Matte’s Blog

The Hamadas

“Did you sleep well, dear?” i asked the Muse as she fluttered down with my morning inspiration.


I tuned in to the Hamadas in 1994 when the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market was new and Yukio and Yonki were bringing their cherries and nectarines.  I found them delightful.  No no, Yukio and Yonki were delightful, the cherries and nectarines were merely delicious.

And it wasn’t just Yukio and Yonki.  I immediately hit it off with their workers, Gordon and Janet, somehow jumping to the conclusion that Janet was a family member on the sole shred of evidence that she was Japanese.  So early on they became one of my favorite vendors, and i gradually expanded my purchases beyond the cherries and nectarines to their other offerings, most spectacularly the Buddha’s Hands since i’d never seen one and Yukio was the first vendor to bring them to the market.

But it wasn’t just the cherries, nectarines, and Buddha’s Hands.  Oh no.  There were apricots and apricot-plum hybrids like pluots and apriums as well as peaches and wonderful grapes, most particularly the Niabels that i used to make the best grape jelly i ever ate.  Not to mention yuzus and other citrus varieties you rarely saw elsewhere like shaddocks and pomelos and citrons.

And then, in the early 2000’s Yonki died suddenly and tragically, and shortly thereafter Yukio turned over operation of the farm to his son Clifford, who was just as delightful and just as innovative.  On a lark back then he brought to the market some Marsh grapefruit, not from their groves but rather from an old tree in their yard.  I went wild over these things because finally finally i got to again eat the grapefruit of my childhood, quite sour like God intended rather than hybridized for increasing sweetness.  These fruits are virtually extinct now since farmers have ripped out the old Marsh trees and replaced them with sweet varieties that pander to the American taste for sugar.

Clifford, bless his heart, kept bringing them to the market every January – February even though it was only i and a handful of other old folks who bought them, and this endeared him to me even more.

And then, a couple of months ago, Cliff mentioned that owing to a shortage of things to sell, he wouldn’t be at the market for a while, and i thought, well, i’ll just have to hold my breath until his cherries are ripe.  I’ve been writing about them and their wonderful fruit since the beginning, and i want to keep doing so.

Last Friday the bomb went off.  Things have not gone well for them, and they’re leaving the market.

I’m devastated.  Other vendors of mine have left, but none i was as fond of as the Hamadas.  Worse yet, this departure carries with it an undercurrent of misfortune and makes me wish there were something i could do.  Well, other than fan the flames of my eloquence to their brightest in a letter employing my best penmanship.

Meanwhile, some green plums on the tree overhanging the flood wall downstream from me.  As with the Hamada’s cherries, our lifesaving rains this spring knocked off a lot of the blossoms, so the crop will be small.

Plums overhanging the Petaluma River flood wall

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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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