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December 7, 2011

Notes From a Bazaar

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The Great Bazaar Weekends are over.  In spite of all the work they entail, I look forward to them.  All the stuff that didn’t sell last year comes back like favorite Christmas tree ornaments, along with artists and crafters I only see once a year.

The Dibble House Craft sale is an institution.  I was a shopper for fifteen years, back when Sue Gregor, the Dibble House proprietor, was a mythic figure.  I had heard her name, but I had never seen the person who went with it.  It’s still true that you can’t blink if you want a sighting of Sue because she moves with the speed of a hummingbird.

Some of the guests at Dibble House Bed and Breakfast don’t believe in her actual existence.  When I was lugging my watercolor card display into the house, I met a couple who had been coming for five years and had yet to meet Sue.

“It’s like living out The Elves and the Shoemaker,” the tall distinguished man told me. “We make the arrangements by e-mail, she’s not here when we arrive, but our breakfast tray appears at our door the next morning.”

“Well, she should be along shortly,” I said. “You can meet her then.”

“We’ve heard that before,” they laughed.

Sue has more energy than is decent in a middle-aged woman.  Besides single-handedly running Dibble House with its four rooms, she works as a caterer, a dog-walker, a dog sitter, a house cleaner, and on weekends, as a barista.  In her free time she works out at the gym, and does volunteer work as well as things that she says I can’t write down.

She opens up her home once a year for artists and crafters to invade and set up their creative output.  It’s a neighborhood affair.  Greater Ballard is full of knitters, painters, and jewelry and candy makers.  I have bought sheaves of holly, fleece hats, cards made by children, and elderberry syrup.  I began by first selling my watercolor cards, added my organic raspberry liqueur the next year, and this year I also sold *my book.*

There were some changes this year.  There was new and controversial signage.  (By the way, when did we all start saying signage?  The word sign wasn’t specific enough?) On my way to Dibble House the afternoon of the set-up, I saw Sue’s familiar signs announcing the sale.  I’ve seen them for twenty years.  But at one intersection sat a huge green sign with a swath of blood red running down the middle like a face out of Braveheart.  “Holiday Sale” it announced in bold, black letters.

“Cool,” I thought. “Another sale on the same street.”

But when I pulled up to Dibble House, a second red and green sign was perched on a stepladder, leering at me as I went up the front walk.  Inside the house I detected a bit of tension.  The husband of one of the crafters, laden with knitted children’s sweaters, followed me in.

“Great signage!” he announced.

The sign painter beamed.  She was new, didn’t know the traditions, hadn’t gotten the memo.  A few repressive looks quelled the subject of the sign.

I studied the red and green sign the next morning when I arrived for my shift.  “I suppose someone could just lay the thing down on the ground and put all of us out of our misery,” I thought.  I am more than capable of such an action.

One of the crafters murmured, “I was thinking I would just push it over, but then I remembered that I am too old to be so passive-aggressive.  I don’t do stuff like that anymore.”

We all lived with the sign. Or signage, if you prefer. It wasn’t all that bad.  Just better suited to a garage sale which I have nothing against.  It’s just that we were going for more class.

Bigger than the great signage controversy was the move we all made to Mary O’s house for the second weekend.  The new venue pulled in new people from a different corner of the neighborhood, and demonstrated that we were all vital, vigorous artists and craftspeople, willing to try new things.  We tried having live music.  Specifically, me.  Mary owns a Boston grand piano.  And I have piles of Christmas music.

I said I would play the piano, sing, and not grumble about being background music. This latter was a Must See.  For the most part, I kept to it.  But two crafters who were supposed to be greeting got to chatting heavily eight feet from where I was vamping “Santa Baby’ and fluting “Lo, How a Rose.”  When I crescendoed, they talked louder.  It was too much.

Once when The OK Chorale sang at the Phinney Neighborhood Center Winter Craft sale, a couple sitting in the first row of the audience were conversing when we started to sing.  Rather than move to a quieter area, they yelled over the choir.  I couldn’t concentrate on directing.  I get to seething when this happens.  I’ve been known to walk over to people in the audience and say, “You know we aren’t background music.”

I wanted to whirl around to this couple, and shout, “Why the fuck are you yelling when we’re singing? Do you understand we are live human beings? If you want to talk, go someplace quiet where there isn’t a group that’s been rehearsing for eight weeks just to entertain cretins like you!”

I did not make any such scene at Mary’s house.  I slipped into the kitchen and tattled on the chatterers. (Is that passive-aggressive?) Mary had A Word with them.  They de-crescendoed a bit, or at least they turned away from me.

I foam up over the subject of live performers as background music. It’s pitiable, really, because it’s such a futile fight.  I need to stop now and have a quiet, little break-down.  We’ll talk later.






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