The Last of the Arabbers

The Last of the Arabbers


As he leads a painted horse cart brimming with oranges and bananas and peaches past housing projects and boarded-up buildings, B.J. looks like the king of West Baltimore. Friends shout his name, grasp his hand, lean over to share hugs. He greets, chats, and moves on, calling out his wares in the grimmest part of town, through streets strewn with garbage and smelling of urine.

“Yeah, pretty red tomato, tomatoooo. Yeah, watermelon, watermelon, watermelon.”

The syllables melt into a tune that, to the uninitiated, might sound like nonsense.

Wat-oh, wat-oh, wat-oh, oh-oh…”

It sounds like a voice from the past as it echoes off brick and formstone walls, and many Baltimoreans fear that it will be. B.J. may be the end of a nearly 150-year-old lineage. The last of the arabbers.

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