Saturday was the final day of the show. I pack up my gear and head to the elevator. I get in and hit the button for the lobby. I hear giggling approaching and a dainty hand grabs the door before it closes. Seven teenage girls that appear to be on some sort of sports team all squeeze into the elevator with me. They’re all attractive and fit so maybe this is a sign that today will be a good day.
Janice arrives a few moments later in the lobby and we check out. We head over to the fairgrounds and I’m relieved that this is the final day. I’ve made a couple of grand here already and hope to close out strong today.
We get to the hall and go to our tables. We grab some breakfast sandwiches and chat. Today the show ends around 4pm. I suppose it’s so people can break down all of their stuff and get home at a reasonable hour. It’s a massive show and I’m sure there will be folks here into the night. Speaking of “massive” I am appalled at how many people are overweight and out of shape at this show.
I saw this one woman who was easily over 300 pounds. She was walking by and she didn’t even look human. How does one get like that? How does one maintain that kind of weight? What does that do to your skeleton? She looked like an unmoored zeppelin. Then there was this other fat guy that almost ran someone over as he sped by on his rascal. Speeding and on his cell phone? Security should have hopped on their battery carts and chased him down until they could pull him over and give him two tickets!
After breakfast I headed to the Men’s room because, well, middle age. You eat in the morning the digestive system kicks in. But my God, I’m in the stall and the place is full of dudes in the other stalls, I kid you not. The place smelled horrible and it sounded like a high school marching band warming up in there. Or think of a guy with Parkinson’s disease trying to unload a set of drums from the back of a van. It was that bad in there! I got back to our table as fast as I could.
“Hey, Jan…What if we wrapped up a train in paper and simply called the package, Mystery Train?”
“You’re crazy. We’re not doing that.”
I have noticed something during this whole experience. On day one we were full of piss and vinegar thinking we had the greatest antique train collection around. We had price tags on everything and knew that dad’s stuff was all nice and worth every penny of what we were asking. But we’re at the biggest train show on the east coast right now. There are thousands and thousands of trains and collectors here. We sold a couple of things day one, but it’s a huge event and it takes a couple of days for people to see everything. These are toy train collectors. They know what stuff is worth. Yo, on the other hand, always think your stuff is worth top dollar. By day two I told Janice to remove the price tags.
“We can’t do that. Everything has to be marked.”
“Okay, then how about we just move the price tags to the bottom of the trains. The tags are still on them but they have to ask. That shows interest. It also opens the conversation and creates a dialogue so that I can sell them.”
I’ve worked in sales my whole life. It should work. Also by day two we started to feel a little desperate. Sure that train set is worth $1200 in its present condition. But to whom? My dad? He’s dead. We should probably negotiate the prices a bit.
“Do you want to haul all of this shit back to the house with empty pockets or do you want to liquidate these assets?
“Let’s blow out some fucking trains!”
And blast them out we did. My father left us with one important rule when it came to selling trains: Sell only complete sets. (That means engine, tender and the cars.) But there was a moment on day two when we had a flurry of sales and after the dust settled we both looked at each other realizing we had broken up some sets and only sold engines and tenders and left behind a bunch of cars.
I raised my hands up to my face. “Janice…I think we just did some very bad things.”
“I know… We broke dad’s cardinal rule.”
But here’s the great part. We ended up breaking up some sets. But we actually sold off all the cars that had been left behind by the end of the show! So the “crimes against toys” that we committed had some how been righted by the gods!
I’m not going to collect trains. My daughter doesn’t want them. If someone offers me $350 for something that I don’t want and have absolutely no use for, they should have it. Maybe we think about not selling the trains but putting these beautiful toys into the hands and homes of the people who really will love them. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas story to me. That’s how we’ll live with ourselves for what we’ve done.
So we blow out more sets of trains today. We had one guy from New York walk away carrying four boxes full of our trains. My pockets were bulging with cash. We had guys we chatted with that were really wonderful people. We’d see them everyday. They loved trains and had lots of money. We discussed some post war O gauge stuff we had at the house. They were very interested in those pieces as well as the cabinets in the house my father had custom-built to house all of these beautiful sets of trains. These guys were serious collectors with houses full of goodies.
Put them in the hands of those who love them so that they can continue to live on and bring joy to people. They won’t be just all in a box somewhere like ashes in the ground. They will continue be immortal. Just like our father’s memory in all of our hearts and minds. He won’t ever really be gone until the black wings of death scatter our days.
We came here with 31 sets of trains and we’re only leaving with 13. That’s a pretty good haul. But the best part of this entire three-day odyssey was the time with my sister. She’s been wonderful and we’re really good travel buddies. It’s rare when you grow up together, then you both go off and live your lives. She goes off to college, and I go off to L.A. to play rock. She gets married and you get married. You live in different places and maybe only see each other once or twice a year at the holidays. You have your own lives and friends and children just like most people do. But then there is a death in the family. That tragedy brings you all back together. Well. I suppose I shouldn’t call it a tragedy. Death becomes us all.
But there is an event like this where you are called upon by your closest sibling to come to her aid thirty-five years later and you both get in a car and travel somewhere and sell a bunch of trains. You’re with that person all day for three days. You eat together, hang out, and laugh your asses off like you’re both back in high school again. Those three days with Janice in York were some of the very best days of 2017.
We say goodbye to Lenny and his lovely wife and I load what’s left of our stuff back into the SUV. We drive back to Philly, both a bit richer. Not by the Benjamins in our wallets but with love in our hearts.
Can’t wait to get home to my beloved city!
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