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A Day as a Legal Assistant Flea Market Vendor and Vegabond Shoes Longing to Stray

Updated on June 9, 2015

My Booth at the Brooklyn Flea

Visible to the left and right are shelves I made from reclaimed dresser drawers filled with items I pick up at thrift stores and ceramic items I make in my kiln.
Visible to the left and right are shelves I made from reclaimed dresser drawers filled with items I pick up at thrift stores and ceramic items I make in my kiln.

Set-up at the Williamsburg Flea

I am a legal assistant but that isn’t my story. I am also a flea market vendor. I sell out of a store in Niagara Falls, New York on Saturdays. On Sunday I make ceramic art, folk art, and furniture from reclaimed items. Sometimes I go to flea markets to sell my wares. I attended the Brooklyn Flea at Williamsburg May 31st, 2015 – and that is the story herein.

I left Western New York at 10pm and the drive across the state and into the city was smooth sailing. I napped when I got in and began set-up at 7:00am. The market was generous enough to let me have a fence spot so I had the shade, given my neurological difficulties having shade makes a big difference. I have parkinsonism, cervical dystonia and scoliosis.

I had a helper, Zack, an amicable young fellow with a red flea t-shirt with curls trying to escape his ball-cap. He said he recently moved into his first apartment with a friend. He bought an industrial art lamp from me at the end of the day – a huge piece of black iron atop a gold chalk ware base.

Manhattan in Sight

A lamp, a box of "creepy dolls," and my shelves in the foreground contrast with the Manhattan skyline.
A lamp, a box of "creepy dolls," and my shelves in the foreground contrast with the Manhattan skyline. | Source

The East River Hides Just out of Sight!

It was a beautiful day for most of the time – sunny with clouds and warm at set-up. I was next to a clothing seller and a jewelry seller. The clothing seller made new items from vintage patterns and silk screen art from here and abroad. The jewelry seller had wonderful vintage items from inexpensive necklaces to sterling rings and earrings at reasonable prices. At one point I eyed a woman hemming and hawing over a great necklace, possibly made from an antique rosary. The seller suggested she hold it in the sun to see how the light catches it (she is skilled at the art of triggering the inner impulse). She was offered the necklace for $5.00. She put it down three times and three times picked it up again. She held it close, she held It far, she held it to her neck and admired herself. I hoped she would walk away without it so I could buy it. Drat! She got it. I looked at the items through the netting hoping there was another but to no avail. The time to buy is when one first sees.

Across from me was another T-shirt vendor with reasonable prices. $5 a T and some higher end clothing items. Across from my booth - the Manhattan skyline over the East River. It seems strange to see the Niagara river leaving my store Saturday and seeing across the East River Sunday morning – but there it is!

New York - the place where everyone is free to be themselves. The patrons of the market - those who buy and those just looking - are always conversational, unique, and interesting. There are people with wrinkles not afraid to have purple and green hair. There are couples not afraid to express themselves, regardless of gender, race, or creed. There are people who wear the clothing that expresses their style, their interests and their life. From a vintage t-shirt to 20 pounds of chain and beads, long sheer dresses or camouflage and tattoo. People come and go – as themselves – unmolested, diverse, accepted, beautiful and free.

A River to Cross!

There was several inches to pass to get to the outhouse.  Thankfully, I was not washed away!
There was several inches to pass to get to the outhouse. Thankfully, I was not washed away!

A Fun Time, Great People, a Day That Ends with a Bang!

I sold a mask headed for Australia to two nice young men on vacation. They also bought two vintage shot glasses made of ceramic – red pirate heads on Boston brown glazed red clay. I sold a set of mushroom salt and pepper shakers headed to Montreal to a nice couple. I gave away a few small ceramic items to some wonderfully beautiful and well behaved children. I sold a set of horse bookends to a Japanese woman and an owl for $1.00 to her son. He tried to hand me the $3.00 I had as the cost but I couldn't charge full-price - he was such a honey. I sold 7 gold plated knives to a woman for her daughter (she was visiting from Florida). I would have sold an antique iron drill but the guy said he just couldn't bring himself to walk that far with the heavy thing. It was quite warm and I didn't blame him. Several people looked at my re-purposed tool storage unit made into a bench/shoe rack but no takers.

