Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chapter 13 - Blistering Foot Rot/Dean Martin Swings

I must get a new pair of shoes or sandals or something soon. Mine rotting apart. Once white Nikes that defied gravity now ripped at the seams, filthy grey and feel like they've been dipped in french fry grease. My feet squirm to kick them off while Dean Martin croons Volare above my head -- at the decent Starbucks on Sunrise. But I am inside tonight and have not showered in over a week so it would be criminal to do so. I did get to wash up today though at the Swap Shop. Shaved, shampooed, brushed my teeth, washed my groin area and underarms and sanctified the latter with deodorant. The problem was there was no paper towel in the stall, just air so I pulled down a bunch of toilet paper and wiped the flooded floor with it using my insane tennis shoes. The old soft shoe.

We made a little today, about 20 bucks. A lady came up and asked how much the small decorated dessert serving sets were and I told her four bucks apiece since so many people seem to want to break up the sets lately and buy just one fork or spoon or pie server. four, eight, twelve right? No, she picked out two sets of three and handed me eight bucks. I did not correct her. Just took the desperately needed money and wrapped the damn things up.

An Italian guy bought an old power strip I found under the seat of the van.
Another person bought a small flashlight. Not much but we felt good today, a mostly sunny day with big scudders and some breezes that made the hot sun comfortable...I find I am really looking forward to this blog every night and in a bold move last night I emailed the editor of New Times and asked him for a job, even suggested this blog as a column platform. The Florida Craft/Art Fair Circuit, Farmer's Market and Flea Market culture, seen through the eyes of an insider, living in his van. Why not?

Tonights repast of Wendy's was enjoyable. Chili, french frys and a Caesar salad. We discussed Diogenes "The Dog" Laertes for some reason. His quip to Alexander the Great when the erudite conqueror offered him anything he asked. "Stand out of my sun." What a guy. The world could use a few more of his kind...

On the way to the Wendy's we heard an author speak on NPR about a book he had written called "The Walmart Effect". Very interesting stuff. Walmart is targeted as the reason small shop owners are going under. J points out that it isn't only Walmart though, it's a lot of places but the yuppies like to target Walmart because they don't shop there...

Peaceful night. 25 bucks left. A whole new flea market day tomorrow. There is always a chance that one or two people who get us will stroll through. I will probably dream of a brand new pair of tennis shoes tonight. They will have wings on them, made of origami one hundred dollar bills and I will be able to jump flea market drive-in theater screens in them.

Meanwhile, back here in Starbucks, I smile at all the possibilities with my brave and beautiful wife reading in the big chair in front of me, a look of interest on her face, the exquisite handmade purple pearl earrings she made a few days ago dangling, almost as if, if I blur focus out the other people sitting around the place, we were relaxing in our own home.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Chapter 12 - A Wendy's Spoon Catapult

A new idea occurred to me while we were eating our nightly Wendy's dollar chili and fries. A miniature catapult made from plastic spoons. With a small frame made from lacquered french fries, and an intricate pulley system of rubber bands, buck apiece... The Swap Shop was dead today with impending cloudbursts but I set up anyway, stacking the bricks and boards extra high for the jewelry display since I used one of our three tables to set traditional flea market items on. A rusty pliers, part of a curtain rod, more soap scents, a too small I heart Ft. Lauderdale t-shirt with a brown stain that somehow got mixed up with our stuff at the laundromat, a small half can of butane, a Canadian dollar coin, alongside I set a big table and very comfy lazy-boy that somebody had left from the day before, in fine condition except for worn upholstery. I half-heartedly set up the jewelry and decorated flatware and desert sets. Right off the rusty pliers sold for a dollar, then the t-shirt for two, then the part of the curtain rod -- "Just the part I needed!" -- and soon I had ten dollars in my pocket. Of course none of the jewelry we worked so hard on sold and then the rain hit with gusts of wind. Luckily I got the tarp over it all before the jewelry was soaked but unluckily the wind hit the tarp and took the whole display over with a crash. I was thankful that it did not waken J sleeping in the back of the van and only one necklace was crushed. We got out of there by 12:30.

We drove to a McDonalds and ordered four hamburgers for the dogs, both on dry food hunger strike. Of course they can't resist the burgers. We will need to get a roof over our heads soon. They need a routine and we need a roof. If we were making any money at all it would be okay since we could get a motel room a few days a week and that is enough but this washing up in Starbucks and Walmart is frustrating. Especially with Starbucks where the employees at this one in particular looked at me in horror when I came walking out with my wet hair (combed, in a pony tail and everything). I like the other karaoke Starbucks better. We don't stand out like freaks. There's a regular there who looks and dresses just like Willy Nelson. And nobody fucks with Willy. Well, you say, maybe not nobody...We are thinking of Gainseville where rents are very cheap. It is a good central location for doing craft shows and I would like to take a look at the sink hole the University there is studying, as a farmer's market manager told me in Phoenix, apparently they are growing things down in there that haven't grown for thousands of years. I imagine wierd things like radatos (radatoes?), tomarrots, Asperamelon...

