Monday, May 19, 2008

Yet another flea market story

I took today off to visit the Webster Westside Flea Market. Webster is a town about 50 miles north of Tampa that (as far as I could tell) consists of a flea market. Normally, taking a day off to drive for an hour to get to a flea market would not be worth the effort (well, taking the day off would be) but friends and other people I know had been there and were raving about how huge it is so I wanted to see it for myself. The reason I had to take the day off is because this particular flea market is only open on Mondays. I don't understand that but there are a lot of things I don't understand about it. It was crowded, so apparently it works. It just seems strange to only be open one day, and a weekday at that. Of course, to say a flea market seems strange is kind of like pointing out that ducks have feathers. Here are my observations from the day:

  • It really is a very, very big flea market. From the standpoint of sheer geography covered, it's huge. It's larger than many college campuses I've visited. I'm sure this says something about the state of the nation. I think more than half of the stalls were empty because tourist season is over but we were there for five hours and didn't even see everything. I guess during the season the place is just nuts.
  • I'm kicking myself for not bringing my camera because I saw a lot of Jim Crow-era artifacts that I can't share with you. Among the items I saw for sale were a sign that said "COLORED WAITING ROOM" and lots of knick-knacks depicting African Americans in a less than flattering light. But they weren't the only ones being disparaged. I also saw a postcard that showed a cartoon of a man in a kilt riding a horse, facing backwards watching the ground behind the horse with the caption "This Scotsman lost a dime in the feedbag". I would guess that at one time that postcard was available for sale at a place like Woolworth's. I guess racism used to be pretty hilarious back in the day.
  • We had lunch at a taco stand owned and operated by a family from Mexico. Mexican food prepared by people actually from Mexico is a lot different than what you get at Taco Bell. Taco Bell, as I've mentioned before, is really just one food item in a couple of different arrangements. It's meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream inside of something allegedly made from corn. Here's what happens when you return an incorrect order at Taco Bell: "Excuse me, I ordered the Chalupa. This is the Burrito Supreme."
    "Oh, sorry about that (fwip, fwap, fwip). Here you go."
    " just take the same food, re-fold it and put a different wrapper on it?"
    "Not as far as you know"

    I ordered enchiladas that came wrapped in banana leaves. Being the jive-ass honky that I am, I asked one of my companions if I was supposed to eat them in the banana leaves. "No, stupid", she replied. This is someone who routinely burns her own forehead with a curling iron but I'm the one who's stupid? Ok, whatever. They were delicious and far, far different than anything I've ever had from Taco Bell, with or without banana leaves.
  • As far as I can tell, as consumers we are all engaged in one massive game of Hot Potato where the goal is not to be the last person in America stuck with all the VHS tapes.
  • It's official: It is now 100% impossible to find a real treasure in baseball cards at a flea market. Stories of walking into one and finding a Willie Mays rookie card for a nickel can now be regarded as nothing more than ancient mythological folklore. Actually, that's probably been the case for more than a decade. I just refused to accept the inevitability of it until today. Sigh.
  • An observation from my companion: "When I get older, I'm going to hang out at the flea market and talk about guns and ammunition for hours and hours. Oh wait, no I'm not...because I don't have a penis!" She was right; there were a lot of vendors selling guns and ammo and a lot of guys hanging out talking about them. I'm more than a little gun-phobic so it doesn't appeal to me as a man whatsoever, but there definitely seemed to be something going on. If Freud visited a flea market, he'd probably have something to say about it.
  • I bought a solid brass old west style sheriff's badge for a dollar. When I asked the vendor if I was now fully authorized to uphold and enforce county laws, he replied "I don't give a damn what you do". I told him, "That's fine. If anybody's looking for me later, I'll be pulling over speeders."
  • Some guy was selling a "calliope" for $2500.00, claiming that was about 1/10th of what it was really worth. Gee, that's an awful lot of money for a CD player in a cabinet on a cart with some non-functional steam pipes affixed to it, isn't it? Oh, I guess you didn't think I saw the empty CD case labeled "Clown and Midway Calliope Music Vol. 1" sitting there. Dumbass.
  • One vendor told me he was selling stuff cheap because "I have that Italian disease, 'No-a funds-a'". Another, when asked where he was from, said "Greece. I'm a Greek god, not a goddamn Greek". Apparently, matters of racial diversity are presented openly, if not delicately, at the ol' flea market.
  • Speaking of penis (We were? Yes, briefly, earlier. Scroll back.), my companion found a VHS copy of "The Little Mermaid" with the infamous phallic cover art. While this find does have some pop cultural archaeological significance, she puts herself in danger of losing that game of Hot Potato I mentioned earlier. It's risky business, this flea marketing.


Gadzooks64 said...

Hey now! Don't be dissing the Taco Bell.

Damnit! Now I want to make a run for the Border and the Border ain't that close to BFE.


Me in BFE

Why, it's Clark! said...

Don't get me wrong, I love The Bell too. Especially how the more you order, the less you seem to spend; A taco value meal is $3.50 but a bag of like, 25 tacos is about $1.50.

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