Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment, American buskers and more at the Park Avenue Festival

Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment, American buskers and more at the Park Avenue Festival

With “Reverend Mother” Phyl Contestable at the Park Avenue Festival

• August 3, 2015

Those who find the Park Avenue Festival merely a consumerist orgy–trekking from one food stand to another–are hugely mistaken. More discerning connoisseurs seek the vendors and artists who offer both a product and an experience.

On my visit, I met most of these artists: an actress who plays an irreverent nun, a palm reader, a street musician, a caricaturist and a body tattooist. In a way, all are the lucky few. Able to earn a livelihood while following a passion.

“Reverend Mother” Phyl Contestable–of Nunsence fame–is quick to say she is not a real nun — unless you want her to be! Normally, she brings her sisterly spoofs to reunions, bar mitzvas, weddings, you name it. On Sunday, promoting a supposed demo tape she is making in hopes of landing a gig on the Jimmy Kimmel show, Phyl told the crowd she could answer any queery about Pope Francis (not entirely explaining her insider knowledge). Unable to resist the off color mood, I asked, Is Pope Francis a virgin? Apparently stumpFesticved, the Reverend Mother just smiled, beatifically.

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With “El Doria”

“El Doria”–a palmistrist, empath of enlightenment and spiritual counselor–has read palms for decades, including many years at the Renaissance Faire. As Doria inspected the revealing lines on my hands, I quizzed her on how often she is unerring. Of course, 100%. Guaranteed.

And has her fortune telling changed any lives? Actually, yes. One year at the Renaissance Faire, Doria discerned that a woman was in an abusive marriage, and leaving might be her only salvation. The next year the woman reveled she had divorced. Doria read the woman’s now changed palm lines and this time predicted a happy remarriage. And the year after at the Faire, the woman announced such had happened exactly. I asked Doria where my own love life would be at summer’s end. As I had not paid the twenty dollar fee, Doria declined a prophesy. Oh, what does cruel fate have in store!

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Jackson Cavalier at the Park Avenue Festival

Bearing guitar, “Jackson Cavalier,” is a romantic twenty one year young man with a classic American story. Dropping out after a year at MCC’s Music Performance program, Cavalier lit out on his own to become a busker (originally a British term for a public entertainer).  Plying his trade at Charlotte beach, festivals and private parties including in Boston and NYC, as well as forming The Fevertones-One-Man-Band-Entertainer, Cavalier declares himself to be financially self sufficient, if not a self made man. Actually, Jackson claims to live a very normal life!

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With Joy, of Caricatures of Joy, at the Park Avenue Festival

Joy, of Caricatures by Joy, has been drawing people since fifteen. Then, Darien Lake Amusement hired her as a caricaturist for the summer. Her natural talent and abilities shown through and Joy had been following her passion since.  Along with festivals, Joy draws at weddings, birthday parties, and family picnics throughout western NY. She kindly made me a portrait that was not quite a caricature. Normally, unless requested, Joy does not use the exaggerated comic style generally associated with caricature in which the subject’s inner self is disclosed to the world. I hope my ego could have withstood the worst Joy’s pen and ink strokes could have given!

On Sunday, Robin Jaeckel of Henna Rising, was providing temporary body art to long lines of brave customers. Robin did kindly offer me a complimentary tattoo but, alas, I lacked time to wait. Next year for sure. Oh, but why temporary? Let’s go permanent!

Finally, to ground myself (literally) after that escapist and sensual spree, I visited the I Dream Wall erected by members of the Asbury First United Methodist Church on East Avenue. At the Wall, festival goers wrote or pictured their most deeply felt hopes for the future, many quite moving.

Only El Doria knows if mine will come true.


At the I Dream Wall, Park Avenue Festival


Dreaming of Big Tents at Asbury First

A year after Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment and American buskers at the Park Avenue Festival

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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