Trout Fisting In America #31 – Flee Marketing, A Journey Through Dirt Parking Lots & Seminal German Electronic Music In The Age of Republican Class War

I mean if you want to buy local and make sure every dollar you spend goes back into your local community, it doesn’t get any more local than this. I’m at the J&J Flea Market out on highway 441 about 5mi north of Athens, Ga. I’m here mainly for the food. The Flea Bite Cafe here serves an egg biscuit the size of your hand for $2.50, tax included (not the size of my hand, which is above-average enough in size to palm a regulation size basketball provided the basketball is made of rubber instead of leather).

And yeah The Flea Bite only scored an 86 on their latest health inspection, but that’s still better than I did in my first 3yrs of high school english (fuck you Beowulf, and fuck you Silas Marner, and fuck you The Mayor of Casterbridge), and considering the building that houses the Flea Bite is as dilapidated & crumbling as most US infrastructure built more than 15yrs ago, I’d say the score, unlike the biscuit, should be taken with a grain of salt.

After finishing my biscuit & coffee (only $1.50 for the coffee btw), I decide to walk the J&J parking lot/marketplace in search of undervalued treasure.

The early morning J&J is filled with sleepy children rubbing their eyes. You know their parents are here every weekend trying to earn a little extra cash. Because even if you only make $40 a day that works out to about $325 a month, which is the difference between survival & starvation.  So they’re here selling whatever shit they can get their hands on. I used to do this with books—find it at a thrift store for a dollar then turn around and sell it for four. I had a bookcase set up in a friend’s shop (Captain Scott’s Book Nook, if you must know) for a few months before the shop closed, and I made enough money to pay the utility bills and all I had to do was go thrift store shopping every couple of weeks.

You have to appreciate the hustle. And any congresscritter who wants to tell you how poor people are lazy—and I should mention here that the J&J vendor demographic skews way more diverse than your typical democrat fundraiser or Trump rally and there’s no sign of any inter-demographic animosity—take the congresscritter out to your local flea market and let them see how hard these savvy-ass entrepreneurs are working to get by. And unlike Captain Scott’s Book Nook, they aren’t doing it by choice, they’re doing it because they have to, because most jobs don’t pay enough to live on, let alone enough to pay for health insurance. Most available jobs these days pay under $10 p/hr and only hire part-time. They schedule you for 4 hours here and 5 hours there. You find out on Friday if you’re scheduled to work Sunday (and no they aren’t going to call you, you need to come in and check). Your boss looks at you skeptically when you ask what time your break is, and people have mouths to feed and children to soothe. They need clothes and sneakers and backpacks and, uh, food. So during the week they’re looking out for bargains, and on the weekend they’re selling those bargains out at J&J Flea Market.

The US poor are barely hanging on by a string. Most of the cars here will be lucky to last another couple of years before the cost of repairs is more than the value of the car. And what then? People here aren’t just selling their old excess shit, the stuff they had lying around the house, they’re selling anything they’ve found during the week that they think someone might buy. The merchants have been buying in bulk and are now selling loosies. You could do half your grocery shopping here. You can get cereal, laundry detergent, coffee, candy, snacks—all of it cheaper than at your local grocery store. Panties 3 for $10. Cellphone cases, car stereo equipment, and mattresses. Baseball cards, video games, and endless massive piles of old DVDs.

There’s also locally grown produce that’s a fuck of a lot cheaper than the stuff they sell at the downtown farmer’s market, and the strawberries here taste just as fresh & delicious. There also aren’t any rich dudes in beards singing bluegrass, which, for me anyway, is a definite plus. Americana, of course, like all things that start w/the word America, means something done by white people.

(Remind me to tell you about the time I got a gig at the Farmer’s Market and decided to improvise an entire set of Eagles covers in honor of the then-recently-deceased Glenn Frey. The Eagles had been my favorite band from age 8 to age 9, and so I’ve always assumed that Eagle fans see the world the way I did when I was nine—through a lens of childlike ignorance accompanied by feelings of abandonment brought on by their parents’ recent divorce. Anyway, my performance, more a tribute to Andy Kaufman than Mr. Frey, wasn’t well received, and the the donated food in my ‘payment basket’ was, um, as bruised & rotten & misunderstood as my art.)

