Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A computer melody blares and I hear, “doors opening,” one transfer and thirty-five minutes after I boarded the subway in Tenelytown. Up a short escalator and I’m on Independence Avenue, only a few blocks from the Capitol. I meander down Seventh Street and happen upon Eastern Market; a flea market with a distinctly urban twist.
The air is hot and sticky, it reminds of my contempt for this city and its swampy past. It seems anything can be purchased here: music, posters and prints ranging from Victorian to Post-Modern and knickknacks galore. I browse the posters and a 1920’s inspired poster of the Washington Senators catches my eye; the vendor approaches me and I learn that he actually painted the original of the print I’m now looking at. He shows me the painting hanging in the back of his stand and we discuss baseball, ultimately he gives me a break on the poster and I continue on my way.
Now noon, bodies are crammed into the small-gated marketplace and there is an odor similar to old books and other mildewed artifacts found in various attics fusing with the heavy smell of those perspiring around me. I walk by a table cluttered with old Converse sneakers, jeans and belts; unfortunately none of the shoes are my size. I haggle with a man at the music stand and buy three albums, The Cure, They Might Be Giants and The Stone Roses for twenty dollars. The heat and crowd is becoming overwhelming, so I cross the street.
Across Seventh is a large farmers market; flies buzz about as I walk down the street. Small samples of fruit decay in the open-air huts, giving the air a saccharinely sweet smell that almost stung the nose. A few vendors hawked stone necklaces and old LPs, but I proceeded inside. I was expecting air-conditioning, but I was disappointed to find that the only things in the farmers market that remained cool were the meats and cheeses in refrigerated glass boxes. Spiced and flavored meats of all kind let out an odor that almost hung in the air like a fog; I needed to push through it to get from one end to another. Whole chickens, pig’s feet and more cold cuts than I could have ever imagined lay, awaiting a hungry mouth, as I passed by. I made a stop to get an empanada from a small Mexican vendor and I began to eat it on my walk back to the Metro. It was a chicken and raisin empanada, a combination I would have never expected, but thoroughly enjoyed. The flakey chicken was complimented by the warmed raisins that became a sort of gravy in the flakey pastry.
Upon boarding the subway again I realized how valuable this expedition had been. It was a great taste of diversity in Washington; there were people from multiple races converging on this market to browse and sell. Commands and requests were being shouted in several languages and I knew that I’d found the diversity that is somewhat absent in the Northwest quarter of the city.


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