The last time I hung out at the Baltimore Convention Center I was an outsider, and I left with a massive sense of appreciation for this very small subculture that at its best seems built out of love and goodness. I thought I might be a bit less of an outsider at today’s convention; my mom’s an antiques dealer, and I have a visceral memory of sitting on the floor behind the folding tables at the antiques shows out at the Idaho State Fairgrounds. After a long morning reading this and that, I thought I’d test out my theory with a ride down to the harbor to check out opening day of the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show. I locked up at the bike-shaped bike rack, making room in between the other bike already there–that’s a rare occurrence–and a scooter–hey, wrong kind of bike–ate a quick sandwich, and then headed inside. The Convention Center itself looked empty. Until I made it to the basement and its giant exhibit hall. Oh, it was overwhelming–the floor completely carpeted, and not just some kind of industrial crap, but a real white carpet. And the flowers, the flowers! This was some high class business, and everybody’s invited. There were dozens and dozens and hundreds of booths, and I could not stop staring at the people and their costumes–not fursuiters, this time, but dressed like the rich people on TV who live in giant mansion-like cages that seem never to be decorated quite enough. I stopped at this booth specializing in something that has to do with animals and wood and antlers and listened in as the lady with the purse considered purchasing the deer and antler head on the wall. The piece is really spectacular, and she agreed, but was up front right away that she couldn’t afford to buy it (as if that wasn’t obvious from her slacks–you need a linen suit, seersucker, or a prom dress if you’re going to be a player here), but they all marveled at it, and it’s easy to ship–those antlers unscrew. Well, why’d you bury the lead, I thought. And then it was time to move on to the next booth and the one after that. I left the show with a couple of postcards, surely the only person who bought something on Thursday and spent less than $10, and I’m guessing the only one who got there and back by bike. And I totally want to go back.
Am guessing more than half of those people left spending nothing. Sometimes I wish I could put a sign on a jar saying: “This is not a museum. Things are for sale”.