Saturday, August 29, 2009

a heart full of determination on a Saturday morning in Santa Monica

I woke up abruptly this Saturday and knew what I needed to do: quick like lightning, change out of those pajamas, cue the giant sunglasses, start up the Volvo, and navigate through the frightful maze of the Santa Monica city parking structure. If this was going to happen, things had to go according to plan.

It's 10:45 am on a Saturday in Santa Monica. Do you know where your alligator is?

The alligator is the ever-so-elusive breakfast pastry sold by The Bread Man at the Saturday morning 4th and Arizona farmer's market. And if you wake up too late, you've got no chance of capturing one. If you think you can make up for it at the Main Street Sunday market, think again: The Man only sells alligators on Saturdays.

Now, I've had many a morning where I've ventured out on the same mission, only to be confronted with disappointment. Sold out. Alligators go quickly, and I'm often working against myself since sleeping in brings me almost as much satisfaction as a great bakery hunt.

But today, my belly was empty and my heart was full of determination. I parked as quickly as possible, and started making my way to the street level. I passed a couple in the structure, waiting for the elevator. Amateurs indeed. After trotting down three flights of stairs, I glanced up. They had followed my lead after experiencing the notoriously slow elevator wait, but there was no getting in my way. The first and only rule about pursuing the gator is that you have to assume every market shopper is your fierce competitor. Today, I was certain, was the day the heroine would get her alligator!

The alligator represents the perfect marriage of cinnamon, sugary icing, and pecans, all atop a sweet pillow of doughy pastry. With a cup of strong coffee on a weekend day, this is everything your Saturday breakfast should be.

I power walk down the alley that connects to Arizona, arrive to the market, and stake my claim. With only three alligators left, I'm just in time.

I tell the vendor, a friendly older gentleman, that I'll take two. He then proceeds, with gloved hand, to delicately scrape the remaining pieces of icing-covered pecans from the bottom of the box. It was destiny. This wise man knew that the forgotten pecans, having fallen from their purchased alligator brethren, belonged with a true baked good enthusiast. It was the kind of gesture that one would never request or expect, but one the pastry lover secretly hopes for. I could have hugged him. (I wonder if he chooses someone during every market to bestow this kind gift upon?)

I've been away from my west LA apartment for the past 3 months, living in a desert town barren of fresh baked goods. Thanks, Bread Man, for a great homecoming with that extra special extra pecan touch. I'll surely return-- whenever I can wake up in time.
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