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Jett Superior laid this on you on || April 1, 2010 || 10:51 pm

Hello, I am home.

“You were away?” you ask. “Where did you go?”

Well.

poorhouse road is where the action's at

:: poorhouse road is where the action’s at ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Doobaby!

:: doobaby! blake sold his paintings for $1 apiece. BARGAIN. he should’ve asked five. ::

(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

Sunday morning, his face framed up in the right side of my rearview mirror, Davey’s eyes met mine and he said, “I feel infinite.”

He was wearing a hoodie, his typical oversized mirrored aviators and a tie he’d extracted from the fistful I’d scored for three dollars at the auction on Friday night. It was navy and emblazoned with tiny, pastel poodles. We were on Highway One-Sixty-Nine in Seale, Alabama. A scant thirty minutes earlier we’d finished packing up the Magic Superior Stealth Vehicle so that we could make our way out of the Woods of Wunder (wander+wonder=wunder, so I was told a couple years back by Butch or Bob 7, I don’t remember which) and back to our own beds.

When Davey said this thing, we were passing Silver Run Baptist Church. I eyed the church for a few beats and smiled. Seventeen-year-old boys are not typically prone to making such pronouncements.

Doo-Nanny will do that to you.”

bird's-eye view of the doo-ceedings
:: bird’s-eye view of the doo-ceedings ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

"Um, yeah. I'm at Doo-Nanny. Y'all should come on down."
:: “um, yeah. i’m at doo-nanny. ya’ll should come on down.” ::

Flying through Birmingham, the boys already starting to nod off in the back, Tess and I chatted and frequently changed the radio station. I glanced into the mirror at the exact moment one of our two tents went flying off the roof, separating itself from its bag along the way. As we backed the vehicle rapidly down the safety lane, I watched with alarm as eighteen-wheelers suddenly appeared en masse. “Please don’t run over our tent, please don’t run over our tent, pleasedontruinthetent, AHHHHH, PLEASE DON’T LET THE TENT BE RUN OVER AND DESTROYED,” I prayed aloud and without any subtlety.

Tess braved traffic, dodging eighty-mile-an-hour cars and crazy-large trucks like she’d been training to do so all her life. We each climbed halfway up the car, perched precariously and uncertainly. While maneuvering the roof’s load, hanging on with one hand and working with the other, I had a vision running a loop in my head: Over and over my foot slipped; my hand was torn free and I was rolled into the path of an oncoming semi.

I hooted like a monkey the whole time, hysterical tears streaming down my face, shouting jokes to Tess.

We were climbing back in when Mathias said, “We are not even there yet and already we are having ADVENTURES!” This made Sam horse-laugh.

HI!
:: HI! ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

(intertwangleism)
:: (intertwangleism) ::

We pulled into the parking lot of the Possum Trott on Friday evening, just as things were in full swing. The Possum Trott used to be a barbecue place owned by Butch’s daddy, but now there’s just the auction house on one side, a terrific melange of curiosity museum and juke joint on the other.

On Doo-Nanny weekends, the Possum Trott is mostly taken over by Generally Fun Folk: Freaks and weirdos and people to whom the mainstream is distasteful. We line the old church pews set up in the smallish room and commence to bidding on art of all sorts, art that is mostly of the outsider, self-taught flavor. The festival is not self-sustaining; people put in hours and hours of hard work and stretch artist pockets (which, already thin, are faring pretty poorly with the economic downturn) to make it happen. The pieces we donate will put a little money toward gas money for musicians and staples (vodka being as likely to be considered a staple as the grapefruit which will shake hands with it later) for the community kitchen down on the Butch Anthony’s eighty-acre farm. Butch moved the Doo-Nanny there a couple of years ago when Frank Turner –the mayor of Pittsview– said he wasn’t up to spearheading the thing anymore. Frank felt like he was just getting too old to do so.

Doo-Nanny used to line both sides of the highway for a few yards. In those days for as many people that purposely came to the Doo, twice as many arrived not-on-purpose and then found themselves intrigued or delighted. Its twelfth year –the year of the move– found us all out there in those woods, howling and grinning and making a mess of ourselves, but in that good way that you look for your whole life without consciously realizing it.

I knocked out Butch's teefs.
:: b.a., the man himself ::

The mayor died late in the summer after that first festival down on the farm. When I went back last fall, his makeshift Doo-Nanny office still stood in its place of honor down on Butch’s place. A chapel made of found materials and intricately-painted tin had been erected next to it. The chapel’s maker, Jake Hollifield, sat inside it with me one afternoon and we talked about our perceptions of the nature of God for over an hour; that was after he told me that his aim for the chapel was that travel to different festivals where it would be disassembled and put together in different configuration each time it was re-erected. Eventually, he told me, he wants five or six of them crisscrossing the country at any given time. In this inaugural chapel there was an altar at one end and works inspired by Butch Anthony’s Intertwanglism paintings lined the interior of the thing, floor-to-ceiling.