I sold a vintage Salem china souvenir plate. Delicate red floral patterns around the rim with extensive gold florets - very traditional - but in the center, a blue picture of the empire state building and the statue of liberty. I buy any NYC souvenirs I see in Western New York and I bring them back to the city to, once more, be sold as souvenirs. I can't help but to wonder how close to their first sale of origin they are.

Between 3pm and 4pm it was time to pack up because the thunder began and the clouds loomed. It began to pour and the lightening and thunder above made me feel vulnerable as I packed up my things and crammed them in garbage bags to keep them dry and pulled items off the fence as the lightening seemed ready to hit us out in the parking lot. Adding to this were hail stones pelting us as we tried to pack. When I used the outhouse as I left I walked right through the huge stream then passing through the street; deep enough the curb was hidden. This didn't matter since I was then as wet as if I had jumped in a pool. It occurred to me that a sweeping rain might come through the street and sweep me into the river and then the ocean. Perhaps my body might be found with the excrement of 100 people in a floating port-a-potty. I made it out alive and only felt dirty after the use of the tall blue box that came to the aid of people needing a bathroom for the entire day.

Lobster By a Pagoda Starbucks

My spot to dine on lobster divine!
My spot to dine on lobster divine! | Source

Eating like a Dog - the First Meal at the End of the Day.

I drove to China town and parked. I had not eaten since I didn't want to leave my booth. I went to a small Vietnamese place for dinner. I feel extremely guilty that a man, who was trying to illicit money out of me (I think), did not succeeded in his task. He didn't speak English and just kept asking me if I had a purse. He took a picture of purses out of his pocket and showed them to me. He said, "purse" repeatedly. I said, "I don't know what you mean." He said, "Purse." I said, "I don't have a purse." He said, "No purse?" I said, "No purse." He walked away.

I had such a good dinner after denying someone that the encounter with the man and the pictures of purses still spits ideas at me. Usually I will offer some money but I knew I had all my money in a huge wad in my pocket and I didn't know how to pick some out without revealing it to the street. His tactic was so poor I don't know if I would have given in anyway. I wasn't altogether sure he wasn't trying to lead me to a back alley to buy a Paris brand name purse made of synthetic material and smelling of glue. He could at least learn the word for money. But, then, that is probably part of the plan. He must show he is so destitute and new to the United States that he has somehow gotten here without knowing the word for money. As I go through this process then I am mad. Does this person really believe I am so stupid I think that is possible? But I still wish he had just asked me for $5.00. Some people think this is a scam. It isn't, though. It is just another way of making money for a living.

I walk just two blocks over and look down the street. I randomly pick a restaurant and walk through the glass doors catching a glimpse of my wet-cat look in a plastic disposable yellow rain "coat." The restaurant had a man at a cash register who was singularly at his task without fan-fare and smiles. An equally task-focused man was pulling the spit-cooked, head-cocked ducks off hooks in the window and chopping them to smithereens before placing them on a bed of rice with a gravy of some kind. I glanced at one of them and saw its eye. It reminded me of an Aztec mummy I had once seen. I forced myself to look away; to avoid the horror of the head and to avoid the wonderful smell and look of the crispy skin. I used to love duck but since rehabilitating one I feel they are my totem and I feel forbidden to eat them.

English was not spoken here. The food was mysteriously arrived at by a dumb waiter that came from the basement. There was a microphone that a man spoke into (presumably to tell the cook what was ordered - in the tongue of the employees). next to the dumb waiter was a funnel that went with a large hose into the basement. This might have been to dump liquids into a sink below before placing the glasses on the dumb waiter. The smell was incredible - I had picked the right place no matter how awkward I felt, dripping on their floor as I waited for my food at an odd little table facing the front door. All the other tables were behind me with my back to them, like an oddly placed reversed teacher's desk; the upside down cross on a wall. Another woman, presumably Vietnamese was plopped at the table next to me, I passed my hand in direction toward the chair as she was led there so as not to make her feel she was intruding on my space. Her food came first and I moved the sauces toward her so she didn't need to reach awkwardly. I had to force myself not to stare at her food. I believe it was barbeque pork on rice - a generous portion.

