All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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Of all the flea markets, Brimfield Massachusetts was, by far, the best. To me, it was the Land of Oz. And route 84 was the Yellow Brick Road that led straight from my schoolhouse in Beacon to the very Heart of Emerald City.
I'd like to describe for you, a moment in time that in my memory sums up all the wonderment of Brimfield. But to do so, I must first describe to you the Port-O-Lets.
One could speak at length about the lore and the urban legends of the Port-O-Lets, the tales about their tipping over, the occasional mistaking of a urinal for a purse holder, the endless speculation and discussion about what one would and wouldn't attempt to retrieve if the unthinkable happened, and something valuable dropped down the hole.
Port-O-Lets changed and developed over the years, but most were made of some sort of blow molded colored plastic, blue, or green, or brown, and the light inside them was strange. Daylight, filtering through the colored plastic, bathed the interiors in a dim light of one color only.
Now, imagine that you are inside a Port-O-Let, just about to exit. As you stand facing the door in the monochromatic twilight, you see your strangely tinted hand, reaching out to lift the latch. And, suddenly, you are Dorothy, about to open the door in the sepia world of that familiar Kansas farmhouse. And as the portal, slowly opens, there before you is Munchkin Land, in the County of the Land of Oz, in Glorious, Over the Rainbow, Technicolor!
There are glass flowers with giggling Munchkins, hiding behind them, and large pink bubbles, floating in a Technicolor sky. As far as you can see, in all directions, there are a thousand booths, filled with a million antiques, and beyond those, there are a thousand more. Unlike in the movie, there is no tell-tale line where reality stops, and meets a painted backdrop. For All the booths are real, and they really do go on forever, over the hill and beyond, teeming with treasures of the kind that you’ve spent your lifetime looking for, and others that you’ve never seen before, all waiting to be discovered, if not today, tomorrow, or even the day after.
You’re not in Kansas anymore! So what are you waiting for? Just click your ruby heels together and say three times, “There's no place like Brimfield!"