We had outrun the snow storm, and arrived at the Puck building in Soho before the morning rush. Although it was two hours before the designated set up time of 8 am, Jeanine and I had already had a morning coffee and a lovely smoked salmon sandwich on rye. One thing you had to say about this promoter is that he really fed you well, knowing that dealers think with their stomachs. None of the crew that would help dealers unload would be there for two hours, but we hadn’t slept and were running on nervous energy. Anxious to get at it and set up, so that we could get to the hotel and sleep. We had rejected the idea of a nap. So, nothing to do but drive the truck up to the nearest door to our booth and start lugging. There was no traffic so this was a snap.
We pulled up the door of the cube van and became intimidated for a moment by the size of the load. We had a good-sized booth and wanted to do well, so we were loaded for bear. Just then as we were stretching out our muscles in anticipation of the task ahead we spotted a young, black guy, in a black hoody sliding up the sidewalk. He stopped as he reached us, smiled, and said “Can you use a hand”. “Well, if your offering, we could actually. I’ll be glad to compensate you”. Without a beat. “Let’s get started. I’m Leroy. Where are we going with this stuff”? “Right in here, Leroy. I’m Phil and this is Jeanine.” A little bow and a handshake. “Nice to meet you both. So what I’d suggest Phil is that Jeanine stays at the booth, you bring the small stuff to me off the truck, and I’ll look after the middle. The big stuff we’ll have to do together. ”Sounds great Leroy. Let’s get at her.” He was a wonderful helper, remaining positive and up-beat the whole time. Full of suggestions; “Well I think you should put that cupboard over there Jeanine”. It was actually fun. Within an hour and a bit everything was in front of our booth and we were already half set up. We thanked Leroy, and asked if he might come back on Sunday night at 6 when the show was over to help us reload. “Well that depends. I’ll try, but I can’t promise. No problem Leroy, so let’s see” We’ll call it an hour and a half, so how about 30 bucks? Does that sound fair?” “Oh no Phil. You’re in the big city now you know. Everything costs more. I think you’ll have to do better.” He was right, of course. My Scottish nature had made me offer him a country wage. “Alright Leroy, let’s make it $50.” That’s right, Phil. Now you’ve got it. Now you’re in a New York state of mind.” Leroy shook our hands, wished us a great show, and headed off in the same direction he was going before. Sometimes help arrives when you need it.
By the time I had taken the truck to the parking lot ($125 dollars there for the weekend. Now I know what you mean Leroy.) , and we had finished setting up, we were totally pooched. It had started to snow heavily about 10 a.m. so in the cab on the way over to the hotel later that afternoon we were becoming concerned as to whether anyone would be able to make it to the show the following morning. We were too tired to care much at that point. All we could think of was a shower and a bed.
We arose to snow covered streets, but nothing that would stop a dedicated antique show lover. At 9 am when we arrived at the show there was already a small line of people waiting. By the ten o’clock opening, there was maybe 60 to 80 who rushed in. Not a Bowmanville opening night crowd, but serious shoppers none the less. The first person to approach us was an interior designer from Brooklyn who could barely contain herself with excitement over the sphinx’s. She asked for the dealer discount which we provided and she immediately said yes and gave us $100 down, pleading with us not to sell them to anyone else while she went to a cash machine to come up with the rest. We reassured her that with the deposit they were hers, no matter how much extra someone might offer. I can’t imagine reneging on a deal once money has changed hands, but I suppose there may be some who can justify it to themselves. Somehow. It wasn’t a problem in any case because although others did admire them, everyone respected the sold tags, and she was back within the hour with the cash and a van to take them. Several more sales followed over the next two days despite the relatively low attendance. At least those who came were keen, and decisive. What surprised us most was the high number of people who knew about Canadian folk art. Many people would recognize a Charlie Tanner, or Edmund Chatigny, and everyone seemed to know who Maud Lewis was. We were told by several people that they had gone to Nova Scotia on a field trip arranged by the Museum of Folk Art. We were in high spirits at dinner on Saturday evening when we met our friends who live in Manhattan. We had delicious Japanese food that was still quite a novelty to us, in a place our friends frequented. A couple of glasses of sake and we really started to feel the buzz of the city.
Sunday was cold and blustery, but we did a bit more business and knew that we would go home with considerably less stock and more money, which is of course the point of the exercise.
Leroy was a no show at pack-up, and the gang of young Russian thugs the promoter hired to help load just about gave me a heart attack with their careless and at times downright brutal loading techniques. At one point I was having to catch boxes full of delicate items thrown at me from the back door of the truck. Hair raising stuff, and they looked like they might kill you if you complained. Still, we were packed in about an hour and heading down the West Side highway, heading to the George Washington bridge as the sun set, and the street lights came on. The icing on the cake is when I heard the immediately recognizable first chords of waw waw guitar and the golden voice of Isaac Hayes utter the first lines of “Shaft”. A song I had always heard as quintessential New York. It was a magic moment we had there heading down the West Side Highway listening to Shaft. A perfect moment.