First I went to the Edward Gorey exhibit titled “Elegant Enigmas” at the library! Even if you do not recognize the name, you probably have seen his work! The exhibits included first editions for many of his works, from the 1982 illustration for Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and War of the Worlds to his backdrop and costume sketches for the 1983 Carnegie Mellon production of The Mikado! And his completely crazy alphabet books, including my favorite, The Glorious Nosebleed (“He wrote it all down Zealously”)! It is truly Zin material!
A string quartet was playing in the lobby when I left, so I waited and listened with about thirty other people because we would have had to walk between them to get out! Everyone just stood and listened, it was like a six-minute pause, very sweet!
Across the street in Monument Square a different band was playing – The Maine Marimba Ensemble plays contemporary Zimbabwean marimba music! I did not know there was contemporary marimba music, but of course there is! It is wonderful, you can watch videos at the link above!
And because it was a warm night, many people were out for First Friday! Some of them were funny – there was a man trying to preach and a group of girls in green makeup and dressed as monsters – maybe zombies? – kept following him! They had a sign on a sheet between two poles that read “DamnedNation” or something like that, and it was so funny, because they can not tell him not to preach but he can not tell them not to be on the sidewalk either! I actually am not 100% sure they were not part of the same troupe doing street theatre!
There were also several dancers, including one young man doing break dancing (ouch, the brick sidewalk must have hurt his back!) using a glass storefront as a window! That is what happens a lot, people just come out and practice whatever it is they do and they put a box or a hat down and hope someone gives them money! Some girls doing modern dance did the same thing, they had hula hoops but they did not use them while I was watching.
All the galleries and stores and of course the art college (MECA) had displays and lots of stuff going on, but my favorite thing was the Blacksmith! Sam H. Smith – that is really his name – is a Master Blacksmith and had a mini-forge and hammer and was making hooks and pokers and triangles right there on the Congress Street sidewalk! He was very nice and answered a lot of questions (yes, this is what he does for a living, and he has to abide by the same First Friday rules as the musicians because his instrument is the anvil). Update May 22 2013: Today the Portland City Council banned fire! Not completely just for blacksmiths and jugglers and street artists because of safety concerns! He seemed very careful to me but I do not know much about fire safety but I am now so sad I will not be seeing him again at First Friday any more! The website for Sam has disappeared but you can still find him at the Portland Forge page on Facebook!
Thank you Portland for another great First Friday!