There’s a couple of vape shops when you head inside to the long metal sheds, like airport hangars for planes without wings. It’s basically more of the same stuff you get outside, only with more sunshine-vulnerable stuff like mattresses, vinyl records, etc.

You get the feeling people will sell anything if someone’s willing to buy it, and  what could be more American than that? I mean, even the guy selling the confederate flags has a Mexican national flag hanging for sale next to it. So even though the confederate flag is a symbol of racial hate & intimidation, in this case it also symbolizes an intense laser-like pragmatism on the part of the seller, a pragmatism rooted in the belief that they are all alone in this world, that life in the 21st century US is a zero-sum game of winners & losers and their survival depends on doing whatever it takes to put food on their table even if it means symbolically fucking over some of the people walking past them. And as awful as it might feel to think about it, this worldview happens to be true. I get the feeling, if people were willing to buy them, this guy would sell pro-Hillary Clinton flags w/all proceeds going to ISIS.

Of course the people buying the confederate flags aren’t buying them out of pragmatism, or the altruistic desire to put some money in the seller’s pocket. So while my spiel back there implying that the seller wasn’t politically motivated brought me a little comfort, it’s important to remember in these crude flowing-rivers-of-bullshit times, that if something comforts you it’s probably a lie. And whether it’s a lie you tell yourself, or a lie you tell other people, in the end it doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference.

As I continue walking the grounds a question occurs to me. Does my Minutemen t-shirt make Mexicans nervous?

The t-shirt in question refers to these Minutemen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5yqjInV0h8

As opposed to these fucking assholes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1CqceMKZaE

In the end I break down and buy a Kraftwerk record, Radio-Activity, from one of the booths selling music At $20, it’s a total impulse buy, and if I hadn’t just had a good couple of good weeks freelancing I couldn’t have afforded it, but my wife & I are thinking about moving to the desert next year—some nights imagining myself there is the only thing that brings enough peace for me to sleep—and looking at the Kraftwerk record, a record I’ve heard before, I imagined listening to its slow deliberate synths & creepy geiger crackles out there among the skeleton trees & desert silence and my heart did a sudden unexpected dance of joy, a feeling unfamiliar enough to me these days that I decided to buy the record right then & there in the hope that listening to it at home would allow me to re-experience this feeling, allow my desert dreams to bloom and possibly take root. Because In my bleakest, most lonely moments, it takes a record even bleaker & lonelier in order for music to bring me a sense of peace. And while the record is only 37 minutes long, at this point I’ll take what I can get—any port in a unipolar depressive storm and all that.

On my way through the parking lot back to my car I see a little girl, around 3 years old, crying. Actually, crying isn’t a clear enough description. She looks like her whole world is falling apart, like she’s been overwhelmed by terror & panic so traumatizing that she can’t fully process it. She’s too sad to call it a temper tantrum, but it’s every bit as desperate & unhinged, and I wish her father would stop and try to comfort here, or at least acknowledge her existence. He’s holding her hand, but he doesn’t pay any attention to her tears as he pulls her roughly behind him. And it could be the dehydration of walking around for over an hour in the midsummer Georgia sweltering heat, but for an instant I think to myself that in a sense we are all that little girl and our government is the father, or maybe capitalism is the father, or maybe our fathers are the father.

But the panic I see around me is real, and as I sit among the confederate flags & the tacos, the obscure records & the racist bumper stickers, I think again about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately—how the poor, even the bigoted & prejudiced poor, aren’t the enemy. Plenty of middle-class and rich people voted for Trump too. Anyone is capable of being a douchebag, regardless of how much money’s in their bank account. We are all walking fleshy sacs of bile & pus and ‘the better angels of our nature’ are fleeting & mercurial. But the people out there in power, the ones who exploit people’s prejudices, who knowingly prey on the general public’s ignorance for their own personal gain so they can line their pockets and consolidate their power, those people are the enemy. And I hope anyone reading this remembers that in chess, you don’t win by killing the pawns. You win by killing the king.

Until then, go visit your local flea market (called ‘swap meet’ over on the west coast, called ‘swap meat’ on the first Nirvana album). There’s a lot of cool shit for sale and the biscuits are, if not to fucking die for, then at least to get heatstroke for.

 

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday (sometimes even more frequently!). We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. You can check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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