Melrose Trading Post: The Rules of Engagement
A very good day to you, sir.
In re: Fairfax Flea Market. . . Does anybody actually call it the Melrose Trading Post? Or do the masses refer to it, as I do, as the Fairfax Flea Market. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, sayeth Bill. Let us not dwell on the name but instead be thankful that a school in the heart of Hollywood allows the carnival week in, week out– in fact, the school counts on the revenue acquired from said as necessary. I must admit that if the vendors at the corner of Melrose and Fairfax were to begin setting up shop on the campus of my own red state alma mater, local administration would be crapping pants and calling the fire department. So then! Rock on, rock-and-roll high school. We salute you.
First off, make sure you have in your possession the $1 Entry LA Weekly Coupon which can usually be found by rifling one of the Weeklies at the Daily Grind coffee shop across the street. The dollar you save on admission can be used to help defray the cost of something incredibly foolish once inside.
Be wary of the gatekeeper who gets easily flustered while collecting cash. Small bills are strongly advised. Bring singles. If you have to bust a $20 to get in, not only will you piss the gatekeeper off and hold up the line, you’ll also run the risk of freaking the gatekeeper out to the point where he gets confused and gives you incorrect change. Following this you’ll walk a few meters, count your change, turn around, brandish a wad of sweaty bills at him and say “Not enough!” causing him to become even more pissed and argue the accusation while the entire line glowers at you. Finally he pays you off just to be rid of you. Whether or not you are in the right, you will end up looking like an ass holding up the line. Again, bring singles.
There is a process in place at the gate. Adhere:
- Approach the silly-looking wagon in two single-file lines. You will be intensely scrutinized by three or four people wearing headsets. Pay them neither mind nor money.
- At the counter, pay your admission fee ($1 or $2 per person, based on whether or not you remembered to scavenge for the $1 coupon in the Weekly)
- Receive a carnival ticket.
- Hand carnival ticket to another headset-clad person not two feet away from where you just purchased the ticket
- Stamp time. Get hand stamped by final headset person. Make sure you ask the worker to stamp the ink right on top of whatever club stamped your hand with ink the night before. Settle for no other spot.
Everybody all set? Jesus. That was a process-and-a-half, but we’re finally inside the gate. Let’s do this.
As compared to nearby Sunday markets (Selma/Ivar, et al) the house coffee at the Melrose swap is pretty much crap. This is no coincidence, surprisingly. The coffee is merely reminding you not to get your hopes up here. Like the house coffee, the items you purchase at the Melrose Trading Post will on average be overpriced and of dubious quality, but will ultimately get the job done in the end. Bypass the bad coffee hurdle: Come prepared with a triple americano from the Daily Grind just across Melrose. This is the same coffee shop where you remembered to stop and get the $1 coupon.
Vendors Not to Miss
1) Shabby Chic Furniture Purveyor. You know the one. He sets up right by the coffee stand. Everything is minty-green, yellow, white. Shabbed out. Outfit your entire apartment for less than $300. Everything is negotiable here, including your brief, hurried conversation with the seller. If you see something you like, buy it immediately, now, on the spot. The U-Haul Couple at the south end of the market (from whom I once purchased a fine ceramic turtle) just might nab it while you’re distracted. It has been known to happen. BE PREPARED. CARRY AT LEAST $150 CASH IF YOU’RE HERE FOR FURNITURE. This man cannot say no to that kind of scratch thrust under his nose. Who could? If you have to leave the market to go to the Bank of America ATM across Fairfax, don’t expect your item to be there when you return. The good stuff moves ridiculously fast.
2) Beltman. Just when you thought you would never need another belt whatsoever, Beltman’s mind-bending array of leather snakes stops you cold. You will soon be buying five belts. Just warning you.
