When last we left our intrepid sperels…
They were crafting and constructing set pieces for a booth display, setting the stage for their first appearance at Last Thursday, a monthly street festival in Portland Oregon.
Since arriving in Portland we have heard and overheard repeated reference of the ever-imminent Rainy Season, for which a majority of the region’s months are ruled over by endlessly gloomy skies and the psychological atmosphere of a population wishing that it weren’t so. For two weeks leading up to Last Thursday, summer had been showing steady signs of decline, and when the weekend preceding Last Thursday arrived, it brought with it such heavy rain that the general expression worn by most everyone in public seemed to proclaim in bleak unison: “It has begun.”
But weather forecasts (all the less dependable in an area where a ‘chance of rain’ is always at hand) promised sunshine for the end of September, and as it turned out, Last Thursday was blessed with temperatures reminiscent of the hottest, sun-shiniest days of summer, throwing doors everywhere wide open with the perfect opportunity to get out and stroll through the street!
By most accounts, Last Thursday doesn’t truly begin until 6:00pm, when the stretch of Alberta Street between 15th and 30th is closed off to all vehicular traffic and festival goers shortly thereafter begin flooding into the street. However, upon arriving (around 4:30pm) and then seeking out an available spot where we could set up, we learned our first lesson of the event: Last Thursday vendors are allowed to claim their spots anytime during the day – they just aren’t allowed to display and sell their wares in the street margins until after street closure. Thus, on hot summery days, the festival’s more active blocks (which are ostensibly the most desirable blocks for a vendor to locate themselves) are all but entirely occupied by 1:00 or 2:00pm. Any vendor who arrives later must resign themselves to the less active fringes of the street festival. That being said, ‘more active’ and ‘less active’ are merely terms of relativity, for there really is no inactive area anywhere along Last Thursday’s bustling avenue.
After meeting our neighboring vendors, we learned our second Last Thursday lesson, which offers something of a counterpoint to lesson number one. Both the guy to our left and the woman to our right had, in months prior, infiltrated the aforementioned active area, hoping to receive increased attention through tactical location. In both cases, their experiences ran contrary to their expectations; in the midst of excess activity and congested crowds, distraction was everywhere, and earning attention in such an environment required competing against the sounds of DJs, the flare of fire dancers, and spontaneous performances of all other kinds. According to my neighbors of the evening, our relatively mellow block was exactly where we wanted to be.
Here’s our left-side neighbor just as the crowd is starting to pour in. I meant to grab one of his business cards before the evening ended so that I could provide better details on him and his rock jewelry business, but as the evening’s interactions only escalated from this point onward, our respective intentions were appropriately prioritized. As such I can only refer to him as “the cool guy who turns gorgeous rocks into even more gorgeous rock jewelry.” But since you now know what he looks like, if you happen to see him at a future Last Thursday, be sure to step over to his table and admire his work.
Turning around to take some photos of our own set up, I noticed that the little winged ones were already drawing attention to themselves! To help convey the circumstances of their oppression to an audience unfamiliar with their story, we constructed a number of wire cages, setting one atop a table at the front of the booth and then hanging the rest of the cages along the back perimeter, effectively eliciting smiles and encouraging people to come in and visit.
Once again, my particular challenge with ‘capturing the moment’ in photos reasserted itself. There were so many fun and friendly folks who we met and ought to have photographed, but in the course of sharing the sperels’ story with every visitor to our booth, smiling back at everyone passing by who looked as if they would like to come and visit, and handing out free sperel stickers to everybody in between, it’s only after the fact that I realize I’m still not using my camera as much as I should. There was however a certain visitor towards the end of the evening who seemed so determined for attention that my camera and its will to record were impossible to neglect.
Upon receiving her sticker, this girl immediately peeled it off and placed it on her sleeve, gesturing a flexed bicep and saying “Look – it’s on my arm!” She then ran off to flex her sperel power throughout the street, returning a few minutes later to say “Look – now it’s on my leg!” Indeed, the sticker was now on her leg and again she ran off to point out its presence to everyone she could.
And shortly thereafter, she was back. “Now it’s on my forehead!”
And then: “Hey – it’s on my mom’s handbag!”
And finally: “Look – now it’s on my mou–!”
She was so vocal in sharing the sticker’s message that this final placement seemed to carry some deliberate and appropriate degree of symbolism. Though it should be pointed out for anyone who might also like to ‘proclaim’ the sperel’s slogan through the medium of stickers that these stickers will provide much longer lasting enjoyment when affixed to surfaces that are actually conducive to their potential for permanence.
Oh, and now that we’ve got stickers: keep an eye out for them as one or two will now be included as a free extra in online orders (for as long as we’ve still got stickers in stock). And for those of you who might want multiples? Look for these stickers to soon be available for separate purchase as well!