Wayne's Booth

Wayne's Booth
57th St. Art Fair, Chicago

Monday, June 21, 2010

ELAF: East Lansing Art Fiasco or the death of the Easy-Up

East Lansing was not such a far drive from Ann Arbor, so we gamely drove up Friday night to set up our tent and booth. Once again, setup seemed smooth, we got the whole thing done in a reasonable amount of time and were back in A2 for an early night. There were predictions for possible thunder storms, but we did not wake to any in Ann Arbor and did not give it another thought. Until, that is, about 6am. That's when the phone rang.

The nice organizers of the festival called to say that the tent had imploded. Yup, no other way of putting it. The top had somehow slumped, filled with gallons of rain, and collapsed the metal framework. The whole soggy mess was sitting in the middle of the booth, upon the artwork we had so carefully piled in the center of the cement. No time to dawdle, a quick cup of coffee and we were on the road.

We arrived at the scene of the crime and were petrified. Where to begin? Incredibly, the tent top still held a huge amount of water. After shaking the cobwebs out of the brains and bodies, we figured out that was the first thing to take care of. How? Hmmmm.....we ended up poking small holes in the top after splooshing the water into a corner and letting it run into a huge bucket. That done, we unzipped the front and entered the mess. The Luck of Wayne (TLOW) held this time, as the artwork was unscathed! We had been careful to put a tarp over it, and the blasted tent ceiling really held the water without leak. So trying to proceed in a logical fashion, we decided we would have to do something about the maze of metal now clogging up the middle of the tent.

During this time, the festival organizers were hovering, very concerned and helpful. Wayne requested a hack saw, which was obtained from the fire department (luckily close by) and he just sawed that mess apart. Which was sort of ok, but now we had to try to rebuild the framework with something else. A few pieces of scrap lumber and errant broomhandles were duct-taped Yooper style into the middle, which didn't really do the job. Wayne was going to send me to the local Home Depot to get real lumber, and the festigals (20-ish festival volunteers who took it upon themselves to help us) gave me directions. I wrote them down. I got close to where the car was, and realized I did not understand the directions at all.

There was a bicycle parking area that had been constructed out of pipe by some really nice folks, who had a tent there with information. I stopped there to ask them to explain the directions to me. They said, "why do you need to go to Home Depot?" This brought forth the story of the Easy-Down and lots of sympathy. This is where The Luck Of Wayne rubs off on me. They said they still had some aluminum pipes they didn't use, and we could use them to jury rig the tent. Alleluia, alleluia.

I brought everything I could to Wayne, who looked at me incredulously. No time for incredulity, we had a tent to get up and artwork to hang. We worked furiously until the show opened and had it somewhat together. The people/pets/kids parade ensued and we were launched. Right next to us was an excellent and friendly photographer name Xavier Nuez. He and Wayne chatted quite a bit (as no one was buying anything) and he gave us bunches of art-fair tips. I went to check in to the hotel and clean up. I was practically unrecognizable from the sweaty, haggard, dirt and water-sploched gal who had left the fair as I returned in a pretty little sundress and sandals.

Unfortunately, our booth was not much more than 50 yards from East Lansing's Urban Outfitters, so I spent almost as much time "shopping" there as I did strolling among the other artist booths. Since nothing was selling, I really did not feel as if I could buy anything. Rats. The day dragged on with heat, heat, and sun. Two nice things were there, the lovely Sarah Jane Tillison (senior year at MSU) and live music in the nearby square. I gave Wayne breaks when I could (or when he would take them), but nothing was as welcoming as the artist reception at 6pm at a local bar/restaurant.

The festival organizers put out a fabulous spread of cheese, cold cuts, salads, and even pizza. Beers were on special for $2.00. Hot, tired, and amazingly hungry, we enjoyed this immensely. There, we had the opportunity to meet more artists and get more tips. Everyone laughed about our Easy-Up disaster, and encouraged us to buy a real tent. Most notable among the veterans was the ebullient Wendy Hill (once again, props to her for naming the blog, although she wanted to reserve the name for herself...) She had been doing this for about 17 years, and was generous with her advice and wisdom. Sated in mind and body, we drove to the hotel to dull the pain with some mind-numbing television.

Up and at 'em the next day, I dropped off The Wayne and decided I had time to take a run. I was quite unfamiliar with the town, and anxious to get my run in. There was a four-lane road from the venue to the hotel. Having gotten used to driving in A2 - everyone drives like a madman - I was only doing about 40 when a cop hits his rollers, turns around and stops me. SHIT! SHIT, SHIT, SHIT! I explain that I just dropped of my husband, was unfamiliar with the town, and although the road I was on was a "highway" on the map I only now realized as a residential area there was a 25 mph speed limit in effect. I must have been pitiful enough, and the guy was actually very likeable, and after "running my license" (his joke: just to make sure I was not a wanted person), he let me go with just a warning. YAY! I was already seeing that a traffic ticket would wipe out ALL the sales Wayne had made the previous day, putting us desperately in the hole.

On to the hotel and out for my run. It was beautiful running through a lovely residential section of East Lansing which looked like it contained enough people with enough money to go to the art fair and buy something for God's sake... Enough of that, a shower and another sundress and off to the fair. On my run, I had scoped out an excellent parking space and snaked through the back streets to get a great spot. Sales were still very slow, but the music was good so Wayne and I took turns checking out our favorite bands. Los Gatos from A2 were there, as well as Daisy May and Steppin' In It. Not too shabby.

At the close of the day, we were so anxious to leave we could barely contain ourselves. Sales were disastrous. The tent was a joke. It was hotter than hades and I had on leggings. Arrrggghhh. One of the nice festigals said we could just leave the whole stupid, busted up tent frame and they would dumpsterize it for us. That made things more pleasant, as we got the art, and the walls into the trailer rapid-fire and tossed the rest of whatever might be left into the Soob. Escaping East Lansing, I thought I would just put a dress on and wiggle out of those leggings in an effort to dispel more body heat than the car's air-conditioning could handle. For a millisecond, I take off my seatbelt and start to wriggle out of the sweaty, clinging leggings and in the next lane I see a cop in a big SUV looking at me, watching the whole sordid thing. I belt back up, we get in the left turn lane and THE SAME COP THAT WAS WATCHING ME pulls us over. What? OMG, what now? What in the heck did we do?

This was a young guy who must really have missed his calling with the Gestapo. He really enjoyed making us squirm because I had taken off my seat belt while in the car. I kid you not, the guy stopped us because the front seat passenger had not been wearing her seat belt at all times while in the moving car. I wonder what this guy would do if confronted with an actual crime? We are now BOTH as exasperated as a person can be, if this MORON, this ASSHOLE gives us a ticket we will be out about $600 total on this experience (not counting the money we will have to spend on a new tent). So, the asshole "runs" Wayne's license while we wait in fear. He comes back and issues a stern warning to never again remove my seatbelt while in the car. Yeah, ok "Sir". You betcha, ya hey? I am wondering if I should report him for watching an old lady wriggle out of her leg gear while on duty, but the brat is going to "let us go" and so I shut up tighter than Fort Knox. TLOW is holding. No, make that The Legendary Luck Of Wayne (TLLOW) for reference in future posts.

The drive back to A2 was blissfully uneventful. No champagne this time. Just the prospect of purchasing a real, honest-t0-goodness mighty tent: The Mighty Light Dome. In walking around and gathering opinions, the Light Dome seemed to be the best choice. And so as I write these words, we have already done our first show in the Mighty Light Dome. In all, ELAF was a financial fiasco, but the friends we made and the incredible amount of stuff we learned made it worthwhile. Would I go back? No! Too many cops!

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