Penny Lane

I arrived in New York City from Milan 8 years ago. Almost immediately I noticed pennies on the ground. Well, ever the superstitious Paddy, I picked up each one and pocketed it, parroting, “See a penny pick it up and all that day you’ll have good luck.”

The next person I met, I plucked out my penny and pushed it on them reciting the second part: “Give it away and your luck will stay.”

Invariably their faces contorted in disgust. NYC pennies are the undesirables. The downtrodden, they live in piss and squalor, in rat infested allies. They call themselves money but have no value; they’re a dead weight to NYC”s hard-grafting entrepreneurial big spender.

My pennies a-plenty

My pennies a-plenty

 

But I had to start small. I came with no job and no papers. Their streets were paved with gold, mine with copper.

As I collected, I imagined that I would make a showstopper of a necklace out of the pennies one day (the ones I couldn’t pass on) when I got the perfect job, apartment, relationship, papers…

Meanwhile I stored them in this little red box:

550 Grand Street India, Sept 07 015

 

 

 

Well, luck lit up my life plenty during the next seven years.

I climbed the ladder, designing for a succession of companies and my New York salary took me further and further away from the appreciation of pennies.

But I found that gold-paved streets clashed with my choice of footwear.

A series of boyfriends, employers, and friends were forced to stand by as I crawled about in the face of oncoming yellow cabs after that little glimmer of copper lurking between the Meatpacking District’s cobblestones. Other people didn’t seem to see the pennies like I did. They rolled their eyes and scoffed.

I got a green card the same year I met my husband.

Pennies continued to drop in my path. I wrote my long-simmering novel. It was published.

Pppppick-up-a-penny and ppppppass-it-on.

We’re about to move into our new apartment. There are too many pennies. If I made a necklace, it would be as wearable as a Victorian torture device so instead I made a decision.

I would translate my pennies into a language that New Yorkers could understand: money.

My bank sniffily told me I need to “roll” my pennies if they were to accept them.  Nothing is free in this town. I needed to work for my pennies in the end. When they were all decked out in their federal uniformity, they looked like something from Wild Wild West times. It definitely lent them a more respectable appearance.

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

Rolling, rolling, rolling…

I popped into the bank and handed over the sum of my Paddy good luck. The lady smiled indulgently like she would have done to a child whose nose  just reached the counter. But instead of a lollypop she slid three bank notes through the hatch. There was that highly coveted and unmistakeable green pallor of dead presidents.

From pennies to bucks, my luck amounted to the sum total of $12.

Twelve hundred pennies. A dirty dozen.

IMG_3090But I had some stray pennies after I rolled. I dropped them in the red box, along with the one I found yesterday on the sidewalk outside the gym…

 

My luck-tinged debut novel is available to pick up for a small sum of pennies. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.

 

22 comments

  1. Dear Jackie,

    I just think the whole world of you. I really do!!! You are an inspiration to me and an elegant one at that. I love reading your words – what they say, how you say them, and the fabulous dirty and delightful lessons they reveal.

    Thank you for this little story and for rolling me right into it like a stack of mussed up pennies!!

    Wishing you peace and blessings and plenty o’ luck, my dear friend 😉

    Allison XO

    • Aw I thank you so much, Allison.
      I feel so touched and am so happy to have you in my little gang 🙂
      I’m sure you think this often too: how funny it is that life, when viewed backwards, has its own little patterns that are impossible to see when deep in those days?
      I hope you are having a wonderfully creative and carefree Summer with lots of time to devote to your own precious words.
      XO!

  2. I like this story! Keep picking up those pennies! 🙂 What did you buy with your 12 dollars? xoxo Fanni

  3. Thank you!
    I bought a pesto and mozzarella sandwich–bit anti-climactic, isn’t it? 🙂

  4. Dear Jackie…
    Picking up stray pennies has always been a secretive, full-time hobby of mine too until the Royal Canadian Mint stopped making them last year 😦
    And so for me **big sigh** the emotional and financial joy that comes from “picking up pennies” is rarely experienced anymore, and oh how I do miss the spying out those glimmers of copper 😉
    But it’s so good to know that there are still avid “collectors of lucky pennies” out there, like you and Renee Gruszecki…
    a Halifax-based academic and archivist, who now makes a living through her jewellery business devoted primarily to preserving pennies! Check it out: http://www.coincoin.ca/
    So the next time your red box becomes full of “lucky pennies” you may want to think about starting a small jewellery business instead of taking a trip to the bank 😉
    Another great post as always Jackie and agree, ‘Silk for the Feed Dogs” is well worth the investment of a small sum of pennies—even one’s luck pennies!!~ xo

    • Oh you are a wonder! You have something interesting to offer on most topics. You are the perfect dinner party guest. I will now be checking out my like-minded Halifaxian penny-smith.

