of the sale, we moved everything inside for a big going-away party. Our friends arrived and were treated to Indian pizza and beer, as well as their choice of leftover items — free of charge. Cartoonist/writer Ed Brubaker insisted on paying a dollar for one of my sweaters, and then proudly wore it some time later when he stayed with man_size in New York City. Without me the poor Brube may have died of cold in the frigid East!
P.S. Beginning a tradition of selling an item that Sari swore I’d never be able to unload, I sold a mysterious short length of wire to a Slavic man for a quarter.[ next: Millennial Madness ]