A few snaps from the Garden of my mother, Joyce Tlustos, on August 24, 2018 in SW Sioux Falls, SD. As the sign indicates, Mom was, is, and will always be an Avant Gardener. What makes a person an Avant Gardener? I don’t know. I suspect a particular, whimsical attitude has something to do with it. I suspect age does not.
Last Friday at IPSO Gallery at Fresh Produce, downtown FSD, a packed room celebrated a lovably quirky fellow and his lifetime of experiences, observations and reactions to people, places and events in his home state of South Dakota. His chronicling of it all is in a new and innovative book, although calling this work simply a book is akin to saying Annie Oakley could shoot a gun.
The show celebrated the new book by Thomas McGill, “The Owl is Great at Being Silent” and featured art inspired by the book and author. McGill is better know to many as “News From Pierre”, a character from the original and unpredictable radio/TV/Information County Highway program “The Rock Garden Tour”. Suffice it to say RGT is not a “version” of some other radio program, and News From Pierre is not a “version” of a type of typical news reporter. The people involved with and attending the event Friday were not ordinary either. Heck, even the food and refreshments were not ordinary. You could tell you were among people who are special, unafraid to take chances on something or someone they believe in. These are not bandwagon jumpers. They are flex fuel hybrid bluetooth enabled bandwagon builders. They choose to not let others define or limit them. They choose not to conform. For me they’re an inspiration.
10 months ago my body and brain were in a dense fog born of anesthesia and the trauma three surgeries in four months removing cancer from my vocal cords. I could barely function, shouldn’t have been driving and was facing the possibility of losing the voice around which I’d built a successful 35 year career. I loved my work and had been told it was “transformational.” I was told to not worry about work while dealing with the cancer. And a month after the third surgery I was told my services were no longer required. When you’ve lived life on the rollercoaster I have, and seen what I’ve seen behind the curtain during 35 years in media, news and politics it’s a wonder I’m not at this minute zonked, naked, perched on Steve Bormes’ “Tatanka Ska” sculpture downtown singing the Broadway hits of the incomparable Ethel Merman.
Its 10 months later, and a friend asked me, “If you could do any job, what would you do?” I couldn’t come up with an answer. I kept thinking about it, though, and the answer finally came to me driving home Friday night: What I end up doing isn’t nearly as important as doing it in a place that’s INSPIRING. No workplace is perfect, but too many are full of cynical and negative people, rife with office politics and uninspired leadership. Live with that for any length of time and you can feel your soul being sucked out of your body. Then your dropped into an inspiring culture full of teamwork, fresh ideas and support for creativity. You listen and read things like News From Pierre’s uncommonly honest observations on life, and see the art inspired by this unique wisdom, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone when you want to be a part of it and not have it end.
The longer you spend time on this planet the more often you are reminded that life is short and not to be wasted. If you know people and places which INSPIRE you, please share that inspiration by leaving a comment. If you know people or workplaces which value inspiration, please share this post with them and encourage them to add their 2 cents. And if you could use a bit of inspiration, some good laughs or some sage wisdom, check out News From Pierre and he book “The Owl Is Great At Being Silent”.
We live in the Age of Big. Venture out nearly anywhere and Big is up in your grill. Nowhere is this more evident than in the retailing world. Big is so big it’s developed its own vocabulary. Superstore. Super Center. Super Market. Big Box. Doorbuster. Outlet Mall. Warehouse. The first modern strip mall in the US was built in 1951 in St. Louis Park, MN. It’s name? The MIRACLE MILE. Mystical and huge.
There was a time when bigger meant more variety. Today, however, it’s just as likely to mean more of the same. The vocabulary of Big has a word for that stuff: Product. Indistinguishable one from another. For example: “The trucks come every Tuesday with fresh product direct from the factory.” It conjures up visions of boxes full of this off-white, uniform “stuff” made of who-knows-what that is molded or stamped or processed into blenders or socks or Little Debbie Snack Cakes or brake pads. It’s all Product, all the same, and all available at any Superstore near you.
