Every once in a while, I write about a source for any DIYers who want to quirk up their house or yard. We say “once every blue moon.” In Mexico, they say “once every death of a Bishop.” Same thing.
I return to this vein today with a notional holiday field trip to the first-Sunday-of-the-month Alameda Point Antique Faire. I had never been. It was Labor Day weekend, meaning that Berkeley and Alameda were, if you recall, hot AF, not an optimal morning for walking around a faire. Heat and all, it was all that it promised to be, all that it could be. It rocks the quirky vibe big-time.
There are antiques, to be sure. But there are also knick-knacks, tiliches, tchotchkes, gewgaws, bibelots, ornament, trifle, bauble, gimcrack, curios,kickshaws – decorative objects. Such as the Heinz clock above. Heinz first used Aristocrat Tomato Man in mid-1930s print ads for Heinz tomato juice. Mr. Aristocrat later appeared in Heinz ads dressed as a farmer, Scotsman and cowboy.
I didn’t buy the clock. I wish that I had. It was very early in the day and I didn’t know what else I might find. Mistake!
There are hundreds of dealers. Thousands, maybe 10,000-plus, shoppers. It is really something.
Everywhere – bright colors, bordering at times on visual overload.
John Storey and I had guides, the best that Big Love can buy.
Marcia Donahue makes ceramic art and she gardens and collects beautiful things. I have posted about her.
Jon Balderston makes whimsical furniture and collects toys and containers (wrong word!) and board game boards. I have posted about him.
Between them there were two great hats and four great discerning eyes and friendships with many dealers. Too bad the photos don’t show her pants – smiley faces.
I invite you now to check out some of the gazillions of quirky kitschy whimsical fanciful garish tawdry decorative objects that were for sale on September 3, 2017:
The bottle openers here are special. There’s the cheesecake ones, but then there is hip granny.
This is from Will Squier’s booth. He is the King of Kitsch. I have written about him.
Pipes. My father smoked a pipe, even after he gave up cigarettes. Pipe smoke is a familiar and comforting smell for me. You don’t see see a lot of pipe smoking these days, do you?
Bakelite! Coolest colors every. Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride is another name for it. The Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland developed this early plastic in the laboratory at his “Snug Rock” home in Yonkers in 1907.
I should have bought the whole bunch. Didn’t.
I was awed by this, and then a few months later saw Ron Morgan’s Christmas collection that Geneva and Julie Addison were selling. Still, impressive.
I love love loved this United airlines little kid swing. Too big for my life, but it really rocks.
Tables filled with hats – the booth of Mickey and Finlandia McGowan of Unknown Museum fame.
Why not? If bowling balls can be lawn art, why can’t billiard balls be house art? In the late 1970s I played pool forever at Capp’s bar on West Gabilan Street in Salinas with my friend Dave. We tried to catch the balls as they hit the pockets to play again for free. Capp himself spotted us a quarter for a game when we told him that we had both passed the Bar.
This is Jim Santangelo, a friend of Balderston’s. He’s a big-time dealer in postcards and paper ephemera.
Geneva and Julie Addison were at the Faire, selling. You will remember them as the extraordinary mother-daughter team who sold Eli Leon’s quilt and Ron Morgan’s Christmas collection.
Cigar band art was a woman’s art form,popular in the early 1900s. The bands were used to decorate dishes, coasters, bracelets and other items. I was smitten by them. One of these pieces would make a lovely gift.
These singing bowls are from Nepal. They are a type of bell. They don’t hang, but stand with the bottom resting. The rim vibrates to produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and usually two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic). I don’t know what that means!
Standing bells are known by a variety of terms in English – bowls, cups or gongs. Specific terms include prayer bowl, Himalayan bowl, rin gong, cup gong, and suzu gong. A bell that is capable of producing a sustained musical note may be known as a singing bowl or Tibetan singing bowl. In Japan, the name for a bell of the standing type varies between Buddhist sects. It may be called rin, kin, keisu, kinsu, sahari or uchinarashi. Large temple bells are sometimes called daikon. Small versions for a home altar are known as namarin.
Marcia Donahue introduced me to Cynthia Broderson. She collects antique textiles and shops them to large chains that reproduce them. Those that don’t get bought by the big dogs end up at Alameda. They are just plain stunning.
The rules of the Faire are – everything is at least 20 years old. Except it isn’t.
Not without charm – but AGAINST THE RULES.