Each of the paintings was a found thing at its base: Photographs and other paintings and drawings. Over each figure in them, Jake had drawn a skeleton in white, their bones transparent and allowing the original artifact to shine through. It took a couple times of thinking on Jake’s paintings and our late-afternoon exchange there in that chapel before I had an epiphany: Our skins are different, our dialects and affectations are different, the blood that swishes through us is different. Most all of our skeletons are pretty much the same.

It all comes down to bone, then.

chapel-on-the-doo
:: chapel-on-the-doo ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Heaven and Hell Car detail
:: ‘heaven and hell’ art car detail ::

“The only word I had to leave out to make it fit was ‘perfect’,” she said to me as I was looking down at the small piece in my hand. It was a work made of words, a whole lot of gorgeous ones, penned in bright blue ink. At the center of the two-inch by three-inch handwritten block, there was left a white space in the shape of a flame.

“It’s called ‘Blue Flame’.” And then she launched into the recitation of it, her bangs being lightly sifted by the breeze. I was frozen in my tracks, my widening eyes hidden behind huge round-framed sunglasses, Tess and my sister Emma also rapt behind me. “The only word I had to leave out to make it fit was ‘perfect’,” she said to me again when she finished. Stunned and not really giving a fuck about convention, I walked around the table, stepped forward and hugged her to me.

“Thank you so much,” I said, “Thank you so much, I needed every last one of those words you just poured into me.”

The only word I have to leave out, too, is ‘perfect’. Or, if I must keep it in my vernacular, another must is the one that says I ought to append it with the phrase ‘for me’. This lesson as of late has been particularly hard on me.

uke-a-punk stylings
:: uke-a-punk stylings ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

Later that night she was sitting lotus with her back to the campfire, facing the chairs that my sister and my best friend and I had lined up so we could watch the Mad Tea Party kick another night at the Doo. Her head hung, and then eventually she was bent in two, face to the ground. Emma took her a bottle of water, coaxing her to drink, tending to her. I didn’t even realize that it was the same young woman until the next day.

To see a complete stranger stand so powerful and lie so scattered in the span of twelve hours was somewhat overwhelming to me. Sometimes those bones I talked about want to hit the dirt –skins or no skins– and even if we happen to still be sporting a beating heart while they call for the ground, it’s hard to not comply.

Ralph Frank makes beautiful....
:: ralph frank makes beautiful art ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

bicycle sweat lodge
:: bicycle sweat lodge ::

I was washing dishes in the outdoor kitchen when Tess told me about the girl set up down by the Bike Dome in the lowland clearing across from the stage. “Oh man, we gotta go talk to her. She has a little table set up and a sign that says

cookies, love letters,
shots of whiskey
5 cents

…we gotta introduce ourselves!”

Indeedy, there was the table and there sat a tupperware jobby filled with homemade cookies; next to it was a jug of what I remember to be Evan Williams and a pink see-through piggy bank stuffed with dollar bills, nickels. Behind the table was a young guy in glasses and a person I assumed to be the aforementioned girl. She had red hair, fat Crayola markers sat on the table in front of her and she held a regular old one-dollar spiral notebook in her hands. Good humor shimmered off of her in an obvious arc. Her name was Allison and this was her first Doo-Nanny. She was, not to put too fine a point on it, made for this fucking place.

Tess paid a dollar and the four of us –Tess, Emma, Davey (Sam and Scout’s friend, along for the adventure with Sam) and me– opted for love letters. Allison asked us four questions,

“What’s your name?”

“What’s the name of the person it’s for?”

“What are some of their characteristics and likes?”

“Dirty or clean?”

We all opted for dirty except for Davey, whose letter for his girlfriend turned out to be dirty anyway, maybe because Allison thought he was cute and wanted to see him blush. I of course selected Maxim as my recipient. I can’t republish it all here, because my oldest son reads this site from time to time, but it started out like this:

Dear Maxim,

The Grateful Dead completely sucks and I hate that you love them but I still want to fuck you hard anyway.

We put a dollar in the piggy bank. Davey was fair dying to get a peep at that letter, because we laydehs were doubling over and braying, but I deemed it inappropriate for the eyes of a minor.

