There are several different segments of local culture of which I have scant knowledge. One of those is whatever you’d like to call that segment that makes Punk Week happen in late August every year. Details in published sources are few. Even the the venerable ArborWiki’s description of the Shopping Cart Races, apparently one of the core events of Punk Week, is too vague to allow attendance or participation in the event.
Late August at the Fleetwood? Who wants to hang out at the Fleetwood for a fortnight waiting for a shopping cart race to unfold? The folks who enter the race and watch it, that’s who. I suspect that transmission of the exact date of the Shopping Cart Race is largely achieved via face-to-face and word-of-mouth communication. If you’re not a part of the regular physical community that is involved in the Shopping Cart Races, you’re not going to have advance notice, and the only way you’ll notice it at all is if you stumble across a Shopping Cart Graveyard.
So it was this year that I realized I’d once again missed the Shopping Cart Races. I noticed a set of carts up on North Main Street carefully arranged in a circle. They’re sitting there on their haunches, stubby little wheels-for-arms, engaged in some kind of grocery buggy version of the Hokey Pokey.
One stray cart – “cart blanche” – had been excluded from the circle. It’s anyone’s guess why.
I worked in a grocery store long enough to know that grocery carts aren’t inexpensive – a little more than a hundred bucks apiece, I think. So my reflex is to start thinking about incrementally returning those carts to the stores they came from. But there’s surely a culturally appropriate waiting period before breaking apart the shopping cart circle.
Based on the one online reference I was able to find (in the Detroit Derby Girls Forums), this year’s event was staged on 19 August. A two-week waiting period would take us to 2 September. But given that these carts (in their current configuration) count as impromptu public art, and in light of our commitment as a community to supporting public art, it seems fair to extend that period by another two weeks. At least.
In addition to the physical artifacts left from Punk Week, there are some digital ones as well. This YouTube video chronicles the Zombie Walk, which apparently took place a few days before the Shopping Cart Race. What I’d like to see in the next Bank of Ann Arbor video highlighting a cross section of Ann Arborites is a bunch of these zombies growling, “MEEEE!!!”