This is undoubtedly one of the more judgemental Starbucks I have been in. When I came in with my bent cup, recycled from our van floor the manager looked at me with grin of disbelief that said, "Are you kidding?" Even after I dumped fifty cents into the tip box, with a padlock on it. But they gave it to me and now I hesitate to go up and get another lest she employ some shaming behavior that will sicken me.

On a good note I got an email from my old friend T today. What good drunken discussions we used to have. We were in a band together. LSB. He was a psycho drummer and I was the fucked up lead singer and crappy guitar player. Whoever else wanted to jam with us could but it was always just me and T. As I remember it in my selective imagination. Wants to bring his little girl to Disney World soon. Ought to be cool and hopefully I will have a place to put him up, like he has put me up a thousand times in Ann Arbor...

I finally go up for a refill. I get a very hostile stare from a young robot girl wiping tables. I smile at her and her stare flares with hate and she looks down. The woman behind the register asks what I need.
"A decaf."
"A decaf refill. Hmm. Let me get you a new cup. This one looks beat up."
"Yeah. I went a few rounds with it," I say cordially.
She looks at me, not amused, holding back a desire to say something. These are truly nasty people this Starbucks hires. I drop and extra buck of change in her tip box. It seems to make her even more hostile. I move over to the condiment section. There is an interview going on in the corner. The manager is interviewing a young man. The question: "What is something stressful you've had to deal with at work."
He is stumped. Flustered. Repeats the question. Mumbles something about tips, they are taking his tips. She asks him to clarify. He tries. He is not used to thinking on his feet. He wishes she were a video game. He would steer her into a wall and the interview would be over. Finally he says he hates it when other people who work with him take his tips. "Yes, I know what you mean," says manager lady, obviously taking great delight in this interrogation. "When I was in the military, stationed in Japan, if you left a tip on the table they would chase you down to give it back."
My mind cannot connect the reply to what he has said but another employee pipes up in a shrill baby girl voice "What?" and manager lady tells them all a story about being in the military in Japan. Wow, I would rather live at the flea market, harvesting my living from a dumpster than to have to work with or for these clowns.

But I never was one for the interview process. J teases me about it sometimes. How I will be going along well, presenting myself in the best possible light as an together, hard working individual and then it will happen. One of my many crosses to bear that keeps me from being able to fit into society. I'll get a facial tick. My eyes will bug and my nose will twitch. I have often seen the face of a boss or Human Resources person turn pale and know the diaphanous job opportunity pops. It is an art in our time. The interview. Coming across as calm and normal when nothing could be more unnatural and abnormal than sitting there looking into the eyes of some corporate suit who has yessed his way up the ladder and trying desperately not to see what is behind them...

At any rate it is all too apparent that with Starbucks listed as one of the most desirous corporations to work for (Are we stuuupiddd!!!!)Americans are being brain trained for the service industry...the most desirous job of the future...Mmmmm, a caramel latte body scrub massage...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chapter 11 - Dances with Fleas

Just by the title that came to me from the depleted ozone I realize I should write something with a Native spark. Okay. The music we heard in the morning as I set up the booth in the darkness (Swap Shop of course) was some beautiful American Indian stuff, southwest chanting put with instuments, played from somewhere in the middle of the enormous packed parking lot. I enjoyed it but it was short lived as the guy next to me plugged in his radio and tuned it to a station that advertised itself as being stress free radio. Horrible 80's and 90's pap with some redone 70's stuff. J was soon awakened in the front seat and came out with a scowl. It felt like it was going to be a tough day.

The first sale I made was from a guy who asked if he could buy a cigarette. "The wife is over there so I can sneak one." I just handed him one and he dropped fifty cents on the black tablecloth. J said later, "You should have said, 'In that case I'll sell you a stick of gum for a quarter.'"

Rotten, miserable luck in getting stuck in the nether reaches of the place where no ordinary mortal would go unless they were hunting for the best deals in the place. And we were among the first ones there at 3:45 am! A flea market lesson in life. Sure enough when people asked prices I dropped them in half of what we had been selling for half as it was and they drop the things as if they were wired with a dog shock collar. Hmmm. That might be a good thing the next time I see someone about to toss our stuff with discust back onto the table. I saw it for the first time today, although J kept telling me it was happening, with Mexicans primarily. A young mex woman picked up a pendant, looked it over and tossed it down. With discust. J and I discussed this later and have come to the conclusion that it wasn't personal, it's a cultural thing, probably a way of haggling with vendors in Mexico, act passionately disinterested with the idea that they will chase after you with absurdly lowered prices.

This flea scene is killing our spirits. But I unloaded some other stuff like some scents from our old soap making days, a measuring cup, a crapped out broom and pair of loose pliers I found somewhere and sold them so the day wasn't a complete loss. I think I could actually make a pretty good living just finding stuff and bringing it there.

We have paid for the whole week so we'll be there again tomorrow morning before the sun comes up.

