Friday, August 12, 2011

Into the Arms.......of Babylon (The Nicollet Mall Farmers Market)

My alarm was set for 4:12 a.m., but my internal man clock woke me @ 4:06.

Don't by fooled by the ego driven stories that people who work outside the 9 to 5 tell you, a guy never gets used to a 4 a.m. wake up.

Not even a baker.

Today I was going to fill in for "J", a middle aged women who has anchored our downtown Minneapolis farmers market for what....maybe a decade?

Sure, I've been by the market for a hour here, or a hour there, but pulling an entire shift is a little different.

Every Thursday morning "J" and a young college kid hop into a banged up Ford Econoline van at 5 a.m. and haul a full jag of bread and pastry down to the Nicollet Mall.

If you are not familiar with the Twin Cities, this area is trafficked harder than maybe any other part of the city.

When me and the kid pulled up to our sidewalk stall, it was just about the time of morning when vampires have their last cigarette before going to bed.

The first hour was basically comprised of me humping heavy bread crates to improper places while my college aged supervisor respectfully corrected my misgivings while simultaneously letting me know what a tool I was.

For every ounce of flesh that a pre 7 a.m. alarm clock rips off your back, the dividends are repaid tenfold the instant you witness a metropolitan sunrise.

When everything was in place, the kid gave me instructions and went off to find a Starbucks.

The first wave of people that crossed my sight line were staggered waves of guys in suits.

O-M-G, I don't know what I'd do if Klecko had to dress up like them every day.

Sure, I like nice attire like anybody else, but to be honest....I'm only willing to endure the discomfort if the suit is acting as a "Date Uniform."

Sue McGleno has been known to be "nicer" to Klecko when he takes her to epic venues w/o wearing his FUBU's or Springsteen V-neck T-shirts.

But what a lot of people don't realize is that suits often times are designed for little guys. 99 out of 100 times if a suit coat has an Armani label, the dude wearing it is typically under 6 feet tall and is 20 pounds lighter than a Brit rythem guitar player.

Pollacks on the other hand, we're large and lurch like, half the battle for us is to find a jacket where our arms don't protrude 18 inches past the cuffs like Frankenstein's.

On the rare occasion that a Pollack runs across a suit coat that, it usually has a George Foreman label on the inside and comes from the fat man store.

Sure, they call them "Big & Tall" stores, but if you've ever past by one and looked in the window, lets just say there is 10 hippo's for every 1 giraffe.

OK, back to the story..... now the street people came out. My definition of "street people" is basically peeps who just hang on the Mall all day but don't have any purpose for being there other than hanging out.

When the business world and the street people fuse together, I swear to Caesar they resemble the comic book study guides we used to get in Sunday school.

Downtown Minneapolis and Babylon are 2 brothers from the same mother.

Our Bankers and CEO's were pretty much imitating high priests and brothel attendants.

Whenever I witness this, I would be a liar if I didn't admit that part of me wanted to go "Jesus" on them and whip things while kicking tables over.

Not out of hatred, but just because it seems fun.

When the market starts to take off, I'll bet you have people from 100 different countries participating. it's really something else to see.

Each group is renting a dream.

Each person who has invested in a stall is a chance taker.

Sure, some concepts will make money hand over fist, while other will vanish like seeds tossed amongst the thistles.

But if nothing else, none of these participants can be accused of being overly cautious.

We have many-many other farmers markets across the TC's, but for whatever reason, the Nicollet Mall market is the Cadillac in my book.

I don't think many markets anywhere have such a perfect mixture of diversity and economic viability.

As a buisness person, the one thing that's nice about this location is that there is a lot of expendable income. If your price tag isn't ridiculous, for the most part people will pay w/o flinching.

About 30 minutes after the first early morning office workers circled our booth to purchase pastry for their cubical, the drug dealers start walking the perimeter of the market to sell their wares as well.

The kid who is basically supervising me, points over to one of them and mentions that their mark up is certainly higher than ours.

A couple of things have changed since I last took money out of anyones hand down here.

For starters, and maybe I'm naive, but I guess it is considered "Not Rude" for the purchaser to conduct a transaction while being plugged into their I-Pod.

Sure, I'm grateful that they have selected our stand, there are other bakeries down there, but I do weep for a persons soul that decides to become exclusive in society.

