Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis

Well, the Uptown Art Fair came and went, and I never took any pictures there. I guess I was too distracted by the weather or something, whoops :(

Mike and I headed out to Minneapolis for the show, which was held Aug 7,8 & 9. This was my second year doing the show, and like last year, we also got a David Sedaris book on CD to listen to for the trip. I highly recommend this for long car rides, he's freakin' hilarous. The drive was about 7 hours - long, but not bad. We got to our hotel and had some dinner and crashed.

We set up the booth on Friday morning - in the rain. The worst! It wasn't pouring, but any rain is bad rain when you're trying to set up the tent while unloading and keeping your stuff dry. The show began at noon, and it was an OK day.

Saturday began pretty well, but it rained around 1pm and the humidity rolled in and made the air like pea soup. I felt like I could cut the air with a knife. Hot and unpleasant, yuck. Sales were pretty good, but were down from what I expected due to the weather. Later that night we decided to get sushi in Calhoun Square, and there were apparently tornado warnings going on while we were in the restaurant. They had passed by the time we left, but a couple had touched down outside of the city - yikes! Really scary. Our friends, Dolan and Ali, got caught outside during the all the warnings, and took shelter in the YMCA basement (read about it on Dolan Geiman's blog here).

Sunday the weather was actually very nice, and I was hoping for a big surge of customers who had stayed inside the previous 2 days, but that didn't necessarily happen. I can't complain though, I still sold a good amount even if it was a little below expectations for the weekend. I do have to say, I love this show for their organized load-out procedures, which is huge when at the end of the show, all you wanna do is get the F outta there - no offense, but we're exhausted, folks ;)

When we were all packed up, we met Dolan, Ali, and a few other artists for food at Namaste Cafe, and had a family-style dinner, passing around a ton of absolutely delicious Indian dishes. Such a great way to end a show - great company, great food, great conversation - and of course, some wine ;)

Getting ready now for the Bucktown Arts Fest in Chicago this weekend! This show is near and dear to my heart because I've been doing it so long, it's in a great neighborhood, the organizer is great (Maria!), and it's always falls on or near my silly birthday. This is my TENTH year in a row at the Bucktown Arts Fest - come celebrate with me!!!! See ya there.....

Friday, August 14, 2009

Better late than never...a shout-out to Zingerman's Deli

The Ann Arbor Art Fair seems forever ago now, but as promised, I will write a little love note here to Zingerman's Delicatessen.

A good friend of mine named Marie helped me out at the Ann Arbor show last year, and a co-worker of hers had highly recommended that we visit a place called Zingerman's. Marie, being the slave labor for
the weekend, made daily trips there for lunch to pick us up some sandwiches. I ordered the #17 and was hooked, and ate it every day of the show. Called "Helen's Have Another," the sandwich consists of Stonington smoked salmon, scallion cream cheese, tomato & red onion on pumpernickel bread. Delish!

We decided to go there for breakfast on our way out of town on Sunday, but I could barely appreciate the glory of the deli since my back was out and I was in immense pain. However, I hobbled up to the coffee side of the joint to have some tea and a scone, which were amazing.

This year, Mike was able to come along for the slave labor, and even though my back was not out, it was tired, so he made the t
rip to the deli. I ordered the same sandwich, which was delicious, but I forgot to have him order the larger size, so my sandwich was too much bread, not enough filling. Oh well, we saved our next trip to the deli for Sunday morning before we hit the road.

When we arrived Sunday morning, there was a line inside that went to the door, but it was not bad, and it moved pretty quick. I was almost disappointed at how fast the line moved, because there was so much to look at and take
in! It overwhelms the senses. The space is tiny, but packed with all kinds of fresh, delicious food - to your right is the bread counter, and to your left is the deli counter with tons of different cheeses and various other yummy things.

A young girl stood at the front of the line taking orders, who then gave you a receipt and instructed you to pay at the counter in the next room, the go to the next building to get any drinks you ordered, then sit at any table and someone will bring your order out. We crossed the outdoor patio to the "coffee" building, which also had lovely baked goods and many chocolate goodies for sale. We sat outside at a picnic table, where I had "The Special," which was almost just like my sandwich, but on a bagel. Mike ordered a Reuben sandwich, and holy crap, was it good. And I don't even like Reubens.

I am also a little curious about their mac & cheese, since the girl taking our order told us that people came from far away specifically for it...and one day they were out of it, and it drove a person to tears. That must be some amazing mac & cheese. I will have to make a point to try it next year.

After we finished our meal, I bought some ginger scones to take home, and Mike a bag of their house coffee (he loved it). By the time we left, the line was out the door and around the building. If I lived in this town, I'd be a regular for sure.