A sad night as J is depressed. These things take it out of us because they remind us of the small town people we grew up with, how we felt alienated since we lacked currency with them. Just a kick in the pants reminder of what there is at the bottom. Muck.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chapter 10 - The Descent of Man

Of ape, of man, of mape I write. The asphalt hot at the Swap Shop today, and glittering, rubbish, plastic, glass, brass, steel and every kind of junk food available for the last 30 or so years. A flea market can be a terrible thing. Or it can be salvation. Or it can be just a day to get some work done and that we did. J got three more necklaces finished. Beautiful things made with hand formed links of chain from copper and aluminum wire, wrapped big stones and lush tiny dangling stones and crystals and pearls. Mouth watering stuff that the shlubs stared at and knew not of it what to make. A few of them picked some stuff up and tossed it back down on the table when they realized it wasn't something that could be haggled over for a buck.

There was a pretty Puerto Rican woman to our right today who looked just like a Native woman I lived with in Northwest Territories Canada 9 years ago. At first when she walked up my mouth dropped open but I quickly realized it wasn't her, hair too light, bigger and taller. She was curious to see what we were doing with our stuff displayed on upright bricks instead of the normal neckshaped black jewelry displays. When she realized we make it ourselves she grew animated and searched for the words to tell us how she used to do the same thing. She picked up a pair of my round nose pliers and demonstrated.

She was very excited and then grew a little sad and wistful when the knowledge did not come right back. "I used to do everything with the wire. But I was so young. I was only 19 and I did everything, earrings, necklace, bracelets...Now I am 40."

"So what. We're 40 too. You should do it again."

She agreed, tentatively and headed back to her van where she and a man had been unloading used power tools. I could not help but look at her and wonder at how much she looked like the woman in Northwest Territories and my heart panged a little at the doomed relationship. I was so desperately broke and could only work under the table jobs for a few weeks at a time since I did not have a work visa. Still it was a memorable time getting to know her family, extended family and further extended family that are the Dene Indians. A comic/romantic image arises of me carrying a hind quarter of caribou over my shoulder, frozen solid in the 30 below, fur and hoof still attached, up the road from her mother and father's little house to our little house in Yellowknife. Food for a week.

The Puerto Rican woman also had the same fiery demeanor as the woman in Yellowknife and I heard her spitgun syllables at a big Haitian man who wanted to haggle. "The price is what I told you! No bargaining! Put it down and quit wasting my time!"

The man's haggling pride seemed a little wounded and he stood there another minute with the hedge trimmer in his hand, unsure what to do, before he put it down and moved on.

Across from us was a blonde, toughpretty redneck woman that J said she admired for her fuck it all attitude, until she kept saying the same thing over and over again with an irritating sing song: "One dollar! Only a dollar!" And her music, tuned loudly to a country station (KISS or something) was repugnant. It was actually intesting to listen to the rancid lyricism coming out of Nashville now and we both agreed that the country music industry only pumps out propaganda music. Or else the dullest, hamfisted, rhymey soppy shit imaginable. Of course that is only one side of the loaded coin and there is fantastic country being written out there (Robbie Fulks comes to mind) that nobody hears.

It is late and we need to line up at the Swap Shop by 4:00 am to get a decent place tomorrow, supposedly the best day of the week. The dogs need running and we need sleep.

Managed to pull about thirty dollars out of today's show. Someone bought a decorated spoon and a black man bought a ring and some earrings for his love. Said he admired people who made things themselves. Talked a little with him. A roofer, now with his own company, hard won, and he showed me the scars on his shoulders from carrying shingles up the ladder.

Last night I stood under the stars, while walking Hank, in a big field next to our Sams and felt an unshakable affinity with eternity, my blood surged and mind quieted so that I could actually feel eternity. I think that's what it was, at any rate it felt good to be alive and I wished I could feel that way all the time. It wasn't manic or anything, it was just a very together feeling of joy, like nothing really mattered, not even death, it felt like I was communicating with a cosmic something that was made of the same stuff as me. But not some lazy persons definition of god. That makes things too easy. Kind of like what happened with the vendor we were next to the day before. A youngish latin guy, south American somewhere. Another middle aged Latin guy came up and they were trading opinions on movies, since they were both selling a few used DVD's. The younger guy was asked what he thought of a certain movie and he said he didn't think much of it that it was just some more shit that hypnotizes people adding, "You know, they make thousands of movies in Hollywood but only a few are any good." I smiled. The other man was taken aback and he probed for a fraternal vein saying, "But the Passion of Christ. Now that was a good movie!" The younger man was silent. "Didn't you think so?" "Maybe", said the other. The older went on, "It was not sugarcoated like other movies about Jesus. They showed him getting lashed. They showed the number of stripes. Just like in the bible. It was true!" The younger: "Maybe." Older: "Don't you believe in what happened to him? He gave up his life for us. For the world. For us sinners man." Younger: "No. He gave up his life for justice." Older: "No no no no, my friend."(Now he was sweating and laughing nervously) He gave up his life so that we could have eternal life. You know what? I'll tell you something my friend. I am a worm before the love of Jesus. I feel just like a worm."

The conversation pretty much dead ended there as if would have with anyone who realized who they were dealing with.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Chapter 9 - So Much for France

Thanks to the new Dolittle XP1 Software, purchased from a Japanese vendor at today's flea market I can now translate our golden retrievers' voices and have done so for the beginning of this blog. I am still a little unused to this new program so I hope it does them justice.

