The Flea Marketer's Tale

The Tulsa Flea Market, held at the Tulsa Expo Center, is mysteriously one of the few naturally occurring phenomena that doesn't really change. When I was a kid, it was a treasure trove of toys and knicknacks from an era before I was done. Before George Lucas re-flooded the market with items in the mid-nineties ahead of the prequels, the Tulsa Flea Market was the only place nerd larvae like myself could find Star Wars toys. Now, it is a perfect time capsule of the tchotchkes of my own youth. You may not be able to go home again. But occasionally you can find the various pieces of the past available for negotiable prices. I periodically go back to that hallowed place that time forgot, and I thought I'd share some of my recent observations.

  • As I'm buying two packs each of cards from The Rocketeer, and Batman (1989), the guy at the booth says: "Don't chew the gum." My first response? "Oh! I don't chew gum!"
  • Can you imagine what twenty-seven year old bubble gum is like? Well, it has the consistency of plaster, has an aroma like what you would expect a ressurrected mummy to smell like, and vaguely whispers the word "doooooooom" as you open the package. How does it taste? I have no idea; I've never chewed a piece of gum. No, really.
  • Note about those trading cards: I'm now the proud owner of a photograph of what appears to be TV's Arli$$, Robert Wuhl, threatening Tim Burton with a baseball bat. The things you find in these places, I tell ya...
Johnny Depp's best friend never saw him coming... 

Johnny Depp's best friend never saw him coming... 

  • I saw a little kids to another table, who in turn saw a Michael Jackson in-his-military-style-jacket doll and for the better part of five minutes tried to draw his father's attention to it. "Dad, look! A newscaster! A newscaster! Dad, look!" I'm still trying to figure that one out.
  • Then again, some aren't interested in negotiating. One merchant had a copy of Bob Kane's autobiography "Batman and Me." I asked the price, and he said ten bucks. Originally sold at 15, it seemed like a rip off.
  • It's just now occurring to me that the Tulsa Flea Market is where all the items from the fabled Batmania of 1989 went after they left the shelves of Wal Mart. It also explains why I'm such a repeat customer.
  • Every time, every time I'm there, I see one older man with a booth that is nothing but a massage table. Extending the mystery, nearly every time I walk by his booth, he has an eager customer on the table. I'm not sure if you need a license for that sort of thing, but man, I hope he has some kind of credentials if anyone starts asking questions.
  • I wish I still had a VHS player. For that matter, I wish a place lousy with VHS tapes might have a machine able to play them for sale.
  • A man with a pink mohawk and a tattoo that read "heretic" inquired as to the identity of a loose action figure. The dealer plead the fifth, explained, "If it's weird, I sell it. Doesn't mean I know what it is." The fact that I knew it was Rat King from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, and I didn't need to Google it to find out. Sign number 358 that my day job is completely incapable of using my real skills in any meaningful way.
  • I find the typewriters in a flea market like flocks of bird somehow know to go south in the winter and back again in the spring. Two Smith Coronas and an Underwood lured me to the far end of the inhabited tables... But against all odds, I walked away without adding to my already stellar arsenal of antiquated machines. I must be slipping in my old age.
  • It's comforting to know that the past is safe in flea markets. I can't wait to go back. There's still a whole lot of bubble gum for me to throw away.