Thursday, October 2, 2008

London Terrace Street Fair 2008

Friday Night

Larry decides that we should celebrate tomorrow's street fair with a margarita. As he fills the two glasses, he says, "Just one," meaning that we can't get wasted, since we need to be up at 6 a.m.

After the second margarita, we eat pizza, then pass out.

Click Read More to continue

At 4:15, I wake up and realize that I will not be going back to bed. This happens when I drink too much. I power sleep, and then the alcohol wears off and I'm up three hours early with a hangover.

I decide to go online. I post a few items to You May Also Like, and realize that 5:15 a.m. is a great time to blog! There are no interruptions and I'm in the perfect frame of mind. Cynical, but not overly negative.

The alarm goes off at 6:15. I press snooze and realize that It's going to be a really long day.

David comes at 7:00 with his friend Craig, who will be helping him today. After a debriefing, I realize that this is a bit of a logistical pain in the ass. Who does what and when?

We decide that we'll bring a few boxes over to the spot while Larry gets the car. David, Craig and I walk over to 24th street. I rush ahead, eager to find our spot. I smile when I see it. Not only is it close to 9th avenue, but there is a construction shed on the sidewalk, which will provide emergency shelter when the rains come.

I am bracing for the worst.

Since it's only 8:00, there are very few people on the street. A round woman with glasses is in the next spot. She has a shopping cart full of what I determine to be "garbage," and is accompanied by a very frantic little Asian girl who is climbing the construction shed.

Oh, she's going to be a pain in the ass. I think.

Larry shows up after an eternity to drop off the tables and the six boxes of merchandise that he and I will be selling. He leaves with David and Craig to pick up the 30 boxes that they will be trying to unload today. These 30 boxes have been in our apartment for several weeks.

As I try to figure out a layout for the four tables, the little Asian Girl (henceforth referred to as LAG) starts to bother me.

"My grandma lives in 453."

"Really? Me too! What's her name!"

The name doesn't ring a bell, so I shrug it off. I then realize that she was talking about 453 W 24th street. Not 23rd.


As I cover the folding tables with plastic table cloths, a gust of wind blows them off and into the muddy gutter.

"Fuck!" I yell within hearing distance of LAG.

I finally clip them in place with binder clips brought with me.

A very stern, older woman with a clipboard walks by. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her stop at my table, then walk away. She must be checking to see if we are taking up more than our assigned 10 x 10 space.

When she leaves without saying anything, I am relieved.

I begin to unpack the boxes, which is not an easy feat with the wind, which threatens to blow away all the newspaper I'm trying to save for rewrapping purchased items.

The spot on the other side of ours is now home to two women in their sixties. It seems that they have but a card table and a chair. Not much going on theirs.

Larry pulls up and we unload the car quickly, stacking David's boxes in a massive, growing pile. It takes two carloads to get it all to the site before 9:00, when all cars must be off the street. I cringe when one of David's boxes explodes open.

As David begins unpacking and setting up, a little old lady comes over to ask what I'll do if it starts to rain.


I am dying to know what is in David's 30 boxes, but there isn't much time for browsing right now.

With our table almost filled, the woman with the clipboard comes back.

"That blue piece of tape marks the end of your spot," she says.

"Oh, okay. Thank you!" I say, as she walks away.

I look at the green pole with the blue piece of tape. I am prodruding six inches into the space occupied by the two older women.

Because the women in the adjoing space have heard this, I am obligated to move the heavy table. People tend to get very territorial, and if you encroach on their space, they will let you know about it. I'm not in the mood for a fight today.

I gently drag the table away from the imaginary boundary line. Even on the newly paved street, it shakes and clatters, items teetering and clinking together. I stop, muttering, "This is good enough," because I don't want to risk breaking anything. I see the two women exchange glances, then look at me.

Oh, great. Are we gonna have trouble now? I think to myself.

Suddenly, Larry shows up and immediately greets the two women as though he were a dignitary.

"Hello, I'm Larry, your neighbor!" he says, shaking hands with the women.

This is what I should have done, but I spent more time hating them for no reason at all.

