A $2.49 cup of coffee nearly ruined it all.
One sip was all I needed to know that whatever was inside that cup was less a pumpkin spice latte, more something that could be used in lieu of Ipecac. Shame on me for getting a specialty drink at a gas station in the first place.
“I paid for that!” Henry bitched as I tossed it into the garbage can outside of Sheetz. Thus began a heated argument over the only thing we ever fight about – money. Yay, money! The finale found me contemptuously exiting the car and stalking off down the highway on foot until Chooch convinced Henry to turn around and fetch me from the side of the road (I was stubbornly attempting to walk to my mom’s house), well-rehearsed apology at the ready.
If he hadn’t apologized, we would likely have missed out on a really great day with Jessy and Tommy, who we were en route to meet at the Perryopolis flea market when the pitched latte presented a road block. (And Chooch would likely be without a father right now.)
I’m so glad we made it to the flea market, else I might have missed out on the most riveting conversation of all time: Tommy and Henry discussing the merits of some motorized tool-thing called a Roto-Hoe, and pontificating the origin of its name. “Why wouldn’t they just call it a Roto-Shredder?” Tommy asked Henry, clearly not yet figuring out that Henry doesn’t really know anything.
“Maybe something else already had that name,” I heard Henry muse.
My sole purpose of going to the flea market was to sniff around for the woman who sold me the ring of all flea market rings last August, but she was nowhere to be found. And no other table provided finger-candy nearly as gaudy or with half the brass-knuckle power as her rings. I was saddened by this, but Chooch sure made out. Jessy tried to teach him how to barter, but he was like, “Why? Mommy’s going to buy this for me no matter what.”
I was watching Chooch as he stood near a table while some gnarly shit-schiller bark prices to him like he was a 35-year-old man and not a wallet-less 4-year-old. He looked so amused by it all and had this sort of laughing ‘WTF’ expression on his face. I saw that same look a few minutes later as he was petting a dog at a booth set up to give a carpet cleaning demonstration and it made me realize that as ridiculous as flea markets are to me, they must be really fantastical from Chooch’s point-of-view.
Sundays with Jessy and Tommy have quickly become something I look forward to (even though Chooch groans and says, “Great. Tommy’s gonna beat me up!”). Something about them makes Henry be super nice to me. Sometimes he’ll even hold my hand. Probably because Tommy asks him questions about THE SERVICE and re-masculates him a bit with testosterone-y discourse (for instance, on Sunday they discussed the cost of fishing licenses). That must put Henry in a good mood or something, even though he peed in the flea market bathroom while all the stalls were occupied with pooping bargain hunters; Henry wouldn’t stop speaking of the horror for a good hour.
Wouldn’t be my preferred nap-location, but hey – I’m sure selling rusty tools and yellow-paged romance novels is really grueling.
Some haggard tart had a boxful of white studded wristbands (supposedly) from Hot Topic. It was the only thing I saw, besides a gigantically horrific $40 painting of some asshole who founded Washington County, that made me inch toward my iCarly pocketbook.
“How much?” Jessy asked the leather-faced broad, who was busy organizing another bin of stolen goods a few feet away.
“$4,” she hollered back in a not-so-nice tone. “They’re $8 at Hot Topic.”
“How much for two?” Jessy bartered.
“THEY’RE $4 A PIECE!” this fucking landfill souvenir barked. “THEY’RE $8 AT HOT TOPIC, THAT IS HALF OFF.” Oh no she didn’t. This shit-stained remnant of Kool’s packaging from 1974 did not just patronize us.
“Gee, thanks for assuming I can’t do math,” I sneered, exploding with self-righteousness. (This is what I do best in life. Explode with self-righteousness. Ask Henry about the furious letter I wrote in an attempt to get out of a parking ticket.) “Dumb bitch,” I added, as I dropped the bracelet down with exaggerated flourish.
Henry, who was standing a bit away, looked at me expectantly when I approached him with a wrist decidedly not dressed for next year’s Warped Tour. “I didn’t like her attitude,” I explained. “So no sale for that whore.”
Over lunch, we made plans to take a group trip to Lancaster next month. We ended the day with an arousing game of Depends keep-away at Target, which had me (ironically) nearly pissing myself in the toy aisle. I’ve never laughed so hard in Target.
And to think, a $2.49 cup of coffee almost prevented all of that from happening.