      I’m sorry the Canadians saw fit to banish all the pennies from the land. It will likely happen here soon.
      No one has patience for the little uns nowadays.

      Have I ever asked you to write a little review on Amazon? Just a few lines. You’ve been so supportive but I hope I’m not repeating myself. Every little one helps as Amazon reacts by promoting my novel in all sorts of foreign parts. Last month it was big in Australia which was quite a thrill 🙂

      It doesn’t surprise me that you were a fellow picker up of the humble penny. You’re just the type. Said with much respect 😀

      Have a great weekend! XO!

    • PS: that copper penny ring in the silver setting is to truly gorgeous. Oh you’ve turned me onto something good 🙂

      • Oh I know, I adore that ring too and I love the written words on her site…
        “Mixing history with fortune—jewellery designs inspired by vintage jewellery and by the enchantment of found lucky pennies.”
        Now passing a “virtual” lucky penny on to you…
        from my ipocket to yours…
        enjoy!!~ xo

  5. It’s so funny that you should mention the writing of a review because it’s been on my mind to do just that. And yes, yes, yes, I would be more than happy—I’d be delighted to do so 🙂

    And a funny little side note…being the “collector” that I am, I thought I’d order a second copy of your book from Amazon, so I could proudly display both “silk jackets”; the flamboyant fuchsia and daffodil yellow on my bookshelf of fashion favourites and guess what?!! They sent me another copy of Miss Fuchsia Silk!!

    Oh how I chuckled when I pulled her out of the box! And I joyfully thought how lucky I was to get her at the current cover price of $16 instead of the new collector “vintage” price of $38 🙂

    So now this “new” Miss Fuchsia Silk will remain in pristine condition, uncracked until the day we meet at a Best Seller book signing event—it’s coming, I know it is, along with a movie adaptation too 😉 …
    and I will make another Amazon attempt at securing this season’s stylish Miss Daffodil Yellow Silk!!~ xo

    • Well, first things first, let me thank you kindly for thinking of it. Only when you have a moment for you are a busy stylish woman on the go.

      Now, that is funny about the second fuchsia cover. I thought they were gone. You save d the last one from extinction?

      Amazon is usually so organized about these matters. Other people are receiving only the yellow one, whether they would like the fuchsia or not.

      I’m sure they would take your extra copy back…

      If they should make the same mistake again, I will send you the yellow one myself!

      As soon as we move in and have a fixed address I will be ordering myself that ring. The bronze and silver: Symbolic and gorgeous.

      Just like the fuchsia and daffodil 🙂
      XO!

  6. The good news is we are picking up our pennies at different points in the city. 🙂
    Two ladies watched me pick-up a penny and smirked “what a waste of time”. I stated, “Not so — I just got a little bit of stretching, a little bit of luck and a little bit of joy in one go~”
    It is the simple things in life that will give the most pleasure if you let them.
    XO

    • I may have knocked heads with you one day on Fifth Ave,..In fact, I’m sure of it. You were in a trim little skirt suit–very fitted–and there was a peekaboo of lace sprouting from the cleavage. I thought to myself, “Who is that stylish and sexy lady crawling around on her hands and knees and why is she going after MY penny? Well, cute as she looks, she can just crawl on by!”
      Here’s to the retrieval of many pennies–on our respective sides of town 🙂
      XO!

  7. Like you, I ALWAYS pick up pennies, and other denominations, because I think it’s immoral to leave money on the ground, trampled by tires and shoes. If nothing else, a homeless person will appreciate my (even small) bounty.

  8. Another one! Birds of a feather we are.
    Very good reasoning.
    And it soon adds up doesn’t it? A penny here, a penny there…
    Well, actually, no it doesn’t. 12 lousy bucks! It looked like so much more inside my wee red box 🙂

  9. Well it isn’t nothing. I think you could go to a movie, almost! 🙂 Excellent post.

  10. I absolutely loved reading this- on so many levels!! Lovely post-!!

  11. We recently found out that in Canada the penny will no longer be made and as the ones around now go out of circulation it will be bye-bye to the lowly penny. Seems the penny isn’t worth the metal it’s pressed out of. They still pop up though – here, there and everywhere. And what of all the iconic penny sayings and products of old – Penny loafers, penny candy, pennies from heaven, a penny for your thoughts, I suppose that in Canada we are to do without all of these now.

  12. I enjoyed this post immensely! You are a wonderful writer.
    You are spot on about living in New York…nothing is free…but I miss my city every single day 🙂
    xoxo Natasha

  13. Oh the sheer joy, sweet nostalgia and melancholy in reading your story Jackie! How you manage to squeeze years’ – a lifetime’s – wisdom into a few lines? You have a true gift Ms Mallon, and I’m so glad you decided to share it with the world!
    PS: we did pick a few pennies and a five-dollar bill… saw lots more and was wondering why… well, now I know!

  14. You’re a Seanachaí Jackie Mallon – with a heart of gold.

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