Hell is a festival 

Rain gods put an end to short-lived career

Fuck festivals. It's spring so they'll be everywhere soon. I'm soured on them myself ever since my failed foray as a festival whore a few years back. Chalk it up to being lost a little, career wise.

I had a booth where I sold photography and begged friends to bring me beer because I felt trapped, fearing to leave lest some Dunwoody housewife let loose her inner klepto and pilfer one of my framed photographs. I'd end up practically giving them away by the festival's end anyway. "Take it! Christ!" I'd grumble, funnel-cake flakes in my matted hair.

To this day my friends marvel at the bad luck I had weather-wise at every spring festival I entered, which totaled a whopping two before I packed up my entire frost-bitten ass and vowed never to return. Grant didn't even last that long. I'd talked him and Lary into reserving a booth next to me at the Inman Park Festival in '97, where Grant sold his Sister Louisa pieces espousing renegade evangelical musings (my favorite: "Nothing Harder Than a Preacher's Dick"), along with a rack of old aprons. Lary sold gilded shrines.

Of all the spring festivals, the Inman Park Festival remains my favorite -- I mean, if you chisel off the hardened crust I've carefully cultivated to shield myself from their lure. The Inman Park Festival is just nuttier than most. The fact that they accepted Grant as a vendor is testimony that they must appreciate lost people like us. Get this; Grant had a rack of "Rapture Shields" for sale, touted as protection against the inevitable gang of marauding pagans in the event this biblical prophecy came to light.

In truth, the Rapture Shields were a collection of trash can lids, and they got a lot of laughs, but I don't remember anyone actually getting out their wallet for one. In fact, we were experiencing the coldest weather in spring- festival history and couldn't even take our hands out of our pockets. I swear it must have been 30 degrees, in May, and I am completely positive the dark side of the moon had warmer weather than Atlanta that weekend.

To this day, Lary remains mad at me for that festival, which is saying a lot. Though he may be lost like me and evil and he happily admits he's a thief and he even shot at me once just because he says I was breaking into his house (I was an uninvited guest, big deal), aside from all that, on the whole Lary doesn't hold grudges. But this is different, because he's pretty protective of his art and here I'd talked him into hawking it at a spring festival, and not just any spring festival, but the very spring festival that the Gods of Freezing Rain and Wind and Gray Skies and Suffocating High Atmospheric Pressure all picked to converge over and crap on.

Because of that there were maybe one-and-a-half customers in the whole area, and we'd catch glimpses of them from our abandoned vendor tents, wandering about in the abyss, bundled up like lost Eskimos. "Over here!" we'd shout, imitating castaways trying to flag down distant rescue efforts. By the end of the first day I'd sold one item, a $30 sympathy purchase from one of the event coordinators. One guy acted interested in the most expensive piece I had to sell, though, and he even told me he'd go to the ATM to get the cash to pay for it. But the other artists all nodded jadedly when I told them about it. "The ATM getaway," they sympathized. "They all say that."

Of course, by the second day Lary and Grant had pretty much abandoned their booth and urged me to follow suit, but I refused. "If you're gonna fall on your ass, you better land on both butt cheeks," my mother used to say. So I stuck it out the next day, which is when the monsoon struck. People were leaning into the wind like old ladies trying to push through a stiff revolving door. Grant's entire rack of aprons blew down the street, along with the sign I had hung on his booth that read, "Please Steal This Shit." By the time the flash flood started, the other artists and I were so expended we simply shrugged. "Good," we thought. "Now we get to drown."

Luckily I'd borrowed my vendor booth from my friend J.R., who is a metal artist. He designed the booth himself, and it was about as easy to put up as an Australian opera house, but just as sturdy. The other artists ran to it for cover, including J.R., whose new store-bought booth was leaking so badly he had to cover his art with a tarp. From there we watched the water roil down the street, sweeping people's wares with it, including a rusty tailgate from the Sister Louisa collection with the words "Get The Hell Outta Dodge!" painted across it.

I probably would have curled up and cried right then if not for the guy from the day before, who picked that time to pop in and hand me a wad of wet money fresh from the ATM. "I was afraid you'd be gone," he said, tucking my most expensive piece under his arm. No, not gone, I thought as I took his money, just lost is all.

hollis.gillespie@creativeloafing.com

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