Thursday night I bring a table, folding chair, and rolling suitcase to Union Park on the Ashland bus. I get a wristband and am let in past security to a large tent set up where the tennis courts usually are. I put out my wares, tape a couple prints to the chainlink fence at the back of my assigned area, then take the bus back home.
It rains hard overnight. Friday morning when I return, the pieces taped to the fence are ruined and the pillow I’d brought to sit on is soaked through.
I make it through all three days of Pitchfork but don’t hear much music. Aside from trips to the port-o-potty or for food, I stay in the tent. I watch young people walk by.
I tell a twenty-year-old not to go to college. She looks through all my stuff, then asks if art school is worth it. I tell her higher-ed is a pyramid scheme. She thanks me, then asks my neighbor, who’s selling buttons, about one he’s wearing that says, “Don’t Ask Me About this Button” —What does that mean? She walks away without an answer that satisfied her.
A group of high school boys is very excited about a print of my Silver Jews sketch. They buy the two I have, then another kid comes by and wants one. I promise to print one for him the next day. To my surprise, he’s at my table promptly at noon to fork over his five bucks.
People of all ages ask me to explain the things I’m selling. “What is all this?” I’ve never successfully winnowed it down to an elevator pitch. If they pick up a book, I try to explain what it’s about. They put it back down, puzzled, nod maybe, then walk away. The branding isn’t apparent. The ones who get it, get it. It’s a lot easier to sell a beer than a book.
The fashions are a randomized remix of the last sixty years of American pop culture. An alien familiar with the twentieth century would never be able to tell this time period by what these fair goers wear. The technology’s the giveaway. Every hippie/punk/rave kid has an iPhone.
Saturday afternoon families with young children stroll by as CupcakKe is on the mic telling the crowd if they don’t deep-throat they should go home. My neighbor sells an eight-year-old a Garfield pin that says, “I’m Here For the Gay Sex”. He tells me he now gets by just making pins and selling them on Etsy. Says Morrissey has sent him multiple cease-and-desist letters. He’s proud.
I walk the whole grounds and don’t find a single vendor selling coffee. My old friend Mat, who runs the craft fair with his wife, who started it, scores a cold-brew for me from the VIP tent. All my neighbors are jealous. Helps to have friends in high places. Twenty-five years ago when Mat and I worked at Thai Lagoon on North Avenue, this would not be the future I’d have predicted for either of us.
It was worth it, I guess. I came home with a lot less stuff than I went there with. But it’s hard to smile at people for three days.