Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Highs Of The Lower East Side

I have been waiting to blog about this outdoor market since October 2010. I had visited the Lower East Side with some friends back in the early days of New York 2010-2011, and stumbled across this boutique-y/Brooklyn Flea market style fair. For a Manhattenite who wishes not to trek to the sister/brotherhood boroughs, this market suffices the lack of commute.

Based in Chinatown, the fair is amidst the swelling number of markets to its north, east, south and west. This neighborhood sends a jolting culture shock right through you as you step off the 'D' train at Grand Street. It's yet another example of how culturally rich and diverse each region of Manhattan is, no two are a like.

Chinatown is a guaranteed sensory overload experience. You cannot pass through it without being taken aback by something that grasps you. Chinatown is synonymous with flavorful food, unsavory smells, cultural merging, language barriers and above all congestion.

With college out of the way, and the weather taking a turn for the better I now have the luxury of repeating my past excursions, so as to mentally solidify my favorite places before I depart back to the Middle East. As much as I long for long summer days, where the days stand tall with beautiful rays strengthening every hour and New Yorkers sport a sunnier disposition, I do not however, long for the foul stenches rising up from the sewers and dousing the Spring air with smells that I best not describe. The official scent of summer has settled into every open pore of the city.

It seems we have jumped the gun so to speak; we went from one extreme weather condition to another, 50' Fahrenheit (10' Celsius) to 85' Fahrenheit (30' Celsius) with little time for our wardrobes to adjust! I shouldn't complain, I love the heat.

Downtown in Chinatown, I got off to the sight of a different demographic to that of Hell's Kitchen (my temporary habitat- I moved out of the dorms). The hard working Chinese work ethic was staring hard at me in the face. 

New Yorkers are known for their 'can-do' attitude, where helping out is in excess- New Yorkers are ready to pitch in. Hard work translates into any language in New York. This attitude finds itself in plentiful form in Chinatown, as locals join forces in their enterprises and work hard through and through for good economic return. It is very inspiring, especially through the eyes of a currently 'sitting on her ass' student with all the time in the world to ponder the future. 9-5 doesn't exist in Chinatown- this operation of time is a Western standard, far from the painstaking 12 hour run most of New York goes by. The real world is tough- I'll let you know.

Anyhow, Chinatown covers a good distance in blocks (not sure how many) where getting lost is a perennial pastime. Because the street configuration is not in the grid format, it is very easy to mix up your streets, but in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost" because my poor navigation skills worked in my favor for once, as I indulged in unexpected observations.

Everywhere you look someone is traveling with a trolley in tow, either to or from work brimming with goods and personal articles. I must admit though, some folk brush past you with an air of arrogance and rudeness that can be off putting, but is yet another kick into the harshness of New York living: everything isn't always fair or fun- in my view this is a merit. The bustling community can swamp you with an overwhelming want to 'get out' and breathe, but the markets with hanging raw ducks among other animals will stop you in your tracks. 

I finally gain a sense of direction towards my desired destination: the Hester and Essex street cross section. The Hester street fair was first introduced to me by my friend Kaitlyn, who discovered the spot back in October and requested a visit. And since it was a success the first time round, I went back in its reopening month of May.

As far as setups go, it is a small-natured fair with a select few vendors in a tennis court size setting. Being that it is freshly reopened and only in operation on Saturdays from 10-6 the grounds were heaving with people. As a place of dynamic energy, it aptly reflects the liveliness of the Lower East Side, even in its small size. It was first established in 1895 as a pushcart market, developed by immigrants as a means of subsistence. In its modern day, the space has been respectfully renovated offering quality goods and food to the public, having the same success as experienced in its past life.

The select few vendors range in quirky fashion trends, feel good and healthy foods, vintage VHS and music records. The friendliness and good weather converge for a nice day out, adding to New York's best. The merchants are always on hand to offer a hand, while they sit comfortably waiting to engage in potential consumers. Their relaxed vibes eliminate an over arching competitiveness between their rival traders. There are around 5 benches in the rear of the market to take your food and enjoy with other market enthusiasts- that is another thing, you are likely to chat with others while you informally dine, whether you like it or not. 

Compared to my first visit, the market has undergone a few revisions in its supply of goods. Being that it operates every Saturday, the faces of the traders and goods change, keeping up with their renowned variety.

If anything this fair encourages the beauty of the Lower East Side, whether it be conventional or unconventional. History defines this neighborhood with immigration and cultural enclaves, which in the early 1900s was discriminated against. Its current standing is that of celebration rather than rejection, of New York's true spirit-it is real New York. 


1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the reading once again! Well done!!!!