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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Pike Place Farmer's Market


Pike Place Market has been celebrating its 100th Anniversary, and the stories bubbling up have reminded me of my first visit. It was 1976, probably in the spring. My girlfriend April and I had traveled up I-5 to spend the day in the city, and then take in a concert. We had paid good money for these tickets, my stub says $6.50, so this wasn't one of those "Catch a Rising Star" concerts that came later. Those usually cost $3.50 to see Nina Hagen, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, DEVO or Blondie, or any of the hundred or so other acts I'd later attend.

We drove up in the morning, and started out in Pioneer Square. It was a much rougher Pioneer Square than the one I work in now, but we seemed to meet only the most delightful of its denizens. We wandered through antique shops and a bookstore, that I must assume was David Ishii's, but I really don't remember.

That afternoon we prowled the Market. We bought strawberries and bread and cheese for lunch. We saw Baby Gramps singing The Teddy Bears' Picnic on a street corner. We explored the lower levels and after a few stores we came upon the Pearl Guy. He was a grandfatherly little Japanese guy, with a waterproof apron on and a green visor over his eyes. I don't remember the name of his store, but he sold oysters for five bucks to tourists, who then cracked them open to see if they were lucky enough to find a pearl in their bivalve. As we peered into his salt-water tanks, he must have decided these two girls were not marks. It was a slow afternoon and he had nothing better to do. He spent at least an hour, explaining how pearls are formed and how to see a flaw in a pearl, and how to touch a pearl to your front tooth to judge its authenticity. He reached into the tank and pulled out two oysters, handing us each one. "Good Luck! See if you got a pearl!" We used his stubby little paring knives to pry apart our oysters, and, amazingly we both got pearls on the first try. He congratulated us and told "Well these pearls do have small flaws, but still they are real pearls. Now, when you are old enough to buy pearls, you will never settle for imitations!"

A couple of years later, I did a lost wax carving for a ring setting, and someday I will have it cast. I still haven't bought my pearls, but when I do, they will be good ones.

The rest of the day was equally wonderful, and Tom Waits did put on a really good show, but the memory that makes me smile to this day is the kindly pearl guy and my pearl.

6 comments:

Kathleen Taylor said...

Lovely story, Tammy.

I'm trying to remember my first time to Pike Place. I grew up in Snohomish, but my parents never ventured to Seattle at all- I went to Woodland Park on school trips, and when I was a Junior, our entire class went to see HMS Pinafore at the Seattle Opera House (that was the first time I ever went up the Space Needle). So I think the first time I went to Pike Place was after I moved to South Dakota, and was back on the coast, visiting with my new husband (I was probably all of 19). I don't remember a thing about that first visit, but we go every time we're on the coast now, and I've taken my grandchildren to watch the flying fish. It's still an amazing place.

Randy Sue Coburn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randy Sue Coburn said...

What fabulous reportage, Tammy! My own memorable first visit to the marketwas right on the heels of yours,in July of '76 (a.k.a. the year Tom Waits sang without rasping). Had my birthday lunch of crab Louis with my brand new best friend Libby, sister to this day, and bought what I thought was aterribly chic rayon dress from the Forties at a fabulous used clothing store that's still there (Duffer's, I think). I was living in D.C. at the time, working for a newspaper, but the Market was a huge part of why Seattle felt like "home" to me, and when I finally came to live here in '90, why, nothing would do but to move into the salmon building with green trim one block below the Market, because I wanted to be that close to the city's heartbeat. Wish I could tell you more about the Pearl Man; I'll put out some feelers!
Meanwhile, here's a link to what my doggie does every morning when we walk through the Market, when he's not begging carrots at Frank's:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/photos/popup.asp?SubID=2527&page=2>itle=Pike%20Place%20Market&css=gtitle.css&pubdate=05/23/07

SeattleDan said...

That looks bad #2, like I censored Randy Sue. Not the case! The first post had bad spacing, Thank You Microsoft!

But that link still doesn't work. Hmmn. search Pike Place Market Anniversary at the Seattle PI dot com, second picture down. I'd never delete the Binx!

oxo, Tammy

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