If you are visiting from the Holiday Blog Tour, welcome! This story is my contribution to the tour.
I am waiting for a train to San Francisco. The morning commute is over. The man who was playing fiddle music at the entrance to the station when I arrived has packed up and gone home, and there is a small crowd of students, artists, and businessmen waiting at the platform. 
I am going to the farmers market at the Ferry Building. Last time I went to the farmers market, I had just arrived from Boston, and I hadn’t been in California long. I went to prove to myself that there was a place where lettuce grew all year round. Though I knew that much of what I ate in winter in Boston came from California, there was a part of me that still believed lettuce in January was just an elaborate sleight of hand enabled by hydroponics and cold storage.
My third Christmas in California is coming soon, and I have gotten used to year-round farmers markets and grocery stores filled with local produce almost every day of the year, but Christmas will be here in a little over two weeks, and it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
I ride the escalator out of Embarcadero Station and step out onto the sidewalk in San Francisco. The guys selling handmade leather bags and prints of the Golden Gate Bridge in fog are setting up their booths along the street to the Ferry Building, and a few men in matching black pea coats wait in line to climb on a high platform and get their shoes shined by a laughing man in a newsboy hat. Dozens of people sit on the sidewalk holding matching green 99% signs across the street from a news van parked in front of a police van and a man with a guitar setting out a cardboard sign that says: You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to help a fella.
The last time I came for the farmers market, the plaza was full of tents. Today, it is empty enough a skater flips his board and takes big turns. I buy a few of the season’s first meyer lemons and a spring onion from one of the farmers and take a spin through the Ferry Building where shops have put out chalk board signs advising shoppers to get their holiday turkeys early, but it still doesn’t feel like Christmas. I wonder why as I walk out past the long line of people waiting for rotisserie chicken from a food truck. Is it the spring onions?
My first Christmas in California, I was woken up by a small combustion engine, sat up in bed and pulled aside the blinds, expecting to see a gloved hands pushing a snowblower. Instead, I saw two men in t-shirts with leaf blowers sweeping away palm fronds and rose petals. Some metaphors practically write themselves—an icy dream dissolving into flowers–but to wake up in spring when I was expecting winter felt like falling. I got up and opened the door on the living room where the tree and the straw Christmas goat that had journeyed with us across the country were waiting, and it was Christmas morning. Today, I no longer mistake white rose petals on the wind for the first big flakes of snow, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
Where is Christmas in this market? Is it sleeping in one of the artisan’s stalls guarded by the police officers who stand on the walls around the plaza? Or maybe they’re just here for the chicken or the man sitting on the sidewalk holding out his hat, yelling: At Occupy, they took everything…These socks are the same ones I’ve been wearing all week. 
Ahead of me, I hear a flute and stop to watch a man who looks like a leprechaun play what I thought at first was a pan flute, but is actually a flute shaped like a fish. 
Long ago, he tells me. Long before you were born when I lived in Europe, I met a man from Bolivia who taught me to make these Isoka flutes. He showed me these—He waves at the table where he has displayed a small selection of flutes in bright colors and then points at an ovular one—but I invented the fish myself.    
As he talks, he plays, punctuating his words with trills on the fish, music he sends out to passersby who walk on without stopping for him or for the man with old socks but maybe for the chicken.
Wonderful, he says. Toot. Toot. Toot. Wonderful for a child.
When I pass the man with the guitar again he is singing Christmas carols. 
***

The Holiday Blog Tour continues tomorrow with a post by Thelma Reyna.


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