Friday, March 7, 2008

Canton Trade Days: Life After the Apocalypse

I've long been fascinated by visionary works that glimpse into a dark and distant future. Orwell's 1984, Huxley's A Brave New World, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and of course, the best trilogy of movies ever made, Mad MaxMad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (it is basically inevitable that Tina Turner will play a critical role in some sort of future world after society collapses).
While these highly creative works of fiction give a taste of life after some sort of apocalyptic event or major societal readjustment, Megan and I were able to visit our post-apocalyptic future by attending the Canton First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas.
Megan and I drove out to the event not quite knowing what to expect. I guess we mainly expected to finds lots of stuff and various assortments of things, and we assumed this stuff would be cheaper than the stuff available for purchase here in Dallas. We also expected funnel cake.
We pulled up on a warm Sunday with a hard wind blowing from the northwest. The sky was grey with fast-moving clouds overhead. We wore shorts, but it would snow the next afternoon . . . the weather itself seemed to reflect a world turned on its head. 
We parked in a pasture and walked up to what appeared to be a refugee village. The area was covered with a scattering of tables and random pieces of furniture. The vendors stood outside ramshackle RVs and worn-out vans. Many sat back from the merchandise, just staring into space while petting mangy dogs. The tables were covered with dusty objects from the past--old pieces of furniture, rusted hammers, random bits of china, odd-looking art, mismatched wooden boxes, spooky dolls that might have slithered off a horror movie set, faded paperbacks, the occasional firearm, gas lamps, vintage soda machines, and really just about anything else that might come to mind.
The place was fascinating.  I've never seen such a wide variety of objects in one location. At the same time, it gave us a spooky feeling. When society ends, I imagine that this will be how it reinvents itself. The survivors will salvage the useful remnants from the bygone era and peddle that detritus in a proto-economy marked chiefly by its mobility (this market would not exist in just a couple more days before reappearing a month later). Cash was the only currency here, but I imagine that barter would have worked just fine if Megan and I had brought something more useful than our windbreakers and ballcaps.
Eventually we walked out of this eerie glimpse into a bleak future and into the covered pavilions, which took us to the next stage of life after the apocalypse. This area felt more permanent with such pleasant features as a concrete floor and metal roof. The vendors peddled recently manufactured wares and clever inventions (like footlong, folding fishing poles that apparently work as well as a regular length pole). Here society regained a sense of permanence despite its portability (the RVs were just better hidden over here). The next step in development would be the shopping mall, and, when shopping malls return, I suppose human life will have come full circle and recovered.
Eventually the wind began to carry bits of rain that mixed with the blowing dust, and we decided to depart. One could not leave this place empty-handed, so we carried back to the car an assemblage of objects as random as the day itself: a wooden bench for our porch, a cowboy hat, a few pounds of corn meal, and a religious triptych. We'll be back there again next month . . . this time with a bigger vehicle and perhaps something to barter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that Canton is a symbolic sign that society as we know it is already on the brink of Thunderdome.

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