Hank: Wow. I can't believe how much I like just licking my nuts. Part of it is out of gratefulness that I still have them. There are plenty of dudes out there who don't and a lot of them are jealous. They like to start fights with me but I usually end them quickly, unless J is around. Man she gets worked up. I want to show her a canine and say, "Look, what the hell do you think that's for, waxing cucumbers? Get real! That's all for today. Slurp slurp.

Lucky: Finally I have a forum to discuss this maddening situation I find myself in. These two people who this insane world regards as my masters are really out to lunch. Sometimes I think they are the dumbest dumbbells in the whole flea ridden flea market world. I get so depressed sometimes and there is no one to talk to. Sure there's Hank but all he wants to do is hump me. So it's me and myself. I can't wait until the next time they let me off the leash. I will find the stinkiest, nastiest, foulest rotten dead thing I can and roll in it until the smell will never wash off. Then they'll have to shave me and it is really what I want anyway since I'm protesting this insane lifestyle. I just want to live on the beach! It's easy, just catch fish, squirrels, bunny's then swim until you're tired and sleep. Dog! are they stupid!

So there you have it...

Today we crapped out at the Swap Shop and didn't make a dime. People kept coming up and looking at our tools and garbage and shit and one guy from France picked up a ripped up box of sandwich baggies and looked it over. When he left J said, "Well, there goes France as an option."

We paid for the 30 buck special that allows us to nickel and dime it for free until next Friday. Whee!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chapter 8 - Beatified Car Crash

They are having a Karaoke jam here at the Starbucks in Plantation. A girl named Jen just got up and did her thing to Bono’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” She is a perky neo hippy in gauze mauve, headband and all. Now Octavia just got through singing “I Believe I Can Fly” and I really believe the girl can! What a voice, better than the version I’ve heard on the radio by…? Powerful fucking voice. Like to hear her do Aretha. Anyway in the middle of Jen’s jam with Bono, thankfully drowned out so that it was just the ghost of his background track voice, she read us a poem. An airy, uplifting thing that floated above us all like her guaze dress. Thankfully it did not rhyme. At the end of it, the DJ, a very secure dude in black beret, not afraid of making fun of himself asked us to help her out with some old beatnick finger snaps. Questioning looks and handclapping while I yelled “Go!” a few times and people looked at me to see if I wanted her offstage. Oh well, I guess it’s a little before their times, certainly before mine. Spotlight on DJ now doing Steve Miller’s “The Joker” and he stops at the word I never new “And I speak of the …. of love…” and shrugs. I see on the screen pointed out our way that the word is apotheosis. Of course! All through high school I was saying pompetus, whatever that meant. Jen’s turn again. A country number. “I Hope You Dance.” I went out to see the wife braiding necklaces in the bullet and she says. “Is that the car wreck it sounds like.”

Ah yes, it is, a beautiful, beatific car wreck, onlookers looking on and coming in and milling about like spawning salmon. A real coffee shop feel. Now the DJ is playing Cher “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves” and he sports a long black wig and tosses his hair just like a chunky, broad shouldered, short Cher with glasses. Octavia back at it. A big beautiful black woman.

As for the Swap Shop flea show today it went well in spite of being tucked way in the back. I set up before the sun got up and we made nearly a hundred bucks by 1:00 then it died and we took off to run some errands. Got some copper wire, brass and screen to mount in a frame and hang jewelry from. J had some great ideas for the booth to come, when we start doing the big craft and art shows.

Earlier I wondered if many people are as dissociative as me. I am liable to just go away at a mote of dust and have been this way since my dust mote watching days of childhood. I asked J about it and she said she has never met anyone like me in this way.

Hank does at least one thing a day that makes us laugh and today it was the way he ate a peanut butter sandwich I had made and forgot to eat. I had left it on the dash and as we were about to leave I turned and handed it to Lucky who just let it sit there. On my pillow. Peanut butter dreams tonight. I grabbed it before it made too much more of a mess and put it toward Hank and he opened his mouth wide and let me put the whole thing in there before he closed his mouth.

Time for bed at our Sams, nestled between the semi’s and rv’s. Okay for awhile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Chapter 7 - Sailing in Place

At the Lauderdale Thunderbird Theater Swap Shop high breezes and dark clouds greeted us with the upcoming light and for awhile it looked like we might get drenched. I had backed the bullet halfway under the EZ-Up and ballasted it with a rope from the center that tied onto the back of the van. The wind kept picking up all four legs but it stayed perfectly in place and it felt like I was at the helm of a sailboat, especially since the asphalt of the old fourteenplex drive-in undulated in great rollers from sinkholes, Florida being basically a giant lillypad. The sun soon prevailed however and the dark clouds just missed us. A beautiful blue blustery day.

We had paid for an 8 dollar spot today, just to try it but realized the five dollar spaces were better for foot traffic and we were all alone in the eight dollar section. Not much action at all, in fact it looked like it might be worse than Tuesday except for the breezes that staved off the heat. Plus I was in a good mood all morning which really surprised J and then it happened. A medium sized man with red hair and stylish manner came up and loved our stuff and bought $75 worth. He was in a hurry to catch a flight and had only dropped in to get a suitcase. We traded info and he said he wanted to have our stuff in a store his is opening above his salon. Saved our poor asses and came back while we were in the middle of remarking how New Yorkers always get us and how good it would be to get back up there and gave us two boxes of girl scout cookies. "My friend gave me five fucking boxes and I'm not taking them on the plane!"

