“Now, repeat after me: you can do it, tall, sexy black man!” clamored the booming voice of a man standing in the center of a large circle of people. “If you’re white, it’s OK to say it! If you’re Japanese, get ready to take a picture! No, we are not racist! We think there is only one race: the human race.”
A buzz filled the air. The audience was vibrating with anticipation.
“I’ve seen the show twice. They always use the same people: the tall hot white guy, the cougar, the Asian lady, and I think there’s a boy,” said Madeline Warshaw, a student at Wellesley College. “It’s a good show.”
The show had nurtured a crowd of more than 100 people. It was the “Grand Finale,” and a hat was being passed from hand to hand around the crowd, slowly filling with bright green bills. Two of the performers were pumping up the crowd while another stood apart, stretching his body into the most elastic thing he could get it to be. The sequence of nontraditional, break-dance-like stretches seemed to follow a ritual, each one adding giving him a bit of courage. After all, he was about to perform the final trick: a high velocity jump over the line of chosen participants- the long way.
Music starts as the performer, clad in apparel ridden with bright numerals and words, begins his ascension upon the line…
And in an instant, it’s over. The music is switched off. The crowd disperses.
This seemed typical for life in and around Quincy Market in Boston, Massachusetts. Tides of people would rise and fall, and performers would come and go. Food court vendors would serve packs of people and then they’d serve none. Lobster rolls and bread bowls would fly over the counter and then they’d sit, waiting to be sold. It was busy. It was slow. It was Quincy Market.
Entertainment for this brisk night included, in addition to the break dancers, a unicycle riding yo-yoer and a silent witch whose fortunes hidden in a sack could be read for a single dollar. Each added their own level of integrity to the diversions that night. After all, with crowds his large, realty was limited.
Activity in Quincy Market can only be described as vivacious. Life here tastes, smells, and looks a lot like the East Coast: fresh shrimp, lobster rolls, clam “chowda,” pretzels, pizza bagels, shepherd’s pie, mac ‘n cheese, Panini’s, juices, gelato, assorted chocolates, chocolate cigars, and candy covered apples. It’s a gourmand’s heaven. Heck, it’s the any man’s paradise (with tourist prices). And of course, it even comes with a show, if you get there early enough.
Built in 1826 in honor of Mayor Josiah Quincy, Quincy Market is a place that was born out of the growing demand for more space to sell groceries in Boston’s booming economy and has sustained itself through lasting demand for good food and entertainment by Bostonians and visitors alike. In 2013, Boston.com claimed the “marketplace gets more visitors annually than Disney’ Magic Kingdom,” and noted that “it’s one of the nine local tourist traps [they] think that Bostonians really do enjoy.”
Although it spans 365 feet, with its teeming hallway and stuffed seating space (where you might just end up face-to-face with a total stranger), the market has that know-your-neighbor appeal that is common on the east coast. Friendly faces are often met with smiles, jokes, and spoonfuls of delicious soup.
My choice in food for the night was a heaping bowl of clam “chowda,” served in a bread bowl. Eating it in the two-floor sitting area of the Market, located in the center of the space, was a humbling experience. Although I could sense that much had changed since the days of grocery stalls and big wigs, I still felt connected to a piece of Boston’s expansive history, and with it, deep American culture. Closing my eyes and munching on the soft morsels of clam somehow felt right. The cooing of the eaters next to me told me I wasn’t alone in how I felt. Although I am not a native Bostonian, Quincy Market gave me a sense of belonging in the bustling city of Boston.