Every Sunday, the corner of Bedford Ave and North 7th turns into someone's garage sale. The predictable lot of hipster cast-offs dot the sidewalk: clothes, books, cds, odds and ends. On a recent clear bright morning, the last person I expected to see peddling junk was Jonathan Franzen.
Okay, I don't think it was him. JF was probably partaking of his West Coast tour at the time. But this guy really looked like him - he had the glasses, same kind of face, same kind of hair color. Same teeth. And, without a doubt, he acted like him.
I was walking back home after getting the paper, and stopped to briefly scan the wares. A white pick-up truck was parked nearby, filled with newly picked apples. A hipster girlfriend trotted around the vehicle tending to the apples, obviously very content that she was a hipster girlfriend with a bunch of apples and a truck, because she was oblivious to me standing there, the only potential buyer. (Was the street corner suddenly SoHo pre 9-11?) Pseudo-Franzen stood nearby, in aformentioned glasses and a sweatshirt burqa. He chatted away with some other woman, likely someone he knew.
Then I saw the trunk.
I've been needing a trunk, downright conjuring one. And there it magically was: a ratty, faded, ready-for-the-garbage trunk. It even had a smell. I figured I'd ask Pseudo-Franzen about it.
I had to rudely interrupt the interview he was conducting. He looked like he didn't appreciate that.
"How much for the trunk?"
He paused, examining me, as if trying to decide if I was right for his cast-off crap. I felt like Oprah, telling him I really liked his latest book.
I looked down at the trunk, and then asked very simply, "Why?"
One word, one syllable, absolutely no hidden agenda on my part, I just want to know why. We are on a street corner in Brooklyn and I am looking at a piece of shit garbage and someone pretending to be a bestselling author is telling me that said piece of shit costs fifty bucks. So: tell me why. Perhaps the object in question has a deliriously rich historical significance for which I ought to really be paying thousands, and am getting off easy with a fifty dollar price tag. Go ahead, I was suggesting, sell it to me.
Pseudo-Franzen was silent and rapidly souring. The expression of a snob waiter suddenly cast across his highbrow brow.
"What do you mean, why? Do you know of a trunk that is cheaper than that?" he snapped.
I did, actually. A few blocks away, at one of our many neighborhood junk stores.
"Yes, I do actually."
He pressed his lips together in a dark fury at my impertinence.
"Then go buy that one," he said, with a final nod of his head, dismissing me from his boutique.
"Okay, thank you," I smiled, and as I turned away, the apple attendant and interviewer briefly snickered.
I thought, Wow - this guy just sold me someone else's trunk! Talk me down to forty, dork. Don't let me walk away without getting some cash out of me! But, just like Franzen, the Bedford doppelganger doesn't know how to sell his stuff. I was Oprah, trying to give him money, and the man had too many unresolved childhood issues to take it. Maybe they both feel they're undeserving. I agree with them. "I see my trunks as a kind of high-end trunk and I'm not comfortable just having anyone buy them," I imagined him purring to the interviewer, with the apple attendant/hipster girlfriend nodding in solemn approval.
The next weekend, he was there again. I didn't stop to look at anything, because he was glaring at me from behind those glasses, as if I had been 86ed - as if I was Oprah, pushing him for an appearance just one more time.