JOHNS BLUEBERRY FLEA

If your last name is “Pain” you know you are destined to be a dentist.  I once knew a guy named Doug Stone and thought for sure he would end up selling cemetery plots… you know…head stones? He ended up becoming a blues singer which is almost Rock’n Roll. I recently met a guy named Chris… naturally he is a walk-around minister… easy… Chris short for Christ.

What do you do with a name like Barry? Own a Bar? Eat lots of candy bars? Get barred from places? Pass the Bar? Hopefully not end up behind them. Not sure what destiny my name is trying to tell me I should become? Though John is a very common name which finds its way into pretty much every profession… it’s almost the exception when a John ends up servicing Johns.

In some creative way this place could even be a cover for a massage parlor advertising to Johns for miles around; specializing in drain feeled repair.

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If you’re a Catfish… do you get that handle from your long whiskers, your aloof purr-sonality or your ability to get people’s tongue?

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Okay… enough writing calisthenics and warm up. Just had to get the juices flowing and catch the magic. It’s a funny thing about magic… it’s always there, no matter who we are, what we do or where we live. But we just forget we  have it.

These days I live in a town called Spring Hill, Florida… population 69,078 with a median income of $48,000 a year. It’s inhabited by 93% white people, 3% black people and 4% people of other races, colors and creeds. Most of the people here are retired and the businesses and institutions that exist, do so by catering to them. Like retail and restaurants… that’s not including the usual prisons, farms and meat-packing plants.

Spring Hill is right next door to an equally anonymous Florida town called Brooksville. I usually find a certain unique charm in all the places I’ve ever lived or visited. I don’t know if Spring Hill is full of hills especially during the spring… doubtful as there are none in Florida… or if Brooksville is full of brooks or maybe it may have one running through the center of its village.

This past weekend Brooksville, Florida hosted its second or third annual Blueberry Festival. You heard right. Blueberries. They have antioxidant properties why shouldn’t they have promotional properties as well.

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The promoters did as well as they could to attract exhibitors, advertisers and attendees.They even sold advertising on the bumpers of golf carts… like their Nascar cousins.

I guess one of the funniest things I noticed is that they blocked off all the roads entering the town in order to funnel all the traffic into certain areas so they could control the cost of admission. The only thing was that they had plenty of “road closed” signs but very few detour signs.

Basically getting to this little village honoring the juicy blue marble, was close to impossible. But to those that found their way… they would be rewarded with the view of others who located it, as well as a handful of craft and food booths.

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Some people brought their dogs though this was not a well-known canine event. This couple added some type of festive collar to their dog’s neck and when they saw me with the camera they shouted, “Hey! You want to get a picture of our dog wearing goggles? We have a pair right here…”

Perhaps the wife in the morning said…”John, don’t forget to bring Bambi’s goggles. There might be someone from the media at this festival and maybe we’ll get in the paper!” Little did they know they would appear in my Street Photography and Creative Writing Blog.

Not sure how I feel about dressing up dogs. They have dignity right? We think they have no sense of time… but they do feel embarrassment don’t they? It’s one thing to put a spiked collar on a Shitzu. But it’s a whole other thing to dress up some kind of giant white Burmese Mountain Dog.

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Ironically or maybe not so… if people could find their way to the town… they sure as hell could not find their way around the town. Actually this festival was like a great feast for the eyes of people wandering around lost but not caring. Everyone had a great time and just wanted to be carried around by the tide of wandering and the idea that the Blueberry is worth celebrating.

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Some booths had people in them and some booths had people in them waiting for people to visit their booth. It was a cloudy rainy and sometimes chilly Saturday morning in Florida. The rain misted on and off like a sprinkler system with a tiny crack in the line spurting spritz.

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Some booths actually sold Blueberry related items. Like Blueberry Shortcake or Blueberry Beer. Some booths sold items completely unrelated to Blueberries… like this one selling really cool masks with a Rat’s face on it.

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There were some rides and games… but again the opportunity of theme was missed. All these balls should have been blue to celebrate the festival… or at least something blue on them. But instead, one would simply unzip them, pour their children into the hot plastic sphere and hope to get them out within a reasonable period of play before they would suffocate.

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You know it’s an amazing thing how people react differently to the camera. At the Blueberry Festival I felt virtually invisible capturing what ever I could from who ever I wanted. Then, suddenly I was visible and Ronald McDonald wanted his picture taken…

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And a beautiful woman in cowboy boots also wanted to be noticed and then some other lady practically started jumping up and down… “shoot me… shoot me…”. These ladies remembered they had the magic, they knew it and wanted everyone else to know it.

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However… on the other side of town a very different event was going on. It was the weekly Flea Market where people everyday people put value on those things that others have discarded. They are the deal hunters and entrepreneurs who defy business description and cluster together in a make-shift mall occupying hammered together store fronts built into abandoned storage containers; unless they were among the privileged who had table tops that were used to border their stalls where they sold their wares.

Though they permitted me to capture their image they were not on the whole from the “look at me” crowd; many of these folks had long forgotten that they had the magic much less felt like their image was of any value at all. These are the folks who speak in words not paragraphs. These are the folks that we read about in books, watch in movies and think about in our imagination. These are the folks from stories that have not been written yet.