And then, then comes this striking woman, I'm guessing she's around my daughters age, mid 20's, and she walks up wearing spandex shorts and a jogging bra.

Her body is covered with sweat, and as her muscles begin to glisten in the early morning sun light, my booth partner is practically ready to faint from fear that this Goddess might talk to him, but she doesn't, she talks to Klecko.

While this young temptress scans our pastry cases, she begins asking me ingredient questions, but while she is doing this....she is also fidgeting with her navel piercing.

Twist-Twist-Twist...... "These have goat cheese in them huh?"

Twist-Twist-Twist...... "Is that apricot?"

I'm telling ya, what ever happened to the days when girls simply wrapped their hair around their index finger?

I'll tell you one thing that hasn't changed though. And you can disagree with me all that you want, it's just one mans observations.

For 8 hours as I stood on one spot, I noticed that Caucasians seemed to be afraid of the African Americans.

I mean there is so many different races represented at the market, and most of these groups melt in the pot with each other, but whenever a couple of young black men step into a space, if there are white inhabidents there, they quietly recoil and forfiet the territory.

I don't get it, I really don't.

I have been at this location over 50 times and never once witnessed, or even heard of any kind of debauchery.

You don't have to take my word for it. If you know any young African American men, just ask them if they feel as if the general populace is afraid of them, if they agree with me.....ask them why?

I think dialouge is the only way this can change.

After 10 a.m. we go through a lull, but during lunch rush I saw the one thing that might have made me smile the hardest.

Some chick was wearing a tank top, I'm guessing she did this so we could see her bad a** dragon tattoo that almost qualified as a full sleeve.

She ran the point and held a long rope that had rubber rings attached to it.

The rope was 8-10 feet long, and each of the rubber rings were used as handles for some Kinder aged kid to hold onto, basically this item served as a P.C. leash.

It wasn't the dragon tattoo that brought my attention to this "Field Trip" but instead I heard wailing.

One of the kids (and their was 6 or 7) had fallen to the pavement.

The dude at the other end of the rope looked like he either was a Pearl Jam roadie or active in some kind of "Save the (insert favorite cause here)program"

So since left wing dude, was closer than the tattoo girl, I assumed he'd help the fallen child to his feet, but instead, another kid let go of her rubber doughnut extended a helping hand.

When the injured kid rose, he wailed....and wailed.

And then, all of the children let go of their handles, formed a circle around the kid as he kept crying. Nobody touched him, nobody said a word to him, they just waited while staring.

At first, this incident totally tripped me out. Like they were shooting a sequel for "The Boy's from Brazil", but after the sobbing stopped, and the train began rolling again, and then I saw how the Dragon Lady and the Tree Hugger dude met eyes, and how their stares were soaked with pride, or approval.

I think they were working on teaching these children mercy w/o involving any drama.

although this moment didn't exceed 1/2 minute, it hit me like an anvil dropped from a tower.

Mercy w/o Drama......awesome.

In closing, sure.....Farmers markets are great because they enable us to buy local, and work within a more diversifed envirement, but sometimes I things the best part of the whole deal is watching the people.

Klecko would sure love to hear about some of the markets you attend, and your experiences there.


  1. you were there? you were there yesterday, the only thursday i couldn't find the damn booth??? it's always in front of Marshalls. Yesterday it was not. It didn't occur to me to look anywhere else. DAMMIT. I WOULD HAVE SHOWN YOU MY NAVEL RING.

    (if only i had one.)

  2. I was in the same place, right next to the bus kiosk.....and to think I missed your TWIST-TWIST-TWIST.......Kid, i would have given you 2 Lemon Thumbprint cookies too see that!

  3. Well, here in the markets of Brussels I get ignored or yelled at in French a lot, does that count? What I would GIVE for a big bag of leafy greens, fresh coriander, and red onions. Almost as impossible to find as kids on a leash. But I did like your "mercy with no drama" story (and the fact that Sue McGleno is nicer to you when your wear Springsteen) :)

    Happy Saturday my dear! I'm off to our markets here, to see if anyone is back yet from their 5 WEEK holidays....that's market for 5 WEEKS. It's killing me.
    Hugs from Brussels-