Dateline Pasadena, CA: My wife and I haven't been to a flea market in a year or so. Today we decided to take the kids to the Pasadena City College (PCC) flea market to see if we could find a piece of art for over our couch. We aren't newbies to the "scene" so we always know what we are in for. The City College flea market is far different than the Rose Bowl swap in that it costs nothing to enter and it has "junk" rather than a mixture of "junk" and new gear like the Bowl version. It's also smaller and less crowded and the hipster index is low too.
We have bought plenty of things in the past from both the Bowl and PCC including a few pieces of furniture, clothing, art, and garden architecture. However our taste has changed significantly and no longer are we "shabby/bohemian" but instead we lean toward modern... Hey wait, we're hipsters! Damn it!
Flea markets are flea markets pretty much and what I enjoy best is when I have a single product or two in mind before I enter. Have a mission, a quest. Like a Dennis Gonzalez cd, a pair of Puma California's, or a piece of art. While I failed on the first two I succeeded on the art. It had to be long (about five feet) but not "tall". It's usually a tough task unless you like weird pictures of a wacked-out clown or a bad portrait of some unknown aunt painted by a beginning water color artist. At last though, I found a painting of an unknown city scape from the 60s-70s that only borders on semi-bad art. It's one of those that may be bad but good. You get the idea. Either way, the colors are perfect as is the style.
My kids never have a goal in mind, which is why a flea market to them is like a candy store. My youngest brought $10 and spent it on a few old dump trucks and a Matchbox car; my oldest son brought $15 and bought six Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars and the hat you see above. Both kids have a passion for cars and hats with an emphasis on the Trucker variety. Back in the day Trucker hats weren't hipster cool, but instead just known as the basic Little League cap. I had a ton of them. They would probably sell today for about $10 each the Rose Bowl. Should have held on to them.
The best part of a flea market is the crazy stuff you can find: plenty of military stuff, crazy paintings, 70s furniture that the hipsters (aside from me) love for some reason, etc. My guess is that they get the ugly lamps home, set them up, live with them for a while and then conclude that they are indeed ugly. Same with the faux wood side table and pleather side chair. Cool at the time, but in the end just plain ugly. That's why most of the stuff from the late 60s and 70s (the whole decade) is for sale at a flea market. Knock-knock. Who's there? Ugly. Ugly who? Ugly stuff you bought.
Another fun thing to do is people watch, especially the folks who sell the stuff at the flea market. An idea I have is to bring my camera and take portrait shots of the wacky vendors, as well as shoot the people who buy the stuff, with their products in hand. Set up a white backdrop with some lights and get some intimate portraits of the hipster with his side table, or the woman with the "vintage" dress, or the old man with the giant sombrero, or the weathered, old, toothless woman selling old dolls. Plenty of material for a coffee table book. Hmm, maybe I should use the 35mm Ricoh camera I bought from the swap a couple years ago. I wonder if it works. Damn, I should have check before I bought it.