So we had a good day. Made some jewelry, me a necklace out of copper 18 guage twisted and curled and bent with a big copper dangle part that I attached a sharp little shark's tooth to with very thin guage copper wire and wear now with pride. J finished her two other watches with pearl and coral and they were delicious to look at. Towards the end of the day I wandered a bit and found some very good grade wine glasses that I bought for pretty cheap, cleaned and J made the prototypes for our new line of decorated glassware, all copper heavy guage up the stem then crusted up two thirds of the way with stone and pearl. It turned out better than we hoped.

Now outside a laundromat in Sunrise. Free wi-fi by a peaceful fence in back. The sun is down and the sky is purple. Our clothes are swirling dry. Our dogs have eaten their special dinner of tuna fish and dog food. Tomorrow is supposedly the better day of the weekday shows so we are hopeful. Now we are up to about 130 after laundry, dinner, returned Dremel tool, cigarettes and gas. Hopefully we can take this 130 and double it tomorrow. Then triple it Friday and so on until we are steady on our feet. Maybe even get a place. It is July since we have been on the road criss-crossing the country doing this and we haven't really had a place to call a home in over a year.

While bad news happens I am able to retain a positive attitude. Just found out they will probably foreclose on my little piece of property I own with a half built log cabin on it, due to missed payments and unpaid taxes and this hurts when I dwell on it. But I am getting better about not dwelling on things that hurt.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chapter 6 - Thank God for Sadie

The sun hadn't quite come up as we weaved our way through the gates and around the orange rubber cones to what looked like the gate but it wasn't the pay area so a young black man with a .45 stuck into his belt without the aid of a holster directed us through some other cones that he moved for us and we drove through, accidentally hitting some others, to the pay area, paid our 5 bucks and were directed to follow a young white man in shorts on a bicycle -- who did not have a pistol but was well equipped with radio and all sorts of high tech security equipment(apparently you have to work your way up to a pistol and then a holster) -- to a place right in front of the square building that is the heart of all this funhouse entertainment. I was very happy to be situated there and reminded J of how I had chosen this very spot yesterday during our walk through as the one I would choose of all the spots on the asphalt and she agreed that it was wierd. Then a black man in a van pulled up waving a sheaf of official looking papers showing the young man on bicycle that he was in the wrong in giving us his spot so the young security guard apologized and directed us to a spot near the middle and toward the back. I didn't feel like arguing or asking for something better since he acted like he was letting us slide with the dogs as it was.

Next to us in the back was the "four for 5" sunglasses salesman, seen at every flea market in the world, while across from us was a Haitian woman with a van so packed with shoes it looked like a modern inner city parody of "There was an old woman who lived in a..."

I got the stuff out and was setting up as the sun rose and the temperature rose with it like the door of a blast furnace was slowly opening. I interrupted my set-up and located some water, luckily nearby, and filled a gallon jug at a drinking fountain for the dogs. I hadn't had coffee but I was controlling myself well. The place did not look like a stampede of upwardly mobile, monetarily insulated style mavins, or free spending style conscious tourist grandmothers would come bursting through the gates at any moment so we settled in with an oh well manner. But the fucking sun got hotter and hotter and there wasn't enough room in the alotted space to set the EZ-Up so I slid down against the van in the shade and we waited. It was a fairly typical vendor flea crowd, selling everything from old plastic pez dispensers to samurai swords.

We treated each other nicely but J was starving so she took the second to last 20 and went off in search of something to eat. Just after she left two black women came up and I was careful, per our new flea market strategy, to not say anything to them. I merely looked up and smiled and then looked away. Worked like a charm. People are so used to getting accosted at these things it is relief to shop without somebody trying to sell you something. In a few minutes they were asking questions and I sold them 40 bucks worth of earrings, decorated tableware, and a ring. I gave them a card and they told me they would contact me for more good deals. I was ecstatic and in a few minutes J came back lugging an armload of vegetables and her face lit up when I smiled at her. She said she expected me to be mad that she spent so much but in reality she only spent five bucks and got three bags of bananas, cukes, pears, tangerines and carrots so we feasted on the much needed veggies. Then suddenly there was Hank looking at me from the back of the van. "Whaa...! How'd you get out?" I led him to the passenger door and got him in and he crossed over the front seats and went out the open driver's side window. I got a little mad at him and immediately regretted it, seeing his expressive happy face go sad. I apologized quickly. The heat was becoming unbearable so I put the EZ-Up up anyway and let it go two or so feet into the fire lane. This provided us much cool relief with a slight breeze blowing and we sat there waiting for people but only a few drifted past, not buyers but admirers none the less and thank god for Sadie we were up to $75 in my pocket.

