Sunset Virga

Hi ho . . .

Originally published July 2006

Although they're a lot of work, I enjoy showing at art festivals. I meet nice people and get to talk about photography and the places I've visited. Occasionally someone will say something complimentary about my work and sometimes they'll even buy a piece. The hard work is preparing, packing, and setting up before the show then tearing down, packing and unpacking afterwards. The long boring days of standing on my feet, wolfing down hot dogs for lunch interspersed short periods of chatting with browsers isn't that bad and besides, the few gems falling out of peoples mouths make it worthwhile.

For example, I did a July show in Heber, Arizona. I promised my wife that since it was in the mountains, the weather would be cool and pleasant (only someone from Arizona would consider 90° cool). However, there were enough challenges related to this show that made me question my enthusiasm.

Before the trip, I did some preventive maintenance on my truck so I wouldn't have car trouble on the road. In my inept attempt at playing mechanic, I burned the inside of my right arm leaving a mark resembling Wilson, the volleyball in the movie Cast Away. I was glad it happened in the garage. Who knows what would have happened once we left?

After packing the truck and trailer, I headed up the road with Queen Anne riding shotgun. As we were climbing the huge hill to Payson, I could smell burning rubber and when we reached town, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree so we pulled into the first lot we came to. I looked in the engine compartment and saw only fragments of my newly installed fan belt wrapped around the fan. I looked around and fortunately; I saw that we had pulled into an AutoZone parking lot. I bought another belt, new pulley, tensioner and a couple of tools to work with and set out to replace the broken parts. This time however, the engine was hot and in the process, I burned the same spot on my arm, but this time I got a matching burn on my left arm too. Sort of brings a whole new meaning to that Ying and Yang thing don't you think? Soon, we were on the road again.

The show was held in a county park and because it had been a long dry spell, it was paved with ankle deep dust. When people walked by, you could actually see the dust hanging in the air. From experience, we carry cleaning equipment and in between visitors we would scrape the dust off of the best we could. The dust was winning.

Saturday afternoon was when the first thunderstorm of the year rolled through. Our monsoon storms are always preceded with blowing winds and dust clouds. The wind knocked down display panels and lifted the canopy top off its frame just as the deluge began. The dust turned to mud. I rushed to reinforce the display panels and moved everything to the middle of the pop-up. Then I set out to reinstall the canopy cover. I went from corner to corner trying to stretch the fabric back over the frame. The rains were coming down hard now and water collected in the top’s loose folds. Each time I pulled a corner back over the frame, about a quart of water would pour down on my face. You'd think I'd learn after the first corner, but I didn't and the cold dunk repeated itself at each corner. It took about two laps around the pop up before we recovered. I was soaked and the Queen, who had been hiding among the panels was laughing at me and mumbled, "Told you so" under her breath. For some reason, she says that a lot.

After the storm passed, we cleaned up and went to our motel and found that it was booked solid. There was a regional soccer tournament the lodge was overrun with screaming adolescent girls. I have a couple of questions. Why do they stay awake until 2 am? Why do they always have to scream?

Bleary eyed, we faced the next day. It was the story from Valentines Day where Bill Murray relived the same day over and over until he got it right. I was ready for the afternoon storm and bravely held on to the pop up’s metal frame face into the wind. I was Captain Ahab and this was my Moby Dick. That was until the first strike of lightning hit a hundred yards away and I ran to the car screaming like the little girls at the motel.

We packed shortly after and had an uneventful drive home. With the truck cleaned up and all the show supplies put away, I backed Duce into the garage. That’s when the tire went flat. It could wait till morning and at least I didn’t have to change in on the side of the highway.

The show wasn’t that good. There wasn’t a big crowd and we didn’t sell but a couple of things. I would consider the whole weekend a flop had it not been for the young couple that visited us Sunday afternoon. He was interested in photography and began asking questions. Before I got a chance to answer; his young bride rushed to examine the framed images hanging on the display panels. She spun around and gushed right out loud, "I love photography. It's sooo much better than art!"

Till next month.