Back in early February, I attended a Buckler Craft Fair in Fort Lauderdale. These fairs are held all over Florida; this particular one was held in the same space as the orchid show Aaron and I went to in January. A few weeks later there was a gun and knife show there. Very different vibe.
I admit, I ventured into Craftlandia ironically. I even convinced my friend to join me because I needed back-up in case they could sniff me out as an imposter. I thought I might need craft cred. Would I have to show a glue gun upon entry? Was there a crochet test? Entry with children in hand-stitched garments required? Mandatory glitter donations?
I walked into the War Memorial Auditorium a professional noncrafter and it felt like that was cross-stitched on my forehead.
Then I started to walk through the exhibits and realized Buckler held a loose definition of the word “craft.”
So much to take in.
And the award for Best Bedazzled Tee goes to…
And so began the “crafts” devoted to whimsical alcoholism.
This one just made me mad.
$5.00 for a poorly painted sign about drunkenness and denial? Is this your idea of custom home decor, Buckler? This is your woodworking?
I tried to move on, but there was this.
I get that the manatee is supposed to be sad because the boats are making wake and he’s grumpy about it, but after walking a day in his flip flops, I think he needs a margarita. I hear it’s happy hour somewhere.
I feel like this is what outsiders think of Florida: cheap and drunk. On a podcast once, Michael Ian Black described Florida as full of people who’ve “given up.”
I get it. There are those people here, roasting themselves on the boardwalk…becoming beach “lifers” in the way of the older, cynical members of a chain restaurant wait staff. Vacations are meant to be temporary, and when your lifestyle is permanent relaxation, it gives you the illusion of bliss without any of the heart to back it up.
When I worked at the Olive Garden at age 21, I met lifers who never meant for a temporary job to turn into their career. I found myself trying to win over the 45-year old, grizzled veteran who reminded me constantly that I was in her way. She snapped at everyone, and I never saw her smile. It wasn’t until I crashed an entire tray of dishes onto the floor in the middle of the dining room and then amidst seconds of silence, stood up and took a bow, that she ever acknowledged me as a human. Her face lit up and she ran over to tell me that I handled that disaster in the best way possible. She smiled at me plenty after that.
I had a similar experience at the beach yesterday. I was unlocking my bike next to an orange man who wore the small black swim trunks and weathered skin of a lifer, and in my quick judgment, the pointed gaze of a creepy old man. As I mounted my cruiser to ride away, he smiled at me and said “and you’re off again!” His lighthearted tone encouraged me to smile. “Have a great ride,” he called as I pedaled away. Instantly he morphed in my eyes from creeper to sweet retiree who’s earned his beach bliss.
We pass out judgment like candy on Halloween. It’s an obligation to make ourselves feel better. I walked into the craft fair a noncrafter, so naturally I spent the majority of my time feeling better than everyone else.
“I’m a little bit country”
Look, I’m from a small town in Virginia. My family is from southwest Virginia, which is even more “country” than where I grew up. Biscuits were part of life, but no one real has ever said this. And if they did, they read it on this sign.
Also according to this vignette country people “Cherish the Simple Things.” Like Santa Claus riding a rooster while hoisting the American flag.
I dare you to deny the cuteness of handmade hedgehogs and turtles. I bought these for our littlest nieces. They don’t know yet, so shhhh. Actually they can’t read yet, so it’s probably fine to reveal their gifts on the internet.
Fear the frame man
And now comes the portion of the post where I break a craft man’s rules.
Despite the darkness of the War Memorial Auditorium (as demonstrated by poor picture quality), no one objected to me (or other patrons) photographing the items for sale. I snapped photo after photo without so much as a “please don’t do that.”
My friend and I were looking at a series of framed prints. They were of animals, people, patriotic images, famous quotes, etc., but nothing out of the ordinary. No original art to protect here. We came upon this print and I snapped a photo:
My friend then took a picture with her phone thinking she might ask her formerly cat-hating friend who now has four cats if she’d like this. At this moment the craft man emerged from behind the frame wall and demanded that she delete the photo. He pointed frantically to a tiny sign we had missed with a camera and the “no” sign. I apologized and told him we’d missed the sign. Instead of being gracious, he hovered over my friend’s camera until she deleted the photo. He was aggressive and rude to a potential customer. She was considering buying the print and he’d now missed a sale.
Vengeance is ours, frame man. I shall post this crappy photo on the internet for ALL TO SEE!
So feel free to spread this as an example of how not to keep customers.
The Golden Girls
Finally my heart was softened again after meeting two retirees who sold banana bread. They’ve been doing it since 2010. These Palm Beach ladies had labeled samples, aprons, signs, and enthusiasm.
Banana Nut Heads, LLC’s secret is the nut crust on the top. They have varieties of bread involving cranberry, apple, orange, and the like. I can attest it was delicious and bought a loaf.
The best part of their story is these two friends thought of this idea while having lunch together every day. If you choose the right people to hang out with and talk to them about your crazy ideas, you might just inspire each other to action.
It was a reminder of the other stereotype of Florida: 55+ communities. Seeing these ladies proves that these seniors haven’t given up; they just got tired of being cold. It’s never too late to make a dream happen.