Maxim cried with laughter when he finally got to read it.

welcome to tha doo!
:: welcome to tha doo! ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

none-a that dang frickatating!
:: none-a that dang frickatating! ::

Having seen my pieces sold and bid out some art for myself, I had stepped out of the auction. I was headed to the bathroom and then the beer when I discovered that the music had broken out. The Screaming Js and Mad Tea Party were set up on and around the porch, playing to a crowd of hundreds. The fifty or so people of those hundreds that were actually in Seale, Alabama and milling about appreciated their efforts with wolf whistles and dancing. Cameras appeared and disappeared. Grins were unbreakable and shone in the night.

I heard “JETT!” hollered a couple times and was happy to be embraced by people I’d not seen since October.

Ten minutes later, I slid back into the pew next to Mathias.

“There was a wheelchair that I could have bid seven bucks on and won, but I didn’t know if you’d let me,” he shoutwhispered.

“Ahhh,” I said, “Sorry I missed that. Just as well; what would you have done with a wheelchair anyway?” The car was already jam-packed on the way down here, the interior full of people and coolers and sleeping bags; even the roof was overflowing with tent and canopy and table and Tess’ massage chair.

“I would have decorated it up and given people rides around Doo-Nanny if they wanted them.”

Yes. How stupid of me! Yet one more kind of art: The art of tending to people in a colorful way.

different,
:: mad tea party ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

doo-trepreneur
:: doo-trepreneur ::

In one of the fixed vendor stalls a passel of boys have set up dirty tanks and jars filled with tadpoles and red-eared sliders and skinks and frogs, to name but a few critters. The boys have inked a price list in orange onto a piece of cardboard that is taped to the end of their table. However, they are clearly negotiators.

They take their cues from one very self-possessed boy who was obviously born to be an entrepreneur. If people aren’t willing to buy, he hits them up for spare change to feed these critters. He did all that work to go out and catch them in order to sell them into pethood: It is obviously his duty to make sure they were fed.

And it won’t hurt anybody if he gets a Coke out of it, I imagine….

inventing bacon
:: inventing bacon by bob7 ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

the phenomenal Phil Cheney
:: the phenomenal phil cheney (mathias bringing up the rear) ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

“Tell me one thing about the Doo-Nanny.” I had a video camera aimed at Emma as we sat next to the fire pit, comfortably warm despite the wet cold of the dark. She barely even hesitated before saying through a grin, “There’s a place for everybody out here.”

I witnessed Emma laughing more this weekend than I ever have in the history of all our fun times together. And let me tell you, thatgirl and I have had a fuckload of fun times.

ralph will tell you he's a dancin' machine.
:: ralph will tell you he’s a dancin’ machine. ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Jenny Greer, Jen and the Juice
:: the original bohemian hooligan, jenny greer ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

While I painted up Jenny’s face like a sugar skull for her stint on the stage later, Tess and Emma toted around a massive bottle of vodka and fluorescent plastic shot glasses.

“Tell you what,” Tess wandered around saying to the Various and the Sundry (of which there was a delightful selection) over twenty-one, “give me your best pickup line and I’ll pour you a shot of vodka!” That hugeass bottle was two-thirds gone within the hour. It would have all been gone, except that the girls stopped to stand around and giggle like fools with the folks they queried.

“Are you from Tennessee? ‘Cos you’re the only ten I see!”

The very last person asked was Tommy, Butch’s brother. He is a chef and flies around the kitchen and the barbecue pit in a way that doesn’t seem nervous or uptight. “Hey,” I said as I was rounding a curlicue on Jen’s cheek, “get Tommy to play.”

“Hey Tommy, I’ll pour you a shot of vodka if you’ll tell me your best pickup line!”

“My best pickup line?” he asked. He looked thoughtful. He walked over to the sink and washed his hands. He strode purposefully to Tessa and laid a kiss on her. She, unflappably bold and certainly hard to embarrass, blushed sheer crimson and looked dizzy as she thrust the vodka into Tommy’s chest, “GOOD LORD. Take the whole damn bottle.”

aren't they pretty?
:: aren’t they pretty? ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

That reminds me:

Dear Kid Who Caught Me On The Trail Back To My Tent:

I’m sorry I was cross with you. It’s just that your nose knocking my contact all askew was a little off-putting. Surprise cheek-kisses from attractive younger men with great heads of hair are always a delight. Next time just, you know, ask. And tell that young laydeh with the camera that sudden flashes of light in the dark are NEVER a delight. The Doo is about being chill, and it would be awful for me to roughly wrap that camera up in her ponytail.

