In front of Moss Landing harbor, where sailboat masts stick up from the water like pins protruding from a pincushion, lies a miniature forest. Just a few feet from busy Highway 1, a tiny Japanese juniper’s frame twists like a cursive letter, while a small Australian tea tree sprouts chocolate chip-sized scarlet flowers.
There is also a foot-high Chinese elm with roots that resemble gnarled toes. In the pot around the tree are plastic panda bears as big as snails. All the bonsai trees are displayed on a three-tiered table covered in a red vinyl tablecloth.
In front of the forest is the animated salesman James Kim. As customers stop to glance at his goods, Kim announces, “Big sale!” and “Wholesale!”
Kim, a former Los Angeles resident who just secured a permit to sell bonsai trees on the pullout just north of Moss Landing’s Whole Enchilada Restaurant, clearly enjoys trying to peddle his wares.
“Hey, hey,” Kim yells at an assistant who is transporting bonsai trees from a nearby van to the table. He then repositions a tree that the assistant just put on the table, so that its best side is facing the customers.
One man has been examining the bonsai trees for over five minutes. He stares long and hard at a pot with a plant and a mini lake inside. “What’s your name?” Kim asks the customer.
“Larry,” he replies.
“Larry Lake,” Kim says, naming the cookie-sized body of water.
The customer then informs Kim that he must get back to work, but maybe he will stop by later.
“When you come back,” Kim says loudly, “the merchandise gone.”