I was freezing cold and still drenched. But, all the people about were also drenched. I ordered Lobster with ginger and scallions to have in house and some Oysters and Chicken fried rice to take home to my husband. But, it all came packaged “to go” so I left and went back to my van to eat it. I think they found my looking about, with twinkle-eyed fascination, suspicious. I was reminded of the advertisement for a job on the federal website for a "wage investigator" who must speak Chinese. I wondered what poor sucker was in the hot underworld of lobsters and ducks on spits.

I would have sat in a park off Baxter Street near the NYC courthouse but I didn't want to walk much so the van was best. I park near Baxter street because I looked at the map of China Town (a place where one can find free parking and enough people to safely nap in one’s car) and picked a street I could remember to program in my GPS each time I come to New York. My former creative writing teacher, and writer friend, is E.R. Baxter, III. On Baxter is a courthouse and I have sent many documents to NYC as a legal assistant. The building near where I "park" is by a "park" and that building is marked, “New York City Criminal Court." My daughter practices criminal law. I can’t possibly forget how to get to China town. As soon as I see the map – there it is – a park, a courthouse, and a former professor.

I expected chopped up lobster over a bed of rice. What I got was literally an entire lobster wok fried with scallions and ginger. I began to eat it – sitting across from a Pagoda style building with a bank and a Starbucks – pulling the lobster out of the shell with my chopsticks. But it was so good I had to use my fingers. I licked all of the sauce off the shells. It was very fresh. I have a moment of guilt picturing that it was probably alive just before and I am responsible for its death. But I am a meat eater, no question about it. I thank the lobster, trying not to look in his face. It was the best lobster I have ever had and I have been thinking of it since then. I had not eaten all day and it was so delicious I ate part of the shell, too. I was glad it was “to go.” I looked like a dog chewing on a beef leg-bone.

Homeward Through the Lincoln Tunnel

An easy ride home at dusk after the traffic reduces makes the journey home an easier one for tired, dirty, and wet shoes.
An easy ride home at dusk after the traffic reduces makes the journey home an easier one for tired, dirty, and wet shoes.

Vagabond Shuffles Back to Buffalo!

I napped in the vehicle until my mind felt well enough to drive, around dusk. By this time the traffic had reduced enough that it was an easy drive out of the city. I stopped two more times to nap on the way home and arrived home at about 5:30 am. I slept again until 7am. I got ready for work and continued my normal day as a legal assistant. I say, “I went to the market, “ to my friends at work. They nod a polite yes of understanding.

Looking forward to my day at the store on Saturday, June 6th and my next day in my vagabond shoes at the Brooklyn Flea. I had a great time, met great people and ate great food.

© 2015 Christine Patrice Gebera


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    • CPGebera profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine Patrice Gebera 

      3 years ago from New York

      #bkflea @bkflea

    • profile image

      nina cornell 

      3 years ago

      Dear Christine, Thanks for your wonderful e-mail. I wish I could go ad- venturing with you. You are so brave. Let me know where your shop/store is so I can visit you and see your things. I am off to Cape Cod next week to se my brother and sister. Be back on July 14th. Will visit you when I return. Love,Nina

    • CPGebera profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine Patrice Gebera 

      3 years ago from New York

      I have no idea either... if I can do it myself, if I won't wind up sleeping way too long in the car and not get back to work, if I will give up and throw it all away instead of repacking the car!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      3 years ago from California Gold Country

      What fascinating experiences you have! I can tell that you savor them all as much as you appreciated the lobster. I'm sure your friends at work have no idea . Thanks for giving us a peek into your thoughts.


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