For those of us who were raised in circa-1980s South Floridian suburbs, terms like ‘outdoor market’ and ‘riot’ were first met in air-conditioned portable classrooms in between lunch periods and awkward square dancing sessions, which now, upon reflection, seem aptly Reaganian. The ‘outdoors,’ first of all, were intolerable places we made all efforts to avoid, skirting through fluorescent-lighted hallways and bays, following the whir of ceiling fans, living as if this planet were really not suitable for human life. I was six years old before I was removed from the incubator of my youth and granted opportunity to experience out-of-doors spaces. Thereafter, I endeavored to remain in the machines of convenience that would provide respite from the inhospitable swamp, for whenever faced with the prospects of having to weather the tropical clime, I would be struck by an insurmountable bout of torpitude, which would render me unable to do much of anything. One might think that such an ‘interior’ existence might provide precisely the conditions that would foster a healthy and critical life of the mind: while carried by one car to the next, from one Publix to another, what else does one have to dwell on? Is this not the ideal our 19th- and 20th-century revolutionaries had fought for? That one day the machine would liberate us from the factory and the field, and all would work towards a social utopia? But this comfortable, sheltered life inspired quite the opposite: a proclivity towards intellectual and political torpor grew in me.
This may be why ‘Haymarket’ at first failed to conjure any palpable image in my mind. While it may refer to either (or both) the 1886 Chicago labor union strike-cum-riot, or to the twice weekly, outdoor Boston market, the Haymarket Café is neither a hotbed of radical expression, nor does it offer outdoor seating or sell produce outdoors. This is understandable, though. Located in western Massachusetts, the Haymarket Café does not have to satisfy a burgeoning need for organic produce—Northampton and the surrounding towns have their own organic farmers’ markets. Nor need it function as an activist nerve center; such nexuses already abound. Maybe that’s why the Haymarket clientele and staff seem so blas?. Of course they carry vegan lemon bars, and of course they serve homemade sambar daily. Everyone here has a dyke neighbor, or is a dyke themselves; and everyone farms in a community garden. I would have found it difficult to explain to the café locals why places like the Haymarket are so attractive to people like me, and probably impossible to convey why I am so ambivalent about such loci of liberalness.
If you exit out the rear of the café, you’ll find yourself before an odd little domicile. Beyond is a parking lot, a movie-set-like alley, and then some street that loops around, back to Main. That’s Northampton: a nice little loop spotted by places such as the Haymarket, where one can stop for a steamed s’latte, in between snacking on tofu on the lawn near the town hall and browsing for used books. I enjoyed it while it lasted—before I had to drag myself back onto the interstate so I could speed for no reason, scan impatiently for public radio, and count ribbon magnets.
Haymarket Cafe185 Main Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01060