Matt Bors
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Summer Festival Entrance Gauntlet: Only the Strong Survive

I'm suspicious of festivals thrown by city bureaucrats in the twilight of summer. It's all cheap beer and bad bands. All the stinky dregs of society show up to pound Coors, slobber, and litter. Back in Canton, Ohio it was "Hall Of Fame Week," where people with license plates from far away as Alaska convene to induct football players in the Hall Of Fame, attend the downtown Ribs Burnoff, and washed up has-been bands like Hootie and The Blowfish and Blue Oyster Cult (they played 'Go-Go-Godzilla twice--100% true). Last time I attended was in High School and I nearly got into a fisticuffs death match with a evangelical christian harassing fat rib lovers (I did not try to de-escalate the confrontation).

But the "Bite of Oregon Festival" that took place over the weekend would lure me to the waterfront in Downtown Portland with the promise of seeing rock legend Patti Smith in a "rare NorthWest appearance" for a mere $7 entry fee. Patti Smith?! I didn't believe it. She's not washed up--she was playing a gig at the Showbox in Seattle the previous night and on to San Fran the next. Is Portland that considerate of its music loving populace to have the woman who wrote "Rock N Roll Nigger" would be invited to play its city's Festival? I was there.

Getting in one of these things is a test of wills. Not because of long lines, squelching summer heat, or exhaustive cavity searches by security but because 100 yards out from the gate begins the gauntlet of pamphleteers, petitioners, product-hawkers, and street preachers. Could I make it in without picking up any "literature" or engaging in pointless debate? Probably not, but I would try.

I waved away the first batch--your standard fare christian pamphleteer couple and an odd man with a clipboard--protecting my girlfriend with the other arm. "No Thanks" I lied. Next up: Jews for Jesus. I wanted to laugh, but did the old "stiff arms at my sides maneuver" as he extended his tracts.

Some Homeless guy looked like he needed money. Planted in the middle of the gauntlet was the worst place to beg. Everyone is high-tailing it past the loons. I felt bad. "Sorry, dude. I can't stop now" I thought.

Then, free samples of some new energy bar. No spiel, no e-mail list to sign. Just free food. OK, I break protocol and take one, then seven more, stuffing them into my pockets as I try to get back up to a full sprint. I'll need it to break through the final line. Mennonites, PETA, Chinese Baptists, GreenPeace, Mormons, Renewable Energy petitions all made attempts for my attention. No, No, No, and No. Let the world burn, I've got a concert to see!

I had made it to the entrance and walked up to the end of the short line when a woman approached with her son, hand extended with something in it. She looked in my eyes and asked "Are you tired of religious extremists handing you pamphlets?"

"W-why yes. Yes I am!" I said, grabbing what the kind lady had for me.

She turned away and it hit me instantly: I had been duped in the worst way. I looked down. It read "Are you tired of religious extremists handing you pamphlets?" It was the cruelest of pamphlets. I opened it up to confirm what I already knew what was inside. Indeed, it was a pamphlet from a religious extremist--one decrying pamphleting for specific churches as pointless when the most important thing is one developing "a loving relationship with the Lord." I walked over and stepped between her and another poor sap she was about to deceive.

"I don't want this" I said, handing it back. The look in her eyes revealed she was neither mentally or spiritually prepared for this role reversal.

"But, aren't you tired of religious extremists handing you pamphlets?"

"Yes," I said, "and you--you and your little son there--are religious extremists!"

She grabbed it and we both turned away to more pressing matters. She had to spread Word. I had cheap food and Patti Smith to attend to.
08.15.2007 |