Visitors to my home sometimes remark on the interesting objects I've gathered over the years. Unintentionally, I've amassed collections of - among other items - radios, lighters, flashlights, knives, paperweights, electric fans, etc. I'm not interested much in simply adding to these collections: what usually draws me in is the appreciation I feel for well-made items from America's long-gone manufacturing past.
Yes, a few of the previously-mentioned items were found on eBay. But the bulk came from flea markets. I've been trolling them since I was 9 or 10. A cheap family outing on a Sunday meant driving one town west to Copiague, visiting my grandmother and then heading to the Johnny All-Weather Drive-In Flea Market. The Johnny All-Weather (because it had an indoor theater, too) was - supposedly - the largest drive-in in the country, so you can imagine the size of the parking lot. I'd rummage up and down the rows, scrutinizing every folding table piled high with other people's junk in search of anything that took my fancy, sometimes something practical - a toolbox - more often something utterly without utility: a stuffed squirrel. It was all the same to me because it was all A) a bargain and B) to be pressed into service somehow.
The toolbox is long-gone, since replaced by other flea market tool boxes, but I still have the squirrel, nick-named "Mr. Nibbles" by a friend. By his mere presence he once convinced a real, live squirrel - who had fallen through a shoddy suspended ceiling into the front room of my crummy Hoboken railroad apartment - to jump out the window I opened for him.
But where will tomorrow's stuffed squirrels come from if the flea markets go away? One of my favorite, the Sixth Avenue flea market in Manhattan (it was actually several markets, stretching from 25th to 28th street, on both sides of the avenue) is long gone, replaced by condo towers. Now I hear my favorite (and nearest) flea market, the open-all-year Meadowlands Flea Market, might also become a victim of development.
Located in one of the parking lots for Giants Stadium, it's been rumored the flea market will go away when:
- The Giants finish construction on their new training facilities.
- The Giants and Jets begin construction on a new stadium.
- The hideous eyesore known as Xanadu is complete.
Xanadu, for those of you who haven't been eagerly following its history, is supposed to be an "entertainment destination", with an indoor ski slope, Formula One racetrack, the country's largest movie theater, a giant Ferris wheel, etc., etc. The project was to be completed by now but has been mired in controversy and shady business dealings. Whatever it ends up being (and the surest bet is "glorified mall"), Xanadu will certainly gobble up any available parking at the Meadowlands. Which is why you should start patronizing the Meadowlands Flea Market now. It's open Saturdays, 9 AM to roughly 2 PM, has an ATM machine and bathrooms and plays a nice selection of 50's, 60's and 70's oldies over the PA system.
On our most recent visit, this past Saturday, my wife and I picked up a nice metal bistro set (two chairs, a small, round table) for the backyard for $35 (bargained down from $40) and I replaced the small Swiss Army knife that disappeared from my keychain for $4. Here's some other temptations:
I've seen these Ion USB turntables in stores for $100 to $200 but at the Meadowlands Flea Market? $70, the nice price.
I wonder if one of my favorites is in there...
I hope to see you in the Meadowlands this Saturday, weather permitting. And I'd like you to tell me about your favorite flea market, so it doesn't become extinct. While you're at it, share a favorite flea market find - and remember: flea marketing is recycling!