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My Robot Is Pregnant theme song!

tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

January 23, 2011

living with the dead

I make friends fast and enemies that last. What’s that mean? I don’t know. It rhymed and sounded tough. The truth is, I’ve only been selling at the flea market about a year now. I recognized a fair number from having come to the numerous garage sales I’ve had over the years. It’s a small bunch, the swap meet circle of SF.

Here’s another reality show I’d like to see: one that debunks the prices they show on the storage wars, antiques roadshow, et all. Let’s take some random items from an antique store and mix them in with the general chaos of my table at Alemany. When people pick up a pair of bronze bookends and ask me the price, I’ll quote the same number they go for at the antique store. Those bookends will never leave the market until I pack them up at the end of the day, guaranteed.

A side show will be the flea market challenge, where two competitors are given 50 bucks and have to go into the market and buy one thing, then sell it to another dealer at a mark up. Whoever makes the most profit wins.

This happens all the time. I did it today myself, and if I weren’t typing so fast I’d pat my back. I made a dollar. Yes I did. Bought a license plate from Turkey for $4 and sold it for $5.

The whole intro about making friends fast was just a slick way of showing that all the people at the flea market know each other, it’s no mystery who has the drug problem, who deals in illegal guns, who buys as many chippy paint dressers as you bring him. We don’t all get along. We see each other at 5 in the morning Sunday morning. People are hung over, hungry and cranky. It’s dark and shit’s spread everywhere. Money is involved. People yell. People push.

There’s a guy who buys silver and scraps it. If I have the right eye, I can find a sterling cake knife and get it for two bucks, a weighted candle stick for 5, and sell them to the scrapper for 15. All within the microcosm of Alemany flea market.

Yes, I’m a nickel and dimer, but it opened my eyes to the big score. Some people out there are making hundreds off what they buy from me and they don’t even have to pay for a space. The know who people are and what they want. That’s the meat of the reality show. The relationships in the seemingly faceless crowd.

Are you one of those people with a phobia about drinking water from the bathroom faucet? You have to walk all the way to the kitchen with your glass? I don’t know why I thought of that. The point is, I’m onto a great reality show here. Those of us who make a living selling what the dead have left behind.


  1. There is (or was) a show in the UK where 2 contestants would receive like £100 and they’d go to a couple of antique stores and buy up some stuff which is then sold at a dealer auction. Whoever makes the most profit, wins.

    I think the problem with a show like this, especially in your case, is that the profit margins will be so small that the game show itself will have little audience appeal. In this case, I think you need to look to your either your contestants or the flea market dealers to provide the entertainment value.

    Possible approach #1 – Snag people who have no business being at a flea market and will be freaked out by the people they meet. High class soccer moms and such. Next, get the dealers to really fuck with these people. Maybe you could have random people trying to pickpocket or otherwise harass your contestants as they try to bargain, make this challenging.

    Possible approach #2 – Find people more offsetting than the dealers themselves. For every show, drive the streets of SF and grab random eccentrics for your contestants. You knew I would bring this back towards a homeless angle, right? One possible snag in this idea, if I was a homeless guy and someone gave me 50 bucks and sent me to a flea market to try and turn that into maybe 70 bucks, I would probably just take the 50 bucks and run away, right? That might be funny for one show but it can’t happen every week.

    Comment by Lyle_S — January 24, 2011 @ 10:59 am

  2. The hard part would be getting people to agree to be on film. There is a freewheeling element to that lifestyle and I think some people don’t want anyone knowing their business. But the cast of characters really spreads socio economic strata unlike anywhere but the VD clinic. The owners of all the fancy boutiques from rockridge to Marin shop there and people like me who have never had more than $2000 in the bank are selling there. It’s every race San Francisco has to offer as well. Truly crazy.

    Comment by Rolston — January 24, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  3. Also I like deflating hopes about value. I watched a scene from some show where a guy brings an old brass cash register to a dealers shop and he appraised it at 2500$. I’d like to see them film the guy go to ten more shops and see what the best real offer was. Probably about 400$.

    Comment by Rolston — January 24, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  4. Now you’re getting into Pawn Stars territory. I think some internet TV channel just launched a similar show, too. Made the pawn shop business look real dangerous.

    Comment by Lyle_S — January 25, 2011 @ 8:00 am

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