It’s the 21st of September and Steven Maden of Kingston, New York has loaded 50 of what he expects will be a 70 lot sale on eBay that kicks off at 03:01 am EST on October 1st and ends on the 9th. Steve is a blue-collar dealer-auctioneer who relentlessly scours flea markets, antique shops, and house dispersals for material to post to the never-ending eBay auctions he runs under the name bestbidforu. “It’s a life, a busy one, and I like it.” I met Steve recently a month or so after I bought most of the about fifty Poughkeepsie fire photograph images he posted on eBay. Soon after I was taking a week’s vacation at the Mohonk Mountain House in Ulster County and it turned out he was running his eBay business out of his home a few miles north in Kingston. I figured and he agreed it would be interesting to meet.
Not knowing what to expect I arrived early and parked nearby. From the outside his home is well kept, vintage 1920s and the beneficiary of aluminum cladding applied a decade ago. The street is deserted the way they are in so many French villages. France still has not fully recovered from the millions who died in World War Two. Neither has Kingston that has struggled to maintain its population after the loss of IBM twenty years ago. Its 23,000 population is little changed over the past 3 decades though its composition has. It’s less local and more immigrant than it used to be. It’s still the county seat but the past few years have been tough. More people are thinking about leaving. It’s a whiter, older version of Newburgh two stops south on the Thruway that was the scene of race riots in the 1960s.
Steve’s neighborhood is typical here. His house is on the dividing line between the Kingston that exists today and its former neighbor, the waterfront Rondout, it absorbed 125 years ago. That Rondout is just a short winding drive down the hill to the confluence of the Wallkill River and Rondout Creek that a hundred and fifty years ago made its waterfront barge, ferry and schooner landings valuable points of transfer for the steady flow of coal barges working their way north on the Delaware and Hudson Canal from the Pennsylvania coal fields. In its day much of the energy to heat and light New York City passed through here. That was then. The heart of the old place has been torn out but here and there evidence of the history and commerce that once flowed by is still evident.