It’s really getting bad over here. I’m so far into this alternate reality that half the time I forget that I’m not deaf. Or Mexican.
My hearing-impaired alter ego Manuel has really been having a tough time of it. First, he gets stabbed in his apartment by some crazy lady with a knife. Then his life-partner Henry forgets to pick him up from the hospital! That’s low. It’s a good thing they reconciled over season 2 of Queer As Folk the next night.
Then there was the whole affair with the realtor from Michigan and the peanut butter-coated hearing aid left on the commode.
This weekend, Manuel had to make a last minute trip to his hometown in Maryland (the relay operator pronounced it Mary-land) because Mother and Aunt Shirley got in a fight over cat food again and this time it was pretty bad. Aunt Shirley is very serious about her cat food!
Henry is trying furiously to block my personal relay phone number.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning to meet Jessy and Tommy at one of the flea markets in Perryopolis, PA. (Tommy calls is Perryhopeless and I’d have a hard time finding anything more apropos.) That’s how you know I love you, when I set my alarm on a goddamn weekend. Prior to our arrival, Jessy tried to warn me of the utter trashiness of this particular flea market, of the foul stench that could be sniffed throughout the indoor portion, of the fact that she and I would look like hotel heiresses in comparison.
Just driving through the lot, I quickly learned that this flea market was like an outdoor People Of Wal-Mart festival.
And it was awesome.
Tazmanian Devil tattoos every which way! On shoulder blades and saggy, sun-damaged bosoms!
Wrecked livers and nicotine-tarnished teeth as far as the eye could see!
Troughs of worthless tools! (In a move reminiscent of Henry, Tommy felt inclined to explain the purpose of these worthless tools and no one cared!)
Piles of novelty t-shirts and creepy stuffed clown dolls!
Then we happened upon a certain expanse of tables and if my life was a TV show, this is where the record scratch would have been inserted. I had happened upon the motherland of cheap flea market rings. I almost never find cool rings at the two flea markets Henry normally drags me to. I couldn’t breathe for a second or two as I ran my fingers gently over the display cases.
I bought three. I didn’t even feel guilty. The lady behind the table kept trying to show me these neon bands that glow in the dark (“They ain’t even gonna turn your fingers green,” she emphasized as many times as Dubya reminded Kerry not to forget Poland – political flashback, holla!) and I kept pointedly ignoring her. She’s lucky her other rings were too fabulous to make her lose a sale. Like this one that’s giant enough to provide back-up next time I try to break Henry’s nose:
And then I really had to pee. Normally I’d hold it, or go behind a teepee and peepee in Henry’s cupped hand. But I wasn’t going to be near “safe” restrooms any time soon, and there were no teepees or cupped hands ready to be participant. I was forced to go inside and make a visit to the “ladies lounge.”
They could have called it The Queen Mother’s Diamond-Encrusted Porcelain Ballroom and it wouldn’t have done much to priss up the piss puddles atop an uneven floor the color of boogers and staph infections, Gretel’s toilet paper trail, or the lingering bouquet of old lady flatulence.
There were three stalls: one had a flooded floor, pubes dipped in menstruation droplets dotting the seat like ornamental garnish at the sewage plant, and a ripped toilet seat cover waving in surrender. One was occupied by a human emitting low groans. One had a broken lock.
I chose the one with the groaning human. Straddled it’s liver-spotted lap and urinated right between its legs.
But really, I hate when bathroom stalls don’t shut! It’s hard work peeing with one foot slammed against the door.
The groaning human didn’t wash its hands.
I did. Wash my hands that is, not groaned. I lathered those phalanges up REAL GOOD with steaming hot water. Then I rejoined Jessy who bought me a red velvet whoopie pie filled with a hearty splooge of sexual cream cheese. It was enough to eradicate the horror of the bathroom. I’m convinced that baked goods is what makes it all OK. There are times I consider having another child while eating a particularly high class cupcake; makes me momentarily forget the pain and trauma of that whole “creating life” process.
“I totally get what you mean about that delicious aroma,” I said to Jessy. It was like a hearty stew of body odor, Nascar fandom, cigarettes and Looney Tunes t-shirts unwashed after weeks of marinating in Pabst spills, gasoline splashes, and juice squeezed fresh from domestic violence.
Meanwhile, we couldn’t find Tommy.
“I left my phone in the truck or I’d call him,” Jessy said.
I didn’t even have to ponder what to do next. I’m always waiting for these opportunities.
