Admittedly, we haven’t talked too much about the third voyager on our savage journey to the heart of American thrifting, Jay. Jay, acting as cameraman, pack mule, moral support, and fight deterrent, was essential to the success of our trip. I could probably say a lot more about Jay Dial, but I’ll leave it at that.
Gotta keep that ego in check, after all.
As we’ve wound our way through post-production, Jay has been hard at work on another TSS project, “Junk”. “Junk” is the story behind the story, a novelization of the trip, as seen from the back seat. While the book’s first draft is still being written, what I’ve read is phenomenal, and will probably be 10 times better than the movie tbh.
“I’m writing this book because I’ve never before felt like I did on this trip,” Jay asked us to tell the people of the internet. “A lot of Michael and Andrew’s thoughts throughout the trip are documented on film. Being behind the camera, I didn’t have that platform most of the time. This book is mainly meant to preserve my thoughts, emotions, and outlook on this unfamiliar environment so I can look back years from now and remember the best experience of my life in full detail.”
A published journal of a joyful journey to junk just jives to me. Without further j-words, we present the first excerpt of Junk, and we’ll keep you in the loop as time progresses.
“This is it.” I said those words to myself over and over in my head. I laid in my bed, staring up at the ceiling. So many questions and thoughts were bouncing around in my skull, a mixture between excited and terrified. Was this actually happening? Was I actually about to willing leave a comfortable life to be crammed in a van for two weeks? And for what? Thrift stores? Yes, I actually. I was.
This all started one day in April of 2015. Michael and Andrew Panik called me up, asking if I wanted to help them film a short video promoting something called “Thrift Store Symphony”. I agreed, without a single clue that my life would soon be changed forever. They pulled up in front of my house to pick me up. Before I could even speak, Andrew got out of the car and threw something to me. It was blue, rolled up, and had a string around with a little card. It was a t-shirt. Specifically, a blue ringer tee. It looked a little beaten up, and had a small tear in the back. Across the front, there was were traces of a white outline. Inside the outline said “ASK ME ABOUT THRIFT STORE SYMPHONY.” Andrew and Michael were wearing similar ones of different colors and varying designs. At that moment, I knew they were serious about this thing. And when the Paniks are serious about something, there’s nothing you can do to stop them.
We had to visit a few different thrift stores, but we eventually filmed the video. Thanks to an employee and friend named Danny, we got to film all areas of the store with the help of one of the managers, who we also interviewed. Once the video was filmed, we headed back to the car to put our gear away. Michael and Andrew both had a look on their face, somewhere between excitement and curiousness. Andrew looked at me and asked “Do you want to come with us?” Michael chimed in, saying “It would be a lot easier on us to have a cameraman, and you would be a fun addition.” I told them I’d have to think about. After somehow convincing my parents to let their 18-year-old son travel the Midwest, I got the time off work and I was ready to go. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
My parents had gone to bed. I should’ve been asleep too, but I just couldn’t do it. At this time in my life, my family was in the process of moving and we were living in a rental house. It only seemed fitting that my journey of unfamiliar things would begin in an unfamiliar location. Between everything going on in my mind, one question stood out more prominently than the rest: “Is this a mistake?” For the first time since I agreed to go, I was finally thinking of just how hard this would be. “I’m not qualified to be a cinematographer on a full-length documentary! What was I thinking when I agreed to this?” My entire life was about to change, and I had no idea if it was for better or worse. I just knew it was coming.