I could hear him before I could see him. I was at the Ann Arbor Art Fest talking with John Russell, the guy who makes my pens, at his booth on South University Street. It was Friday morning, the third day of the art show, and the crowd was building steadily. John and I were talking about the various woods he uses and his unique process of incorporating exotic materials, like snake skins, into some his high end rollerball and fountain pens. But the rhythmic playing of the karatalas cut through all of the crowd noise.
I heard the chanting and turned to see a man who appeared to be somewhere around my age dressed in off-white robes and bluer than blue high-top sneakers. Due to the security protocols put in place after 9/11, the only place many of us now see a Hare Krishna is on a college campus. I was now officially in Ann Arbor. He chanted and danced to his own music. He was not begging for money or food, just attention. He was part of the scene, no different than the band that was performing a few blocks away.
Even though we were looking at each booth, we still managed to put about a block between us and the Hare Krishna. This wasn’t intentional. For the most part, he was in his own world and didn’t seek to make eye contact with the crowd. Every now and then I could hear the karatalas or his chanting.
Sally and I were in Ann Arbor for my annual art shopping trip. I still have empty walls in the Bogart, Cunix & Browning suite. It is my goal to add a couple of interesting pieces each year. I scored two clocks last year. Two years ago I purchased the amazing digital picture from Beau Tudzarov. This year I saw the new work from Beau, Ralph Rankin and Greg Billman. Ralph, an incredible photographer, usually limits his art show booths to his ceramic works. This year he also brought his newest passion, digital collage photographs printed on metals. Bold. Surrealistic. Mine will be shipped in a few weeks. I’m already second guessing my purchase. I’m debating whether I should have bought a bigger image or two of the pictures. They are that cool.
It was the showdown at the OK Corral. At one end of the block was the Hare Krishna. At the other end, the most cluttered of minds, dressed in shorts and the usual offensive t shirt, eyed the infidel and marched into war. Yes, it was a schmuck from Jews for Jesus. The back of his shirt said that “Jesus made me Kosher” but he looked like someone who couldn’t find a Jew in a B’nai B’rith convention. As I noted in Pigs For Bacon in 2010, few things offend me more than some guy hawking religion like an overpriced vacuum, foisting pamphlets on passers-by, and worse, dragging us into their pitch. But I always worry that I could be overly sensitive. More often or not, a simple “Get away” is enough to clear my path. Buy this yahoo, also about my age, was enraged. He marched up to the chanting Hare Krishna and began to berate him.
“You are worshipping a false god.” The chanting continued. He tried to dance around the pamphleteer. He moved to the left, but was immediately blocked. Standing in the middle of the street, nose to nose, one chanted an ancient mantra, the other chanting modern gibberish. I thought about intervening, but realized that they were both getting what they really wanted.