The problem with having Brooklyn Flea favorites is you never get to try new things. So this time, I skipped the lobster roll, even though I knew I might regret it.
I joined Jill at Porchetta where the girl behind the counter was trying to convince Joel to buy a sandwich. The guy beside her was chopping a slab of roast pork into tiny tiny pieces and it smelled so good that I said, “Fine, I’ll get one too.”
“It’s the best job in the world,” Porchetta girl said. “I’m like a good drug dealer. Everyone’s happy, they come back and tell me, “I need more!” Then we run out and we go home at 3 p.m. I’ve never had a more rewarding job. The vibe is just good. It sells itself. I don’t have to do anything.”
Porchetta guy looked up from the pile of meat in front of him and said, “Yeah, I reign in silence.”
He stuffed four rolls with generous servings of pork. I grabbed mine, took a bite and closed my eyes. It was good. The porchetta was tender, fragrant and flavorful, the skin crispy and salty. The bread was a little tough – pandesal would have been better but that’s the Pinoy in me talking – but the girl was right. I wanted more.
But I resisted because there were other things to eat. Like our favorite elote – corn on the cob prepared the Mexican way: lightly coated with mayo, rolled in cotija cheese and sprinkled with cayenne pepper.
My elote looked so good that as I walked back to our spot, a man stopped me. “Excuse me, where did you get that?”
Ver said she liked her Takumi Taco taco so I got one too. She ordered the Japanese curry beef (curry beef, cotija cheese, Napa cabbage, Japanese mustard, wasabi crema) but I went for the spicy shrimp (chilled poached shrimp, spicy yuzu kosho aioli, avocado, corn salsa). It was good too. It was light in both size and taste.
I was done eating. It was time to shop.
My favorite Brooklyn Flea vendor is Dan’s Parents’ House. Dan is so popular and he has so much stuff that he occupies two booths. He sells things that you can dig up in your parents’ basement or attic – old Happy Meal collectibles, vintage keys, toys from the 70s, 80s and 90s, Garbage Pail Kids stickers, trading cards (he even has New Kids On The Block and 90210 packs), patches, all kinds of cool stuff.
“I can’t believe you have a whole tin of these,” a guy told Dan, after seeing a pile of little plastic beige soldiers. He sounded so excited.
“Oh yeah, they’re my second favorite toy,” Dan said.
“How much for these?” a tiny voice said and Dan looked down to see an adorable little girl wearing an Elsa costume. She was holding up two plastic Pumbaas.
Dan grinned and said, “Two for each, so four dollars.”
The little girl was so cute that if I were Dan, I would have said, “It’s free! What else do you want?” But that’s why Dan is a businessman and I’m not.
I saw a pile of Girl Scout badges and asked the guy assisting Dan how much they were. “Let me ask Dan, it’s my first day here,” he said, sheepishly.
Then he noticed my shoes. “Hey! Cool boots! Hieronymus Bosch?”
“Yup, this is supposed to be Hell.”
“Yeah, I’m very familiar with his work. Heaven is not as cool as that one.”
I wanted to buy old letters. Dan usually has piles of them (a number of them love letters sent during the war) but I was surprised to find out that he no longer had them. “Email me and I’ll find you some,” he said.
But I quickly forgot about the letters. Because I spotted a big bin of trolls.
Some of you already know this story. When I was in sixth grade, I was obsessed with Russ trolls – yes, the ones sold at Gift Gate. I saved up for them and, when asked what gifts I wanted during birthdays and other special occasions, they were always my answer: trolls. Okay, trolls and books. Soon I had amassed a pretty impressive collection – over thirty of them. I had trolls in different sizes, costumes and levels of nakedness, big plush dolls, rings, pencil toppers and pins. I loved them so much that I made sure they surrounded me when I slept. Every night, there was a circle of trolls on my bed, with me happily snoozing in the middle.
To me, it was a cozy setup, to my grandma, it was alarming.
My grandma – yes, the one who spent my college years praying for my virginity – believed that trolls were evil. And seeing me surrounded by them as if I were a human sacrifice didn’t help.
One traumatic day, she grabbed all my trolls, dumped them into a metal drum and set them on fire while I bawled. It still hurts to think about it.
Over twenty years later, I still have a thing for Russ trolls. When I saw Dan’s pile, I squealed and started digging.
Only a handful of them were from Russ though – most of them were just creepy trolls (yes, there’s a difference). I knew instantly that I wanted the Russ troll with aqua hair. And the small troll pin. No one is burning these babies.
I was paying for my purchases when I heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw Happy.
We laughed about how crazy it was that we ran into each other there.
Those are the things I love about Brooklyn Flea – the food, the finds, the surprises.
Then we left in search of crack. And by crack I mean Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie.