Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A 1/2 Hour With - Pat Campo

It was Friday and it was snowing in the North End. It snowed pretty much everywhere else, too, but on the corridors of Blackstone and Hanover Streets, there were tents and stands. Haymarket was vastly unoccupied, save for the few stands that were there with the manpower of one. People still came to get their produce, their cheese and delicatessen, their fish and halal food.

If you just passed by the last fish and halal market, you'd find someone wearing a beret and snazzy glasses, tending to a stand of oranges. He's Pat Campo. He doesn't do slam poetry, though.

Every morning, he with Tony Produce and maybe a son or two, like others before him in the family, would step out to the docks at 2am. They, with good company and competition, would bid and deal and haggle for some of the excess produce shipments on offer. Most often, these carrots or potatoes are a little old, not as appealing to the eye. Maybe you'd have a little more work to do in the kitchen, but they're fine. Apples and pineapples and other fruit would be near ripe. The navels and grapefruits, though, are probably the best, sweetest and juiciest for picking. Huge boxes of all these and more in exchange for some money and they head off to whatever they're doing for the day.

In Campo's case, most every other day of the week you'll find him with a pushcart. Fridays and Saturdays, though, you'll find him at Haymarket, working 18 hours a day. He's an enthusiastic fellow, calling everyone he meets by name, by "cousin" or by "sweetheart." He begs everyone to "try a piece of candy," that his fruits are "sugar" and "sweet."

Unlike some of the other vendors, he's happy to strike up a good conversation while he bags your six-for-a-dollar "sweeeeeeet!" Florida navels.

I was fortunate enough for him to have me behind the counter for a half hour with Campo. Here's a bit of how he operates.

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