When I pulled up in front of Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street there were two orange, plastic, traffic cones at the curb. Sam, the owner of the store, was on the sidewalk waiting. He jumped out and moved the cones so that I could park. “This isn’t normal procedure,” I told Miguel. I was training Miguel to do the farm’s deliveries and I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea. “On any normal day you have to fight like a heathen for a parking place. I usually end up double-parking. This is a stop that calls for fast work!”
I stepped out of the truck and Sam came to greet me. A photographer stepped forward and snapped several pictures of the two of us shaking hands and talking. I grabbed a wet box of chard off the back of the truck.
“Hold that pose,” said the photographer. So I held the box and smiled as a thin stream of muddy water drained out of corner of the crate and onto my foot. Miguel looked amused.
“Now another one,” the photographer said. Miguel moved to grab a box off the truck.
“Not you,” I told Miguel. “You relax. Let the photographer record for all posterity a moment when I’m actually caught working.” Miguel happily got back in the truck to watch me unload the order and watch the photographer capture images of the event. Ten minutes and a hundred snaps later I was done with the delivery and we drove off. I set Miguel straight. “Sam is making a cookbook out of the recipes he’s developed for the store’s delicatessen,” I said. They’re taking pictures of all the farmers and fishermen and bakers and vintners that serve the store to put in the book.” Miguel nodded. He was still new to 18th Street.
No less an authority than Guy Trebay of the New York Times Fashion & Style section has called Bi-Rite Grocery, “a kind of foodie Vatican.” Does that make Sam a “Pope?” I wondered when I read the article. One thing’s for sure; with the Bi-Rite Creamery and the Dolores Park Café just up the street from the Bi-Rite Grocery, and Delfina restaurant, the Delfina pizzeria, and the Tartine Bakery just down the street, the 3600 block of 18th Street is a veritable gourmet ghetto. 18th Street has only two lanes. In the morning the street crawls with delivery trucks and traffic gets choked down to a trickle. But heavy traffic is an indicator of a good business environment; by brunchtime 18th Street is crawling with women.
Again, let me quote the New York Times: “Those girls are the local Holly Golightlys,” Mr. Ospital of M.A.C. said of women like Rachel Corrie, a waitress at Tartine, who as she left work last week hopped onto her bike wearing what looked like a gingham onesie, feet shod in gladiator sandals and a velvet equestrian hunt cap passing as safety gear perched atop her head… Girls like her are all over the Mission.” I agree. So it shouldn’t be hard to understand how I managed to overlook the actual fashion models when I delivered to Bi-Rite only a few days after the cook book photo shoot.
I arrive at the store a little later than usual, but the day was normal enough. There were no cones saving a parking spot for me. Au contraire– I had to double part beside the paper goods truck and behind a bread truck. The paper goods driver kindly inched forward and I squeezed in next to the curb in front of a truck from Full Belly Farm. The side walk seemed crowded too. There was a small group of young women all dolled up and standing around, but they didn’t stand out.
I overheard someone ask one of the Bi-Rite employees, “How is the shoot going?”
“What a nightmare,” he said.
“This can’t be the same photo shoot as the cookbook,” I said to myself. I unloaded my truck. A young San Francisco policeman strolled onto the scene looking like a Chippendale dancer on his day job. I looked up and down the street. There was a beer truck, a fish van, and a wine distributor, all double parked. And a second bread truck too. Virtually the whole block had the east bound lane blocked by double-parked delivery vehicles. Drivers and bicyclists that wished to continue east down the street had to thread their way around the trucks, against the flow of traffic. They made me think of the steelhead trout that slip past boulders and throw themselves upstream in a frantic, thrashing attempt to fulfill nature’s imperative. But the cop made me nervous.
I saw Simon, a store employee I know well. “I guess I have a guilty conscience,” I said. “I’m not even double parked.”
“Don’t worry about the policeman,” Simon said. “There’s a photo shoot for Dr. Scholl’s shoes today. I guess the City permit has a clause that says they have to have a cop on hand for security. Who knows?”
I looked at the cop. He seemed relaxed. I look at the street. A huge bus had thrust itself into the narrow lane. And there was some sort of problem down the street by Tartine Bakery. Traffic wasn’t moving at all. A middle aged woman driving a red Mini Cooper convertible got aggravated at being stuck behind the bus. She saw the cop and jumped out of her car and onto the sidewalk. “Aren’t you going to do anything?” she asked.
“Good morning, Miss,” he replied. “I am doing something.”
“It looks to me like you’re just standing there looking at girls,” she said.
“Those aren’t ‘girls,’” he said. “Those are professional models and I have been tasked with duty of protecting them from the public.”
“Are you #$%&^* kidding me?” she snapped back.
Chippendale put his hand on his holster with a melodramatic flourish. “Do I look like I’m #$%&^* kidding you?” he growled. Then he grinned.
“I can’t #$%&^* believe this,” the woman said. She started into a Tea Party rant about taxes, big government and the stimulus.
The officer broke in. “If you don’t move your car I’m going to have to cite you for blocking traffic.”
It was true. The logjam in front of Tartine had broken. The bus has cleared the gauntlet. Traffic could theoretically flow again. Only the red Mini Cooper convertible was left to block the only open lane of traffic. Honking horns echoed down the block. Fingers flew.
“Ahggg!” squealed the Tea Partier.
The cop smiled. I smiled too. One of the things I love about delivering into the big city is that my farm seems all the more peaceful when I get home.
Copyright 2010 Andy Griffin
photo above courtesy of Sally Katherine S.
Ladybug Truck Farm Deliveries This week = Thursday 10/21 from 4-6pm at Frances with tomatoes: romas… and padron peppers! and Menlo Park that same day. If you’re interested in these and or future deliveries of bulk vegetables and fruits and mixed vegetable boxes, please make sure you’re signed up for your geographical area:
Julia’s note: Andy and I are working on photos for future posts… thank you for your patience!