The Tricky Triangle
Chicken John tells the most real, most vital stories.
Find out about him and the San Francisco Institute of Possibility at his website
Here’s his Holiday Letter
December 22, 2020:
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM CHICKEN
So I invested some money in a novelty game called The Tricky
Triangle. It was a thing you bought bulk for distribution. I was done with the moving company, living in NYC in my $200 van, and I got a windfall of money selling my phone number to a rival
moving company. I sold a bunch of musical equipment and other stuff in preparation for my move to the West Coast. It was all the money I had, and I borrowed some: $8,500.
I got 10,000 Tricky Triangles. My plan was to get a vinyl sign made and sell them in malls or flea markets. They came 250 to a box. There were 40 boxes. So many, that with all my other stuff I had to sleep in the front seat of the van.
Tricky Triangle Great Stocking Stuffer
You already know how this ends up. It seemed totally reasonable. Totally doable. For $8,500, I got 10,000 of the product I could
easily sell for $3 to $6. At an average of $5 each, I would only need to sell 1,700 to make my investment back. If I could sell 50 to 100 per hour and there were 45 hours of holiday shopping for three weeks, I would sell out.
I ran the math over and over again. “What if I only sell 25 an hour?” Well, then I only make like half my investment back this year, and can try again next year. See, that’s the appeal. To break into a market to see what is what. I needed to make a living and I was very interested in stuff that was winter or Christmas-based, so I could be free in the summer for circus or other stuff…
I thought that if it got tough, I could go door to door. People did that back then. Go door to door in December selling stocking stuffers. People do that, right? I worked the numbers. Thinking of places that would be good to “set up” at. What kind of place would generate what kind of sales. I went over it again and again. I said to myself: “They are gonna stuff those stockings with something, right?”
You already know how this ends up. The feeling of failure and self loathing when I put 15 of the boxes on the curb next to the garbage cans so I could sleep laying down. The dejection. The emasculating horror of 100% rejection. The bitter cold of winter. The bald tires on the van in the ice and snow. Actual hunger but too proud and stubborn to admit to anyone (at the time) that I hadn’t sold a single one.
I thought for sure I was a natural for the flea market. For selling stuff. For 10 years I tried to sell things. On and off. I even had a junk store on 28th street in SF for a year: Shuck and Jive. Anyone ever go to that? Selling at the flea markets and doing sales requires you have certain ruthless traits. I possess not a drop of ruthless.
It was a cataclysmic mistake. I let more and more boxes go over the years. I have one Tricky Triangle left. I’m gonna put it in
Edsel’s stocking someday when he’s old enough to understand what it’s like to make an actual, tangible, shit just went sideways mistake.
I can’t remember 1990. I was a high-functioning drug addict. I have phone message pads that my moving company office took, and I have the job logs. So I can actually look through and see where I was on a day to day. I can’t remember any of it. Addiction is weird like that. It seems so impossible that I would gamble the last of my money with no way out on a stocking stuffer. I was truly out of my fucking mind.
Here it is, The Tricky Triangle for sale on Ebay in England for the equivalent of minimum wage in 1984 ($3.35). THIRTY YEARS LATER.
May 20th, 1992 was the first day to not do heroin on purpose. Some days we were doing other drugs. But when I knew it was the heroin that was the problem, I was shocked to find out that I was addicted. Because we were snorters, we didn’t think we were junkies. It’s kind of amazing that I wrote the date down somewhere. That it followed from one calendar to another. So I have that information now. Miraculous.
I’d like to think that it was the drugs that made me invest in the Tricky Triangle. I pepper any/all decisions I make with it’s spice: “the same mind that is making this choice also invested in the Tricky Triangle…” Ask my wife, she’ll tell you.*
So this is your Christmas Spirit holiday spotlight. Do you have a Tricky Triangle? Of course you do! I wanted to share something about the true meaning of the magic of the holidays, which is what is most important is that we are all here. Together. Laughing at our inabilities and our limitations. I didn’t make any money with the Tricky Triangle, but I learned that I could live in a van, and because I could do that, I did the circus. I didn’t have a wildly successful moving business, but I got good at moving stuff and I use those skills every day. I can’t remember 1990 but I can totally remember 1991, and that was an awesome year… I played with GG in that year and toyed with the idea of monastic training to be a Buddhist cleric: at the same time! It’s all just a big mess.
I hope your life is a mess too. This time of year is a great
opportunity to fuck everything up. If you are ending up with good stories, you’re doing it right.
* Don’t actually ask my wife, thanks…