Englishtown -- 6/18/22

man drinking coffee in front of a computer

 As I enter the small, ketchup colored building, the zest of orange scented emiction fills my lungs. Save for the glowing candles placed in strategic corners of the room, a sort of romantic darkness envelops the cave-like structure. I walk down the tiled corridor. To my left is a little stool and table with a tip bowl placed on top with a sign reading: PLEASE TIP THE ATTENDANT. I take a 360 degree scan of my surroundings. Hmm no attendant in sight. I revel at the thought of all the money I would save without his presence. Better make it a quickie. I make my way further into the cave to finally find the object of my desire. A porcelain urinal. After an hour of holding in a bladder full of coffee scented urine, I relieve myself. As I wash my hands, I look up and see my face in the mirror. I look tired.


 Earlier that morning, I awoke at 5:30 am, my eyes still bloodshot from staring at my computer screen the night before, trying to clean up my yaknpak website. The commencement of my yakpacking adventures are drawing close and I have yet to fully fix it. But I had other cleaning concerns today. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and I were on a mission to sell all the junk that we had lying about at a nearby outdoor bazaar, located in Englishtown, NJ. I was moving out and taking on the nomadic yakpacking lifestyle, so it was vital that things I couldn’t take with me needed to go. We packed the cars up the night before and took all possible precautions so that our egress in the early morning would be as painless as possible.

 On the way, we stopped for coffee. As usual, I had a cup full of ice-coffee, black. We got to Englishtown without a hitch, the sun gently rising above the line of trees on the distant horizon. To our surprise though, a line that almost stretched to the street protruded from the vendor registration building. My brother-in-law and I proceeded to wait in line for the next hour, enjoying the dawn of summer. But by the time we were registered to sell on Junkies Drive, my coffee cup was empty but my bladder, full. Thus, my quest for some high-grade porcelain had begun.


 I finish reflecting in the mirror about my haggard state and push the hand dryer button. Voooom. Droplets of water splutter from my hands to my shirt. Above the dryer noise a voice rings out, “I got you.” I spin around and to my surprise a shorter, rounder, jovial looking fellow has appeared by the tip bowl. A ninja I think to myself, a true ninja. I know who this man is. The man I was trying to avoid. He skillfully unravels the paper towel roll sitting on top of a small broom handle with a downwards gesture of his hand. Brrr. The roll gyrates, uncannily identical to the sound of money ejecting out from an ATM. Instinctively, I grab hold of the hanging paper and with a deft flick of his wrist, he tears me a new one. It is then that I realize I am trapped. The service had already been done. The contract was sealed. His offering of the paper towel and my accepting it now obligated me to tip him by the unwritten code of hospitality services. I look into his round, smiling, expectant gaze. I reach down and unzip my waist pack and pull out a crisp dollar bill. Reluctantly, I place it into his metallic colored bowl.

 “Thank you, sir. You have a good day,” I hear him say as I walk towards the inviting sunlight. Knowing full well that I will return to his kingdom due to my small and caffeine sensitive bladder, I stop, turn around, and face him.

 “I’ll be back,” I menace jokingly. Perhaps him knowing I tipped him during my initial visit would not make for an awkward no-tip subsequent visit.

“Welcome back anytime,” he beams.

The warm sun greets me as I exit the building. I am ready to sell all that I have. Navigating through this little town of merchants and scavengers, I make my way over to Junkies Drive.


 Our venue on Junkies Drive is the perfect spot. Of all the tables and selling spaces available, there are but two trees in the whole lot. We have been assigned tables right under their shady limbs. To add to our fortune, the sun peaks in and out of intermittent clouds and a cool seventy-degree climate gently kisses our skin. But the serenity of it all is short-lived. As flies to a horse’s anus, eager buyers begin to approach and eye the trunks of our vehicles. No sooner have we begun to unload our cargo that the game begins.

 “How much for the banjo?”


 “Does this sax work?”

 “Yea I think. I just used it for sound design. I don’t really know how to play it-”

 “Ok, ok. How much?”


 “If I take both, can you do better?”

Can I do better? I feel myself rolling my eyes. “50.”


 Multiple conversations like this happen at the same time with my other items on sale. Memory cards, computer clusters, chargers fly off my table. Multi-tasking as best I can, I experience this itching feeling that someone still owes me money. Ah, well.

 “Hey buddy. You know, around here saxophones and instruments like that don’t go for under a hundred,” he says to me with a lightly embarrassed-for-me, scornful tone.

 He was right. I never was a good salesman. But I had to go for a whizz and things happened so fast. I weave my way through the hustle and bustle of the marketplace. The stamping of fervent buyers kick dust up into the wind and the whole setting is reminiscent of the bazaars of Tattooine. All it needs is the Cantina Band. I pop over to the bathroom where once again I am greeted with a round warm smile.

 “It’s you again!”

 “Told ya I’d be back.” My plan had worked! He knows who I am! I was no longer bound by the attendant/attendee code because I already paid my dues. I could freely take a piss without monetary consequence. The paper towel ritual of flicking and ripping happens once again but this time my conscience is free of any inner turmoil.

 “Take care now,” he beams.

 “See you later,” I say proudly. But then I begin to think. What happens on an eventual third visit? Do I just get one freebie piss?


 Back on Junkies Drive, sales are going well. My brother-in-law’s technological goods are hot items today. 3D printers, phones, projectors and microphones are gobbled up by the hoard. Plus, unlike me, he is a good salesman. He knows the game. He grew up frequenting these markets and knows the buyer’s psychology. He knows the games people play when the sale price doesn’t match theirs.

 “I’ll think about it and come back,” they say.

 “Alright, but I already sold four of ‘em and they’re going fast.” With a quick glance, the buyer tries to read him. Poker face.

 “Alright fine, I’ll take it.”

 Hook. Line. Sale.

 My sister is doing alright too but her homegood items are not as hot. Perhaps because of the number of merchants selling similar items. Among other chachki, she manages to sell a viking ship sculpture that she was hoping to dun get bought. Tired of the excitement of selling our used goods, my nephew Valerian sits slumped in his blue kiddie fold-up chair and docily plays on his Ipad.

 It’s close to noon and all my items, save two, are sold. Everyone has sold a good portion of their unwanteds.

 “Pack up shop?”


 Almost done packing up the cars, a wave of that familiar foreboding tension grows betwixt my loins.

 “I gotta take a piss.”

 “Alright meet you up front.”

 Making my way to the bathroom, I ruminate about my impending final encounter with the man in the bathroom. To tip or not to tip. It’s the ol’ rip and tip conundrum. Tired of these ruminations, I finally decide. Let’s just see how it goes. With figuratively open arms, the man welcomes me one last time into his sanctuary. Like two old friends, we greet each other with curious and unending smiles.

 “That’s it. Last time,” I say.

 “Well, you’re always welcome here.”

  I unzip my pants and pay the porcelain my homage. I look around the room one last time. The scented piss candles, the ambient lighting, that round warm smile. It was all too poetically beautiful. This was his art. This was his legacy. He was me. I was him. Over the running water, I hear a Pavlovian jingle of coins coming from the man’s way. I grin. He never missed a beat. This is his art. And with a final flick of the towel and the drying of hands, I reach down into my pocket and slip a twenty into his hand.

 “Thank you,” I say to the man.

 “Oh thank you very much sir,” says he.

 I happily walk into the sunshine and meet-up with the family.

 “So, where to?”

 “Hmm. I could go for another iced coffee.”