Flea-market finds include both junk and gentry

October 10, 1998|By ROB KASPER

TODAY IS FESTIVAL DAY in our neighborhood, and that poses a threat to my recently organized basement.

Like many community festivals that are held all around the Baltimore area in the fall, the one held in Bolton Hill has a flea market. The flea market sells donated clothing and household items at low prices.

As someone who regards himself as the guardian of basement order, I have mixed feelings about flea markets.

On the plus side, the neighborhood flea market does give me an opportunity to get rid of a lot of unwanted items -- junk -- that have been sitting down in the basement, taking up valuable space and driving me crazy.

The flea market is organized by a neighborhood church, Memorial Episcopal, which recycles the proceeds back into the community.

When my flea-market routine works out the way I want it to, I get to clean out the basement and feel like a good citizen.

The trouble is that in recent years, the flow of junk has been going in the wrong direction. Instead of emptying out, our basement has been filling up with flea-market finds, stuff that was just tossed out of somebody else's basement.

This has happened because our youngest son, 13, has become a big spender at the neighborhood flea market. Like many kids in their early teens, he and his buddies seem to be attracted to "bargains" that make noise.

One year, for instance, I came home from a business trip to find a stereo speaker about the size of a bookcase sitting in the basement near my workbench. It was accompanied by an old amplifier about the size of microwave oven.

I fumed, but my son proudly reported that he had brokered "great deal" at the neighborhood flea market, getting both the speaker and the amp for a couple of bucks. The amplifier and speaker didn't actually play music. They just hummed. But the kid was convinced that after a few visits to the neighborhood hardware store to buy some new speaker wire and audio jacks, he would have his purchase making sweet music.

That is not how things worked out. After several trips to the hardware store and several frustrating afternoons in the basement workshop, the kid and I gave up all hope of bringing these hunks of junk to life.

A couple of months after the speaker and amplifier arrived in our home, hailed as a great bargain, they left our home as bulk-trash items.

This year I plan to accompany my son to the neighborhood festival. I want to stem the flow of flea-market junk, and I want to talk with my neighbors.

I have found that the neighborhood festival, in addition to cleaning out your basement, also helps you get caught up on the latest neighborhood news.

I am anxious to talk to my neighbors and find out where the gentry live. I have been in the neighborhood 20 years and didn't know we had gentry, people of good birth. But I recently read a front-page article in The Sun that described our neighborhood as affluent and gentrified. Since then I have been on a gentry watch.

The article detailed a dispute between the owner of a neighborhood mini-mart that sells liquor and the folks who live near the store. The owner, who does not live in the neighborhood, claims to be a good guy who is loved by his customers. The folks who live near the store claim he sells to under-age drinkers. The neighbors say he needs to change the way he does business; he says he's doing nothing wrong.

It seems to me this dispute could be solved if the owner moved near his store. Then he could be close to the customers he is fond of, and he could feel the effects his business have on the community.

Moving, of course, is a hassle. But it does force you to get rid of a lot of household junk, which could be sold at a neighborhood flea market.

The flea market at our neighborhood festival usually does a brisk business. Come to think of it, I bet that is where our gentry shop.

Pub Date: 10/10/98

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