Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Old Man and the Schwinn


"Spookin' around", was Baba's reply to his ux. Benji Barbagiacoma always called Roe DeAngelo his ux, short for uxor. Uxor in Latin means wife. Oddly Benji and Roe are not married, at least not by law. And since there is no common law marriage provision in New Jersey, neither Baba nor Roe are married in any sense of the word. Roe, who is a flea market flea, bumped into Benji by the auto parts corner and she wanted to know where he had been for the last hour. "Spookin around". Benji had a limited vocabulary.

Roe was pushing a shopping cart loaded with stuff. The cart was emblemed "Wegmans" on the push bar.


Curiously Roe had pilfered the cart from Shop Rite, the one down on Ann Boulevard, a few years ago. Maybe that's why Shop Rite


didn't track her down for the thief she was; the cart didn't belong to the Garden State based supermarket chain. Two porcelain dolls, begging for a bath, sat atop about 40 record albums from the 60's and 70's. In addition, she had dealt for a vintage 1946 Monopoly board game.



The carted potpourri cost Roe a total of $9.78. She could bargain the paint off of a Mercedes. The fact that she had a dowager's hump and the fact that she was grandmotherly in dress and demeanor always helped her cause. She looked a lot more pathetic than she was. Match point Roe. By PM 3, this disparate collection of stuff will be processed, cleaned, photographed and be on the eBay account of "AnzianaDonna68". Old Lady 68 estimates she can sell the albums (mostly male crooners including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Perry Como and Dean Martin) for an average of $4. The dolls had sad faces (happy faces sold better), but they were both in good shape, only dirty. Once Roe undressed them, laundered their dresses and gave them baths, they will look super. These will sell for $20-$25 apiece. The Mononoply game should pull at least $40, more if she got lucky enough to catch 2 bidding collectors. The Anziana Donna will net about $200 plus the shipping advantage. Charging the eBay dupe more than the actual shipping will add another $100 to the take. Gotta love Ebay and PayPal!


When Benji smiled too much his uppers fell. It was kinda cool to see his smile sort of extend like the curtain at the end of a play or show. The teeth just kept moving down as he retracted his upper lip so that his tongue and open mouth were never exposed. It was as if his teeth seem to move out of their sockets to protect his soft spots. To make his dental show more catching, the teeth were perfectly shaped and bright white. Roe always says Dr. Armenti should be shot for selling Baba such a bad set of choppers. Figuratively that is, Roe was a mild mannered woman. Oh, in regards the lowers, Baba never wore them. Watching him eat, what with the gyrating uppers and the lower fish gums, was like watching a Maytag on a heavy duty wash.

Benji "Baba" Barbagiacoma had that lover's smile in full display after he said, "Spookin around". AnzianaDonna knew exactly what that meant and it had nothing to do with Sea Bond Denturite.


Baba had found something, something to buy. Roe hated when Baba made a discovery because he bought stuff he liked, not stuff to resell. Roe was into making cash, Baba into spending cash. Hmm, they really were married!

When Baba was 14 years old he had saved enough money to buy a 1957 Schwinn bicycle. It was a special model called the Mark II Jaguar. It came with an Archer-Sturmey 3 speed shifter, hand brakes, brick styled semi balloon tires, chrome fenders, a neat headlight and a rear light that glowed red when stopping. There was a ball mechanism in a small cylinder, which moved forward in stopping. When the metal ball struck the front of the cylinder, the electrical circuit was completed and viola, a stop light. Benji had no idea whatever happened to his bike (his mother Angie gave it away to Skipper Rolando, her nephew) and he hadn't thought much about it till now. As he pulled Roe's hand, she struggled to push the Super G wire cart through the crowd. 'Wait till you see it." he chortled.

This was what all the commotion was about.


"It's a '56, mine was a '57."

He added, "mine was black, but the green's ok, ok..."

"What are you going to with this pie..c...", she caught herself.

"Whaddya mean, ride it, ride it, it's sooo neat."

