Flea Day: Long Beach
It’s the third Sunday of the month, time to hit the Long Beach Flea Market. And, early! Because for me there’s nothing like getting first dibs on the stuff as it’s still coming off the trucks. Especially when it comes to plants. The two vendors that deal mainly with succulents usually have their best specimens snapped up very quickly, so I have to be there by 7 or 7:30 am, at the latest, to have my pick. This visit I was able to purchase 3 different varieties of agave, one that the vendor said was very rare. He described it as coming from the hillsides of Puebla, Mexico, and that there were very few in The States. I love a good story so that one was a must-have. I also got a tall thin-leaved type as well as a beautiful pale green and white variegated version. But, best of all, I got a dragon tree which will go well with the other variety of dragon tree I already have. All for $80! The vendor gives me a price break because I always buy so many plants from him and because, as he says, “I know they’re going to a good home”.
Of course plants are not the end-all at the flea market. There’s also, well, everything else. Some of the things that caught my eye were signed prints and paintings from Mexico City, including a great Tamayo print of a crimson shrimp that was commanding lots of attention. The dealer who specializes in old concrete garden ornaments brought out both a pious St. Francis and a classic slumbering Mexican she said was made in the ’30s. Vintage industrial carts showed up with a makeover, ready for a new life as patio tables or maybe even chaise longues — just add cushions.
Some vendors go to great pains to make sure their wares are well-displayed, leading to quirky arrangements of seemingly random things. All playing off each other in a bizarro and fun way.
Seeing some of what’s on offer you have to ask yourself: where did all this stuff come from? The answer’s easy in the case of African artifacts; ask the vendor and he’ll tell exactly which part of the continent his goods were made at. Other stuff on offer is harder to pin down. A belligerent carved plaster monkey atop a doric column, next to an unrefined attempt at Aztec stonework, defy you to ponder their origins. This particular visit there also seemed to be many privates showing. Not private showings, but all manner of art works with their bits on display. A full chested beehive-sporting cutie here, a fishnet-stockinged provocateur (male) lolling on a bed in a huge painting there, and this athletic lower torso and legs carved out of wood for $600. We didn’t note any offers on the piece while at this vendor’s area but if I were to place one I’d have to haggle on price — the, er, man-parts were an obvious afterthought and not even the same color as the rest of the wood!
I’m always struck by colors and the overall graphic impact of some vendor’s displays. Much of it is accidental and that unconcious association makes it even more fun for the eye.
A usual Long Beach Flea Market visit takes about 3 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes we, well, I, spend lots of money and sometimes not that much (this time, I had to work to spend $125). Sometimes prices are really low and the vendors are into haggling (this was not one of those times). Sometimes it’s super hot, sometimes super cold, sometimes all in the same visit (so it’s best to dress in layers). This time it was super hot, so after arriving at 7:30 a.m. we were ready to pack up our plants and other gew-gaws at around 11 to head back to The Rancho. Now, to decide where to plant these latest additions…