Talking with Fred Thomas about the Ypsi Flea

As the Ypsi Flea is coming up in about a week, I though that I’d take the opportunity to speak with Fred Thomas, who organizes the event. What follows is our email exchange.

MARK: So, what’s the Ypsi Flea?

FRED: Ypsi Flea is a free, all ages event held every so often that’s part flea market, part show. The emphasis is less on selling stuff than a chance for the community to get together, hang out, jam, etc.

MARK: When’s the next one?

FRED: The next one is Sunday, December 18th at Woodruff’s. It begins at noon and goes until 7pm.

MARK: Having hosted a few of them now, what have you learned thus far?

FRED: The main thing that’s really become astonishingly clear is that as a people, we are generally drowning in material possessions. Even the many of us living well below the poverty line and under our means have accumulated enough stuff to merit some cleaning out. The script that’s kind of forced on you from birth is that more stuff, new stuff, extra stuff, an endless flow of collected belongings equates to success, character, a sense of being well-learned or cultured, etc. The Flea has been an interesting experiment in the re-distribution of all this stuff, and a type of show-and-tell vibe that allows for exchanging of ideas or inspiration. As a community of people interested in radical ideas of politics, music, culture or just having fun in your life, we can really sustain each other by the sharing of things material and otherwise and ideally break free somewhat of the hyper-corporate hex that we are always in the shadow of.

MARK: What are some of the better, or more interesting things you’ve seen thus far?

FRED: There’s been a bunch of interesting things people have brought out to previous fleas, like the Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” Frisbee I got from Vince at the first one. There was a henna artist once, Lewis had a plethora of really sweet dry-transfer lettering at the last one for a quarter a sheet. The most exciting thing has been the equal covergence of punk show vibes and swap meet vibes. Some folks could care less about a band, and some aren’t interested in used vintage clothes or records, but there’s always a really mellow, fun and happy mid-point that comes about when the two scenes are happening at once. The mood at both previous fleas has been across the board joyous.

MARK: How do you pick vendors?

FRED: It’s a somewhat loose process that I try to keep especially random. Mostly friends, or friends of friends get in touch with me, but then sometimes people I meet on the bus or who look like they’ve got a weird or cool thing to get to, I ask them on board. I’d like it to be as diverse and casual as possible, with a lot of different types of people and perspectives represented. It’s first come, first dibs and I try to cap it off around 20-24 vendors per flea.

MARK: So, what do you have lined up for Sunday, both music-wise and vendor-wise? Can you share a few examples of things we have to look forward to?

FRED: Musically we have mostly solo performers, with sets from Annie Palmer, Sail which is Raphael Brim’s guitar drone-outs, Radiator Hospital; a one-boy band from Grand Rapids, Avery Feral; Amber Fellow’s strange and blissful sonics, and me and Ryan’s band City Center. Vendors will be coming through with a wide palate of goods this time, lots of record dealers, a few bakers, some vintage clothes, crafty stuff, Heidi Pratt is selling some hand-sculpted tiles, Stefanie Stauffer has a variety of hot sauces and pickled goods and there will no doubt be a lot of free stuff, knick knacks and haggling afoot.

MARK: Speaking of experiments in redistribution, I wonder if there might be a place for an event where we take from the rich, and give to the poor? I suspect Andy and Hasan would let us use Woodruff’s after hours. We could send crews out to Ann Arbor at midnight, and then open a temporary redistribution facility at 4:00 AM. If we just took food and books, I don’t think people would mind too much… especially if we promised to leave their imported cheeses and French wines.

FRED: Sure, but what happens when crews from Belleville raid the co-op and Cross Street Books while we’re doing all that?

MARK: Good point. We should slash all the tires in Belleville before setting out? Can I put you in charge of that? As for these ideas behind the Ypsi Flea, I was wondering if you’ve given much thought to other ways in which you might be able to explore them.

FRED: The ultimate goal of a venture like the Ypsi Flea would be to have it somehow morph into a free store, a space where the community can essentially trade or just have items that their friends and neighbors no longer need. Ben Miller’s annual “Fashion Show” at Totally Awesome Fest is basically a re-distribution of clothing from and throughout the community. These concepts can connect to a lot of different venues to disrupt consumerism already in place, all the time and open to everyone. Communal living situations, public gardens, growing your own food, carpooling/biking/public transportation, pot-luck dinners, not having a phone, not buying things to begin with, re-examinging what you actually need at any given point, having conversations with people instead of interacting primarially online… all these ideas highlight how actually capable we are of sustaining and supporting one another, and having an amazing time together in the process.

[note: All photos by Amber Fellows.]

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  1. dragon
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Very resourceful of you to reuse all the leftover signs you had from your ‘Flee Ypsi’ promotion.

  2. kjc
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    cool idea. especially since i complained to salvation army that their prices were too high (how can you have that much volume and charge 599 for an old shirt i gave you?). they explained they’re not there to sell cheap clothing to poor people. a quote.

  3. Edward
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I can put sugar in all the gas tanks in Saline, if that helps. Although, I’m not so sure the people of Saline would want anything that we have.

  4. Eel
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I can create a diversion in Ann Arbor by telling everyone that Ellen DeGeneres is shopping at Walgreens or something.

  5. Posted December 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    ‘Sure, but what happens when crews from Belleville raid the co-op and Cross Street Books while we’re doing all that?’ THE BEST

  6. anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Will the guy eating the sewing machine be there this time?

  7. Bob
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    What did Saline do exactly Edward? I think we’ve got as many resale shops as Ypsi, plus a great year-round farmers market, nationally renowned craft show, bike show, model train show and weekly swaps of all kinds at the fairgrounds. I guess we are a little behind on plasma banks and the free syringe in your back yard programs. Having propped my tent in both locations, I’ll take the slightly square alternative any day.

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