I had selected the Civic Center Walking tour because the Farmers Market at the United Nations Plaza occurs on Wednesdays and Sundays. I’d be visiting friends on Sunday so my only chance to experience the Farmers Market would be on Wednesday.
The smell of urine was startling. I passed my first two street performers as I headed towards the stairs leading up to the sunlit plaza from the dark cave of the BART: Civic Center Station. One street performer tortured the red violin each time he scritched the bow across the untuned strings; the other recited prayers. Both had begging bowls prominently displayed.
As I left the station, my ears were greeted by classic rock. To the right, sitting in a circle monument was another street performer but this guy had talent! I listened to him as I surveyed the Farmers Market.
Delicate white orchids in pots, freshly cut flowers in bundles, plums, peaches, apricots, home-grown honey in jars and straws, deep red cherries, artisan bread, fresh herbs, almonds, bright-eyed fish on ice and more were displayed prominantly in white and blue tarp-covered stalls where vendors offered free tastings of their wares. Well, except for the fish.
I’d skipped breakfast. It was 11AM, California-time; it was 1PM, Texas-time. I was hungry. I bought three ripe red plums. Freshly prepared food stands sat at the of the food market. I bought one spinach-and-cheese tamal and pork tamal. Lunch-time!
Behind the food stalls was a chained off-space filled with other munchers, watched by eager pigeons. Two officers patrolled the Farmers Market; smiling street cleaners patrolled the streets; homeless men muttered to themselves; office workers stood in line at the food booths; a four-year old girl in a pink dress tried to feed the pigeons her popcorn. We all enjoyed the sunshine, the food, and the company.
Fortified, I was ready to begin my walking tour. I got out my tourbooks and studied the maps. I oriented myself and headed towards the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum.