As I’ve written about here many times, I absolutely love flea markets. And while said second-hand sales are usually far-reaching in their goods and services, I had never once been to a themed one; when I saw that Tulsa was having a Punk Rock Flea Market, I dusted off the old Doc Martens and made a spastic fit for the Expo Square Exchange Center, 4145 E. 21st St.
The large Tulsa driller-killer welcomed my friend, my dog Sean, and me to their fixer-upper fairgrounds, with a large banner weighing heavily on the frontage, although we knew where we were when we saw scads of youthful Hot Topic regulars standing out front bumming smokes and scamming for change. I felt like I was in tenth grade again, a sense of mild repulsion hurtling over me.
After a short wait at the door to get my credentials validated, we made our way into the gargantuan building, with each of us pulling in a different direction: my friend the artwork, me the records and Sean the food court, perhaps the most punk of us all as he tried to beg for scraps from the money-heavy carb-eaters, even though he had a nourishing breakfast not more than two or three hours prior.
Pulling him away like the authority figure I am, Sean and I started our riotous walk through the bizarre bazaar, past the lone record outlet that had nothing but punk albums—go figure!—and other ephemera, past the horrifying artwork that featured distorted baby dolls and painted animal skulls, past the animal rescue that was apparently named after a S.E. Hinton novel; it fits better for a pack of mutts than a gang of rambunctious youths anyway, at least I think so.
As my friend bought an outright beautiful piece of original art—oddly enough not featuring punks, instead spotlighting a dark vase of haunting flowers—I considered purchasing various goods, but never saw a shirt I liked or a record I loved. I did, however, run into a few people that I talked to for a moment, including a guy with a shirt that read “Vinyl Sounds Better,” an always-true slogan that I could justly get behind.
Somewhere near the back of the building, past the vendors and their storefronts, there was a dunk tank, featuring what I assume is a punk, hurling minor league, non-sexist, non-racist insults at people that walked by. While I appreciate the non-hurtful barbs—the Oklahoma State Fair could use this guy!—as I walked by and he threw one my way, I kind of shrugged and gently walked away, not wanting to aquatically baptize such a kindhearted soul.
Sean, on the other hand, started to get bored, even ignoring the other dogs that might pass us as he splayed out on the concrete floor, trying to catnap in-between my constant stops and frequent conversations. Point made, we headed for the exit.
While I would have like to give shit to the cops, flip off the military and say “Fuck you!” to the our elected officials like we used to do, the Tulsa Punk Rock Flea Market, despite all the guitars, tattoos and sneers, was actually a calm, friendly, peaceful afternoon, something that I’d expect more from a Jimmy Buffett convention than an anti-capitalist punk market. Good on them, I say.
As I was leaving, however, I cracked a crusty smile, knowing that I got to at least prove my cop dad wrong about these people, many of whom are probably doing better financially than I ever could.