The weather is overcast, but I'm wondering what will happen when it starts to rain. I look enviously at the other sellers. "See, Larry? They all have tents," I say, reminding him that I had suggested we get a tent - even if we just sold it to another vendor at the end of the day.

"I'm not buying a tent for one day," he said to me, ending the argument before it even began.

David's table is immediately swarmed and it's not hard to see why. Everything on his table shines, sparkles and just draws you in. There is a massive crystal ice bucket, a set of brass candlesticks, a gorgeous cobalt blue pitcher, a wool rug that we immediately covet, a large painting, a stack of Turkish towels, hardcover books that are still new, silverware and glassware. There is much more than I can see through the throng of eager, crazed people who snatch things up with lightening speed.

I joke to Larry that it looks like an estate sale. I stop laughing when our table full of dusty antiques becomes largely ignored.

About a half hour later, I realize that I have not made a space big enough for my mosaics, so I start to cram things together in order to make one. I decide that my fancy-shmancy Shards of Glass sign will stay in the box. Had I had my own table, I'd have the opportunity to showcase them, but here, they just look lost.

After I display my 16 pieces ever so carefully, I stand back and wait. People don't seem to notice. I had expected a mob scene, with people fighting over them, begging me to make more, and having to call the police to restore order and control the massive crowd.

I'm dehydrated and hungover, not to mention full of anxiety, so I go to the store to get four bottles of water. When I return, I see that Larry has placed business cards in each of my mosaics.

One woman stops by and asks about them, but doesn't even ask how much. I tell her to take a card. She does so hesitantly, as if this might be the straw that breaks the camel's purse.

The bizarre nature of this flea market rears its ugly, misshapen, shitty head. On the table are a few tacky AVON cologne bottles from the 70s. One is in the shape of a stoplight, one is a calculator, another is a Ford pickup truck and one is in the shape of a plaid thermos.

The plaid thermos is immediately sold to a man who collects, you guessed it, plaid thermoses.

This sets me off and my sore-loser attitude flares up. "Fuck. What a disaster," I think to myself. I feel regret now, that I shouldn't have bothered. Epic failure.

I try to correct myself. No, Chris. Be positive. Everybody wants your mosaics. They will come in no time. And stop folding your arms. That's a sign of aggression!

I take a brief walk around the fair, eyeing some 20x24 frames at $4.00 each. When I return to our table, I see that the reason no one is interested in my mosaics is because no one can see them! They are visually buried behind the other clutter on the table. I pick out a few choice pieces and bring them to the corners of the table.

The mob should be arriving right about now. I stand there and watch a man pick one up, then set it down again. He stares at them with intent, but not enough to buy. He leaves.

I go to the apartment to look for some S hooks to hang pictures on a nearby pole. When I come back, I see that Lori, my awesome coworker, has come to see me.

Things are finally looking up. Lori is my first sale. I am thrilled and honored. Suddenly, the same man returns and asks me about the mosaics. He collects glass items.

"Do you have a gallery?" he asks.

I look around for the hidden camera, because I'm shocked that he asked me this.

After discussing the pricing, I feel like we're going somewhere and recommend that he takes a card.

And then it starts to fucking rain.

The chaos is so immediate, so deliberate. The man disappears before I can properly say goodbye. I pull all the mosaics off the table because the grout is not waterproof. The business cards are now wet, bending and morphing from the rain. I am officially closed for the day. I spend the next ten minutes removing anything not waterproof from the table.

Lori leaves and I torture her, "It will be Monday before you know it!" I yell. The rain stops, but I feel like the damage is done. A ton of shoppers have been chased away by the rain.

Dejected, I need to leave this cursed table. "Larry, do you mind if I take a walk?"


I walk the length of the block to check out the competition. It's the usual flea market stuff, but I'm keeping an eye out for mosaic material. I see a large square vase for sale.

"How much?"

"I'll let it go for three dollars."

I race back and ask Larry for permission - and three dollars. When I return, I notice that what I assumed was wax is actually a big crack.

"I'll think about it," I lie. Anyone else would have scoffed arrogantly and cursed the woman for selling a damaged, useless vase.

Back at the booth, Andy, Larry's brother has shown up with his girlfriend Lisa. Andy had given Larry some items to sell, like childhood toys and some jeans.

