Richard sees treasure everywhere. In that old eight-track quadraphonic stereo, that pink granite bowling ball, or a Niagara Falls napkin holder. While most people scramble for the newest and the best, Richard searches for the odd and obsolete -- and sells it at his second-hand shop on the edge of Detroit.
Why does he do it? For Richard, junk is a way of life, a calling, and a passion. Until his comfortable second-hand life gets a first-hand jolt.
Richard's mother has died, and left behind a valuable house full of packed-away junk -- including some old photos that will change everything Richard thought about his parents. And then there's the hip, thrift-attired woman who comes into his store with more than junk on her mind.... Suddenly some very unexpected things are entering Richard's life, including some surprising revelations about love and loss -- and what's really important in life.
With an unerring blend of the comic and the poignant, Michael Zadoorian has written an unforgettable novel about knick-knacks, garage sales, romance, and the bonds we form with people and things -- the perfect story for anyone who has ever loved something second hand.
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"A colorful first novel...If you're a yard sale lover ... Second Hand may feel like a gift from the (Tiki) gods."
-- The New York Times Book Review
"Hooked me right away -- [Zadoorian] is a very entertaining writer, hip and funny."
-- Elmore Leonard, author of Pagan Babies
"Funny and moving, especially as it moves toward its surprisingly beautiful ending. A fine and wonderful novel."
-- Charles Baxter, author of Believers
"Anyone who has found delight in a thrift store, captured glee in finding that perfect scarf or that retro chair, will equally squeal with delight at this novel."
"Incisively humorous and surprisingly poignant, this is a quirky, surprisingly tender coming-of-age tale."
-- Publishers Weekly
When I die, I will leave nothing but junk. If I went to my house, to my estate sale, after I died, I would buy everything. Of course, since I bought it all in the first place, that shouldn't be much of a surprise. Yet even if I wasn't me, I would buy it all. There are others that would do the same. People come to my house and are amazed by my junk, covet my junk. But those people are junkers. When people who aren't junkers come to my house, they laugh at my things. Or they say my house is creepy because everything in it was owned by people who are now dead. I tell them, "They're not all dead. Some are in nursing homes."
They just don't get it. If they walk into a house and don't see a plaid couch beneath a color-coordinated "Starving Artists" painting (the big, big sale in the parking lot of the Southfield Ramada Inn -- for all your art needs!), they become confused, disoriented, even hostile. I make a note of it: they will not be invited to my estate sale. The ad for it would probably go something like this, if I died today:
Friday & Saturday, 10-5
Thirty years' accumulation. Lots of items! 1940s Chinese-red armchair, 1960s genuine cowboy davenport with ten-gallon hat sewn into cushions, 1950s department-store mannequin (male), 1930s dining-room set, 1970s lamp and artificial potted plant, 1940s red/white kitchen table, 1950s cherry-wood Olympic Deluxe console hi-fi. Hundreds of LPs and eight-track tapes, large selection of lurid paperbacks, extensive black velvet art collection: crying clowns, matadors, naked ladies, thin Elvis and fat Elvis! Other collections include: kitchen clocks, ugly lamps, ashtrays, pitchers, cocktail shakers, bongos, souvenir buildings, souvenir spoons, salt & pepper shakers, and more! Full garage. Full basement. Spend the day! No early birds.
Occasionally, I am forced to deal with plaid-couch types in my house. E.g., those now-frequent occasions when my sister Linda comes by, for some reason connected with my mother's health.
Linda believes everything has to be new. She drives a new car, lives in a new house in a new subdivision with her new husband. After a few minutes in my living room, Linda is in a dither. (Or would it be a snit? I'm never sure about those two.) Linda simply doesn't know what to do around objects from garage sales and Salvation Armies and thrift shops and secondhand stores. She looks at my stuff and I can tell she can't wait to get home and sit an her beige plaid couch next to her beige plaid armchair across from the beige plaid love seat (parlor-tanned hand on the beige plaid antimacassar), under the hotel painting done in tones of tan, bone, beige, sienna, and sepia. If Linda sits at my place at all, she perches on the edge of my cowboy couch, like a small white bird trapped in a smudgy, unclean cage. This is sad to me.
Personally, I find new things boring. They have no history, no resonance. I feel at home with junk. Secondhand. The word says it all -- other hands have touched that object. Think of all the things we touch every day, the million tiny linchpins that hold our lives together -- the coffee mugs, the tie clasps, the alarm clocks, the sunglasses, the key fobs, the beanbag ashtrays. What if they absorbed some scintilla of you, as if the oil from your fingers carried the essence of your soul? Then think of all the stuff you've ever owned, that's ever passed through your hands, where it all might be right now. Think of the million other lives you've touched through those things that you've owned, that carry the essence of you. Amazing, huh?
Oh shit. You're right. Most of it is probably in a landfill in New Jersey. But I do think that when you own something that once belonged to someone else, it's like some secret contact with them, with their past. A way to touch people without having things get all messy and emotional.
That's what secondhand is. But then there are always people who worry about whether those hands were properly washed.
