I never tire strolling through markets – night markets, weekend markets, flower markets, wet markets, dry markets, veggie markets, pop-up markets, floating markets, flea markets, electronic markets, spice markets … I love them all. Pepper the landscape with a bazaar or a thrift shop and I can entertain myself for hours, if not days. But, what’s the draw?
People, People, People – Market people are both vendors and shoppers alike who are real and raw. Both groups could at any moment from being sweaty, to busy, to smiling, to grumpy, to pushy, to shy, to bored, to sleepy, to overwhelmed, to cautious, and then back again to sweaty.
I love their deep wrinkles, toothless grins, high-pitched voices, and dirty fingernails which work to compliment a funny straw hat, a bloody apron, a pair of muck boots, or a stuffed money belt. Truthfully, I rarely fit in the market scene. I’m a tourist visiting their planet where the inhabitants don’t speak my language, don’t get my jokes and don’t notice the red lipstick I put on before venturing out to buy their bananas. These people live and die by their market whereas I’m just a girl who wanders amongst strangers too fascinating to pass up.
Homes Away From Home – When I think of a second home I now think of a market stall, a booth, a kiosk, a table, a food truck, or a patch of grass where vendors spend long hours hawking their wears. These homes away from home are decorated havens complete with a photo or two, or ten, of straight-faced loved ones who once posed during a family gathering, a framed photo of the King taken 30 years ago when he was young and vibrant, a Buddha statue flanked with offerings and burning incense sticks, a thin mat for catnaps, dirty dishes from lunch, children too small for school, and sometimes just sometimes, a flatscreen TV broadcasting a football game too important to miss. These obscure domestic clues give me insight into who this person is. I know the chicken guy loves Harleys, the coconut seller has three small children, and the orchid lady does needlepoint to decorate her stall. Long after the last squid skewer has sold, the protective, plastic blue tarp is secured, and the motorbikes signal their departure for another residence, I wonder where these dual residents go and where they call “home”.
Weird Stuff – By stuff I mean food. And by weird, I mean weird, not right, gross, stinky. But just when I think I have seen everything a market could bear, I run into a woman selling big, fat, juicy grilled frogs on a stick. Frogs … the kind of frogs my kids catch in the muddy creek behind our house. Her neighbor, could be a sister, sells live eels by the kilo. Eels … long, black, slimy eels I’d call animal control to take away if found in my creek. The chubby guy two stalls down bundles weeds which look like the very ones I spent years trying to eradicate from my gardens. And his neighbor, a seemingly ancient man with stooped shoulders and watery-eyes, a man who likely walked these same market aisles long before tin roofs were added, stirs his boiling vat of who knows what. I’ve seen grubs, cockroaches, snakes, gizzards, lizards, crickets and snakes and I still can’t help but wonder … who buys this stuff? Who wakes up at the crack of dawn and heads to the market to buy a big, fat frog? Since when is a grub suitable fare for grub? Then I run into a chubby guy selling nothing but bras and I wonder why he’s here in the market’s food section. Weird!
I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “I Break for Garage Sales.” I need a scooter sticker that reads, “I Break For Markets.”