Monday, July 16, 2007

Fart Air 

The Ann Arbor Art Fair(s) are this week and since I am into recycling, I will re-post my annual diatribe with one quick addendum: I am planning on taking my child in a stroller up to see The Avatars at Liberty Plaza on Wednesday at 5:15, but note! I will be taking William up to Liberty Plaza (away from the crowds) and then cutting down Division to get to Monroe to meet up at Dominicks, thereby avoiding the Stroller vs. pedestrian legs issue.

The first thing I noticed was the bums. All of the sudden on Monday there were these guys asking "Say, boss, can I have a dollar?" and "Where's the store?" ("Where's the Store?" What store?). The worst part was that these aren't the bums I'm used to...It's not the lady with all of the bags and winter coats, it's not the guy with the stick covered in duct tape, it's not the lady on State Street who talks really quiet...These are all new bums! Even the hobos know to skip town during Art Fair, unlike me who sticks around year after year.

Thing #1: Strollers and Dogs. The kids don't want to be there, dogs don't want to be there, I don't want any of them there. It is too hot, it is too crowded, and dogs want to smell everything. I remember a childhood friend hating the Art Fair because she always got hit in the head with purses and could only see the backs of peoples knees. I can't imagine a worse experience than dragging a bored kid through the hot crowded streets with them mewling about needing to pee and wanting an elephant ear...except for maybe actually being that kid. Don't even get me started on strollers, all I'll say is that I'm buying a pair of Fila soccer shin guards for next year.

Thing #2: The "Art Fair Walk" There is something infuriating to me about that half-speed shuffle we are all forced to do as we walk the streets, glancing furtively from side to side at the art, hoping that we won't crash into the fanny pack in front of us, afraid of "crossing the stream" on the left side of the street since we've been actively cursing everyone who does like a longshoreman with Tourette's Syndrome. That infuriating pace reminds me of being a kid and trying to put together model cars: my hands would get so tense from trying to do the minute gluings and placing on the intricate decals that they would literally ache out of frustration. My legs do the same thing and I have to bust out onto a side street doing a kind of John Cleese "Ministry of Silly Walks" thing until they feel normal again.

Thing #3: Art On A Stick. A lot has been said about art on a stick, and I don't feel the need to elaborate too much further, but one thing does come to mind: the Need Factor. People walk around all day looking at ten thousand dollar sculptures and spending their money on nine dollar bratwursts and six dollar lemonades. At the end of the day, sunburned and bitchy, they see a twelve dollar dragonfly on a copper stick and they think "well, at least it's only 12 bucks, and I still have to pay that guy whose lawn I'm parked on...maybe I'll jam it in the ground outside my condo if the neighborhood committee says it's ok..." Ladies and gentlemen, another satisfied customer.

Thing #4: The "El Condor Pasa" Peruvian Flute Fiasco Troupe. Another Art Fair staple. Jason Buchanan stated that he thought it was ironic that the only song he could ever pick out was "The Sound of Silence" -- and could these guys look less interested in what they are doing? The robots at Chuck E. Cheese's have more personality than these poor saps, who I'm sure truck themselves all over the country all summer following one ethnic folk festival with another street art fair from May until October. I'd actually like to hang out with these dudes after work and listen to them play the stuff they want to play, I'll bet Simon and Garfunkel songs are not the pinnacle of their musical exploration...I'll bet when they get back to the hotel or RV or whatever, these guys really wail on some freaked out jams. Serious.

Thing #5: Vendors Selling Their Crap On The Streets. As someone who used to do this, I can tell you it is a drag. Haul all of the junk that won't sell inside your store out onto the sidewalk, mark it down (or Up in most cases) and try to foist it off on the unsuspecting public. For shame. Those dusty shampoo bottles that nobody wanted last year are goin' nowhere, pal. Same goes for local restaurants...if I'm not going to pay five dollars for a slice of pizza in a regular week, I'm certainly not going to pay eight bucks at Art Fair. The only store exempt from this is Footprints, since they actually put good stuff on sale.

Other things:

* The weird RV city that springs up in the Library parking lot.

* Tan guys with ponytails and Hawaiian shirts (aka "Croakies").

* The people at the information booth who don't really have any information.

* Trying to get anywhere in a car is completely out of the question.

* The dreaded License Plate Birdhouse.

* Mr. B being hailed as a genius. He's good, don't get me wrong, but I can't picture him as the high point of Boogie-Woogie evolution.

* The food smell on Liberty and near the Union which lingers for months.

* The terrifying political infighting between the merchants and the three or four different Art Fairs.

* The fact that people get so oblivious that they need signs saying "Look Out Dummy, You're About To Walk Out Into Traffic And The Cars Won't Stop If They Have The Green Light!" at every intersection.

* The fact that businesses need signs on the bathrooms saying that the restrooms are for employees only, and that people are so desperate to avoid those vile Porta-Potties that they'll wander up five floors of an office building to use the terlet.

* Those Greenpeace people every six feet with their little clipboards..."Do you have a minute for Greenpeace?" "No, I now have nothing but hatred for Greenpeace, thank you very much."

* People who stop walking right in front of you.

* Entire families wearing Chas Tennenbaum-esque matching Red Wings t-shirts so they won't get lost in the crowds.

* Photos of empty doorways and boats are not inherently interesting, but I swear there is a whole booth full of them every twelve feet.

* You always end up touching some incredibly sweaty person.

Ok, Ok...Things that are good:

* Those six dollar lemonades. Man oh man, I usually drink about ten of those.

* You usually get to see The Chenille Sisters for free.

* The Motawi Tile booth (who knew we had a world renowned Arts and Crafts tile company right here in town?)

* I like walking in the street. It makes me feel like I'm breaking the rules somehow.

* Lotsa freaky people to see...My dad had a friend who used to dress up in this whole sparkly green outfit with wings and she would walk around as The Art Fairy touching kids on the head with her magic wand and peering through these crazy handheld glasses.

* Seeing the footage from the Channel 9 public access camera on TV in February.

* You usually run into old friends that you haven't seen 'cause they moved outta town and only come back to the area for Art Fair.

* I probably shouldn't mention anything, but Dominick's is like a ghost town during Art Fair. I think people think it's going to be really busy, so they stay away...Like Yogi Berra said: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

* Bearded guys who juggle for a living are the new Cowboys Of The Old West.

* It always rains, at least one day. I love to watch everybody scramble under cover, and see the different ways the artists have devised to keep the rain off of their stuff. It usually cools it off too.

* Joachim Knill is a photographer with a booth on South University and he does these crazy close-up photos of frogs looking at grapefruits that look like UFOs... they're cool.

* Ralph Davis is an Ann Arbor painter with a booth Main Street who does these amazing geometric landscapes. Quite nice.

* The fact that Ann Arbor is about the only place on Earth where the Michigan Gun Owners coalition can set up an information booth right next to the Sierra Club's booth.

* Shakey Jake seems to dig it, and whatever's cool with Jake is cool with me...he's got a much bigger claim on this town than I do.

Thanks Jamnes

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