Roe wasn't used to seeing the 67 year old Baba so animated. He was like what he must have been like when he was 14.

The old man selling the Schwinn had a long bed truck load of various toys, both old and new, strewn over the asphalt in a pell mell array of chaos. The bike was set aside, behind the other stuff, as if it didn't belong. It was clear that Clyde Hofstetter knew the Jaguar was worth more money than his other offerings. As Benji went off to negotiate for a test ride, Roe did her research. The cagey ebayer quickly Googled Schwinn Mark II Jaguar. In decent original shape, this bike could fetch $500 or more dollars. The iPhone is an amazing device, indeed it is. Who would figure Roe as an iPhone toting eBayer?

Before she could jump in and take over the negotiations, Baba took off. Wobbling right then left then right he pedaled like the old man he was. He could barely get enough foot speed up to get moving. It looked like Benji was going to eat dirt. But no, he recovered and got his rhythm, left up, right down, right up, left down, the once powerful thighs began to pump. By the time he came back from the other end of the parking lot, Baba was riding like the paper boy of old. As he squealed to stop, he nearly tumbled forward over the handlebars. If Baba were to take riding up as a hobby, he needed a body helmet.

"You know, the Mark II is worth a lot, at least $400. Especially this one, it's all original, you know, my brother Delbert bought in new in 1956, right from Bernie's in Trenton."

"Oh, Bernie's on Brunswick and Paul?"

"Yeah, you know it?"

"Sure, my great Uncle Colagero lived on Chase Street. Right after he came over on the Sicilian Prince, like 1912. The whole family passed through there, used to go to St. James, too."

Clyde went on to reminisce. For at least five minutes he prattled on about his family, his childhood, his retirement and blah-blah. The shrewd Anziana Donna was humanizing the situation, tenderizing the mark as she put it. She would throw in some stuff, too, to make Clyde think she was equally involved. Poor Clyde.

She steered Clyde back to reality, all the while the slightly addled Baba was almost pelvic linked with the Schwinn bike. The Schwinn Bicycle Company used to be a big AMERICAN bike maker, but USA production ended in 1990. After the Company moved, its glamour faded. But for grown up kids like Baba, a Schwinn is, well, a Schwinn.

"Geez, we can't afford $400."

"OK, OK, how's 3?

She stooped lower, making herself seem more vulnerable. She twisted her eyes up to meet Clyde's. "Oh, I would like to get this bike for HIM. He only has one or two years left, its lymphoma." Of course, this was a lie.

Clyde didn't know what a lymphoma was exactly, but he knew it was bad. "Oh, so sorry, my mother died of meningitis."

While meningitis and lymphoma don't have anything much in common, Roe acted like they were the same disease. Oh, she was good. "Then you know." In reality, Clyde knew nothing. Among the three of them; Roe, Benji and Clyde, Roe was holding 80% of the brains.

By now, Clyde was marinated to perfection. "Tell you what, since we're from the same neighborhood and the fact that the old guy (Benji is 4 years younger than Clyde) has the death sentence , what can you afford?"

"Oh", with a hint of tears in her eyes, "$100, er, I know it's too little, but..."

At this point Clyde would have given Roe $100 and the bike. He was toast. She peeled off ones and fives and tens, all crumpled and disorganized. The deal was made. Clyde watched as the hunchback and the old guy walked off, she pushing the Wegmans cart, he guiding the Jaguar from the left side.

The green '56 Schwinn Mark II Jaguar fit nicely in the bed of Roe's 2007 Ford F-150. Somehow as she climbed into the cab, she was straighter, taller and younger. As Benji moved into the passenger seat, he somehow looked less vital. Maybe he did have some disease? Roe was thinking she would eBay the bike sooner or later. As she looked over at Baba, she intuited it would be sooner. He did indeed look old... For Roe, the negotiating, the cleverness, the winning were her life blood. While Baba was looking back and trying to relive the past, his ux was looking forward to next week. And so it goes.

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