Friday, September 30, 2011

Creative expression in the shop and on the street

     The difficult part of traveling frequently is saying good-bye. Although when I stop moving I’ll probably see friends less often. It’s too easy to fall into a routine and not get off the freeway. My last three days in the Bay Area I was surrounded by creativity. 

Rooster Productions Scene Shop, Martinez, California
     My sister and I visited Rooster Productions, a theater scene shop where she used to paint sets. I hadn't been to the new facility since they moved five years ago. Talk about not making an effort. The owner, Adam
Pugielli, has this amazing ability to stay focused on solving problems under pressure without getting caught up in the drama, which is remarkable in theater and he built a patio for the staff to have barbeque's so it's a no wonder people love working for him. 
      Walking around the shop is like having a dream that should never end.  Aside from a pink house on a trailer in the parking lot they don’t give their secret away. Rooster Productions operates out of a nondescript, beige metal warehouse on the Martinez waterfront. If it were possible to combine Greek myths, the inner workings a gnome’s mind and the remains of several miniature golf courses all carefully stowed around the perimeter of a production wood shop you might have a clear mental image.

Dewalt, popular shop dog, find him on Facebook

Shaun in the prop shop

Adam Pugielli (Grand Poobah)
Rooster Productions
115 Tarantino
PO Box 1702 (mail)
Martinez CA 94553

the perfect mobile home

Italian Chalk Art Festival, Martinez 

     Mernie woke me up at 5am to help her set up her walls and canopy because she was worried there might be high winds, which tend to send her booth down the road like Dorothy's house before it's clamped together. I didn't complain because I know she's dedicated enough to hang on even if it took her to Oz. She did well all weekend, turns out the retro Italian crowd is her one of her niche markets. Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra impersonators warbled out weirdly memorable tunes and the Pizza Dough World Spinning Champion (like who knew there was one of those?) hurled dough in nearly death defying wonder. The chalk art was fun, but I would have liked to see what happened when it rained on Sunday, like nature decided to make the realistic drawings impressionistic for a few moments, then abstract and finally minimal. As the sun set people were dancing in the street, old school stuff, but fun to watch.  

Richmond Art Center 75 Year Retrospective
       Ramekon O'Arwisters has a piece in the show and I've missed seeing his work several years running. We worked together fifteen years ago at the San Francisco Airport Museum. I admire his courage, he presents serious ideas with disarming charm. He invites people to think, the pieces are often tactile, but a chair with it's feet in wine goblets is better not touched. When I first met him I didn't immediately realize what I had seen in his art and I appreciate the gentle way his message rearranged ideas ingrained in me from growing up in middle class America that are better off exorcised. Because he was invariably kind to me in a stressful job where others were abrupt, his compassionate humor often saved my day. It's easy to find images and videos of his work by entering his name in Google. 
   I could not bring myself to ask if I could take pictures of either the art or people. When I used to work in museums I struggled with the protocol of fame, trying to behave appropriately in my job on the bottom rung. Mugging for photos was totally uncool. I eventually jumped on a sailboat heading for New Zealand, but I always knew I was not suited for working in museums even after working my way from the loading dock to photographing artifacts. Art shows still intimidate me. 
   Every once in awhile I catch up with old friends, but I still don't ask if I can take pictures. Great to see you Ramekon (if you have a photo I can include please let me know). Cheri it was really good to run into you again. David, I want to hear more about your 22 day hike in the mountains. How did you pack enough food? Where did you start? Wish we'd had more time, it was fun to see you and Joy. 

Folsom Street Fair
    I should have at least worn black. My last day in San Francisco, before leaving for Molokai, I went to the Folsom Street Fair dressed like a misplaced tourist. Still, I was invited to bring a guy to his knees by pulling the chain around his neck, which is not an offer I get everyday so I gave it a try. He looked surprised and told me I did it better than a man. For a split second I actually felt powerful, but I have a sneaky suspicion it activated the same center of the brain as heroin, which is better left a road less traveled. Yanking guys chains isn't an addiction I want to recover from in the future. If everyone on Folsom Street marched to BART and exited in the suburbs, the right wing middle class would definitely need some recovery time. The bold, naked physicality of the event brought back fond memories of dances in the South Pacific. Except in San Francisco penis gourds are made of black leather and the rhythmic music blasted out of monster speakers instead of drums made from hollow logs. In the South Pacific men who prefer to live as women are not considered kinky or strange. Men dressed in women's clothes are everyday ordinary, not shunned or repressed. Although not much repression happens at the Folsom Street Fair, it is for fetishists what Burning Man is for hippies, although I bet a lot of people go to both.
     One generous sized woman wearing only a thong, heals and a tastefully small rubber pig nose stood in line at a professional photo studio booth, smiling. I admired her ability to celebrate her plus size with humor.  Four hundred thousand people jammed onto Folsom Street and spilled into the side streets and at times we were pressed into the crowd and could not move. I grabbed my friend so I wouldn't lose him and I'm still not sure how long I held the wrong guy's hand. His costume spoke to compassion though, he was dressed as a nun. I passed on the spanking booth, am still not sure why a lot of guys were wearing tails, marveled at the woman pretending to be a horse and did a serious double take when we passed people tazing each other for fun, jollies or both. Simply shocking! I've received more disparaging looks in Walnut Creek for my ratty old clothes than I did at the fetish festival for not dressing up or stripping down and I didn't feel nervous about asking to take pictures. I felt lucky to see things I'd never seen before, but isn't that why we travel? The Folsom Street Fair does that on steroids.


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