“I’ll call him,” I said deviously. “What’s his number?” And as Jessy recited the digits, I typed them hungrily into my IP Relay iPhone app.
AND HE ANSWERED.
Manuel: Thomas. I am looking for you. Jessy fell into the commode. We are cleaning her off and will join you shortly. Thanks. Adios.
Tommy, to the operator: Ok. I know where she’s at. That’s my wife. Thank you. I’m gonna hang up, I’m gonna go where she’s at.
The operator, in parenthesis, informed Manuel that Thomas was speaking too fast. But the bigger picture here is, OMG how nice of Manuel to come all the way back from Mary-land to assist in Operation: Plunge Jessy from the Commode.
While this was going on, Jessy was talking to two jewelry vendors. I was hunkering off to the side, away from the flow of foot traffic, squatting to hold in my laughing-pee. I kept trying to tug on her arm, laughing so hard my speech was on par with that of a slurring retard with a Cockney accent and a fat wang in his mouth.
Jessy ignored me and continued her adult conversation.
By this point, I could barely breathe. I was laughing so hard that it was coming out in squeals. Jessy finally bought something and said goodbye to her new grown-up friends.
“You’re an asshole. I was trying so hard to talk to those people while you were over there laughing like an idiot!”
Then we found Tommy and he still looked confused from his phone call from Manuel. I explained to him and he was like, “You’re a fucking retard.” But I know deep down he was impressed. Probably even honored to have received a call from the great Manuel.
Before we left, some guy approached us and said, “Do you have any plans for the winter?” He was trying to hook us into learning more about some home renovation thing he was selling.
“I thought he was going to ask us if we had any plans tonight,” I laughed to Jessy as we walked away.
So she turned back and yelled to him, “Hey she wants to know if you have any plans tonight!”
He blushed (I’m taking Jessy’s word for it since I had all but vaulted over vendor tables to avoid the awkwardness that was bound to ensue) and said, “Oh, that’s my girlfriend over there.”
How dare she! Turning me from Ridiculer to the Ridiculed!
Then we went to brunch at the Beach House, where I got to meet Jessy’s mom and her husband for the first time. Both were very lovely and I had a delicious frittata.
“Erin must love her food because she’s not talking,” Jessy said to the rest of the table.
“Thank God,” Tommy muttered.
Last Sunday, we went to Rossi’s Pop-Up Market (and Alisha wants everyone to know that the essay I wrote about it for my creative non-fiction class was no exaggeration, thank you). Now, the last few times I hit up any flea market, I’ve struck out and spent most of the day pouting about it. Not even any Christopher Pike books? REALLY?
But this time, I made out. It’s a good thing I have very low standards. First, I got a Virgin Mary bracelet which I probably paid about $3 too much for and realized that I have one almost identical to it at home, but whatever. I used Henry’s money.
THEN. Then I found this piece of hot ass shit:
WHAT? They just don’t make picture frames like that anymore.
After I scrounged fifty cents out of my pocket, it was mine. ALL MINE. I grabbed that sonofabitch so fast and held it close to my face. To the lady behind the table, I said, “And I’m totally keeping these pictures in it, too!”
Then a piece fell off of it.
I have a hat like that! I should wear it today in honor of what I’m doing. Wait – what am I doing again? Oh yeah, sitting and typing.
I want to look like that when I’m on the phone!@!
It’s hanging above my microwave right now, you guys! Can you stand it!!
And then some old hag wanted FOUR DOLLARS for this but Henry was like, “Tell her you only have $2” and I have to say that I felt guilty lying to someone’s great-grandmother, but she was like, “FINE TAKE IT” and then went back to chugging her Metamucil. (Alisha tried telling me that was spelled wrong, but I emerged victorious.)
It’s hung up real nice above my commode, a nice companion for my Last Supper (the epitome of religious eye sores) and this other Mary thing I have:
Then Chooch pissed his pants and we had to leave.
Henry wanted to get his son Blake out of the house on Sunday, so we decided what better way to be all familial for free than to go to the fucking flea market.
I had no coffee in my system; my head was thumping and a sour scowl was perma-etched on my face. Henry was all, “OK, this shit ain’t gon’ fly” so he went to one of the snack bars for a remedy, commanding Blake, Chooch, and myself to stay put where we were. As soon as he turned his back, we did what any other miscreants would and wandered off into the abyss of redneck unwantables.
