It used to be the site of one of Hamilton’s rubbish dumps. Trailer loads, truckloads, tonnes of rubbish were dumped on the strip of land between Cobham Drive and the Waikato River. But that was years ago. Eventually the dump was closed, a bunch of top soil was put over the rubbish and the area was turned into the splendid Hamilton Gardens. On this site the Festival of Holistic Health was being held. It was a Sunday afternoon, I had nothing better to do, so I went.
I got to the doorway of the Hamilton Pavilion. Previous events at this venue include the 1991 Hillcrest High School ball, and the record fair where I got that really cool Pixies bootleg. But today it was overrun with stalls manned by women in their forties.
I knew there was a $5 admission fee, but there was no obvious place to pay. There was a desk by the door but it was just some guy selling incense. I wandered in, thinking maybe there would be an admission stand inside the door.
“Excuse! Have you paid?!”
I turned around and there was a woman with a bumbag strapped on. She’s been standing off to the side chatting with some friends. She had skilfully managed to blend in with the surrounding ageing hippy environment. I paid her $5, she stamped my arm and I walked on in.
Incense, crystals, former bored housewives giving tarot card readings. They were all there. One woman was busy with some coloured pencils and a pad of paper. She was a spiritual portrait artist, her unique talent being “revealing the face of your personal spirit guide of loved one.” A selection of portraits she’d done adorned her booth walls. They all looked like versions the same of person, like maybe a family of spirit guides. Kindly old woman, kindly old man, kindly young woman, kindly guy who looks a bit like Nandor Tanczos.
Being close to Christmas, there were many stands offering their wares as Christmas presents. “This is a wonderful, peaceful, heart-warming CD,” one sign read. “A great Xmas present”. Sadly I couldn’t think of anyone in my life who would appreciate such a gift.
There were many people offering tarot card readings. I wasn’t quite ready to shell out over $30 for a reading, so I was excited when I saw a bowl of little scrolls sitting above a pond of water. A sign read, “Into the water, coin of gold, for you the oracle, will be told.” I plopped $1 in and selected one of the scrolls. The oracle’s words of wisdom were:
“Listen to the hearts voice with openness and trust”. Righto.
Most people were trying to sell something. So often I’d go over to a stand just to browse and the woman sitting behind it would launch into a sales pitch, and the next thing she’d be smearing herbal massage oil over the back of my hand.
As I walked past one stand, which looked like it was a new age version of door-to-door cosmetics, a woman sitting near it suddenly stood up and said, “hi! How you are!” I told her I was ok, and walked on as she tried to keep the conversation going.
An abundance of homemade, photocopied brochures soon accumulated in my bag. Highlights included the Tarot Summer School (“Fortune telling in the 21st century”), bottled water (“How can alkaline micro water help me lose weight?”) and aura photography (“actually measures your energy field and displays it with lights and colours)”.
There were a few sites that didn’t have a sales agenda. Greenpeace had a stand where I picked up a copy of their “GE Free Food Guide”. SAFE also had a stand, manned by spunky, tattooed young people. It was a welcome change from the fat ladies offering “hands-on healing”.
I was getting tired of all the sales pitches and decided to get out of there. My last stop was the food stand where I got a plate of Greek beans. After I’d bought them, the guy who served me asked how I was finding the festival. I told him about the lady who’d covered my hands with massage oil, he said there’d been people actually doing hand massages last year. It was the first conversation I’d had that wasn’t part of a sales pitch. With that pleasant note I decided to call it a day. I ate the Greek beans then left the site of the former rubbish dump.