Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gustatory One-Act

Overheard today at the winter farmer's market (the last of the year):

Man to bread vendor: Do you have any normal bread?

Vendor: What do you mean by normal bread? Do you mean white bread?

Man: You know. Something to make a sandwich with. White . . . rye.

Vendor: I have walnut, or whole wheat.

Man: No, no, no. None of that tricky stuff.

Of all the tiny telenovellas that have played themselves out at the market -- the sad-eyed alfajores baker aching to make a sale (delicious, but $4 apiece); the alfalfa sprout vendor from downstate, resiliently appearing after being implicated in the Jimmy John's salmonella scare; flirations between vendors and patrons; visitors who graze on free samples and never buy a thing -- this is undoubtedly my favorite.

Happy trails, winter market. You've served my pantry and my eavesdropping well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Buy me a record

Remember when I dreamed this record store into existence? That was a pretty good dream. It's been nice to have them around the corner, especially because almost every weekend features a free live performance by one musical act or another. Some are bands you've surely heard of. Most are unknown, like shiny wrapped presents.

Yesterday we saw Matthew Mullane, an acoustic guitarist who looks as young as my nephew but plays like a virtuoso.

Previously we've seen a rowdy blues band, an electronica DJ (with a film projected behind him onto a white bedsheet), a moody Califone, and a Southern-gothic punk outfit that would challenge you to a staring contest as soon as look at you.

We've missed Jon Langford, a handful of noise bands, two film premieres (shown on the same white bedsheet), three art openings, and a 17-member punk-rock glee club singing a cappella. No matter. There's always something new on the calendar.

Watching music this way corrects for all the things I've come to hate about the late-night rock club:

- Afternoon performances. You leave and it's still daylight outside

- Just one or two bands on the docket, with none of that endless set-up and breakdown in between

- Crowds you can breathe in, even if you're short

- No danger of getting knocked over by some liquored-up jerk trying to recreate the mosh pits of his youth

- Sometimes there's a dog in there

- Free show!

See? It's not that I don't love music anymore. Not at all. It's more that after 20+ years of heading out at 10pm, sitting through two different bands before hearing the one I came to see, and dodging the collective machismo of the room, I'm ready for a kinder, gentler delivery system. Now one has opened just around the corner, and I don't even care that my husband is single-handedly keeping them in business. Whatever it takes, I hope they stick around.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Someday I'll write a shorter post, but apparently not today

Little in life makes me happier than a new thrift store. This one isn't so new, but it's a new discovery for me since I've started walking to work.

Cargo, as it's called, has been around for a year, and the cheerful Global Cafe next door is part of the same operation. Both businesses are connected to a detox center that's operated for years, modestly and even mysteriously, out of a pair of storefronts.

A year ago, they put in a community garden in the empty lot next door. They rehabbed what had been their meeting space -- a place where clients could get together behind closed curtains and have a cup of coffee and a chat -- to the public. Now the clients work in the thrift store or the cafe, earning a modest wage as they get back on their feet and build up their portfolios.

Does it surprise you to hear me say I adore this model? (I didn't think so).

I popped into the thrift shop yesterday and encountered who must be the founder of this eponymous facility. He was a lively character, definitely turning on the hard sell for a BCBG dress (I bought it) and some grandmotherly china (I passed). He talked about making a collage of Michael Jackson magazine photos for the wall, then trying to sell it for $25. He led a sweet, pregnant Spanish-speaking woman to a box of onesies, all on sale for $1. He pushed me to buy a $10 spider plant, which will help fund the insurance they need for their community garden, a bureaucratic formality that clearly disgusts him. The pregnant woman's 7-year-old son told him $10 was way too much money for a plant. I'll probably eventually buy the damn thing.

And then a curious thing happened. The guy held up something I've never seen before. It looked like an old pin, but was actually a clasp you attach to a scarf to keep it in place. Sweet, but superfluous, so I told him thanks, but not today.

And then he gave it to me.

"Please take it," he said. "This looks like you and you should have it."

"Thank you," I said. "That's incredibly kind, and I accept it."

Now I hesitate to tell the rest of the story, because it casts a bit of a pall on this moment, and I admit it made me wonder if this was truly a gift or a covenant he was enlisting.

But after talking of the good karma he thought this would bring him, he told me that everything he does is in service to the Creator, and isn't the Creator's will majestic?

You know me by now, so you know I had no answer for this question. I smiled, thanked him again, and headed out the door.

But the whole thing left me wondering. What does it mean to take my tea and gently-used dresses with a side of old-time religion? Will I continue to shop in the store, or will I avoid the place to avoid the conversation? Will I feel too disingenuous to wear my scarf clasp?

I navigate these questions frequently in my work, which revolves largely around faith-based institutions. But I've also started outing myself as a nonbeliever ('atheist' can come off as confrontational in my line of work), and the sky hasn't fallen yet.

I suppose I could handle myself with the same diplomacy with a guy like this. I might just have to buy the Michael Jackson collage to let him know I'm not the devil.