“Who the fuck would buy this shit?” Blake mumbled as we pushed Chooch’s stroller past a table of romance novels and metal scraps.
“That guy,” I answered, as some loser handed over a fan of bills.
We continued strolling along, taking turns complaining about how gay everything was. Then we talked about Chiodos for awhile, which briefly lighted both of our faces, until it occured to me that we had been led too far astray and Henry was probably walking in circles, crying into a Styrofoam cup of coffee. So we hurried back to where Henry left us, but he wasn’t there. We then made the mistake of leaving the Abandoned Child Depot in order to find Henry, which was fruitless since he was doggy-paddling in the sea of beer tee’d bargain hunters, hoping to find us.
We made it back to our spot right as Henry called Blake’s cell phone. When he finally made his way back to us, we were all, “What the fuck, we were here the whole time, asshole!” Henry looked dumbfounded.
“I walked right past here and didn’t see you. Didn’t you see me?” he asked, eyes squinted with confusion.
“Probably, but everyone here looks like you,” I said. I don’t think he heard me, but Blake did, and as soon as Henry turned his back, we laughed like children.
We walked past one table weighted down with incredibly worthless junk, just as a very manly woman with the roughest smoker’s voice barked, “How much you want for that bottle of Eternity?” It seriously sounded like a knife-fight was happening in her throat. Her interest in a bottle of perfume tickled me so greatly that I was falling into Henry’s back from laughing so hard. She was with some social reject who had a lipstick print tattooed to his neck. God, what an asshole.
Just when I didn’t think anything could top those two, some broad petrified in makeup from 1975 began advertising loudly for the shitty cat nip mats she was shilling. “They make extraordinary gifts!” she called out jovially and I lost my shit all over again.
“Oh, they’re fucking extraodinary alright. I hope I get fifteen of them for my birthday. Motherfucker.” Then I thought about how much hate I had boiling in my belly, and I smiled.
Around the bend, some dumb ass colostomy bag of a broad was selling CDs and at the very top of one of the stacks was The Cure’s “Disintegration”. Henry pointed this out, probably thinking I’d go all Pollyanna and realize that the flea market really was a place for extraodinary gifts, but instead I grew angry. I mean, I was practically roiling.
“You don’t re-sell a Cure CD!” I bitched loudly. “WHO DOES THAT? An asshole, that’s who.” And I know that shitty old lady heard me too. SUCK IT, bitch.
It wasn’t until we fell upon some old dude slinging the mother lode of incense and natural soap that my edges began to soften a bit. I wasn’t too interested at first, until he stood up from the perch he had on his van and started teaching us of the miraculous healing properties of some shitty soap that sounded like “doo-doo” but was really something else that I just didn’t give a shit about. That was when I realized he was awesome. At first, it was because I thought he had a British accent, but then I think he was just slurring really bad from prolonged use of psychedelics. How nice of him to come to Trader Jack’s flea market straight from Woodstock.
“Buy some of this shit,” I hissed at Henry.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because that is one cool asshole.”
And so Henry bought some shit, that scared little bitch. He bought a whole heap of incense and found out later it makes him sneeze.
Yeah, you count that cash, you cock sucker. Bet it’s going straight into some yeasty g-strings, you sex addict. SUCK A DICK.”
Speaking of sex addiction (a very serious plight not to be taken lightly), there seemed to be a LOT of porn there this time. Large cardboard boxes marked ADULT DVDS XXX in thick black marker were nestled smack in the middle of baby clothes and Care Bears. I desperately felt the urge to rummage and pilfer, but felt strange doing so with Blake with us. I’d like him to not speculate upon my sex life with his father.
I saw a produce-hawker go apeshit on a pile of empty banana boxes. I don’t know what got all up inside his puckered sphincter, but he was hurling the boxes out of the back of his truck and plowdriving them into the gravel. His face was red and his fat lips were a’quake with obscenities. I stopped to gawk for awhile, savoring the terror that was arresting my heart. Violence makes me wet.
More flea market assholes, plus Chooch and Blake.
There was some girl there who was clinging onto her youth even more desperately than me. Quite possibly the oldest scene kid ever, and ridiculously so. As she pushed a stroller past us, she giggled and very coquettishly said, “I like your piercings!” to Blake. After she walked away, Blake mumbled, “Dumb bitch.” It was high-five worthy.
The only cool people there. Aside from Blake and me.
