Los Angeles, CA
This might have happened ten years ago.
I walked into a sullen pawn shop across the street from the bus station in Albuquerque. You'll only find a more depressing pawn shop in the Southwest in only Las Vegas or Reno. Hank's Hock Shop reeked of desperation and urine; the urine had wafted over from the bus station because I've yet to actually visit a bus station that didn't smell like week-old feces and urine, and the desperation was vacuum-sealed inside the shop. Pawn shops are hospices for tattered dreams. It's where they go to die.
A plump man in his 60s greeted me with a suspicious head nod. He wore his greyish hair short, like a drill sergeant. He wore suspenders and a dreary brown plaid shirt. After a few steps inside, I realized that he was wheezing heavily. He struggled for air like a 3-pack a day for forty years vet. He stood behind a counter polishing a batch of jewelry -- previously owned by a 87-year old woman who had croaked in the middle of a Mahjong game. The paramedic who tried to revive her had also stolen her bracelet, watch, and two rings. He wanted $200 for $800 worth of goods. The miserly pawn shop owner offered him $75. The paramedic was about to leave when the owner mumbled a counter offer of $80 in between heavy gasps of breath. The paramedic took it. He needed to pay his bookie $1,200 and needed anything he could get.
The gun section was located in plain view in the back of the narrow shop that was no wider than two bowling alley lanes, but probably the length of two lanes put together. A dozen shotguns were locked in a cabinet while an assortment of handguns and revolvers were in a glass display case, next to a batch of hunting knives and ninja stars.
Electronics were on the left hand side - VCRs, DVD players, stereos - some previously owned by meth heads who pawned their material items for a fresh batch of crank. The majority of them were outright stolen by meth heads. The mumbling owner knows when an item is hot or not, which allows him to always lowballs the tweakers. They don't have a choice. They'll do anything for $10. Hank's Hock Shop was one of the only joints in town that accepted fenced goods -- no questions asked.
The plump mumbling pawn shop owner looked like a nebbish character out of a pulp novel. He had a shiny red nose, but was too old to be a cokehead, but just the right age to be a type of guy who brushes his teeth with whiskey with a Marlboro dangling from his lip. I could tell that he had half a bag on. Not that I cared. If I owned a pawn shop at the gateway to hell, I'd be shitfaced at all hours too.
I just wanted a guitar, nothing special, just something acoustic that I could use temporarily until my lost one turned up. I pointed to a couple, but was hard to understand what he was saying. The mumbling and the wheezing drowned out his voice. He wrote down the prices on a small pad with a chewed up pencil. The McIlroy was overpriced and he kept trying to push something that he insisted was Brazilian Rosewood, but he was full of shit and obviously not a music-guy. Some tweaker must have actually snuck a rare fastball past the owner.
I couldn't find anything, but then again, what was more pathetic? That the mumbling owner with emphysema was selling jewelery stolen from the corpse of a Jewish grandmas? Or that I was looking for a guitar at a pawn shop next to a bus station?
Drooping pride. Dissolving self-esteem.
I walked outside and a homeless guy who looked like Chris Rock's portrayal of Pookie in New Jack City begged me for $3 to buy a sandwich. I gave him a $1 and told him to spend it on beer instead. That's when he asked me money to buy a six-pack. I told him to fuck off.