Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Today, across this great nation, millions will celebrate our country’s 236th birthday with parades, barbeques and fireworks. I will spend the day struggling through present subjunctives and relative pronouns, immersed in the Intermediate Spanish homework that the University of Iowa mandates I must complete in order to get the piece of paper that society has decided will reflect my intelligence and potential. Let freedom ring!
Before I get to that, however, I wanted to put together a quick post for this woefully neglected blog. That Spanish course is also to blame here for the lack of recent entries, along with several other factors that collaboratively consume about 18 hours a day and have so far turned this summer into a productive yet unremarkable blur. Somewhere in that mix I do continue to make cards and frame prints; and every Saturday morning I jolt to life amidst the vibrant atmosphere of the Iowa City Downtown Farmers Market. As stated in a previous post (found here) the market has a different look when viewed from behind a vendor’s booth, and over the course of the season I will note random observations and report them in monthly updates. Here are my reflections from the month of June…
-First a few housekeeping items concerning last month’s post-
I came to realize that the apple on a stick people hand out bite sized samples, so mystery solved regarding how those are being devoured so quickly and cleanly. To further my case, my niece and nephew stopped by sharing one of the full sized delicacies the other day. They were half through their apple, and both had significant caramel and toffee smear ranging from the shoulders up. Such eating habits obviously run in our family, but for the more dainty (or skilled consumers) I challenge anyone to legitimately eat one of these caramel apples in its entirety, walking at normal market pace from the apple booth to mine, without getting any on your face, hands or hair. Free photo card to anyone who proves it’s possible!
The guy with the shiny head hasn’t been spotted for a few weeks. I’m kind of worried…
“Are you the photographer?” (and other variations) continues to be one of the most common questions I get. It’s both a logical and understandable way to strike up a conversation when approaching a photography booth, and I have no problem with that. It’s when a person looks at my work, then me, and then continues to question if I “took all of the pictures,” and if I “took them all by myself” that gets annoying. And it happens way more than you would imagine. I’m not sure what it is about my appearance that makes me seem un-photographer-like, but apparently there is some room for doubt.
I do have a t-shirt that my cousin (a real photographer) had made and gave to me when I helped her shoot a dance event a couple of years ago. It’s black with yellow block letters that say “PHOTOGRAPHER” across the front and back. Its function was to keep people from harassing me and to lend credibility as I squeezed to the front of the crowd and kneeled on the gym floor during the shoot. I never would have thought that I’d need to start wearing it to the markets, but now wonder if a visible label might offer the unequivocal proof that some people so desperately need. It seems superficial, but so does judging a person’s abilities based on four seconds of interaction. When in Rome…
-Continuing with the common comments theme, my Whitefish area friends will be pleased to know that this is far and away my most popular photo when it comes to questions and discussion. For those of you who have not experienced the blessing of a visit to northwest Montana, the photo was taken on the summit of Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain Resort.) I’ve actually written about this particular image before (click here.)
I sell this photo as both an 8×10 print and on greeting cards, and always have the latter placed front and center for its ability to catch eyes. Last month, I made a list of the things people exclaimed when their eyes had been caught. Those included “Oh my gracious!” “Wow, where is THAT?” “Looks like another planet,” “This can’t be real!” and “Is this Narnia?”
“No,” I say, “it’s Montana.”
-In this month’s “Strap it to Your Bike and Ride” category, the best thing I saw was someone pedaling away with a handmade wooden barstool, a flat of tomato plants and a potted coneflower. (Stool turned upside down on rear rack, coneflower set inside, and tomatoes split in half and placed in pannier bags.)
-Head Scratcher of the month: I had a woman ask me about my cards, and as usual I explained that they came with an envelope and are blank inside, making them nice for any occasion. She went off talking about the lost art of writing letters and how sad it is that people seem no longer able to express themselves in original thought, or willing to take the time to sit down and write messages anymore. I of course agreed, and with that the woman looked me straight in the eye and said “Do you have any that say Happy Fathers Day?”
