Today was a beautiful day and I went down to the farmers market in Union Square to buy some tomatoes. At one of the farm stands I saw bunches of dark blue grapes covered with bees. I heard a lady exclaim, "Look at all the bees!" And I thought of my very first 'Walkers in the City,' because the day I wrote it looked so much like today. A lot has changed since September 20th, 2004, but the bees looked just as happy today as the ones I saw back then. So I'm going to post an old one, just this once. The original title was:
It’s already late September and today is one of those beautiful gold and blue days with just a hint of crispness in the air. I went out with a bag of books for the Strand. One of my most regular walks is from Chelsea to the Strand bookstore on the corner of Broadway and 12th Street, whenever I have books to sell. Then with whatever I get for them, which was today $9.00, I go to the farmers market at Union Square. The book buyer, whose name I think is Marvin, looked meanly down at my pile and said: “Well, you don’t have much here.” But I was pleased with the number he gave me. I never let on whether I am happy with the number or disappointed, and the Strand buyers never seem to have any thoughts or emotions whatsoever when they are saying the number. It’s as if the whole transaction occurs with both of us hypnotized.
Today was a day of apples and heirloom tomatoes at the market, piles of apples in the late afternoon sun and Niagara grapes covered in hornets. The bees made great salesmen. If bees are loving those grapes, then how sweet they must be, and there is nothing offensive about the sight of fat yellow bees sitting on anything because as far as I know, bees only like sweets and they don’t land on anything worse than flowers and fruit.
While I was looking at a bushel of Honey Crisp and Gala apples, I saw a big woman approaching. She was dressed in layers of sarongs and a straw hat, and a trickle of blood was coming from her nose. I said, “Hon, your nose—it’s bleeding,” and she said, “Okay, thanks.” Another woman standing at the same bushel of apples watched the little moment play out and then she made a big display of displeasure with head-shaking and tongue-clicking. I couldn’t decide what her beef was; whether it was with me or with the big woman with the bloody nose, or what. I bought three perfect little apples for $1.25 and a beautiful cantaloupe for $3.00 and thought about what a commodity fruit is these days, like cheese. Cheese is a luxury, like wild fish. It’s important to scrub fruit like mad before eating it, too, which is something I can’t say enough.
A brown and gray speckled dog was barking very loudly and apparently at nothing near a great mountain of corn. I stopped to ask what she wanted. The man with her told me that she lives in the country somewhere upstate in the center of a lot of meadows, and that on a normal day at this hour she would be stalking birds in the grass. The pigeons in Union Square, he said, were confounding and infuriating her with their indifference. “In the fields the birds are so intimidated by her barking that they just freeze,” he said. “She’ll never get one here, but she can’t understand that.” I petted her but she just stood barking and barking, completely oblivious to me, and I could see the pink and black interior of her mouth and all of her shiny white teeth. She was, in her dog way, very obviously provincial. She stood out in her habit as loudly as a tourist in the kind of outfit tourists who stand out are always wearing.
I bought some long and skinny potatoes and three green and fiery-yellow frying tomatoes from a lady wearing a pink and white bandana. It took a while for me to be able to pay though, because although it was my turn, several ladies decided they just couldn’t wait and hurried in front of me. I almost never say anything anymore when people do that, but I do notice it. Usually after the farmers market, I come back up Broadway and turn down 18th Street and stop into Skyline Books. It is the best of the old-school used and out-of-print bookstores still going and they have a mean kitty who I like very much. The other bookstore with a mean kitty is Alabaster Books on 4th Avenue. She is of the treacherous mean kitty ilk, the kind who looks very innocent and pretends to be friendly in order to draw her victims in to be suddenly bitten and scratched.
On the corner of 19th and 7th Avenue I stopped to look at a table covered with LP records sold by a man with a white beard who has been selling on that corner for years. Sometimes he has books and sometimes he has records, but always an excellent selection of both and always for good prices. I don’t have a turntable but sometimes when I look at what he has--today he had an old Japanese Anita O’Day record-- I wish I did. She’s way up in her eighties now and she’s still singing. Once in a while as I’m passing his spot, something jumps out at me from the book table. Once a few years ago it was a beautiful old copy of The King in Yellow by RW Chambers, the 1895 edition, for $5.00 and I bought it. What I’m always on the lookout for now is a copy of Lowlife in High Heels by Holly Woodlawn. I had a copy once, but I sold it to the Strand on a lean day and probably got a head of lettuce for it. At the time that I sold it, the Strand had a bunch of copies of it in stock, so they only gave me two or three dollars for it. Now, of course, you won’t find a copy of it anywhere. Today at the Strand I saw a man selling a copy of the new Kitty Kelly book, which apparently tells all kinds of gossipy things about Laura Bush. They gave him $7.50 for it. It was the only book he was selling and he seemed perfectly happy with what he was getting.
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1 comment:

  1. When we go to Germany every summer, I'm always struck by the bees in the bakeries. Most places there aren't air conditioned, so a lot of stores leave their doors wide open. Some even have front windows that open wide. And the bees just love to come in and sample the sweet buns and sticky rolls inside the glass cases. The first time I ever saw it, I was kind of shocked, knowing how fastidious the Germans are about being sanitary (laws about making beer in the proper, sanitary way are many centuries old and still followed rigorously, and butcher shops are always amazingly clean). But I don't recall seeing that in American bakeries, either, so I guess it was shocking on that level, too. Now I just get a kick out of it, and any time we go into a bakery and they don't have bees in the display case, I wonder what they're doing wrong. I mean, if the bees don't like their stuff, how good could it be?

    Thanks for taking me on your shopping ramble, in the past though it may be. And Housedeer was just fantastic, the Condons are really fascinating people. I'm sorry they're not still all here. The photo with Bing was great, I'm a big fan of his, and it was nice to see him in that era without his toupee, for a change.