My store is located in a small, dingy town on the fringe of Detroit, Michigan (a large dingy town), on what was once a lovely little Main Street. I assume things went to seed in the late Sixties, when a lot of things in and around Detroit went to seed -- what with the '67 riot, white flight, urban sprawl, and then the malls. In my town, the only businesses to really survive the deadly onslaught of the malls are the repair shops -- shoe, shaver, vacuum, etc. Each run by one unkillable old guy just toiling away, fixing things. Judging from what's in the thrift stores, I wouldn't have thought anyone got anything repaired these days, but apparently people do. There's also a used-book store on my street, a Thai joint, a record store started by some young punks (bless their LP-loving hearts), and a few sistah businesses (hair salons, nail joints, wig shops). And lots of empty storefronts.
I opened my place about five years ago, with a little money my father left me when he died, three thousand dollars to be used "for artistic endeavors." Which seemed a bit strange, frankly. The money didn't mean much to me, compared to having my father around, but I wasn't going to argue. At that time, I was going to art school downtown, living in a roachtrap apartment on the Cass Corridor, working two jobs, one waiting tables, the other sorting at the distribution center for the Salvation Army. I was still finding my junk roots then (art with "found objects"), and working there allowed me to see stuff as soon as it came in. It was a piss-poor job, but I picked up a lot of great things, filling my already too-small apartment with much more junk than I needed for my little "projects." I didn't realize it then, but I was stocking up for the store.
I still don't know exactly where Dad got the three grand, but he had it somewhere. After I got the money, I blew some of it on junk, but I saved most of it. (Okay, so I save money. It's very Midwestern of me, I know.) Shortly afterward, I got fed up with pretentious art school rebop. I realized I liked the objects I was finding better than the art I was making. I started thinking about a store.
My Idea of Junk
I stock a hodgepodge of items ranging from the Thirties (not much) all the way to the Eighties (even less). I can't say I specialize in any particular era (though I do profess a weakness for the junk of the Fifties). The criteria for merchandise is simple: If I like it, I sell it. A few items I have out right now: chrome kitchen canister set, old bar glasses (Harry & Alma's Show Bar for dancing and good food!), a wall of bowling trophies and majorette trophies, disco shirts, cobalt seltzer bottle, Boy Scout knife and canteen, Reddy Kilowatt playing cards, strings of glass grapes, Niagara Falls napkin holder, framed paint-by-number paintings of horse heads.
As you can see, I've got some quality junk. And at very reasonable prices. (But not ridiculously so. I learned that lesson when I opened up the place. I had all sorts of great stuff, dirt-cheap. A few people came in and bought it up. The next week I saw it at some vintage stores uptown at three times the price. Bastards.) My clientele is mixed -- tattooed black-leather types, hipsters, alterna-teens, design victims, weekend beatniks, psychobillies, people that just dig old stuff. If you had to use one word to describe them, it would have to be "cool." Which also seems to be the highest accolade one of them can bestow upon a person or object.
"That is just so cool."
And so on. I hear this word in my store quite a bit, except in regards to my person. I get other folks, too: bargain-hunting locals, black and white, blue-collar and white-collar, who just come in looking around, not necessarily for cool junk, but because my place is in their neighborhood and it's actually still in business.
Have I mentioned the name of my store? It's called Satori Junk. I painted the sign for it myself, then encrusted it with all sorts of stuff -- pieces of broken plates, buttons, old doll parts, marbles. When the sun is just right, it looks really great. The rest of the time, it just looks like a sign with a lot of crap hot-glued to it. As for Satori, I realize the Zen thing is a smidge on the egghead side but I do believe that we can gain a kind of illumination from junk. We just have to be open to it. Unfortunately, most people live their lives without the wisdom junk can give them.
Bowling Shirts and Poodle Planters
Today, I open up and a few people straggle in. About one-thirty, one hipster buys an old bowling shirt that I picked up at a Value Village. I must say, it is an extremely cool shirt, white with turquoise sleeves, an original King Richard, Sanforized for your protection. The best part is the back of the shirt. Embroidered in red script it says:
According to the name over the breast pocket, the previous owner of the shirt was Pete. Strange thing, but hipsters will really pay for a shirt with a name embroidered on it. The older and goofier the name, the better -- Herb, Sid, Marvin. Better yet, a kooky nickname -- "Bud," "Dot," "Buzz." Man, nothing sells like quotation marks.
The only other thing that happens is a gone chick in Forties glamour shades looks in my front window. Definitely a potential customer and, well, kind of attractive in a wan, beat girl way. I wave for her to come in. This sort of extroversion is against my character, but as a merchant, when someone looks in your store window, you're under an obligation to get them to come in. Still, this hardly ever works for me. I think I wave wrong or something. People usually just kind of wave back, then clear out. But this time the woman actually heads for the door. As she walks in, she props her...
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Descrizione libro Dell Publishing Company, 2001. Trade paperback. Condizione libro: New. New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. Codice libro della libreria 693143
Descrizione libro Dell, 2001. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0385335709
Descrizione libro Dell, 2001. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0385335709
Descrizione libro Condizione libro: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Codice libro della libreria 97803853357061.0