About 15 minutes after I set the thing up the Haitian woman across from us with the shoes set her chair under the shade of the EZ-Up, not directly in front of the merchandise, but damn close. I bit my lip and waited, not saying anything, but soon the chair became a place for her customers to try her shoes on and I fumed and fretted to J and she got upset and I got more upset until she went and sat in the car to be away from the monster I was becoming.

A little while went by like this and customers avoided our booth but they didn't look like buyers anyway and then she set the chair right in front of our stuff and I got up and said something, very politely and she said "Sorry Papi" with a big grin and scooted it a few feet out from the booth. Finally, when I saw a potential customer walk away because somebody was trying on shoes in front of our booth, I took down the EZ-Up and told her we were going, it was too slow, thinking this would move her and it finally did, after 15 more minutes of sitting there!

Last night we slept in a Sam's since the Wal*Marts around here are chillingly devoid of the usual RV's, and there were a bunch at the Sams. Good old Sam Walton I still say. My god we would be in a fix if there were no place to overnight. In the climate of our ever diminishing free horizons this looks like it will soon be the case. What the hell would our forefathers think if they looked around at how we behave toward each other now, at how we live and sleep and eat and run on little treadmills in big rooms with others like us who do the same? Our Indian forefathers would be mighty perplexed but perhaps not humorlessly. "We saw this all coming a long long time ago. Fore!!!" Certainly our white forefathers might be a little peeved at our evaporating constitutional rights...or would they? Jefferson, I think, would be. Adam's, for sure. Not even so much for the limiting of our freedoms as the limiting of the small entrepenuer to compete which made me wonder out loud a few days ago: "What ever happened to the trust busting laws?" All this is there for me to investigate so I must fight the anaesthetizing effects of current journalism, merely a slightly higher (or lower depending on your seating section) form of advertising, and stop taking what I read and hear as fact for granted. Wipe the slate clean so to speak, of what I know and start over. A momentary vertiginous fear surge just now at the very thought of that undertaking. We so desperately want to hold onto our blankies of security, things we believe, that people are essentially good, which I believe...that our leaders have our best interests as a nation at heart, which I want to believe, that love, not hate, is an energy eternal.

"Boy, you are verbose," says my darling wife with a sigh so I guess it's time for bed.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chapter 5 - Ft. Lauderdale Swap Meet

Heading to the Fort Lauderdale Drive-In Theater (Largest in the World)/Swap Shop, with over 1,500 vendors, entertainment, booze, and everything you could imagine made in every country imaginable, even ours! Runs every day of the week so we will go there and sleep in a Wally and do the thing tomorrow. Living on gas station burrito's, fifty cent refills from Starbucks and about 80 bucks. More of our kind over there. Look forward to it though it is still just a swap/flea. My woman approachs with waving yellow dress. A flower in the breeze with frosty cool lipstick to quench my burning thirsts...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chapter 4 - "Dat's diffarent."

These flea markets are a soul vortex. We kept getting the "Dat's diffarent" observation so finally I asked this really shlubby couple what it meant."Good different or bad different?" The woman said, "Well, if yoor inta dat kinda ting" while the man, his porcine figure stuffed with a lifelong diet of scrapple stretching wide his bib overalls, did the either/or thing with his hand. So for sure it is shlub code for that sucks. Anything different is liable to fuck with their pacemaker or stop the flow of embalming fluid in their veins. They are truly afraid of us. Different to them is the worst, more horrible than farting out loud in church. Also J and I realized these are the people who we grew up with and were rejected by, me in the Upper Peninsula Michigan, she in Bungdaisy, MI. And to see them reject us over and over again with the bad smell nose krinkle is a terrible trigger to both of us. Just having her point this out helped and I was able to get through the day without wishing violent ill on them, merely that a little bird flop might land on their judgemental noses.

Tonight read an article on Netscape homepage that listed the meanest cities in America. Sarasota topped it. Homeless are taken to shelters or jail but they are given the choice and it is for their own safety it is said. We could be arrested and taken to jail (or possibly worse, a shelter) just for crashing at a Wal*mart there. The wierd thing is we heard that a few years ago it was a crafter who brought down the Draconian wrath of the cities wise elders. Apparently he/she got into a scrap with somebody at a Wal*mart and that torched it for everybody there. Things just snowballed from there. No doubt though, you can actually feel your short hairs standing on end sometimes with all the hate out there. For us, for anybody who isn't locked inside a hermetically sealed new modeled RV, or up to their scalp in credit card debt and living in some overpriced roachhaven. Where will all this hate go? Somebody has to pay. A few days ago it was a poor guy who was living on the streets...

Last night was a peaceful one spent by a little manmade pond outside a Wal*mart only a few miles from the other. It was hard though to walk Lucky as she was like a powerful magnet for the very ugly salt and pepper colored ducks with red wattles all over their faces, who seemed to be having an orgy on the pond. I wanted to let her swim but you just never can tell if there is a gator in something like this.

Tomorrow is a day of rest, not really though since we need to beef up the booth with more earrings and necklaces. J is busy at it by my side in the bullet here outside of Starbucks on College Ave. Snipping and bending metal, making fantastic copper twist bracelets that the shlubs will point at and say, "dat's diffarent." Yes, dear shlubby. It is different. Your television is calling you. You'd better go to it.

