Good evening, friends and neighbors!
As I write this, I’m sitting in the central court of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, PA. I dearly love coming here. It feels like a microcosm of the wild, manic city it’s nestled in. All around me are people from all walks of life- youth groups on tour, oohing and ahhing at every little thing,
professionals taking late lunch breaks before hustling back to the office,
husbands and wives doing their grocery shopping,
and, of course, in the background, the men and women who call this place their office- the ones who spend between 8 and 12 hours everyday making sure this place is just as remarkable, wild, and exciting as it is.
Writing is sometimes an awkward thing. I sat down three times this weekend, determined to write SOMETHING for this blog. Three times I sat down in placid surroundings- quiet, calm, and nothing to distract. It was only here, however, amidst the noise and manic choreography of a marketplace that I felt I had something to write about.
From where I’m sitting, I can see stalls offering foods and cuisines from around the world. There’s a stall that specializes ONLY in honey, bee, and beeswax products. There’s a small bookstall on the other side of it that only sells cookbooks, but far to the back corner of this cavernous space is another bookseller peddling the odd, unusual, and rare. For some reason, “Portabello Road
” from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” runs through my head when I walk past there.
I’ve just picked up some delicious fruit from one of the produce stalls in the market- a red plum and a tiny Seckels pear. I’ve pulled out my Swiss Army knife here before (an unwise move in ANY city these days), and casually carved slices of juicy pear and apple with my girlfriend, feeding us directly from the blade. No one bats an eye.
This is starting to sound like something I could sell to the Philadelphia tourism board, I know, but there is a point. No matter where you go, where you travel or when, markets and marketplaces are a fast track to the heart and soul of a community. You can see what people like, what they don’t like, and what they are eating all at a glance. A glance hardly does justice, of course. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket- take the ride.”
When you can come to one place and try Greek, Mediterranean, Halal, kosher deli, Cajun Creole, fine salumi and cheeses, Chinese, and German cuisines, how can anyone NOT take advantage of this? I can’t decide whether I envy or weep for anyone who takes a place like this for granted. The world is an amazing place- full of life and light and flavors that many in America many never know or experience. When you have a place like this, where you can try ALL of it, a mere train ride away, you truly have no excuses.
Stay open, my friends.
And, as always-