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Wonderfully Awful: Miss Cuttie and Other Swap Meet Treasures


a blogumn by Robin Rosenzweig

So I’m just going to come out and say it…I love to shop. However, as someone who has been FUNemployed for quite some time now, I have discovered that it’s not always (or ever) in my best interest to indulge in the joys of a productive trip to the mall. So I try to refrain as much as possible. The exception, of course, is when I  stumble upon a good deal or, perhaps even, a hidden oasis of bargains. And that’s exactly what happened last weekend when I found myself at a swap meet in the hot Arizona desert.

Our mannequin friend is incredibly well-endowed!

Our mannequin friend is incredibly well-endowed!

It started with a road trip to Tucson to play in a roller derby game. I was carpooling with friends on the long and intensely boring 8+ hour drive from Los Angeles. We arrived at about 8:00p.m. and were a bit groggy from the many hours on the road, but quickly perked up when we started to pass by what looked like a carnival. There were children’s rides and bright lights, cars were packed along the dirt-lined roadside, and people were darting across the street – traffic be damned – to get to whatever this magical place was. We passed by the sign, and it read: TANQUE VERDE SWAP MEET. We instantly wanted to go, but hunger and exhaustion eventually won out that night.

However, the vision of this magical place lingered in our minds, so we made it our mission to visit the next day. It was the best decision we could have possibly made. The place was lined with a multitude of booths offering a huge variety of goods at a dirt cheap price.

As we strolled through, we noticed that the items generally fell into one of two categories: designer knock-off or yard sale collectible. We saw several booths selling children’s car seats, which didn’t strike me as the most safety-conscious purchase a parent could make. Same applies for the knives and ninja throwing star vendors. There was one booth selling what could best be described as hoochie wear, featuring the most well-endowed mannequin I have ever seen. And, in a brilliant move, golf carts with kegs on board were cruising around selling beer to the sweaty shoppers.

Hands down, the best $2.50 I have ever spent.

Hands down, the best $2.50 I have ever spent.

It is my theory that shoppers with the best sense of humor tend to get the most out of swap meets. That certainly applied to me. By the time I left the place, I scored a pack of kitty socks, a chicken shirt with Spanish writing that I totally do not understand (a gift for my chicken-obsessed fiancé), a pair of pajamas that say “MISS CUTTIE” in all their Engrish glory, a custom airbrushed hat (for $10!), and – the piece de resistance – a vintage clock with kittens frolicking on matchsticks…for the low, low price of $2.50.

We were so swap meet-obsessed after we left that we found ourselves at another swap meet on the way home from Tucson. This one was in Quartzite, Arizona. I didn’t end up buying anything this time around. However, the sheer number of cat shirts, expired over the counter medication, and bug-encased jewelry definitely makes this swap meet worth visiting.

SIDENOTE: Please visit the Tanque Verde Swap Meet website – if only for the kicky jingle alone!