Doing the Chilean Fungi Fest

VALDIVIA … I think I liked Valdivia best of all Chile’s cities I visited. It’s known by tourism boosters as La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South) … Its Pedro de Valdivia bridge made the link walkable between Universidad Austral de Chile and downtown, where the hostel for El Grupo was located. We must have crossed the span on foot a dozen times – as university students did daily, a hardware bin of sealed antique locks with initials latched to every inch of metal grillwork … A small-ish city of maybe 200,000, Valdivia is only 125 miles north of Monte Verde – a famous archaeological site of remains a thousand years older than the Clovis culture (carbon-dated to 18,500 BP, Before the Present). It was where a 13,000-yearold wild potato species was found, Solanum maglia … The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, at magnitude 9.5. Damage from the terremoto was still visible – twisted wrecks in the river, foundations of destroyed homes on isolated hillsides … The first day we arrived at probably the nicest lodging of the trip, Hostal Río de Luna, polished wood bannisters, jovial innkeeper and very pleasant rooms. We were whisked off to the university, where the second year of an annual Fungi Fest was underway. Our host, Giuliana Furci, had helped found the event. Entering the university hall, Giuliana introduced me to the organizers, Antonia DiseÑau Flandes and Robert Muñoz Alocilla. Voila! Instant recognition. They knew me as the crazy Parade-master from the many photos they’d seen of the Telluride Mushroom Festival. Soon we were hugging and jumping up and down. They gifted me with a lovely felt mushroom hat, and I gave them my Shroompa ballcap. We were all ecstatic, even if no one could really speak the other’s language. I bought a marvelous color chapbook children’s story that Antonia had written and illustrated, Guillermina y los Fungi (Spiralia, Valdivia, 2017) … My friend Gerry Mc- Donald wrote a journal of the tour, and remembered some of the offerings at the Fungi Fest: “There were many booths set up with artwork, jewelry, leather products, mushrooms and tinctures for sale and a grand display with a young senorita named Camellia. She showed me a piece of Grifola gargal, which she said typically grows on dead Nothofagus dombeyi. I also met a guy named Rodrigo who had a large display of Lactarius deliciosus and boxes of a tan coral fungus.” … Turns out that El Grupo had made it to the last day of the event, and they asked Britt to give a talk, which Giuliana translated, preceded by a poem by Shroompa. I did an improvised Talk/Yell poem, as Claire Blotter had taught us when she came to visit Telluride this spring. Making things up on the spot, I talked about the wonders of the Telluride Mushroom Festival in English between choruses where we all yelled the parade mantra in Spanish, Amamos Nosotros Los Hongos (“We Love Mushrooms”) … Here’s how McDonald describes the scene: “I thought it very interesting how [Art’s] persona morphed into a bigger-than-life character when he performed with his red muscaria hat … Britt’s talk was about happenings in the US, mushroom clubs, associations and festivals, with an emphasis on entheogens and ended with emphasis on the crown jewel, Mushroomfest in Telluride. . . One could definitely tell that Giuliana is a celebrity in the Chilean mushroom community.” … Even more special, after a marvelous dinner, I followed Giuliana and her assistants, Vero López and Caue Caue, to a private post-Fungi Fest party in a downtown bar. Since everyone was talking in Spanish, I was lost, although we all joked with gestures. Luckily I sat next to a young woman from Santiago who had come down for the fair, Constanza Fabiola Gonzalez. She translated some of the repartee around the large table, where various folks were acting out songs from a cult TV series. It was a lovely evening with lovely people. And we chatted about Chile and lots of stuff, from politics to social differences … At the end of the night, I found myself hugging people goodbye whom I only knew from their smiles.

SPEAKING OF FUNGI … Aug. 16-19 is the 38th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival with special guest Paul Stamets, legendary psychonaut and author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (Ten Speed Press, 2005) … I think that whole-festival tickets are sold out, although individual tickets for events may be available at the door. Check the website … But if you want to just make a day trip without spending any money, bring the kids and head up to Telluride Saturday the 18th, picking mushrooms on the way in the San Juan National Forest. Once in town, bring them to Elks Park to be identified by experts in the free ID Tent. Make signs or costumes for you and the kids at a free workshop from 2-4 p.m. with Seven and Holly Ma. And then join in the mushroom parade down Main Street. The kids will love it.

THE VALLEY … Producer Ron Melmon has teamed up with Bryan Reinhart, Christopher S. Johnson and Stash Wislocki to do a documentary on the condemnation and purchase of the Valley Floor in Telluride. As one of those interviewed and having seen a pre-release cut, it’s hard not to get emotional about what the citizens of this small mountain community did to preserve their headwaters gateway as open space in the face of grandiose luxury home & hotel plans of Neal Blue and the San Miguel Development Corp … But this is not only an amazing David & Goliath tale, it’s a great film. Dazzling shots, smart directions, deft editing add up to a moving environmental success story … A movie not to miss. Out to the festivals soon.

RIDGWAY … There’s a rustic charm lost when you replace the road’s ragged edge with poured concrete & edgy benches, but there’s an ambiance gained transitioning from the Little Chief cowboy bar to an upscale Clinton Street with the likes of Kate’s, Burro Café & Crumb … And I LOVE the street sculpture just up from the library, Mother’s Tales by Chris Christie. Rocks doing unrock- like things.

Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.


— for Fred Haberlein

Master muralist from the San Luis
His art everywhere, a people’s art

His warmth so quick to strike
they called him Lightning Heart

He lived in a log home perched
on the rush of No Name creek

with the love of his life, Teresa
And when last I saw him days

before he passed, all he could
talk about were blessings

The blessings of his art, the
blessings of his wife, his friends

& the blessings of a life with
a heart so quick to strike

From Art Goodtimes.