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July 8th, 2009 Eric Isaacson | Headout
 

Street Un-Fair?

There are plenty of reasons—from great food to good music—to attend the Mississippi Street Fair. But Mississippi Records owner Eric Isaacson doesn’t think you should.

     
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IMAGE: Casey Jarman UPDATED 11 am Wednesday, July 8: Shortly after this article went to press, but before the paper came out, Eric Isaacson expressed his frustration with my [Casey Jarman] edit of his words as they were presented in print. He was promised a final look at the copy before it went to press, but didn't see WW's emailed revisions until it was too late. I regret not trying to track him down by phone. The below online version is Isaacson's complete, original letter concerning the Mississippi Street Fair. But Isaacson wanted to retract the printed version, and had this to say about it:

"The article printed in the Willamette week accredited to me, while taken from quotes from the below email I sent to Casey Jarman, does not reflect the overall aesthetic & message I wished to convey. First & foremost - I DID NOT handwrite this letter nor would I ever write "street fair ?" with the address & time of the fair underneath it. This sends a pretty mixed & bizarre message. I also am concerned with the editing out of anything positive I had to say about our neighborhood out of the below rant. So it goes.

I believe that Casey Jarman had the best of intentions by presenting this with a hand drawn font of his own design & meant no disrespect. He is obviously well intentioned & I do like his drawing style. Unfortunately, god & the devil are all in the details & I feel that this article as printed reflected a bit more of the negative end of things without the balance of the positive. I have only myself to blame - it was fairly absurd to assume that my complicated relationship with the Mississippi Street Fair could be encapsulated in a one pager in a weekly. I apologize to anyone who took anything away from the printed article besides that I am uncomfortable with the commercialization of our neighborhood & that I don't like working in big crowds. Please enjoy the street fair if that is your bag & don't mind me."

Isaacson's original letter...

As you may know, I have closed shop every year during the street fair, which is the busiest business day of the year on North Mississippi Avenue. Last year an estimated 30,000 people attended the fair, and I have always closed on street-fair day, mainly for my own self-satisfaction as a business owner. Turning down the $1,000 or so I'd make in revenue that day is a way I can pat myself on the back and reassure myself I'm still in business for reasons besides profit. After all, owning and operating a podunk record store is not a lucrative living compared to most. I could do almost any other job in Portland and make more per hour than this one. So why compromise my comfort by participating in the busiest and therefore most annoying day of the year? It feels like too much of a “real job&rdquo: boring questions, customers who want traditional retail-service-type attention, all kinds of spiritually bankrupting B.S.--all the things I created my own business to avoid. Do I have political problems with the Street Fair beyond it not grooving with my personal comfort level in customer service? Absolutely! In fact, here are...

1. It's an ugly promotional tool for Mississippi Avenue businesses, masquerading as a community event. In reality, it has very few roots in our actual community and more to do with local merchants hawking their wares and trying to attract new customers from across town. Each year it gets progressively crasser. Full-page adds are taken out by cabals of desperate Mississippi Avenue businesses, hoping this big day will be another stepping stone toward turning our neighborhood into nothing more than yet another shopping strip for monied assholes instead of a hub for locals to get the basic services they need (vheap food, friendly spaces and so on). It has very little to do with the neighborhood I love and more to do with a business district that reeks of profiteering. Sure, there are a few cool events (skateboarding showcases, the occasional good band, the barbecue contest, etc.), but I believe any regular day in the neighborhood is more entertaining and genuinely colorful than this one. Why participate in a crappy celebration of commerce?

2. Every other part of Portland will be less populated and more chill to hang out in. All the yahoos will be gathered in one business district, leaving great neighborhoods that are usually dense with people, like Clinton Street and Hawthorne, free for the wandering and parking. Why go to a crowded neighborhood where you have to wait in line for anything and everything? Yes, we have Fresh Pot (the best coffee in Portland), the ReBuilding center (the coolest store in the world) and North Portland Bike Works (the most charming community bike shop known to humans), but all of these businesses suck on street fair day and are great ANY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR. So why show up on “suckers-only” day?

3. I’ll probably end up doing something really disruptive and obnoxious that you’ll want to avoid, like I do every year. Maybe this time it will involve horrible smells and fire!


SEE IT?: The Mississippi Street Fair is Saturday, July 11, from 9 am-10 pm. Free.

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WEDNESDAY July 8


[BOOKS] ANATOMY OF A BEAST
The Western Bigfoot Society once held meetings in the space currently occupied by St. Johns Booksellers. Now, in an event of intense karmic significance, Bigfoot is back in the building—or, at least, a book about the sasquatch. St. Johns Booksellers, 8622 N Lombard St., 283-0032. 7:30 pm. Free.

FRIDAY July 10


[MUSIC] TINY VIPERS
My, oh my, what Jesy Fortino can do with just a guitar and her wispy, barely there voice. Expect to be in tears by the end of this one. Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., 234-9694. 8 pm. $15. 21+.

[SCREEN] THE HURT LOCKER
The extended take on Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq bomb-squad movie: page 51. Short version: see it. Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10, 846 S.W. Park Ave., 326-3264. $10.50.

MONDAY July 13


[STAGE] JAW: A PLAYWRIGHT’S FESTIVAL
Portland Center Stage’s annual festival of new plays in progress kicks off with readings of works by Oregon playwrights. Gerding Theater, 128 NW 11th Ave., 445-3700. Various times. Free.

[BOOKS] THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO ROCKING
From Kate Bush to Carrie Brownstein, Nina Simone to Taylor Swift: girls rock. Music aficionado Jessica Hopper’s new book, The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, begins with that irrefutable premise and unfolds as a how-to guide for getting the party started. Rock on, ladies. Powell’s on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 228-4651. 7:30 pm. Free. All ages.

TUESDAY July 14


[MUSIC] DEATH SONGS
The side project of the Shaky Hands’ Nick Delffs is more folky and weird than his usual stuff, and tonight they release new material on tape. Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St., 248-1600. 9 pm. Free. 21+.

[ART] ESCAPE FROM NY NEIGHBORHOOD APPRECIATION
Escape from New York owner Phil Geffner closes down Northwest 23rd Avenue between Hoyt and Irving for a blowout to celebrate the final days before the city begins its extensive repairs of the street. In addition to face-painting, stilts, a pizza-eating contest and a llama, partiers may enjoy a slice of the best damn New York-style pie in town on Phil’s dime. Escape From New York Pizza, 622 NW 23rd Ave., 227-5423. 6:30-9 pm. Free.

 
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