What's the Freakiest Thing You Can Buy at the Swap Shop for $10?

What can you get for $10 at the Swap Shop? In past years, we've haggled over knickknacks from animals to construction equipment to a handgun. We bought a fat-tailed gecko from a toothless woman who had, amongst other animals, prairie dogs and baby alligators. On another occasion, we held our price over a video cassette player until the man we were bargaining with finally turned to his friend and said, "Hell, it ain't mine anyway."

With enough time and money, we've always maintained that one could go there and find anything from a nuclear warhead to a human kidney. Seeing as we hadn't been to the Swap Shop in almost a decade, we wanted to see what the coolest thing we could now buy for a mere $10.

Ten years ago, there was no more-fascinating place to spend a Sunday

morning. The combination of outdoor flea market, indoor circus and

nighttime drive-in movie theater was bizarre enough. Then in 2005, the

then 74 year-old founder became a local scandal / sensation after being

tasered by Broward police. And instead of sweeping the incident under

the rug, he incorporated it into his next commercial. The Swap Shop's

days of hosting acts like Lorretta Lynn and Willie Nelson had already

withered into a faded picture of some Formica golden age, but what was

left was seedy, illicit, and intriguing. The crowds kept coming.

When we arrived Sunday morning, the first thing to catch my eye was a

short, mustached winter bird from New York selling his miracle Hawaiian,

100% noni juice, all but guaranteed to help alleviate symptoms caused

by asthma, depression, HIV, obesity, menstruation, sexual disorders,

multiple sclerosis, smoking, fuzzy thinking, and many others ailments.

The stuff looked like strained laundry water and tasted like foot

sweat. We asked him if he had a bottle for $10. The $25 bottles were

being marked down due to some sort of rupturing of the caps during

shipping, but the lowest he could go was $20.

We came across a poultry stand where we were almost trampled by a

herd of eight year-olds stampeding for the chicks. A man there said they

were $2 a piece. Would we settle for going home with five chicks with

our $10?

It was about that time that the noni juice started going to work. It

didn't do much for our hangover, but it definitely got our colon's

attention. We stopped off at the food court. On our way out, we bought a

drink and asked what time the circus performed. The woman said it had

been gone for years.

Stepping back outside, we found the belts / sunglasses / ski masks /

bras / katana swords booth. A Philippino in a sunhat stopped me from

taking a photo before telling me that the katanas were $20. Around the

corner from the next adult video stand, another man tried to sell me

what he assured was a Navajo Tomahawk for $12. Something was wrong.

Perhaps I'd set the bar a little too high with ten bucks because

anything that impressed was just a couple dollars out of reach.

Right next to yet another adult video stand, we asked about a crossbow.  "Crossbow's $20. Arrows are $6 for six. I'll give you everything for $15." Even when we showed him that all we had was a ten-dollar bill, he

said he couldn't help me. What had happened to the pock-faced vendors

displaying items that made you look twice, at prices that let you know

not to ask where they came from? Maybe it was just an off day, or maybe

we were getting older.

It was hot and we were tired. A drop fell on my head, and standing

in front of a random assortment of watches and CDs, we decided to rescue

an old magazine from the rain: a 1980 Newsweek, December 22, the John

Lennon Commemorative issue. Four dollars later, we'd found exactly what

we were looking for. The old Newsweek issue reminded us of the Swap Shop

with its under-appreciated historical value, discarded junk appeal, and

tragic end to something extraordinary. It was all so cheesily perfect.

We'll be back soon, though. That crackhead with the iced -down pancreas

has got to be here somewhere.

--Josh Abril

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