Portland Maine - the farthest north-eastern destination on this first cross country test-journey. What a feeling... I'm over 3000 miles from home and, with the adventure less than half-way done still, s many things have happened to me so far that it is all already becoming blurred in my memory. It's great to have reached the coast though. I hear familiar seagull calls, smell the salt water and feel the fresh ocean breeze again.
I arrived to Portland ME late on Thursday and parked down main street away from the hustle of downtown proper. The art walk was to start Friday evening and I decided to wait it out till late at night to re-park Gilli closer to the action because no parking was available when I first drove down Congress street, which is the central street in town. Walking around and scoping out the perspective parking areas took up the rest of the night. At about 2am, when most of the bar flies took off and the prime locations became available I jumped into Gilli and parked her in front of a big beautiful building that I thought would benefit her as a classic backdrop and went to sleep.
Downtown was getting pretty quiet by then, but of course there was an occasional car driving by. However, if one closes the eyes and ignores the headlight glow the sound of a car can be easily imagined to be that of a wave crashing upon a rocky shore, so I had no trouble falling asleep. The night was short though and, due to the anxiety of the looming first big event of the morning, sleep was uneasy and interrupted by various dreams and visions. Of those I only remember one last one and here it is:
In my dream I was driving away from home where I just talked to my mom and grandma. It was raining lightly in small sheet-like bursts and apparently I was driving west into the setting sun visible under the rain clouds. Having previous experiences with the various qualities of light I realized that if I were to turn around and look back I should see a rainbow. I am never one to pass up a good rainbow show and that remains true even in my sleep. I turned my head and saw the most beautiful triple rainbow spanning the sky and with all ends touching the horizon. Overjoyed I called out for my mother to see the rainbow and when she looked out the window and saw it she exclaimed that she was happy to see how lucky I am. I woke up the best of moods and went to work preparing The Photo Palace for the art loving public.
The building in front of which I parked in daylight appeared to be even more beautiful than it did at night - here is an image of it from a 1905 postcard. Gillis front door was facing directly into the front door:
Currently there is an award winning advertizing agency named VIA that occupies the entire building and the very first person to knock on my door and have a tour of the bus was actually the owner of VIA himself. He was very impressed and super nice and said that he'll send an e-mail to his staff to some out and check me out. As folks are apparently used to doing here on the East Coast he actually followed through with his promise and throughout the day I think almost every employee came out and had a tour of The Photo Palace Bus.
At about 4pm the visitors from VIA started to be mixed in with random wanderers who came out for the Portland Art Walk, which happened every first Friday of the month (reminding me of San Jose CA, where it's held during that day also but with about 1/20th of the foot traffic). The crowd on the street grew fast and I was happy that I didn't park in the very center of activity, but was actually on the starting block of the thole bonanza. I set out a table with 8x10 prints, placed my 8x10 Kodak 2D camera on its antique tripod to attract attention (as if Gilli was not enough) and put the historical lecture prints inside The Bus on the counter. I had a very hard time keeping up with the flow - having to tend to people interested in the prints on the table, giving tours of the darkroom and trying to educate interested public based on the vintage prints was not an easy task. In the end I think visitors were happy to have been on board and, besides learning something about traditional printing methods and history thereof, bought enough prints from me to almost fill the gas tank. That small success inspired me to look very much forward to doing the same thing on Saturday by Mumford and Sons concert. I spent the evening having dinner and talking to a wonderful local photographer-lady who was a great deal of fun and provided the much needed mental workout I so sorely needed by being a great conversationalist.
After dinner and a beer I stumbled off to the bus, took a few night-time exposures with the Rollei and took a quick nap before re-parking Gilli close to the concert venue and doing back to sleep again. As I was driving the morning light became more apparent and when I rounded the top of a small hill I was presented with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. That was the first time I saw it on this journey and it really brought the magnitude of this trip to the front of my mind - I now have made it coast to coast, diagonally across a pretty large country that takes up a large portion of a fairly large continent! Wow. I pulled over at the first opportunity to take a picture and by total coincidence found myself right under the sign "Atlantic St." visible in this image. You can see the ocean and an island in the distance on the left of the frame (it's a lot closer to Gilli than it looks here in this wide-angle shot).
In the morning I repeated my art-walk set-up (adding a sign offering Polaroid portrait for $15 each) and started showing the bus to those who were arriving to save spots in front of the stage early on. The crowd grew again and I began to wonder if I should start looking for a ticket. The second group of people I asked happened to have an extra and were happy to trade me their extra for two prints and this Polaroid of them.
Throughout the day I took 5 more images with the Polaroid 600SE camera using Fuji FP100c film and this one was my favorite. I'm glad those images are now in someones home and being loved.
After going into the show for a while and wandering in the crowd of hot, dehydrated and drunk people I decided to come back out, grab my smaller prints and come out to sell them on the sidewalk away from The Bus and here is a close-up of my blanket with 6 images showing - all of them products of Rolleiflex cameras, all gelatin silver prints from various years.
Overall the day went great and I now have enough cash to fill up the tank all the way and possibly even start eating better. It feels great to sell prints to someone I can shake the hand of, look them in the eye and really see the interest first-hand and in real time. Human to human interaction is the best experience.
When I got back to Gilli I discovered this funny scene right across the small street on which I was parked. The bike is a Russian-built Ural and in it was a reporter hurriedly uploading his footage from the concert to the newspapers FTP.
Turns out the guy on the mac is actually a big fan of film and was glad to see the darkroom and to be shown his first-ever live bromoil print (he has heard about them, but, like so many people out there, have never had a chance to hold one in his hands). He does tintypes in his spare time and promised to call me back later today or early Monday to do a story on The Photo Palace Bus and to possibly take a tintype of yours truly. I don't know which prospect I am more excited about - the possibility of an article or a real tintype session.... Let's see if it materializes.
At about 10pm I started heading to a local bar called Big Easy in hopes to get into the after show featuring Reggie Watts. I heard about Reggie only two weeks before leaving San Diego and instantly fell in love with his delivery, style and rhythms. Many times during my road trip I though to myself: wouldn't it be great if I somehow crossed paths with him somewhere along the line and I can not tell you how excited and stunned I was to find his name as an MC for the Mumford and Sons show on posters around town. This is the farthest NE point of the journey and to see Reggie here was a surreal dream come true. I did hear that the show was sold-out, but my determination was great and I was rewarded by finding a short line of eager folks lined up outside the venue. It didn't take but 10 minutes and I was in and with only a $5 cover. I staked out a great spot where I could see the stage in full view from the side so I was able to take great shots and video even with a wide-angle iPhone. Reggie was on top of his game and kept the crowd laughing all through the show. He gets people involved while keeping his themes ranging from cerebral to absurd. Here is a little short clip of one of the songs. Hope you enjoy and look him up on YouTube later.
It was long and incredible day, so I went straight to bed right as I got back to The Photo Palace.
Now I'm off to clean up Gilli after the crowds that flowed through her in the past two days and then off to take some candid images of people and their environment here in the great city of Portland Maine. I am going to stick around here till tomorrow (Monday) in hopes of hearing back from the newspaper reporter and having a tintype portrait session sometime tomorrow.
Happy Sunday to everyone!