This nice cool florida breeze is what we have more than anything at this moment. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chapter 3 - Ether Echoes

[Wrote this yesterday but had no way to post it]

Got to Fleamasters a little late so the woman behind the desk told me there were no available booths and then the really nice woman who reminds me of my late Aunt Gogin, a flapper from the 20’s and a real hellion of a woman when she got old too, helped me out and found us a spot in the main concourse, red building, #61. We drove there and I set up in a cozy little 12X12 space while J made more earrings in the van.

Across from us in an aisle space a man fastidiously organizing and dusting bottles of glass and jewelry cleaner. I have seen this stuff at every flea market and farmer’s market from coast to coast, always by a different name, so it must actually sell pretty well. To our left is an old Jerseyite Rocky who sells everything from tube socks to beautiful dolls. Says Rocky later: “I look at my life savings when I look at those dolls.” He gives a little groan. He also tells us later that he was a cop for 20 years in Newark, after seeing our jersey plates. “It was a rough life. Every day not knowing if you would live or die.” A real stand-up gentleman who came up and greeted us with “Welcome to the red building.”

Sure enough the other vendors are nice and friendly but as the day grinds on all we see are Midwestern shlubs, very few of our people, the kind of people who would buy our stuff that is…Yet even with this slow parade of beanie baby hummel collectors we manage to make a whopping $88.00. Not much but seeing as we’re stone broke after the 20 buck fee we are quite happy with it and celebrate with a steak and shake dinner. I ordered the banana split milkshake and burger plate while J had the mint chocolate shake and burger plate…


I got pulled away by news from the back of the van that the mattress was soaked so I stopped writing and went and flipped it. That's the problem with Florida. Once anything gets damp it stays that way.

The flea market today was horrible. People really are crass and so many went by with their noses in the air and a couple even said it was too expensive and our prices are cut in almost half. When they do stop I tell them we make everything ourselves, every chain link, every clasp and they either don't believe it or they are in some kind of daze from being lied to so much. I tell a few people that if they want to buy American they should buy our stuff. They nod cynically, repeat what I said with "that's a good one" and walk on.

We still managed to make about $80.00 but it was hard won and J was in tears more than once. Bad shlubby crowd. When anyone stays long enough to really get a look their jaw drops at all the work and time that goes into this stuff and then they buy, usually a set of discounted earrings. We are both so burned out and sad by the end of the day it is all we can do to drive to the Walmart to crash. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little better as we have dropped our prices even further. It is horrible to see people selling stuff made by ten year olds in some country using them for slave labor and not wanting to buy anything for just as cheap made right here.

Enough complaining. Time to go get something to eat. Goodnight empty cyberland. I can hear the echo through the ether. Goooodniiiight...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chapter 2 - No Show

The Old Palm Harbor Farmer's Market and Sunset Celebration set in the historic district of Old Palm Harbor looked nothing like it's name implied, set on a patch of wilted grass and sand with a few raggedy tents set up and no historic district to speak of unless you counted the old little houses in need of paint, but we cruised around it a few times anyway, hoping, maybe, before we shitcanned the notion and headed back the way we had come. There was a time not long ago when we would have done this market in spite of what we knew and we would have been lucky to make back the 20 buck booth fee. We only had 20 bucks (and a check for a bank down in Fort Meyers for $39.00) so we were desperate enough to do anything but we've learned to follow our instincts on this because although you can actually pull out some money from one of these types of shows the cost on you spirit is far greater than the nickels you might make. A show like this can actually put you into a loser spiral and you take the feeling with you and your work will show it later, as will your demeanor -- a kind of slack jawed, drool forming, dull eyed acceptance of the worst.

We headed down to Fort Meyers where the Fleamasters Fleamarket begins tomorrow morning. On the way I slipped in to a little rest area just south of Palm Harbor and taking a wrong turn found myself driving next to a little deserted beach area, empty of people or houses for a half mile in each direction, with a low tide and calm blue ocean, so I pulled off the road and let the dogs flop around on the muck and slime and this cheered them up considerably. They have been depressed of late since, with our recent arrival, they are not in a routine yet. One that must include a lot of water. Lucky, our 8 year old golden characteristically trotted into the ocean and flopped down on her belly with her tongue lolling out, just resting there with a big smile for me. I smiled back. My girl has been sick lately with a nasty cough, ever since she got loose at a truck stop south of Tampa and crawled into a ditch full of diesel that some idiot had dumped.

As soon as this ritualistic baptism was complete she strode around the white sand beach and found a rotting blowfish to roll on. I was on her quick with the stentorian syllables that she has come to take as the voice that's bestowing her the most attention and she trotted back into the ocean with a backward smile as if to say, "I know daddy, chill, I'll wash it off."

J had come out onto the beach and accidentally disturbed a male and female egret guarding their nest. The male, she told me, ruffled his feathers and spread his big wings so she spoke softly saying she was sorry and stepped back. She immitated him he easing his head back down into his shoulders with half-closed eyes and smile. She made the bittersweet comment that these creatures had better parenting instincts than most of our parents.