Sometimes, for no reason, I would growl. Say, for instance, someone in a Kenny Chesney shirt would push past me, in a huge fucking hurry to look at fake designer sunglasses, my arms would get all stiff and I’d just fucking growl. Ew, grr.
Henry wouldn’t buy me this awesome Jesus Loves Me hat. Now I’ll have to find something else to wear to the church fair. My garter belt and a Cannibal Corpse shirt, I guess.
Later that day, Henry was telling me that his mom asked him to take her to the flea market next weekend.
I laughed, it was an angry laugh, and said, “I think I’ll sit that one out.”
“You ain’t kidding,” he said. Supposedly I’m banned for life or something.
(Final version of a dumb essay I wrote for my Creative Non-Fiction class last fall, and never posted because I forgot.)
You might not know it, but North Versailles, a town once thriving during the height of the steel mill boom, is the home of a veritable
The weather was dreary on the day I visited, with showers bullying the outside vendors in sporadic episodes. Even with only a third of the back lot being utilized and the omnipresent threat of rain, the hardcore flea marketers were not deterred, as evidenced by the number of times my boyfriend was forced to circle the main lot in search of an empty parking space.
It was still relatively early on a Sunday morning, yet the parking lot was already a-bustle with shoppers darting in and out of traffic on their way back to their vehicles, arms pregnant with loot. I was at once awash in a sea of fanny-packs and spandex-sausaged torsos, Steelers jerseys and trucker caps, high-waisted seersucker trousers and Hawaiian-printed shirts; they scurried in erratic patterns like locusts during a Biblical plague. Two of the locusts — a visored elderly couple, one of whom toted an old lamp in grotesque shades of the Seventies — crossed in front of a line of moving vehicles, with little regard. If this is any indication of the pedestrian carelessness in flea market land worldwide, I’m not surprised that a young boy was killed in the nineties when a truck backed into him when this market used to be located down the street at the now-demolished Eastland Mall. In its previous carnation, the flea market was called the Superflea and with the local mall now in ruins, the people of
The inside of the converted theater harbors the booths and tables for the more high-brow set: Racks of clothing that haven’t been worn before, handmade crafts, baked goods — generally nothing that has been previously worn or used. I decided to tackle the back grounds first, so we quickly bypassed the frustrating stop-and-go traffic flow of bargain hunters determined to scrutinize every last piece of price-tagged merchandise.
Posted to the back door was a typed and laminated sign that insisted “No heelies to be worn inside or outside.” My boyfriend obsessed over the meaning of “heelies” for most of our visit (wheeled shoes, you dumb ass), but I had more important issues vexing my mind: I needed to know who Rossi was.
Upon exiting the back doors, I was immediately barraged by a goulash of dueling aromas: teriyaki chicken and soul food duked it out to my right, while the best of Poland’s delicacies sparred to my left with the hot sausage sandwich heavy weight over at Mike’s Neighborhood Grill (also notable for his award-winning Philly cheese steak). Two food trailers competed with the controversial spelling of kielbasa. (Or is it kolbassa?) At nine o’clock in the morning, haluski and fried chicken were not the most nasally pleasing scents. If it was afternoon, and, you know – I ate meat, I’d have been in my glory. Interspersed between so many savory selections were trailers shilling funnel cake, and the Slushie King was doling out sno-cones to children who displayed such a caricature of excitement that I wondered if they had never delighted in frozen sweets before. It was like Rossi’s very own carnival midway.
In spite of this festival of food, the rest of the parking lot gave off the vibe of a ghost town. If tumbleweed had blown past my ankles, it would have been suiting. There were tables lined up, but the hearts of the people manning them just weren’t in it. No one yelled things like, “Two dollars! Two for three!” or “Are you looking at that weed whacker?! It works! It really works! You can see for yourself, FOR TEN DOLLARS!” Walking past a table stacked with old issues of Woman’s World and a paltry selection of VHS dramas (Steel Magnolias was a steal of a deal for a buck), two middle-aged women sat slouched over in lawn chairs. Staring straight ahead with glazed-over eyes, the one whose mouth had yet to become mummified by boredom’s glue mumbled, “I can’t believe we have two more hours of this shit.” It never occurred to me before that these people are taking chances when they rent out lots. If the weather, so notoriously unpredictable, is sketchy that day, the vendors could potentially lose out on a lot of money, breaking even if they’re lucky.