Odabo Jack,
Jett ‘I understand the fine line between spontaneity and obnoxiousness’ Superior

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

ralph frank glowy head
:: official ralph frank glowy head ::

My name, called out by a variety of voices and personalities, in all kinds of ways:

“Jehhhhhtt.” My friend Phil, as I’m walking toward the kitchen. I dip my head toward my laden arms, bags and containers of things I’ll spread on the counter for people to graze on (roughly half of those people, newcomers to the Doo, will react in surprise when told nothing is expected of them except to be cool and also to maybe bring something of their own to share should they decide to come back), “Provisions, Phil!”

“Why, hello gorgeous Jett!” This is sweet little Jeanne, who makes all manner of amazing art utilizing a wealth of techniques and materials. She amazes me. Later Davey and I take her a small plate laden with fruit and banana bread, only to find out she’s allergic to kiwi. Davey goes back to fetch another plate –sans the offending fruit– and I stroll the crowd, offering the contents of the plate to various takers.

“JETT! JETT SUPERIOR!” Grace has spotted me in the crowd. She is seeking out Doo regulars, getting a snippet of their hair to deposit in the burn sculpture. Skirts swirling, she effortlessly parts the people around me. I lean a pigtail down toward her, hear a snip and she’s off again, fiery red head bobbing through the crowd.

“Hey Jett, come here, I want you to meet somebody!” And so on.

bicycle. built. for two.
:: bicycle. built. for two. ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

priming the torch
:: priming the torch ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

On the night of the burn, Butch stands beside the upper level of the two-tiered stage, which has proven that the generous quota of rebar utilized in its construction had been a quiet sort of genius. At one point during the night I counted nine people on the lower stage and five people on the upper.

In Butch’s hands is a six-foot length of pipe that is flaming on both ends and he twirls it with grace. Then it is touched to The Four-Foot Ball of Great Flammability that is suspended above his head. Once it’s lit, he climbs to a platform and releases it to slide along a guywire that stretches to the sculpture, which is slow to catch at first but then is engulfed.

The six of us –Sam, Mathias, Emma, Tess, Davey and me– stand in a little half-circle amidst the crowd. We are seventy yards from The Burning Doo-Nanny, and it still feels as if our faces will crackle and peel off. The burn is reflected in the water around it and I’m struck by how elegantly that water mirrors the thing that it’d eagerly extinguish if given opportunity.

When the burn is complete, we agree that it is time to make it back to our campsite, which is decorated with gold balloons and mirror balls and handmade banners featuring the Patron Saints of the South. We eat muffins and recount the day to one another. We heave tired and happy heads into our tents, fold ourselves into sleeping bags. The dew falls around us.

The music, a constant friend in the Woods of Wunder, echoes on into the night.

...but same
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Every time I leave that farm on Poorhouse Road, I don’t take the most direct route to highway four-thirty-one. I hang a right so that I can ride past the Silver Run Baptist Church. I think about the people inside and wonder what they think of the Doo-Nanny and those of us that populate it.

I wonder at whether or not they would condemn us. Then I think about the ways I might tell them, if ever presented with such a scenario, that my time spent down there in those woods is a good and righteous sort of church all its own. That I come away from there peaceful and centered and stirred in a way that four walls and a roof are too narrow for by far.

someone spelled 'wunder' wrong.
:: someone spelled ‘wunder’ wrong ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

// Mary Oliver

happy doo campers
:: happy doo campers: tessa, davey, mathias and emma at the burn ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

GREAT THANKS TO JAMIE HARMON, who generously shares of his gifts when asked.

jamie and company
:: jamie and part of his doo crew! ::
(photo credit: Jamie Harmon)

My camera had issues over the weekend and I gave up trying to shoot anything after about a dozen poor captures, so most every shot of this year’s festival (the rest are my own of Doos past) you see here belongs to him. You can find his stellar work over at uberphoto.

5 worked it out »

  1. stacy 4.2.2010

    Oh, you just broke my heart and made me awful homesick for the roadside ‘wunders’ and art of the South! That was a beautiful post, Jett – thank you for sharing your experience with us…I am going to be counting down to the next Doo-Nanny, too, if only for another recap from you. :)

     
  2. Deb 4.2.2010

    Dayum fine way to spend some time. Taking care of people in colorful ways, oh I love that. Kinda feel that this post did that for me, so thank you.

     
  3. Seaweed 4.2.2010

    Well I definitely think everything about the Doo is a religious experience and certainly counts as worship. Someday I’ll get there.

     
  4. kelly 4.2.2010

    Oh. Oh. Oh! I have no other words. So beautiful. The writing and the experience that I lived a small part through you.

     
  5. Jason 4.11.2010

    God DAMN, but you can write.

     

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