3) Bookman. Yikes, I love Bookman. Vinyl record prices could be better but the book prices are spot-on. Situated in the northwest corner of the market, Bookman has a ton of classic literature at very affordable prices. Expand your mind and buy a few books instead of that ceramic McDonaldland Grimace cookie jar you’ve been eyeing. Alternatively, buy some paperbacks thin enough to be stored inside the Grimace cookie jar. Now this is shopping.
Vendors to probably skip
Tiny-Wee Oldtime Quirky Postcards Framed In Overly Heavy Metal Casings Vendor… Not to be confused with Quasi-Tiny Old Quirky Unframed Poster Prints Vendor, who is situated at the west side of the market and directly in the way of any car attempting to pick up bulky items. Probably you’ll never want any of the crap either vendor sells, but you’ll still browse both vendors each visit.
In the end, even if you purchase nothing the Melrose Trading Post offers comraderie, a chance to argue over worthless crap, and some of the all-time best people- and dog-watching in the entire city, bar none.
Ryan’s All-Time Top Five Melrose Trading Post Acquisitions
Over the years I’ve unearthed some real gems at this market. It takes patience. Diligence. Practice. It takes hangovers. Coffee. Croissants. It takes blood, sweat, tears, earth, wind, fire. It takes Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. It takes…hell. It takes practice. Don’t expect to waltz in here your first visit and come out a champion. It takes practice, pure and simple, but you can get some great deals at the market. My personal all-time favorite MTP purchases follow:
1) The Stevie Wonder Acquisition
Occasionally one of the non-record vendors will turn up with a bunch of cardboard boxes of vinyl taken from an estate. You should pounce on these as fast as possible. In one fell-bulk-vinyl swoop I was able to acquire the holy mecca of 70s Stevie, each album in mint/near-mint condition, for less than $1 per album. Probably I can never top this purchase, but it’s fun to try. Albums acquired include:
-Songs in the Key of Life
-Talking Book (two copies)
-Fulfillingness’ First Finale
-What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
2) Joe Jackson / Evans/ Yes/ Hella Mad Book Combo
This is a double-billing of Bookman’s wares and another stellar bulk vinyl acquisition. When I find myself with nothing to do on a Sunday, sometimes nothing can be more relaxing than walking a few blocks to the MTP, buying books, buying records, and retiring to my living room to read books and listen to records. A few months ago I acquired Joe Jackson’s Night and Day with a bunch of other albums. I then acquired titles by Marquez, Kerouac, Coelho and Jim Thompson from Bookman, who also gave me a bulk discount. Holy sweetastic fancypants! The books were all solids. Night and Day ? ’80s beyond belief but when it’s on, it’s on. I am almost ashamed to admit it has since become my defacto “Going out in Hollywood let’s get our shoes on” album. The music’s great; the lyrics haven’t aged as well. The same purchase also included the legendary Bill Evans Village Vanguard double set (holy crap-inski!) and the Yes prog-rock/dungeons-and-dragons masterpiece Relayer, which can pull even the most jaded, stamina-lacking diceroller out of any jam (ironically, via jamming).
3) Saudi Arabia: Sportsman’s Mecca T-shirt
A little over a couple of years ago this guy used to sell his t-shirts at the market for around $20. They’re now only available online for an incredibly painful price, or at some New York equivalent of the MTP. Arguably, the shirts are still worth the inflated cost. As hard as it may be to believe that a guy who ran for a state senate seat in New Jersey would wind up hawking a $20 t-shirt to me at the flea market a few months later, that’s apparently the case.
4) Giant $20 Bookcase, unwarped, freshly painted (!)
This was truly a winning scenario. I purchased it from one of the secondary furniture vendors as compared to the coffee stand’s Shabby Chic Maestro.
5) Broken Chairman Mao Alarm Clock
In all actuality a friend purchased this item for his communist-enthralled brother, but he talked them into such a sweet deal I had to include the purchase on this list.
Next Week: Three Dark Secrets concerning Peddler on the Roof
Melrose Trading Post
Melrose at Fairfax