Somehow the entire city of Saint John, New Brunswick partied late into the evening on Canada Day Eve 2012, and then woke up bright and early the next day to turn the city’s uptown area into a giant flea market. Maybe everyone stayed up all night to make it happen. Maybe we just felt like we had stayed up all night.

Either way, there we were ambling through the Canada Day flea market, checking out the crafts, toys, food trucks, and people. A painting of a wolf prowling a moon-lit nightscape? Yes sir. Support the local roller derby grrls by buying a t-shirt? You know it!

There were people in costumes, people still dressed up from the night before, and people carrying their dogs in baby bjorns. Opportunities for street photography were everywhere. A whole lot of mediocre photos were in our cameras. Except for one.

After about two-hours of ambling, this one guy came out of the crowd and started walking toward us. I saw him, read his shirt, raised my camera, and got off a single shot before he passed by. That photo has lived in my head for the last eleven years.


I don’t know who he is, I don’t know his story, and I definitely don’t know who wrote on his shirt. But I do know what happens when I look at this photo.

I see a man looking directly back at me.

I see him wearing a version of the NEW YORK CITY shirt made famous by John Lennon which has been personalized to read WISH I LIVED IN NEW YORK CITY.

I see him holding a Timmy Ho’s cup, years before the chain started feeling widespread throughout the U.S. market.

And I see that, somehow, I managed to compose the photo perfectly to get all that in a single frame.

Then I look at it some more, and I start to think.

I think about how universal it is for someone to want to be somewhere else, somewhere bigger than where they are.

I think about how that desire can wear on you, the longer and deeper you feel it.

I think about how the three of us had left New York City (at one point or another) for this trip to Saint John, the opposite of what this man’s shirt was expressing.

I think about how, by the time the following Canada Day had rolled around, I had moved out of New York City for a smaller city that at times felt closer to Saint John than to NYC.

Lastly, I think about how this desire to be elsewhere is too damn common to be carried by a single man. That the story is bigger than a single frame can capture. That the proper way to show this photograph is to multiply it. Wishing you were elsewhere can make you feel lonesome, but you’re not. You’re one of many people sharing the same wish.

Essay & photos by Dan Meade
Published: 7/01/2023
Date of flea market: 7/01/2012


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