Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Blame Paul and Julie Jo, the owners of Ocean Air Farms. They sent out an e-mail last week saying their booth would be open at the Farmers Market but they would be gone to a wedding. I've never missed opening day. Usually Rick and I both show up to take photos, socialize with our Saturday market friends and celebrate the bounty of spring. But if Paul and Julie Jo could miss opening day, this, I decided, gave us permission to miss it too. Instead of heading to the fairgrounds we pointed the Prius south to check out the 20th annual Arcata Main Street Oyster Festival on the plaza. Rick and I really like oysters and, of course, always love a good fest and had never been to this one.

We left early to get parking and attempt to avoid the 18,000 people who, according to its Web site, came to the festival last year for oysters and entertainment. We found a great parking space at the edge of downtown and meandered through farmers market stalls talking to vendors about varieties of garlic, jam-making techniques and how to dry lavender on our way to the plaza. We bought a few things and took them to the car and then walked around some more. We scoped out a dozen or more different oyster offerings from teriyaki to taco, planning to go back for lunch. But when noon rolled around and our appetites kicked in, the lines were so long that we opted for grilled cheese sandwiches in a comfy cafandeacute; on the square.

As we were heading to our car for the last time, we passed a vendor we had not seen before. A young woman dressed in eclectic fashion punctuated by granny boots and hair bow smiled up at us from her typewriter. The sign on its case read "Poem Store-your subject, your price."

I asked her to write a poem about Rick. She focused intently on his face and then on the keys of her typewriter and began tapping away. In a few moments she handed me a small piece of paper with an eight line poem on it describing Rick as "standing in a sense of knowing, all calm and able to well take in." Yes, he was.

I was a poet once. I won a poetry contest when I was a sophomore in high school. I don't remember all the details but I was asked to read my poem at the Palos Verdes library on a Sunday afternoon. Marvin Miller, the actor who played Michael Anthony on the the 1955-1960 TV show "The Millionaire," sat next to me and read his poetry as well. From that day on I was a lover of poetry-mine and just about anyone else's. I haven't written a poem in years, but this weekend I was inspired to try again by Jacqueline Suskin and her Poem Store.

We came to Arcata out of curiosity and left even more curious. We returned home with a flat of strawberries, a bunch of lavender, some garlic and a lovely poem by a poet inspired to write her thoughts while reading your mind.

(For more about the poet visit yoursubjectyourprice.com.)

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at mthomas @trip licate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.