The weather hadn’t managed to put a damper on everyone’s day, though. I walked past one woman, fresh from purchasing a VHS chockfull of show tunes. As she trotted back to her group of fellow flea marketers, I heard her squeal, “And it has ‘Luck Be a Lady’ on it too so we can all sing together tonight in the living room after dinner!” A small part of me hoped she was being facetious, but mostly I derived a perverse pleasure in imagining that some families do functional things like after dinner sing-alongs, maybe while wearing bonnets, and then I imagine myself watching from behind a bush, laughing and taking video to post on You Tube.
I was making my way down the third aisle of tables and still hadn’t found a single item that was worth parting ways with the crumpled dollar bill stuffed into the pocket of my jeans. In the past, a lone dollar bill had gained me a nudie mug, a chipped metal bangle bracelet that leaves a bruised band around my wrist, and a 1940’s 8×10 school portrait of one of the table vendors. That was my favorite flea market find, I think. I made up an elaborate back story about how he was my vampiric Uncle Otis who was haunted by chimeras of his ex-lover; I couldn’t imagine why my friends didn’t believe me.
Oh, I had seen such sights on this day though, like an entire table piled with hats of all styles and varying degrees of camouflage. Some of the hats went a step beyond and boasted embroidered John Deere patches and one had a real knee-slapper of a slogan draped across it: “Remington: Size Matters!” Had I been there alone, I’d have gladly set up camp and waited all day just on the off-chance that I’d get to spy the lucky person to score that gem.
Other tables are decorated with children’s books that look suspiciously five-fingered from the library, like “Why Am I Going to the Hospital?”, and yellow-paged mystery novels by Dean Koontz and Nora Roberts and I know without getting too close that they come complete with the musty stench of a grandmother’s basement. Laid out on ratty and frayed bath towels are a downtrodden array of rusted shovels, hoes, hedge clippers and spades — a serial killer’s wet dream. Or a gardening fetisher’s. An entire table was devoted to glassware that must have looked really good when it was used on the set of “Mama’s Family.”
A woman hawked jewelry draped along the hood of her maroon Alero while next door, a burly man sporting a sleeveless American Legend shirt and a rustic beard stood cross-armed over his collection of tools and Harley Davidson bric-a-brac. I definitely wasn’t interested in any biker memorabilia.
Every few minutes, the oldies tunes – the elevator music of flea markets — blasting from outdoor speakers would cut out and a booming voice bubbling over with a showman’s enthusiasm would remind us shoppers to stop by Teresa’s Treasures, formerly known as Frick and Frack, for some fresh baked goods; or he would promote the aforementioned Mike’s Neighborhood Grill, who must have slipped the MC a Hamilton because there was a real urgency to his voice every time he would tap on the mic and remind us that hey, Mike’s still over there in the red and white trailer frying up some of that award-winning grub of his. OK, we get it: Mike rules.
Intrigued by this bodiless voice, I abandoned the garage sale fare of the outdoors for the more glamorous vendibles inside. Also, that’s where the bathroom was.
The main difference I observed inside was that each table has its own niche. Unlike the tables in the parking lot, the merchandise here was new and laid out in a neat and eye-catching array with glitter-painted signs that yelled, “Hey look Real Stillers shirts here! Tags still on!” and “Ninetento [sic] tapes $5-$8!” Above the storefronts of the indoor vendors hang wooden signs with their store’s name burned into it. Coincidentally, the maker of those very signs had his own booth set up, with a TV – squatting in the midst of charred wood signs — airing a running loop of his workshop. I paused to watch it, but became bored after three seconds. I’m sad to see that Eileen’s Crafts & Whatever: Home of the Special Angels is closed, because maybe I might have wanted to buy a special angel, or a ‘whatever.’
Later that day, after lamenting the fact that I couldn’t even find one single coral necklace or macramé pot holder amongst the knoll of orphaned junk to bring home, I dwelled once again on Rossi. At this point, I didn’t even care about meeting him. A tiny blurb on a website would have sufficed. Or perhaps a MySpace profile.
Google searches for Rossi’s identity only bring up individual websites of several of the vendors, such as Deanna’s Mountain T-Shirts. She is very excited to announce via her webpage that you can find her brand-new Betty Boop and race car shirts at Rossi’s every Saturday and Sunday! When she’s not slinging those and her new and gently worn jewelry, she designs websites. I hope they’re as visually pleasing as her website, with all of its seizure-inducing emoticons and gifs. I mean, if I’m paying for a professional website, I better get a blinding background and lots of waving American flags, and maybe a cheery midi file droning on as the page loads.