Many vendors sell antique dolls. They are, as I have said before, capable of being quirky/creepy AF. Case proven here:
Dolls can stir strange and unsettling feelings, and not just because of dolls in horror movies. Dolls invoke the “uncanny valley” described in robotics by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970. The uncanny valley is the notional home of the response of revulsion many of us experience when we see human-like features on something other than a human. The eyes!
The Alameda Faire is all that it is promised to be. Overload. Tiring. Inspiring. Hot. Exhausting. Uplifting.
Allen Michaan owns and operates the Faire, as well as a large auction house adjacent to the faire. Good job! He owns the lease for the Grand Lake Theater and over the years has owned and operated other old-time movie theaters with love. By every account he is a stand-up and righteous person.
Time to go. We didn’t make it to every vendor.
It was hot. Our feet hurt. It was sunny. There was too much. CRYBABIES!
We bought nothing. Others bought.
Hit the trail!
I’ll go again. I’ll buy a few things. I wish I’d bought the Heinz clock for sure. Maybe one or two of the bottle openers. But I didn’t. You could outfit a Big Room of Quirk there in a morning, no problem.
I showed this post to my friend. His twin Earl was over, helping prepare for Thanksgiving. They were arguing about how it happened that on Thanksgiving in 8th grade a dart thrown by my friend ended up stuck in Earl’s calf. It was a friendly and oft-repeated argument.
Two objects sat on the kitchen table.
My friend is as proud as proud can be of this clipping that he has about what Arlo Guthrie jokingly called “the story of the Alice’s Restaurant Massacre,”
And the album. At some point today my friend and Earl will sit and listen and talk along almost the whole way through. I saw Arlo perform the song at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr early in the song’s career. I saw Arlo at the Moratorium in Washington on November 15, 1969. I was a march marshall working the celebrity seating section near the stage. A few months earlier I had hitchhiked (yes, I was Jack Kerouac on the road!) with Margaret Gay (whom I’d known since we were seven years old) from Philadelphia to Northampton, Massachusetts via Hartford where Hank Fried joined us, to hear Arlo perform at Smith College. It was spectacular autumn weather – the George Washington Bridge with the color of fall trees along the river was about as glorious a moment as there can be although Margaret was worried about her parents ever finding out she had hitchhiked. We couldn’t get into the concert at Smith but heard a few verses of “Motorcycle Song” through a window, listing for the rhymes of motorcycle with pickle and die. I hung out with Meg Alexander who I’d known from the Baldwin School and we talked about what it was like to be away from the cocoon of the Main Line and IN COLLEGE. My Arlo stories! It’s all about me!!!!!
They lingered over the cigar band art. I asked why.
Their grandfather smoked cigars. Specifically, he smoked Brown Bomber cigars. My friend has a couple of the wooden boxes they came in.
It should come as no surprise that Gabby had at one point sent my friend a couple Brown Bomber decorative objects.
The “Brown Bomber” was Joe Louis, a boxer with “style and skill such as the boxing world has seldom seen.” He was from Alabama. At the time,there was nothing questionable about the nickname.
Louis is for most of us best remembered for his second fight against German Max Shmelling on June 22, 1938. Schmeling was not a member of the Nazi party and always denied Nazi claims of Aryan racial superiority; his family was not allowed by Germany to travel to the United States for fear that they would defect. A Nazi minder sent with Louis issued the statement that a black man could not defeat Schmeling and that his purse would be used to help pay for more German tanks. Schmeling’s personal beliefs notwithstanding, he became a symbol of Hitler and fascism.
And more irony – a young black man from Alabama whose people were being systematically denied their rights, now positioned as he champion of the country responsible for the discrimination. Louis later wrote: “”I knew I had to get Schmeling good. I had my own personal reasons and the whole damned country was depending on me.”
The fight was over in two minutes and four seconds. Louis won. The crowd of 70,000 in Yankee Stadium went batshit bonkers crazy wild excited. U-S-A / U-S-A!!!!!!
My friend and Earl remembered their grandfather with his Brown Bomber cigars, which he was allowed by grandmother Lou(ise) to smoke only in his woodshop out in the garage. “The place reeked.” said Earl. “None of that shaved wood chip smell. Couldn’t even smell the varnish.”
Enough of these digressions. I asked for their honest opinion on the post and our notional holiday road trip to Alameda. They were unanimous:
P.S. One small point. Does it have to be Faire? Wouldn’t “Fair” do? I don’t like olde spellings. I think it dates from my high school years.
The Hot Shoppe on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr was the burger joint on my youth. Even then I resented the faux-Shakespearian spelling. I have read that the faux language is also sometimes referred to as “gadzookery”, from the archaic expression gadzooks.
Whatever. I won’t like a silent e harsh the mellow here.