Beth’s latin lover once told her that he sees life as one continuous line, where all the days meld together and are indistinguishable. But every once and a while, a day comes along that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Those are called dot days.
For me, today was a dot day.
This morning (and by morning, I mean around one, as we slept in until about noon– what happens when you don’t set an alarm) Beth and I went down to the Farmer’s Market at the old ferry docks on the bay. We bought scones for brunch and supplemented that with free samples of jam and the most delicious apricots I’ve ever eaten (I literally took a bite and had fruit juice immediately dribble down my chin).
We also scored some free espresso from a woman who, excited to talk to someone after standing for what was probably over an hour of solitude, explained in great depth the wonders of the individual-press Italian espresso maker ($400 plus tax and then $.75495 for each little shot of espresso, in packs of 21) that she sells on behalf of a long-established Italian family-owned business. If I had that kind of money, I would have written a check on the spot– the espresso was delicious and there was virtually no clean-up. Brilliant.
We probably spent over an hour and a half just wandering around, taking in all the sights and smells. Beth told me that she loves the Farmer’s Market so much that she went there on her birthday. And I can see why. It’s an almost magical place.
Most of our time at the market was spent pretending to be interested in buying things to try to get free samples. And I’d say it was a success. We sampled goat cheese (so good), all different sorts of cherries, an assortment of jams and cheeses (sometimes together), and numerous baked goodies. When we got thirsty, we bought exotic iced teas (mine was infused with jasmine and Beth’s had some sort of hibiscus flavor).
Inside the ferry building… Apparently it was badly burned in the
epic earthquake/fire of 1906 and remained abandoned until about
ten years ago, when the city fixed it up and turned it into a little mecca
of shops and eateries.
An adorable little candy shop inside the building, whose
decorations (and choice of fonts) reminded me a lot
of Wes Anderson’s style.
Outside, at the market.
The clock tower of the ferry building, from the market.
The view of Bay Bridge from the doors of the ferry building.
But I think perhaps one of the real gems of the day was the tarot card readers that sat against the wooden railings overlooking the docks and Bay Bridge. We stumbled upon them by accident, as we were making our last round of the market taking pictures, and drawn in by their charismatic personalities, we sat on the benches across from them and passively observed (i.e. eavesdropped on) their readings for a bit.
His “receptionist” Sof
I’ve never been a believer in tarot cards, but I was fascinated by this guy. He’s such a great storyteller that it’s mesmerizing to watch him work. He, Alexander Friend (which is in fact, according to him, his real birth name), sits on a blanket, accompanied by his “receptionist” Sof on his left. While he reads the cards for someone else, Sof entertains those waiting in line with tea and conversation. Then, after drinking semi-warm tea (using water heated by the sun) out of miniscule little cups that have probably had the lips of twenty different people on them over the course of the morning, the individuals move to the left and seat themselves in front of Alexander. And the fun begins.
This was the first time I’ve ever watched anyone have their tarot cards read, so it was amusing to watch the process. Each card has a picture– rather busy with lots of things going on in each– and Alexander has the individual pick a number and then he draws three cards from a position in the deck based on that number. He then lays out those three cards on an elaborately embroidered cloth (in the middle of more elaborately embroidered cloth), using a crystal-type rock to keep them from flying away in the breeze that comes off the water and keeps their fabric dancing.
Then, once the cards are placed, the storytelling begins. Because that’s really what he’s doing (at least in my mind). Each card has a detailed medieval picture, and combining the three cards (one for where you’ve been, one for where you are now, and one for where you’re going), he weaves this elaborate story of hopes and trials, sadness and joy. It’s enthralling. It’s like being a child again, listening to a master weaving his story.
We listened to at least three people’s stories before Sof the receptionist motioned for us to step forward. However, having heard Alexander’s price (20 bucks a pop), we weren’t really in the market for a reading ourselves. To be honest though, I’m quite curious as to the kind of story he’d tell about my life. Because that’s the other thing. He speaks in such general, broad terms that it’d probably be very easy to identify with what he is saying.
For example, at the beginning of the first woman’s reading, Alexander told her that he doesn’t predict the future because no one can do that. There’s something called free will, he said, which would destroy all best laid predictions. But there are tendencies, and he pointed out that it’s the tendencies that show themselves in the cards.
So after hearing that, people listen to identify with tendencies. Brilliant strategy. It’s much easier for him to sound legitimate and less hokey if he doesn’t claim to know everything and then paints in very broad strokes. Because unless they’ve lived a touched life, everyone has experienced sadness, love, and periods of uncertainty, and everyone is longing and striving for something. These are universal emotions and human experiences, and he just weaves a tale with them.
We probably sat there listening to Alexander and making small talk with Sof for over half an hour. Finally it was time to leave. Beth needed to get back to change for work, and our legs were falling asleep from attempting to sit daintily on little cushions on concrete. So we thanked them for the enjoyable time and departed. It was a bit sad to go, like I was leaving behind one of the most fascinating documentary subjects I’ll ever meet, and I’m now more certain than ever that I’ll most likely never have my tarot cards read (though now it’s no longer because I think it’s bogus, but because I’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone as interesting or charismatic as Alexander to make up my life’s story).
The ferry building from the city side… As we were leaving,
we walked through this great art market outside the building
(where I caved and bought a necklace, continuing my trend
of getting a piece of jewelry in every place I visit).