This little natural repreive from the malls and parking lots ended after about 20 minutes and we got back on the road south. I wanted to walk back and get some of the whitest, softest sand I had ever encountered and J wanted to know why. I told her I wanted it for sand to mix with cement and dye so that I could create my own concrete beads, "you know with little bits of wire in them and crosshatched patterns..." I saw her head drop. Whenever I mentioned one of my jewelry ideas it was tantamount to telling her I loved poverty. I did not go back for the sand but logged the place in the strange little workshop of my mind where I store this kind of stuff.

A very productive drive down as she finished about 10 more sets of earrings, each a little work of art made with silver wire, pearl, stones. All beautiful sets dangling and shimmering from the little tray she had mounted onto the dashboard. But it is a long drive down, over 150 miles and I was beat by the end of it and almost got into an accident when my mind saw a dimninutive policeman walking outside a restaurant and thought of Barney Fife and what a fine actor Don Knotts really was and how well his humor might translate today, set in an urbanizing backward area. "Stop!" she yelled and I did, in time.

So after we cashed the check we pulled into the Wal*Mart off 75 and went in for our burger and helper, both happy to be back there with its camping RV's and conversion vans and security guards driving around all night. Earlier we had heard an NPR story that indicated Sam Walton made more in a week than most of his employees make in a lifetime, or something like that. Always Wal*Mart is on the forefront of discussion about workers and wage but for two such as J and me and our dogs Sam Walton is an angel of a man. And as J pointed out later the workers at Wal*Mart never seem to be hating it all that much. Still, we got some hateful stares from rednecks in big shiny trucks as I cooked the mess behind the door of the silver bullet. We suspect it might be because we represent some sort of threat to their debt riddled lives, living out of our van the way we do. These hate stares seem to be especially prevalent down here in Fort Meyers and J thinks it is because the very rich are jammed together with the poor, chafing them. I don't fucking know. I just know the climate is not a very tolerant one. Gas prices are higher and I would love to live up in Tampa where everyone seems to be nicer and happier but there seems to be little money to be made up there.

A nice breezey Florida night outside a Starbucks. My birthday. I'm 45, married with two dogs and I live in a 1999 Ford Windstar, two payments behind, with the front bumper duct taped on. I wonder what it's like in France, Greece, Spain.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chapter 1 - Hamburger Helper

We are sitting outside a Starbucks in Brandon, Florida enjoying the hamburger helper I just cooked. I left the driver's side door open to hide the propane burner and frying pan, precariously situated with the bubbling stuff sending up a steady plume of comfort steam. I realized we were right next to a gas main at almost the same instant as the two cruisers pulled in next to us so I acted as if I was adjusting the ropes that held our EZ-UP tent and three display tables to the top of the Windstar. But they paid me little to no mind and it was apparent that they only had eyes for each other. A pretty blonde woman with a sturdy shapely frame, pistol strapped low on her thigh, it was no wonder the man cop hurried to be alongside of her as they headed to the Starbucks. She was in charge, the alpha female with a .45 and a nightstick. Fun, maybe...

It is 9:30 now and J has just whipped up her 12th set of earrings. A good night's work and one we needed since we are going to do the downtown farmer's market in Palm Harbor tomorrow (near Tampa). It's the first time for this market so hopefully it will prove fruitful.

"It makes me feel nervous about the homeless people who got beat up," says J seeing a shaven headed man approach our vehicle.

This happened recently to a few homeless people and somebody just died when it happened again a few days ago. It was captured on some kind of outdoor video surveillance system. Baseball bats. The kids allegedly responsible surrendered themselves. In the climate of today's idealogy they probably thought they were doing some kind of commmunity service. We certainly do get some hateful stares for the way we look, and the occasional hateful gesture such as happened a few nights ago when an employee named Junior at the Pilot in Ft. Meyers beamed his deer light into the back of our van and rapped on the window with something loud and metallic. He had waited until after 1:00 to tell us we had to move our vehicle, that no overnight parking was allowed. It was obvious that he took great delight in his duties. But everything trickles down from the top, so undoubtedly there is a Senior Junior somewhere who is trickling his philosophy down on Junior's head and rendering this shameful behavior acceptable. Their coffee sucked anyway.

It is good to have a dog or two and reassuring when one of them is as fiesty as our Hank, a 6 year old Golden Retriever with an attitude, who turns into Dog of Chuckie anytime someone gets too close to the car. Junior must have been taken aback by his window clicking tooth display so that is some consolation for us.

On the other hand Hank does his transformation regardless of who it is and more than one sweet little old lady has scampered away from our van in horror.

Lately we have been sleeping at the Flying J, but tonight we will choose the Wal*Mart across the road. It is a fairly simple matter of moving the plastic bins from the back to the roof and covering it all with a white side of the EZ-Up, tucking it in to look like an enormous roof rack of stuff, or two feet of snow. In back we have a very comfy Posturpedic mattress, pillows, a down comforter and two big loveable dogs.


Sunday, January 01, 2006


This is the first post of what it is like to be homeless in America, detailing the life of my wife J and our two dogs Lucky and Hank as we travel to craft fairs/ farmer markets/ flea markets selling our wares around the country and possibly world, in our mini-van, a silver Ford Windstar, the "silver bullet".