I am presently at work trying to find food and craft vendors for the Asian Festival, essentially rebuilding last year’s festival from scratch.  We’ve found some wonderful new vendors that I think will help move the festival to a higher level, but I’ve also run into something new and mysterious.  I have now encountered vendors who want you to pay them.

The first I heard of this was when a restaurateur explained that since I’d invited his participation, it must have some monetary value to me.  I should pay him, he said with a straight face.  I thought he was joking, but he was dead serious and I left without his having signed a contract.  Subsequently, I ran into him in the local market and he skittered away like a crab when I mentioned that I’d be paying him another visit in the coming week.  Paying:  Bad choice of verb.

Silly me; I thought this was an anomaly, a cruel joke played upon festival coordinators by that old prankster, the Sovereign of Shit Disturbing, who has just spent his winter vexing coordinators of Renaisssance fairs in the Southeast.  Having gorged himself in good Rabelaisian fashion on gargantuan turkey legs and sweet, sick-making mead, he has reappeared to wreak momentary havoc on innocent little ethnic festivals.

I moved forward undeterred.  I am never deterred by a challenge, and rather than working out some kind of lopsided arrangement with the restaurateur, I did what I always do: I looked for a replacement or at least a solution.  Mr. B. has come up with a solution so startingly good that it solves most of the food-court issues and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can make it work.  It is still up to me to convince, cajole and otherwise flatter people enough that they want to participate, but at least with the possible solution we would remove the problem spots.

I felt very good about Mr. B’s suggestion, but then I picked up the phone to call an importer of tiki fare whose name I had found in a directory of festival vendors.  This person, named Honda, had advertised himself as the premier importer of tiki kitsch in Florida, if not on the entire mainland.  Tiki is hot and it has been for some time; there is something about a faux-Polynesian aura that gets people very excited and I wanted it for the festival.  My own acquaintance with the allure  of the plastic lei and the Scorpion Bowl dates back to some underage drinking done at suburban Chinese restaurants outside Boston.  I still can taste cheap rum and every single deep-fat-fried item on the pu-pu platter.

Honda, as it turned out, also asked me to pay.  I said, Do you not have an ad in a directory of festival vendors?  Yes, he said, I do, but you need to hire me to appear. 

Why? I asked.  Why would I pay you to sell your merchandise?  I’m offering a platform for you to sell your merchandise and to advertise your business.  At a very reasonable fee, I might add.

Honda wouldn’t hear of such an outmoded arrangment. He wanted a direct flight, a decent hotel room, and a lifetime pass to all Gator home games. 

After this, I made a few more calls before receiving one myself, from a charming vendor who is flying into Gainesville specifically for this event and who marveled at my low fees and my willingness to make his stay as profitable and as enjoyable as possible.  I was happy to go the extra distance for this guy.  You know how it is, unfair as it seems:  For every thirty jerks there is one supremely nice guy.

I hung up the phone with the nice guy and went to swim in the pool, where I was promptly marauded by a vicious knot of pre-teens and five-year-olds who insisted on cannonballing over my head and kicking me when they swam by.  Oh, well, I said to myself, that’s five down and only 25 to go.

Here, the flowers of Kanapaha: