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Things I Have Learned

Jackie-O Motherfucker On Dealing In Used Goods
The Quietus , June 30th, 2009 10:50

Tom Greenwood takes us through a lifetime of buying and selling the things that the everyday folk left behind

The world is a ghetto

I used to sit on the platform at the L train stations, way out in Brooklyn and on the edges of Queens, and watch the new fashion mutations on the kids as they were getting out of school. Raw creativity expressed with minimal resources. Then I'd hit all the thrift and charity shops, looking for things that reflected these styles to buy, and re-sell to the vintage shops in the east village.

Being down and out is an opportunity

Once you've put in your time trying to get a job, and finally realized that you are unemployable -for whatever reason. can't play the game, wrong haircut, too cocky, too meek, or just don't give a fuck, once you find yourself at the bottom, and fully accept it - then open your eyes, look around. You are in the garden.

Garbage is golden

No-one turns to the trash heaps by choice, it takes time to pick rags, and if you have money - you don't have time. It's also dirty and stinky, desperate and aggressive. If you can gather the patience to stick to it for awhile, the lost, dumped, damaged and refused will transform into a vast world of endless possibility.

Sorting through is important

The western world is consumer crazy, completely hypnotized by advertising into a hysterical cycle of dispersion - the devastated trail of waste left in the path of this pandemonium is a feast of culture and decay. This withering blight is now your meditation, meaning and home. Can you dig? shift, shovel, tunnel, and harvest. Everything gets thrown out. You have to learn to see, because when there is garbage everywhere, even things of value take on the bleak hue of those objects that surround them. successful retail depends on the converse of this principal. Today's designer retail is tomorrows refuse, it just changes locations.

Value is arbitrary

Contemporary style needs to recycle itself too, even more rapidly now than ever as new designs reach millions in seconds, and get knocked off just as quickly. Value is arbitrary, and in this content hungry world, the constantly shifting assessment and assemblage of ideas and materials has created a new frontier for trash.

I don't know about alchemy, but I know how to change

Who knows if anyone has ever actually turned lead into gold, but at the core of all alchemical ideas is the concept of transformation: garbage in, lotus out. You'll find that meditating on transformation can be a spiritual source, and as you spend time thinking about the possibilities, you will carry these concepts into other parts of your life. It's the foundation of hope where you are toiling now, and this is the best way to pursue change.

Inspiration costs less than a dollar a pound

OK... Now we're getting somewhere. In 1993 I arrived in Portland with only the clothes on my back and a police escort. Without going into detail, you can imagine, my prospects were not good. I was in a good place though, and through the support of a thriving, thrifty bohemian sub-culture, I was shortly introduced to the world of used goods. I sold hot dogs at the flea market, worked for an art dealer who specialized in west coast painters, and was mentored by a vintage clothing dealer. Over time, i managed to build my own business, selling wholesale to clothing dealers from Tokyo who visited Portland to stock their shops in Shibuya. At the same time, i was building an impressive collection of used LPs, 45s, and musical instruments. I sold what I needed to survive, and loaded the rest into a huge house we rented on Michigan Ave. Jackie-O Motherfucker began to be fueled by this wealth of inspiration, all provided at 69 cents a pound.

Every month brings worry, but it will work out

As I write this, I am preparing to take off on tour with JOMF for a month, and if I'm lucky, I'll have enough Euros when I leave to get a train from Malpensa, and buy our first tank of gas. Trading in used goods has not made me wealthy, neither has anything else for that matter. But, being self employed requires that you remember, even when you are just scraping by, that it will be OK. Every month brings worry, but it will work out. A lifetime of collecting means that there is always something left to sell, and there is always more stuff out there to find. trust the universe.

Some things are worth more than money

So, transformation is a universal tool to develop as a skill, and while looking for one thing you might very often find something else. Money is a real motivator, and it's easy to appreciate flipping trash for cash, but some of my favorite things I've ever collected have a questionable real-world value, they just simply rule! Here's my top ten, in no particular order.

  1. Cassette answering machine tapes- people cussing out their lawyers, lovers and ex's exchanging passionate information, and people who talk real slow, are some highlights.
  2. Parlor paintings- amateur and student paintings often end up in the trash. One in 500 is absolute genius, and almost all are at least funny.
  3. Family photo albums/slides and films - out takes of a day at the circus!
  4. Privately pressed/vanity LPs- Christian, cowboy, instructional, test tones. All worth a try.
  5. Art supplies - everything from beautiful watercolor paper to Dukes of Hazard coloring books.
  6. Instructional manuals- from knife fighting to saltwater fishing. More than you ever want to know.
  7. Readymades - art, as-is... for example, a booklet about tact, issued by a cheese company, with the section about gossip cut out with a scissors. Dumpster Duchamp.
  8. Hand-embroidered textiles - Diagrams of bugs done in embroidery floss, etc.
  9. Bandanas - I have hundreds, amazing designs.
  10. Poetry - comes in many forms.

Jackie-O Motherfucker's new album Ballads Of The Revolution is out next week via Fire Records

Listen to 'Revolution track 'Nightingale' via the player below:

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