One of these things is different from the other
Believe it or not, I’ve been working at The River Reporter for more than a decade, covering the world of arts and leisure here in the Catskills. One of the challenges in writing this column is finding a common thread among the variety of events that I attend during any given week. More often than not, I discover a way to tie things up in a neat little bow, but every once in a while, I’m thrown for a loop. Unfortunately for the newspaper’s summer intern, Owen Walsh, it’s been one of those weeks. “Why am I going to the Steampunk Festival in Honesdale with Owen?” I asked my editor. “You realize what a schlep it is from White Lake, right?”
“It’s part of the intern mentoring process” she replied. “Besides, if memory serves, I believe you volunteered.” Sighing audibly, I hung up the phone and hung my head. “She’s right,” I said woefully to the dog. “What was I thinking?” Dharma gnawed thoughtfully on a bone, but chose to not respond.
After confirming with Owen, I did a quick internet search, since my only working knowledge of Steampunk was an esoteric reference to H.G. Wells and his Victorian-age time machine. Oh, and (IMHO) some really weird clothing. As usual, Wikipedia was helpful and had this to say: “Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates technology and esthetic designs inspired by 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery.” The online definition went on to state that “steampunk works are often set [against a backdrop] of an alternative history of 19th century Victorian or American Wild West settings.” Naturally, I spit these facts out to Owen as if they were original thought as we headed for downtown Honesdale, PA, and the wildly imaginative “Steampunk Festival” that we had agreed might be a good event with which to explore the world of photo-journalism, something I profess to have a working knowledge of, which would in turn (cue laugh track) inspire him.
Explaining that my assignment the next day would be photographing Narrowsburg’s Riverfest and its yearly dog parade and poster auction, Owen asked how I would tie the two together. “No clue,” I shot back. “And in-between, I’m seeing ‘Annie’ at the Forestburgh Playhouse. Maybe something to do with ‘the sun will come out tomorrow?’” I suggested, noting the cloudy skies and impending storm brewing. “Sure” he said, rolling his eyes. “That might work.” We spent a few hours strolling the festival and snapping pics of the colorful crowd, some of whom had traveled a distance to take part. We met folks from Sweden, the UK and South America, all dressed in handmade steampunk finery, while I encouraged Owen to ask questions and take photos.
I’m unsure how much he might have learned from me, but we both learned a bit about steampunk, the culture and the community that it attracts. “A lot of steampunks travel the circuit,” said someone known only as “Wendell the Thief.”
“We become friends based on common ground, and besides,” he added with a wink, “it’s just plain fun.” As it started to drizzle, Owen and I parted ways after he promised to send me some of his own photos with captions to match. “I think I can handle it,” he said with a wave. “We’ll see,” I muttered to the dog. “If it was easy, everyone could do it. Then where would I be?”
As predicted, the skies opened the next morning, and I debated dragging Dharma along to Riverfest, only to have her get drenched during the “rain or shine” event. So I left her home, but was instantly sorry as dozens approached asking where she was, while I ran to and fro snapping pics of the festivities. The sun actually did come out (thanks, Annie!), and the poster auction went off without a hitch, as folks strolled Main Street enjoying the live music, artists’ booths and an array of edible delights. I complained about the humidity to anyone who would listen and petted the dogs, including Jack, who was dressed as a fish. He ultimately won “best costume” with his human, Michael Murphy, outfitted to match.
“Dharma’s gonna kill me when she smells Jack on my hand,” I said to Murph. “Besides, I want to go boating.” Shaking his head, Murph asked the inevitable. “What does one thing have to do with the other?”
Nothing. Nothing at all.
[For more photos of both Steampunk Honesdale and Riverfest, visit www.riverreporter.com and our Facebook page.]