No announcement yet.

The King of Artist Row

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The King of Artist Row

    With the Psychic Fair in full swing I thought I would post this here in the hopes that we get some search engine traffic. I lived in Salem for about seven years and this was one account of my time there.


    At the foot of Derby Street in Salem, Massachusetts there are two rows of brightly colored buildings that may be rented during the summer months by artisans and craftspeople. In this particular year, the Salem Arts Association, of which my friend Elise was a member, rented a building at the very end of Artist’s Row.

    Towards the end of the Psychic Fair in October, the painters and woodworkers, candle makers and mixed media creators were having their penultimate sale in an attempt to pay a bill or two with the fruits of their passions. And I was there on the penultimate day, ever ready as always to render my services as dumb muscle.

    It was also my sworn duty to see that none of the tasty snacks on the refreshments table went to waste. There were salty pretzels, various nuts and cheeses, grapes, olive oil, and all the offerings of a Market Basket vegetable platter on clearance. There was also a box full of wine bottles and some glasses for anyone who might like to imbibe while they were in the shop, although I don’t know whose job it was to make sure no one left with the alcohol. But I digress.

    The doors were wide open and the shop was packed with prospective buyers. Across the brick laden pedestrian street there was a bench next to the bathrooms, where two people sat. I couldn’t tell you much about the man but the woman who was with him might have only been a few years older than me. It was raining and they were overdressed with bulky coats, heavy pants, and a nice gray blanket shared between them. The tell tale suitcases at their sides marked them as homeless, though the cleanliness told me they had not been homeless for long. Or at least that they knew where to go for access to a shower and washing machine. The odor and color of time hadn’t begun to set in, though I couldn’t imagine the rain was doing them any good. It wasn’t pouring or drizzling. It was comfortable enough to walk around in, as evidenced by the many costumed individuals filling Derby and Essex Street. And I guess it wasn’t too uncomfortable to sit in because the couple remained at the bench for quite sometime.

    After many hours and many shoppers, Elise’s boyfriend arrived with his pickup truck. The parking lot was on the other side of a brick wall, with a wide pedestrian access, just behind the bench where the couple sat. Elise told me which pieces were hers and I carried them out to the truck and her boyfriend helped me with the larger ones. At no time did the homeless couple ask me, or anyone else for change. They didn’t speak to anyone. I think the man might have been listening to music but the woman just kind of watched the world walk by her without a frown, or complaint. She seemed perfectly content to wait out the day at this bench without bothering anyone.

    When Elise’s art was packed and covered, I went back into the shop to see if I could do anything else. All that was left was to clear the table of the food platters. Elise held up a bottle of wine that still had more than a few glasses worth of liquid inside.

    “Do you want this?” she asked.

    “I’m not much of a wine drinker,” I said.

    “Toss it,” she said, bluntly. She placed it back in the case and I hesitated. I hate to throw away food. And while wine isn’t technically a food, it has some nourishing benefits as any good doctor will tell you. You just have to drink responsibly.

    Having no real reason to argue though, I took the case back outside. The Dumpster was also on the other side of the wall. The rain was starting to pick up but still, not so bad as to run for cover. I noticed once again that the homeless couple were in no hurry to leave their bench.

    I took the case all the way to the dumpster and removed the bottle that was definitely half full. I tossed the case and held the bottle discreetly, keeping an eye out for any of the numerous Buttinskis that populated Salem. I stopped at the bench and quietly asked the lady if she or her companion had any problems with alcohol, or if they had any medications that would prevent them from drinking safely.

    She said no. I held the bottle out to her and in a soft firm tone said, “If the subject comes up, I didn’t give this to you.”

    She nodded and accepted the bottle, concealing it quickly.

    I only looked back at her once and she remained seated, smiling, not bothering anyone or asking anyone for change. I never saw her again, nor did I recognize her from the time when I was homeless in Salem. But in the back of my mind, I allow myself a small but realistic amount of optimism that she and her companion found their way out of their predicament.

    In my life I have been things. Janitor, cashier, first born son, oldest brother, favorite uncle, favorite cousin. I’ve made people laugh and groan. I’ve made days and broken dreams. There are things on which I am undoubtedly the expert and things I only claim to know.

    But on that day and in that moment, I was the King of Artist Row.

  • #2
    Awesome story. Thank you so much for posting.
    I come and check every day on new things, sometimes post things myself.


    • #3
      Thank you. I've been busy these past seven years.


      • #4
        I have New Topics bookmarked. Anything that's been added to shows up.