I’m just a flea market floozie…

Yesterday was my birthday trip to the world’s largest and greatest flea market EVER:  Canton, Texas.  As they say: If you can’t find it in Canton, you just can’t find it.  And it’s true!  Yesterday I saw everything from a disassembled full-sized windmill to a 1960’s Lady Clairol bejeweled electric razor.

I brought along two helpers, my dear Jason and one of my dearest bestest friends, JJ (who is also a man, yes we made an odd trio).  Anyhoo,  so as always we hit the ‘Unreserved’ section, which has the highest percentage of the Junk-Which-Is-Most-Likely-To-Come-Home-With-Me.  First things being first, after over an hour in the car, and being as I’m getting older, we had to locate the “facilities”.  Granted, I wasn’t to the “I’m-Gonna-Wet-Myself” phase, but still…

After locating Bathroom #1, I just had to laugh.  There was a line of no less than ten women standing on the outside of the bathroom door.  Yeah, right.  So, after another 5 minute walk, we came to Bathroom #2.  I was initially on the Exit side, and thought, “Oh thank YOU, Lord…no line.”  Well, got around to the Entrance side and there were NO LESS THAN 30 WOMEN in line.  I marched back over to my helpers and wondered aloud the following:

“What are they DOING in there?  Why do women take so long?  I mean, I can really only think of TWO THINGS that you’d normally do in a bathroom stall, and I’m willing to bet that most are in there for the FIRST reason!  Are they having a social mixer in there? This is ludicrous!”  Please allow me to further elaborate that these are NOT the kind of facilities that you’d want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary.  Allow me to explain, please.  First off, if you’re expecting a stall with a door, you’re kidding yourself.  Virtually all of the bathrooms are door-less, but they were nice enough to give you a shower curtain. Okay, I can handle that.  But, where they really went wrong is that the stall depth, when seated upon your potty, is only adequate for toddlers and possibly (is this P.C.???) little people.  I hate to use the word “midget” or “dwarf”, but this is what I mean by little people.  Therefore, at my perfectly normal and average height of five foot four, my knees extend from the stall by a good couple of inches. And they have the dreaded ‘Grade School Height Toilets”.  You know, the ones that you have to do almost a full squat to reach and your legs fall asleep? Yep, that, too.  Also, forget the possibility of any hooks for your bags.  So here you are in a row of about 50 stalls, squatted down eight inches off the ground, trying to balance your cumbersome upcycled, bulky shopping bags/purse, with your knees hitting a creepy shower curtain and sticking out further than your stall, just praying that you won’t topple over into the waiting throng of women and rip down the shower curtain, exposing your bum and spilling every content of your purse/bag on the concrete floor.  It’s a fun game, let me tell you.  I probably have quads of steel after all that exercise, not to mention the balance ability of an Olympic gymnast.

Finally, after we had reached Bathroom #3 (a little known facility next to a tool salesman and a pan flute CD vendor), I noticed there was no line.  YES!  I found an empty stall, and after taking the absolute minimum time, I turned to flush.  No flush.  I won’t go into details, but normally the rule in our house is: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”  This didn’t really meet the “Mellow” category, either.  What to do?  I got out, snapped the shower curtain shut and informed the line of about 5 perfectly good strangers that this toilet indeed did NOT flush and whomever chose to go in would get a ‘nice surprise’.  That’s just how it went down.  Or not.  Anyway.  On to shopping!!!

Fairly quickly, I found my own version of Heaven:  three huge long rows of all items for a dollar.  I quickly snapped up a pair of Japanese tomato salt and pepper shakers, a Japanese ceramic potbellied stove, which was a pincushion and a measuring tape, several old farm journals, a baking pan, some calligraphy pens, and more.  Apparently, dollar tables were a big hit yesterday, because I found every last one of them.  Poor, long-suffering Jason and JJ shook their heads as I oohed and ahhhed over every vintage dollar-priced piece.  “Oh, but doesn’t everyone need a ceramic owl/thermometer?  What about this embroidered Kleenex box cover?  I mean, someone out there put a lot of work into this…”  Jason drifted off to tool vendors, JJ, just being along for the ride and the sights, was stuck with me while I pondered every piece of nostalgia known to mankind.  “Oh, look at this hand-powered sharpening stone! And this hand-powered drill!  Isn’t that awesome?”  I don’t really know why I was wasting my breath;  JJ and I are virtually  incapable of changing out wiper blades on a car and can injure ourselves with a screwdriver.  It’s not like we are mechanically-gifted people. Still, you get caught up in the nostalgia, no matter what the thing is.

