Sunday, January 04, 2009

Forgot the camera, but still have some things to say about the flea market

Finally felt like crawling out of the grave and deciding to live on Monday. Just in time to return to work. Oh well. It's a living, as they used to say in the old cartoons. Still playing catch up, but do want to dash a few lines off about the flea market.

Despite my best intentions, I managed to get out the door on Friday without a camera, so this is a somewhat photo-less flea market report.

Flea markets and the like have always been in my blood, it seems. In the little town where I grew up, there was a flea market every Wednesday at the county stockyards. In fact, we always referred to going to the flea market as "going to the stockyards" which confused some of my friends. During the summer, I'd hardly miss a Wednesday. Surprisingly, that flea market still takes place, every Wednesday, even thought the spot where it does is now the Wal-Mart parking lot.

The main attraction for the flea market in those days for me was as place where I get get older comics cheaply--usually for 25 cents or less. At that point in time, there was no comic store in my life, no conventions, no mail order, certainly no Ebay, so what I had was the local flea market and my two little legs to carry me there.

I remember one time the local paper did a feature on the flea market and mentioned in passing a "young man looking through piles of old comic books for a quarter." I was totally convinced they meant me, so I clipped the article and kept it for years.

As I got older and moved away, I discovered other flea markets, along with other ways of dealing in second hand goods--thrift stores, yard sales, used book stores, etc. One of the best avenues in Louisville is the monthly Kentucky Flea Market, which is held at the state fairgrounds. I go at least once a year with my mom and try to talk Keith into going as often as I can.

Since this was New Year's weekend, the show actually had two halls full of dealers, instead of the usual one. I always like those, because the second hall is typically just antique dealers and I really do like to go look at that type of stuff. I could browse in a good-sized antiques mall for hours, without ever buying anything, and be quite content.

Typically, when we go to the flea market on a Friday, it's not that crowded. In fact, that's my favorite time to go, because you can take your time and really look at stuff without having to fight the people. I don't know if it was the holiday or what, but the place was packed this time. Packed full of people. Annoying people. The kind of gather in clumps in the middle of the aisles, not moving one way or the other, totally blocking traffic in both directions. The kind of people I have made a resolution not to kill or belittle or knock down this year. ARRGH!

ASIDE: I'm not a kid person, I admit. I don't have them and am kind of glad to be in a state of life that they're not going to be a part of. I understand bringing your kids to things that they'll enjoy, but I don't get all the people who bring all the kids in strollers (some as young as six months) to something like this. The kid cannot possibly be having fun surrounded by a forest of legs and not being able to see anything. The parents can't be having fun having to push the kid through the madness. And I'm definitely not having fun trying to maneuver around the one in front of me while the one behind me keeps bumping me in the ankles! Isn't that what sitters are for?

Anyway, Keith and I kept getting separated by the crowds, which made things a lot less fun for both of us. It's hard to point out stuff to each other when you're not together. And since one of us, who shall remain nameless*, forgot his cell phone, we were out of touch a lot, which led to lots of waiting and wondering, especially since the nameless and phoneless one is prone to easy distraction and can take quite a while to work through things.

We spent some time later trying to figure out what kind of effect the economy was having on the flea market. It seems to me like there were as many people as usual there with carts full of purchases, but that may not mean anything. According to the paper, some dealers said there sales were back up after a bad summer slump due to gas prices, but were still off from last year. But, Keith overheard a couple of dealers of the "As Seen on TV" crap who said that they were selling out of things with two days left to go.

I know in the antique wing lots of dealers were offering specials, but I still saw a lot of sales taking place too. There seemed to be fewer of the "banana box" dealers--those folks who buy out of date and near out of date goods in bulk (in banana boxes) and sell stuff at a buck or so a pop--but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Row after row of that kind of stuff becomes old fast. And the ones that were there had tightened up considerably, so it didn't look like they had taken over the place.

In terms of my purchases, I had a pretty good day. The antique wing yielded some inexpensive additions to my collection of religious paraphernalia. And surprisingly, I was able to get some nice comics in both the antique and non-antique wings at reasonable prices, including several issues of Little Lulu and Sugar and Spike, which made me happy! i also got a couple of Dennis the Meance giants from the 60's in beautiful shape for a buck each!** Plus I got a couple of very early Rhonda vincent CD's, from the days when she was still part of the Sally Mountain Show.

My own comic shop always sets up at the flea market with some quarter boxes of comics and overstock CDs for sale. One of the many many things to love about my shop is the music selection. Since there are two branches of the store in Nashville, they always have some great folk and Americana selections, especially since every few months the stores swap out their overstock.

I spent a little bit of time there talking to the store manager, since she was working the booth alone and it was a little slow right then. I made sure she got some of the holiday goodies I left at the shop for the staff and told her about my new job, since it will enable me to actually begin placing orders again.

We also talked about how the economy is affecting the store. I had been a little concerned because I knew that they had stopped buying stuff from people for a while. She told me that they had to do that because they got flooded with people selling stuff when the gas prices were so high, so now they're basically overstocked and need to let that thin out for a bit.

But she also said that, overall, they had not been as badly affected by the recession as they thought they would be. Sales are a little off, but not as bad as they could be, which was nice to hear. I've been concerned about them, since a) small/local businesses get hit hardest by economic downturns and b) contrary to what some may say, they're not selling necessity items.

Still, I was surprised to hear that someone had started a rumor in town that they were going out of business. It hasn't seem to hurt them, but that's not the kind of thing they need to have happening right now. One thing that I do think will help them weather this storm is their history. They've been around for over 30 years now. I first shopped there my senior year of high school, when I was 17. They've obviously got staying power and a pretty loyal customer base. It was good to chat with her for a bit.

And, finally, I can think of nothing better to wrap this up than this little ditty by Mexican pop group Flans about finding true love at a flea market:

All together now:

"Entre cuadros y revistas,
camisetas, discos y jeans,
Entre cuadros y revistas,
camisetas, discos y jeans"

Some of my favorite shopping experiences in Mexico City were in settings like this.

*We must protect the innocent, you see. And I tell you, this person really is innocent. Forgetful, but innocent. And quite charming too!

**Which is not to say that there weren't dealers asking outrageous prices for mediocre stuff in even worse shape, but I'm focusing on the positive and not the asshats.

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