Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Get your cut-rate pomelos here!

If you asked me to write a schoolboy essay on the theme "What Moon Festival Means to Me," I'd write something lovely and lyrical about the annual pomelo sale that takes place on Xiamen Jie in early fall.

You can set your calendar by it -- just after the last moon cake has been eaten, and right when the average person's annual pomelo quota has been exceeded, such that no one wishes to see more of that inferior grapefruit till the following year -- that is the precise moment when a great tub of half-dessicated pomelos is rolled out for display on the sidewalk near my apartment building. The tub comes to a stop next to a formica table where a crew of alcoholic furniture-movers encamp themselves nightly for binlang spitting and rude talk, and there it remains, untouched, for weeks.

Last year I caught the fruit-sellers removing pomelos from gift boxes and tossing them into the bin -- repackaging these gifts that nobody wanted as goodness fresh from the tree. But is anybody fooled? Once I saw a woman buy a pomelo from the bin, but this was a major aberration.

One day in October the pomelos mysteriously disappear, and my block is ridded of stale-dated fruit until the next Moon Festival has come and gone.

I'd like to know what the pomelo people's angle is, who's their connection, who gets what kind of cut. Any scam as hare-brained as this one must have a wonderful story behind it.

1 comment:

Rank Beginner said...

It's a tradition that goes back five years on Hsiamen Street. That's when your neighbor moved in. I remember they seemed to change business every few weeks. First it was the yansuji stand, and then binlang and then in the autumn, it was pomelos. Occasionally, it seemed simply to be heavy drinking.

It's nice to see the pomelos have become a fine tradition.