After eight hours of meandering through miles of junk-filled tables, we were ready to call it a day.  We typically end our day with the reward of a funnel cake, so that’s what we did.  What I didn’t realize was that the vendor made his funnel cakes the size of a small table.  As he handed us our cake, I wasn’t really sure how we were ever going to even BEGIN to finish this thing, even with three people attacking it.  So, we all were laden with bags, and I balanced the funnel cake waitress-like with one hand and my bags on my other shoulder, and off we went.  I took my first bite and literally inhaled a breath-full of powdered sugar.  Note to self:  Never breathe in whilst taking a bite of sugar-laden funnel cake.   As the guys were laughing, JJ took his bite and also inhaled sugar.  With both of us intermittently gasping for breath/laughing our heads off, I’m sure we looked a pair.  Then, a woman walking beside us sidled up to us and said,”Didja breathe in some of that sugar?” Well, thank God weren’t the only morons who had had that happen before.

Following my pioneering dear, sweet husband back to the truck, I began to realize that we were getting to the edge of the vendors, but I couldn’t see any way to actually reach the truck.  “No, you have to cross the creek.  See?  It’s right down here.”  After nearly falling over a vendor’s trailer hitch and losing the funnel cake and all my pride, I looked down, down, down, and there was Jason, literally crossing a creek.  Not at an official crossing, mind you…no, we had to slide down a bank, walk through the (mostly dry) creek, and climb to the other side.  Now how in the hell was I supposed to balance a giant funnel cake bigger than my head and 5 inches tall, and two bags and make it across?  I couldn’t help but think I’d surely be on YouTube within five minutes of this incident that was about to happen.  Jason crossed first, then JJ.  I somehow managed to slide down the bank with no incident.  As I was attempting to walk up the (steep) bank to reach for Jason’s outstretched hand, I couldn’t help but notice him gyrating wildly, like he had an imaginary hula hoop contest with himself.

Me:  “What are you doing?”

J: “I have to go to the bathroom!!! HURRY!”

Without embarrassing my dear husband, let me just say that when this man has to go, he has to GO immediately, Do Not Pass Go, Do NOT Collect $200, and stay out of  this man’s way unless you want to be injured.  Well, between the powdered sugar, my exhaustion, and the situation unfolding in front of my eyes with a wildly gyrating man with eyes about to pop out of his skull and me balancing my precious funnel cake in a creek, I got to laughing so hard that tears ran down both cheeks.  There was no way possible I could reach up and grab his hand.  JJ was absolutely no help, either.  Holding his sides, he, too, was crying on the banks of the creek.  When I looked up next, Jason was gone and here were two idiots on the banks of some obscure creek in the middle of nowhere, balancing a plate full of funnel cake and 50 dollars worth of dollar-priced items.  Needless to say, with the help off JJ, I did make it up that creek and back to the truck.  Sadly, by the time we got there, the cake was already cold and greasy and none of us even wanted the stupid thing anyway.  But it made for a good story, didn’t it?

Can’t wait to go back and do it all again.  Maybe next month?


Junk in my Trunk

Once again, I made my semi-annual pilgrimage to Canton Trade Days, which is a HUGE flea market.  Without a doubt, it would literally take days to fully shop Canton, and it gets bigger every year.  As we did last year, we went again this past Friday as an early birthday present for myself.

This year, I have decided to spare Jason from Dog Alley (the only part of Canton where animal sales are allowed), since he absolutely would rather eat his toenails than walk through it.  Anyway, we headed on back to the unreserved section, which is, by far, my absolute favorite.

Need an antique wagon wheel?  We got it.  Need a Picayune Creole’s cookbook from 1945? Got it.  Need an orange payphone from the 70s? A Howdy Doody doll, or an entire coyote skin?  Check, check, ANNNNNND check. I’m telling you, if you want it, they HAVE IT.  Somewhere, someone at Canton will have what you’re looking for.  And, a cardinal rule is, if you see what you are looking for and think the price is a little high, KEEP ON WALKING.  Because, inevitably, unless the item is extremely rare, someone on the next row will have it for a lot less.