Determined to find answers, I revisited Rossi’s a week later. The sun was shining bright and the temperature was September’s signature crisp and clear; in other words, the venders were easily excitable and rearin’ to go.
Admittedly, I wanted to catch a glimpse of this elusive announcer, too. My boyfriend laughed and said, “Um, you walked right past him and his podium last week when you went to the bathroom.” I wasn’t sure if I completely believed my boyfriend that the MC’s voice was not really the product of a tape playing in a loop. I wished for a twist ending where I would tug back a heavy velvet curtain or at the very least a moth-eaten sheet of burlap, to find that Rossi and the announcer were one and the same.
I had to employ the Cardinal rule of flea markets: do not make eye contact with sellers if you’re not trying to waste money. They’re like puppies in a pound – you toss them the tiniest bone of a glance, and you’re taking their shit home with you.
Sometimes this doesn’t work, usually when you end up idling past a seller who is overly-anxious to be rid of his cache. A mustachioed man, noticing my small child in the stroller, spastically lunged into his pile of corroded tapes and waved a Barney video at me. “Barney video, one dollar!” he barked. I smiled and kept walking. I’m sure it was full of titillating moral tales, and my child will obviously grow up into a puppy-kicking plane hijacker without the guidance of a purple dinosaur in his life, but no thanks. He wouldn’t give up. “Barney tape, for free!”
Not one to pass up free swag, my internal dialogue was a’swirl.
But it’s Barney!
But it’s free!
“Oh, thank you, but I don’t have a VCR,” I quickly stuttered, shifting my eyes. He was still blurting out offers when I nervously jogged to another table, far away, that wasn’t shilling free children’s tapes. Why don’t the elderly ladies shilling fantastically kitschy costume jewelry make such offers? Further down, another man looking as though he were visiting from the mountains of
“Are you looking at my fan? Two dollars! And it works!” I recoiled slightly at the sight of his mouth rot.
No, I was looking at your shitty rust receptacles, but thanks.
As I was toeing the line between boredom and frustration, unable to give a shit about tattered cook books with coffee rings and cheap sunglasses framed in fluorescent shades, the sky parted, golden rays of second hand angel dust rained upon our heads, and the voice of the announcer reverberated through the lot.
“Wayne and Ellie Jackson, there is a situation at your vehicle that requires immediate attention.”
Once inside, it was all a blur. I hurried past the lady manning a table of bread and gloves (although I did slow down a bit to see if the gloves were the kinds with the rubber nubbies on them as I have a slight fetish); I bumped into a man looking at baseball cards and vaguely recall him grunting a reply to my rudeness; I paused briefly to demolish a sample of apricot pastry. Always pause for pastries.
As I rounded a corner, my boyfriend pointed. “There he is right there. MC Rich K.”
Standing behind a podium, all wrapped up in a snug leather jacket, loomed the body behind the voice. I had every intention of talking to him, asking him about this supposed Rossi character, but my voice was caught. I had built him up so much in my head, maybe as much as Rossi by that point, that he had become my own Wizard of Oz, and now he was standing there before me, yelling into his cell phone like some hot shot Wall Street power broker.
“I just gave you an ad! Didn’t you hear it?” he shouted disgustedly.
This was the body of the voice coated with Santa-caliber merriment? If I were a vendor, I’d invest in a bullhorn and do my own publicity before relying on that asshole.
Intimidated, I instead grabbed a brochure from the information kiosk next to MC Rich K, playing it off like that was why I had come barreling toward him, and then I went home. I guess I wasn’t too determined after all.
The brochure ended up being a poorly edited odyssey down comic sans lane, and of course any information regarding the enigmatic Rossi, now fabled in my mind, was furtively omitted. Maybe Rossi isn’t even a person. Maybe Rossi is the dead childhood goldfish of property owner Jim Aiello and it’s a tribute in the same vein of Snickers, the candy bar named after a family horse. Food Network taught me that.
Or maybe I should just take a nap and wake up with a new futile obsession.
Regardless, even though my pressing questions about the flea market’s namesake went unanswered, I’ll be sure to go back the next time I’m in the market for a purse with sequins so big, it could solar power an entire house on its own.