Today I went to 47th Street to sell some gold for cash. Which sounds so pawn shop, so drug addict, so hawking the sax to pay for a fix. Really, I just went to sell some of mom’s jewelry, which she gave me last week and urged me to get rid of. It felt unsettling to sell it but she was so emphatic “with the high price of gold and all.” Plus she’s notoriously unsentimental, claimed she never wore any of it, and we could use the money to pay the deposit for next years preschool.
So I rolled up to 47th between 5th and 6th, one of those world within a world New York City blocks. Lit by neon signs and florescent window displays during the day, the overall vibe is nonetheless SHADY. I swerved to avoid packs of roaming Orthodox Jews, homeboys handing out cards, and swarthy men smoking cigarettes and muttering, gold silver platinum we buy everything, under their breath.
I had the name of a “guy” from a jeweler friend, but as I walked in the front door of the huge room divided into kiosks, I was instantly schmoozed by a cute young man in a kippah with the counter right by the door. Real estate is everything.
I’m here to sell gold for cash I said. We can do that he said.
Their father and son outfit was straight out of Central Casting: the father spoke in brusque Hebrew inflected English as he looked through his jeweler’s loupe suspiciously at another customer’s treasures. A little sleazy, definitely the bad cop, dad looked like he knew his way around a karat, while the son, quite obviously the greener, good-er cop, looked me in the eye and smiled with his big white teeth while he tested my gold to make sure it was real with this little scrapey chalk board thing and various liquids. The two of them ducked heads, whispered under their breaths, and gathered around the calculator, doing their dance for me and the hopeful customers from Westchester, with their silverware and gold plated charms.
Boychick told me how he studied journalism and couldn’t quite believe he ended up in the family business. I could see the whole situation in a flashback – graduation day from Columbia, the fights, dad yelling that writers are losers and drunks and cajoling him to come to 47th street, it’s what WE DO! And now, son smiles at me confidently, salesman like, he really loves it.
Here’s what we can do for you said the son, and showed me the number on the calculator. Sorry there’s nothing we can do for you, said the father to Westchester. But we thought you were the experts, Westchester said as they slunk out the door.
I felt like I had won – my stuff was good. And as I readied myself to take the money and walk away from this Neil Diamond song come to life, I glanced at mom’s pieces of jewelry, sitting there innocently on the velvet tray after being analyzed and violated, not knowing what was in store for it. And I had another twinge: should I be doing this and will I regret this?
Because no matter how little this stuff means to my mom now, at one point it was on another velvet tray, housed in some other incarnation of a jewelry business, probably chosen for her as a gift from my dad. And it likely meant something. There was desire behind it or hope that she would like it. Plans for when she’d wear it.
Now it’s headed for the basement gold melting factory where some old bearded guy (probably the Grandpa!) cracks the stones with a hammer and melts everything into a giant cauldron of liquid gold soup, which is then somehow turned into a form (bars? sheets?) that some banker can buy and sell on a trading floor, and then after more travels and formations and incarnations I can’t even imagine eventually maybe finding its way back some day into a jeweler’s hand or factory and onto another velvet tray somewhere. For someone else to desire and dream about wearing or give as a gift.
Um, Happy Valentines Day?