Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let's talk about... the Flea Market

There are very few places in American society quite like the flea market. It’s a place that seems to run rampant with illegal activity, yet it is publicly condoned and upon entering the city of Galt, I couldn’t help but feel like the sign right off the free way directing drivers to the flea market was an indication of just how much the people of that town valued the marketplace. They seemed to pride themselves on their flea market the way the people of Gaza must pride their strip or Giza pride their pyramids. It’s not simply a place to shop, it is a hotbed of activity and the place to find everything you want and need in life. I certainly hoped upon arrival it would live up to that promise.

What I find most intriguing about the flea market is that it’s not a particularly pleasant place to go. It’s hot, sweaty, smelly, there are potholes everywhere and extremely crowded in the aisles yet as I found out, people flock there in drives. Why? Well that became utterly apparent as I walked inside, everything is cheaper than you would find it at a normal store. This is not to say that its dirt cheap as one would expect shopping at a flea market, I encountered a gentleman selling a large ceramic brontosaurus sculpture complete with saddle for nearly two thousand dollars, that couldn’t possibly be the going rate on ceramic dinosaurs with riding accessories. But what must motivate people to go (other than perhaps the incredible bargain on tube socks and pineapples) were that they would be in like-minded Company. It is a melting pot, the flea market, in that different races all converge at this parking lot all with the same primary objective; if you are a buyer you want to leave with the most stuff and spend the least amount of money and if you are a seller you want to leave with the least amount of stuff and the most amount of money. They share the same ideals the way all church goers share the same commandments, flea market dwellers share the same basic philosophy whether they are black, Hispanic, white, Asian, or Middle Eastern.

During my time spent at the flea market, I was compelled to buy a lot of things, a hat embolden with an NFL team logo, a luchador wrestling mask, perhaps a decorative sword prop from the film 300, a slew of DVD’s no one is really interested in watching, and of course a pineapple. I bought none of these things, but I felt like if I would this would have been the best place to buy these things. Unlike anywhere else you might find these items, bartering is still widely accepted but I got the uneasy feeling like if anyone was upfront in lowering a price there would be conflict. A friend of mine who was with me hinted that he only had a certain amount of money and the vendor was more than willing to cut the price down as long as he took everything my friend had in the process. It’s a game of give and take, of playing off of your opponent with the same acute attention to strategy as involved in a game of chess. It’s a delicate balance as a low offer could break the deal and offend the seller and a too steep of price could turn off the buyer and lose a sale. Which is why most people walking around at flea market have an uneasy tension to them. Not an uncomfortable tension, but the tension that comes when you are a snake ready to strike at any moment walking past t shirt stalls and cell phone accessory booths alike. Everyone wants to be sly and everyone has their eyes on the person to their left.

Yet surprisingly, there are not nearly as many violent confrontations at the flea market? How could this be? In a sweltering pit of asphault filled with desperation and corruption, how is it that childred are allowed to roam freely without being snatched up and ending on ebay the next day or how do women manage to peruse the nearly endless stalls of thongs and and hoop earings without being the victims of a malicious raping? I would think it's because every one seems to enter the flea market with a common understanding that the person they decide to antagonize, no matter how defenseless that person might seem, is potentially backed up by a large unseen army of thugs and brutes that may not be so defenseless. This is why I believe that flea market's have the potential to be models for a perfect utopia, because if you look at any respectable t-shirt stand, there will always be a shirt that has a bleeding Jesus dying for the salvation of humanity right next to a shirt glorifying the Mexican Mafia.

1 comment:

Israel said...

I love the Galt Flea market. It stinks of real people.

You can keep your sterile, over-priced Nordstrom's chock-full of people trying to impress.

Can you get tacos and chicharrones there? No!

Do the mannequins at Nordstrom's have huge, ghetto booties? No!

Do they have Koreans selling knockoff bling at Nordstrom's?


Nordstrom sucks...

Galt flea market is awesome for real people watching. Cheap eats, gloriously cheap knockoffs and the humanity. Oh the humanity!!