On a sunny, but crisp Saturday afternoon in late January, Soulard Market looks like it often does in the wintertime: crowds are down, the street musicians are gone, the general buzz you get on a spring or summer day isn't in place.
Many of the outdoor stalls, too, have packed up and moved inside for the cold months. For the flower merchants, that makes the most sense. Their wares would wither and die in the brisk air. Usually found in the northeast outdoor stalls, the Hameed family's "Visual Affects" flower stand was inside, a small but steady stream of customers looking over the dozens of options available to them. Normally, the stand belongs to the Kruse family, who bring organic produce in every Saturday morning; a couple of their customers come by and look, too.
Karim Hameed's on hand every week, often wearing headphones, or quietly riffing some poetry, in clipped, hip-hop beats. His hand's are in constant motion, cutting and wrapping flower arrangements, as customers wait, produce hanging from their arms in plastic and burlap.
How long have you been working with your family down at the market?
Since I was born, about 16 years ago.
Your father said you get down there at five, six in the morning.
That's gotta be tough.
Very. It's tiring, stressful. But it's a job.
You do arranging for some shops in U City during the week right?
Yeah, I do. I've gotta couple little shops that I do flowers for during the week.
What's a harder time to work? Winter or summer?
Winter. Summer, I semi-enjoy.
What's a better day: a slow one or a real busy one?
It's enjoyable when it's busy, because you're making money. I know that, too. In the winter, it's a lot slower. A lot of people don't come out in the cold weather.
Do you have any favorite spots down there? Do you get a chance to get out a lot, or is it all work?
I get a chance to walk around, but usually it's just to get something to eat, or just to take a break. Everybody for the most part has a pleasant attitude. I wouldn't necessarily say it's a family-type thing, but you say "hello" in passing. People've been down there 18, 20 years.
What's going on for you right now with your poetry?
I have a couple of shows coming up in April. One's the Langston Hughes Poetry Festival. We've got two shows lined up, for me and the rest of my crew. It should be a positive year for us, performing wise.
Last year was pretty good for you.
Yeah, I got my feet wet, my name out there a little bit, I got some exposure. I go to the grocery store now and people say, "oh, you do poetry." That's a good feeling. This year, I want to take it to the next level. That's what I'm working on now. Getting some shows that pay.