One of the great things about May, besides lilacs and... I don't know... more lilacs, is the Brimfield Antique Show (If you think of anything else particularly great about May, let me know. I'm stumped. Rhubarb?)
Brimfield is the place to go in May because where else are you going to find a whole rack of tie-dyed velvet blazers to outfit your Bee Gees tribute band? Your long quest is over.
Every time we go to Brimfield, my husband complains that it's not nearly as good as it was when we first went together, around 20 years ago. He says that it's increasingly about useless pieces of rusty metal nowadays. I quibble: Brimfield always had lots of useless rusty metal. And of course there's a lot more of it now simply because everything has had another 20 years to rust. Like these corrugated letters:
I usually head straight for the apple fritters when we go to Brimfield, although I get lost on the way because I can never remember exactly which field has The Apple Barn. This year I had to break with tradition because I have another round of stupid liver tests coming up. I was
I love Brimfield most for its crazy juxtapositions of weird stuff you'd think no one would ever buy in a million years. There are many dealers with a taste for the surreal and outrageous; their displays beg to be photographed. Like the rusty stuff, they get better every year. It's like there's another, artier festival within Brimfield, showcasing the bizarre and insane:
We always identify "motifs" at Brimfield — items that turn up again and again as we walk the fields, and which we don't remember seeing much of in the past. It could be taxidermy animal heads, Hummel figurines, or vintage prom gowns. One July, it was salt-and-pepper shakers shaped like breasts. This time, I kept spotting Steiff stuffed animals. I didn't see anyone buying them. (This was also true of the salt-and-pepper breasts.)
Occasionally, I come across some Proustian madeleine. This time it was these red rubber snow boots:
I wore these as a little kid — the ones on the right, without the fur. I hated them. I hated how they looked and how they smelled. I hated putting them on and taking them off because a grownup had to help me. I hated their buttons. I hated the miserable pink snowsuit that went with them and the fact that I had go outdoors and stand around freezing and unable to move freely while wearing the whole stiff, rotten getup, which included mittens and a giant hood that blocked my sight if I turned my head.
It all came back to me in a moment. Being an adult is fantastic.
Then there was this:
Notice that her sign say, "Rustored Salvage." Some people thought she was alive; with some dealers, you can't be altogether sure. While many are chatty and want to negotiate, while others ignore their customers, preferring to catch up with their fellow dealers over unhealthy lunches from the food trucks.
Along with the usual antique tents and stands, and the surrealist dealers, there is a growing group of dealers who specialize in better decorative items, often new and/or natural, and usually quite elegantly displayed considering that they are under a tent in a dusty (or muddy) field. Here's one:
Along with shells, minerals, medical illustrations, bones, and aged bottles — stuff everybody needs — they were selling succulents and other houseplants, creatively displayed in stacks of rusty metal drawers:
The place was packed with shoppers but I didn't see many people buying. Generally, the fancier-looking the shop, the less flexibility there'll be on pricing. But that's not always true. If you are complimentary and gracious, you might still get a break. (I did: stay tuned for part 2.)
But first, a cheeseburger. The little sign under it says it's MADE OF FOAM, PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH. Because who can resist fondling a foamy cheeseburger?