Saturday was a big around-town day for us, as we got up relatively early-ish and made it out to the Durham Farmers’ Market downtown at Central Park. It was a mildly drizzly morning but we had umbrellas and gusto and we came away with countless peppers of various types and some blueberries and enough tiny new apples for me to bake two apple-walnut-honey-custard pies and still have three apples left over. The Boyf picked up a flower that looked like a deep scarlet brain and sent it to Katastrophes & Mr. Pink Eyes by way of me that afternoon. We had breakfast from the OnlyBurger truck, which at the farmers market sells something called the “morning special”: a burger with pimento cheese, a fried egg and a fried green tomato. Unbelievably delicious. We scarfed them down in huge bites.

After that we went over to the huge indoor flea market on East Pettigrew, a place we’d both heard about more than once but had never gotten around to checking out. This place turned out to be more than a flea market, though. It was an experience.

The indoor section is mostly clothing, jewelry and vast swaths of unabashedly counterfeit DVDs. There are banquet tables literally covered in three-ring binders of photocopied box art and movies burned to DVDs. It doesn’t really matter how your tastes run, as there’s a booth for every genre iteration known to film: Asian action flicks, American blockbusters, telenovelas, name your movie and someone there will have it. There were a couple of extremely lackluster booths of car parts and used appliances, too, but the real stars of the indoor area were the food booths. There were four or five booths indoors and a few more outdoors selling food, booths where the staff and the clientele were all of the same ethnicity and the food was clearly as authentic as it’s ever going to get in these parts. We weren’t hungry at all after the OnlyBurger or I would have gladly bellied up to a counter and seen what I could eat.

The food booths alone would be reason enough to go back but the real stars were the produce stands. Located outdoors, on either side of the building, there were produce stands that sold everything from the standard fare to plantains, mangoes, dried peppers that smelled rich and dark like cured tobacco, scarred and pitted jalapeños that looked like they could burn your tongue from across the room and more. We found thick, beautiful carrots, huge stalks of celery, avocados, weird albino zucchini squash and bags of napoles trimmed and chopped on demand. All of this was extremely fresh and at absolutely rock-bottom prices. We could not believe our eyes. They can sell all the counterfeit movies they want, my friend, as long as they keep the fat, juicy, 3-for-$2 mangoes coming. The folks we talked to were all extremely friendly and the place was a riot.

My absolute favorite thing, though, had to be the “Let Me Fill Your MP3 Player” booth, where for a few bucks a guy would load all the mp3’s one could want onto any kind of device one could want. No thanks, dude, but it’s nice to see the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

So what was my small humiliation? After all that, we split up so The Boyf could go to work and I could take our shopping home and head to Katastrophes’ & Mr. Pink Eyes’ place for the afternoon/evening. First, though, I swung by The Bicycle Chain to see if they had in stock the bike I’ve had my eye on when browsing their website of late. I haven’t ridden a bike in probably twenty years but I’ve been itching to try it again and we have miles and miles of gorgeous trails around here that I’ll never experience without a bike and I could use the exercise and blah blah blah. I walk a lot, yes, but I want to be able to bike, too. At any rate, I walked in and a nice young man was talking to me about the bike that interested me – after I had stated that I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in twenty years and was just interested in easing back into it in a low-impact way – and he pulled down the next-largest-size model of the one I want (the Trek 7000 – they didn’t have my size in stock) and suggested I try to climb on and “go for a lap around the store”. I did so and immediately – I mean, immediately – crashed into a row of bicycles and knocked three of them over. Employees swarmed me and the bikes and started checking to see if I had damaged anything and I was absolutely mortified. I am a big guy and I have a lot of self-consciousness about fitness and my lack thereof and the big hurdle I think most people encounter when they try to get into better shape is that initial act of being willing to be seen exercising when they’re still, like me, fat as the queen of sea cows.

I had gone in with this vision of something happening that would cause the staff of this fancy-pants bike store to think of me as a hopeless rube and then immediately taken an action creating that scenario. The guy was nice enough to talk to me about helmets and bike racks for my car after that but he pretty clearly was ready for me to leave and so was I. When I called later to be double-sure that I hadn’t caused damage that I might need to compensate them for (I had not), I introduced myself on the phone as “the guy who crashed into those bikes earlier” and the person who had answered simply said, “Oh, yeah, you.” He thanked me for calling and seemed genuinely surprised that I had, but he didn’t really make me feel like going right back out and leaping onto the first bike I saw. I felt doubly humiliated and I haven’t really been able to shake that all weekend. Normally I just couldn’t give less of a damn if it paid double wages, in terms of what other people think of me, but for some reason this has touched some raw nerves. Now I’m kind of thinking that maybe walking should be where I stay. I’ll probably get over that, but damn, the looks on their faces is burned into my memory and I can still feel the heat on my face.