Junker’s Blues

In the last installment of Junker's Blues, a handshake deal for a large collection of records goes bad when the junker receives a mysterious anonymous phone call. He's told there was a misunderstanding and that the LPs had never been for sale in the first place. This leads the junker, prone to fanciful narrative flights even on his calmer days, to speculate on small-scale conspiracy theories involving free appraisals and back-door dealings. It turns out the owner of the collection's son-in-law has decided to keep the records. The junker does his best to put the collection out of his mind, but about a week later receives a proposition from the son-in-law.

Illustration by Nathanael Roney.

A few days after the original deal went south, I got another phone call from the son-in-law. He was looking to sell a sizable portion of the collection, and he'd gone through the records and found the ones he was interested in keeping, he said. He hoped that I'd come over and make an offer on the rest.

I should have given up at this point. I knew that everything I'd dug for, set aside, and organized into priority piles was a lost cause. I'd scoped, but now I was scooped. All he would be offering were the rejects. But knowing when to give up chasing records is a lesson I still haven't learned, maybe never will, and who knew, maybe he was a big Rodgers & Hammerstein fan.

But the records had moved. They were now in at his place, in North Asheville, in a house near the grounds of the Grove Park Inn. 

I arrived on the Groveskirts of town in the early afternoon.

I was greeted at the front door by a short man dressed early 21st Century fop. He wore a long leather coat, a fancy pilot's scarf and a brown, wide-brimmed fedora. Although I could have been seeing him through junkolded eyes, his expression looked like someone who'd recently made a serious meal of canaries.

"I'm glad you're coming to take some of these off my hands," he said. "They're a bit more than I can handle."

He stepped out onto the large porch and said that the records were around back. We rather pointedly did not walk through the house to get there and instead had to trudge through the muddy driveway. 

Inside a stand-alone garage, stacked in rows, were about 25 U-Haul small boxes. He explained that these were the ones he was hoping to part with, and then offered me a milk crate to sit on. When I'd looked through these records at his mother-in-law's home, she'd offered ginger ale, good light, warmth and pleasant conversation. Context really is everything – I really didn't want to look at these records again. 

But I started to open up the boxes. He went back into the house — my barely suppressed hostility was probably no fun to be around. This was just as well. It only took about 20 minutes to verify my suspicions. These were the records I'd left on the shelves. I couldn't find any I had set aside. He'd kept the cherries I'd picked. Now he was trying to sell me my own rejects.

But I kept digging, because, you never, know, maybe I missed something the first time around. And, oddly, I came across a copy of Frank Zappa's Hot Rats. I'd missed it digging through the first round. Didn't fit the rest of the collection's profile, which is possibly why I missed it. Not a great record, but I was in the market for a copy — mine was a Reprise label repress, this was a Bizarre label original. I set it aside. I tried for about ten minutes more to find something to go with it, but I'd done too good a job at my client's condo – the cupboard was bare, and I wasn't giving this fellow any money for the dregs. 

When he came out to see how I was doing, he seemed genuinely surprised that I was finished. It was, after all, a lot of records.

I held up the Zappa and said I'd take it.

"That's all you want?" The fop said, giggling to himself. He actually seemed very pleased. His scarf shimmied and his hat brimmed. "I guess it's a dollar."

"No. I'm taking it. For services rendered," I said, walked out of the garage, got in my car, and drove home.

That's why you never leave junk on the table – you never know when some other guy will come along and eat the meal you cooked.

And this wasn't the last I'd see of those particular records.

Tune in next time for one final twist in the tale of the Records That Wouldn't Die.


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