It’s a daily occurrence in Los Angeles that flies in the face of what we read and hear. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, whites and every ethnicity in between are in a gathering place enjoying a moment of solitude and also togetherness. They come with their small children and babies, in carryalls or strollers. They come walking with the support of canes and even in wheelchairs.
There is the melodic strain of a mixture of languages, both from Angelenos and the clusters of foreigners who come by bus. There is a lot of laughter, animated conversation and also the quiet contemplation of reading or just daydreaming. People dress in a rainbow of colors--teens in fashion, seniors sometimes audaciously sporting colors and styles of the 1940s.
They come to gaze, to wander, to shop for novelties or groceries, and to be part of the experience. Often they come to enjoy an outdoor lunch. Alone or with others, it doesn’t matter--it’s a “happening.” Tables and chairs fill both the walkways and open spaces here and there. There are aisles lined on both sides with shops, stalls and booths. Every kind of food one can imagine is available, and all seem popular. One may choose American favorites and Louisiana-Cajun fare, Chinese standards, Italian dishes, Mexican delicacies, or fresh bakery goods. There is protection from the sun and also heaters for the chilly days.
But, there is something far more important to observe and not take for granted. The whites, Asians, blacks and Latinos order their food elbow to elbow, smiling, often helping one another. The elderly and the youthful share tables. When it’s crowded, color doesn’t matter and age is irrelevant. One can relax with a cup of coffee, or even a beer or glass of wine, and quietly read the newspaper.
If Los Angeles’ Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax is a microcosm of Los Angeles--and it is--then we have much to learn from it. The answer to Rodney King’s question is here: “People can get along.”