Around this time of year, someone somewhere attached a name to an already established mass shopping action following Thanksgiving on the fourth Friday of November. They called it “Black Friday”, which, depending on whose doing the talking, got it’s name because it’s the day retail business sales finally exceed costs for the year, putting the retailer in a profitable state, or “in the black”. Others say it compares the shopping madness to a trip to Hades, or maybe the annual Dark Side of the Force Holiday Party at Vader’s place. Just for kicks one year my wife and I got up at 3am and drove to a Big Box electronics store in the Twin Cities to be there when the doors opened to buy a Doorbuster laptop. When we arrived it was only 5 above zero, and a line of shivering people wrapped all the way around the Big Box which still wouldn’t open for two more hours. Applying some basic math we determined our odds of buying one of the five “Doorbuster” laptops were not in our favor, so we turned around, drove home and hopped back into bed
“Black Friday” has grown from a single day to a week, and this year even longer with the first mention before Halloween…which, by the way, began with Halloween candy for sale before Labor Day. But that’s another story for another day. In 2005, a reporter coined the phrase “Cyber Monday” to describe the niche but quickly growing trend of avoiding crowds and wait to make their purchases online on Monday when they were back in the office and had access to high-speed broadband. In between Black Friday and Cyber Monday came the retort from local retailers, and “Small Business Saturday” was born.
Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part Big Business, Small Local Business and Online Business sell similar “Product”. Therefore, “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday” are primarily campaigns designed to convince the consumer WHERE to shop and secondarily WHAT to shop for. But what if you don’t want the same old Product? What if you want something different? Unique? Crafted? Something NOT just like everything else. Where do you go?
Back in the 13th century, Turkish and Persian artisans came up with a different way to sell. The neighboring Persians called it a “kusshk” (Note: Maybe the Persians should pick up a few extra vowels the next time they’re at market), described as a summer house, or a garden with three walls and an open front where seasonal foods and artisan goods were sold. In April of 1717 Lady Wortley Montegu, the wife of the British Ambassador to Istanbul, wrote a friend in England of the “chiosk”, described as a structure up 9 or 10 steps from its surroundings enclosed with gilded lattices. I can’t speak for everyone, but “gilded lattices” sure sounds more fun than “Look in Plumbing, Aisle 36, between Appliances and Automotive.” Later, “chiosk” was shorted to “kiosk” (pronounced KEE-ahhsk). The kiosk sells the unique and hand-crafted… what you generally cannot get anywhere else.
In “The Wizard of Oz”, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion already had the brains, heart and courage they were looking for. What they received were a diploma, a heart-shaped watch and a medal, respectively. The artists and artisans of the Kiosk have their unique creations. What they didn’t have was a DAY…until Sioux Falls’ award-winning ad agency Fresh Produce made it so. FP Creative Director Ted Heeren says, “It’s a great way to spotlight a lot of interesting and industrious local vendors. We call it “Shopping Without Walls”. FP’s Brian Bieber adds The vendors generally don’t have traditional retail storefronts. “Kiosk Thursday gives them and their potential customers the opportunity to meet in a friendly, face to face venue.” This year’s vendors will include locally-produced vinyl records, tapes and other merch, Sioux Falls photographer Abby Bischoff’s 2016 “Abandoned South Dakota” calendar, Darling Vintage, featuring hand-made clothing from found vintage fabrics, hand-made Christmas ornaments, and the full-line of merch from “Rock Garden Tour”, the South Dakota-produced public radio and TV show and podcast. Gifted Sioux Falls musician Dalton Coffey and some special guests will perform live at noon, while Dan and Liz from vendor Total Drag Records will spin vinyl both before and after. providing the appropriate aural backdrop. All customers will be favored with refreshments.
Don’t get me wrong. The Big Box, the local small business and online commerce are all important to the economic health of every city and state in the U.S., and they all have their moments when they are the right place with the right thing at the right price at the right time. I guess the point of Kiosk Thursday is to make sure the artist, craftsperson and budding entrepreneur have their place in the game, too. Bieber says, “The people who set up kiosks at Fresh Produce for Kiosk Thursday are some of the hardest working, talented salespeople around. I think a lot of us here share a fascination with the transitory nature of kiosks. Here one day, gone the next. It makes the experience of buying feel exclusive and special, and just a little bit dangerous.”
Well, I like to shop the unusual and experimental. And, Danger IS my middle name. I’ll be checking out 2015’s “Kiosk Thursday”, and I encourage you to do the same if you’re in range.
For up to the minute info on additional vendors, sales specials and other surprises, follow @pickfresh on Twitter, and @pickfreshsd on Instagram.
- For a look at the origins of Kiosk Thursday, and information on this year’s event, go here: https://soundcloud.com/pickfresh/fresh-friday-85-kiosk-thursday
- Links to some of the vendors:
- Skullmore: https://www.facebook.com/Skullmore-278782858912798/
- Total Drag Records: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=total%20drag%20records
- Different Folk Records: https://www.facebook.com/differentfolkrecords/?fref=ts
- Abandoned South Dakota 2016 calendar: https://www.facebook.com/abandonedSD
- Darling Vintage: https://www.facebook.com/Darling-Vintage-186898814729254/
- Rock Garden Tour: rockgardentour.com
- Fresh Produce: pickfresh.com