Gig and I zipped down to the Millvale, PA street fair last night around 7 p.m. Festivities were in the early stages but things seemed promising. We had already eaten some pasta, salad, garlic bread - so food was not an issue. It would be all about the people. They began teeming into the streets like it was a miniscule version of the Macy's Day Parade.
Our first encounter was with an aggressive salesman. He had a set-up on the corner which I'd refer to as the "Dollar Store That Time Forgot." Rows of Preparation H, a jar filled with ear plugs, cases of this off brand Atomic Blaster Super Power Energy Drink, Velamints and other assorted candy products manufactured in 1975. But what caught my eye was the stash of home pregnancy tests. I can say without a shadow of doubt, that at some point in the evening, some moment of destiny, a young couple would walk up to this guy and purchase one of these kits. The stars would surely align later that night, and in less than a year, a forthcoming member of the Millvale community would be amongst us.
Our encounter with Dollar Store Man was too brief. He charged at us (in his mind he was thinking two words - fresh meat). He had two monster sized granola bars. He forcefully stammered at us, "Hey, we're trying to start a foothold here in the community. Would you like a meal replenishment bar?" He thrust these 2 mammoth rectangular blocks of nourishment into our hands. Normally, I'd want to at least open the wrapper and sample the cuisine. But he made us feel obliged to purchase something. Having already seen his assortment of merchandise, I politely declined the meal of sustenance. In retrospect, this is what I'd eventually refer to as the "Millvale Mistake." Although, I wasn't well-suited to hang with Dollar Store Man, I could have, at the very least, admired his commanding solicitation presence from afar. No doubt it would have enhanced my journey.
We walked to the end of the street fair and Gig saw a friend of hers who had opened a library. A large ceramic statue of a schnauzer with a pile of books on its head was out in front of the book depository. They were having a "name the dog statue" contest. Gig suggested "Millie" which I found slightly better than my choice "Periodogical" or "Peridogical." To be honest, I hope they choose neither. I'm very open to ideas on this one - hopefully "SteelDog" or "MillDog"doesn't win it. I imagine that would command multiple entries.
We kept moving back into the crowd and I saw the guys who own Mr. Small's Theater. They were promoting some upcoming gigs. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Smalls, it's an old church that has been transformed into a music venue for heavy metal and hippie shows. I personally do NOT like this place. I appreciate the efforts they've taken and its distinctive setting, but I think the sound is abysmal (too boomy) and the restrooms are basically disgusting and nonexistent. But I've been there about 10 times or so and I've usually had a good time.
I commented earlier about how we had chosen to dine in. Kind of uninspired, but I'm generally not too fond of county fair/street vendor food. Sometimes it's best to play it safe with listeria, Mad Cow disease, and other bochellistic concerns. Some of the carnies failed to exude an air of cleanliness. Some of the food particles were intertwined in their Brett Keisel-like beards. Suffice to say, we passed on the food vendors. I did see a fried twinkie/fried oreo stand. This briefly piqued my interest. I've never had either and always been a little curious. But there was zero activity with regard to the heated vat of oil. I didn't want to wait the obligatory 3 minutes so I passed. I refuse to eat twinkies, but oreos are good stuff. I just don't like to use or hear the term "double stuff."
Then, we entered this "blast form the past" record store. Volumes of albums in every nook and cranny of the shop. I was really taken aback by the quantity. I didn't know places like this still existed. I have a hunch the guy lived above the store and it's basically his hoarding hobby. I doubt Eide's Record Store on Penn Avenue is still around either. It was there we met the infamous Crumbsuckers in 1989. This time, no New York hardcore band was anywhere in sight. But Gig and I would meet the aspiring town drunkard. He was a disheveled 30 year-old guy wearing a Bob Marley jacket. He wandered over to an ill-placed keg of "Straubs" and started filling up. Gig wanted to blow her nose and he briefly ridiculed us for splitting the paper towel in half. I explained how these are recessionary times and we all need to do our part. He seemed disinterested and started talking about his distrust of the government. He drunkenly disparaged the Tea Party, Obama, the news media, the Millvale police... basically anyone and everyone. It was still early. I had a premonition of him closing down the fair around 11:15 p.m. "Alright, everyone get the hell out! We gonna pick up where we left off... tomorrow!"
We exited the record store and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Classic Car Show. The vintage cars drove down the main thoroughfare at the pace of a snail. Despite their auto-fixation, many had difficulty maneuvering in reverse into their allotted parking spots. We took a gander across the street and saw these two guys in their early twenties. One was dark black, the other Eminem white. They were both sharing the same I-pod, one headphone in each ear. They would both bob up and down in tandem, smiling in this display of interracial, ethnic unity. It was their "unified harmony" that encouraged me to seek out the religious stand.
Across the street were two older men handing out literature pertaining to the gospel. We opted to take the 7 question survey. None of the questions were particularly interesting or well-phrased. I considered advising them how to improve the survey. I thought they should have focused on the current state of the economy... asking people if they've been impacted by the economic downturn (personal debt, marital troubles, raising kids, health insurance, etc.) - and then explain how it has been their experience... seeking spiritual guidance has improved many a persons' outlook. Then I asked myself, despite the fact that these 2 guys seemed very pleasant and non-judgmental, why the hell would I want to actively promote their bible study?
On that note, we bolted. As we walked back to the car, Gig pointed out one of the most unusual, chic furniture stores I have ever seen. We gazed in the store window display. Some overpriced, crazy pieces indeed. The idea that this place is in the heart of Millvale strikes me as peculiar. Perhaps it's better suited for Shadyside or some trendier area. You might think I'm kidding, but maybe Millvale is in the early stages of a renaissance. Despite the poverty stricken, continually flooded, Rt. 28 constructed, condemned to their fate attitude... there's this underlying, almost uplifting vibe about Millvale. I think the rebirth of Millvale will one day be attributed to the opening of Mr. Small's back around the turn of the century. I only wish the upcoming Insane Clown Posse concert would have coincided with Millvale Community Days. It would have been rewarding to see a greater juggalo presence.