Friday, October 21, 2005

A Photog Goes to Market

Twice a year an alleged 80 thousand furniture industry insiders invade my adopted community, turning an otherwise sleepy Southern town into a bustling metropolis. Yes, if you back up far enough and squint your eyes, High Point looks like a real city - at least for a few days in April and October. But the International Home Furnishings Market is in peril, threatened by a newer, glitzier cousin who goes by the nickname 'Sin City'. According to some, Las Vegas is about to steal High Point's crown jewel, leaving the the strangely complacent town shuttered and broken. Others shrug off the idea as uninformed hype, and point to the the meee-llions of square feet furniture showroom that so dominate downtown. As for my opinion...I dunno - I'm just a photog.

For me, Furniture Market is primarily a calisthenic event. With open parking spaces harder to find than an unadorned store window, I'm forced to hoof it from end of downtown to the next - schlepping camera, tripod, gearbag and grumbles all along the way. Normally this kind of awkward exercise unleashes my incredible whining powers, but with a (slight) chill in the air and thousands upon thousands of kooky characters to groove on, I almost look forward to this twice-a-year trek into home furnishings hell. Almost. Okay, so I dig watching the frantic furnituratti transform High Pockets into Manhattan. Just don't tell my bosses, as it will surely work against the camera-slinging curmudgeon schtick I've been cultivating all these years.

Blame it on my upbringing. Growing up in rural Wayne County, North Carolina, I spent many a teenage moon ripping up the backroads of sleepy Saulston, dreaming of a lifestyle that didn't revolve around tobacco barns, softball games and church socials. I have managed to tour a dozen big cities since those early days (usually with a shiny TV camera or overstuffed seabag on my shoulder), but life has a funny way of placing you where you need to be through matrimony, offspring and mortgage rates. Thus, I find myself in the teeming Piedmont region of my beloved North Carolina, focusing far more on my thwarted literary efforts than on snapping safari pics from a thousand urban jungles. Still, it's nice when the Big City comes to town for a few days...

Which is exactly what little old High Point feels like these days. Surf the streets and you'll find greasy Europeans smoking impossibly thin cigarettes, over-perfumed exotic women worthy of their own magazine cover, sleazy back-slapping retail weasels who'll guffaw at the cheesiest of jokes for just the right commission and high-powered furniture executives with personas and entourages and personas that rival any James Bond villian. Oh, the diversity! Just yesterday I was trapped on an escalator, listening to conversations in French, Mandarin and Brooklyn-ese, while trying desperatley NOT to spark an international incident with an ill-placed tripod leg up somebody's out-of-town wazoo. Heady times for a guy who grew up taking pictures of light poles for fun.

Then there's the people who are paid to look funny. Every year some furniture company's marketing guru comes up with a new way to attract street-level attention to their showrooms or new lines of velcro seat covers. Old-timey Christmas carolers, musketeers, fake presidents, hispanic Elvises and cocktail-hour hotties have all vied for my lens' attention as they peddled their logos on the sidewalks of Furniture City. My eight year old still equates 'Market' with the fly fisherman she used to see clopping around town in hipwaders and give-aways. I just hope she's not scarred for life. Of this year's costumed diplomats, most escaped the lens of my digital camera, but I did manage to pop off a shot of this delightful young lady in bellhop garb. I meant to ask her what she was promoting but she sashayed off with such cosmopolitan verve that I was rendered speechless by the very sight.

Granted, these are not the kind of things the Chamber of Commerce brags about in their glossy brochures, but it certainly be what I'd miss if the Furniture Market does indeed high-tail it out West. Now, where's that heating pad? My back is kee-ling me...

1 comment:

Weaver said...

Gotta Love Market!