On East 55th Street, 1/2 mile south of the Lake, a Saturday afternoon in August, it's like this: a square cinder block store, all by it's lonesome, fronted by two older gents plopped on the bent tailgate of a truck parked right next to the building. A kaleidoscopic display of items dragged outside to the cracked sidewalk in an effort to catch eyes in the passing crowd.
Vacuum cleaners on rickety sidewalk tables, small appliances with maybe a few on-and-offs left, a couple of Toro mowers amid weedy patches. Then there's the decorative department: ornate mirrors reflecting a mix of sun and clouds, the venerable white hippie Jesus glossy prints in plastic frames, graphic-rich low thread count towels and unidentified ends, mostly odds.
On the way we are to the chic flea market just a half-block down from this bustle-desiring spot of commerce. It's the flea-market-as-event, with music, food and varieties of ice cream nobody ought to care about (lavender??). Yes, that's a massage chair booth off to the left of the gourmet food truck. But the day is bright, the mood light, and look around we shall.
The clothes on sturdy-grade racks tend to the "old once-now back" variety (pricey either way), and most of the jewelry is cool and earnest, some even exceptional. Collectibles and curios, snow cones promoted to shaved ice with 100% natural juices (nary a bright orange high fructose corn syrup jug to be found), expensive sports jerseys and overpriced crafty decorative items of the re-purposed kind.
But nowhere sits old-school flea junk, you know, the unearthed (un-basmented) remnants deserving of their dark fate, even in the light. Lamps looked over, once-pretty vases passed by, needy toys tepidly considered and then dismissed. But those bent and stained books were once somebody's to read, and the vinyl records in cardboard covers surely grooved into receptive ears.
It's the new old Flea Market routine: we shuffle and look, touch and say, "look," and "huh." It's just stuff anyway you cut it, dressed up and hipster-certified or grimy with a whiff of desperation. Stuff we can decide to carry, covet, buy, reject, receive or not.
Because there's always more stuff where that came from, but all the time spent looking back never returns.