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Inside a covered space on an old scratched gray plastic table were shoe boxes filled with baby birds. This one box had a warming light attached to it and all the baby chicks huddled close to each other in a yellow ball of fine furry feathers to stay warm underneath the light.

When I was a young boy, a nasty older brother of a friend of mine offered to give me a baby chick. I was over at their house and couldn’t have been more than 10 yrs old. We were down in the basement and the older brother brought down an egg carefully wrapped in a towel. He whispered softly… “this chick is about to come out and all you have to do is very gently sit on top of it like a mother hen for just a few minutes and the chick will be born.”

He ceremoniously laid out the towel and gently placed the egg down on the towel. “Now slowly and carefully squat on top of it so your butt just touches it and the heat from your butt will warm it up enough for the baby to be born.” And I did, just hover over it… carefully squatting over it and just as my tiny boy butt made contact with this egg… the big brother pushed down on my shoulders, collapsing me on top of it and the egg was smashed to smithereens! He ran upstairs laughing as he shouted…”You killed it… You killed it!!!”

I started to cry as I got up off the towel thinking I had just murdered this tiny helpless creature. I looked beneath me and saw a smashed egg-shell and yolk but no chicken. Then it occurred to me that there never really was a baby chicken… and the yoke was on me…

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All grown up, and hopefully a little bit wiser, I concentrate more now on hatching creative ideas, stories one can feel and awesome pictures found in the right place at the right time. I’m always waiting for that moment when an image appears in front of me and I have the camera ready and all the conditions are right and I snap the picture perfectly and people see it and it goes viral and articles get written about it and movie producers contact me and I get interviewed on how I captured this amazing image.

Yep… I’m always ready for that to happen. I kind of almost thought it did with this next photo till I shot the ones after it. It seems that every photo I take is the greatest one I’ve ever taken… till I shoot the next one.

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Now this next guy. He was sitting on the back of his pick-up truck behind his scratched up gray plastic table-top booth at the Flea Market. The radio was blasting from his truck, playing a song from this guy Toby Keith. I knew that was the singer’s name cause that guy was looking so sad as he listened to each and every lyric. I walked up to him and said, “Hey, that’s good music. What’a ya listening to?” He paused the dream inside his mind held by his past, just looked up at me and said “Toby Keith”.

Good thing I had my Shazam application on my IPhone or I would never know the name of the song. I snuck over to the side of his truck, crouched down by the driver’s side door and lifted my arm with the IPhone high enough to hear his speakers while I watched this guy frozen in time. The name of this song was called “A Woman’s Touch”. Here’s a few of the lyrics:

Right from the first day
One man stood alone
And somehow he missed
What didn’t exist
How could he have known

He looked all around him.
And lifted his head
For he heard a voice
And rose to rejoice as somebody said

This place needs a woman’s touch
To share in the plan
For without a woman’s touch
Life don’t mean much to a man

Up through the ages
The stories the same
A king to himself, alone with his wealth
Is living in vain
His castle will crumble
And he’ll wonder why
‘Cause wealthy or poor,
There’s one thing for sure
He just can’t deny
The need of a woman’s touch

I visited with him for a while and we talked about his booth, his music, my camera. Not sure if he lost a woman’s touch or maybe he never had one. As I am a father of two precious women and having watched them grow from infants, I can say without a doubt that women are nothing short of magical; they just forget that they are from time to time.

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Just as I was about to leave the Flea Market I passed another man in a completely different pick-up truck who had gotten stuck in a ditch. This in itself is a country song in the making. A bunch of old fellas came over to help out and push that truck out of that ditch. That’s the thing about these folks is that they all help each other because they’ve all been in that place when they needed help.

As they pushed that truck out and felt good about their little piece of accomplishment, I watched the woman who was waiting to get in the truck once it got back on the road. Despite this huge success of liberating the vehicle from the muddy grip of fate… she looked overwhelmed within herself, carrying some kind of sadness… some kind of fear and anxiety. Something that made her forget that she was magical.

I snapped her picture from the side. This too I believe is the greatest picture I’ve ever taken… until I take the next one.

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At first I thought it would make a great country song. But then I thought it would make an even better Blues Song; something Doug Stone might play. Maybe next year at the Blueberry Festival bands will come from all around to play the blues and throughout the venue there would be portable toilets conveniently located, provided by a guy named John.

4 thoughts on “JOHNS BLUEBERRY FLEA

    • Thanks Sanoj! Having spoken with creative angels I’m sure you’re no stranger to finding the lucid story between random images. I look forward to learning more about Gesuina and reading your comments on some of my other stories.

  1. Hey Barry, my In-Laws retired to Spring Hill. They are both deceased now, but we would visit them every year. They lived at Timber Pines. Neat area of Florida. Of course we always loved Weeki Wachi. My oldest son and his wife live in Tampa now. My wife and I live in Northern California. We miss our kids. Really like your pictures. And, the way you weave your commentary around them. Thanks for your Creative Magic.

G'head. Say it.

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