Farmer’s Market Singers

When we got there, the bar was already in full swing, open to the elements, right in the middle of a little junction of the tight avenues inside Farmer’s Market. The occupants ranged from just turned twenty one to middle aged to elderly gatherings still enjoying the gargle on a Friday evening.

The stage was low, the microphone basic, but the speakers were more than adequate. The man who was on stage when we happened upon the place was bald, beer-bellied and had to be at least sixty. He was just wrapping up a song to applause and cheers.

The DJ announced that next up was Phil, and from the table right in front of us rose a large, pink, white-haired man with a tight shirt and a smile stretched across his meaty face. He looked to be  at least seventy, but when he started to bellow into the mike, he had the vigor of a much younger man. He sang like Louie Armstrong, with a growl and a grin.

An extremely inebriated but happy man in his thirties followed. He was tall, maybe a surfer-dude turned corporate but out for a fun evening with friends. He sang the B-52’s Rock Lobster perfectly, with added dance movements for the long pauses between the sung lines. We cheered like crazy, and I even managed to snap a few photos of a father dancing with his two-year old daughter, teaching her how to turn under his arm and then swinging her around in the air.

We left to buy lemons, and when we returned we were rewarded with the best yet. She was tall, with baggy pants and tennis shoes, a jeans jacket hugging her thin form. Her hair was blonde-going-grey, and she sang like an angel. One hand casually hanging in her pocket and the other holding the microphone, she sang sweetly in a country-singer’s sweet but slightly rough tones, and her partner and friend cheered and took pictures of her while she sang. The crowd went nuts once she was done, clapping and cheering.

When the next man started singing about Jesus being right for him – and we weren’t sure whether he was being sincere or ironic – we decided to leave. But my mind is still swimming with the variety of cultures represented in the crowd, the different age groups and social dynamics that could be found there. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to watch the karaoke at Farmer’s Market on this cool Friday night.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams

One evening in late August, Daniel and Caroline, known to most of their neighbors as Mr. and Mrs. Adams, sat in their rocking chairs on the porch. The sun had just disappeared over the hills and the sky was a wonderful canvas of pastel colors, ranging from soft orange to a deep purplish-blue.

Mr. Adams, glasses perched precariously on the edge of his nose, was doing the big Sunday crossword-puzzle. He was chewing on the end of an unlit pipe, but sometimes he laid it down and chewed on the end of his pencil instead as he thought about the clues. Mrs. Adams was holding a large square of needlepoint and stitching away at it. Every few moments, she put it down in her lap, rested her chin in her hand and gazed at the sporadic lights of the fireflies winking in and out in the front garden.

A stranger, happening to walk past this picturesque scene, would think that the grey-haired pair sitting on their front porch in wooden rocking chairs were a regular Granny and Gramps. The stranger would probably imagine that, inside the house, there would be something baking in the oven and an afghan thrown over the sofa. Easy to imagine, too, were the long weeks of bingo and naps, phone calls to the kids and an anticipation for the weekends during which the grandchildren would come over for milk and cookies. Strangers didn’t often walk past on this suburban street, though, so Mr. and Mrs. Adams weren’t subject to many such misconceptions about their lives.

In fact, both of them were professors at the rather prestigious liberal-arts university that sat in the valley twenty-five miles away. Mr. Adams was in the literature department and Mrs. Adams was in the psychology department, and although both were in their mid-sixties, neither had ever yet played bingo. Their weeks were normally busy with drives to and from the university, quiet evenings of grading papers interspersed with outings to lectures, staff-events or dinners with friends. They were even seen at the community center every Saturday night for salsa-lessons, along with a variety of young and old folk from the neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Adams were definitely not an idle pair.

Still, in late summer, they were on vacation. The summer term, which was an easy time for both anyway since they each taught only one or two courses for it, was now over and both husband and wife had finished grading all the final papers a few days earlier. In two weeks, they would both be beginning the fall semester and their lives would become hectic and busy again, but they were now enjoying some rest and relaxation, and sitting on the porch in the evening was one of their greatest pleasures.