-Sales have been down this month. Really down. It has also been very hot here in Iowa. I’ve been kind of wondering if I should put out a sign explaining how my air conditioner broke at the end of last summer, and I’m trying to make enough money to buy a new one. I doubt too many people will exhibit sympathy for my un-photographer-esque looking self, but maybe if I included a picture of my poor, suffering little puppy Lulu…
-Uncoolest thing I saw leaving on a bicycle… A woman with a baby strapped to her chest in one of those front-pack carrier deals. Neither had a helmet, but in this case I suppose an exposed skull would be sufficient for what the woman had to protect. Fortunately, there were some on- call firefighters standing near my table (the station is nearby and they often stroll the market during their downtime) who also noticed. The scene unfolded too far away for them to confront the woman, but they radioed the police as she rode away through traffic.
-For some reason, it can be really awkward when someone I know stops by the table. Not in all cases, but sometimes. I hope everyone realizes that they can stop and say hi without feeling like they should buy something. In fact, sometimes I prefer it when they don’t- just so I don’t spend the next fifteen minutes feeling guilty and wondering if it was a “mercy buy.” Of course, if you want to buy something go ahead. I’ll get over it!
(Seriously though, I’m always happy to visit and hope nobody ever feels they can’t say hello without throwing a few dollars in my hat.)
-Unfortunately, and especially with everything else I’ve got going right now, I’m still deeply entrenched in the “Up-all-Friday-Night Getting Ready for the Market” cycle. I find that if I can get to bed by two (allowing a little over three hours of sleep) I’m relatively functional for the duration of the market. Anything less than that and we’re going to have some noticeable delirium, especially the forgetting or questioning everything I say two seconds after I say it kind. It definitely makes for some interesting conversation with potential customers.
And it makes counting change suck.
-Last week was especially brutal. I usually don’t get home until about five on Fridays, and really need to get right to work making cards if I’m going to indulge that two a.m. bedtime. We had some thunderstorms last Friday evening, however, and I’ve been jonesing for some camera time, as actual shoots this summer have been few and far between. I couldn’t resist repeatedly running out into the yard when things seemed especially intense. Distracted by thoughts of trying to rush through a few shots and get back to work, I really didn’t get anything great; but it was still worth it. Even if it did leave me driving to Iowa City Saturday morning after only an hour and forty five minutes of sleep.
-And finally… When sales are slow at the market, it leaves me a lot of time to sit and watch the world go by; something that reveals the human condition to be both troubling and amazing. A couple of weeks ago I saw a young woman with apparent mental and physical disabilities who struggled to walk through the crowd with the use of a cane. It took no stretch of the imagination to realize the disadvantages that such a person would face in life, yet she smiled brightly and showed no sign of complaint. In contrast, just moments later I saw another girl of about the same age. She had the model look, strikingly pretty and fair to say or not, someone you know is going to catch some breaks in life. She acted pouty, entitled, and better than everyone else.
That whole yin-yang thing sure works strange at times, but you’ve got to think it all balances out in the end. Just something to consider next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself.
Thanks to those of you who continue to look for and follow this blog, despite its sporadic recent nature. The way this summer is going no promises on that changing soon, but my schedule should lighten up a bit as we close in on August and I’ll try to bring a little consistency back to these posts.
Also, I’ve posted this on Facebook but want to say a huge thank you to all who took the time to vote for my friend Daniel “Out of Order” Alvarez in the Outside Magazine Adventure Grant competition last month. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that Out of Order won the grant, and is currently navigating his way by kayak along the northern border of Minnesota. I know from experience how hard it can sometimes be to generate support through social media, and to get people to back something that doesn’t directly affect them. The fact that he not only won, but did so in such convincing fashion, speaks volumes of both the kind of people who did take the time to vote, and the spirit of his journey.
If you’re looking for some outstanding summer reading, take a look at his blog and leave him a message of encouragement and luck. As far as living vicariously goes, this is good stuff!
Enjoy the Fourth, and the fifth, sixth and seventh too! Talk to you again soon.