Settling a score at the swap meet.

Claudio Badilla is pissed. I met him at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet in Tucson, where he was tracking down the man who sold him a busted up horn for his truck.

At the height of the summer, the swap meet is something between Chucky Cheese and a ghost town. It’s over 100 degrees, and the heat has scrambled everyone’s brains all over the sidewalk like the mango pits stuck to the pavement. The few vendors that haven’t packed up for the afternoon sit in the shade and beckon to you from behind towers of used tires, stacks of Lucha Libre masks, and tables scattered exotic houseplants and plastic AK-47’s. Across the alley a man sits in the shadows of thousands of pounds of military surplus and sucks on an oxygen machine, which rattles away like a Buddhist chant in a dusty monastery.

The watermelon vendor wants to know if I have any pictures of naked women in my camera. I tell him to let me know if he sees any walk by. As I start to leave a little girl is taking a lap on an entirely empty carousel while the attendant swats flies under an umbrella. A few pickups and an escaped tumbleweed stagger out of the exit.

I put my camera away and sit under the ironwood tree that provides absolutely no shade, eating my melted Cliff Bar and thinking about how this is probably the best way to spend a Sunday.


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