Words: Catalina Rojter (19')
Photos: Betty McGhee (19') & Alice Goldberg (19')
Even before walking into the store, the psychedelic paintings on the exterior walls and carnival-like décor take you back to another time, be it in the 1960’s or your childhood. But, Wild Bill’s version of "childhood" is distorted-- juxtaposed with images from every nightmare you’ve ever had.
The space plays into the eeriness of the decay of youth--a pink and purple bike sits rotting behind the bars of an abandoned carousel, paintings of clowns with red eyes follow you as you walk past. Any one of these things alone is enough to send shivers down your spine.
No expenses spared, outside, is a live animal tent filled with reptiles, food stands, and live shows. It’s eerily quiet and every step I take on the gravel creates a menacing crunch beneath my feet. Even the attendees contribute to the mood. Grown men and little girls with their parents roam with their faces painted to look like zombies.
As I walk into the store, one of these girls runs past me with a broom between her legs, cackling menacingly. Goosebumps.
The most fascinating part of the store is Wild Bill himself. He almost looks like a biker, with long grey hair and a grizzly beard. He is soft-spoken, with undeniable charisma and compassion.
Bill is very passionate about what he does. He tells me how he believes people love to talk about how they support the “arts,” but how he is the only one to “actually [do] something about it.” He tells me about the time he laid out paint and a large canvas in his parking lot for anyone to come express themselves through art in a collective way.
When I asked him about his job, his only reply was, “I sell strange things.” Honestly, there seems to be no better way to say it. The inside of his store is a novelty wonderland. Upon entering, you are submerged in an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. Everything about it feeds into our need to romanticize the past-- to, even for a minute, feel the lightness of childhood once again. Nostalgia.
Assortments of pins, patches, and posters cover every wall and the shelves create a maze of things that nobody needs but wants anyways. If you want some showprint posters, he’s got it. Vintage IKEA sweaters? That too. Maybe you’re in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned Muppets paraphernalia. There’s a whole lot of that and more at Wild Bill’s.