New Egypt Flea Market

New Jersey has many well-known flea markets (aka “boot sales” or “swap meets”), including New Egypt, Englishtown, Collingswood, Golden Nugget, and Columbus.

The New Egypt Flea Market Village┬áhas the most character of all the Jersey markets. While most markets have one or two year-round buildings and vast parking lots filled with tables and tents, New Egypt is comprised of a village of tiny, colorful houses, each with its own unique personality and goods for sale. It’s a stew of hillbilly, hippy, gypsy, rock n’ roll, Americana, and rural charm. You’ll find well-curated shops selling music, toys, antiques, homemade soaps, dried flowers from the Pine Barrens, coffee, and more (see the merchant list). You won’t find as many of the “dollar store” type items like off-brand batteries, cell phone cases, crew socks, and cheap sunglasses that dominate other fleas.

The entrance to the New Egypt Flea Market features weathered signs that look like they were last painted in 1969 with paint left over from a swimming pool (or my Dad’s old station wagon).
Entrance to New Egypt Flea Market

The day I visited there was a car show and a rockabilly concert. The guys from Weird New Jersey had a table to sell their magazine, patches, and stickers.
Classic Car

The wood-carved pig caught my eye. Now I’m hungry for Pork Roll. There’s a place next door to the flea market that resembles Barter Town from Mad Mad where chainsaw bears, eagles, and other beasts are made.

Wooden Pig

Balloons made of old vinyl records on the side of a music shop:
Record Balloons

Bibo

Return to Archie McPhee

My last visit to Seattle was in 2009, and at that time I visited Archie McPhee at their old location. Seven years passed and it was time for another visit. The location has changed, but the fun remains the same.

“What is Archie McPhee”? It’s a catalog, website and brick, and mortar store — created and owned by Mark Pahlow — that sells wacky gimmicks and novelties. What kind of novelties? How about unicorn masks, bonnets for your cat, Bigfoot Christmas ornaments, glow-in-the-dark octopus tentacles you wear on your fingers, squirrel underpants, rubber chickens, and bacon-flavored candy canes? Their website has about 600 different novelties, and the store seems to have about 10,000. The novelties stay on the classy side of the street — no fart jokes or vibrating devices. Every Christmas I place a massive order and treat my friends and family to some memorable oddball amusements.

I arrived at Archie McPhee about an hour later than I planned. The GPS in my rental got me lost 4 or 5 times, allowing me to see much of Seattle but limiting my time at McPhee. Fortunately, the new location was easy to spot — red & yellow and lined with many of the mythical characters featured in their gimmicks — and they have free parking. Once I entered the store, it was like one of those game shows where you have a limited time to grab as much money as you can. Instead of cash, I was grabbing finger monsters, squirrel-sized coffee cups, fugu-flavored candies, gummy candy bacon (tastes like strawberry, looks like bacon), a Bigfoot scarf, zombie pirate finger puppets, rubber tentacles, Thanksgiving dinner flavored gum, rubber chicken floating pens, and much more. I ended up spending $197 dollars (and got a free book about Archie McPhee). Had I more time, I would have spent a thousand dollars. Literally $1000.

Click and zoom in on these photos to get an idea about how vast their novelty selection is.

SO MUCH FUN at Archie McPhee in Seattle WA

Showroom floor at Archie McPhee in Seattle WA

So, in 7 years, what has changed? Obviously, the location and the exterior of the building have changed, and inside many of the attractions have been altered in some transformative but amusing way. Otherwise, it’s the same store, packed with goodies and awesomely helpful employees (who, even though I arrived close to closing time, didn’t chase me out the door — which I really appreciate).

The new storefront is missing the Jesus Lizard and neon (the neon is around the corner), but it has gained a Bibo and Bigfoot:

Archie McPhee Storefront

Cap’t Archie the Fortune Teller, once clearly a boat captain, now appears to be on his day off, enjoying a meal at a diner:

Cap't Archie

The Devil Head has gained some blond locks, X’s for eyes, and a veil of sorts:

Devil Head

So, what did I learn from my most recent trip to Archie McPhee:

  1. Our time on earth is short, so have and share as much fun as you can, while you can.
  2. Things change over time, but if your core beliefs and aspirations stay the same, cosmetic/superficial transformations make little difference.
  3. You can learn valuable lessons by returning to places you’ve visited in past.
  4. Rental car GPS, not so good.

Links:

Archie McPhee

Archie McPhee in Seattle

What would life be without the occasional zany novelty item? Life would be gray, dull, routine, and boring. It would be a song that has rhythm, but no melody.

