Under the Tent Selling Salt


Will Lemay and son O'Shea at Hollywood Farmer's Market last Sunday. photo by ABH.
Will Lemay and son O’Shea at Hollywood Farmer’s Market last Sunday. photo by ABH.
Hepp's Salt Barrel.
Hepp’s Salt Barrel.

For the past few months, I’ve worked at an improbable profession, selling salt part-time at the farm markets, chiefly at Hollywood on Sunday and up at Yamishiro, on Thursday evening.

The work starts when I drive to a six-story high concrete storage facility in West LA, punch in a code, and ride up in a cavernous steel-floored elevator. The door opens, and in front of me are rows of metal doors, numbers and lights that turn on as you walk under them. Air-conditioning blasts down the empty corridors.

It’s a good place for murder because nobody would hear you scream. And your corpse can be locked up for years.

My key unlocks the unit and up goes the door. Inside is a hand truck onto which I load up two plastic tables, canvas cloths, plastic cash box containing money, inventory and a Square space reader to plug into my iphone. There is a large tent on wheels, a 5-gallon container for water, clip- on lights, extension cords, salt samples in Ball Glass jars, and the inventory consisting of various packets of spicy, finishing, smoked and imported salt.

I ride back down the elevator and load it all into my Ford Focus and drive on Olympic over to LaBrea and up to Yamashiro, arriving 4pm, on a day that will predictably be hot, sunny and baking. The market opens at 5pm, so I have an hour to set up on the asphalt.

Around 7pm, the sun gets lower, the winds blow up into the hills and it turns into a dusky and dark affair, lit up with wine, beer and beautiful girls, all seemingly thin, in torn denim and long shiny hair, wearing sunglasses hiding wide, wondrous eyes not yet exposed to sorrow. A band plays early 1970s mellow rock.

Under my tent I watch the guests arrive and walk past me and my fellow vendors. The other tents cover organic strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, a red-faced guy hawking “the world’s best cake”; candy apples, green juices, humus and olives, homemade peanut butter. The guests stroll until they reach the end, near a cliff, where lightly intoxicated beauties seduce at round tables in high altitude.

The people remind me of the ones I saw in Roddy McDowall’s 1965 home movies of his Sunday afternoon beach barbeques in Malibu attended by Suzanne Pleshette, Tuesday Weld, Lauren Bacall, Julie Andrews, Jane Fonda, Paul Newman and Lee Remick.

Those notables from the mid 60s would recognize the Yamashiro crowd: blonde children, skinny men in skinny jeans with checked shirts, greased back hair and razored sides, and those diaphanous, theatrical Hollywood moms: pretty bronzed women in straw hats and sundresses cavorting, dancing, posing and feigning happiness under the palms.

And for me it is all business as people come up, all night, and I give them tastings of truffle salt, smoked salt, and blithely talk of the magic properties of salt from Himalaya.

The old young me, who once walked fast down the streets of New York, and entertained guests at The Polo Store while doing the most monotonous and soul deadening work selling clothes, that magician who could take the long hours standing on my feet, he has come back to Hollywood and is appearing, for a command performance, selling salt and liking it.

The market closes a little after 9pm. The sky is dark and I am exhausted. It is time to count the salt and the cash. After paying the market, I pay me, take a pee, load up my car, and drive back to Van Nuys, feeling satisfied and wealthy with $80.

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