“These eyes. These eyes cry every night for you…” Ah. The rock and roll of the Guess Who blare from cheap speakers hung from the rusty ceiling. It’s booming music to my boomer ears, and pitch-perfect for possibly the world’s largest swap meet in the world.
Just off Highway 60 in Mesa Arizona is acres of paved parking, thousands of square feet of metal-roofed shacks, and hundreds of individual shops. Think of four or five Walmarts filled to the steel beams with stuff from China but no groceries. A Walmart may have some mass-produced artwork, but this swap meet has dozens of local artisans displaying their finest creations. Unfortunately, the place is empty these days due to COVID-19.
Perhaps the Walmart analogy is a bit weak. Think of a Tunisian city open-air market with brilliant colors and aromas and gritty, cynical vendor pitchmen and pitchwomen hocking their wares (I would have used ‘pitchpeople,’ but I’m not sure its a word). But the aroma from a Tunisian market is more potent and complex. Maybe its best I suspend with the analogies.
As you weave around stuff that spills into the aisle and other shufflers, some which have rented electric carts with Fido in the basket, are the owner or artisan or paid helper looking for your eyes. If captured, they’ll hold up a sample and a smile and will you in their direction. The artisan licorice, the old fashioned kind, was so good and the lady so sweet, I bought a bag for six bucks. Her husband was milling around in the back, looking like talking to people was not his thing — teamwork.
Every weekend, these hundreds of vendors open up big flaps, setup their cash registers, freshen up their wares, and hope to scratch a few bucks from the thousands that come. I found metal furniture made by local Mexican artists. Beautiful, colorful, but hard. Pottery and sandstone coasters, and brilliantly colored ceramics, and golf carts with fancy chrome wheels and plush seats, and candles to clean my ears. No sample? Put a candle in my ear, and it will melt my wax? Really? And I thought I knew nearly everything there is to know.
After walking past the 23rd booth selling sports trinkets and posters and license plates from every professional team to have lived and died, it appears there is a ton of money in that stuff. But the real money is in the different ways I can display and store my bottles of wine. Beautifully carved wood seems popular, but for those with a refined, sophisticated sense of humor, the kind most wine connoisseurs possess, a ceramic black and white cow on it’s back happily guzzling a bottle of Napa Cellars Cabernet with her boobies showing is a must-have. I briefly consider one as a gift. How much would it cost me to send it to Palm Desert?
It was good to see ‘hippie’ shops complete with die-tied t-shirts. And velvet posters of Led Zepplin that require a blue light and bins of roach clips and peace medallions. Even saw a velvet of Elvis Presley. A woman with long grey braids pushing a walker was giving it a good once over.
Next to the booth selling religious paraphernalia was a booth selling nothing but Trump stuff. Hats, posters, belts, wine holders, and full size cutouts of the man himself. So I decide to pretend to work for the FBI and stake out the place. I watch the reaction of folks first noticing the booth. Some stand at the entrance, smirk, and either go in or simply walk on. Some appear to shudder briefly, shake their head in disbelief, and quickly get away as if a virus might be lurking nearby.
It’s good to get to a swap meet once in a while. It’s possible that coming trends first come to them. That what you see at a swap meet today is what you’ll see at a Walmart for Christmas. And if my observations are of any value, I think I’ve seen the future. Now, if I were smart like, say an investment pitchperson, then I have a ‘click here’ button and send you to signup for my $200 per month investment newsletter. Only then would you get the driblet of information I claim to be of great value. But I wish not to be greedy.
If you are still paying attention, the future is rocks. Yes- rocks, not stocks. I kid you not. In the middle of the swap meet, was a multiple booth shop of nothing but rocks — black rocks and rocks with flecks. White rocks and petrified rocks. Bin after bin of rocks with names like Apache Tears and Desert Rose and Salt. The Salt rocks are so big, some have cleverly put lights in them, and they glow. I’m serious! They light up like a lighted rock. It couldn’t have been more real than if made with plastic. Dozens of folks were carefully looking at them from all possible angles hoping they can find room on their entry table in the 500 square foot park model they winter in. Maybe the Bob Ross Chia Pet will have to go back home to Minnesota.
Well, there you have it — my very best investment advice. Rock on!