Back in my unfettered and fancy-free days, I would close down the soup shop for the summer and go off on culinary adventures... one morning on my 2003 tour found me well before sunrise in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, at the 200 year old Fulton Fish Market. Did you catch that? I hope so, I hope you're reading along and paying attention... there are no shadows before sunrise.
I was able to secure the assistance of a most interesting tour guide, Naima Rauam. She followed her art school bliss right down to the Fulton Fish Market and after many years became the de facto adopted little sister of all the scruffy fishmongers. She would turn a smokehouse into an art studio every afternoon and sell paintings of the market and its workings. That's her, below, in front of the sliding front door of the smokehouse.
Her paintings evoke the timelessness and beauty of the dance of the fish market... the haggling, schlepping, cutting. You can almost smell it...
The people who work the market have a special esprit de corps... they have hard jobs, businesses with slim margins, but are proud of carrying on family traditions and being part of the invisible workings of the great city. By the time the white-collar folks and tourists flood into the downtown workday, they're already packed up and giving the sidewalks a final rinse.
Of course the inimitable New York spirit pervades... finding delight and sport in argument, yelling, fist-shaking, and cursing are what give this market its soul.
Naima took me on a special tour into the covered pavilion... here we find an expert at work on a yellowfin tuna. Many dollars at stake with each slice, even at 2003 prices...
Of course New York, being New York, is a city constantly erasing and recreating itself, for better or worse. Making way for another Banana Republic or whatever, the result of palm-greasing, back-scratching, or however things work in the Big City, the Fulton Fish Market moved to the Bronx, to a clean, refrigerated, highway-ready facility. It was essentially a false mystique that the market sat on the seaport anyways... long gone were the days of skiffs puttering up to the docks with their local catches. I was very glad to have experienced the market before it was moved and modernized.