When you are running any kind of event that is open to the public, you actually have to let the public in. Sometimes, that can be a dodgy prospect. This is probably doubly true for a flea market.
At the first Geek Flea, a haggard man with three days of stubble and a huge black cowboy hat staggered into the vendor area. He stank of booze and clutched in his arms a battered shoebox. Within, he was keen to share, was a prototype for a toy he was sure would revolutionize children’s entertainment if only he could find the right investor. His breath made my eyes water.
He called the toy the Frankenballer. It was the top half of an old Universal Monsters 12″ Frankenstein action figure. The right arm had been removed and reposed with the help of some kind of heat treating that left it half melted. It was slipped crudely over an armature that was attached to a device within the Frankentorso that provided a click back and throw action. Funtacked to the Frankenhand was a tiny plastic football most likely scavenged from an old Starting Lineup figure.
After he showed me the toy, he asked me if I wanted to buy the design. I demurred. Then he asked me if I wanted him to change into his Sponge Bob costume. The kids, he explained, would love it.
At that particular moment, there were no children to be seen. Not willing to continue that line of conversation, I may have suggested that Unwinnable Managing Editor Rob Roberts, who had the table directly across from me, might be interested in Frankenballer (sorry Rob) and the drunk staggered off into the vagaries of my memory.
Geek Flea 2 was on a hot and humid Saturday in September. Between the exertion of setting up the night before and my own inability to stay hydrated, I was more addled than usual. My memories lack fine details and whole portions of the day are a dreamy blur. Except for Captain America.
Sometime in the afternoon, someone came over to my table and told me I should really see what was going on in the other room. I went in to see the lanky drunk, this time wearing a puffy, fake-muscled Captain America costume, complete with blue sweatpants and red sneakers. He was carrying a plastic trash can lid painted red, white and blue. He was just like Cap. Except I am pretty sure Cap never drank Four Roses.
And then there was Geek Flea 3 and, well, maybe it is better to just let Daniel Imperiale’s pictures do the talking.
Are you ready, kids?
Matt Marrone is ready.
Matt the Medic is not amused.
The crowd is confused.
Time to go, SpongeBob.
Cue the sad walking-away music.
But before returning to the pineapple under the sea…
Writing this has filled Stu Horvath with a mixture of gasping laughter, a twinge of disgust and a heaping helping of bone-deep pity. He will probably be whining about it on Twitter @StuHorvath, or at the bar (irony!). Daniel Imperiale, on the other hand, feels no remorse @DPIWins.