Strange omens rune the land. A long line, orderly and silent, forms at the P.T.A. thrift storefront before dawn. Across the street observant passersby, puzzled, attempt to augur motive and purpose. The graveled auto repair shop parking lot, always crowded, is strangely empty. Gray daybreak, Causality in question, we can only wonder at the end of days and signs that might manifest beast on a leash, moped riders, and sleepy-eyed crowds of the resurrected. Heated breath and steam fog coffeehouse windows. Conversation speculatively muted, flows in a sibilant hiss of nervous words. Now I’m told it’s $3.00 Bag Day at the P.T.A; late arrivals appear in the waiting room car keys in hand. Banality inevitably marks apocalypse.
A trek to the North Carolina fairgrounds and the weekly flea market on a bright and wind-blown Saturday brought two things to mind: the extent to which these markets represent the debris fields of a post-industrial apocalypse and the place of the “picker” in the American imagination. Traversing the parking lot, passing into makeshift rooms defined by folding tables, we scan arrays of things grouped in categories beyond the reach of reason. Strange celluloid holiday ornaments, bolt-worn rust-freckled wrenches, weirdly obvious knock-offs of Elvis concert posters and Beatles memorabilia, pottery pets with concretized myopia, salt shakers longing for their pepper mates. This is the stuff of emptied houses and ransacked rubbish piles. And somehow it all bears the rhetoric of negotiable value. The cyberpunk eye catches a glimpse of a world in ruin, sifted, assayed, scavenged, sacked, bruised. There is no sense of resilience here, only an endless and remorseless degradation. A truly inspiring place inhabited by a race of pickers—highway nomads in cars with odometers set on infinity.