Pickles: The old gray market rides high

Carlos Kalmar conducts the Oregon Symphony. We do our own bit of conducting sometimes in the form of serious scientific experiments.

By Laura Grimes

Here at Art Scatter World Headquarters, we concoct more than hot chocolate and dirty-little-secret martinis. We participate in genuine science. For weeks we’ve been conducting The Great Pickles As Social Vehicle Experiment.

Mr. Scatter made a bold declaration recently in the mainstream media about our little family enterprise.

We deal chiefly in the concoction of highly improbable stories and the manufacture and trade of gray-market pickles.

Just how is that gray matter coming along? (Not brain cells.) The experiment is kicking along in fine form with Pickle Swaps (everyone step together now) 5, 6, 7, 8.

Mind you, all these dance moves were a happy organic accident. We filled jar after jar of pickles and then, on a whim, I half-heartedly asked if anyone was up for bartering. To my surprise several offers came in, many making for good jokes, which was the right spirit and worth the good fun. (Swap for a cold? Really?)

Then I started to sort out the serious offers and realized they came with a major bonus: social visits in order to exchange. This would require a bit of planning, a logistical two-step and a calendar that filled up quickly.

What social connections have been happening? For what are we swapping our coveted jars of Spicy Dills Vintage 2010? We’ll spend several posts laying out our exhaustive research.

The swaps so far:

  1. Kickass ginger molasses cookies. Traded while having coffee with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in a while. Read about it here.
  2. Symphony tickets
  3. Basket of produce and salad dressing
  4. Pesto and a WillaKenzie Pinot Gris
  5. A book: The Short Stories of Henry James
  6. Dried hot peppers
  7. Apple pie
  8. Elk meat

Today, we will tell Story No. 2, about symphony tickets.


I got out of the shower one morning, walked into the bedroom and spotted a red blinking light on my phone. My heart skipped a beat. Someone loves me!

I have the most unpopular phone on the planet so when I spot a rare blinking light I’m immediately drawn to it like a little beacon of heart-shaped hope. I respond like Pavlov’s dog. Answer it! Answer it!

I expected another mass market e-mail (the only people who love me — why do you think I sign up for them?), so I was surprised and confounded to find a missed call from a local number I didn’t recognize. I was so excited I immediately called back.

A woman answered and started talking to me as if I should have known who it was.

“Who is this?” I finally ventured, just a little embarrassed, realizing that I was admitting that I had called someone blindly and feeling like I’d punched in numbers willy-nilly just to give my anemic phone a workout.

It was LaValle of the Portland Through My Lens blog, where you can see her KNOCKOUT photos every day. I only wish I could uppercase KNOCKOUT even bigger. It’s always a treat to troll through her pictures. I smile every time.

She had two tickets to the symphony for that night, and Voice From the Couch, otherwise known as her husband, was sick. Could we use them?

I had to check with Mr. Scatter, which meant I had to walk into the kitchen, where curtains are skimpy and the neighbor’s house is just beyond.

That was when I realized I didn’t have any clothes on.

I became acutely aware of my bad timing and lack of impulse control.

I craned my neck around the corner. I pushed the front of the phone into my chest and raised my voice. Mr. Scatter, perhaps used to my raised voice or unaware of my nakedness (or maybe unaware of my raised voice or used to my nakedness), replied in an ordinary way that the calendar was open that night. We could go.

I walked back to the bedroom and kept talking to LaValle as if everything was fine. I awkwardly balanced the phone and pulled a shirt over one arm and part of the other. While I fought with the shirt, my body ridiculously pretzeled, my arms askew in front of me like they were trapped in a strait-jacket, my shoulder hunched to press the phone to my ear, LaValle started rattling off her address so I could pick up the tickets.

What did mummies do without cell phones?/Wikimedia CommonsI didn’t have a pen. I didn’t have paper. I frantically rummaged around in drawers, my hands bound together like a seal, while I scrunched over trying to talk into the phone and keep up a patter in order to stall. I couldn’t have written, anyway. I couldn’t even balance enough to totter into another room half-naked to find a pen. I finally had to come clean.

“Hang on.” I laughed. “Let me get some clothes on so I can write this down.”

I realized how silly it was. I had called her (more like dialed an unknown number). Not only was I not prepared, I was also downright vulnerable. Not to mention contorted and half-dressed — a cross between Quasimodo and something a sarcophagus dragged in. It was a perfect Lucy Ball moment that couldn’t even be filmed for TV.

I was grateful for her gracious comeback. She laughed. “That’s something I would do.” (Good thing she didn’t know the half of what she was admitting to.)

It just so happened I had to be a few blocks from her house later that day. I would stop by. And take her pickles.

But first, I would have to get dressed.


PHOTOS, from top:

  • Carlos Kalmar conducts the Oregon Symphony. We do our own bit of conducting sometimes in the form of serious scientific experiments.
  • What did mummies do without cell phones?/Wikimedia Commons