Junker’s Blues

Winter sure is hard on creatures that try to live off of the land, and junkers are no exception. This is the time of year when all right thinking foragers spend their time in hibernation, living off the stores of scores they've made throughout the more productive months. Better to be warm, safe and secure in the pack rat's nest than scuttling around in the grey cold hideousness of a January Saturday morning poking for scraps. 

Illustration by Nathanael Roney.

But, as I've said numerous times in this column, the pursuit of junk is an addiction, and the junker must feed the jones, even when it's not necessary to do so. The junker with the full storage facility, the crammed antique booth, the brimming eBay store and scads of stuff clogging whatever passes for the "office" waiting to be priced, processed or perused, will still hit the streets in hopes that something amazing will poke its head out of its hiding place.

But herein lies the problem — many of the "watering holes" junkers frequent in search of prey freeze over in the winter. Forced from their usual hunting grounds, junkers move further from their natural habitats, often veering into other predators' territory. Sources are overwhelmed. Feeding frenzies ensue. 

A couple of weekends ago it looked like the weather was going to be mediocre at best — meaning it was like every other day this January, cold, cloudy, with a strong chance of stinging, near-freezing liquid saturating the air, eking all the joy out of life. I'd gone to bed that Friday telling myself I was going nowhere, that there was nothing happening in junk world and I could lounge away my Saturday morning in my house like a normal person. 

Trouble is, my body is conditioned by years of practice — whether I want to or not, I wake up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and want to go somewhere ridiculous. And so it was with this Saturday, awake with no chance to regain sleep at six in the morning, I decided to see what craigslist had to offer in the way of Saturday sales.

A lone in-house sale at a downtown flat appeared to be the only promising prospect. The ad copy was well done and was written in accordance with the Junker's Blues standards set in the 6/17/09 Memo to the Yard Salers of Asheville. Lots of media, lots of furniture, tools, art — it looked like a good one. 

The sale was supposed to start at 8 a.m. I pulled up to the apartment about 7:55 a.m., and the sale was fully underway. This is exactly why you salers who don't like early birds get them.

In-house sales are weird — it's odd enough seeing stuff for sale in someone's garage, but actually walking through the house is oddly intimate — you are literally raiding someone's private space. The sale was packed. There were easily 20 people in this 1,000-square-foot flat.

After I'd scanned the place and taken off my junk goggles, I recognized that over half the people in the flat were fellow junkers: second-hand storeowners, a refugee from Smiley's (which was closed because its parking lot was apparently even soupier than usual), Goodwill eBay flippers. This doesn't happen as often as you might think — junkers run their own routes and chose what sales they attend by their own jujus and formulations. But the potential pickings for this particular day were so small that everyone converged on this spot. 

The sale was OK, but the stuff was pretty common and in no way rated the attention of all these dealers. After the first layer was quickly skimmed, the dealers were left to roam around the place, trying to find something worth salvaging, lurching around like it was Morning of the Junking Dead.

I myself had to make do with a small stack of books — a Bukowski, a Tropic of Cancer, and some other semi-smutty literary odds and ends that would at best serve as trade-bait at Downtown Books. Somewhere in a convoluted scheme of things that might have justified shivering on a Saturday morning in order to score books that I already had at home. Meager treasures in hand, I headed back home and left the rest of my fellow vultures to pick through the remains. But next week I think I'll try staying home and go cold turkey rather than being another turkey buzzard out there in the cold.

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