The front of the store. Note the neon sign, and lizard face and notice that they were moving locations:

Archie Mcphee

Archie McPee is the grand champion of zany but tasteful novelties (they seem to stay away from the fart and sex jokes). They have their favorite topics, like rubber ducks, rubber chickens, bacon, cats, Bigfoot, squirrels, pickles, unicorns, the devil, and odd-ball historical figures. They have their favorite types of novelties, like finger puppets, wind-up toys, bandages, cat hats, mints, masks, squirrel feeders, lip balm, and air fresheners. Need underpants for your squirrel? They got it. Need a bacon-scented air freshener? They got it. Need an inflatable wizard hat for your cat? They got that too.

I’m a big fan of Archie McPhee. I’ve been ordering from their catalog for at least 20 years, particularly for Christmas gifts. My favorite item of all time is their (discontinued) Cicada Keychain. When I was in Seattle for business I visited their brick n’ mortar store. Every fan of zany novelty items should visit at least once in their lifetime.

The store was everything I hoped for: everything in the online catalog and more… much more. They had boxes of eyes meant for taxidermy and odd-ball stuff like that. Plus, giant heads, carnival fortune readers, and other props that fit the motif of their merchandise. The staff was helpful, and pleasant but not dead behind the eyes.

A row of the Devil Duckies that they are famous for
A row of the Devil Duckies that they are famous for

Giant paper-mache devil head:
Giant paper-mache devil head

Captain Archie, Fortune Teller:
Giant paper-mache devil head

My purchases:
Archie Mcphee purchases

The location I visited, in May of 2009, has since closed and the store has moved to a new location. I imagine the new location is just as magical.

If you want more insight into Archie McPhee, check out this blog post on the Secret Fun Blog and follow their CEO Mark Pahlow in twitter.

Drive Thru Liquor Store

The Land Between the Lakes, part 2

Welcome to the truck stop

I arrived at the Hampton Inn at sunset. The sky was ablaze with ribbons of orange, gold, and red. I watched the colors fade behind the hotel; when the last drop of red drained from the black stage of the night, I walked into the hotel and checked it.

It must be said: no one tries harder to please their customers than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. It was Memorial Day Weekend. You would be hard-pressed to find a hotel more patriotic than the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn. Their staff was uninformed in red, white & blue; a variety of patriotic flair pinned & clipped to their torsos and heads. The hotel lobby was festooned with red, white & blue decorations… It was amazing. U.S. Flag key chains were free at the counter. The staff was pleasant and helpful. Free breakfast in the lobby every day, including a waffle maker. Free lemonade and treats throughout the day; come back from a long day of outdoor adventure — a cold glass of lemonade is waiting for you. Free toothbrushes! Forget to pack your toothbrush — they have you covered. Clean rooms with refrigerators and wi-fi.

The most memorable hotel worker was the night-shift desk clerk. Imagine Penn from Penn & Teller, covered with red, white & blue flair, and just bursting with enthusiasm about the holiday weekend, and with eagerness to help hotel guests. I couldn’t help but think: this guy loves his country, loves his job, loves helping people, and it’s 2 am and he has to deal with drunks and whatever maniacs are awake in the middle of the night. What a mensch!

Hampton Inn in Kuttawa KY

The truck stop featured three or four gas and diesel stations, two burger joints, two hotels, a steak & country music restaurant, a Huddle House, a drive-through liquor store, and a lady who sold barbecued meats from a grill she towed behind her truck.

I know what you’re thinking: “how many times did you drive through the liquor store drive-through?” Sadly, zero times. Instead, I just walked there (and bought many PBR tall boys).

And “did you fall in love with the lady who sold barbecued meats?” Sadly, no. If I did, I would still be in Kentucky.

Drive Thru Liquor Store in Kuttawa KY

PBR, country music wafting through the night air, and taking photos of gas stations at night. Once the cicadas are quiet, that’s how I do it.

Exxon in Kuttawa KY

BP in Kuttawa KY

Local Stores

The next day, while cruising around the Land Between the Lakes area, listening for cicadas (why I was in the area in the first place), I made sure I stopped by local stores and markets to get an idea of what local life might be like.

The local flea markets were intense and possibly magical. Imagine a roadside lined with rows of shacks made from plywood and hope. Inside each was antiques, toys, clothes, Christmas artifacts, knives, preserves, dolls, cellphone cases, drones, and other dreams without a home — you name it, they had it. I walked away with pickles, a knife, and some LP recordings of the Bible.

Red Door Antiques was pretty good. They had a wide variety of antiques and collectibles. I picked up a vacuum tube tester and some rhubarb preserves. I enjoyed seeing a Big Jim vinyl camper that I think I had as a child (I vaguely remember destroying it by peeling the vinyl from its cardboard frame because I liked the sensation of the vinyl tearing).

Big Jim Truck

I visited an outlet store mall. Only 10% of the stores were occupied. I bought another knife — this time a multi-tool. I was surprised by the overall lack of activity in the area — maybe it was because of the holiday weekend. Maybe not that many tourists were visiting the park.

But no, the Walmart was packed to the rafters with people. Probably all looking for a USB cable, just like me.

Oh well.