"Is there anything you'd like to buy back?" I joke.

Larry has a potential customer. A Russian woman is interested in the gold leaf tea cup and matching saucer.

"How much?" she asks Larry.
"Twelve dollars."

A haggling war erupts. She comes back with 9, he responds with 11. Larry fears no one, so it is entertaining to watch him basically tell people to get lost when they object to the price.

"Do you have anything else European?" the woman asks, holding the teacup. The haggling war has not yet ended.

She eyes and old can, but changes her mind. After buying the cup for 10 dollars, she moves on to David's table. Larry steps out into the middle of the street to take a cigarrette break.

"She didn't buy the oil can?" I ask sarcastically.
"No! She was a pain in the ass!" he yells, loud enough for her to hear.

At 3:30, I decide that we should start marking things down. We dedicate the rear of the table to our "dollar section." I make a crude sign directing browsers to that area of the table via scribbled arrow.

Larry gets antsy, chasitising a woman standing near the table as though waiting for someone. "You have to buy something! You can't hang out in the store!"

The old kerosene lamp finally sells after an eternity. I'm hoping the kid won't actually try to light it when he gets home. God only knows what will happen.

For some reason, the old, yellow cookie jar fails to sell. Larry asks me to turn it over, in case there are some revealing markings that we can incorporate into a sales pitch.

"It says, I'll...never...sell.."

The man I spoke with earlier comes back to our table. He is frantically looking for something that he saw earlier. I try to stand so that he might notice me and yell, "You! How much for your entire collection?"

He leaves with his wife and I hope that maybe he might email me - or at least visit my Shards of Glass blog.

I take another walk and stumble across a very manly lesbian who has four square vases of different sizes scattered about the merchandise laying on a blanket in the street. I have seen these online going for 5 and 6 dollars each, so I try not to sound too excited, even though they are exactly what I am looking for. Jackpot.

"How much is this?" I ask, casually.
"One dollar."
"And this?"
"One dollar as well."

I buy them all, explaining that I cover them with mosaic tile. "Fierce," she says.

When I return, Larry looks at me as if I just bought someone's old record collection.

"We're trying to get rid of stuff," he says.

Larry takes a bathroom break and leaves me to watch the table. I'm a shitty seller and I have bad money karma.

A woman picks up the plexiglas cube with the uncirculated sterling silver coins embedded in it. "How much?" she asks.

I turn it over and look. "Two dollars." I never sold anything so fast. She throws it in her purse and leaves.

When Larry comes back, I proudly tell him that I sold it for two dollars.

"Two dollars? That was 12 dollars!" he says. Apparently, the price tag got wet, so the "one" just seemed like a blurry dollar sign to me.

At 5:30, we pile all the dollar items into a box and lay the box in the middle of the street. Larry's thinking is that people will surely notice this. I'm just worried someone might trip over it.

It's finally 6:00. The fair is officially over, but don't tell that to the large crowd of people in the street who are still shopping.

With an event like this, you need to watch for shoplifters. An old man approaches the dollar box in the street, bends down and places a glass bottle in his jacket pocket, then picks up another item and examines it.


I leisurely walk over to him. "Everything in that box is one dollar - including the bottle you just put in your jacket."

Slick, yes?


Because the box was sitting close to a trash can, the man assumed these were being tossed out any second.

Clipboard lady returns to tell us that we need to pack up and leave now. Finally, this soggy day is over.

Despite David's great success, he still ends up with ten boxes of stuff to bring back to his apartment. We load them into the back of the station wagon.

Because space is limited in the car, Larry wants to get rid of one of the tables, rather than take it home.

"No. It's a good table. Let's keep it." I say.

Little does he know I'm already planning to have my own tent-covered table for next year.

3 comments: said...

Tell us more about when u debriefed David and Craig....

Hamamama said...

I thought you were talking about me when you were writing about "LOG"...

Greatest line ever, "do you have a gallery!" -- such a huge compliment!! CONGRATS.

At least your long day provided all of us with a great read -- thank you!

"Mission" is enjoying his new home on the upper east...thanks again!!!

Hamamama said...

oops, I mean LAG