Middle Eastern, No Sirree

September 25th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Boston is a city that likes its secrets and knows how to keep them. There’s no sense in letting the out-of-neighborhood folk know what street they’re on with signs!

I’ve found yet another store that gets it, the Boston way. By found it, I mean in the French window-licking sense. I haven’t been able to get in after three visits during posted hours.

Yes, yes, I do know of self-defined characters in Maine towns or New Mexican ones for that matter. Their little shop or gallery will have some allegedly amusing note like, “OPEN WHEN THE MOOD STRIKES ME. KEEP TRYING.”

The folk at the Syrian Grocery Importing Company on Shawmut Avenue in the South End are much crueler. They have a faded sign on their front door. It has very specific days and hours, for a schedule they don’t keep.

The sked is flaky enough — Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. That looks like even a sloth or alcoholic should be able to do that. Double ha!

I had been by a few times during hours, but the padlock was on the door. Today, I came prepared. I biked the five miles or so, bought a big coffee and settled in on the front stoop with a cryptic puzzle. That wasn’t a bad way to spend some time. I had arrived precisely at noon and was jolly.

The window looked like a teenager’s desk drawer. It was piled and jumbled with all manner of treasures. When I wanted a stretch, I’d look. I saw one thing I was ready to buy immediately, a brass mortar and pestle for grinding saffron. I was a customer waiting to be relieved of money on my third trip.

When nearly an hour passed, the mailman was on his way. The store owner’s quirkiness was outlasting my patience at the same time. When the man with the pouch arrived I asked if he knew whent the store was open. He paused and laughed heartily before saying, “Whenever the hell they feel like it.”

He added that he’d be by when they were open during the posted times, then long stretches when it was locked. For him, it was not an issue, there’s a goodly gap under the front door. That’s less effective in my circumstances.

Now I know where places like the Eastern Lamejun Bakers in Belmont and Arax Market in Watertown are. I know too that they are quirky in that other way, the one of being open when they say.

The city seems in on the grocery’s plot too. The way to 270 Shawmut is maze-like. You can’t legally turn onto Shawmut from the major east-west street, Berkeley. Then from Dedham Street, it is one-way the other way. If you want to get to it from Mass Ave or further South, you have to take Washington or Tremont and know which of two or three streets will let you into the secret road. Too soon or too late and Shawmut is one way the wrong way.

I”m going to make it my business to get into that store just once, but no more special trips. There have to be real things I can do, like visiting friends in the South End or going to Chinatown. Even languor can’t defeat a determined shopper.


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