I lived three floors above the corner of South 2nd and Driggs for just under a year. During that time, I sat in our sunny front windows for hours each and every Saturday, watching the man that lived two floors down on the corner opposite ours.
He seemed to rarely leave the neighborhood so we saw him a lot. We speculated that he must have been the super of the building across the street (that would explain the sweeping, the enforcement of loitering laws) and that he was single, in love only with his dog (a round and slow female rottweiler). The only thing we knew for sure, was that he ran a flea market of considerable size, specializing in items that he had found in the garbage and repaired with considerable skill.
Nicknamed Junkmart the first Saturday we awoke in that apartment, his operation was surprisingly well run. At around 10:00 AM he'd emerge, swinging his front door 180° until it was flush with the wall that supported it, pinning it behind a dry planter. After tying his dog to the fence that surrounded his storefront, he'd go back into his place and begin bringing out the merchandise. Mostly items that we had watched him repair, clean and paint at dusk throughout the week, he'd carry out bikes, window fans, air conditioners and stereo equipment. He also trafficked in items that could be sold as-is: shoes, video cassettes by the crate, records to attract the hipsters, and furniture to stop the couples driving by. Rare items included: scuba gear, street signs, Campari promotional beach umbrellas and exercise equipment originally desired in front of the television.
He worked hard all day, disassembling and reassembling impromptu displays made out of whatever he had. If he had dishes and a table, he'd set the table for four, pulling up crates of records to serve as seats. If he had plate glass and books, he made shelves, cinder-block style. He was resourceful, friendly, focused; all his shuffling and decorating and sweeping and hustling and flirting and yelling made for an awaited Saturday morning soap, one we jones for now that it's gone, and discuss in its absence.
He had highs and lows that year, I guess loosely tied to the season, seeming happiest and satisfied in the early summer when he had lots of customers and thus conversation. Most anxious in the late winter, when the predicted rain was just becoming visible.
He began to change independently of the weather though, gradually becoming more solitary and on edge. Sweeping for hours each day and smoking more than ever, he gave up selling anything but bicycles, which he only did sporadically at best. We guessed that he might have gone into a manic period, dropped his meds, that maybe he had lost someone, but we never knew. We could only gauge his life on the items he was able to turn over, less each week.