I hope you had a fantastic Superbowl Sunday and ate your fill of nachos and chicken wings. My husband was able to see his team win while working in Australia, my youngest son followed the game on his way to camp in Utah, my daughter opted instead to shop in NYC while the boys on her school trip watched the game in their hotel room, and my oldest son said, “That’s today?”, while busily rewiring the landscape lights in the front yard. I was fortunate enough to be included in a friend’s party and it was fun spending time with her friends and family.
I began the day, however, rifling through other people’s things.
#95, Go to a flea market
When I put together The List, my friend Erica reviewed it and checked a few items that she would like to do with me. The flea market was one of them. Erica collects textiles and pottery, and has an appreciation for great design. She has been scouring flea markets for years, and proved a very helpful guide. Many of her trips in the past decade have included her friend, Karen, who is also an experienced collector. She joined us today. I was happy to have seasoned pros lead the way.
On the first Sunday of every month, there is a flea market on the campus of Pasadena City College. It is huge. It fills a few levels of a parking structure and extends outside to other large spaces. The flea market is free, but parking is $2.
I saw a few tables with covered chafing dishes, so I assume there is food to be had, but we were on a mission and didn’t pause at them.
We started our trek in the parking structure where both Karen and Erica know specific vendors. Erica told me that a good rule of thumb to follow is to have the people in your group shop at their own pace, but wait at the end of each row for everyone to meet up again.
This was great advice, because it is surprising how hard it can be to find your friends once it gets crowded and your eyes are exhausted from the visual chaos. There is SO MUCH to see. For a somewhat methodical person like me, I had to quickly abandon the idea that I could see everything.
Each vendor has a space and they fill it with display tables, bookshelves, or glass cases to show their wares. There were tables heaped with books, glassware, pottery, old cameras, jewelry, clothing, dishes, linens, tools, kitchen items, furniture, and a myriad of other things.
Within moments of being there, I saw so many items that jogged my memory. I saw a china pattern that my mother-in-law once used, I saw Roseville pottery that my friend Bud collects, I saw Limoges china that was a favorite of my grandmother.
It was literally a trip down memory lane.
Erica told me that it is interesting to learn what you are drawn to. You might think you are just after pottery bowls, but then you find that you keep lingering at each stall that offers depression glass, for example.
I was amused to find that I loved anything that had to do with the old west. I loved cowboy memorabilia, and items that would have belonged on a rancho, or in old California. I already knew I liked farm-related items, but it was fun to see the parallel between my ancestry in the Southwest and my penchant for items that had once belonged there.
Something larger resonates when you touch the items that perhaps adorned the mantle of a relative a few hundred years before. They have stories and souls and secrets hidden inside them.
And I have a powerful love of story.
I love to read, I love lectures, I love dinner parties with animated guests who’ve returned from a voyage. I once fell in love with veteran LA Times food writer, Charles Perry, for thirty seconds at a party at the Central Library. Though we’d only been briefly introduced, I overheard his introduction to a story that began something like this, “It was 35 degrees celsius, as I stepped into a shrimp boat on the Yellow River, of the Mekong delta province of Ben Tre in Vietnam in 1978.”
I wanted to live inside that sentence, or at least be able to have the kinds of adventures that would fashion my own sentences out of sweaty oars, shrimp boats, and balmy seas.
Somewhere I have the actual sentence he spoke written down. This is the extent of my experience with the celebrity crush.
Flea markets are havens of stories. Not only do the items themselves have stories, the people selling them have their own intriguing stories. I met a lot of characters at the market, many of whom who didn’t seem particularly interested in selling their stuff, but instead were relishing the experience. They visited with other vendors, shared information with customers, received pointers from collectors, and sat long spells just rubbing the bellies of the dogs at their feet.
I purchased a few things at the market. This red plaid thermos will help me when I get to List item #43. I liked the thermos because it holds a lot and has cups that fit neatly into the lid for sharing. The thermos was offered at $12, but I negotiated my way to $10, completing list item #324, Haggle the price of something.
I purchased this little Roseville vase because I’ve always liked Roseville pottery. I’ve never purchased a piece, and it was only $15.
It has a little flaw near the rim, I think, but I’m only interested in filling it with flowers so it makes no difference to me.
I bought a few old books for a dollar each.
and some beautiful new cards that were only $1. I also bought a little wooden spoon that I thought would be good for serving olives.
I also bought this old record. I don’t even have a record player (yet), but my stepdad listened to this record over and over in my childhood. I still have much of it memorized. It will be fun to listen to it one day and fondly remember Mike singing along.
When we arrived at this table, a tall old guy delighted in quizzing us on the use of each item.
The flower shaped iron with the wooden handle was used for shaping women’s hats, as a millinery tool. The scissor-shaped items were for cutting candle wicks and carrying embers. He also showed us a tool which shaved ice for turn-of-the-century snow cones.
We arrived at this table and were slightly disgusted to learn that these bones were often used for toothpicks.
Here are Erica and Karen looking at cards. Karen is wearing an Afghani skirt and Russian Coral necklace which she had purchased at different stalls, just moments before. Erica has a large wheeled cart that held all our loot.
I enjoyed the flea market and I will visit again, if only to wander through history and to hear tall tales.
#21, Try a New Restaurant Each Week, 6/52
#211, Listen to a Weekly Podcast, 6/52
This week I listened to the Three Chefs and a Meal from The Moth radio hour. Great stories, you’ll love them.
#127, Perform a Weekly Random Act of Kindness, 6/52
My son, Joseph, and I were having a farewell dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurant on Saturday night. We were seated in the bar because there was a long wait to be seated in the restaurant. Young people were staring at our table as we ate, pressing us to finish. I saw a couple of older women hovering near the end of the crowd, wondering if it was worth the wait. I quietly let them know that we’d be leaving soon and offered to let them sit with us while we waited for the check. It was a tiny thing, but they were so relieved.
#14, Watch one Annenberg Iris Series Lecture each week, 6/52
I was pleased to see that Joel Sartore’s lecture, which I attended in January, is now online. There is also a brief series of interviews about the photo ark on Inside Iris Nights. I watched those spots this week.
Joel Sartore is working hard to save the species and habitats of the world while they are still with us. Learn more and help by visiting, www.joelsartore.com.
#365, Do a Weekly Photo Shoot, 6/52
This week, I took lots of pictures. From my Bird Watch day to Cookie-Con, I was doing a great deal of snapping. I need to set aside an afternoon or two this next week to learn more about my new camera. I am learning a lot by doing, but I need to do some real homework too.
# 119, Attempt a New Recipe Each week, 6/52,
This week I think the only new recipe I made was the Lemon Curd. I hope to make a few more new things next week.
327 days to go!