Of all the columns I write, this was the most arduous. This week's topic was difficult to select, between the first ever Art IN, '80s Prom at Blank Slate, the World's Largest Gun Show, etc. But, The Tulsa Flea Market prevailed, an activity to which I alluded last week, and I decided against altering my plans.
What follows will be as carefully crafted as any of my other pieces, and possibly more emotional. The reason is, it will be my last in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The "Hey, ya'll have been great and I'll miss this" column.
When I began this endeavor, my aim was to be adequately introduced to Tulsa with help from you, readers of UTW. Today's the day. I'm a Tulsan now. I've experienced much of what Tulsa has to offer, from burlesque to museums to beard growing competitions to the thriving art scene. Sure, I still have a few more things on the list like Big Splash and that mysteriously awkward Cave House where 3rd Street becomes Charles Page, but that's another story.
No spring snowstorm this week meant I could comb through stacks, piles and gobs of interesting and uninteresting wares. I was slightly concerned I'd never make it through the door of the Exchange Center at Expo Square, 4145 E. 21st St., for the flea market because of the surplus of gun-lovers and pollutant recyclers and, more importantly, their vehicles. Parking at the Fairgrounds was approaching Tulsa Fair-like absurdity on Saturday, April 4.
After spending more than 10 minutes searching for a space where cars, RVs and trucks littered the parking lot without rhyme or reason, my patience paid off. We snuck into a space only 50 yards from the Exchange Center entrance.
"You think we're safe?" I asked Cristi. "None of these fools are going to double-park and block us in, are they?"
We both felt comfortable risking it.
Flea markets bring out my mother in me. It's almost as if the genes I inherited from her perk up and say, "Isaac, there's a deal in here. You have to find it, son."
Wait, those buttons are bakelite, I say to myself, they're worth something, but that's as far as I get before reality sets in. Bakelite's a plastic, and it's worth more than your run-of-the-mill plastic, but beyond that my expertise hits an abyss. Where can I find a bakelite investor, if I were to purchase said buttons, I ponder. This is immediately followed with an even greater concern from the conspiracy theorist in me: what if it really isn't bakelite?
What if the sellers are preying on my limited knowledge of plastics? Is this button really even worth $4?
Also, it's pronounced bake-uhh-light. If you mispronounce it the venders will surely be on to you. You'll end up walking away with standard polypropylene and feeling like a putz. No one wants to pay bakelite prices for polyprope, yo!
I quickly abandon any notion of finding treasure. I, instead, decide to merely turnover my lifelong collection of all things meaningless to luck; it's a crapshoot anyway. If one day I want to assess the value of my many accumulated goods, I'll stand in line at the Antiques Roadshow. I'll be sure to get a second ticket for my mother.
Cristi found sacks of buttons for crafting projects, the basis for my aforementioned mini-rant. We also found hundreds of varieties of rubber duckies, stuffed olives and spoons that had been molded into jewelry. The latter I fashioned into a gift for a special someone. We came across some inflated DVDs, which bothered me. If I were looking to pay $8 for Twins, I'd go to Best Buy, people. If I can get it for less than $3 on Amazon, well, it takes the fun out of finding it at a flea market for a much higher price. You might get me on the aged plastics, but I know my Twins.
Also, I was suspicious of toothpaste and shampoo being sold during the flea market. "Hey, hot shampoo," Cristi and I said simultaneously.
The flea market toothpaste reminded me of my Belizean neighbor who coincidentally complained of his toothpaste tasting "a little off" the very week the FDA recalled the product he was using (we were notified by the Peace Corps nurse). The product contained a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze.
Not worth it, I thought.
The charming quality of events like the flea market exists in the insight they offer about our society. It's obvious I am not alone in my quest for a find. Nor am I the only one eager to land the jewel of the market--something I can buy for pennies and sell for dollars, or, better yet, invest dollars and, in turn, make thousands.
It's a glimpse into America where rare is desirable. And, accumulation of such rarities is a measure of status. It represents, for many, the American dream. A dream that is potentially attainable for anyone with knowledge, patience and a hell of a lot of luck.
For me, investing in antiques could be lucrative, but ultimately I am not committed to the time needed to both educate myself and search out these rarities. I'd much rather flip through the DVDs, records and sunglasses once every couple of months at the market and make a snarky remark. While I'm doing so I can take the opportunity to pause and say to myself, "There's a deal here, Isaac."
"Don't I look like Kanye with these cool shades over my already existing glasses? Oh yeah!" I'll say.
Maybe it's the desk that's older than both my parents combined. The treasure could lie in that elderly woman's figurine collection. Either way it's fun to speculate, meet some peculiar vendors, hear an outlandish tale, and see some shit. Such is life at the Tulsa Flea Market. Check the schedule of upcoming Fairgrounds' events on the Web site for the next chance to land a deal, or a Twins DVD at www.exposquare.com/es/
I'd like to say something memorable or pretentious (okay, just pretentious) about my departure, but the only thing that seems fit is: I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I.
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