Tag Archives: soho

Lame Adventure 420: Springtime Spewing

Three months ago I looked down my block and it looked like this.

Cold and snowy February.

Cold and snowy February night.

On Sunday it looked liked that.

Warm and sunny May.

Warm and sunny May afternoon.

When the weather is warm, sunny and the humidity is low, it’s the perfect time to go outside and take a hike in the hood, which is exactly what I did.

Stop raising plows!

Stop raising snow plows!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Toss that snow shovel away!

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Sit the flowers on the sill.

Upper West Side water towers looking good against a clear blue sky.

Ogle a water tower or two.

Last week, on a lovely spring day, my friend, Coco, noticed this magnificent tree that is growing on the West Side Highway at Canal Street.

Coco's magnificent tree.

Coco’s magnificent tree.

This prompted yet another in our ongoing series of philosophical text exchanges.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

Exchange of deep thoughts.

For those of you who read this site for its vast educational component, Coco accessed her inner dendrologist and has since learned that it is a Redbud tree.

I’ll admit it: I have some quirks. I fantasized about eating cigars as a small-fry thinking that tobacco tasted like chocolate. I started reading the obits at age ten. Whenever I see a ticket stub on the sidewalk I try to see what event it is for — but I don’t flip the stub over.

Frustrating.

Frustrating.

I also pay fairly close attention to my small change.

Recently, when I was purchasing carrots, kale and bananas in my market’s organic department, I needed a penny to complete the transaction. As I was digging through my coin purse, I noticed that I had a wheat penny. No way was I going to part with that special cent, even though the clerk insisted I do so.

Me: No, I can’t spend that one. It’s from 1920.

I pulled the year 1920 out of thin air. I had no idea of that penny’s vintage. The clerk gave me a look that screamed:

Clerk’s look: Nerd!

It takes more than a hairy eyeball to intimidate me. If she wielded a bat, knife, or surface to air missile, then I would have handed her the entire contents of my wallet and a kidney. But, the transaction reached a peaceful conclusion. It so happened that my wheat penny was not from 1920. It was from 1918. Woodrow Wilson was president. The most popular film that year was Tarzan of the Apes starring Elmo Lincoln. (Who?) The second most popular film was the infinitely more intriguing sounding I Don’t Want to Be a Man directed by Ernst Lubitsch about a crossdressing teenage girl who thinks she can have more fun being a guy.

My 1918 penny.

My 1918 penny.

How often does one have a 96-year-old penny in one’s change? Apparently I have one in the 288,104,000 that were minted in 1918. Hold the smelling salts.

I realize that this one one-hundredth of a dollar is showing its 96 years and would never be mistaken with being US mint factory fresh. But it’s been out on the front lines of the world for nearly a century, except maybe when it sat neglected in Hubert’s sock drawer for three years starting in 1936 and then it was stuck in Ida and Ralph’s couch cushions for a decade that began in 1954. Those periods of isolationism aside, it’s been kicked around proving that it’s a coin that can withstand the test of time, it’s a sliver of copper with character. How admirable. Can we say that about the nickels, dimes and pennies in our usual change?

Therefore, it was disheartening to learn that its value is only somewhere between four and forty-five cents today. How can that be? If only this heavily battered and bruised cent, tattooed with nine decades and six years of wear and tear could enter a time machine that reveals all the pockets, change purses, sidewalks, fountains, cash registers, piggy banks and occasional loafer (leather and human) it’s been in. Its many encounters with the rich, the famous, the notorious, the historical, the obscure, and now me, the hysterically insignificant, then it could come full circle and reap the respect this common but rather rare vintage of coin still floating around Manhattan island in 2014 deserves. Then, it could skyrocket in value, merit being displayed under glass and finance my retirement … or possibly just some organic carrots, kale and bananas. I’ll settle for free groceries.

1918-ish looking street lamp and flag displaying a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

1918-ish looking street lamp with banner for a Bill Cunningham photography exhibit at the New York Historical Society.

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Lame Adventure 227: Bad Influence

Our employer closed business early on Friday so my colleagues and I happy danced our way out the door to the tune of Born Free into the three-day weekend.  The weather was lovely as I entered the subway station determined to have a highly productive 72 hours focusing completely on household chores and writing.  Just as I set foot on the subway platform I noticed that I received a text message from my buddy, Coco.

45 minutes later, my original plan is drowning in Sangria.

On our way to Sangria-land, Coco and I walked from TriBeCa through SoHo.  As we strolled west on Houston Street, we passed several street vendors selling their wares.  We have sauntered past street vendors countless times without them ever registering on our radar, but on this occasion, one stand that was essentially full of junk caught all four of our eyeballs.  In lockstep we motored over to this table to further inspect a Mad Men-era Polaroid 150 Land camera.

Don Draper’s Polaroid.

Coco:  This is such a cool camera!

Me:  Yeah!

The vendors, two women in their mid to late sixties, or maybe they were in their late forties and just looked to us as used as the goods they had on display, or possibly they were in their late seventies and they’re of French descent, and are actually aging far better than the rest of us … but I digress.  However old they were they were oblivious to Coco and I drooling over this relic designed by Polaroid’s founding father, Edwin Land.

Coco:  I want it!

Since I am the older and by default more level-headed half of our equation, I frequently remind young Coco that there is no such thing as retail therapy. It is infinitely more important to save than spend. Therefore,  I dole the following advice:

Me:  Go for it!

It’s a camera and cameras are my kryptonite, and apparently, they’re Coco’s, too.  You know someone for over six years and go figure, you continue to learn new things about them every day.  Coco signals for one of the vendors to approach.

Coco:  I’m interested in this camera.

The vendor takes it out of the box, and shows us how to open and close the bellows.  She has no idea how old it is but insists that being in the original box enhances the value.

Folded Polaroid 150 in box.

She’s pretty certain that this camera is still operational.  Upon hearing that, I briefly escape my delirium.

Me:  But they discontinued making the film.

Vendor (cornered):  They discontinued making the film?  Huh.  Hm.

Coco:  How much is it?

The vendor asks her partner the price and is told $50.

Coco (boldly to vendor):  I’ll take it!

Afterward, we are sipping our Sangria and chowing on tapas with the camera on display on our table.

Box with bullet hole, but Coco’s okay with that. She’ll claim that it originally belonged to a member of the mob.

Suddenly, we both have an eiphany and do a spit-take at each other:

Me:  You could have bargained with them!  We had leverage!  The film’s obsolete!  Why didn’t I think to tell you this?  Am I losing my edge?

Coco is wiping my Sangria out of her eye.

Coco:  What’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with me?  Am I so used to shopping at Barney’s I have no clue how to price haggle with old ladies selling junk on the street?

Then Coco reasoned that even if she did overpay for it by $15, she’s okay with springing for drinks for those vendors.

We later did some research on that camera.  Approximately 400,000 Polaroid 150’s were manufactured between 1957 and 1960.  In its heyday, it sold for $109.95, the equivalent of $873.14 in today’s dollars.  Upon reflection, Coco got a pretty sweet deal on this novelty after all.

Say cheese.