(Mike standing across the street from Zingerman's after we ate breakfast. The Deli building on the left, the coffee building - called "Zingerman's Next Door" - on the right)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Michael Jackson guy, Ann Arbor

It seems like forever since the Ann Arbor art fair (only 2 weeks), but I am finally writing my post about "The Michael Jackson guy," as everyone called him....my entertainment for the entire 4 days of the show.
My booth was on Liberty Ave, and there was a walkway between my booth and my neighbor's, of about 7 feet or so. Behind our booths, beyond the sidewalk, was a long alley decorated with graffiti.

Near the beginning of the first day of the show, (Wed.), we heard a Michael Jackson song being played somewhere in the vicinity. There was a woman in my booth looking at my jewelry, who casually said "Oh yeah, that's the Michael Jac
kson guy, he's here all the time." Mike and I then took turns peering into the alley, where there was a small "boom box" on the ground at the entrance. At first I felt like a voyeur who should not be staring at this dancing man in the shadows, but soon realized that what I was doing was completely the norm. Several people gathered at the entrance of the alley with me, I snapped some pictures, and eventually I went back to my booth, satisfied that I'd seen my fill.

We soon learned from random people who came into my booth that this guy had been dancing, and going a pretty darn good impression of Michael Jackson, for years and years in this Ann Arbor alleyway. Most people who lived in town were completely unfazed by this unusual spectacle, because it was an everyday occurrence to them. But there were also many people who would excitedly run to the alleyway with their friends exclaiming - "There's the Michael Jackson guy!" or "Let's go watch the Micheal Jackson guy!"

Sometimes there were no people gathered at the alley to watch him, and sometimes he collected a crowd so big, they blocked the sidewalk. The entertainer seemed to have his slow and busy times, just as the artists did. However, the crowd did not seem to effect his performance one bit. When he was alone, he still dance
d like it was nobody's business, like he WAS in fact Michael Jackson - on stage performing for thousands of people. Sometimes, even when he had a large crowd, he would see someone he knew pass by and wave, then stop and talk to them like nothing out of the ordinary was going on. I noticed he did know many people who walked by, and would stop and talk to them casually. For some reason this kind of shocked me. Maybe because the real Michael Jackson would not just be able to do this on the street, or maybe because I thought he was just this crazy guy who thought he was Michael Jackson, and would only talk inane jibberish when he came back down to Earth.

However, this was not the case. As you can read on his Facebook fan page, this man's real name is Brian Woolridge, a 35 year-old man who works as a janitor at a local Meijer store. He has been dancing and lip-synching to Michael Jackson's hits in that alley since 1995, simply for the joy that Michael Jackson's music had given him since childhood.

Now, since he was there every single day of the art fair, I was able to observe a few things about this phenomenon. This alley was "his," although he was very humble and never put up a fight about it. Sometimes, when he would take a break, another street performer would sneak into his alley and begin their act. This was very jarring to me. Somehow, even though I had been listening to MJ all weekend, it never bothered me, and then when it was replaced with something else, I found myself annoyed. One time it was a violin player, one time it was a drummer, and another it was a saxophone player. But every time, I missed Michael Jackson. I think the reason for this was that this guy seemed to bring so much joy to the town - he seemed so beloved, and he exuded a great energy - and it didn't really matter whose music was playing. (Not to say that I dislike MJ - I loved him as a child, but I think we've all had our fill of his music lately.)

One time, while an "intruder" had taken over the alley, I went out of the booth to take a break, and saw the MJ guy walking back towards his alley/home, boom-box in hand, and I thought, "Oh man, sorry - that other dude is still over there." Later I realized that having his "home" taken over did not stop MJ. I spotted him performing on another street corner until his alley was available again, which made me feel a little better for him. And, I have to say, also a little jealous that others were enjoying his act, which seemed somehow wrong and out of context.

Another thing I found curious was that he did not play the entire Michael Jackson library throughout the weekend. One would think, doing this for 14 years, that you'd want to have the widest variety possible in the songs you danced
to, right? So instead of having danced to "Beat It" say, 25,000 times, you'd only have danced to it say, 5,000 times. I don't know off hand how many MJ songs there are in existence, but I would guess there are hundreds. This guy played the same probably 25 songs over and over (although not in the same order), the highlights being "Billie Jean," "Rock With You," and "Thriller." Surprisingly, he also did some ballads, where he mostly stood in one spot, but still had the MJ body language going on. Most times, he picked an observing child to serenade.

The second thing I found curious, was that he did not try to LOOK like Michael Jackson. No makeup, no wig, no gloves or special clothes. He was just this plain-clothed guy in jeans and a t-shirt who just walked into an alley, plopped down his tunes, and turned into a dancing, singing fool.
Needless to say, I will request the same spot for next year's Ann Arbor show. Not only was it a successful spot for me business-wise, but I just don't think the show will ever be the same for me without "The Michael Jackson guy" in the background.