Take into consideration a vintage coffee grinder.  Ever since seeing one being used to grind spices in my favorite magazine, I knew I had to have one.  I am seriously insane about vintage kitchen utensils.  I mean, just loopy.  I have to force myself not to buy any that I know I won’t really use.  You know, like the vintage ice grinders I found.  (I mean, what would I use them for?  To crush ice for Jason’s martinis when he gets in from work?  With me standing there in my pearls and heels?)  So, I was on the hunt for this coffee grinder.  Well, I found three at one booth.  What a deal!  They had the cast iron grinding mechanism, and looked to be in good shape.  BUT, they were about 30 dollars each.  Now, that isn’t expensive at all considering they have made it this long in good condition, but I was sure I could find them somewhere else for less.  I walked on for about another hour and a half.  No more grinders. It was time to go, and Jason asked me if I wanted to turn around and go ask the vendor if he would accept less, when suddenly, I turned around, and there it was.  A beam of light pierced the clouds and shone upon MY vintage coffee grinder.  Better yet, it highlighted the prominently displayed price tag, which was for a mere $8.50!  I snatched up the grinder and held it above my head.  Eureka!  My search was over!  The Junk Hunter’s dream!  Granted, it wasn’t the nice cast iron like the others, but it was good enough for me.

I also ended up getting a clamp-style mini grinder for soapmaking as well as an old-fashioned meat grinder.  I’m not sure what it was about grinders last Friday, but I am now the proud owner of three more!  Who knows.

Canton is full of its own characters, as well.  Usually, the buyers are the most interesting to watch, and yet, you still have some reeeeeally interesting vendors, too.  Now, there are your more ‘normal’ vendors, like Doorknob Bob, who has an unending supply of doorknobs and vintage glass pulls, but then you also have folks like Superman.

Now, we’re not talking about Clark Kent here (in fact, I think that Canton Superman’s alter-ego is called “Alan”).  No, no, this is far more interesting and entertaining.  I met Superman earlier this year when I went junking in the spring.  Superman takes every opportunity to engage any person passing his booth (whether on foot, or even in vehicle) in conversation.  And, to boot, Superman is always wearing something interesting.  This time, it looked like an old band uniform hat.  What is even more interesting is that Canton Superman looks like someone you would be pretty wary of.  I mean, he could use a good shave and a really good haircut.  Judging by looks alone, he looks like he would be a frequent flier at the trashiest bar imaginable, BUT, now, that’s just going by looks, and we shouldn’t do that, right?  Well, at least not most of the time.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure that his parents must have been either carnies or perhaps snake oil salesmen.

“Hey there, little lady, now come on in!  I don’t charge for lookin’!”

“Well now, you dig you somethin’ outta that box there, I won’t charge ya’ an arm and a leg…I don’t want to take this junk home!  Oh, now you just get a handful and I’ll charge ya’ a dollar.”

“Hey, hey!  Well, now that you bought something, you are a reee-peat customer!  You come on back next time and see Superman, and I’ll give you the reee-peat Superman customer discount!”

(to people in a passing truck)  “Hey there, now!  I don’t charge no extra for people in cars!  Y’all come on in and find ya’ somethin!”

He also has poems and sings little ditties, unfortunately none of which I can remember.  I’m not sure what is more entertaining; watching Superman ham it up or the people’s reaction to him.  An older woman approached his tables and he shouted out, “Hey there, now!”

She looked up as if to say, “Who, me?”  Her face was completely bewildered at the sight of this slightly unstable looking individual in a funny hat coming towards her.  Her grip on her bag tightened.

“Oh, now!  Now come on in here and find ya’ somethin’!  Ol’ Superman always has somethin’ for everybody!”

She looked unconvinced and actually, a little terrified.

“Ok, let me see your license, maybe I can give you a Superman discount.”

She took a step back and stammered something, but he kept on going.  I was laughing too hard (internally) to watch anymore.  After all, I was standing right next to her and didn’t want to laugh right in her face.

I had to walk off to keep from bursting out laughing.  I looked down by my feet and there was the most pseudo-terrible painting ever.  I would call it a nude painting, but that’s not really it.  These people are clearly nekkid.  And blue.  And highlighted with day-glo yellow and orange.  Fortunately, their heads were not in the painting but unfortunately their naughty bits were.  I mean, the….artist was clearly showcasing a part/pair of the male anatomy which is typically not showcased.  And, for darn good reason.

See?  Canton really does have it all.