This is a writing sample by “nycghostwriter,” AKA Barbara Finkelstein. It is “The Tao of Silverpicking” a blog post originally published on Tumblr. You can get professional ghostwriting services from a published blogger. Email me or fill out the short form on my contact page.
Published: July 1, 2012
Silverpicker is a 23-year-old Riverdalian, newly graduated from Rutgers in N.J. with a double major in Chinese and Philosophy. Every Friday and Sunday, he compiles a list of garage and tag sales from Craig’s List and goes hauling for silver and gold up in Westchester. A good sale will yield a small trove of silver and gold jewelry, mostly necklaces and bracelets. A bad one is bushel upon bushel of baby clothes. Silverpicker doesn’t discriminate. He picks through the clothing, the out-of-fashion bestsellers and the board games in hopes that people looking to de-clutter their lives might also throw some jewelry baby out with the bath.
I went along with Silverpicker the first Sunday in July to watch him in action. I had strict orders not to get in his way. No food or pit stops, no requests for an early homecoming. He had fifteen sales on his itinerary, and several more were in the offing if we had the good fortune to stumble upon them. If I promised to keep up with him on a 100-degree day, I could ride shotgun and watch. In short, if I wanted to observe the habits of a silver and gold picker, I had to set aside whatever privileges went along with being Silverpicker’s mother.
Here comes the grueling sun
Silverpicker and I got into his Honda Civic and left Riverdale before nine. Now in his second summer of picking, he had his routine: Eat a toasted bagel and cream cheese while listening to Breakfast With the Beatles on Q104.3. With “Here Comes the Sun” pealing loud out of the radio, Silverpicker pulled off the Saw Mill River Parkway to Cross County and headed for his first stop in Mount Vernon.
An African-American couple presided over several tables of clothing, shoes and housewares set up in their driveway. Silverpicker asked if they had any coins. The missus said, “Why is everybody so interested in coins lately?” On Saturday some people had stopped by and wanted to buy them too. She was tuned in enough to know that a new trend was afoot in the world of tag sales.
“What do you mean by an old coin?” she asked. Silverpicker said that anything pre-1970 was old. The missus hadn’t budged from her folding chair, but she was practically self-levitating. This piece of information had given her insight into the strangers who trooped across her property.
Silverpicker and I walked past another African-American couple pulled up along the curb. They were fixing a flat. Sometimes a hot Sunday morning in July is a bummer.
Silverpicker started the car before I was in it. A subtle sign that I’d better pick up the pace.
Picking out a new trend
The next stop in Pelham produced two Playstation 1 games, a Harry Potter and a James Bond. As his moniker suggests, Silverpicker exists to pick silver. But sometimes the silver pickins are slim and you’ve got to haul something else. Like other haulers, he’s gotten wise to the link between nostalgia (the 1980s and 1990s) and scarcity (vanishing hardware and software), and he’s hauling vintage video games. At a stop in New Rochelle, a tag saler said, “You’re the second person this weekend who asked me for coins and video games.”
Over the next six hours, Silverpicker looked at his Craig’s List itinerary, punched addresses into his GPS and hunted for lucrative hauls. Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads and Queen serenaded us as we made our way north to sales in Tarrytown, Hawthorne, Valhalla, Rye and then south to Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Yonkers. In Sleepy Hollow Silverpicker passed up a fake stuffed dog, belt buckles and baby clothes for a couple of Atari and ColecoVision games. Among throw pillows, old tools and workman’s boots, he found a CamelBak hydration pack for a dollar (good for camping trips). The only coin acquisitions came on stop number eight from a Japanese woman headed back to Japan and stop number nine from a Portuguese couple. They were heading home too, but were willing to part with five coins for sixty dollars before they left. A little high, Silverpicker said, but he thought he could parley his investment into a small profit.
The Silverpickers of the world are clever
All day Westchester County hemorrhaged baby clothes, LPs (Ray Coniff Singers, Michael Jackson, Sinatra), Dollar Store drinking glasses, Christmas decorations, DVDs, CDs, videocassettes – the detritus of the previous century’s technology innovations. It’s true that we weren’t sitting around watching who came to comb through this stuff, but I had to wonder, “Why are people selling merchandise just about nobody can use anymore?”
I’ve got an answer: One day another kind of Silverpicker will come along and turn all of this commodity waste into an art installation or ecologically green building materials. The Silverpickers of the world are clever that way.
Chili on wheels
Our ears (mine anyway) were super-saturated with Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and The Who when we got to our last stop. This sale was on a dead-end road in Yonkers, seeded with the usual clothing, housewares and an eternal regurgitation of shlock / raw material. I made a joke about the Grumman-made food truck parked in the driveway. I said it must be for sale too.
Silverpicker chatted up the middle-aged mister and I headed toward his heavyset wife exercising on a stationary bike. Just about every woman along our sweaty route was wearing a low-cut, sleeveless shirt that showed cleavage. This woman’s bosoms were like the plush Italian rolls formerly on the menu of her chili-dog food truck. Until recently, she had driven her truck to local fairs and Little League games and sold hot dogs, fries, cheese and fries and burgers to her loyal patrons.
“But the food truck business is a young person’s game,” Barbara said. She was trying to sell the truck.
The salt of the earth is selling a food truck
Barbara’s husband Jay went looking for any old Nintendo sets he might have lying around. While Jay was gone, Silverpicker made his way back to Barbara and me. He said he had a friend in L.A. who wants to leave his desk job and drive his very own food truck. Barbara told us she had gotten a bid from somebody in Long Island who never got back in touch with her. “I felt violated,” she said. “That’s how you feel when somebody plays you for a fool.”
Who doesn’t know that feeling, I said.
Jay came back with a recent-model Nintendo. Silverpicker said it was too contemporary for him. He told Jay about his friend in L.A. who wanted a food truck.
Barbara got off the stationary bike and gave us a tour of the truck. It had a neat, insulated kitchen galley and a Port-o-San for making number ones. She demonstrated the cross-ventilation by turning on the fans and opening the door to the cabin. That truck really was a beaut.
I told Barbara she reminded me of the character in The Station Agent who drives a food truck. I hope she sees the movie and understands what a big compliment I was paying her.
Picking everything but the brain
When the sun was licking a hundred degrees of mercury, my peripheral vision undulated out into a series of heat waves. I must have been having a minor heat stroke. I’d have been happy to head back to Riverdale. Fortunately, I had a mother’s well-timed sense of keeping her mouth shut. A good thing too. In the car, my vision went back to normal.
“We had a good day,” Silverpicker said. “You never slowed me down. But hauling solo is part of my identity, you know. It gives me time to think.”
Makes sense. Half of his major was philosophy.
I know Silverpicker by the suffering I put him through. I know him by the thousands of hours of board games we played together. I know him by our fights, our alliances, our shared belief in the future, and now I know him by his hauling. What I’ll never know, of course, is how to pick Silverpicker’s brain. Believe me, I had twenty-three years of trying, and the best I can do is make inferences about him from his silverpicking qualities: perseverance, talent for negotiation, respect for an obscure, ever-changing marketplace.
We can all know a little more about him through his YouTube videos. He’s Silverpicker there too.
I complained a couple of times here about the decibel level of the radio in Silverpicker’s car. Even so, a lot of the music we heard was great, not least of all Blue Sky, a twentieth-century gem by the Allman Brothers.