One often needs some lark- some freakish bit of entertainment and escape to avoid the pitfalls of one's current world. Occasionally, I run into something utterly bizarre that stings me in this manner- and I am reminded of one of the reasons I like this city in the first place.

I stumbled upon something utterly fascinating at twilight the other day- something I heard nothing about, didn't see in the alternative weekly or any local news outlet. It was out on the harbor: a 20 foot ectoskeletal robot puppet on a boat (who occasionally breated out fire from the bunson burner in his mouth)- a boat ordained with paintings of some 1950s youthful-looking guy, the sky, and the like-, being operated by 20 or so who looked like stereotypical artists replete with goatees, punk rockers, construction workers with hard hats, or perhaps artistic punk rocking hard-hat wearing construction workers and wandered off, on, and around the boat. They sat behind the carefully opened curtains pulling levels and affecting the sound, and operated the strings in front of the creature, and did several other disjointing acts I will describe later. I am at a loss of words to describe this spectacle, but I will attempt to anyway.

I always think that one can never separate an artistic enterprise from the audience. The audience can be separated into 3 overlapping categories: those who asked "What is going on here?", those who answered "I don't have a clue", and family & friends of the performers. I don't think the family & friends even had a clue as to what was going on- except they knew these people had received a grant from the city... I guess to improve local culture.

The 20 foot ectoskeletal robot puppet's voice was reminescent of R2D2 if his batteries were running low. This was by design, of course. It boardered the thin line between coherent and incoherent. What it did, eventually, was bang away- with a number of people pulling strings- on a piano obstensibly playing Willy  Nelson songs... note the word obstensibly. I believe the "men behind the curtains" were ad-libbing nonsense at this point in time, as evidenced by the only lines I can remember- "I'm so very weird- because I have this beard." The music in the background was delightfully annoying and chaotic: ladders were being banged on, the piano was being hammered at, and bongos were being beaten. Often, I got the feeling that the whole ship should just self-destruct, along with the universe just to be thourough.

At some point in time, a few performers ran off the boat and started throwing fire around on the beach. I hate to say this, but I'm pretty much desensitized to fire-tricks, so while the rest of the crowd was watching the fire sticks with the corner of their eye to the boat- I was watching the boat with the corner of my eye to the fire-tricks. The 20 foot ectoskeletal robot puppet said a poem about "Love" while an individual wrote the word "LOVY"(sic) on one of the curtains. The beat continued.

The climax- or was it the denoument- came with one of the performers- a fat guy- coming out, wearing several masks on his head, and reading a poem about creativity, letting go of the masks we wear and freeing ourselves from the chains we create that bind ourselves. One would think that he would be tearing off his masks with this poem, but he surprised me by instead tearing off his clothes. Then, he took off his masks. In the end, the only thing he had on was a tail-like object covering his butt and what may as well have been a squirrel atop his wee-wee. This, I guess, was the most affecting moment of the performance, as evidenced by the fact that the crowd was silent during this interval- aside from some woman near the back who yelled "Take it off- take it all off!" While this was going on, 2 individuals stood on both sides and breated fire on a stick, synchronized and coordinated effectively.

The performance fettered out with the creation thanking his mom and everyone else who helped in this art project. The boat was set to be powered off under the raised bridge. A couple friends of the people on board yelled asking to sail off with the boat- and they got on. The boat, with the 20 foot ectoskeletal robot puppet, naked man, percussionists, and technical experts- sailed off into the moonlight.

This was paid by the city's tax dollars, and thus another example of the fleecing of America.

I can't help but wonder what these individuals would be doing if they weren't throwing fire around, building giant ectoskeletal robot puppets, reciting bad poetry, banging on pianos and ladders, and stripping naked. Actually, my best guess is that they would be doing those exact same things in a different capacity.

I was giddy that night, I must say. The thingy left me in a good mood. The city was noticably culturally improved.

as always, copyright 2000 j.howard.s.