The Englishtown Auction, a colossal outdoors flea market based in Manalapan, NJ, literally has everything: used books and tools, CDs, toys from the 1980s, new toiletries, Christmas ornaments, furniture, clothes. For someone like me, who likes low prices and endless browsing, it's wonderful.
But the people-watching makes the place Xanadu. Englishtown is a required visit for any writing student. Some of the vendors look like recovering hoarders who reluctantly bring whatever was in their attic with them. Most are surly. Some are condescending ("One peso," remarked one to a Spanish-seeking crowd, unaware that a dollar and peso are two different currencies). Others are downright neighborly. The shoppers consist of Yuppies, immigrants, teenagers, and white trash.
It's also my strip club. Every couple has certain places that a man adores but a woman loathes. A visit to this place requires months of planning and superb timing. You can't go every week unless you want your possessions relocated to the front lawn. For most couples, the battleground is a strip club, a golf course, or a bar. Think this is the death of manhood? No, it's a natural consequence of being in a relationship. It's not all about you.
My wife loathes Englishtown. She thinks it's dirty (when it rains, the venue resembles a mud wrestling pit), filled with a special variety of weirdo, and beyond creepy. After seeing underwear of questionable origin for sale, she threw in the towel. Her open disdain is rare because she's so patient--after all, she's married to me. My sister-in-law also hates it, so my brother is left to fantasize about searching through mounds of old Happy Meal toys.
On Sunday, circumstances aligned so that we got our freedom. And it was glorious. I bought a packet of Gilette Fusion razors for eight dollars and a hardcover of "The Miracle of St. Anthony" for one dollar. I munched on a bagel, sipped a coffee, and took it all in.
It was a ton of fun, and I look forward to the next visit. Unless I develop a drinking problem or improve my tee shot, then it's anyone's guess.
2.) I was watching the end of "Wanted" the other day, and I couldn't help wonder why James McAvoy was in this dreadful affair. Movie executives couldn't have imagined the following conversation, right?
Artsy Husband (from behind "New York Times" arts and leisure section): James McAvoy? Honey, isn't that the young man from "Becoming Jane"?
Artsy Wife (looking up from Anita Diamant paperback): Yes, he was fabulous in that! And he was riveting in "Atonement." He's such a thoughtful, sensitive actor. Oh, I like him.
Artsy Husband: Well, the review says he plays an assassin who can bend bullets, or some such nonsense. That can't be the same actor, right?
Artsy Wife: There's one way to find out. Let's invite the gang from the film society. We should go soon, before the Fassbinder marathon on IFC.
3.) My wife and I recently visited friends who have three young girls, all under the age of seven, whom we were meeting for the first time. Is there anything more awkward than introducing yourself to little kids? Hugs are too intimate. Handshakes are too formal. High-fives make me feel like a doofus youth coach.
Anybody have any advice on this? I'm legitimately puzzled.
4.) During a weekday afternoon trip to the drug store, I bought a packet of razors and some business envelopes. The clerk, a very nice, gregarious guy, said, "Playing hooky today?"
This got me thinking: What in this transaction suggests that I'm blowing off work? "Yeah, I'm just going to shave my neck hair and mail the shaving scum to business contacts. That's how I chill out."
5.) Note to the writers of "He's Just Not That Into You": Ginnifer Goodwin's character is how a 15-year-old acts, not a 28-year-old. That's one reason why I jumped ship after 10 minutes, and I'm the schmuck who sat through "Made of Honor."
6.) It's quite possible that the opening to the "Jane Austen Book Club"--look at how modern technology is failing us; we need a return to a simpler time!--is one of the most patronizing in recent memory. However, it is the perfect beginning to a shrill, predictable movie that examines unfulfilled lives with the grace of a truck stop bathroom
7.) Recommended reading: Roger Ebert's "Life Itself" (thanks, Kurt); Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean