Tag Archives: street junk

Lame Adventure 431: Why a Penny?

Not that long ago I was in Brooklyn, waiting for the subway to arrive, when I looked down on the platform where I saw a penny.

Look close like I did: it's there.

Look close: it’s there.

Was this my lucky penny?

My lucky penny closer.

My lucky penny closer.

Is this slender disk what it will take to turn my life around? Will it lead to an unfathomable degree of happiness with the soul mate that will desire me forever or, second choice, a solid week of good hair days?

It was dated 1974. This forty-year-old coin’s melt value is more than double its one-cent buying power. As of September 1, 2014, this penny is worth $0.0211471.

Melt-value facts.

Melt-value facts.

In another forty years, it’s conceivable that its value could double again. By 2054, it might even be worth a dime, something to look forward to when I’m 95, shrunken to the size of a walnut and speaking fluent gibberish.

So I picked up this lucky find and slipped it into my pocket. If I needed two more cents to complete a cash transaction for a toothbrush and shower shoes, but I only had this single penny on my person, would it be enough to appease the clerk without my having to toss the purchase on plastic? I could argue that my lucky penny’s value has doubled over time. If accepted, I would be reasonable and would not quibble about forfeiting the extra $0.0011471 or losing the passkey to great sex and good hair. Maybe I should rethink this …

I could put my lucky penny in the change compartment of my wallet. But I have many pressing things on my mind: US Open Tennis, pigeons, lunch. Coinage is not very aforethought. Therefore, it might behoove me to keep my lucky penny separate from my other change. In fact, I could keep it with the three pennies on my writing table and note which one it is.

My Lucky Penny with three wannabe pennies.

Look which penny is the Beyoncé in this quartet.

There are so many finds literally littering the streets of this magnificent metropolis. Do none of them pack a scintilla of magic in the luck department like a penny?

Lucky tooth cleaning implement.

Lucky tooth cleaning implement.

Lucky casino chip in asphalt.

Lucky casino chip embedded in asphalt.

Lucky glove in street.

Lucky glove in street.

Lucky dump of pistachio shells on subway platform.

Lucky dump of pistachio shells on subway platform.

Lucky crushed water bottle.

Lucky crushed water bottle.

Lucky fallen tree branch.

Lucky fallen tree branch.

Lucky peach pit in sidewalk crack.

Lucky peach pit in sidewalk crack.

Lucky coat hanger.

Lucky plastic coat hanger.

Maybe not so lucky parking ticket.

Unlucky parking ticket.

Probably everything in this cluster is landfill-bound crap. The unpaid parking ticket might even bring its unfortunate recipient a special brand of bad luck: a penalty on top of the ticket cost and having to hear Wayne Newton’s Greatest Hits in its entirety while waiting to fight the penalty on top of the ticket cost.

But what is it that makes finding a penny face up in the street lucky? If it’s heads down, leave it there or give it to someone else? Give it to whom? If it’s tainted, why pass on the taint to anyone? Re-gifting is already an epidemic. According to wiseGEEK this is nothing more than superstition and folklore. But they do point out that money symbolizes power, so that is another reason to pocket found change but leave that schnook’s parking ticket in the gutter. That’s toxic.

Pigeon feather on laundromat floor; not lucky.

Pigeon feather on laundromat floor; not lucky. Just ask the pigeon.

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Lame Adventure 415: Head Games with Head Colds

This week I’ve been gradually recovering from a cold named Colossus. If it were a movie it would be in IMAX 3D. My most special effect is a thundering phlegm-filled cough that strikes fear in every subway rider standing in my soggy, heavy breathing presence. I have wondered what germy New Yorker passed this monster onto me. How I wish I had deflected that pass. I recall my blood running cold when a store clerk suffering stage four sniffles rubbed her nose as she handed me my change. But that was a few weeks before I fell ill. When I returned home from that encounter, I played it safe: I bathed in bleach.

My concentration has had lapses. I’m more focused on sneezing, wheezing, hacking and hoping one day my ears will unclog. Then I can once again savor my fellow commuter’s iPod leaking tinny percussive sounds. Sounds played by a small orchestra. Possibly an orchestra comprised of a herd of hamsters bred with minute opposable thumbs that have discovered the triangle.

My thoughts are all over the place. When I was in the vitamin and health section of my market trying to remember what I needed while coughing that was when my thoughts left the building. It was as if The Head Thought declared:

The Head Thought: I don’t know about you guys, but I’m out of here.

Apparently, all of my other thoughts followed that charismatic thinker. So I completely blanked on getting cough drops. Now thoughtless, I impulsively picked up a box of green tea that has done zilch to silence my cough.

Product placement.

Product placement.

The next time I went to the store I repeatedly said to myself “get cough drops” like a mantra. I got the cough drops. I brought them home. I placed them on my table and then my thoughts apparently went on spring break because I forgot to take the cough drops with me when I went out. If there were a medical procedure where I could have a package of cough drops sewn discreetly into my body, if it was covered by my insurance and did not cause too big a bulge, I’d seriously consider it. If there could be room for a pack of tissues and lip balm, better yet.

I responded to the email from a House Manager at a theater company who scheduled me to usher an off-Broadway play on May 17th by declaring, “Thank you for scheduling me to usher on March 17th.” That matter has since been resolved. I assured him that “I am on top of my game this 2004 theater season”. I suspect that he is now completely convinced that I’m senile.

When I was returning home from doing my laundry last night I saw a fireplace mantle strategically placed over a city trash can on the street corner. I continued walking, certain that my flake-filled head had imagined this. Then, I walked back. Here’s proof that I remain somewhat lucid in my delirium. But maybe not the greatest picture taker while holding a laundry bag. At least I wasn’t coughing.

"Hon, what should we do with this old mantle? do you think one of the kids would want it or should I just throw it out on West End Avenue?"

“Hon, what should we do with this old mantle? Do you think one of the kids would want it or should I just throw it out on West End Avenue?”

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.