Looking for a clump of dinosaur poop or a necklace made of your own dog’s hair? Or perhaps a ritual dagger with a handle of crumpled silver inlaid with crystals made by a man who identifies as a shaman? The Perfect Nothing Catalog, a shop in a wooden shack behind a gallery in Bushwick, is a perfectly great place to find these and other odd handmade artists’ wares. Or to just hang out with its proprietor, Frank Traynor, who’s 28, gentle and curly-haired, and prone to saying things like “I’m very interested in rocks, things that look like rocks, things that look like they belong next to a rock.”
There are no price tags, but the real obstacle might be just finding the place; you have to walk through a loading bay, then through Signal gallery, and it’s open only on weekends. Traynor supplements his income doing “giggy” stuff like making costumes for Broadway shows.
Traynor says he was working as a sailor on one of the tall ships at South Street Seaport in 2011 when friends of his found the shack outside Hudson, New York, while shooting a film. Traynor persuaded them to give him the shack so he could bring it to Brooklyn and set it up on the riverbank at the end of India Street in Greenpoint and sell thrift-store finds out of it. One day, he was talking about his plan at the bar Troost when two women overheard him and offered to let him plant the shack in the backyard of their nearby work studio instead.
It was a bucolic postindustrial spot, in a garden. Vines soon grew up over the shack’s exterior. “You could hardly even see out the window,” he says. “They were all coming in and across the inside with flowers.” He added skylights and a discarded greenhouse as a second room. Customers would wander in, often by happenstance. “I’d say half the people just weren’t interested or were confused or just didn’t know why or how this could happen, and the response was just to get away from it. And the other half of people were into it.”
At first, Traynor camped out there, “but it ended up not being as chill as I imagined it was going to be,” he says. “I mean, some of the most beautiful mornings that I’ve ever had were waking up and the sun was coming through the holes in the roof. And then after … that’s enough, ready to have a bathroom and a kitchen.”
Then, three months ago, that paradise was abruptly lost when the landlord gave Traynor one day’s notice before paving over the yard for a construction staging area. Panicked, Traynor put out a call for help. Signal’s owners offered up their yard, and his friends—“creative builder guys”—broke the shack into two parts, loaded it onto a truck, and reassembled it in its new home.
It took about a month to build a new, level floor and get the shop open again. Traynor says he’ll stay open till it gets too cold. When I visit, we keep warm next to a roaring fire pit. His friend who runs a D.J. school for babies has fetched him a takeout burrito, and one of the gallery’s owners is outside chopping shipping pallets into tinder. The Platters’ “Only You” plays longingly in the background. On a cot in the shack are half a dozen persimmons. Are they free? For sale? Just decoration? Traynor shrugs. “I just think there’s something interesting about people wanting stuff, thinking that they need stuff, things being offered to people for sale. There’s so much stuff being sold to people for no reason other than just to sell. I’m not trying to convince anybody that they need anything there.” So those persimmons are exactly what they appear to be: pieces of fruit sitting on a cot in a shack in a backyard in Bushwick. “If someone wanted to buy them, or have them,” Traynor says, “that would be cool.”