Monday, September 04, 2006


So yesterday, the Lovely Bride and I celebrated the Labor Day weekend by going to Bumpershoot. More on that in a moment, but let me deal with the holiday itself.

The easy joke is to point out that we celebrate the American Worker by taking the day off, but the interesting thing about Labor Day is that it is an astroturf holiday - one created to elbow out another, more dangerous holiday.

In the early days of union activism, the unions would hold parades and protest marches. And the wikipedia entry on the Labor Day states that the Knights of Labor held marches in New York City in September, starting in 1882, which was the start of our Labor Day. But the wiki also notes elsewhere that the Knights led a parade in 1886 in Chicago on 1 May, demanding an eight hour work day. The parade spiraled into further marches and protests and strikes and resulted in the Haymarket Riot on the 4th of May. So the first of May is became connected with worker's rights, labor unrest, and later International Socialism, while the US government (under Grover Cleveland) latched onto the September date as being a celebration of labor that wouldn't have such radical overtones. So the rest of the world celebrates the workers on 1 May, harking back to the efforts of American workers, while the American version of the day is a punchline that is celebrated by non-involvement in labor.

But I digress. Bumbershoot.

The Lovely Bride and I are nesters, and normally would spend the weekend catching up on housework, freelance work, and in the LB's case, preparing for the tax classes she teaches. We've lived in Seattle for years, but never attended Bumbershoot, which occurs over the Labor Day Weekend. But there was a Mike Daisey monologue at the Bagley-Wright, and we hoisted ourselves out of our relative creature comforts to go.

So Bumbershoot is sort of Seattle's urban county fair, with more music and less farm animal smell. The Seattle Center, home to the fountain, space needle, EMP, a number of theatres, and an opera house is overwhelmed with young people, music, and art. And looking over the schedule for Sunday, I realized that I had moved officially into Old Fogie-ness. I knew none of these bands. OK, Blondie was playing on Saturday, and the Steve Miller Band was playing on Monday (those I recognize, thank you) but I was at a loss in the face of young music, world music and hip-hop. New Pornographers? Dengue Fever? Spoon? It made me want to go chase some kids off the lawn.

We had also been warned that traffic was going to be a mess and parking impossible, so we chose to head out in about noon to catch Daisey's early evening performance. Actually, the traffic was lighter than it usually was on the days of any other festival in Seattle Center (like, say, Estonian Festival), and parking, though a little pricier, was pretty typical for an event day (and much more accessible than when the Stones were playing Key Arena). The huge hordes in the Center were mostly younger and/or thinner than I, and as such had walked, biked, carpooled or public transported themselves go get there.

And their were hordes. Packed with people. The Lovely Bride and I wandered, relaxed, and ate. I caught a long set by a young singer named Sonya Kitchell and some Afro-Caribbean fusion by Gohk-Bi System. The LB got a new skirt and a shawl. We noshed on fair food, which was better than average fair food (philly steaks, crab cakes, pizza with real cheese). I was fitted for a utilikilt (alas, they were out of fat-boy sizes - it had been a busy day). The LB got a hug from strangers. We wandered among an art exhibit of fragmented houses south of the fountain, and took in the art shows the Frye had set up in the Northwest Rooms, near the carefully-hidden but fully-appreciated jazz stage. And we ran into long-time Bumpershoot denizens Chris and Nikchick (whom, you can tell from their journals, DO know who these bands are).

Then Mike Daisey. Full house of non-theatre-goers (you can tell them by the fact they don't turn off their cell phones). Daisey's monologue was Monopoly!, both talking about the game and the business activity and weaving his personal and family life in-between. In the process he went through the games of my youth (Risk, Monopoly, War), Wal-mart (venting both the frustration and the benefits of the megalithic giant), Mad scientist Nikola Tesla, his own earlier involvement with a Tesla coil, and his experience with Microsoft and Bill Gates in a company training film. And in this Daisey talks about modern life, but also expresses his true geekness, his D&D heritage, his gaming roots, and his bit with Bill Gates is both touching and hilarious in a way that reaches out to the inner geekiness in all of us (yeah, the LB and I howled - no, I'm not going to give away the bit here).

And after Daisey, we walked around the fountain, caught a pyrotechnic dance show on the lawn (the only thing better than young amazon bellydancers with swords is young amazon bellydancers with flaming swords), and then back home.
And today we are celebrating Labor Day the way Americans are supposed to celebrate it - by not working.

More later,