Saturday, August 2, 2008

grab bags

A friend of mine has fond memories of a hometown event that always featured grab bags -- a few pennies for a mixed bag of who-knew-what obscured in brown paper -- something good, or something really lame or undesirable, maybe a bit of both. You couldn't know until you paid up, and grabbed a bag.

So far, that's been my week -- I put in my time prepping for an event, I cover my bases as well as I can, and when the time comes -- each of the past three days has been a slightly different "mixture" of nice surprises and disappointments. The time comes and you buy your ticket, and you don't know what you'll get, because my job has not yet reached a comfortable level of predictability.

I don't so much want to relive the details of each day, since the cumulative effect is exhaustion (and more to come this week); here are the emphatic points.

Thursday: Lists and lists and lists, beans and beans to count, this and that and this and that. I accidentally stood up an artist I'm trying to book for year's end (not a good move) -- my head is so utterly mired in minutia that I actually neglected to write the appointment down at all, terribly unlike me. I'm sure I overdid the apologies. I'm in a general state of frantic.
But then at day's end I went with some church members on a prayer walk. Which sounds really scary and evangelical; in fact it was neither. Five adults and three children, we literally walked the neighborhood, observing the folks who were outside and commenting on the houses we saw, greeting people, chatting each other up, growing thoughtful towards the end. We sat for a long time on the church steps afterward and debriefed: what is our neighborhood, how is it composed? Who sees us, whom do we see, how do we receive one another? It's not field work, we aren't looking for demographic data but rather, trying to get "the lay of the land." We opened and closed with prayer, and while I'd have been happy to do more of that as we walked, it was a naturally meditative experience. I do a lot of this same sort of walking alone, to and from work, or with my son -- and I do often think about the homes and the people I pass by: Wondering who they are, and why, at times saying a quick, quiet prayer for someone who looks especially aggrieved. So Thursday night was, for me, deeply enjoyable.

Friday was a stinker. After really working hard to tread water all week, I felt overwhelmed, and to make matters worse I was OBVIOUSLY striking out a second time at getting artists in the community interested in my latest project -- transportation as a political issue or a social justice theme. I had lots of inquiries, but nobody new came through by yesterday's deadline -- so at this point I have a great dance group, a nice little filmmaker, a poet and that's IT. I have to come up with some artwork FAST. And it can't all be mine. Dammit. Plus the last-minute prep for today's event incited an argument between my husband and I -- the subject, 300 hotdog buns. Don't ask. Friday was a stinker. It's possible the universe has thrown me a rope, per the exhibit that doesn't want to get off the ground -- an interesting email arrived last night that indicates some potential artwork out of South Minneapolis. Could it be that after eight years of genuine governmental disregard for the citizenry, artists just don't give a rat's ass anymore? Sitting at home smoking dope and drinking wine, while their paint brushes harden on the palette. One good thing: We got ninety percent of the food for today's picnic donated, by way of a pastor friend at the other end of the block, who has pals at Whole Foods.

Today, Saturday -- good things: lots of willing volunteers, 175 visitors during the first half of the picnic, the Ketzal Coatlique Aztec Dancers performing with their incredible feather headdresses (pics forthcoming), and all the new faces we saw from every walk of life. And lots of kids. Bad things: the sound guys were HOURS late, so no bands went on until after the crowd started to thin out. Things didn't pick up again much after that. Lots of leftover hotdogs (and buns). Sore feet from standing all day and shuttling things back and forth from the church to the park. And maybe one more good thing: we are helping the neighborhood to identify us with the park, which is a cool, happening place.

The grab bag is an adventure, in some ways. It's the mystery, the I-know-not-what (I'll spare you the French). It's the chance you take when you roll out of bed each day, that not everything will proceed as planned.

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